We’ve always talked with T-man about his adoption story. Over the years we’d add a few more details here and there, but the core remained the same: BrightSide and I wanted to start a family, and we were thrilled when Miss C chose us to be his parents.
I had no idea what misguided impressions this brief version had given him. What I saw as a straightforward story about our family’s beginning ended up misleading T-man in several significant ways, so last week we had a very important family discussion.
We told our whole story, beginning to end, so that T-man could begin to understand what the adoption journey was like for us.
For this to make sense, you need to have an idea of the adoption story we’d already shared with T-man. We’d told him how much we wanted to have children but I wasn’t able to get pregnant. Then we decided that adoption would be a wonderful way to build our family, and when Miss C chose us to be T-man’s parents we were beyond thrilled. We’d talked about how much his birthmom loved him – so much so that she chose the people she believed would be the best possible parents for him, and that was how he became our son.
BrightSide and I talked a lot about being open and how to explain our unusual family to T-man…we’d really thought it through, and I truly believed that we’d done a decent job of sharing all sides of the story. So you can imagine my shock recently when T-man referred to adoption as an easy way to get a baby because it didn’t involve going to the hospital and going through the pain of labor. And his perception of the adoption process? It was miles off the mark, but then again we’d never really explained it to him so how could he possibly know?
We sat down that evening as a family – Bear, T-man, BrightSide, and I – to tell them the entire story of our journey to become parents. We figured they were old enough to hear pretty much all of it, now that they’re past the initial babies & bodies questions.
BrightSide and I always intended to spend time together as a married couple (plus the fur balls, of course) before adding children to the mix. We made that classic blunder – assuming life goes according to plan – so after five years together we decided Okay! Time to make a baby!
Except we didn’t.
Those of you who’ve had trouble conceiving know there’s a long, winding road that (sometimes) leads you to the truth, and after about six months of not getting pregnant you start walking that road. It’s filled with labs and tests, some of which are extraordinarily invasive and painful, but we wanted to have a baby so we did the hard stuff.
Except there wasn’t any truth at the end of that road.
So after a few more months we were referred to the big teaching hospital in a nearby city, where we endured more tests and procedures, none of which gave us any answers about why I wasn’t getting pregnant. I was a big mystery, but since there wasn’t a problem to “fix” the doctors started helping us try to conceive.
The kids learned a lot of medical information that night. BrightSide and I went through several rounds of IUI, all of which were unsuccessful. We also tried one round of in vitro fertilization, and if I thought the IUI was nerve-wracking it was a cakewalk compared to IVF. We told the kids all the details about this stuff – the travel, the shots, the monitoring, the procedures – it was information overload up in here. But it registered, because as I finished describing the IVF T-man turned to me and said, “And even after doing all that, you STILL didn’t get pregnant?!”
That’s right, and we explained that we didn’t understand it. It took me some time to realize that I wanted to be a mom more than I wanted to be pregnant, and for BrightSide to realize that raising children with a strong moral compass is more important than the blood flowing through their veins. But when we finally understood all of that, we were ready to talk about adoption.
T-man said, “Oh, so then you got me?”
Oh, no, honey child. There’s way more to this story.
First we had to review our options. After deciding that the foster program wasn’t right for us, we started researching adoption agencies and went to an information meeting for one in our state. The agency impressed us, and we decided we wanted to move forward with a domestic adoption…then the big work began.
Criminal background checks at the courthouse. Fingerprints at the police station. Physicals from our doctors. Financial data collection. An agency application that was unbelievably detailed, compiling incredibly specific information about us and our parenting beliefs. Plus a home study that involved an interview with a social worker and an inspection of our home. Nerve. Wracking.
And T-man said, “So then you got me?”
Well, no…all of that just meant we were approved to be an adoptive family. They don’t drop kids into homes willy nilly, you know.
Then I hustled myself on over to Aunt Bee’s house where she helped me create our scrapbook. (I pulled out the scrapbook they’d kept at the agency to show birthmothers.) It was terrifying to think that this one book was going to be our first impression for someone who could choose us to be parents. But we finished the books, mailed them to the agency, and then waited. Which was a really hard part to do, too.
Finally, after months of marking time, the agency called and said Miss C had chosen us and wanted to meet. I felt like throwing up the whole way there – Why? asked the kids. Because it was the most important meeting OF MY LIFE and I was terrified I’d do something wrong. And, as those of you who’ve read and then there was T-man know, after all that we had to go home without him. I cried the whole way back.
Bear was confused and asked, “But why? You knew you were bringing him home on Monday!” and we explained to her that no, we didn’t know that, and I thought I might have just lost my son. She looked stricken.
The rest of the story is what we’d already told T-man: how we were called back to the agency on Monday to get him, but I was afraid to believe it was real. The moment Miss C brought him into the room and he reached out for BrightSide, settling into his arms like he knew that space had been waiting for him. (I looked up to find tears streaming down Bear’s face at that point.) And that was the moment that we began our family.
T-man and I have talked a little more about this since that night. He said the story was “interesting,” and I can tell he’s busy processing all that information. He’s also commented that adopting a baby is way harder than he thought, so at least now T-man knows he wasn’t passed off to us on a whim.
It’s an interesting twist…I’ve never emphasized the beginning of our story because I was afraid T-man and Bear would feel like I wanted a biological child more than I want them, but it seems to have had the opposite effect. Knowing that we tried so hard for so long to have a child (first biologically and then through adoption) seems to have helped T-man realize how precious he is to us.
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Thank you, Jim.
I love that you explained it in detail to him. I am a mother through IVF and every process including those that lead to adoption are some of the hardest and longest trials you’ll ever go through. Great job!
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Thank you! I know we have a lot more conversations ahead of us, but I think this was a really good start…
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