Once we’d made the decision to adopt, things began progressing fairly quickly. We requested a ton of information from a variety of agencies and programs, and we read it all. We ruled out foster to adopt and domestic adoption. We nixed programs that had obvious ethical issues (the irony of which I’ll discuss at a later date). We debated pros and cons of every option. It was important to us that we could offer a child the kind of support they’d need as they grew up, from educational to medical to cultural. The more I read accounts of the positive and negative experiences of adult adoptees, the more I felt that the biggest piece of the puzzle was our ability to maintain a connection to our child’s original culture and to her first family. We looked into what our city had to offer, to how easy it would be for us to connect to others who shared our child’s culture, and in the end, Ethiopia easily came out as the front runner.
From there it was up to us to decide on age range, gender, and range of special needs we could manage. This is the part where I tell you that I still feel guilty that we originally requested a baby girl. Still. Regardless of the fact that we knew more families who requested a boy than had requested a girl, I still clung to the statistics that say that the average adoptive parent wants a baby girl, as young as possible, as healthy as possible. Well, we weren’t in line for health, unless you count that we actually preferred medical special needs, and we weren’t in line for as young as possible, though it did make sense to us to adopt a baby first and pursue older child adoption later. But still, we were stating our preference as baby girl. In the end, not much of that mattered. We did adopt a girl, but everything else got turned upside down when we saw our daughter’s face.
The paperwork part of the adoption, for me, was a struggle. Ethiopian adoption requires a home study and then the creation of a dossier, and each process required a different set of documents, with each document needing to be done in a very specific way. For every document I got done successfully the first time, there was another that had to be redone one or even two times. By the time I had everything together and ready to send off to our agency, I was a bundle of nerves. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to handle it if our coordinator called and told me that something was not done correctly. Luckily, the next call I got from her was to tell me that everything was in order and ready to go. Relieved, we settled in for the wait to see our daughter’s face. I bought baby pajamas in larger sizes in case we adopted an older baby and started amassing various baby things. We didn’t know how long it would be before we saw the girl we were calling Magnolia, but I wanted to be ready.
We had listed a wide variety of special needs that we felt we could handle, but I knew that it was impossible to list everything that we would be prepared to parent. Our agency maintained an online listing of waiting children, and I knew that unless our coordinator was a mind reader (and I was pretty sure she wasn’t), our child might show up there first as opposed to via the fabled referral call. I was right that our daughter showed up there; that part I knew. I was just wrong about everything else.
It was a Friday when I first saw her face. Something about her caught my attention, and I couldn’t look away. But she was three years old, and we had agreed to begin our family by adopting a baby, and so I resisted the urge to text Jarod and tell him to look at her. Until, that is, I couldn’t resist it any longer. I wanted her to be my daughter. I saw something in her that drew me in, and it was different than what I’d seen in children on the waiting list before.
At the end of the day, we looked at her photo together. My husband, the practical one, who I thought would say, “No, Mary, we are starting our family with a baby,” instead said, “Let’s see what happens.” I filled out the form requesting more information right away. It was Friday evening. We wouldn’t hear anything until Monday at least. It was the most excruciating weekend of my entire life up to that point. But I didn’t know excruciating, not really. Not yet.
This is the story of my journey to adoptive motherhood. The introductory post is here. The second post is here.The third post is here.
Read more of our family story on Finding Magnolia
Follow Finding Magnolia on Twitter