My husband and I are "late bloomers" who met, fell in love and married in our early 40s. Our timing contributed to fertility challenges when we tried to start a family. Discussions about kids and family goals often ended with the same defeated conclusion: "perhaps parenthood is not in the cards for us."
I'm crazy happy that we were wrong.
In 2007, after a year of adoption orientation classes, case worker visits and piles of paperwork, we got "the call." Our social worker told us a little girl had been born in San Francisco that morning; the birth parents wanted to meet us. Thus began a whirlwind weekend of hospital visits with the birth mother and father, her parents, and a baby girl.
They chose us that weekend. In an instant, we went from childless couple to newbie parents, struggling to put a baby we just met in a hastily borrowed car seat. Our emotions were all over the map: excitement, confusion, joy, panic. What had we gotten ourselves into? Three and a half years later, I can say with conviction: I love being a parent and I have loved our adoption journey so far, for reasons large and small:
1. I love that my husband took a "leap of faith" with me.
I give my husband a hard time for a statement he made on our first date: It went "I'm never getting married again. And I don't want to have kids." (Check please!). Thankfully, things evolved. We fell in love and married a year later. To my surprise and joy, he also slowly started to share my dreams about parenting. And when we tried to start a family and faced fertility challenges, he quickly opened his mind and heart to adoption possibilities, encouraging me to work on my fears. I can never thank him enough for taking that leap. These days, I watch him embrace fatherhood with pride and love, and it's a beautiful thing to see.
2. I love that my brother and his partner taught us about adoption by example.
I have a close, loving family of origin, including a younger brother with whom I have a special bond. We took part in each others' wedding ceremonies the same summer. We started talking about parenting dreams around the same time. Our families watched with excitement as my brother and his partner began working with a domestic open adoption agency (one we later used). My husband and I learned many helpful lessons watching them go through the entire process, from paper work and classes to the waiting, false leads, and eventual phone call that changed their lives. They experienced the quick "hospital placement" adoption scenario that we later experienced as well. When it was our turn to begin the adoption process, it didn't feel as scary or foreign as it might have. The guys were there with us every step of the way, offering emotional support and informed, valuable advice. And their beautiful daughter reminded us that happy endings were possible.
3. I love that their child is also a girl!
Besides supplying us with an "instant nursery" full of materials when we first brought Maya home, my brother's family has continually brought over containers filled with the "next size up" assortment of girl's clothes, pajamas and shoes. With kids outgrowing clothes on a monthly basis, hand-me-downs are a financial godsend. The girls also live near each other and have the opportunity to play, giggle, squabble, sing, share secrets, dress up and have sleepovers together. We have some regrets that Maya is going to be an only child, but we're so grateful she won't be a lonely one.
4. I love that Maya and her cousin share this adoption bond.
Both of our families created adoption story "life books" that offer age-appropriate narratives about our child's birth and adoptive families. When Maya looks at her life book, the pages that hold her attention most are those offering happy commentary about both girls being adopted. As they grow older, this connection may prove an even more meaningful shared experience between them.
5. I love sharing the adoption journey with my mother.
The day we brought Maya home from the hospital, I really wanted and needed my Mommy! And there she was for me, as always. I hadn't fully imagined the emotions of seeing my mother hold my daughter. For years we had both feared it was a bond we would never share, but here we were, cooing over Maya, laughing and crying at the same time. My mom is an awesome grandmother to all of her grandchildren. Watching them together brings me great joy.
6. I love that our open adoption experience is truly open.
I brought a lot of fears to the adoption process. Would we get along with the birth parents and their families? Would there be tensions, boundary issues, clashing personalities? When we adopted Maya, we not only welcomed a new child into our lives but also an entire family with a loving, vested interest in this little girl. Our relationship with Maya's birth family has evolved better than I had hoped. We visit 3-4 times a year. We share stories, laughter, photos, and our mutual delight in Maya.We've hit a bump or two as we negotiate this unique set of relationships, but we've talked through these moments with respect, always putting Maya's needs first. Maya is blessed with many people who love her.
7. I love it when people tell me (or my husband) that Maya looks like us.
I smile when people some times comment on the "clear resemblance" between me and my daughter. It's not just amusement that I know something they don't. It's a sense of happy relief that this issue seems silly to me now. When we were first considering adoption, I remember thinking I would be upset as an adoptive parent that no one would ever see any family resemblances and make such comments. Now that issue seems utterly meaningless! My husband and I both realized that we don't need to see ourselves reflected in our daughter's features -- only in her actions and her heart.
8. I love it that my extended family has been blessed by a second cohort of amazing children.
For many years, my sister's two children were "the kids." Now 17 and 19 years of age, these older cousins have affectionately dubbed the young girls the "2.0 cousins." The younger cousins adore the older ones and vice versa. Who knew that holidays would once again include high chairs, toys, Easter egg hunts and visits from Santa? We are all thrilled to go another round with little ones under foot.
9. I love sharing our story.
I have met a number of couples facing fertility challenges and feeling like their dreams are over. I can relate to the desire to conceive, and empathize with those who feel resistant to the idea of adoption. It certainly scared me for a long time, but in the end, adoption proved a manageable, thoughtful experience. Moreover, it resulted in the greatest blessing of my life. I like to share that experience with others. They say there are as many adoption stories as there are adoptions and I'm sure this is the case; not all go as smoothly as ours. But if sharing these stories helps people consider possibilities and feel renewed hope, then it's a story I'll continue to share.
10. I love what our daughter said today.
Maya's birth family visited us today, treating us to lunch. As the adults chatted, Maya interrupted us quietly to announce: "I love my birth family and my forever family both." You gotta love that.
What have you loved most about your journey to parenthood? Did your journey take any unexpected turns?