I try and try to make this a lighthearted blog about decorating (possibly I need to change my header. But who doesn't love Edward Gorey?), but this infertility bull$h!t just won't die.
Last month, just as I was in the process of thinking how much I was looking forward to 2013 and how I actually felt joyful about it (for the first time in about as long as I can remember), my DH was contacted with a possible adoption opportunity. I almost got the words, "Well, tell her we're not interested" out of my mouth before I realized he was interested. Given that he is, in fact, interested in adoption, he's been heroically patient with just waiting for the time the right opportunity will come along, or the time I'll change my mind. (I am still not interested in adoption. I have said God can change my heart, and He is welcome to, but "feels sick about it but goes ahead anyway out of a conviction that God will punish her if she doesn't" doesn't qualify as feeling called to adopt. Try again, God.)
I was so upset every time I just thought of the possibility that I felt sick to my stomach for weeks. We had some good talks, and I found out some things about getting home-study approved, we found out from the person who had first contacted my husband that the birth mother was looking for certain criteria, and we didn't meet them. That sounds a little mysterious (and possibly nasty), but I assume the criterion was something like "has adopted before" - we hadn't exactly provided a detailed biography from which the littlest details of our persons could be rejected. We hadn't provided anything; we were still thinking about it. I don't know when I have felt more relieved.
Yesterday my DH let me know that someone else - from the same city, by the way - had contacted him about another adoption opportunity, also a baby to be born in the summer. This email came with a list of the birth mother's criteria. I haven't been through this process before, and no doubt the criteria are sometimes idiosyncratic (and sometimes unspoken, if the birth mother gets to choose between a bunch of portfolios in the privacy of her own mind). And no one should expect a wise or a sophisticated decision-making process from a young woman who got knocked up and doesn't have the resources to care for a child, either. It's the nature of the beast.
Even so - tell me whether "not morbidly obese," "at least one spouse has an advanced degree," "other children 'OK' [!!!!]," and "mother's schedule flexible or may be able to stay home with the child" are normal. (I note by way of clarification that the last one seems completely normal in itself, but raises major problems for me after the student loan debt from 1-2 advanced degrees and $25,000 in adoption fees. If I adopted a child, I would do everything possible to stay home full-time until the child started school; but that's a sacrifice I would make for my child, and I won't be held accountable to a nitwit birth mother or a profit-seeking adoption industry. (I almost typed "abortion industry" there. Guess that tells you how I feel about this business.)
And on this morbidly obese thing? Everyone thinks they know what that term means and most people don't. It has a medical definition - 20% over recommended body weight. That means if your doctor thinks you should ideally weigh 125 pounds and you weigh 150, you are morbidly obese. Not "a little overweight." Morbidly obsese. For the record, I'm not offended because either my DH or I is actually morbidly obese. I'm pretty sure we'd qualify on all the birth mother's criteria, in fact. I'm offended because this criterion is so phenomenally stupid. I know - consider the source - but I really can't with this one. What is the goal here? Make sure the kid won't get fat? Most of weight is genetic, and there are a lot worse things a child could become than fat. (Let's start with - anorexic! Which, unlike being 20% overweight, is actually likely to kill you.) If it's just that the kid should be healthy, maybe the requirement should be, "Has an active lifestyle." A lot less offensive, yes?
Or maybe the goal is just that the adoptive parents aren't likely to die while the child is young. In that case, maybe ask about a family history of cancer or heart disease, perhaps. A lot of (genuinely) fat people live long and healthy - and even very active - lives. I am not, of course, suggesting that parents who would be included by the heart disease/cancer criteria would be better, or those excluded worse. On the contrary; the criteria that determine good parents have little to do with these matters, in my experience. But the birth mother can only work with hard data and broad strokes, so a few things like this make sense. It's just that morbid obesity itself seems irrelevant to any reasonable consideration. As far as I can tell, the only question about the child's life likely to be answered by this information is, "How much will the Christmas pictures of my kid look like magazine photos?" And that sure sounds like the recipe for a happy childhood to me.
