Sunday, March 26, 2006

Grab a cup of tea, this is gonna be a long one.

Z-man and I finally had time to sit down today and make a few decisions about our adoption. This process is a lot different than the decision to get pregnant. (Or more accurately the decision not to wear a condom) That was easy; this was not. We both have a lot of ideas about how we see our family growing and what is important and what is not. Some of the issues we had already decided about; and once we got there and felt like we where making progress, new issues loomed up. I feel like we've been climbing [insert really tall mountain of choice here]. Now, as we lay gasping at the top, or at least a wide ledge, I feel the sadistic need to look over the side and see how far we've come.

Step 1 - Decide to adopt
Ok, this sounds a lot easier than it was. We are blessed by having two amazing daughters. The first time we got pregnant in 1 month, the second time took 3, getting pregnant wouldn’t be a problem. This is something I never take for granted because I have a friend dealing with infertility who isn’t as fortunate. So, getting pregnant with a 3rd child probably would be an issue (don’t ask about how the vasectomy talks are going) but being pregnant, staying health and not becoming permanently disabled would be. It has taken 2 years to come to grip with the fact that I’ll never be pregnant again. It’s a bummer too because (for us) that is much easier than adoption.

We then had to decide if we couldn’t have another bio child if we even wanted another child at all. I have always pictured us having three kids, so it wasn’t a matter of not wanting three, but two kids is easy. Two arms, two legs to sit on, two parents, never out numbered (but outwitted daily). .. Plus, adoption is a big unknown. Lots of money and lots of work, for a baby that may or may not like you is scary. I know what having a bio child is like, adoption is starting over. For us it came down to, how would we feel in 10 years if we took the easy road? We both want more children; it’s just the unknown that is scary. We don’t back away from scary.

Step 2 – Domestic or International
How do you narrow down a discussion that took months into a few paragraphs? A newborn baby is the major upside of domestic adoption. There isn’t an international program around where you can get a baby that young. Bonding from birth and adoptive breastfeeding are two of the major draws for me to that program. Having bio children, I’m kinda stuck in that rut and pulling out of it to consider something else is hard. I love that most adoptions now a days are open and that the child can have contact with birth family. As a person who never met her birthfather, this is something I can understand and get behind.

Z-man hated the idea; when he looked at the program all he saw were the negatives. Uncertain wait times, uncertain costs, uncertain whether you’d get to keep the baby you got. The idea that you could bond with a child, even have that child in your home, and then lose them, was more than he was will to risk.

He felt a lot more comfortable with international adoption because you basically pay your fees and are guaranteed a child. He also felt that the need of the children over seas was much greater than here at home where we can afford to see that at least no children are starving to death. Higher expenses, questionable health, and long travel times were on our cons list. We made lists, surfed internet forums, and called agencies; all the while I longed for the simplicity of the condom/no condom days. We spent a long time hashing over all the details and in the end decided to go with international adoption.

Step 3 – Choosing a county
Most of this work was done for us; each country has a list of qualifications for international adopters. We aren’t 30, have bio children, and are not Christens, all of which really narrowed down where we could adopt from. We also had no intention of spending 6 to 8 weeks in a foreign country with young kids at home. In the end we had three candidate countries: China, Korea, and Ethiopia.

China was our first choice even though they have a minimum age requirement of 30. Much research showed that we could start the adoption process in the summer after Will’s 30th birthday and we could have our dossier ready to go to China after my 30th birthday that winter. With the wait times at that time being 6 months, we could travel to China in the fall to pick up our baby girl. This was perfect timing I though because Princess would be 7 and Cookie would be almost 4 when we brought home the baby who would be in the 8 to 12 month range. So, what changed? I’m not sure. For almost a year, I thought we would travel to China and bring home a baby girl. Then, last December, my heart was pulled in another direction.

Korea was an alternative to China. We could start sooner if we wanted to because they had a lower age requirement, and we would get a baby boy instead of a girl. It seemed to be a decision of Chins/girl vs. Korea/boy. Boys are available in China, but not very often and usually not with out health issues. Since we live in a very rural area with limited health care available, adopting a special needs child was not something we felt comfortable with. Any major surgery would require a 900 mile plane trip. The big question was did we want a boy or a girl. That is a hard choice, and one I am very glad I didn’t have to make with the girls. This is one of the reasons we finally decided against both of these countries. We just couldn’t choose.

Ethiopia was a tough one. I felt immediately drawn to the program as soon as I heard about it. Someone on a discussion board I’m on adopted her son from there and I learned a lot about the country and the Aids orphans there from her. The reason it wasn’t on the top of our list was because I was extremely intimidated by the thought of raising a black child. Our rural community is not very culturally diverse. (The 2000 census report showed us having 0.8% black population) Some members of Z-man’s family are racist, and I not sure that I as a white person could give my child all the tools they would need to face life in this racist world. It’s always easier to bury your head in the sand.
I don’t know exactly what changed. Maybe it was all the reading I was doing on transracial adoption that showed me that we would still have to face those issues with an Asian child. Maybe it was just me deciding to follow what my heart was telling me instead of trying to intellectualize everything. I felt the pull to Ethiopia and I started the discussion with Z-man only to discover that he felt the same way I did. He also felt the pull toward Africa and so we decided we would go forward and adopt from Ethiopia.

Step 4 – Choosing an agency
There are 6 agencies with established Ethiopian programs and 2 more that just started new programs this year. Picking the right agency to work with is a very personal decision and everyone has a different comfort level and expectation of what they want from the agency they choose.

Step 5 – Choosing age and sex
For some reason, Z-man and I are just not comfortable choosing the sex of our child. We have two girls and are very comfortable raising our daughters. We would be happy to have another amazing girl join our family and, not so incidentally, the hand-me-down train. On the other hand, we would also be thrilled to take a new parental journey and welcome a wonderful boy to the family and help balance out the hormone levels around here. We just can’t make that decision, so some faceless bureaucrat somewhere will have to make it for us; romantic huh?

The major gist of our long conversation today was about age. Princess is currently 5, Cookie is 2, so their ages greatly affect the age of child we feel comfortable adopting. Z-man is adamantly opposed to changing the birth order of our existing children. I don’t feel strongly about it but I did mention it to Princess and she didn’t care for the idea at all. She loves being the oldest in the family just like I was the oldest and my mom was the oldest. It’s important to her and to ZM so adopting older children will have to wait another decade. I like at least 2 ½ years in between my kids. I feel like this gives me the opportunity to enjoy each stage with each child. (Or wallow in it as the case may be) So, we are looking at an infant adoption 18 months old or younger. We decided that since our age parameters are so narrow, we will be open to twins but will not try for siblings otherwise. The odds of getting twins will be very low and the odds of getting a boy will be high, but nothing will be certain, so the mystery will continue.

Now that most of the major decision making is out of the way we can focus on the paperwork part of the process. First, we’ll submit our application, then run around getting the home study done, then run around some more getting the dossier put together., and then we’ll come to the longest part of the process…waiting for referral.


Elle said...

an amazing decision making process.

Rhonda said...

Wow, I can only imagine the thought and conversations you two must have had. In a way,since we don't have kids, we didn't have to think of a lot of things that you guys had to deal with (i.e. birth order). Can't wait until you get your referral.

Tricia said...

Michael and I have been going through the same decision-making tree. We've come up with two children, bio-siblings if possible but healthy is #1 priority, from Russia, under 5 years old. Preferably both girls, age difference doesn't matter. We will submit our application next summer, and complete the homestudy hopefully next Fall for a 2007 completion. Looking forward to your journey.