The Fortune Cookies Were Right

Most of the people who will see this already know what it’s going to say, but occasionally someone stumbles upon my blog who isn’t part of my social media circle (which itself is rather small!), so I decided it still needed to be written here.

Early on the morning of Wednesday, November 6th, I was getting ready to drive to my reproductive endocrinologist nearly two hours away, where I would have a hysterosalpingogram to determine if there was a blockage in my fallopian tubes causing the problems with my lining development.  I had become incredibly disheartened by the adoption process after what had happened three weeks before (and the year before that, and all of the empty, waiting months in between), and was hoping, desperately, that this procedure would reveal the answer to my infertility issues so that the donor embryos I had on reserve would lead me to my child.

I was about to get in the shower when my phone rang.  I could see from the caller ID that it was my adoption agency, perhaps calling to check up on me after the debacle of the month before.  I answered, keeping my eye on the clock so as not to be late for my appointment.

“I don’t have any details for you right now, but we have an expectant mother who’s interested in you.”

This was the third time I’d received such a call.  Scarred by two painful failed matches, I could feel skepticism stilling the rising bubble of hope in my chest.  “Okay…” I remember myself saying.  My coordinator understood and said, “I wasn’t even going to call you and was just going to wait until the baby was born, but since the baby could be born any day now, I figured you would appreciate some notice.”  She went on to explain that she had no details for me at the moment but was just calling to give me the heads up that something might be happening.  It was the most cryptic phone call I’d ever received.

On the drive to the doctor’s office, I had plenty of time to consider how I was feeling.  I didn’t know what to feel; here I was, suspended between two vague and insecure possibilities, both of which could potentially lead me to my child or fizzle into the ether before my hope even bubbled to the surface.

I will spare you the details of the procedure, but its results indicated that there was no blockage, which meant no discernible explanation for my endometrial problems.  Fertility-wise, I was back to square one, even more of a mystery to my doctor than I had been before.  When he explained to me what he saw, as I sat up and held the surgical gown close around my body, I was surprised that I didn’t burst into tears.  As painful as it was to know that the door to pregnancy was likely closed for good, I couldn’t stop thinking about that morning’s phone call.  When I explained it to my doctor, he was genuinely excited for me; he’d been working with me on and off for four years by that point, watching one idea or theory after another be dissolved by my uncooperative body.  “I really, really hope this works out for you,” he told me as we said our good byes with a hug.  “I’m not giving up on you if you still need us to figure this out, but I truly hope you won’t need us.”

Over the next few days, my adoption coordinator would call me with updates or some more information about the expectant mom who chose me: T.  T was young, only twenty years old, with a two-year-old son whom she was raising on her own.  Her blood pressure was trending high, so she was in and out of the hospital, each time with the potential to be induced for preeclampsia.  That Saturday, my coordinator called to say, “She had an ultrasound, and she’s having a girl.  I thought you might like to know that.” The third baby girl.

Exactly three weeks after that first call, my daughter was born.

This post is already getting rather long, so I will write the story of how we came to be together, and what that experience was like, in another post.  But I wanted to update for those who find themselves here who are on the same journey I was on.  I am now the mother to a beautiful, smart, energetic, funny, clever, strong-willed seven-month old who is the answer to every wish I’ve ever made.  She’s amazing.  Although we text and I share updates, I have never met her birth mother, but I love her so much my heart hurts.

Ah, yes, the title of this post.  During the time of my adoption wait, I received the same fortune cookie fortunes on two entirely different occasions.  They’ve been in the same spot on my refrigerator for a few years now.  They were a reminder, in my darkest moments–some of which I’ve shared here–to never stop hoping for that one, most sacred thing.  I see them there now, and I can’t help but say, “You were right.” IMG_5314

 

Again

Have you ever felt as if you were living your own hellish version of Groundhog Day?  After a while, there develops a kind of morbid comfort in the familiarity of disappointment.

