ADOPTION AND FITTING IN
I remember one clay where I was running along the river and thinking, “My God, this could he ten years ago. It’s like everything is the same in my life except that I’m older.” I wanted a change. I wanted to move on. I wanted to do something.
I had tried to get pregnant with the help of the fertility clinic for four years, on and off, starting when I was thirty-six years old. A couple years into it, I started moving through the adoption steps, like attending workshops for prospective adoptive parents. By the time I’d run out of sperm, I had started my home study. As hard as that was to finally give up becoming pregnant, I decided to stop trying. At least in terms of turning my energy to a new set of activities. At that time, the adopting part just came out ofwanting to have a baby and then continuing on that path. But I think in die waiting period, which is very hard, some of the stuff that I hadn’t thought about became central.
When I made the mental transition from giving birth to adopting, it was with the image of a white baby. I wanted a baby like me. I did the home study, not with the agency that I eventually used, but with an independent social worker. She told me that the chances of my adopting a white baby from the U. S. were slim—next to zero. She recommended that I think about adopting from overseas.
She also stirred up all this stuff. She recognized in talking with me that I am an intensively private person, and yet since the child I was going to adopt would never appear to be my own biological child, I was going to be visibly an adoptive person for the rest of my life. She was blunt: “How are you going to deal with
curious stares from people at the playground? Will it bother you?” Her probing started this internal dialogue about what kind of children I could parent comfortably as a white woman. Russian? Cambodian? Chinese? Domestic baby of color? I kept going back and forth in my head knowing that what I cared most about was simply having a child of my own.
The plus side of adoption which I thought about at the time is that for anybody, and maybe for me more than a lot of people, being reminded that she is a different person, she is not me redone, might be a good thing. I’m excited to see who she is and how she’s different. But when I first thought about adoption, it was imagining somebody who looked different from me. After the home study, having people raise the idea of not having a child who did look like me, then I got confused. I sort of moved back into that thing of wanting somebody like me. It was trying to figure out who’s going to be like me.
The social worker’s questions haunted me and I wasn’t sure about what was important to me. I knew I would have to make a set of tough compromises. I guess I was really uncomfortable with adopting a child who had been through the Department of Social Services. Even though my daughter had been in a less than ideal situation while living in an orphanage for several months, that seemed better to me than a child who might have been abused or abandoned. Besides DSS, the other possibility was where you would make a little book and try and sell yourself to somebody who was willing to give up their child, but that seemed dismal. I wouldn’t pick me. I’d pick a two-parent family. There are so many couples, why would you pick a single parent? I might find somebody at some point who would be interested in that, but it would take too long. So that just seemed out of the question. So I wasn’t going to be getting an infant with a known parent.
And after thinking about racial difference, I realized that mothering a child of a different race would have another set of issues. I had worked in a Head Start program with largely Hispanic children and I am bilingual. But as the years went on, I didn’t feel like that was a culture that I was so attached to. And I also thought, once you adopt from whatever culture, you need to bring that culture into the life of the family. And it just felt like more than I could take on. I wasn’t sure if I was in a place in my life where I could be both a single mother and also be a part of a culture other than my own. Making a family that is interracial is different from working with children of another race. In my heart I wondered if this was a good decision for me and I felt uncomfortable thinking that as a progressive, liberal person. I fought against my own feelings. I weighed and mulled over and weighed some more what I cared most about as I decided how to proceed with my adoption plans. I just had to decide how to compromise between wanting a child that matched my race and just wanting a baby. I had to ask myself, would I be comfortable having people look at my family differently because we didn’t look the same? Maybe I would get used to it and ignore other people’s curiosity.