Now THAT is a great title, is it not?

Yesterday was a very productive day: Little got groomed (always a logistical challenge given my schedule), I got a haircut (a very rare event – no joke – I cut it short just about annually. I held back a little this time around because I’m in a wedding in a month and longer hair is easier to deal with), I got my orgo test back (I did well! Yay! Thanks, hrohor!), and…

We committed to a country (ok, that was a little while ago)


I called an adoption agency!!!!!!!!!!!

This last point is Big News in the world of Rachel and DB. We officially started our process of being parents. Eeek! Scary! Hello, grown-up world. We’re very pleased to meet you! (Sorry we took so long to get here!)

Now, perhaps I screwed up the process, but hey, I am just congratulating myself about starting (when you have debated something so much, every little step is something to be celebrated). I called the agency we wanted to use first. Perhaps, given my minor obsession with topics that may or may not be topics of major concern to most adoptive parents, I should have started with an agency that I didn’t want to hire, so I could practice first. Oh well. (It is kind of scary. Like a job interview only kind of reversed but not exactly. Like a first date. OK, not really that, either. Something, though. Something definitely scary.)

Before I go into it, I have a question. Why is it that people get so excited about agencies spending a long time to talk to them? We are potential sources of a *lot* of money. Of course they should answer my questions! If someone could answer that for me I would be really thrilled.

OK, here we go:

Sample of conversation:

Dude: So do you want to adopt a boy or a girl?

Me: It doesn’t matter. We don’t care. (Clear throat and backtrack. I am passionate about adoption ethics but not the most PC person in the world, to my own chagrin.) I mean, we care, but we don’t believe in specifying.

Dude: Uh-huh. (Not an encouraging uh-huh, but an “uh-huh” that suggests confusion.)

Me: Yeah, see, we see this as a pregnancy, and we can’t choose our gender in pregnancy, so we don’t want to state a preference.

Dude: Well, we are not accepting applications for infant girls at this time.

Me: Well, I guess that’s one way of making THAT decision.

We also discussed Vietnam, methods of referral, baby houses, where babies come from (no, not THAT place), birthparents, and fetal alcohol syndrome. And FAS in Muslim countries, as in, is it likely to be seen often? (The true answer, according to my research: yes, of course it’s possible. His answer: it’s unlikely, cause of the tenets of Islam). So, some reflections/questions about our conversation….I didn’t end it feeling super warm and fuzzy, which is okay, but I thought perhaps there are some of those people out there that have adopted and can speak to some of my more neurotic questions:

1) I talked at length about the aspects of the Vietnam adoption system that concerned me most with respect to ethics (ie, the actual structure of the system that lends itself to fraud). He stated that he was not aware of the specifics surrounding the Vietnam shutdown since his agency does not have a program in Vietnam. I found that odd, given that I think it offers some salient tips for how to *avoid* fraud and corruption in other economically compromised settings. Is that fair to expect? (I am asking this in earnest.)

2) I asked him about how they could have referrals of such young infants. He stated that they begin to receive referrals from hospitals; they did that because infants were being abandoned and failing to survive so this was the best way to save the lives of abandoned infants. I looked up the infant mortality rate of Kyrgyzstan, and indeed, it appears high (just below that of Bangladesh according to the WHO). But then I asked what happened if, say, the birthmother returned and wanted to parent her child – would she be required to repay the hospital bill? Would she be allowed to recover her child? He said he’d never heard of that happening (that the biological mother would return for her child).

See, call me a skeptic, and I know I haven’t been pregnant and I haven’t adopted and I am pretty much a neophyte at this whole thing, but pregnancy hormones are a pretty potent force, so I’ve heard. And I can imagine a post-partum woman doing very drastic things in the context of poverty, including relinquishing or abandoning her baby. Again, as I’ve said many times, we cannot have any idea what it is like to be in that situation. It is impossible for us to know.

SO…my second question – am I being TOO skeptical? Tell me. I can take it. Actually, I would love to know that my skepticism is too rampant.

3) I asked about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome; he said that the prevalence of FAS was minimal because Kyrgyzstan is a Muslim country. Except, see, there are lots of brands of Islam, and there are lots of ways to implement an Islamic lifestyle, and Kyrgyzstan is a former Soviet Republic, and the USSR certainly did not curtail imbibing. For sure, Russia still loves its booze (as evidenced by DB, who demonstrated his total inability to keep pace with the local culture of toasting when he was in Moscow on a business trip. He called me after said toasting session, clearly more than a little bit out of it. Yes, for sure, vodka use is not discouraged). So I don’t know. Not that we wouldn’t adopt from an area where FAS is a problem – I just want to know. Plus, really, let’s be honest. Some people who relinquish babies for adoption got pregnant unintentionally and out of wedlock and against the strict teachings of their culture*** (ie, one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in this country is among evangelical Christians…). It is not unreasonable to think that, perhaps, premarital sex was not the only instruction to which they did not adhere (I put stars above but just to reiterate – PLEASE SEE COMMENT BELOW). And not everyone is Muslim in a Muslim country. At any rate, I view any explanation that is paired with a religious belief (particularly one that is quite diverse) with suspicion.

