We decided it was time to start our family during a morning walk on a hot, summer day at the beach in 2008. While we knew our family would be formed through adoption, this was all we knew. To get some answers, we decided to ask some questions of ourselves and others.
When we returned home from vacation, our first step was to meet with friends who had adopted, so we invited them out to lunches with us. We wanted to learn about their experiences so we could have a more realistic idea of what was possible and how the adoption process worked. Before the scheduled lunches, we decided to do some basic computer research to gain an understanding of what types of questions we should be asking.
ADOPTING A CULTURE?
First on the list: Did we want to try international or domestic adoption? If we adopted internationally, we knew that embracing culture would be particularly important to us and our child. Given that, we felt we could adopt from a Latin American country because of my cultural background or an African country because of my educational background (I created an African American Studies major—the first at my college—as an undergraduate).
Before researching adoption, I thought that many countries had international adoption programs. What I learned, however, is that is not the case. At the time, the United States had not signed an important international adoption treaty and many countries that had international adoption programs were not partnering with the United States (including very few Latin American countries). Guatemala, one country that was partnering with the US, had just closed its adoption program for a massive overhaul to insure that it was operating with the utmost integrity. That type of deliberate and ethical oversight is absolutely critical in adoption. We didn’t just respect that decision; we fully supported it. That said, it did partially change the landscape of what was an option for us at the time we were ready to start a family.
Soon, our first scheduled lunch arrived. We met with friends who had adopted from Ethiopia. There were several children from Ethiopia who we felt a connection to in our small town, and I had had an affection for Ethiopia since I had studied it more than a decade before as an undergraduate. As our friends spoke of their experiences, we knew Ethiopia would be a serious consideration for us when the time came to make a decision. We just had no idea the time to make that decision would come an hour later.
As lunch wound down, the wife mentioned she would let her agency know we might be in touch in the future. “They’re a small agency,” she said. “They will remember your names.” An hour later, our friend called to say she had called her agency immediately to let them know about us as she was worried she’d forget later. As it turns out, there was an infant boy on the waiting child list. It was instantaneous for me. That was our boy. But I had no idea if it would feel that way to my husband. I hung up the phone and called him.
“The agency has a baby boy on their waiting child list,” I relayed. “Why are you calling me?” my husband asked. “Call the agency!” And, just like that, like seeing a plus sign on a pregnancy test, even though there was so much to be done, we, in our hearts, were expectant parents.
The next two weeks were focused on completing every piece of adoption paperwork. Since both of us were self-employed, we had the ability to do our work in the evening and really concentrate each day on visiting the offices necessary to gather what we needed for our dossier, the application for an international adoption. It was several weeks before we completed the dossier and were formally approved by our agency. It was only then that we saw a photograph and learned details about that baby boy who was clearly meant to be our son.
Then, in January 2009, on a temperate day in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, our baby boy was placed in our arms, fully realizing what we had sensed so many months before. This baby boy was absolutely our fate, and we would never, ever be the same.That fall was spent learning everything we could about Ethiopia and parenting while getting our house and ourselves ready for the new arrival. I knew our baby boy would not be a newborn when we met, and so I lifted weights four mornings a week so I would be ready to carry a 20-pound baby for hours on end from day one. We renovated the second bathroom in our old cottage so the bathwater wouldn’t run rust orange. We figured out bottles and attachments and pediatricians.
Editor’s Note: In honor of National Adoption Awareness Month, this is the second in a series of articles by Rosie Molinary exploring her decision to adopt, her experiences with adoption, and tips for adoptive families.