“Well, can’t you just adopt?”
“Why didn’t you just adopt?”
“Well, if this doesn’t work, you can always just adopt.”
Few phrases have the power to set me off so thoroughly or quickly, for a few reasons:
- First, adoption is not a “just” (as in merely) deal. It’s a big, huge, intense, laborious, intrusive undertaking. It requires an uncommon generosity both to accept the challenges of the screening process and to accept a total stranger as your family.
- Second, adoption is not some easy alternative to having children the “old-fashioned way”. Children are not a commodity sitting on a shelf, readily available to be picked out like a pet.
- And third, I always want to respond, don’t you think I thought of that myself? Does it not occur to you that I may have already tried to adopt?
Adoption, for those seeking to adopt a child, requires detailed applications, the approval of bureaucrats, intrusive investigations into the prospective parents, and subjection to the harsh laws of supply and demand, especially to adopt an infant.
I ought to know: not only did my husband and I try it ourselves, but also my own parents went through the process not once, but twice. They would have adopted at least one more child, but artificial birth control methods, including abortions, were on the rise by 1975. At that time, zero population growth was the rage, so there were fewer children, including those available for adoption. As a result, my parents were discouraged from applying for a third time. That was nearly fifty years ago, and my parents could not “just adopt” another child.
Fast forward some thirty years, and we couldn’t “just adopt” either. We heard stories in the news of birth parents who showed up and took their children back years after the domestic adoption was final, open adoptions in which children became confused about who their “real” parents were, and birth parents who, though they had surrendered their rights, seemed to have more say in matters than the legal parents. These were our concerns at that time. Given all of this, we decided to investigate adopting overseas. My colleague at work had just done so successfully, so it seemed like a reasonable, viable option.
There was still nothing simple or easy about it, of course. One does not just walk into an international adoption any more than one simply walks into Mordor. At least that was our experience nearly twenty years ago.
Naturally, the countries that allow international adoption wanted their children going to healthy, stable homes. So, their applications were detailed, and they wanted a legally-binding agreement that included regular updates on the child. The level of detail and frequency of updates varied by country and agency. We investigated several. The applications also included questions about our medical conditions, mental health, income, education, employment history, and social connections. There were requirements for home inspections (yes, multiple) and background checks, interviews with social workers, and the option of requesting our medical records. There was a definite risk of being denied; with my medical history and antidepressant medication, this was a real possibility for us. Yeah, “just adopt,” my foot!
In the end, after much research, long distance, overseas phone calls, and then initiating the actual application process, we had to move away for work, rather unexpectedly. That was the last straw. We self-eliminated.
At that point, I realized that we had hit roadblocks every time we came close to having a child; for example, the medication I took to help me ovulate caused so much pain that I was unavailable to conceive during the fertile window. So, having to leave the area, and with it the support network we would have needed in order to adopt, was the last straw for us, the final “cosmic hint” from God that we were being called elsewhere than parenthood. After we moved, my health deteriorated, and I concluded that God knows what He is doing.
Meanwhile, I can see many other ways in which we have been fruitful. I have some wonderful godchildren to whom I am an active, engaged godmother. Two of them are adult converts. I’ve taught a few RCIA (now called OCIA) classes. And I model my faith to those around me, including my non-Catholic husband. That’s just the outward fruitfulness.
Inwardly, I study my faith, I pray, and I learn to love and trust God more as time goes on. I learn trust, patience, and charity by learning to bear my crosses as well as I can. Recently, I came to realize again that I’m not bearing them alone. Jesus carries my cross with me. Academically, of course, I already knew this, and I knew it better at other times in my life. However, this recent concrete realization came as I stopped to really listen for God during a time of prayer. That listening, learning, and growing is also fruitfulness. It is always open to us, regardless of the number of people in our lives or our homes, and regardless of our state in life.
How are you responding to your roadblocks, detours, crosses, and blessings? They’re there, all of them, especially the blessings. It might be easier for me to walk into Mordor than adopt or bear a child, but that is me – you’re you.
Jesus says a tree is known by its fruit. What does your own fruitfulness look like, interior as well as exterior? How do others perceive your fruits?
Delsonora lives in Central Ohio and has been married to the best husband a woman could want for over a quarter century. She has a disability and was adopted as an infant. Delsonora loves pets, crafting, and food, and she thinks that coincidence is often a “divine hint”. Catholic from conception, she’s convinced that the faith is why, despite the prevalence of other options, she was able to be born.