On September 9th, a year after the fall through, I once again got the call that I’d been chosen by an expectant mother, C,  due (I would discover, a few days later, with a girl) on October 5th.  To list the details of the match, the various stages of its development, at this point seems futile and rather exhausting.  It was a good match and seemed so certain to result in a placement; she had placed a baby two years ago through a different agency and was so determined to go through with this placement that she had told no one in her family, who all lived out of state.  She was already parenting two sons and was ready to be done.  We met; I met her children.  She invited me to be in the delivery room when the time came.

I received a call from my agency on Thursday, October 3rd, informing me that the baby had been born the day before and that the father of C’s sons, whom she claimed was not this baby’s father, was opposed to her plan to place–which meant that this was essentially the end of the line for me.  What followed next were two weeks of hope-and-anguish ping pong that made this situation both bizarre and heartbreaking.  My agency called me the following Monday, the 7th, to say that C still planned to place with me, but she had named her sons’ father on the birth certificate and needed him to sign his waiver, which he would do the following evening; she would then sign Wednesday morning, and I would bring home the baby the same day.  But when the notary showed up at their apartment, he refused to come down.  They rescheduled for Thursday, but he wasn’t there to sign, and the same thing happened again the following Monday.  Tuesday morning, the agency called to say that this was basically over, as C refused to sign without him signing first.  But then, Tuesday night–just a few hours later–they called me again to say that both C and the named father were absolutely planning to sign the following morning, October 16th.  The social worker confirmed this with them three times; everything was a go.

The plan, then, was for me to start driving at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday (C lives in northern Indiana) so that I would be able to meet up with the social worker after the signing and sign my own paperwork to take my daughter home.  My darling mother–who had been visiting when I first got the match call in September and extended her stay so she could help me with the baby–rode with me so she could be with the baby in the backseat on the return trip.  I once again installed the car seat and loaded up the diaper bag with clothes, blankets, bottles, burp cloths, wet wipes, diapers.  It was a cold, gloomy morning, remarkably windy, but we were in tentative good spirits, stifling our impulses to discuss what we would do with the baby once we brought her home.  “No more planning,” I told my mother, afraid to tempt fate once more, thinking of all the fantasies we’d spun about long brisk walks pushing the stroller beneath autumn trees, Christmas, summer holidays with my sister’s horses, the nicknames we’d craft out of the name I’d chosen.

An hour and a half into the three-hour drive, I got the text from the social worker that she was at their apartment complex but no one was answering.  I managed to find a gas station in Kentland, Indiana–surrounded by cornfields and windmill farms–and parked until we’d hear more.  After waiting in the car for an hour, we finally got word: he was demanding cash for his signature, and neither of them would sign unless he received it, which is illegal.  It was finally, officially, over.  I was still not a mother, but the tormenting roller coaster of this match was at an end.  I was relieved to at least know, not just for myself, but for my mother, and father, and sister, and a dear friend who had all been going through this with me.  We pulled out onto the desolate highway and drove home.

They keep telling me I’m strong, but I don’t feel strong.  I feel deflated and numb; the tremendous hope with which I started this process almost three years ago seems irreparably fractured.  I see other matches become placements on my agency’s website.  The morning of that ill-fated Wednesday drive, another family, who had been matched roughly as long as I had been, got their placement.  The agency mentioned, more than once, that what happened with my case was something they’d never experienced before.

I know this sounds trivial, but it is a particular pain that both of these failed adoptions happened on the cusp of my favorite season, just as we start to be dazzled by the brilliance and beauty of nature’s hibernation.  The pumpkin patches, the hayrides, the apple cider and Halloween costumes and all of the activities to do with a child–I see the glimmer of hope that I will finally be a part of this, that this would be the autumn that I’ll have my own little pumpkin with whom to celebrate the season.  The joy lasts as long as the fire on a sugar maple before it sleeps.  But the winter of my hibernation has been punishingly long, and I’ve yet to see spring on the horizon.

One Year

The baby who was almost mine was born a year ago today.

When I got to the hospital that Saturday evening, I visited with S for a while as she waited for the induction medications to take effect; she had just received her epidural and was feeling pretty good.  But she didn’t want anyone in the room with her during the delivery, so the nurses set me up down the hall in one of the infusion rooms to wait.  A little while after midnight, I heard the sudden wail of a newborn, and moments later S texted me, “She’s here.”

