Thanksgiving sends us all through the same exercise – we think about those things for which we are most thankful. Generally, the first thing that comes to mind is one’s family. Families are a great gift and the people that make home feel like home. November is also National Adoption Month so it seems only logical that I should share with you my story – the one in which I was lucky enough to create what is now my family with more than a little help from technology and early social media. Just maybe what I share here will be of some help or comfort to someone who may stumble upon this post and find in it a little nugget of hope when they need it most.
Adoption is a very personal decision. I think those people on the outside of it make assumptions about why people decide to adopt. But those assumptions are generally a pretty narrow view of reality. In truth, some people just know that adoption is the path for them. I have always been one of those people. I always knew I’d be a parent, but I never felt any sort of compelling urge to give birth. Adoption is one of those subjects that exists in the periphery of cultural consciousness until you decide that you want to pursue it. Once you are serious about becoming a parent via adoption, a whole subculture starts to reveal itself to you. But not without a pretty significant amount of investigation. Thankfully, when I began my journey, I was already very familiar with the internet. Unfortunately, the adoption industry had not yet caught up to technology and was slow to adopt new channels of communication. At the time I started I was able to research adoption agencies through newsgroups. (Remember those? Newsgroups?) I’d hear about one, and then I’d search various adoption newsgroups for people with experience with the agency. Then I’d make contact with those people and, if it made sense, follow up with contact with the agency itself. Let’s put this in context, I started this process over 9 years ago and it took me six years to find my son. The web was still a less than effective way to really find and connect with resources in a way that really moved the process forward. But for me it was a little different. I was a blogger.
When we talk about Social Media, the Geek Girls try to point out the value of blogs and bloggers as community builders and mechanisms for two-way dialogue. In a world where Facebook is the social tool dujour, and Twitter is Facebook’s cooler, thinner younger sibling, blogs tend to get dismissed as less than social and certainly not as powerful for creating connections. But my story suggests otherwise. My blog was where I chronicled not so much the boring adoption journey itself, but my emotional response to a process that really isn’t very forgiving of emotion. See adoption is a lot about preparation, anticipation, anxiety, hope, disappointment, grief and, if everything finally comes together, ultimately its about celebration. Being embroiled in the adoption process (read: bureaucracy) for six years meant quite a few blog posts about this crazy range of emotions. I don’t need to recap all of it here, but I will tell you that we started pursuing international adoption, which has it’s own set of complications associated with it. We accepted and lost two referrals (a referral is a child in adoption speak) about 18 months apart (this was after waiting over a year for the first referral). Those children just disappeared into the ether that is that process. With the international thing no one ever tells you where the referrals go — they are just gone. We switched agencies three times. We transitioned from international to domestic in shifting from one agency to the next. Each comes with its own set of fears. International is expensive and the process can be long and disappointing, depending on the country. But with domestic adoption there is the fear of the first mom changing her mind or the first dad not really being on board. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy though, right? As I moved along this path I talked about it on my personal blog. And the craziest thing started to happen. I started to meet people who were rooting for me, or who were also embroiled in the adoption conundrum, or people that had been victorious and were wise, experienced parents of adopted children. A real dialogue and a real community of supportive humans started to emerge and they stayed with me through the entire ordeal.
I blogged when I was confused by paperwork. I blogged when we got our first referral. I blogged when I lost sleep and when that referral drifted away, when the invitation to travel to another country never came and when our adoption agency dealt with some shady issues. I blogged over my frustration with the wait and the silence and with people who popped out babies one after the other. I wasn’t really doing it for anyone else. I didn’t expect anyone would care or be moved to return to my site or participate in the discussion. I just needed to say what I had to say and my blog was that outlet. But people were reading and they did care and they were participating. It was single people, married people, straight and gay, moms and dads, grandparents. People who wanted kids. People who didn’t. Families immersed in the adoption quagmire. I was humbled and grateful for every blog comment, every email, every new friend or acquaintance. They kept me hopeful on those days when I had no other reason to be. And six years into it, when I was ready to give up hope, I wrote a blog post in response to a woman who, when suffering from mental illness, threw her twin babies into the Mississippi river. I wrote her a letter, actually. Her and anyone like her that was struggling. It wasn’t really for her or them. It was for me. It was my inner dialogue coming out and I published it for the world. I begged her and anyone like her to please please consider me. Not ‘me’ per se. But us – all of us in that place – that limbo between wanting a child and having a child. That place that is a cloud of confusion and desperation and hopefulness. That letter, that personal plea, that prayer moved my little community into a conversation I can’t really describe. Suddenly I was receiving emails with suggestions for immediate action that I should take. People who’d had luck with one angle or another were sharing their secrets and I was determining which to pursue.
I moved again into the breach with renewed energy and a feeling that this would be my last great effort at reaching out and trying to find my family. One suggestion was an aggregated list managed by a woman who collected crisis situations from all over the country. So instead of aligning with an agency, I would be choosing to pursue individual situations. I don’t want to get into the mechanics of the adoption process, that’s not what this post is about. But, suffice it to say, these people in my online community altered my perception of what was possible and when I decided to think absolutely outside of my comfort zone and pursue these various options, things started to happen. I followed up on a couple of crisis situations, which led me to a conversation with an adoption coordinator who remembered me months later when a woman came to them looking for a family just like ours. We were interviewed by the first mom and her family, we ultimately met them and grew to care very deeply for them. In July of 2006 my son was born and we took him home 48 hours later. When I am asked if the wait was worth it I always answer in the affirmative. Because now that I know him, I know why we had to wait. It was for him. He is exactly who we were supposed to meet. He is our family.
Why is this a Geek Girls post? Why have I decided to share this today? Because with all of this talk of social media and the miracle that it is for business (I use the word ‘miracle’ facetiously) and personal branding, at the end of the day these are human interactions. It is our humanity that moves the needle forward – a little at a time. With all of our tweets and status updates, pictures and connections, I want us to recognize that ‘transparency’ is just a buzz word. What we really want is honesty and authenticity and humanity and, even a little vulnerability. We are not connecting because we are fabulous. We are connecting because we are real. We are flawed. We NEED each other. We learn and grow from and support each other. We challenge each other. The tools have changed. There is more possibility for connection. The conversations might be bigger. But we are still perfectly imperfect humans.
On this Thanksgiving I am thankful for my family. My bright shining light – my boy. His first mom and dad and the gift they gave us. And all of the lovely, far-away people on the internet who never let me lose hope, who gave me energy and ideas, and ultimately (whether they know it or not) led me to my son. Happy Thanksgiving.
*Note: this post is not meant to be representative of the adoption process in any way. It merely reflects my experience with it. Every experience is different. Adoption is a worthy, worthwhile pursuit and I wouldn’t change a thing about the path that lead me to my son.