“Anyone” can have a baby, but we have to fill out fire escape route forms.
When we decided to move forward with the adoption process, one of the first things we had to do was to complete a home study. We had visions of someone coming over with white gloves and a magnifying glass inspecting each corner of our house. Is it big enough? Is it clean enough? Is our neighborhood desirable? We didn’t know what to expect, and so we were terrified. Luckily, we had friends who had adopted, and they walked us through their experience. This was huge for us, and we’ve made every effort since to pay it forward. Yes, the social worker will come and look at the house, but the purpose of the home study is really to get an in-depth look not just at the physical home you will provide, but the emotional one too. It is a series of forms and questions that begin long before the social worker even steps through the front door.
Oh the paperwork.
There’s the typical forms you think you’d have to fill out: medical, financial, and family history. And the not so typical, fingerprints, fire escape route and the non-binding “who would care for your child if you died,” form. We had to become a licensed foster care family, even though our intent was not to foster. We poured over every item carefully, making sure that all of the “i’s” were dotted, and “t’s” crossed, and then checked again. We got references and wrote checks. And while we were all in and excited, it was hard not to get cynical as we’d hear that the latest drunken celebrity was pregnant. It was hard not to get frustrated by the fact that we were having to jump through every hoop imaginable, and others blink, and are happily, naively pregnant, and carrying a healthy, living baby to term.
Aaron and I had long conversations with these friends about the types of questions that we would be asked during our 4-hour meeting with the case worker assigned to us. Challenging questions that would cover everything from the child’s and birth parents’ race, drug use and exposure, medical history, desire for an open or closed adoption, and more. Deep, soul-searching questions which seemed to warrant a bigger answer than Yes, No, and Would Consider.
Now before I go on, the purpose of this post is not to focus on how we answered the questions. Those answers are an extremely personal choice that differs for each family and should not be judged. Nor is it to incite a debate of which children are deserving of a home (answer: all). Rather, I want to share that there’s much more to adoption and the process than deciding you want to adopt. So if you’re looking to judge, you can look elsewhere.
After learning about these questions, Aaron and I discussed them at length. It was during this process that we realized that we were embarking onto something even more special than we could have imagine. Yes, of course the hope was that we would be matched with a child to bring into our family. But what we didn’t realize was that this process was going to tell us a lot about ourselves—as individuals, as a couple, and as the family we wanted to become.
When it came time for the social worker to come, we were anxious, but ready. And yes, we did make sure that our place was sparkling clean (which truthfully, wasn’t a stretch for us). We sat down at our dining room table, took a deep breath and got started. The questions were incredible. There were questions about each of us: How would we describe ourself? How would we describe each other? How would others describe each of us? Questions about our families: What type of families did we grow up in? How would we describe our parents and siblings? What is our relationship like with each? How would describe our parents’ marriage? What are our favorite family memories? Questions about our notions of parenting: What kind of parents do we want to be? What kind of values do we want to instill in our children? What types of activities do we want to do with our children? How will we discipline our children? What do we want for our children in life? And questions about adoption in general: How did we decide on adoption? Did our friends and families know? Were our families supportive?
The paraphrased questions above are only a portion of the things we discussed that afternoon. There was smiling and laughing, and silence and thinking. There were tears and sadness, coupled with hope and resilience. We allowed each other to speak, and often spoke together. It was a warm and relaxed conversation that afforded us the unique opportunity that I’d imagine few expecting parents get: the chance to take a step back and not only think about, but really evaluate and talk through who we are as individuals and as a couple, how we’d like to parent, and what we want for our children and our family. All of these things we may have discussed in passing, but never sat down at length to really think through.
As loss parents, we take nothing for granted. And when PAL—whether expecting on our own, or through someone else—each moment is meaningful and full of perspective. I’m grateful for having gone through this meaningful process, for when we were matched with C, we had a greater perspective on how we wanted to be as a family.