When we were pursuing domestic adoption, we did so independently, without the assistance of an adoption agency. This meant that we had to do our own networking and advertising, as well as screening potential birth parents. Many times we came across people who were not familiar with private adoption and found our attempts at reaching out suspicious. Many hopeful adoptive parents likewise found the idea of having to essentially sell themselves as a viable option for someone’s child as demeaning. Yet adoption agencies can – and are expected to – advertise and network on behalf of their hopeful adoptive parents without raising any red flags.
Still, as I came across an entire column of advertisements in the back of a pregnancy magazine, both from agencies and individual couples, I was taken aback. The couples’ ads were nearly identical to each other: “Childless couple hoping to adopt. Financially secure. Expenses Paid.” What would make a potential birth mother call any one of those couples over any of the others? And is the implication that all of these couples are a good choice for their child precisely because they are financially well-off? Does that mean that if she is poor, a pregnant woman ought to consider adoption for her baby?
I thought about my fellow readers. Where would they be reading this magazine? Perhaps at their obstetrician’s office, awaiting confirmation of their home pregnancy test? Perhaps at a store, while (window) shopping for baby items? Are any of them facing obstacles that would make raising their baby difficult? Maybe they’re dreading having to tell their partner or parents? Maybe they’re worried about being able to afford a baby? Maybe they’re concerned that they won’t be able to finish their education when they expected? Perhaps they hadn’t thought of adoption as an option until coming across these ads in the back of the pregnancy magazine?
I found my heart going out to them. I was reading the magazine because I subscribed to it when our third attempt at embryo adoption resulted in our baby, due in a few months. I was immediately reminded of the three or so years my husband and I spent trying to adopt, meeting potential birth mothers, getting to know each other. I remembered the awkward dance between wanting to respect the young women’s choices while at the same time trying to determine if we should be preparing our home for a baby.
Now I was able to relate to these women from a new perspective. I felt my baby moving inside me the way they feel theirs. I gaze at my baby’s ultrasound pictures the way they must gaze at their babies. I am planning for the details of my baby’s birth with the expectation and reassurance of finally meeting her or him, and the life that will begin for us as a family of three. I am going out of my way to try to ensure that my baby and I won’t be separated right after birth, that I will be able to nurse and hold my baby for as long as I want.
And then I think about these other women, who are anticipating a very different delivery experience. Maybe they invited the adoptive parents to the birth, maybe not. Even if they hold their babies first, it will be to tell them they love them and to say goodbye, as they hand them over to the adoptive parents. I am heartbroken thinking about what lies ahead for them, how different their pregnancy experience is from mine.
And I’m sorry for ever insinuating that any baby still in his or her mother’s womb was already mine.