The next few hours were a blur as I hustled around the hospital trying to find a vending machine that sold Mountain Dew (S’s one request), which was not easy at one in the morning.  I had to head all the way back to the nurses station in L&D to borrow change, because I didn’t have enough on me, after I finally found a machine in another wing of the hospital.  I then tried, and failed, to sleep as I waited for S to be ready to see me.

I first saw her and the baby around 4:00 a.m., when it was time to them down to the maternity ward.  The nurse pushed S’s bed, and she had me push the baby’s bassinet.  The baby was beautiful, so tiny at barely 5.5 pounds.  It was perhaps one of the most surreal moments of my life, to push that bassinet onto the elevator, to sit on the love seat in S’s room in the maternity ward and be handed the baby, swaddled tightly in her pink-and-blue-edged white hospital blanket, by the nurse.  When the nurse asked S if she wanted the baby to receive her first Hepatitis vaccine, S turned to me and said, “Do you want her to have it?”  When the nurse asked if the baby had a name, S told me to tell her the name we had chosen for her together, one from the long list of names I’ve been compiling over the last few years.  We sat together in the room for a while, marveling over this perfect little creature, before I left them to rest and crawled into bed in my own room across the hall.

The rest of the weekend was no less surreal.  I was there by myself, utterly alone.  I had wanted my mother to come with me to the hospital, but my adoption coordinator advised against it because S had never met her.  The room I was in was along an interior wall and had neither windows nor cell reception, so I often lost track of the hours.  I would alternate visiting S and the baby with trips down the long corridor to the visitors lounge, where a wall of windows overlooked the parking lot and afforded me a view of the sky.  It was the only place where I was able to talk to anyone other than my sister, with whom I was mercifully able to communicate from my room using WiFi.  It’s impossible, outside of that very last hour on the last day in the hospital, for me to say what I was feeling, because the entire time I was nearly numb, functioning only on some version of self-preserving autopilot that prevented me from feeling anything—joy, excitement, even fear.  It was as if I were holding my breath, terrified to let it go.

On one of my visits to S’s room, her mother and two other children were there.  I had bonded with her four-year-old son during her pregnancy, and he climbed into my lap as soon as I sat down.  He pointed to the bundle in his grandmother’s arms and said to me, “That’s your baby.”  I smiled—I didn’t know how to respond.  But clearly S had been preparing her children to understand that the baby wouldn’t be going home with them.  Her six-year-old daughter was sad about this, but we talked about how they would get to see her again, and I took pictures of them with her to later put in the nursery.

I was there for the baby’s first bath.  S made sure that the nurse waited for me as I took a shower and refreshed myself.  We smiled at each other and laughed at the baby’s reactions.  We took pictures, and S made sure the nurse also gave me a copy of the hospital photo she took when the baby was clean and swaddled again.  I looked after her in my own room for a few hours afterward while S, who had an allergic reaction to a pain medication they gave her, took the opportunity to rest.  I changed the baby’s diaper and fed her.  Her cheek was so soft, I almost couldn’t feel it.

S’s mother, a beautiful woman with a calming presence, came into my room on Monday to talk with me alone.  She asked me questions about my parenting philosophies and gave me advice about how to care for the baby’s hair during the summer months, to stave off the damaging effects of chlorine.  We exchanged phone numbers, and she told me to send updates to her in the beginning because it might be too difficult for S at first.  She told me that of course this was difficult for the family, but they all knew it was the best decision–everyone except for her own mother, S’s grandmother, who had been against the adoption plan from the beginning, saying, “We don’t do that in this family.”