Reasonable? Too harsh?

In all honesty, I was so excited about this conversation because it represented some progress – we are going somewhere with this. YIPPEEEEEE!!

But I have to say, too, that I am so fearful of adopting a child whose biological/birth/first parents did not fully relinquish him/her (I guess him, since apparently when one does not choose the choice is made). I am so fearful that there was coercion in the process. I am so fearful that the parents of the child we adopt had no idea that *their* child, *our* child, was heading to America.

I am so fearful that I think I am beginning to prioritize (in my head) the rights of the birthparents over the rights of the child.

They are so intimately linked.

When I started to become so passionate about this topic, these issues were tightly bound in my mind. I do not believe that it is in the best interest of every child to move to the U.S. I know they are not necessarily celebrated in adoption circles, but I do agree with the intent (as I interpret it) of the UNICEF position on adoption – the priority should be to preserve the child’s first family, then to preserve his connection with his country and culture of origin, and then to consider international adoption third. Does that mean I am ‘anti-adoption’? No…well, I don’t think so. What it means is that I am very committed to adopting a child who is truly a good candidate for international adoption. I mean, we are moving this child across a (rather large) ocean. It’s a shock to the system. The benefits for that child (and don’t get me wrong – I’d like to think we’ll be good parents) should certainly outweigh the costs for that child.

And then I thought about giving birth, and being told that I could not take my baby home because I owed too much in hospital fees and signing a piece of paper that I couldn’t read that said she would be placed for adoption overseas. And my empathy took over.

Now, please do not misunderstand what I’m saying. I do not believe there are any adoptive parents who are okay with coercion. But this conversation – I’m back to the one with the agency now – forced me to realize that there are ways to look at adoption, and there are ways to look at adoption.

*He* was speaking to *me* as a prospective adoptive parent who wanted him to assuage her fears about a birthmother suddenly reappearing and reclaiming the baby that she was about to formally, legally, adopt.

*I* was speaking to *him* as a prospective adoptive parent who wanted him to tell me that no, there is no coercion, all forms to relinquish the child are administered verbally in the local dialect in the local language, that the birthmother would show up and confirm for me herself (preferably with a translator hired directly by me) that she did, indeed, want her baby to live with Rachel and DB in Anytown, USA. Please.

Neither answer is even possible to guarantee. But, in fact, he was reassuring me that version 1 basically doesn’t happen. Even though it could, obviously. And my questions were around – how do you know? Why don’t you know?

I know my views on this are clouded – which I think is natural – by a strong desire to raise a child. I read people’s blogs with pictures of their children and I play with my friend’s babies and watch my friends’ tummies grow and I will be honest – the mommy gene that I thought was totally missing in me seems to be coming into its own. I don’t know whether to fear it or embrace it. I don’t want it to cloud my judgment about ethics and transparency. I don’t want to ever let it convince me that a dark-gray area is really a light-gray area to justify my child’s adoption.

I want to be able to look at my child and say, “I did everything I could to learn everything about your history. I did everything I could to be sure that our home was where you belonged.”

And before we proceed any further with this whole thing, I think I need to figure out whether I’m okay with the fact that any adoption agency is going to sound a whole lot like that first reframe (anxious PAP).

Thoughts? Please?

Oh, and I also called another agency, but didn’t get to speak to them yet. Perhaps then my views will change, although my thoughts on that agency (in general terms) are best left to another post. Far into the future.






***OK, BIG DISCLAIMER HERE*** I am in NO WAY saying that MOST babies who are available for adoption are there because their mother engaged in illicit sexual intercourse. I FULLY REALIZE that women get pregnant accidentally in marriage, that women get pregnant intentionally in marriage and subsequently decide to relinquish, that a woman can choose to relinquish a child for ANY reason, that pregnancy can be the product of sexual coercion. In fact, I do RESEARCH on gender disparities in sexual relationships. I do get it.

(I’d write this post from the perspective of my DH and I, but since he’s still overseas, it seemed odd. He agrees with this. We’ve talked about it ad nauseum. It’s something we are both very passionate about.)

PS Before anyone suggests domestic adoption, we have considered it fully and have decided that it is not a good fit for us at this time. I’ve written about it before and for a number of reasons, international adoption is probably a better fit for us right now, although we are planning to adopt more than one child and are looking forward to considering domestic adoption in the future.