That was the number one question Walter and I were asked throughout our infertility journey. Just like I imagine fertiles get asked about their birth choices or about their choice to bottle or breast feed. Anyone going through infertility gets asked this regularly on their own private journey…. Why don’t you just adopt?! Like it’s so easy! I mean really, why don’t you just adopt?! Easy Peezy!
I know I’m the poster child for adoption, so to speak. I have two beautiful children after a very long struggle with infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss, but it’s not. It’s just not. I know people must look at me or use me as an example to friends who are struggling with infertility, look at her… you could have that too…. if you’d only just adopt!
So, let me tell you what adoption involved for us. Because it is NOT a matter of just adopting, it is so much more, so much harder than that.
Sure, Ava’s placement seemed easy, it wasn’t, but to outsiders, I bet it looked real easy. We went through the invasive screening process, proved we weren’t on sexual offenders register, got police clearance and health clearance and passed a bunch of other tests and hey presto, 3 weeks later we were holding our new born baby.
But that was when my torment truly started. This was back in 2009, before the change in the child act, so Ava could be placed with us from birth and wasn’t required to go into a place of safety for the duration of the 60 days consent period.
We took home our beautiful baby girl and that was when our true torment started. Living every single day, waiting for a call that could destroy us. Falling more and more in love with her every day, knowing, with one phone call we could have to give her back and have our hearts shattered. Thankfully that didn’t happen.
But then we decided to add to our family and adopt again.
And it was so much harder the second time than I ever could have imagined.
First we were approached by a family of a mutual friend, to place their baby with us, under very tragic circumstances, which I won’t get into here. We tried to get our social worker involved but before she could intervene, the baby died under questionable circumstances. I still have his photo. I still remember his name. It was the most shocking experience. I cried for days after receiving the news.
Then we were selected for another baby, also a boy, his birth parents chose us, went through all the counselling, and a week after he was born, the birth father retracted his consent and opted to raise his son on his own. Obviously well within his rights to do so, but still utterly devastating for us.
Then we got a call from our social worker about another baby, 6 months old, surrendered into her care with placement with us. We dropped everything. Put in emergency leave, flew to Cape Town, Ava in tow and besides herself with excitement over getting a baby brother. We arrived and immediately hit the shops, buying everything a baby boy could need. The next morning, we met him and we loved him and we cuddled him and we left the home with him. He was one very bewildered little boy. And then that night, we got the call that I thought would crush me, that I thought would scar Ava for ever, his birth mom had contacted the social worker and informed her of her decision to retract consent. We had to take him back.
Giving him back was devastating. I remember asking to feed him just one last time, to hold him, feed him, cuddle him, smell him and memorize everything about him. That was three years ago and there is still not a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t wonder and think about that little boy. Where is he? How big is he? He must be nearly 4 now. Is he loved, is he cared for, are all his needs met? Does he love school? Does he even go to school? What does he look like? Does he still have the most gorgeous, hugest, brown eyes?
We went through a really tough time after giving him back. Ava especially. She acted out. She was angry. She started hitting her friends. She became insecure.
When we got the all for Hannah, we opted not to tell Ava, not until the very last minute, there was no way I could traumatize her like that again. We told her a few days before we flew to Cape Town that she was getting a baby sister. She didn’t believe us. And even after Hannah was placed. Ava asked if someone would take her away from us.
Then there is the other issue, which in my personal opinion, I believe is totally down played by all who work in the adoption arena…. post placement stress on adopted babies and children. Ava had it. Hannah had it. Almost everyone I know who has adopted has struggled with issues which, when they seek professional help, can be traced back to the trauma of separation, sensory issues, sleep issues and even selective mutism.
Also, not all adoption social workers are created equal. Before Ava’s placement, we worked with another social worker, over the placement of a baby girl, we eventually withdrew from the process after we realized that the social worker was just stringing us along and that this was turning into a bidding war, with the baby going to the couple who were willing to pay the most to the birth mother.
Adoption is intensely personal. It’s not something you wake up one day and just decide to do. There are so many things that need to be considered. The screening is hugely intense, if you’ve never been through the process, you can never fully understand the depth of the intense personal struggle, over the issues you are forced to address before you’ve even become a parent, you’ll never appreciate the depth of the soul searching you have to go through.
So if someone you know is struggling with infertility, please, please don’t ask them why they don’t just adopt.