Right before I left to pick Elias up from preschool today, I saw a video on Facebook of a little girl holding her baby brother for the first time. When I got to the school, I had to sit in the car for a minute and pull myself together, because I couldn’t stop crying.
There’s nothing more or less special about their story than any other family’s story, I guess, except that I know them. And this is a baby boy that they are adopting, and so their story resonates with me in a deeper way. A way that makes me a faucet, apparently.
The mom in this story, in a message yesterday, thanked me for talking to her about adoption. Honestly, I only half-remember this conversation, and I certainly can’t remember exactly what I said. Not because it wasn’t important, but because I’ve had a lot of these conversations with people who are considering adding to their family via adoption. They have read the papers an agency sent them, probably, and they have Googled until they are simultaneously exhilarated and terrified, and they are a little bit overwhelmed, or maybe a lot. And for sure they have read about the money involved and thought about lying down with a cold rag on their forehead until they recover from the body blow. But no one has been able to tell them what it’s like.
And I can’t really either. Every single experience is different. People are involved, and intense emotions, and anytime you bring those two things together, predictability goes out the window.
One thing I can tell them is that there is going to be pain involved. I have yet to meet a person involved in an adoption that doesn’t experience some pain. Many – not all – adoptive parents are dealing with infertility, which is a saga of its own. All adoptive parents deal with red tape and frustration and invasions of privacy. And low-level anxiety that dissipates only when you walk back through the courtroom doors after the finalization hearing, breathing out the world’s gustiest sigh of relief.
And the birthparents. I wish I could tell you some stories, but they aren’t mine to tell. I’ll tell you instead what I tell my boys every time they ask about their respective birthmoms: She did a hard, hard thing, and she did it for you. She loved you fiercely and completely and she loves you still. These things will never not be true.
So, it is hard.
For us, there are obvious compensations; we are raising two of them.
Friendships count among them, too. This is not universally true, but often there is an immediate connection between adoptive families. We speak the same language.
But sometimes compensations come from strangest of places. We were involved in a failed adoption – a rather spectacular one, as these things go. Some of the days during that the time still count as the very worst days of my life. If you had asked me at the time, I would have wished it all away, to never have experienced any of it.
But I saw that baby born, which is something I will probably never get to repeat. I was in the room, and I saw his head crown. One second, there were seven of us in the room and the next second, there were eight. I met his grandmother’s eyes over the doctor’s hands and we both cried, in joy and grief and wonder. I would never give that moment back, no matter what came after. We are still friends with that family, in a way that seems inexplicable to other people sometimes. They are part of us. We see them – not often enough – and our lives would be poorer without them. It’s all mixed up together, the awful and the beautiful and the painful and the unbelievable.
And that is, in essence, what I tell people when they ask me what it’s like. Adoption is hard. It’s scary. It’s messy. But oh, the glorious things that rise out of the mess. You wouldn’t believe.