Did you ever have a moment in your childhood when one of your friend’s parents were being really cool or a teacher became a true mentor or you just bonded with an adult in a way you never had with your own parents, and in your childish mind, you thought, “Why can’t they be my parent?” Imagine if we were able to choose our own parents. Would you have chosen the ones you ended up with?
Now imagine choosing the parents for someone you love. It’s no lighthearted task, right? I mean, these are the people who will be constantly in that person’s life from age zero to age 18 and far beyond. They will be in charge of that person’s health, education, and wellbeing for their entire childhood. They will be a huge influence on who that person becomes and what they do with their life. It’s a pretty daunting assignment.
That’s why I couldn’t be happier to have found the family that adopted my baby. A while after choosing them, I began to read stories from other birth moms about fears they had held concerning their adoptive parents. What if they ended up getting a divorce? What if they moved far away? What if they stopped upholding the openness agreement (which is not legally binding, by the way)? I was a little flabbergasted because, honestly, I had never considered any of these things. I felt so certain of my choice and so comfortable with the couple from the start that I never entertained these kind of fears about them. I know that no matter what the future brings for me or for them, they will do everything in their power to be the best parents they can be to their children. This certainty in my decision about the parents definitely led to a brighter and calmer pregnancy and adoption experience.
When I returned to the adoption agency with my top three choices after having read the black-and-whites, my agent brought me the next step: photo books of each couple or family, telling their story, introducing their pets, extended family, and home, and giving you a more specific feeling of knowing them. I had already told her I was pretty set on my top choice and didn’t expect the book to change my mind, and I was right. Each page of photos and stories just confirmed for me that these were the right people to raise my child. I handed the book back to my agent and told her that was it. They were the ones.
However, I wasn’t quite prepared when she asked if I wanted to call them right then to let them know the good news. I had been so caught up in my own tasks and process, that I hadn’t really taken the time to think about how exciting it would be for these parents to find out they were finally getting a new child. I did want to be there to hear their first reaction, so she dialed their number, putting the phone on speaker. Though I hadn’t been feeling particularly emotional up till that moment, I started crying the moment I heard the mom answer the phone. Maybe it was a general sense of relief at having passed this hurdle or a build-up of emotions from the previous few weeks… I don’t know. Either way, I only managed to get out a few awkward sentences about looking forward to meeting them, etc. before moving on to a conversation with a Kleenex.
The next step was meeting the them in person. As though disciplining myself for my meltdown on the phone, I sat down in my more typical no-nonsense state and started a list of questions for them. It was a long list, and they were detailed questions. I intended to grill them about every angle of parenting I could come up with. The inquisition was coming to town, and I was in charge! I printed out my list, along with a chart of expected pregnancy and delivery costs and all of my midwives’ paperwork, and showed up to our first meeting with my folder in tote.
Then the most wonderful thing happened. We shook hands, we sat down, and we started talking. Just talking. Easy small talk flowed like water from a faucet, and by the time we reached a lull in the conversation and they asked if I had any specific questions for them, I had no desire for grilling. It was a big deal to me that I felt comfortable with this couple in person. It was an even bigger deal that we could keep up a conversation without strange pauses or me feeling like I talked too much or wanting to escape the room. (I’m not a great conversationalist is what I’m implying here. Seriously, I suck at it so much.) I had known from their profiles and photo book that they would be good parents for my child, but now I was sure that they would be good friends for me as well. It was so comforting to know that we could discuss anything easily, that I would never have to fear awkward, silent visits, and that they were fully supportive of my desired birth plans. Things were definitely looking up.
There was still a difficult task ahead of me though. I had yet to get an ultrasound and find out my baby’s sex. For several months now, I had been telling myself it would be a boy. I wanted it to be a boy. I needed it to be a boy. This sounds really weird to say, but I thought a boy would be easier for me to give up. No offense to boys whatsoever, but in the few images I had of me as a mother, the child was always a girl. The majority of my mothering dreams were not at all gender-specific (come on, you can read classic literature to any child), but for some reason, I had always pictured a girl. I was so afraid that if I found out it was a girl, I would suddenly question my entire adoption plan and that, even if I went through with it, I would be much more emotionally wounded afterward. I think I was subconsciously detaining my ultrasound because I was terrified that the results would be ruinous for me.
