Twice in the last six months we’ve asked ourselves this question. In both instances, a child was born in our local area, their birth parent began an adoption plan, and we asked our agency to show our profile as potential adoptive parents. As it turns out, neither was our baby.
It’s a strange thing we pondered, thinking about a newborn in their first days of life. If we were chosen as parents, then they were always our baby from the beginning. If not, then they never were. Sort of like Schrodinger’s baby, but not gruesome.
These situations though are the exception to our experience as a waiting family, which mostly consists of going about our lives. Sure, there was a flurry of activity after the first time when we rushed to buy a car seat, the only item we really need to leave a hospital with a newborn. But it now sits in its box, unopened, in the room we sometimes call the yoga room and sometimes call the baby room.
So far, our journey to parenthood has been a lot of hurry up and wait. The first six months or so consisted of background checks, financial audits, medical exams, educational seminars, conversations with our social workers, and never-ending paperwork. Then it was writing copy and gathering pictures for our profile book, which is what potential birth parents view to decide whether they will choose us as adoptive parents. Since we finished that and gave it to our agencies though, there’s not really been anything we can do to make the process go any faster.
We just wait.
We know that our agencies will contact us immediately if there is anything to tell. Other than reminding us about our annual home study renewal, it was months of silence between the first and second profile showings (the ones we know about). Sometimes I want to email our social worker checking in, even though I know exactly what their response will be. It’s merely an attempt to satisfy a need to exert even the smallest amount of control over a process that is now entirely out of our hands.
It may be months again.
Or it could be tomorrow.
That’s one of the weirdest aspects of this process: we keep going as if nothing has changed, because nothing really has, but we are always aware we might drop everything tomorrow to meet our child. That little tickle in the backs of our minds is always there. So is the longing.
Is the fetus that will become our child already growing somewhere?
The first near adoption (well, it felt near to us) upended our psyches for a week or so. It happened just a few weeks before Rosh Hashanah, so we struggled with whether we really could have a newborn at such short notice at that time of year, with nearly no supplies at home. We realized that we’d never really be “ready” and there’s no “right” time anyway, and we decided we would adopt this child if given the chance.
A few tense days later, after I sent some cagy texts canceling appointments because I just couldn’t handle anything else at that moment, we learned it wasn’t happening. For a variety of reasons, we came to the conclusion that this particular arrangement wasn’t right for us anyway, so we felt relieved. But we were also deeply disappointed.
During those few days, I couldn’t help imagining that child as ours, waiting for us in the hospital. But they were never ours.
We learned something about ourselves in that experience though: when the moment comes, we will be prepared to do this. (Not that we will actually have any clue how to be parents or what a particular child will need. But we will be prepared to step into that unknown.)
So we didn’t hesitate a couple weeks ago when our agency asked us the second time if we’d like our profile shown to the birth parent of a child who’d just been born. Our hopes and emotions intensified immediately, and we started the mental calculations of who would take leave when. We restarted our conversation about names, even while we tried to resist naming this child. They might be ours; they might not.
Less than 24 hours later, we found out they’d picked another family. And then we went on with our day. This time we returned to equilibrium much faster.
That’s what this has been like: long periods of normal life (though with that back-of-the-mind tickle), punctuated by short bursts of anxiety and hopefulness, followed by disappointment mixed with relief, and then normal life resumes.
And we just wait.
We live with the illusion of being in control, although our lives are punctuated with reminders of the illusion. בשעה טובה, dear Sam and Ari. When the hour is propitious, you will become parents, and yet Talmud teaches that you may already be parents because both of you are teachers and if you have taught a child it is as though you have given birth.
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