Tuesday morning, September 4th, the day after Labor Day, was the day S would be discharged.  Mary, the social worker, would meet with her first to sign the paperwork and then come to my room–we had discussed the plan the night before, through text messages.  I should expect her around 9:00 a.m., she said.  Waiting for her that morning, I felt myself finally starting to come apart.  I paced my room anxiously, afraid I would vomit or pass out from the hurricane of nerves swirling inside my stomach.  She finally knocked on my door at 10:00 a.m., and I knew, from the look on her face, even before she spoke, that my worst fear–the one everyone kept telling me not to think about, that everything about this match was “as good as it gets,” that all of the signs indicated that this was my baby–had come true.  The social worker said, “I don’t have good news for you,” and every emotion I’d held at bay that weekend came rushing out of me.  I collapsed and sobbed so hard I could barely take a breath.  Mary, a woman I’d met only once before, held me, because there was no one else there to do so.

She told me that S wanted to see me and asked if I’d be willing to go in to her.  I wasn’t able to stop crying, but I managed to stand up and hiccup back the worst of it, and Mary and I went into S’s room.  “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” S kept saying, “I just fell in love with her.”  I remember saying, struggling to breathe, “How could you not?” and “You don’t have anything to be sorry for; she’s your baby.”  And I meant it.  In the room with her was her grandmother, the only person in the family available to come pick her up from the hospital.  The grandmother hugged me and told me she knew what it was like to lose a baby.  Then we left.

My parents were waiting for me in the hospital lobby.  Our plan was that my mother would ride back with me so she could look after the baby in the car.  The hospital was three hours from my house; my parents were already nearly to the hospital by the time I got the news that S had changed her mind.  I hated, hated, breaking their hearts.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m sharing this.  Perhaps because it’s such a strange thing, something so few people actually experience, something that is not really like anything else.  No matter how much I had prepared myself for the possibility of that moment, the trauma of it sheared part of myself away forever.

Happy birthday, beautiful girl.

 

Missing the Goal

I remember talking once with an acquaintance who asked about how my adoption journey was going, and we got to talking about motherhood in general.  She is a mother of four and working toward her degree.  I told her that my dream was always to be a stay-at-home mom; it was the only job I ever wanted.  She shared with me that, in the early years of her motherhood, she was a stay-at-home mom and felt as if she’d lost herself in the process.  In that scenario, she said, the focus is so much on the children that the mother’s identity is swallowed whole by the experience.  She told me she needed to work outside of being a mother, and I so admired her for acknowledging her desires and taking charge of her own future.

I understand what she meant, and I know that a lot of women have that experience.  In many ways, I struggle to have a complete sense of myself without being a mother, because that’s the only identity I’ve ever wanted to embody–the full fruition of my sense of self.  Because of this, I have always felt incomplete, and that feeling has been even more acute since the fall-through.  I’ve never come that close, so very close, to having that dream become a reality, and I’ve been struggling to hope that it wasn’t my only chance.

This additional time has also given me a chance to focus more on my time with myself and developing the other aspects of who I am so that I will be a whole person for my child. The forced self-reflection of the wait has been both harrowing and oddly rewarding.  I’ve been trying to reconnect with other facets of myself, such as writing and creating (I’ve crocheted a number of blankets and toys in the past months!), and just attempting to enjoy the kinds of things that would likely need to be put on hold if (when) my baby arrives, such as playing video games and sleeping in on days I can.  I’ve done more reading recently than I had in a long while.  I’m enjoying all the snuggles from my animals.

If I’m honest, though, I also do these things to distract myself from the fact that I will be forty years old in nine days.  My goal was to be a mother before I turned thirty, to have two children by that time, to be a mother young enough to one day meet and enjoy her grandchildren.  When that age came and went with no hope of realizing those goals, the goalposts–and the things I even hoped for–were then pushed back, again and again, as power over making happen the things I wanted continued to slip through my fingers.  The most recent goalpost had been set to becoming a mother before I turned forty and not having to celebrate another childless Christmas (although these are, of course, more wishes than goals, since I have no control over when these things would happen).  When the call came in May that I’d been chosen, it finally seemed as if those wishes had landed somewhere benevolent in the universe.  If everything worked out as planned, I would be a mother before I turned forty!  I would have a baby before Christmas!

Christmas came and went, and, in nine days, so will my birthday.  I’m not expecting a miracle stork-drop in that time, so those goalposts will need to be shifted yet again.  I don’t yet know where I’m going to place them–or if they even have a place at all.

