Photo Courtesy of Author
I was at work when my cell phone rang. When I answered, a woman’s voice asked me “Are you still interested in adopting a child?” This was the call I had been waiting on for over a year.
Wow! Yes. She said that the Department of Health and Human Resources had a four-year-old girl that matched my application. I could meet her this weekend. Absolutely. Name the time. I hung up to a rush of emotions. Excited. Nervous. Happy!
Then I remembered something.
I hadn’t told my boyfriend anything about my plans to adopt a child. We’d been dating for only a few months. It had been well over a year since I’d completed my adoption paperwork and parenting classes. While my classmates had all received foster and adoption referrals almost immediately, I never had. After a while, I assumed it would never happen, and I quit talking to people about it.
I called Jason and asked if I could come over after work to talk about something important.
He thought we were breaking up.
Jason was shocked to hear that I had been working to adopt a child without telling him.
While he was happy for me, he told me he wasn’t ready to make that type of commitment. He had just been through a divorce and couldn’t handle that level of responsibility right now. I was crushed, but I understood. We went our separate ways.
From the time I was a little girl, I always knew I would adopt a child. My grandparents, who had practically raised me, had worked as house parents in a large children’s home in Texas before adopting my father. It’s not as if we talked about adoption all the time around our house, but the concept of adopting felt right to me.
This also wasn’t my first attempt at adoption. I had tried to adopt Internationally several years earlier. The process had been long and complicated, with stacks of paperwork. Ukraine put a moratorium on American adoptions just as I had everything completed. It took another year to re-submit all the forms to Russia. Then I received an unexpected job transfer.
Once I got settled into my new job in Alabama, I tried again, but with a local adoption instead.
I submitted paperwork to adopt an older child, turned in my home study, and took the state-required, forty-hour parenting class.
The class was made up of many married couples, fertile and infertile, and a few single moms. I was the only single woman in the group who had no experience with kids at all. Someone even asked me if it was “legal” for someone like me to adopt.
I began visiting my daughter while she was still living with her foster family. On our first outing, I took her to the zoo. She was a tiny thing with long brown hair and big blue eyes. Bright and very, very chatty.
Those day trips evolved into overnight stays and then weeklong visits. After everyone felt she was comfortable with the change, my daughter made the permanent move to my house.
While I loved my daughter from the start, my adjustment from being a childless single woman to a full-time single mom was just as difficult as everyone had warned me it would be. In some ways, I was perfectly prepared. I was financially comfortable and had a very flexible job. The trouble was that I had no idea what life was like with a kid around.
My daughter asked a million questions I couldn’t answer, like – How is grass made? She didn’t wait for an answer before asking the next question. She needed food and sleep on a regular schedule, while I was used to skipping meals and taking spur-of-the-moment trips. I had to stop listening to my usual radio station because she would pick up cuss words from the songs. When I shopped for groceries, I could no longer breeze in and out. My daughter was curious about everything in the store. I couldn’t focus on my list and ended up forgetting essentials. Sometimes, she’d put sweet treats in the cart without my noticing until check out.
Daycare drop-offs were terrible. My daughter clung to my legs, screaming until they pulled her away. Afterward, I’d sit in my car and cry. Sometimes work ran late, causing me to almost miss pick-up. Each night, my daughter came up with endless reasons to keep me in the room at storytime.
It’s normal for mothers to worry, but there’s always another layer of concern with adoption. Was her behavior due to my lack of parenting skills? Was there an adoption issue that I needed to address?
After having three kids, I’ve come to realize that all of this was normal kid behavior.
Shortly after my daughter moved in, she turned five years old. I invited Jason to her birthday party, and to my surprise, he agreed to come. It was the first time he had any real interaction with my daughter. It happened just as I had hoped - he loved her!
The three of us started spending time together, going to the park on the weekends and grabbing dinner in restaurants. My daughter loves fine dining (even to this day)! There is no food she won’t try – the weirder, the better.
Jason’s family also spent time with my daughter since his niece and nephew were her age. I’ve often joked that his family is the best part of being with Jason. They are warm people who accepted my daughter without hesitation.
We were starting to resemble a “family,” but we still had a long way to go.
I was still learning how to be a mom when I received the invitation to Meet the Teacher Night, her kindergarten year. At that point, I was only her foster mother. Jason and I had just started dating again. I was pretty nervous about going to my first school event, so I asked him to go with me.
We live in a small, tight-knit community with lots of families and small kids. However, since we were a childless single couple, we hadn’t spent much time with other moms and dads. Naturally, everyone was very curious about us.
They asked lots of friendly questions for which we had no planned answers. Which one is your daughter? Uh. None of them. Are you her mother? Well. Sort of. How long have you guys been married? We aren’t.
All normal questions, but Jason and I hadn’t thought of how we would present ourselves to other people. After that, when asked questions, we went overboard trying to explain our situation. That certainly didn’t make us look any more normal. It took some time before we became comfortable with how much information we really had to offer.
The adoption became official within a year. Jason and I were married in a simple outdoor wedding a few years later in front of our close friends and family. My daughter was a central part of the ceremony. We went back to court one year after that, and he finalized his adoption of my daughter.
We are now a family of five, with the addition of our two biological sons. What I’ve learned about my husband is that he commits slowly, but when he does, it’s all the way.
Could I have done this on my own as I had originally planned? Probably. But I’m so grateful I didn’t have to! My husband is a patient and devoted parent. We are working every day - together - to give our daughter the type of loving family life she deserves.