From the beginning, when my wife and I made the decision to pursue an open adoption, the issue of trust has been constantly on our minds. We came to adoption after a couple of years struggling with infertility, which seems to be the case for a good number of other adoptive and pre-adoptive parents. When we decided to move forward in a different direction, we’d already been waiting to become parents for several years. With the decision to pursue adoption, not as a second-best choice, but simply as a different option, we found ourselves at the very beginning again. The more we read about adoption, open adoption in particular, the more we began to feel that it is the right path for us. Pretty early, we realized that choosing that route would not be without significant risks that would require us to trust not only each other to stick out what might require several years more waiting, but it would also require trusting people who were, at the time we made the decision to head down this road, strangers. Those strangers have included the adoption agency, the social worker who completed our home study, and most importantly of all, the expectant parents we are still hoping to meet.
I’m a Virgo. I’ve never paid much attention to that fact, but a few years ago in grad school, a fellow student and friend of mine who is into Astrology commented on some situation I was dealing with at the time and asked what me what my sign is. She told me that she thought she recognized a fellow Virgo, and that I was in fact a “textbook” Virgo, what with my tendencies toward self-scrutiny, toward trying to make things perfect, and my need to feel in control of whatever situation I was struggling with at the time. Since she told me this almost eight years ago, I have taken more notice of how these character traits (flaws, by some accounts) have affected how I live my life. I am still not well educated about my astrological sign, but I have noticed how these Virgo-esque characteristics I possess have contributed to a number of my life’s ups and downs. In the past year, since undertaking the adoption paperwork process, the home study, and now, our own attempts to market ourselves to the wide world, these traits, especially my need to control our situation and to make it perfect – have been a fairly constant struggle. Navigating adoption, learning about the many pitfalls that can cause problems along the way, I have to admit that I have been fearful of placing my trust someone I do not even know.
Perhaps trust, and fear, its close neighbor, are hopelessly intertwined in all sides of any open adoption. While the thing I want most in the world is to become a dad, it is difficult for me to imagine someone picking *A* and me out of the huge selection of fantastic available adoptive parents out there. How can I trust that someone will understand how much love we have to give a child–how much we want to be a part of a child’s whole life as his or her parents? How can I trust that we won’t get hurt and that everyone involved will always keep the best interests of the child in mind?
Sometimes the whole process of adoption seems surreal–much like every time we spent weeks imagining a positive pregnancy test that ultimately turned out to be another negative one. There’s something about both situations (being a pre-adoptive parent and coping with infertility) that seems to render me feeling completely vulnerable–underscored by the fear that we will never become parents.
I will not presume to comprehend the layers of trust and fear that an expectant parent must sort through when deciding whether to make an adoption plan. From what I have read of others’ experiences, the fears and issues of trust are similar to those a pre-adoptive parent faces, though they might come from a completely different place. How do you trust yourself, as an expectant parent, to do what is right for your family? How do you trust another family to parent your child, to keep promises about contact, when you might not even know what kind of contact you will want in one month, one year, ten years?
All of this fear and doubt can be crippling–I’m sure we’ve all seen people decide against pursuing adoption for those very reasons. And that’s okay. Adoption is not for everyone. But for those of us who trust that it is the best choice, when there’s still so much fear on both sides, how do you move past it?
We’re still pretty new to the world of adoption, having been approved as an officially waiting family with our agency one month and one day ago, so I don’t feel qualified to answer that question from a background of significant experience. From where we are, I feel confident that communication, surely, is the most important component to combating fear and helping to establish trust in a relationship between an expectant parent and a pre-adoptive parent like myself. Communication, when there is not yet a person to connect with, but only the hope that somewhere, that person is or someday will be looking for us, is a challenge that we have been trying to figure out. While we are waiting to match with someone, though we are putting ourselves out there in a variety of ways, online and otherwise, we have decided to use our blog to give as accurate and real a picture of our daily lives as we can. I write about our traditions, our hopes and dreams for our family, my ever-lengthening list of dad-tivities, our own childhood experiences, and our not-so-pretty challenges, all in the hopes that the more we can communicate about our lives, the less space there is for fear to develop between us. Trust can grow from there.
At least that is one thing that I can control in this process that is mostly out of my hands.
About the author:
Ethan is the co-writer (with his wife, *A*), of their personal open adoption blog, The Littlest Brooks-Livingston, which chronicles the occasionally trying, sometimes humorous, and always introspective dips and curves in the road to bringing home their first child through open adoption. Ethan, a recovering English major who has since moved on to another (more employable) area of the Liberal Arts, resides in Western North Carolina.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net