A few months ago I shared a link on a social media site, which provoked a comment from someone about how intrusive the adoption process was. I responded a little fiercely with a link or two to further reading. I strongly felt the need to defend the process. I'd like to explain why...
Intrusive: coming without invitation or welcome; intruding
When I was pregnant, I was just that - it was a normal situation for a woman of my age. For us it was completely unexpected, and we had the complication of my diabetes, but it was a natural pregnancy.
I spent almost 9 months reading about breastfeeding, colic, reflux, nappies, birthing positions, weaning and formula. I knew that I'd get a brand new baby, I knew she'd be a girl, I knew when she was coming (not just roughly, but within a day or two as I was induced), we'd picked out names and I knew that she would rely on me for everything. But...my pregnancy was such a surprise, I didn't really come to terms with it or believe it until it was over and I held my daughter. Physically I changed, emotionally I had a lot to cope with too (what with being told I'd never have children, and having to back out from adoption number 2 who already had a name and face). Imagine finding out that someone you grieved for, whom you loved very much, was alive all along, or had come back from the dead - that's how I felt with bells on. And I was scared out of my mind about childbirth.
When the NC and I were becoming adopters it was a process - that sounds so much more formal don't you think? We all refer to it as the adoption process, and like any other process, it had certain steps that had to be completed in the correct order to achieve the desired result. I spent 10 months reading about feeding, nappies and milk, but I also read about trauma, support networks, parenting styles, the adoption triad, neglect, abuse, foetal alcohol syndrome, poo smearing, developmental milestones, hereditary mental health issues and attachment.
I had little idea of how old our potential child would be, what gender they'd be, when they'd be coming, what they'd be called, and what preferences and abilities they'd already have. I knew that we could be approached about a child, set our minds on that child, but it could all fall through. It was also emotional, but not a rollercoaster or fuelled by hormones. I was excited about becoming a first time mum, protected somewhat by rose tinted glasses.
Both of these situations were emotionally difficult, one involved physical changes too. But which one was more intrusive? Well...
In my pregnancy I had fortnightly prods and pokes to measure baby's length, fortnightly blood tests, fortnightly scans (exposing my belly to a stranger each time), heart rate monitors strapped to my tummy, injections for my blood type, physiotherapy to help with symphysis pubis dysfunction, 2 short stays in hospital and random people stroking my belly. I had raging hormones, awful morning sickness for 18 weeks and all the other unpleasant side effects of pregnancy, and to this day cannot stomach certain smells without gagging, or even think about those smells without feeling sick.
And then in childbirth I had several pessaries inserted to induce me, fingers inserted to establish dilation, fingers inserted to attach a clip to baby's head, straps around my belly to monitor heart rate, I was shaved in preparation for surgery, had to wear a clip on my finger, more fiddling to insert a catheter, double cannulas inserted into each hand, a needle inserted in my back for an epidural (whilst being barked at to sit still during extremely painful contractions, surrounded by strangers), an anaesthetist rubbing ice cubes around my breasts to ensure the epidural was strong enough to see me through a c-section, weird inflatable tubes put on my legs, strangers seeing me naked (inside and out) as I had the c-section, being sewn back up, and then more injections, a bed bath, more injections, and midwives trying to shove my breasts in my daughter's mouth as I struggled with breastfeeding.
Very intrusive and not all very nice, but I'm not complaining, everything was necessary to keep Dollop and I safe. (I do appreciate not all birthing experiences are like mine, many are easier but many are much more complicated and difficult).
During the adoption process, we were asked about all sorts - our feelings about our infertility, grief for my dad, the way we were parented, our own parenting ideals, expectations, our financial situation, morals, and our sex life, in so much as were we using contraception (to be on the safe side)? And were we prepared for our time together to change? I don't recall it being intrusive - at times a little uncomfortable maybe, almost always enlightening and reflective. And as an honest, emotional person I was happy to talk about those things. We had a brilliant social worker who explained why she had to ask those questions, and we were very comfortable with her. And like in childbirth, everything was necessary to ensure that us, and our potential family were safe.
And not only safe, but we had to prove that we were able to parent a child who'd experienced trauma, or that we were at least able to find help and support if we needed it in the future. We also had to be assessed so we could be matched with the right child. The 'process' might have flaws and need some areas overhauled, but ultimately it is for the well-being and safety of the child, and we totally understood it and accepted it. And though frustrating for those around us, I'm so glad we spent that time learning and being prepared - we needed it (and more if I'm honest!). I've said before that we never saw it as jumping through hoops. We didn't just answer questions etc for the sake of it or to please social services. We answered those questions and learnt about ourselves with interest and enthusiasm for the sake of our family.
These are the reasons that I don't feel 'the process' is any more intrusive than having a baby. I applied to adopt, I knew what I was letting myself in for, and I wanted it...at the time, more than anything in the world. Personal questions were asked, but I still don't feel they were intrusive.
Perhaps because my pregnancy was
I know there are women out there who would give *anything* to have experienced pregnancy and childbirth - even like mine, and I know I'm lucky to have experienced it at all (though it didn't feel that way at the time!). I love looking at Dollop and knowing she's mine, thinking about where her temper comes from, and who she'll take after, and seeing her facial features shift between mine and the NC's as she grows, but..I found it traumatic having her.
Let's be clear, life as an adopter is different, even at the very beginning I knew being an adopter was different. The parenting is different, but then parenting any two children will vary. But I'm talking about the process and the journey here, and well, let's just say I haven't entirely ruled out adopting again (though a long way in the future), but the NC has had a vasectomy!