Expecto Patronum

In the Harry Potter books, there are evil beings called Dementors: eyeless, hooded, rotting creatures that feed on human happiness.  The only protection against them is to conjure a Patronus, a difficult defensive charm that takes the shape of a silvery animal brought forth by recalling a true, pure, singularly happy memory.  Only the most highly-skilled witches and wizards can successfully combat the soul-sucking Dementors, whose sheer proximity chills a person with mind-numbing despair.

Over the summer, I spent a lot of time thinking about Halloween, because part of me believed I would finally have the chance to do a themed costume with my own baby.  I knew I would likely recycle my costume from last year, as it was pretty great: Luna Lovegood, one of my favorite characters from Harry Potter.  I decided, therefore, that the baby would be a silver bunny, because Luna’s Patronus is a hare.

Halloween morning, I received a strange and unexpected package.  It must have come as the result of some form I filled out over the summer, when I was signing up for various baby-related websites and starting registries: a box from Enfamil full of free samples of baby formula.  It’s currently sitting on my counter.  I’ll probably hang onto it for a few months–the samples don’t expire for a long while–and will find someone to give it to if I remain unable to use it myself.

Every day I am not a mother feels as if there is a Dementor hovering over my shoulder, blindly siphoning my spirit and leaving only a great and terrible emptiness behind.  I am utterly unable to conjure my own Patronus; I can only wait, and wait, to be deemed worthy of rescue.

 

The Outcome

I spent the last three days in a hospital room, alone, with no windows.  Although everything was progressing as if this placement would happen, at the last minute, when it came time to sign, the baby’s mother changed her mind and decided to parent.

I have received so much love and support these last few days, and I apologize for not being able to reach out to everyone individually who has reached out to me (I will, when I feel myself coming back to life inside).  Please, please know that I have received your words, and they are truly a balm for my shattered heart.

The Last Week

A week from today is the baby’s due date.  It’s often difficult to know what or how to think about this.  The coming week could contain my very last days as a childless person; I might be just days away from becoming a mother, from encountering an entirely new and wonderful and unfamiliar terrain in my life.  But that is, of course, a significant might.  I might also go to the hospital and return from the hospital in the exact same state that I am in now: childless.  Motherhood-less.

There is a whole tangle of emotions associated with this, many of which I’ve addressed before.  What I’m hoping for is the inevitable grief of another woman–a woman who is no longer an abstract concept but an actual person whom I’ve gotten to know and like over the past three months.  I don’t want her to suffer, to feel any kind of pain, and yet I am terrified of her changing her mind, because I know the anguish that awaits me if she does.

Over the past few months, I’ve taken up the habit of stalking the Waiting/ Matched/ Recently Adopted sections of my agency’s website, following that narrative arc of anticipation and joy as it has played out in the lives of the other families at my agency.  I’ve shared in their joy when I’ve seen their profiles appear on the Matched page and the elation as they’ve eventually moved on to Recently Adopted.  I’ve taken such pleasure in seeing my own picture on the Matched page, each time with a kind of disbelief that I’ve really come this far.  Earlier today, I noticed that a couple who had been hanging out with me on the Matched page for the past few months–indeed, they were already there when I arrived–were no longer there.  I quickly jumped to Recently Adopted, excited to find out the name of their child, but they weren’t there, either.  It was with such sinking disappointment that I found their profile back on the Waiting list, my heart breaking for what they must be going through right now.

Of course, the voice weaving through my mind keeps saying, that’s going to be you, too.  The closer we’ve gotten to the due date, the harder it has become for me to believe that this will, indeed, work out as planned.  I can’t keep the fear at bay, the fear that this dream–to which I am closer than I have ever been in my life–will once again dissolve through my fingers.

