Some time ago, The Interim expressed interest in hearing from people who had experienced adoption from one angle or another.
I do not pretend to be an expert, but I am the mother of three adopted children, as well as two “home-made” sons.
We married expecting to adopt. I had had tuberculosis of the kidney quite seriously in my teen years, and had been advised not to have children. After four years of marriage, however, I very unwisely and quite deliberately became pregnant, and gave birth to our first son, who is sixteen. Two years later, we had a second son. My urologist, realizing that my biological urges we much stronger than my common sense, instead that I have a tubal ligation, and this was done. I realized we were very fortunate to have two beautiful children, but after three years we began to long for a little girl, and decided to approach the CAS.
“Pick her up next Wednesday”
We were invited to a group meeting of prospective adoptive parents, and found the presentation that evening extremely discouraging. Even in 1971, babies were not simply for the asking, especially since we already had two children. We went home and mulled it over, and decided to persist. Apparently the presentation had been had been designed to separate the really determined couples from those who weren’t quite sure, and within six months we received a phone call telling us the agency had a ten-week-old baby girl for us, and we could “pick her up next Wednesday”.
Such excitement. And such flurry of buying of baby clothes and bottles. Since we had said on our application forms that the race of the baby was not an issue, our lovely Jennifer was half Chippewa Indian, and she kept us busy and happy for three more years.
A baby with physical handicap
Naturally we were maturing during this time, and when we applied for another child we mentioned that we felt able this time to accept a baby with physical handicap. This time the phone call (and such phone calls are incredibly exciting… ask any adopting parent) told us of a nine-month-old baby girl whit spinal bifida.
We were ready to say “yes” immediately, but the agency was more cautious. First, the wanted us to visit Joy in her foster home to “make sure we could accept her”. We humored them and just before Christmas of that year we met our second daughter for the first time. She was very petite and very pretty. She wasn’t as thrilled with us as we were afraid the agency social worker reassured us, but we had to go home without her because the agency felt Christmas was “too emotional” a time for an adoption. Christmas that year felt strangely empty, for in our hearts Joy was already part of the family. On January 6 we brought her home in a blizzard, and what a start to a new year.
She has since taught us so much about patience (ours) and courage (hers). Joy walked without braces at 21/2, and since it had been possible that she might never walk, I cannot describe our jubilation. For a whole week, we all sat around watching Joy walk, it was incredible.
And last year we adopted again. This time we again said race didn’t matter, that we would consider a child with a physical handicap, and the child could be older. Well Jason was older – six years old – but plain old white, and in perfect physical health.
Emotionally, he was about what you could expect in someone with a sad history of very inadequate parenting and finally being given up at five to the CAS. He is sad and mad and – asks the neighbors – very often bad. It will be a ling time before he really straightens out, and he has proven a true challenge.
He relates better to Bill
He still doesn’t much like me, although he relates better to Bill, my husband. I don’t think we could have gotten this far without the warm support of our friends, and the love and assistance of many other caring adults in Jason’s life, like the principal who knows how to be strong yet and tolerant, and the priest who takes time for a little rough-housing whit this little boy who so badly needs attention. There are also his amazingly patient teachers to thank, and his superb social worker, which takes time to listen even when she is having a difficult time with her own life.
We have survived this far
I can’t take much credit myself. Frankly, I don’t think I have done very well with Jason, though I have tried hard, He has taught me some humbling things about myself that I would have preferred not to know, things about myself that I would have preferred not to know, things about my own lack of strength, patience and tolerance, Still we have survived this far, he and I, and we will continue to try to become what we should be to one another.
It is some comfort to know that most mothers of older adopted children experience a lot of guilt… it is an especially difficult kind of adoption. I wouldn’t recommend trying it without the support of a good husband, accepting children, an understanding social worker and if at all possible, a strong faith.
It’s an adventure
We are not those marvelous families who can adopt children. We may possibly adopt one more, but we are going to think about it for a while. Those who known us best have advised us rather to concentrate on encouraging others to adopt, and that I can do with enthusiasm, It is not exactly the same as having your own biological children, but it is a very satisfying adventure, full of reward and growth.
Finding families for older children
I am on the planning committee of the next Annual General Meeting of Alliance for Life, and have suggested that we have a workshop dealing with the adoption of older and handicapped children as part of the agenda.
This suggestion has been accepted and I am optimistic that the workshop will be received with interest and perhaps will even be instrumental in some of these children finding families.
The question of the status was squarely faced by the English Court of Queens’s Bench in Patren v Trustees of B.P.A.S.. (1978). All E.R. 987, when a husband applied for an injunction to prevent his wife from having an abortion without his consent. The wife had obtained pursuant to the Abortion Act 1967, the necessary certificate of the fights pregnancy would involve risk of personal injury in the physical or mental health of the wife the validity of the Abortion, 1967 was not challenged, and the principle question to be decided was whether the husband had any right to apply for the injunction. It was concluded that a fetus cannot in English Law had any right of it’s own at least until it was born and has a separate existence from it’s mother. Consequently, the husband’s claim had to depend upon a right which he possessed. It was concluded that the husband had no right to the requested relief. The Court’s conclusion did not of course; email an examination of rights guaranteed by a constitutionally entrenched charter of Bill of Rights.