When I was introduced to Adoptimist three years ago or so, my first reaction was to think, “What a great name!” “Adoptimist” is unique, catchy and conveys an upbeat, positive message. More important, it captures the essence of the adoption experience: one has to have and maintain optimism. Often this is easier said than done.
As an adoption counselor and consultant, I have observed the varied roles that optimism plays in adoption. Evidence of optimism—or of its absence—is often clear on a first phone call. There are some people who phone (or email) me, indicating they want to adopt and express excitement and eagerness to get started. These are usually the folks that schedule an appointment quickly and start tackling their paperwork, profile etc. Then there are others who indicate a certain reluctance or fear or ambivalence from the first contact and onward. While optimism doesn’t make an adoption happen, I’ve seen many of the “can do” adopters become parents sooner and with a smoother course. At the risk of sounding too “new age-y,” they convey a positive energy and it seems to hold some sway.
Would that it were all so simple. I wish that I could say: “Approach adoption with optimism and all will go well.” Life doesn’t work that way and surely adoption, with all its unexpected twists and turns, is not given to simple formulas. For one thing, many people come to adoption after years of discouraging and painful experiences with infertility and/or pregnancy loss. It is hard, when one has endured such losses, to hold fast to optimism. For another, there are things that happen in the adoption process—scams, birthmothers who change their minds, birthfathers who come forth at the last minute—that challenge even the most stalwart of optimists.
So this brings be back to why I like the word, ADOPTIMIST. In entering and staying the course of an adoption, would-be parents need to somehow believe that ADOPTION WILL WORK. For many, this is an incredibly challenging perspective. Some fear “no one will pick us.” Others encounter terrible luck and have an adoption fall through. Many watch and wait as other adopting families move forward and joyfully post photos of their new babies. It can be incredibly difficult to be or remain optimistic but I encourage all to be Adoptimists.
After participating in well over 100 adoptions, I’ve seen a world of happy endings…and new beginnings. I’ve had the privilege of seeing one family after another after another and another become parents. For some, this all goes smoothly. They arrive at adoption, barrel through their paperwork and are home with their baby six or seven or ten months later. Others face a longer and more arduous adoption path and in recent years, I’ve seen families wait as long as three years to adopt. What I can say for sure is that every one of these families is certain that they got the baby that “was meant for us” and even those who were worn down in the process will declare, “it was worth the wait.”
And so as I write this on a dark, snowy winters day, I urge those of you who are waiting and wondering to try—pun intended—to adopt Adoptimism. I’ll end with my most recent examples of clients who were able to hold on to “adoptimism,” even as they felt hope fading…
Kathy and Don welcomed their second child, Alex, two weeks ago. Alex’s was a picture perfect adoption—both birthparents were involved, they come from really nice families, are in school, stable and solid. Kathy and Don are overjoyed and certain that Alex is the right baby to complete their family. Kathy says she has become a firm believer in “eating my words.” The words that Kathy refers to were her declaration, this past October, that “I’m quitting if it doesn’t happen by Christmas.” Christmas came and went and Kathy held on to a kernel of adoptimism. It was enough to bring her to January 10 when they got the call about Alex.
Steffie is a single mom who waited 2 ½ years to adopt with not even a “nibble” along the way. When she reached the 2 ½ year mark, she told her boss, “I can’t do this any longer—I’m going to give up” Three days later Steffie received a call from Anna, a single mom that she had met in an adoption support group. Anna told her that she had received a call from her son’s birthmother that she was pregnant again and wanted to place a second baby with Anna. Unable to parent another child on her own, she told the birthmother about Steffie. A match had been made. Three months later Steffie happily welcomed her daughter. She said that every part of her adoption was wonderful except for the awkwardness she felt going back to her boss three days after declaring she was quitting, to ask for maternity leave.
Adoption is not for the faint of heart. The path to your baby will feel uncertain and can involved twists and turns and bumps along the way. I encourage you to hold on as best you can to Adoptimism. Adoption will work. You and your baby will find each other and the long struggle to maintain some measure of hope will be worth it.