Deciding To Adopt
In The Atlas of Love, a woman takes on - as her own - a child she did not give birth to. The author of this SheKnows Book Club pick shares her personal experience with adoption and how writing her "novel full of love" helped inspire the decision.
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The first time we met with this organization, though of course we didn't know it until months later, was the day the birth mother of our son-to-be placed him for adoption, the day after he was born. We brought him home nine-months-to-the-day later. The same time span as a pregnancy! In between, we wrote essays, snapped photos, took classes, did homework, filled out forms, submitted to fingerprinting, authorized background checks, notarized paperwork, requested letters from friends and family, opened our home to social workers, and wrote lots of checks. We also bought a crib and changing table, baby sheets, clothes, diapers, car seats, bottles, toys, and everything else. We also fretted and anticipated and hoped and dreamed and got the last sleep we'd see for months and months. I also finished and sold my first novel, my novel about other ways to be a family, to be a mother.
The agony of limbo
Adoptions are unpredictable. Some people deliver babies prematurely; most do so around forty weeks, so they know more or less when. We had no idea when. All that fall and winter, we waited and waited and waited for news that we'd been matched with a baby in Seoul. That happened just after the first of the year when suddenly we had pictures, a name, some birth family history, and an actual child. For about thirty seconds, we felt relief. Then we went back to being mired in waiting. All that spring, we didn't know if we were three months pregnant or six months or nine. We didn't know if they would call tomorrow or next week or six months from now. We waited and waited and waited some more. Then one Tuesday morning in late April, our social worker called and said get on a plane and go to Seoul and pick up your baby. Now.
Many things were ending and beginning right then. It was my second to last week of classes -- end of the semester, start of summer. The book was with my editor -- the drafting was over, the revisions just begun. My husband and I had our last days and hours just as two, and then our first hours and days and weeks and months as three. And my son had his last days as a full time resident of his birth country, his last hours with the foster mother with whom he'd lived since he was six weeks old, and his first moments with us during which tears were shed on all sides and he officially joined the family he'll be part of forever.
A life we chose
New book, new story, new baby, new family, new life. We were not without our share of losses, but we were a long way from tragedy. I did not settle for adoption; I chose it. I will never know what was going on in our son's birth mother's head or heart or life, but I am hopeful that wasn't tragedy either. Certainly it's possible she desperately wanted to keep her baby and couldn't. But it seems just as possible to me that she chose this path eagerly, as I did, that this was a decision about which she perhaps felt conflicted but which allowed her to begin a new life or return with relief to an old one. And as for our son, he suffered some losses balanced by tremendous gains. No one can say which life would be better. But we are making this one pretty wonderful for him.
So many ways to be a family
I reject the idea that it's always better to be with your biological parents, that traditional families are the only ones that count, that being different weakens rather than strengthens a child's heart. I reject the idea that blood and biology are always preferable. It is the heart of The Atlas of Love and, newly, the heart of my own family that assures me there are so many ways to be a family, to love a child, and that the more accepting and welcoming we all are of all of those ways, the stronger and wider and fuller and better all of our lives and our families become.
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