So Much More Than Simple Luck
Through the years, people have told me that I am lucky to have found such a great family for my son – a term that used to grate on me. It wasn’t luck – it was persistence and determination.
You know the saying, “You can’t be a little bit pregnant”? Well, that’s not exactly true – at least the way the Spence-Chapin agency handled things when I was pregnant. As I’ve written previously, I knew from the earliest days that I would place my son for adoption – and I never really wavered in that decision. Had his birthfather wanted to get married, I’d have changed my mind in a heartbeat – but that was not to be. So I got started with adoption counseling earlier than most birthmothers.
The process, as it unfolded for me, was an initial phone call with the head of the birthparent department. Next came an introductory phone call with the social worker assigned to us, as birthparents. Then the first face-to-face meeting. Somewhere in one of the very early meetings, we were shown the profile of a prospective adoptive family. This included a “Dear Birthparents” letter. I was impressed with any family who had the forethought (or perhaps a nudge from their social worker) to write “Birthparents” instead of “Birthmother,” because it meant they understood that sometimes, as was my situation, the birthfather is involved. The profile also included a dossier or résumé, of sorts, with details about the prospective parents, as well as a photo album.
The couple in this “sample” profile looked older than us (I was 27 and Tony was 25) but still young. They looked happy. And, boy, were they white! I think if I were choosing a family today, I might aim for more diversity – but at the time, I went with what I knew. (Although my mom was Mexican – making me half – I always identified as Caucasian. And Tony was a WASP, through and through.) My requirements were simple (or so I thought): I wanted a traditionally married Catholic couple who already had at least one child (I did not want my son to be the Guinea pig) and lived in a suburb somewhere in the Tri-State Area (so he’d be close to New York City but still grow up with a yard). Check, check, check, and check. That first couple met every one of my criteria. I was eager to meet them.
Not. So. Fast.
You see, I wasn’t pregnant enough yet. At that time, Spence-Chapin had a rule that a woman had to be at least halfway through her pregnancy before she could start officially considering profiles of prospective parents. The one we saw was just “to give us an idea” about what a profile looked like. So it might have made more sense for them to show me the profile of gay couple or a single ethnic woman if they didn’t want me to actually consider them as parents for my son.
I’m not sure how long I had to wait before I could begin “officially” reviewing profiles, but it was probably close to a month. And by the time I was able to start the process, that perfect family I’d liked so much was gone. Some other prospective birthmother had swooped them up – and who could blame her? I was crushed. But some things are not meant to be – and other things are. We’ll talk about adoption synchronicities in another post.
Interestingly, I later learned that the gal who’d chosen my first-choice family was quite young, perhaps an addict, and quite a storyteller. She’d told the couple whatever they wanted to hear, in terms of her personal history, her health, and the baby’s health. She came down with diabetic preeclampsia, and the baby was born in distress and would likely have health issues, going forward. I was sad to hear this couple had had to go through that – and wondered how this gal’s behavior wasn’t spotted before it got that far. But what it meant to me, personally, was that I had to start from scratch to find a family for my son. That was a long road.
I remember hearing that the average birthmother saw two or three profiles before choosing a family for her child. But what if I don’t like any of those families?! I remember asking, horrified at the thought. This was the most important decision I would ever make in my life, and they wanted me to choose from the first two or three families the birthparent team pre-selected for me, without ever having met or spoken to me!? Yes, Mary was good at her job, but was she really equipped to describe for these strangers exactly what I wanted in a family for my son? It is a point of pride for me that as a result of mine and other birthmoms’ input via the Birthparent Advisory Board, every prospective birthmom (or birth-couple) considering adoption through Spence-Chapin now gets to see a summary of ALL of the waiting couples, singles, and families who might become adoptive parents to their babies.
By the time I’d seen six or seven profiles and rejected all of them for various reasons (more on that in a future post!), the agency started to doubt my sincerity about the placement. I suppose it did seem odd – Tony and I had been “together” for five years at this point. I had a stable job WITH health insurance. There were none of the big red flags that indicated a “crisis” pregnancy. Except that I was determined to place my baby for adoption, and they weren’t taking me seriously. It was only when I threatened to leave and head over to Catholic Charities, a Spence-Chapin competitor, that they reconsidered and grudgingly allowed me to see a couple more profiles.
As an aside, Kathy told me something she’d never shared with me when we were visiting with Eric’s family last month. She said that she and Bruce experienced something similar on the adoptive parent side, because the agency was concerned that Bruce wasn’t properly committed to the adoption. It wasn’t until they mentioned that perhaps they’d use Gladney (another well-known NYC agency) instead that they, too, were taken seriously.
It’s funny, because in my head, I can see Mary hesitantly handing me a red folder and me having to pry it from her hands. I know, of course, that it wasn’t like that – but that’s how I’ve doctored the story in my memory. They were so reluctant to allow me more than one profile at a time. Maybe this couple will be to your liking? I can hear an imaginary Mary saying.
There may have been luck involved – I’ve come to think of it more like divine providence. The coincidences in our adoption are so voluminous and unlikely that it feels there had to be some sort of divine guidance at play. Going forward, I’ll review some of the profiles I rejected and my reasons for doing so. I bless each of those couples and thank them for having been part of my process. More than anything, though, I’m grateful for the couple who belonged to Profile #12.