I am absolutely excited, but there is a necessary self-preservation in muting that excitement, and it hurts that I can’t just let myself feel it entirely.  If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that that has been the refrain to all of it.  In mid-July, I accompanied S to an ultrasound and could see the little spine on the screen, the little hands.  I used to fantasize about what it would be like to be pregnant, to look at the ultrasound image and think, That’s my baby!  But when I looked at the screen, I couldn’t think that, because that isn’t my baby–not then and not right now, as I sit here anxiously anticipating a trip to the hospital, the car seat base already installed in my car, the bag packed with everything a baby might need on the three-hour drive home.  That’s not my baby even though S and I have already decided on a name.  It’s surreal.

This is not a case of pessimism, but realism.  People who haven’t gone through this process often tell me, “Don’t think that way!”  But there is no other way to think.  Adoption matches fall through all the time; the women in my single-moms adoption group know this all too well.  They’re the only ones who have never told me, “Don’t think that way,” because they understand.  They understand why I follow every hopeful, plan-filled statement with the words, If this is my baby;” they understand the inability to say anything with certainty anymore.

So, this is the last week, friends!

Balance 2.0

I have now been matched for nearly two months, and the experience has been an incredible exercise in emotional balance.  The excitement, anticipation, and sheer joy I’ve been feeling is unmatched by anything I’ve ever felt.  For the past two months, I’ve been living on the cusp of realizing my biggest, greatest, longest-held dream–something that is an almost effortless reality for most people to achieve.  Becoming a mother is the only thing I’ve ever truly wanted in my life, and this is, by far, the closest I’ve ever come.  I find myself falling into periods of daydreaming, itching with impatience as each day slowly ticks by to September 2nd, this baby’s due date.  There are many moments throughout the day when my heart swells with the thrill of what my life might soon be.

I met S, the expectant mother who chose me, on May 24, and I can absolutely see a successful open adoption with her.  I admire her and like her, and she seemed to like me, too (that meeting made our match official).  I think about her every day and check in on her each week.  Eventually, before the baby is born, we will get together again to formalize our hospital and open adoption plans.

I want to give myself over to the excitement: to plan the theme for our first Halloween costume (I already know what it would be) and figure out grading while baby-wearing and finish putting away the extra furniture, such as the coffee table, because soon there will be baby equipment everywhere and we’ll need the floor space.  I want to start thinking in terms of we.  But of course–just as with every stage of this process–I have to swallow the excitement with huge gulps of realism.  A match does not guarantee a placement.  If the match takes us all the way to the baby’s birth, I could spend time holding and feeding that baby in the hospital, and S–as is her absolute right–could change her mind, and the baby would be going home with her and not with me.  I could find myself right back at the beginning, waiting for a match all over again, as happens with 25% of the agency’s matches.

That outcome would be absolutely devastating, but it is very much a possible outcome that I have to prepare myself for.  Because we have such a long match period, it would be excruciating were that to happen.  Everyone keeps telling me not to think that way, to just be excited and enjoy it, and as much as I’d like to, I know I can’t allow that possibility to leave my mind even for a second.  To do so might make it impossible to deal with a fall through.

That’s where I’m at right now–teetering between ecstatic hope and determined realism, just as I’ve been from the very beginning.  Having a match doesn’t change that, except it makes the hope and excitement that much more pronounced.  After all, there is now a real baby in the picture, no longer just the hope of one.  And there is the chorus: Hope, hope, hope!

And now, for those of you who enjoy seeing pictures, here is the nursery, pretty much complete!

 

 

 

 

A Different Mother’s Day Post

I had planned a much different post than the one I present here, because things have shifted rather unexpectedly.

I’ve been chosen by an expectant mother who is due in September. I have an adoption match!

Of course, there are no guarantees, so this is, at most, a tentative announcement. I found out on Thursday, but I’ve struggled with the decision to announce it this publicly, just as newly pregnant mothers like to wait until their pregnancy is viable before letting everyone know about it. But what made the decision for me was this: just as it is lovely to have a large community to celebrate the wonderful moments in our life, so, too, is it necessary to have community when grieving. I say this not because I expect to grieve, but because it is, as with any match, a potential outcome, and the kindness and support I’ve received here will undoubtedly carry me through the grief of a potential fall-through.

Nevertheless, I’m absolutely through the roof with excitement!

