When I was trying to get pregnant and it wasn’t happening, I decided to look into alternate routes to motherhood. I loved the idea of adoption, giving a home and life to a child that might otherwise have an underprivileged life.
I began researching and felt overwhelmed, as I’m sure many people do when first taking on the idea of adoption. Although it ultimately didn’t happen for me, I thought I would share my experience with it, as well as my friend Helaina’s, successful adoption of her beautiful little girl Lyra Sky (see Q&A with Helaina below).
International vs U.S. adoption
When I looked into International adoption, I was disappointed in how many countries close their doors to single parent adoption. Vietnam, China, Cambodia and many countries in Africa like DNC, use to grant single parents adoption but no longer. Unless you are willing to take on a special needs child or an older child, many foreign countries will not grant single parents a child.
This seems absurd since most of these children are in foster care or are orphaned and in desperate need for a good home. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. As Madonna (Madonna is my latest “Iconic Single Mom”) experienced in Malawi while adopting her son David, there are very strict rules to abide by, or sometimes no rules at all, which makes it difficult as to who can adopt. Although I feel strongly that the process shouldn’t be easy for anyone, I would love for it to be more open to single moms. See https://www.mljadoptions.com/blog/faqs-single-women-adopting-internationally-20150323 for more information.
International adoption is a long process, taking over a year in most cases, and more costly than U.S. adoption, usually $45,000 vs $20,000. If you choose not to have a special needs child, then you will most likely get a child of 18 months or older. For me, this was a disadvantage as I already had limited resources being a single parent but now I would need to assimilate a foreign cultured child into an English speaking, domestic culture. I wasn’t sure how I was going to adjust or more importantly, how my child would adjust. I began looking into domestic adoption.
After a free seminar at IAC (Independent Adoption Agency) I decided that U.S. adoption would be the way to go. IAC is a non-profit open adoption agency where birth mothers (and sometimes fathers) choose the parent(s) they want. You go through all the common procedures like a criminal investigation, finger-printing, home-study, etc., but you set up a web profile telling potential birth mothers who you are and why you want to adopt. This is a great opportunity to really sell yourself and make yourself appealing to birth mothers.
With U.S. adoption, you will get a newborn and have an opportunity to meet the birth mother, which I really liked.
The statistic were low for birth mothers choosing a single parent but they were also on the rise. IAC statistics were 2009 5% chance for single moms, 2010 8% and in 2011 that rose to 11%. In my process, I opted for very little restrictions on the babies ethnicity, gender and even birth mother’s health status. So while I wouldn’t take a birth mom that did hard-core drugs during her pregnancy, I did say it was okay for some alcohol intake. I was adopting as a single parent so I had to be realistic about my opportunities.
Once my profile and home study were done, my site was launched and I could begin to receive potential calls. IAC coaches you on everything from writing your letter, to designing your site, to what to say when a birth mother calls you.
In the 16 months that my site was active, I received 5 phone calls from birth mothers. All were women that had been raised by single moms themselves and this was re-assuring to me. The discussions were interesting, heartfelt and honest. Although none of these opportunities came to fruition for me, I truly believe these women were extremely courageous and selfless. They knew they couldn’t give their child a secure home full of rich opportunities and adoption would provide that to them. That is the true definition of altruism.
Helaina and her daughter Lyra
How did you know you wanted to adopt?
I was heading down a path of possibly needing an egg donor and a sperm donor. I didn’t need to deliver/give birth if both the egg and sperm were donated. There are children that are coming into this world that need a home, a better home, love, safety, and on going unconditional love and nurturing. I knew I could provide this. So, I decided to adopt. Fortunately I have a few friends that have adopted, so was slightly familiar with the process and knew I could engage in help with them.
What made you choose private adoption?
I chose private over agency because of the unique experience communicating with the birth moms prior to the birth. For me it was important to know the birth mom. This of course is a more intense, intimate, emotional process, one that I could not ever even imagine until I was in it. To the point where I almost gave up as I was pushed to a place that the level of unfamiliarity and emotions were so intense, that I though this was not for me. I am so grateful that I pushed through, by saying to myself, that each day will become easier. I am so thankful that my friends and family helped me through this.
What were some of your fears and hopes when you were going through the process?
Obviously, the biggest fear is if the birth mother was going to change her mind. This was a constant fear throughout the entire process, right up until 45 days after Lyra’s birth. In the beginning, hoping that there would be phone calls coming in, birth mothers that would be interested in my profile…me. Then, not losing them, then the birth mothers not changing their mind, or finding another potential adoptive candidate. Then the realization that I’m single, will they want their child to go to a single parent household … in NYC … You just start thinking about every possibility of what the birth mother is looking for, comparing yourself, and the fears just multiply. But you have to put them aside. The entire time, hoping that this was the one and that I was the one.
There were approximately 8 birth mothers that I spoke to in the beginning, but as soon as I spoke to Lyra’s birth mom, I did know she was the one, and I believe she thought I was the one, but again, you’re dealing with human emotions that change daily. I was told to not count on any one person…I obviously had a hard time with this as well.
How long did it take for Lyra to come into your life?
8 months after I sat with a lawyer and said I want to adopt. I began talking to her birth mom when she was about 3 months pregnant. I was on the phone when we found out she (we) were having a girl, I visited the birth mom when she was about 7 months pregnant, and then went out 5 days before the scheduled C-Section. Lyra spent her first night with me and every night after.
What was meeting the birth mother like?
Intense. Even before meeting her, it was intense. Each day of communicating was intense, her questions, me trying to find the right answers….while trying to be empathetic and compassionate but strong, grateful, emotional, having the right emotions, not too many, not too little, trying to be as honest as I could be, etc. Meeting her at that point was almost a relief and necessary as we had been speaking on the phone at that point for 4 months. But again, intense, she wanted me to know everything about her and her family. We spent a couple very long days together.
What do you wish could be improved or better about the adoption process?
I can’t say. This is a very personal, emotional experience, between two human beings. You just have to be your best, honest self. It’s not a process that can be ‘improved.’ If there were companies, firms, agencies, etc. involved, then I could say that there could be improvements, but this experience is unique for each situation.
Is there is any advice you have for anyone going through adoption?
This is tough to answer, because, again, each experience is unique and personal. You are dealing with the emotions of a couple to several human beings…making life decisions. Maybe the piece of advice I would give is don’t give up. When you think it’s getting difficult, it is, and it will get even harder, but you must stick with it if you want it. And I can assure you, it’s so worth it.