This is one of a million questions I got from people; close friends, not-so-close family, complete strangers. Other questions range from the harmless, “How old was he when he came home?” to the hurtful, “What happened to his real parents?” Welcome to the world of adoption!
My husband Andy and I had been married 3 years when we decided we were ready to have kids. (Ha! Isn’t that the funniest thing you’ve ever read? We were READY!). As the good little procreators we were, we tried conceiving with the help of all the pointers from various books, going so far as to have conversations about cervical mucus. Yep, that clearly made us ready to be parents. But month after month, we kept facing the disappointment of negative pregnancy tests and the monthly reminder of my period that we were, not in fact, ready. Indeed, we were so NOT ready for the journey that was about to begin.
After the mandatory 12 month “it-takes-time” window had passed, we began the battery of diagnostic fertility tests. This led to the unfortunate diagnosis of unexplained infertility. The path we had so eagerly embarked on a year earlier came to abrupt end. For weeks, my head was swimming with questions that ranged from anger, “WHY!?!?!?” to ridiculous, “But, who’s going to take care of me when I’m 80?” Until, finally, we made the decision to pursue fertility treatment. Our treatment plan was very involved, culminating in a pregnancy during our third round of IVF. For 8 weeks we were ecstatic! Then, after all the disappointment we had endured, the biggest disappointment came. Miscarriage.
Again, we found ourselves at a dead-end. We could continue fertility treatments, we could choose child-free living, or we could adopt. Neither of us were ready to commit to any of the options, but my husband was convinced that it was time to stop fertility treatment. Eventually, I came to that realization that I was done as well. This left us with two options, no children or children through adoption. We chose adoption. And again, we were traveling down another path.
I think if I could offer one piece of advice for people looking to adopt after infertility, it’s to give yourself time to grieve. Grieve for the biological children you will never have. Grieve for the experience of pregnancy that you will never understand. Grieve for the eyes that will never look like your dad’s, grieve for the smile that will never look like your mom’s. Grieve for the things that you will never have. Then, open your eyes and your mind, to all the experiences adoption will bring you; the experiences of a family born through adoption. My husband and I definitely took this to heart. After making our decision to adopt, we gave ourselves plenty of time to feel the emotional weight of our decision. We did not pursue adoption for more than a year after deciding we wanted to adopt. By the time we were ready to start the adoption process, we were ready! (HA! Still funny! We were READY!)
First, we decided between domestic and international. At the time, this was still a very big decision as many countries were adopting to Americans; unfortunately, that has changed in the last 5 years. We ended up deciding Korea was the place for us. If we could not adopt from Korea, we were going to be child-free. We found an agency we liked (Lifelink) and began the arduous task of paperwork. Oh, the paperwork! Fingerprints, home visits, background checks, health tests, parent training, forms, forms and more forms! We handled it fairly well and had a wonderful social worker guiding us every step of the way. We officially logged onto “the list” (There’s always a list when it comes to international adoption) in April of 2007. By October, our social worker was on our case to finish the last of our paperwork because our place on the list was quickly moving from the bottom to the top. We officially finished our paperwork on October 30th. We got the call of our lives on November 20, 2007.
On November 20th, at 9 in the morning, our social worker called to tell us we had a referral. (The official name of the paperwork that matches you to a baby.) To this day I can remember completely freaking out and running around the house not exactly sure what to do with myself. I headed to the agency (my husband was stuck at work) to see the referral and decide if we would accept the baby as our match. Months prior, we had filled out paperwork (See? Paperwork!) outlining what medical conditions we would be willing to accept. Heading to the agency I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Finally at the agency, my social worker handed me a picture with a file of information. It was a boy! A perfect, drooly, 6-month old boy. I didn’t need to look at the file. I didn’t care if he was deaf, blind, or missing a limb. I had a picture of my son.
We had a referral! We had a picture! We had a baby! We still had more paperwork! This time, the paperwork followed a very specific pattern and timeline. If you were doing “x” paperwork, then you were at “x” step for getting your baby. If you ever want to experience true craziness, join a group of moms who are waiting for travel dates to pick up their babies. I’m pretty sure I made official stalker status with my social worker over the months we were waiting for our travel call. Then, finally, the call came on March 27, 2008. It was time to head to Seoul to pick up our son! On March 31st with bags packed, we were ready! (Okay, now it’s just getting old. But really, what parent is ever ready?)
In Seoul my husband and I walked around in a daze waiting for our moment to actually meet our son. Finally it came. I’m pretty sure I don’t actually remember any of that moment, but thanks to the trusty family video camera and the Internet, I have relived the moment on YouTube over and over again. And then, the scariest moment of my adult life occurred. On April 6th, Theo was placed in my arms for life. I had a baby. After 5 years, I was a mother. And I was in a hotel room in a foreign country. And I had to fly 14 hours home with a baby who knew me as nothing more than a stranger. And I was a brand new parent. Thank goodness for my husband. He was experiencing all the same anxiety but hid it from me well to keep us both sane.
Somehow, we survived that plane trip home. We survived the first few tumultuous weeks of adjustment. We survived the realization that no matter what we did, we were never truly ready for all that parenting is. (Aha! Now we were ready!) Today we are parents to an amazing 5 year old kindergartener. People still ask us if he’s from China. They still ask questions from the appropriate to the down-right rude. But the questions are only one small piece of adoption. Being adopted is only one small piece of being a family. But it is the piece that brought my family together.
I am the mother to a 5 year-old kindergartner and a full-time 4th grade teacher. My son, husband, and I live in Batavia with our dog Atticus. My husband Andy is the curriculum director in a neighboring school district. Aside from teaching, I’m also a coach for the Girls on the Run program at the elementary school where I work. During the summer months I work with wonderful group of moms planning and organizing activities for Camp Pride, a weeklong Korean adoptee camp in Itasca. I’m also a tried and true Disney World addict and love planning trips for my friends and family!