As my coordinator was telling me about the woman who chose me, I could feel my heart opening to envelop her, this young mother I don’t even know, and she has been in my thoughts every moment since that phone call. We will be meeting sometime in the near future, and with the nerves comes a depth of tenderness toward her that formed immediately and without reservation. Regardless of the outcome of this match, she has now taken up residence in my heart.

And so, I wish everyone a beautiful Mother’s Day–every mother, every happy, hopeful, grieving, worrying, lonely, scared, sorrowful, waiting, planning, beautiful mother. Especially my own, and especially the woman who has chosen to make me a mother. May this day, for each and every one of you, wherever it comes from, mean LOVE.

Can’t Bear to Watch, Can’t Look Away

In a few days, the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale premiers on Hulu.  I devoured the first season with the kind of peering-through-fingers fascination with which one might observe a car accident or a fire.  The depictions of the Republic of Gilead, in light of our current political climate attacking what little progress we’ve made on such issues as racial equality or reproductive rights, frequently felt all too plausible and, at times, terrifyingly inevitable.  That alone was enough to give each episode’s viewing an awkward tension between macabre enjoyment and intense discomfort.

There was, however, another aspect to the show which made it difficult for me to watch, at times making me wonder if I really could emotionally handle another season of the series (to be honest, I’ve never read the book, so all of it is new to me).  A major premise of the story is that the United States has experienced an epidemic of infertility, which has resulted in a zealous desire to harness the reproductive powers of those few women able to bear children and essentially turn them into enslaved broodmares for the ruling class.  The infertile wives of powerful men are often depicted as cold hearted, desperate for children yet lacking the empathy and kindness necessary for motherhood.  They pull babies from the sobbing arms of their mothers to claim them as their own, but there is nothing maternal about these wives as they fail to acknowledge the Handmaids’ pain.

I’m pretty sure you’ve started to figure out why seeing this overwhelms me–an infertile woman waiting for an adoption match–with unbearable guilt.

Yes, I understand that the woman who chooses me to be her child’s mom is doing so because adoption is her plan, her choice–one choice among others that she has available to her (adoption, abortion, parenting).  I understand that, if we match while she is still pregnant, she has every right to change her mind even after her baby is born, that all of the decisions are hers until she makes the decision, through her signature, to hand those decisions over to me.  I understand that I will not be prying my child from his or her birth mother’s arms against her will, as happens so heartbreakingly in The Handmaid’s Tale.  I understand all of this.

However, it’s impossible for me not to think about the fact that many expectant mothers make adoption plans because they are in a situation where they cannot parent their child–due to financial reasons, living situation, lack of support, substance dependence, or any number of circumstances that inhibit the ability to take care of a child.  We live in a society where the cost of childcare is often prohibitive; paid maternity leave is the privilege of a select few; our minimal social welfare programs are continually being diminished; good rehabilitation programs are woefully underfunded and out of reach of the people who need them most.  These are often the factors that lead expectant mothers to make adoption plans.  And when it comes right down to it, that doesn’t seem like much of a “choice” at all.

As I watched the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale, I couldn’t help but feel as if I were no different from the wives of the ruling class, whose infertility has led them down the path of the ritualized, government-sanctioned theft of other women’s children.  While I know, rationally, that it’s not exactly the same, this has by far been the hardest part of my adoption journey: my greatest joy is going to come as a direct result of someone else’s immense sadness, someone else’s lack of options.

And yet, I don’t walk away from adoption.  As a result of the imperfect world in which we currently live, it is necessary to have an ethical adoption system in place.  The women who find themselves in the position of making an adoption plan must feel confident, comfortable, and at peace with their choice of family to parent their child.  If an expectant mother chooses me, she has decided that I’m the best mom for her child in a situation where she, for whatever reason, cannot be.  Too many people erroneously see adoption as an act of charity, but that cannot be farther from the truth.  I’m the one who will owe my child’s birth mother an enormous debt of gratitude; I’m the one who will owe her child complete and emphatic devotion.  She will be entrusting me with the most divinely precious life, and it is I who will forever be indebted to her.