Carla and I arrived at The Cradle twenty minutes early (which is actually cutting it close for us) for our Adoption 101 all day class. We were going to spend the day (from 8:30 until 4:30) with other couples beginning the adoption process with The Cradle. Though we were not thrilled at the idea of spending our entire Saturday in our first adoption class, we were excited and anxious to get the day started. We were clearly the first ones there and walked into the room where we would be spending the day, totally unsure of what to expect. The women who were leading the class greeted us with smiles and warmth and we started to relax just a bit.
For those of you who know us, you know that Carla and I don't particularly thrive in situations where we have to make small talk with strangers. So as people started to file in, we kept ourselves occupied by looking through the binder that we were given and by giggling amongst ourselves (something that we ARE particularly good at). I expected to feel some strange competition with the people who we were sitting in this class with. After all, these are going to be the other couples on the waiting list with us. It's hard not to think about if they will get picked before us and if someone will choose them over us. But in all honesty, I didn't feel any competition. Instead, I felt comforted to be surrounded by other people who were in the same place as us. Other people who had the same fears and worries that we did. Other people who could really empathize with what we were going through.
The day started with a tour of the building, including the on-site nursery. The Cradle is the only adoption agency in the country with an on-site nursery (which is pretty amazing). The nursery is a place where babies can go while final decisions are being made. If a baby is born and the mother contacts The Cradle, they still require her to go through several weeks of options counseling to make sure that adoption is the right choice for her. Instead of placing a baby with a family and then having to take the baby back if the mother changes her mind, the babies are placed in The Cradle nursery. That way, the birth mother has the time and space she needs to make the best decision for her and the baby and the adoptive parents don't have the baby in their home just to have to take the baby back if a change of heart occurs. It is a pretty wonderful system. Yesterday, there were four babies in the nursery. There are trained nurses on call 24 hours a day and a two year waiting list to be a volunteer baby cuddler!
Anyway, after the tour, things finally got started. The first activity we did was pretty powerful and set the tone for the rest of the day. We were asked to take something of value that we had on us, that would fit in the palm of our hands. Though it took me a minute to figure out what on earth I could use, I quickly saw Carla taking off her wedding ring and figured that was what they had in mind. Sure enough, most people chose to use their wedding ring. Anyway, we were split into two groups: group A and Group B. Carla and I were in group A. Group A was told to place the object of importance in a basket that was passed around. We were told to keep our eyes straight ahead while each person in group B was then asked to pick one of our items out of the basket. Now, I knew this was just an exercise and I knew that we would get our objects back, but I still had quite a bit of anxiety that someone was holding onto my wedding ring and I had no idea who it was. Once everyone had picked a new item, four of the people with items were asked to show what they had. I got to see who had my wedding ring and I oddly felt a little bit better about it. The whole idea was to show us what it was like to be the one giving up something special, what it was like to be the one with the special item, what it was like to not know who had your special item, and the instant connection that was formed when you knew who had your special item. We then discussed how these feelings could be applied to the adoption situation. It helped us to build empathy for the birthmother, helped us to see the benefits of an open adoption, and helped us to see how much emotion was involved in the whole process. It was a really great way to start the day.
The next part of the morning required us to talk about our fears and concerns in starting this process. It was amazing how quickly everyone opened up and I soon found myself explaining to a room full of strangers how scary it was to be a same-sex couple opening ourselves up to other people's judgements and prejudices. I talked about our fears of not being accepted as possible parents by some birthmothers or their families. As I finished sharing our fears, a man across the room loudly said to the whole room, "Well, I hope you know that you are accepted here with us." It was such a kind gesture. Such a genuine sentiment and it meant so much to both of us. It was the first time, of many, that I found myself trying to hold back tears during the day.
The rest of the day was filled with many more exercises, speakers, videos, and discussions. We heard from an adult adoptee from Peru, a gay man who had adopted a child with his partner, and two other families who had adopted children one as a domestic adoption and one as an international adoption. It was an emotional day and helped us to think through a lot of the issues surrounding adoption. There was a whole section dedicated to multicultural families which really helped me to see some of this issues that I had not thought about in terms of multicultural families. So many things were brought up throughout the day that I just hadn't thought about before and I appreciated the opportunity to start thinking of the many things that are involved with the adoption process.
I am not sure what exactly caused the switch in me, but at some point during the day I began to find more peace with this process. I started to have more faith in it. I came to believe that though we would probably have to wait a pretty long time, there was going to be a birthmother who came along and chose us as the ones she wanted to raise her child. Again, I don't know what it was that made me feel better, but by the end of the day I really believed that this was going to happen for us. This was going to be the way that we added a child to our family. Up until yesterday, I was just not convinced that this was really going to work, that we would ever be chosen. And at some point during the long day yesterday, I came to believe that it was going to work. That we would be chosen. That the right child would find us. And that is what I took away from Adoption 101.