My Gay Adoption Day 264 :: Match!
The call came on Friday morning.
Kevin immediately knew it was our adoption agency calling: the number was blocked when his cellphone rang. But we've been called before - for billing questions, for thoughts about this blog, and for a myriad of other reasons. And truly, once you sign the big checks and enter the waiting game, you teach yourself patience.
So when Friends in Adoption told us that we had a potential match with a birth mother, the emotions that flooded through us started with mute shock.
It's awfully strange, really. In what seems a nanosecond, the following thoughts race through your mind:
1) Did they just say that? (They did.)
2) Shit. (Don't.)
3) I wasn't expecting this. (You did sign the forms, dufus.)
4) Am I ready for this? (You'd better be.)
5) Do I need to register at Babies'R'Us now? (Only if you want your child to have clothes or furniture.)
6) There's got to be a hitch. (There is.)
7) Holy-crap-I'm-going-to-be-a-Dad. (Yay!)
Frankly, there's no way anyone can prepare you for the rush of excitement resulting from the phrase, "You've been matched with a birth mother..." Nor the sudden feeling of dread that follows it when you hear the rest of the sentence: "... but don't get too excited, there are complications."
In our case, the complications were fairly severe. We were informed that the birth mother had health issues, and that we needed to move quickly to a decision as to whether to accept the match, as she was days from giving birth. FIA told us that they'd send her medical record via email, and told us to take the weekend to consult with our pediatrician.
In fact, the health issues listed in the medical record were quite extraordinary, and they led us on quite an emotional journey for the next few days. I'm going to be deliberately obtuse - these are real people I'm discussing, and they have a right to their privacy. But even those parts of the medical record Kevin and I could read (and believe me, whoever writes these things must go through years of training to be able to reduce medical information to a form of language utterly indecipherable to all but their peers) gave us pause.
You see, we so desperately want to be parents. We've worked most of a year for this. And when we considered our appetite for potential challenges, we readily said that we'd accept a number of them - including disease, deafness, emotional difficulty, drug and alcohol use, and more. But this baby may have an extraordinary uphill health-related battle in front of it, and Kevin and I had to search our souls to learn whether we could stretch our emotional boundaries.
We consulted two doctors; they both advised us to pass on the match. We talked with our parents, with whom we shared a very limited amount of information. They were supportive, but clearly apprehensive as well.
The problem is this: when faced with the prospect of bringing a sick child into your family, your primary emotion is fear. Kevin and I certainly felt for this birth mother; and given the fact that our agency told us that she desperately wanted us to be her baby's parents, we felt an instant kinship toward her. Every child is precious, and every child deserves a chance to grow up with loving parents who offer him or her nothing less than their own lives as ingredients for their evolution into a beautiful human being. But we're also talking about the most primitive fear a person can experience: the pain of their child.
What parent would voluntarily increase the odds - or the amplitude - of that pain? What parent would invite that probability into their own lives?
I cringe to say it, but I believe I'm that person - and so is Kevin. If we were not, our match forms would have read quite differently. And I kept looking at those medical records this weekend, trying desperately to wrap that bravery around this baby.
Ultimately, it was the multitude of challenges faced by this child that caused Kevin and me to consider our ability to care for him or her. It didn't come down to time, or strength, or bravery, or even desire. It came down to that feeling, deep in our guts, that said that we were not the parents to take this on. Was that fear? Was that true concern for the child's welfare, that they need parents with extraordinary resources we lack? I may never know.
Someone once told me that it's not about making the right decision, it's about making the decision right. In matters this emotional, perhaps the only right way to make a decision is right from the heart. And so we did. But I'd be lying if I told you that I don't think about that baby every night before I go to bed, that I'm not constantly sending positive thoughts to his or her birth mother, or that I'm questioning our decision every minute of every day.
We told our agency Monday that we could not pursue a match with this mother. And I've been agonizing ever since. I hope that baby finds his or her way to the family with whom he or she is supposed to be. I hope that birth mom knows how much we appreciate her choosing us. I hope for a beautiful, easy entry into the world for her little one, followed by a lifetime of happiness. It's no easy feat for a birth mother to make an adoption plan, and I now fear that our choice may have hurt the mom behind our first match.
I couldn't want that less - and that surprises me most of all. Adoption is about people's hearts, and I'm more and more aware that it's important to tread carefully, lest we hurt each other. This weekend was incredibly difficult for me; and while I'm sure the right baby is out there for Kevin and me, and that the right parents are out there for this child we opted not to adopt, it was heart bruising to not join this little one's future to mine.