But (as my title may suggest), I have not yet gotten to nearly the most offensive part of this email. Here it is: that was it. No, I mean it. We got a (long - I gave you the obnoxious ones, but there were others) list of criteria for the adoptive parents. A projected due date. A statement that the emailer had heard we were interested in adoption (I seriously want to know where people are getting this. Is this, "You look sad and childless, and I'm so happy as a mommy. You MUST be interested in adoption"?). And - that was it.
There was no information about the birth mother - not her age, race, educational status, reason for wanting to give up the baby, drug and alcohol exposure - not one thing. Nothing about the birth father - whether he's in a relationship with the birth mother, or is a rapist; his race or age or educational status; or even whether he's expressed an intention to give up his parental rights. Nothing about the baby - any health issues, gender (I forget when they can figure that out), any testing that's been done or is scheduled.
I haven't decided whether I'd be open to transracial adoption. Obviously - I haven't decided whether I'd be open to adoption at all. But I will damn well make my decision with photos of at least the biological mother and father, unless the latter is a missing person registered with the police, and of as many members of the immediate family as possible. And information not just about the parents' races, but their ethnic backgrounds as well. And what color eyes they have and how tall they are and how they did in school. And any diseases or other issues that run in their families.
I am not saying I would reject a baby with a family history of schizophrenia, or who was not white, or who was likely to be short or have brown eyes. But if I want to, I get to. It's my $25,000. And I don't get to have a baby who looks like me or my husband. I don't get to have a baby who is likely, like us and our families, to be a little psycho, but a brilliant student. That may not be the most felicitous mix for a person's happiness, but it's us and if I could conceive a child, I would know that's what I was likely getting. And I would never have to deal with a teenager on a quest to find his "real" parents. I get to lose a lot in this process (and did I mention the $25,000 yet? Because if I am forking over that kind of money, I expect people to treat me with respect), and I really only get one thing (besides the baby - maybe - we all know how this really works): I get to make up my mind what I want to do.
I write emails to people, or have conversations, suggesting I fix them up with someone. Periodically. Often I've talked to the other party first, and I always ask about his or her criteria. Then I find someone who fits those criteria, in a pair I can imagine doing well together. (I'm not always right, but I have to do my best.) When I go to talk to party #2, I do not mention the other person's criteria (I've already sorted that part out, and who wants to feel evaluated?). What do I do? I tell party #2 all about party #. Age, appearance, dating history if I know it, personality, religious background, hobbies, job, other friends. Everything I can think of. Why? Because somebody who might be in a fix-up is already not where he wants to be. And if I provide all the information I can, I can deliver the message, "You're a catch. You have a right to be picky. I want to find the perfect person for you. I want you to be happy."
I recognize that in this sort of adoption cattle call, conveying the birth mother's criteria is unavoidable. However they irk me (because these particular criteria are so dumb), I am mature enough to understand that I must, per se, be evaluated in such a situation. But when there is no information about the baby or the birth parents - nothing whatsoever - the message is crystal-clear: "You poor schmuck. God gave you defective reproductive organs so you couldn't have your own biological children. Now you've got a target on your back so you can be extorted by a supposedly charitable industry and put under the microscope by someone too irresponsible even to make good choices for herself. And the best part is that you're so sad and desperate, you'll take any baby at all."
No, I won't.
I would appreciate your prayers for God to lead us to the right decision for our lives, and smooth the path to that eventuality, whatever it is.
Prayers that we simply adopt or otherwise procure a baby are - very sincerely - not appreciated. I don't care what situation you're in; it doesn't mean that universal happiness lies that way, and I will (on this occasion) spare you the list of people whose ill-considered entry into parenting did irreparable damage to their lives and their children. Praying that God's will be done is always benevolent. Praying for the outcome you think would be peachy keen suggests you know better than God. And there's a reason I'm not praying to you.