Sunday, November 30, 2008

The gift of choice

Tonight, Brothers and Sisters, one of my favorite TV shows, revisited the topic of adoption. In the series, Kitty, (Calista Flockhart) and her husband Robert, (Rob Lowe) are given a second chance by a birth mother with whom they would like to write an adoption plan. Kitty and Robert are unable to conceive on their own and were selected by this woman, a very ambitious and hard-working woman of color to parent her child.

Brothers and Sisters always does a good job of invoking common human experiences with a full, rich smorgasbord of feelings. The show gives you the meat as well as the potatoes, the gravy, the cranberry sauce and the pecan pie.

Tonight's show got me choked up for a variety of reasons: the most obvious being that
Chaz and I thought that Lauren would be adopted by another family after she was born. This is such a complex, painful, and yet, somehow happy thing for me to talk about it. Complex because the decision of adoption was not entered into lightly, nor did its conversation ever come without anxiety, tears, fears, relief and amazement. Complex because there is a lot to learn and do before a baby can be adopted, either into or away from your family. Happy, because we exercised our choice on so many levels. How many times, in ones life, do you get to really choose something that has already been given to you?

That is what we did with Lauren. When I found out at 15 weeks gestation that Lauren had that extra 21st chromosome, aka, Down syndrome, I could not believe my fortune. How could this be? I
already had a daughter with special needs, I already had suffered through the loss of a son, I already had a very demanding & spirited young son, I already had made room in my home/life for a child against my wishes (my step son who is now a very welcome part of the family).

Part of the adoption process is reviewing the profiles of adoptive families. There is a woman in
Cincinnati who helps facilitate the adoption of babies with Down syndrome and the families eager to raise them. I contacted her once we had decided to pursue adoption. She sent us the names and pertinent information of about 5 families.

One of these families described was a man and woman who embodied so much of what I hoped for: the mother was trained in the "Montessori Method" i.e. she had taught in a Montessori school, something I really like and have since enrolled our 5 year old son in for Kindy and 1st grade, and the dad was a very logical, reasonable person who brought a true sweetness to the relationship. I was immediately attracted to this couple as I saw in them, part of what I saw in my self and wanted for this baby.

"Susan" and "Aiden" were everything I wanted in an adoptive couple: close, kind, caring, open-minded, professional, intelligent, informed and willing. They did not have any children of their own but demonstrated a real love for the children in their family as well as a deep appreciation for people with Down syndrome.

This was both a very open and very complicated relationship for us all. I wanted them to know everything about me: how i loved my kids, loved being a mom, never thought that I'd be in this situation and wanted what was best for everyone involved. Not that I know what is best for everyone - I really don't. I wish I did.

And, "Susan" and "Aiden", were very open with me: we had many, many long and loving email exchanges. They got to know me, I got to know them. At one point, Mother's Day 2007, we packed up the van and drove to their home town, about 3 hours away. We stayed at a hotel and made arrangements to share a meal and have some time together.

It was an interesting visit and not without its share of questions. In this situation of
adoptive mother:birth mother, there is this almost tangible emotional dialogue of proving oneself and seeking proof. Not only did I want to feel completely liked by them, I also wanted to feel, without a doubt that I had chosen the right family for my baby.

It's an almost impossible situation. I wasn't 16 years old, I wasn't naive about the pain this would cause, I wasn't new to the concept of loss and I wasn't really sure how one goes about picking a family for a baby that is growing rapidly within one's own belly.

What was I afraid of? That is one of the questions I can now
ask and answer. So, what is it? What made me think that 1. I couldn't handle having a baby with Down syndrome, 2. That I could survive the experience of handing over my child to another couple and 3. How would this fit in with the rest of my difficult and challenging life?

I thought that having a baby with Down syndrome was going to be horrible. I envisioned a cute-ish baby with her tongue hanging out of her month, a lifetime of doctor visits; being 89 and still being the parent responsible for taking my daughter to the dentist. I thought of the long days of therapies, the endless need for patience, acceptance and some brand of deception that told me that it would be "okay" when, really, what I really thought way "God, no".

And, you know what? It is a lot of work and a lot of appointments for therapy and evaluations. I now pray that I will make it to 89 so that I can accompany Lauren to her dentist appointment, if she needs me to be there.

I have been working on this post since Sunday evening. It is not done: I have not yet explained what happened with me, the adoptive parents, our plans, our relationship (it's good!) or anything else brought up in this post. but, I feel like if I don't get this online, this will be a forever post and I really wanted to share this.
so, thanks for reading this.. Bless you all for being in my life - in one way or another.


The Lehnick Family said...

You have me in tears...what a beautifully written post. It will be a year tomorrow that our confirmation came via amnio and I remembering thinking, "I don't think I can raise a baby with Down Syndrome." Why did God choose me to have this baby? So many questions and choices given to us in a short amount of time...I think we can all relate to your post in some ways...I think it is beautiful! Lauren is a sweet little girl and has blessed in you so many ways I can tell...I don't know your outcome with the adoptive parents...but I'm sure you will treasure them forever as well. I have two adopted nieces and really think so highly of the birth moms seeking out the best parents for their children and I think highly of adoptive parents for seeking out any child that may need them. I had no idea that there was a waiting list for DS babies...I now see why...Brayden is the light of my I'm sure Lauren is the light of yours! I can't wait to see your finished story. Just love how connected I feel to all the DS parents out there! Thanks for sharing a heartful experience.

hapagirlhapafamily said...

Thank you for sharing and can't wait to read more. Because my experience is so different from yours, I don't know what it is like to have the diagnosis prior to giving birth. It seems like a whole different experience, but the same happy ending :)

My name is Sarah said...

This is Joyce, Sarah's mom. I just found your blog through another we have been following. I am simply in tears reading your story and am anxious to read how your post today continues. I am much further along in this journey chronologically, yet I continue to learn so much from others such as you. Thank you for sharing.

Gabe, Curtis and Dav

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