I’ll be speaking with some prospective adoptive parents tonight. There are several of us “old-timers” who speak periodically to a group of waiting parents at Adoption Choices. Although it’s been 15 years since I was part of that group, when I look out in the audience, I still recognize myself. I’m the woman with the smile and the slightly sad eyes listening very politely but not saying a word. I see M in most of the men – barely listening, with arms crossed and eyes on the clock.
We speakers show pictures of our children and tell the stories of how we came to adopt them. We share the lessons we’ve learned along the way. We are there as proof that the waiting actually leads somewhere.
I always try to make Sad Eyed Lady laugh a little and I picture what Arms Crossed Man will look like when he sees his boy or girl for the first time. I tell them how we got the call that K was to be born at 9:00 pm on April 13th and we were on a flight to CA at 7:00 am the next day. I tell them how we checked in a stroller and car seat and the agent asked us if we had forgotten something. And how M and I looked around in a panic but had no idea what he meant. “Your baby? Did you forget your baby?” he asked. And how M and I laughed excitedly and explained that our baby was being born and we were on our way to get her.
I tell them that we never expected to get there in time to see K be born but we were. I tell them how M cut the cord and that I was the first person to hold her. I tell them how beautiful she was and how M and I thought because we didn’t give birth to her we could be objective about that. I tell them how we secretly laughed at all the other parents who thought their babies were beautiful when in fact K was the only beautiful baby there. And how when we got home two weeks later, the newborn pictures from the hospital photographer were there waiting for us. We opened them and thought there had been a mistake because the baby in the pictures looked just like all the other babies.
I may tell them about our conversation with the hospital photographer who sensed how terrified we were. She told us that she had been scared when her kids were born but she comforted herself with the fact that and I quote “there were people way stupider than me who had kids and they seemed to do just fine.” I remember finding very little reassurance from that. After she walked away, I said to M “She doesn’t know us! Maybe we’re more stupid than the stupid people she knows! Maybe we’re the most stupid people there are!” Yeah, if Sad Eyed Lady hasn’t laughed yet, I’ll tell them that one.
And then I’ll tell them some of the things I’ve learned along the way. I’ll tell them that people may say stupid stuff about adoption every now and then. I’ll tell them that at first they’ll get mad and then they’ll find a way to educate people in their own way. I’ll tell them that I’ve realized I’ve said stupid stuff to people about things I didn’t understand and never meant any harm. I’ll tell them educating people does a lot more for our kids than the perfectly timed and perfectly delivered smart retort, if said retort ever actually existed in real life, which it doesn’t.
I’ll tell them they’ll ultimately find a balance between what they share with people and what they don’t. And eventually, their kids will be the ones to help decide because this is their story too and they may not be comfortable sharing information. If there’s time, I’ll tell how K illustrated how uncomfortable sharing information can feel when she told the cashier at a fast food restaurant that she “was born in California because my mom (stopping to point directly at me for the cashier and the others in the crowd) can’t grow babies in her belly so my mom and my dad went to California to adopt me!”
I’ll listen to the stories of the other speakers on the panel. I’ll laugh at some and get misty-eyed at others. I’ll learn something from the lessons they share. I’ll hug some of them and shake hands with others and look forward to seeing them again next year. And I’ll watch Sad Eyed Lady leave and know that one day those eyes won’t look sad any more.
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