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Adoption Blog: Adoption: Not Just My Profession, My Life
Father’s Day Guest Post “My First Year as a Dad Through Adoption”
As Father’s Day approached, I asked my husband if he would contribute a post to my blog, sharing his perspective on the adoption process and fatherhood. Here are his thoughts:
It’s been a little over a year since I became a father of three. In that time, I have learned and grown a lot, especially with my last child, R., whom my wife, Kristy, and I adopted.
Adoption was an ongoing discussion we’d had over the years. The question wasn’t really if we should adopt but when. Should we adopt first, then have a biological child? Should we reverse that order? Which would be best for this hypothetical baby we were planning for? Eventually, we agreed that birth order, though important to a certain degree, was not something we were going to worry about, and so within the next few years my biological sons S. and J. were born. A little over a year after J. was born, Kristy and I started talking about adoption again.
Unlike most people I spoke with, I knew about open adoption because Kristy works for an adoption agency. The open part relieved some potential concerns I had, such as what, if any, information can I give my child when he or she asks about his or her biological family? I still had other concerns, though, as we began the process. What would the child’s biological parents be like? Would our relationship be complicated and filled with conflict? As we began the paperwork and filled out our adoption profile, I was concerned about how well this hypothetical expectant mother would be taking care of herself. With our biological children, my wife and I obviously had total control over our children’s prenatal environments. Though, of course, even with ideal pregnancies, a child can be born with health needs, it felt a little more nerve-wracking that the pregnancy was totally out of our hands.
As we progressed through the paperwork, home study, and classes, I tried to approach it all with no expectations. Financial statements, background checks, and a four- to five-page autobiography seemed reasonable for this in-depth process. I remember thinking at the time that some of the autobiography’s questions seemed a little excessive—for example, asking about my elementary school experience—but when I finished, it made sense to me that the adoption social worker wanted a clear picture of who I am to make sure that our future child would be safe and thrive in our home.
We finally completed all the paperwork and, last April, my wife got a call and then she called me to tell me that R. had been born and her biological mother choose us to be her adoptive parents. Actually, she didn’t have a name at the time and, after asking her biological mother about a name via our social workers, we named her R. when we met her the next day. We brought her home about a week later. Kristy stayed in the hospital with her for a couple of days, then they moved to a hotel until ICPC was approved.
Being our third child, we already knew the routine of caring for an infant and had everything we needed. But we weren’t prepared for the toughest part of the process. Only 24 hours after we’d brought R. home from the hotel we got a call from our social worker. She told us that the information we’d received about the biological father was different than we’d initially thought, and he potentially wanted to parent R. The social workers pass along any new information they had, but this came in incomplete bits and pieces. It was difficult because we were not sure whether, after caring for and loving this sweet newborn, R. would remain part of our lives.
As the social workers continued to talk to R.’s birth father and birth mother, Kristy and I got into the mindset of wanting to give this little girl the best care in the here and now, regardless of what would happen in the future. We were ready to return R. to either of her birth parents if they wanted and were able to parent her, no matter how heartbreaking it might be for us.
Eventually, after four months, a judge decided that R. would receive the best care from us, with the full endorsement of R.’s birth mother. This was a great relief to us, as well as to her birth mother, but I was never sure how her birth father felt in the end as he has ceased all contact. Seven months after she was first placed in our arms, R.’s adoption was finalized and she officially became a part of our family.
Months later my wife, R., and I met with her birth mother for the first time after sharing pictures, text messages, and e-mails. It was a tough experience for all, seeing the joy and pain in R.’s birth mother’s eyes and the realization of our biggest fear at the time—that R. wanted to be held by us instead of by her birth mother. After that visit, we continued pictures and messages, almost on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. On R.’s first birthday her birth mother, birth grandmother, and birth sister, who is about one year older, came to the party. It was great to celebrate together and see R. interacting and playing with each of them.
R. is just over one year old now, and though it is physically tiring to be a father of three, I know that there are other obstacles ahead, which may be hard in a different way. Our daughter is of African and Haitian descent and my wife and I are of European descent. From the moment we knew we would be a transracial family, we have been trying hard to look at race and race relations in a different way, beyond our personal experience. Our extended family has African and African-American representation, as well as adoption connections, and our church family is quite diverse as well. Our hope is for R. to grow up with mirrors in her everyday life. We both have read extensively and joined transracial adoption and other groups with African-American families to help us transcend our own white privilege and better understand the kinds of challenges she may face growing up in our predominantly white neighborhood. I think that will be the hardest part of adoption for me, what lies ahead.
If a man who was considering adoption but was nervous about the process asked me, I would tell him to get more information. Go to information sessions that adoption agencies hold. Go to more than one, if needed. Picking the right agency is a very important choice. Ask all your questions: what is the wait time, what is involved in the adoption process, how are adoption preferences considered? During our process we did a lot of research on the effects of prenatal drug use on a child. We also considered whether we’d be open to a child with special needs, if such information were available. Going into the process with knowledge is important.
As for whether it’s easy to love a child to whom you are not connected through biology, I would say that, for me, it was no different than the first moment I laid eyes on my sons. When I held R. in my arms, I felt connected in a way that transcends DNA. The only difference is that my daughter has two sets of parents instead of just one. And, far from being a burden, that is the fundamental foundation of open adoption. Two families coming together out of love for the same child create her roots and her wings.
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