April 17, 2010

Explaining Plan A

I can't even begin to imagine how hard going through infertility must be. It took me about six months to get pregnant with Noah. I watched all my friends get pregnant when their husbands so much as looked at them with sexy eyes. Those 6 months felt like an eternity. In the grand scheme of things, 6 months is nothing at all. I really can't fathom the emotions and the strain that years of infertility must cause. In the eyes of most people, adoption is still considered something you do when you can't get pregnant- it is your "Plan B". But more and more, that is not the case. I can't speak for how it is to go into an adoption from an infertility standpoint. I don't know how it feels so I won't even try to go there. I hate nothing more than for someone to try to talk about something they've never been through, especially when it is something as intensely personal as infertility and adoption.

But more and more, adoption is becoming people's "Plan A". Meaning, as far as you know, you could conceive children but are choosing to adopt instead. We are plan A adopters. I think that in America this is still a really hard concept for people to understand. Some people just can't wrap their heads around why in the world you would want to parent "some one else's child" when you could have your "own".

So many people send me emails asking me how we explained to people about why we were adopting when we could have more biological children and what you do when people are less than supportive. Or what do you do when you want to adopt but your spouse is not on board. 100% of the people I have met who are plan A adopters have a really strong reason for wanting to adopt. It is not just something you decide to do one day. You don't just wake up, say, "Hey, I think I'll spend my life savings and adopt a baby today." Uh- uh. Not gonna happen. It is a thought out, and calculated move. So how in the world do you explain that to people? More specifically, how do you explain that to the people that you love, whose support and understanding is the most important?

Let's start at the beginning. I know that it is not this way for all people, but within my circle of adoption friends, the idea to adopt always started with the woman. I don't know why this is, maybe it is just the way we are wired. A lot of times, the woman felt so strongly about this, but just couldn't get her husband on board. This was the case in our house, too. Let me re-phrase that. Kamron did not rule out that we would adopt. He just made it very clear that my time table and his time table for pulling the trigger on the adoption were VERY different. When I decided that my heart was 100% behind wanting to adopt, I wanted to do it right then. I knew that my baby was out there and I wanted that baby right then. Waiting for "the right time" seemed ridiculous to me. Just like with biological children, there is never a "right time." There will always be something going on with work. There will never be enough money in your bank account. You can wait for x,y, and z to fall into place. But as soon as they do, there will always be another x,y, and z. Having children or adopting children is just one of those things you do, despite the timing. (In my very unscientific opinion) It took almost one full year from the time I told my husband I was feeling called to adopt until we actually made the call and filed the first papers. That year was very hard for me. I'll be very honest here. I love my husband. He is the yin to my yang. We are the perfect compliment to one another. We are peas and carrots, yada, yada, yada. But the thought honestly crossed my mind, "If I have to divorce this guy in order to sign those papers as a single parent, I'll do it!" I felt that strongly about wanting to adopt. I am super ashamed to admit that, but it's true. I did not get how he wouldn't want to adopt right at the minute I wanted to. I though he must be a heartless, selfish jerk to be able to look at those pictures of those starving children in Congo and NOT want to bring one home immediately.

Ladies, (and my five male readers) let me tell you. I was mad. I was depressed. I was not a good wife. I made the strain in our house palpable. I did not want to wait. Finally, I just had to realize that for my husband the experience was very different. For him (and maybe for a lot of men) they plan out things differently. They think about the finances of it. It is a hefty price tag. They think of the practical issues: the space in the house, the need for a mini-van, the jump from however many kids you have or don't have to what you will have if you add another one. And they may even need to grieve a little bit for the child that they won't be passing their genetics onto. It is just a different ballgame for them. It doesn't mean that they are heartless. It doesn't mean that they don't care about the starving children. It doesn't mean you need to divorce! It's just different. And now- having been through an adoption, I can see that you need both sides of that equation. It does absolutely suck, though, while you are going through it and your not on the same page. Sometimes I felt like we weren't even reading the same book. I am a feeling person. I feel personally responsible for each and every one of those orphans. I lay awake at night thinking of ways to bring more orphans home. I think with my heart. Which is not a bad thing. But the flip side of that is that in a situation as enormous as adoption, you need someone to be the one to think with their brain and say, "Okay, if this is going to happen, then how are we going to pay for it, and where is that baby going to sleep and how can we work a minivan into our budget?" You need someone to say, "It may take x number of months for us to be able to work this out and here are the steps we need to take to get there." As opposed to my child-like demand that we must do this NOW!

You have to remember- adoption is not the "norm". When you approach a spouse or partner with it, you have to consider that you may have just changed their vision of how a family is built, how a family looks and how they've maybe always thought of family. Just because adoption is on your radar, does not mean that it is on your loved one's radar. It takes time to change that vision and create a new vision together. And the timetable for every couple is different. Give it time. If you are the religious type, give it prayer. The way to handle this is not to get mad (like I did) and not think of ways to manipulate or strong arm your spouse (like I also did). In the end, the results in my house were the same, but I wish that I would have approached the situation more lovingly and more reasonably. You don't get a do-over in a marriage, so take the time and try to understand where your spouse is coming from if they are dragging their feet. Chances are, it's not because they are heartless. Talk about it. Explain your side, but be willing to accept that your spouses concerns/fears/expectations are valid. Understanding and working through that is essential to creating a home that is a loving environment for your child. In retrospect, I am okay that we waited a while. I know that my husband needed that time and that time helped him be an amazing father to Miles. I knew that it would work out, but he needed that extra time to make adoption his dream, too.

Just like it is not on every spouse's radar, adoption is not on the general public's radar. Don't be discouraged if your big adoption announcement gets more "Oh my God's" than "Yippee's!" People fear what they don't understand. If they haven't seen you struggle with infertility, the notion of adoption may seem like it came completely out of left field. Be able to explain your "why" to people. Be armed with information and answers. But also don't get to disappointed when people just don't get it. They need time to internalize it. Once again, you've changed their vision.

With lots of our family we started small. Once we decided to adopt and knew it was a for sure thing, we still took baby steps in announcing it. We especially took it slow with the oldest generations in our family, since we anticipated that the reaction would not be positive. We told them that adoption was something we were thinking about. We took their concerns to heart. Then a month or so later, we told them this was absolutely something that we were going to do and were prepared to address their concerns since we already knew what they were. Then about a month later, we told people that our son was going to come from Africa and that we were going to be a transracial family. Letting the news out in small increments like that seemed to work pretty well for us. That way we weren't shocking the hell out of anyone and we were able to give them small bits of information so they didn't have to internalize the whole thing all at once.

We didn't approach it that way with everyone. With our immediate family members we just flat-out told them and most of them were overjoyed. They still had lots of questions, but were overall really open to it once we explained why we wanted to adopt and about the need for adoptive parents. I get that it is not that way with everyone's family. People have told me that their parents and grandparents were adamantly opposed and even have gone so far as to say that they weren't sure they could love their adopted grandchildren as much as their biological grandchildren. I think a lot of times, just having the child home and with their family changes people's perspectives. Being able to hold those grandchildren may make them feel differently. Something about actually seeing the child is often enough to soften hearts. Not always. We do have some members of our family who still have yet to meet Miles for various reasons. And while it hurts, in the end, you just have to do what is right for your family. If you know in your heart that adoption is the right thing for your family, you have to follow that path and not worry about the people that you can't control. I think Dr. Seuss said it best when he said, "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

I wrote this with a few specific families in mind. Hope this helps. You are NOT alone! Follow your bliss.

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