I got an invitation to attend a baby shower this week. I am so excited for parents who are expecting!! Don’t get me wrong, hearing that your good friends are pregnant the day you realize you may have trouble making a baby sucks. Like sucks a lot. Probably top 10 hardest day of our life.
Fast forward to where we are now, and anxiously awaiting an adoption is so exciting, and scary, and daunting. See, we don’t care biologically where our kids come from but there are a ton of unknowns that people don’t talk about when you are ready to adopt. These are hard questions, and I don’t know if there is a right answer.
1. How do you react to the inevitable question of fertility? Luis and I have been lucky in that all of the people that have been walking with us know what has been going on, and know more details about what is going on. Luis has been great about being open with his struggles as a man and what these questions mean to him.
As a woman, it doesn’t seem to matter what the actual answer is when it comes to fertility. Anyone who sees a couple without biological kids automatically assumes it’s the woman’s fault. Women are referred to as barren. Women are asked by others if they are trying, and if they can have kids. (Which, by the way, is completely inappropriate. Take it from someone who has had people actually ask me to my face if I’m the issue. People. That’s not okay. Get it together). And finally, women are far more than men expected to be parents or be told that there is something wrong with you. The ability to be pregnant and have kids is something that is expected of women. If a man decides not to have kids, he is still considered manly. If a woman decided not to have kids, she is selfish and there is something wrong with her. Being a mom is expected.
Society places men’s value on their job and their social status. Who they are is more defined by the work that he does and the things he can do. A women’s value is often placed on her mothering ability and the quality of character of her children. As a social worker, one of my life missions is to help change maladaptive stereotypes and challenge societal norms. I spend more of my day than most comforting set ideologies so forgive me if I seem over involved with this area. So, even as an educated and empowered woman who has studied the effects of stereotyping and knows that social constructs can be very harmful to a person’s image of themselves; I still find myself buying into this idea myself. It is hard to have your voice break through the seeming endless message that a woman’s value lies in her ability to have and raise kids. It is hard to know what to say when someone corners you and asks “you guys have been married a while. Do you not want kids? Can you have kids? What’s wrong with you?” How do you respond gracefully, politely, and in a politically correct way? How do you educate people on why that is a completely inappropriate question in a productive way? How do you work to change social norms and expectations?
2. What do you do with yourself in this long waiting period? How do you know what the timeline looks like? Back to baby showers… Pregnancies have a usual flow and set timeline. At 20 weeks you typically know the gender. The baby shower usually comes in month 7 or 8, and you start the nesting process. You have month by month advice and check ups.
What does the adoption time line look like? When do you get a crib? Do you need a bassinet? When in the home safety check and home study process do you need the cabinet locks and need to have the baby proofing happen? Luis and I are looking for a placement from birth up to 2, and anyone who is fermiliar with kids knows that is a HUGE variation in what is needed. How to you tell people that you don’t want baby clothes because you have no idea if you are getting a baby? How do you prepare the nursery when you have no idea what kid you are getting?
Anyone who knows me well knows I am type A. Type capital A because it is cleaner and more neat than a lowercase a. It is so hard for me not to have a check sheet and a 9 month plan of what to do when. The more that we go on this process the more answers we will have when it comes to then when do I …. But it is still stressful.
Hopefully one of the many lovely people that we know will have some answers to these questions. And hopefully any other parents on this journey will know that they are not the only ones searching for answers to hard questions.