The hope to have a child again
“When the door of happiness closes, another opens; but at times we keep looking at the closed door for so long that we don’t see the other one.” −− Helen Keller
By Mari Hayman
Stanford Community Writing Program
After suffering the intense pain that comes with the loss of a child, many parents must learn how to reconcile their suffering with the necessity to move on with their lives.
Even though the desire to have a child continues to occupy the mind of a parent who has recently lost a baby, adoption is often a possibility that goes overlooked. How can you replace a child? It’s impossible. And after waiting for so long for your child’s birth, how do you surrender your dream of having a child of your own flesh and blood?
These are valid questions that parents ask themselves when the idea to adopt comes up. The truth is, no one will ever replace your child, and adoption is not a search to replace anyone. An adopted child is not, and never will be, a substitute or compensation for the biological child that didn’t come; he or she is a unique and special human being who needs and deserves all the love and affection of a stable family.
When a person makes the decision to adopt, he or she makes a decision to participate in one of the most beautiful and generous ways of creating a family. Adopting allows a prospective mother or father with love in their hearts to find a child that really needs their love, a child who has also suffered an enormous loss and needs to reconcile that pain. The process of adoption demands serious reflection, and it should always be considered mutually. It is fundamental that both adopted child and adoptive parents come to terms with their pain, heir loss, and their farewell: the adoptive parents must say good bye to the child they were awaiting who didn’t arrive, and the adopted child must say good bye to the parents who gave him his life but could not care for him.
Therefore, before deciding to adopt, parents must confront and resolve the pain that they feel for the child who has passed away. It is important to ask yourself the following questions: Can I love a child who I did not give birth to? Do I have the emotional energy, the money, and other necessary resources to adopt? How will my family and friends react, and how will I deal with their reactions? Can I explain my child’s origin to him or her, and accept the possibility that one day he or she may want to know more about his or her biological parents?
But the most important question is: Am I capable of raising, supporting, and contributing to the physical, emotional, and spiritual growth of another human being even if I won’t get the experience of pregnancy, even if the child doesn’t have my genes, and could be very different from me?
“Adoption is like giving birth less intensely for an exceedingly long time,” says Vicky, an adoptive mother. “It isn’t physical labor, it’s emotional labor.”
Like pregnancy, adoption is certainly not easy and despite the insensitive comments that ignorant people are occasionally liable to make such as “Oh, you got a child the easy way!” it’s important to indicate that the decision to adopt demands many sacrifices and a lot of effort, because it is a complicated process. There are various options for adopting: private and public adoption agencies, independent adoption, and international or interracial adoption.
Adoption agencies are licensed by the state. Public agencies, in particular, are supported by state taxes. Adopting through a public agency is usually the least expensive option, but the possibility exists that you may have to wait a very long time to complete the adoption. The biological parents have rights to the child until the state legally terminates their parental rights, a process that can take a long time. A private agency offers more support to the potential adoptive parent and generally provides advice and help in the process of locating a child with particular characteristics, and it is generally not as long a process as public adoption, although it is usually more expensive.
Independent adoption is a legal agreement between the biological parents and the adoptive parents, mediated by a lawyer, and the biological parents are more involved in the process of looking for an adoptive parent for their child. Generally, adoptive parents pay the biological mother’s medical expenses directly, and she has more contact with the child after she gives up her parental rights. At times, biological parents and adoptive parents participate in an open adoption, in which the adoptive parent and the biological parent have an opportunity to meet.
Adopting a child through an international agency requires that the adoptive parents participate in a home study. The adoption agency completes an investigation of the prospective parents’ home before matching them up with a child.
Margaret and Daniel, members of HAND of the Peninsula, participated in a home study with ACCEPT before adopting their daughter, Rachel. Margaret says that the home study with ACCEPT, based out of Los Altos, was not a difficult experience.
“They were kind, sincere, specialize in international adoptions, had adopted children themselves. They knew that I had suffered miscarriages and was grieving these losses,” Margaret explains.
In international adoption, the adoptive parents generally have to travel to the country of origin to receive their parental rights through a liaison in that country. There, they complete a culture study so that they can familiarize themselves with the culture in which their child was born. The culture study is helpful in that it facilitates the adaptation process for both parents and child.
Even though international adoption is a more expensive process, depending on the country, it is one of the more liberal ways of obtaining a child (for example, it’s much easier for a single mother to adopt), and the wait to adopt is shorter. The risk that biological parents may reclaim their children is significantly lower, and the adoptive parents have the satisfaction of knowing that they are helping a child who needs their love very much.
“After losing babies through miscarriage or in early life, we adopting parents have enough troubles that we’re going through,” Margaret emphasizes. “Make sure to focus on the child’s needs and not your own. But also be honest with yourself about what you can live with and what you cannot. You have to accept this child as your own, no matter what happens. Make sure you’re up for those challenges of just being a parent.”
Adopting is an unbreakable contract of love between parents and their child that allows the child to grow as an individual, conscious of his or her past but sure of a future in which he or she will be an important and irreplaceable member of the family. With much patience, sincerity, and common sense, an adoptive parent can enjoy the incredible experience of supporting, raising, and loving the “child of their heart.”
SOURCES in HAND’s Library
Adoption without Fear by James L. Gritter, 1989 HAND BOOK # 1416
Adopt the Baby You Want by Michael R. Sullivan, 1990 HAND BOOK # 1603
How to Adopt from Central and South America by Jean and Heino Erichsen, 1985 HAND BOOK # 1410
The Ache for a Child by Debra Bridwell, 1994 HAND BOOK # 1681
Waiting for Baby by Mary Earle Chase, 1990 HAND BOOK # 1417
Special thanks to Margaret Seligson and her family for their help in this interview.