It couldn’t be avoided though. The midwives referred me a private ultrasound technician, and my sister went with me to the appointment. I wasn’t comfortable having the adoptive parents present at any of my medical appointments – I guess due to this peculiar need for independence that I have. They were understanding and respectful of this wish, and we agreed to meet a few days later so I could share the news of whether they were having a boy or a girl.
Using a private technician instead of the typical clinic ultrasound option was another great choice. The technician, an older woman with a homey office, was both professional and personable. She was unhurried, taking time to explain every check she was doing and point out the baby’s body parts and position on a large TV screen set up for us to watch. Throughout the entire ultrasound, she continually took pictures and videos of the baby, all of which I received on a flash drive. She even printed out a long string of photos for me to take as well.
At this point in my term, I had become more comfortable with the concept of pregnancy itself, but I still didn’t like to think too much about the details. Though I was fascinated with the ultrasound process, frankly, the whole thing felt like a cool science experiment that just happened to utilize my body. I nodded at everything the technician said, murmuring my interest and trying to figure out how the technology worked. Then she got a good view between the baby’s legs. I’m not blind. I knew it before she said it. It was a girl.
I waited for the emotions to come. I went home and sat on my bed and tried to decide if I wanted to cry. I didn’t. I felt, strangely… okay. In fact, I felt sort of better than okay. I felt peaceful.
I’m never one to assume anything about my emotional state, so I left myself open to the possibility of an emotional breakdown over the next few days. I allowed myself to be upset if I wanted. Eventually, I was so surprised by my okay-ness that I made myself really think about the whole thing – about my images of mothering, about what it would be like to give away my daughter, about the dynamics between us in the future. That was when the specificity of my parenting dreams hit me for the first time. That was when I truly realized that the snapshots of being a mother I had stored in my imagination were only seconds in my child’s entire lifetime. Girl or boy, I couldn’t base my decision to mother my baby off of my desires for just a smidgen of their childhood.
When I told the adoptive parents that they were having a girl, she cried, and he had tears in his eyes, and I was happy. They would be the perfect parents for my little girl’s entire life, not just for a few snapshots. I gave them all of the ultrasound pictures and drove home feeling more at peace than I had the entire year.
As we moved towards our daughter’s birthday, the adoptive parents and I met a few more times and got to know each other more. We toured the birthing center and sat down with our adoption agents and the midwives so everyone could meet prior to the delivery day. Both times, the adoptive mother had a long list of questions for the medical professionals. It made sense – her prior experiences with newborns had included the NICU, so she was a little skeptical when the owner of the birthing center said new parents typically check out 4-6 hours after birth. I loved that the adoptive mom came so prepared to get answers. Not only did it give me constant reassurance that my baby would be in extremely capable hands, but also it provided me with some information I didn’t even know I wanted. See, I’m normally a very organized person – “Knowledge is power” and let’s make a list and all that – but I’ve discovered that when I have any amount of fear about something, I prefer to think about it as little as possible. That, of course, means not researching it either.
Thankfully, the adoptive parents brought their prior experiences to the table and left me feeling more prepared and ready to pursue further education. The midwives gave me quite a few books during my last two months, and with each that I read, I became more at peace with my impending due date. I read a lot about non-violent birthing and hypno-birthing, amazing methods for accepting your contractions calmly and powering through your birth without resulting trauma. By educating myself and surrounding myself with positive, supportive people, I moved forward without fear at last. Though I had previously realized that I was truly happy with my life, despite it’s strange circumstances, it was only after choosing my adoptive parents, finding out the baby’s sex, and stocking up on encouraging knowledge that I felt completely at peace. I waltzed into my final month with my head held high.