On Monday we had our first adoption meeting after the break. We met with the social assistant to touch base on our plans and to update her on what we have done during the break from adoption. We told her about our failed IVF cycle and that we felt we were ready to start with adoption again.
She said that was ok and we went on to discuss various things. She first asked how our idea of an adopted baby had evolved. I said it was more concrete. While at first I mostly had an image of a baby in my arms, now I also see the baby growing and becoming an adult. This may mean facing additional difficulties if the baby had different ethnic origins. Some easier than others. For instance, with a baby girl of African origin, I may have to learn how to deal with her hair or help her with physical appearance through adolescence.
We also talked about the age of the baby and the fact that we may miss a few years of the baby’s life. There is a big difference between adopting a baby who’s a few months old and three years old (the range we asked for). With a three year old it is likely going to be harder since the baby may have gone through difficult experiences and may have more difficulties in feeling an attachment to the adoptive parents.
Then we discussed the possible traumatic experiences that a baby may have had and if and how we could face them. We said that the only thing that scared us was babies who had been subject to sexual abuse. She said that was indeed tough since the kids can have weird sexual attitudes when they grow up. We said that in cases where we felt we couldn’t handle the situation we would be ready to seek support from professionals. Last time we said this to the psychologist, she wasn’t impressed with us. We said this to the social assistant and she clarified that it is good that we know we can seek help, but that some problems just cannot be solved. An adopted baby may mean you have a problem for life and you just have to deal with it. She gave us the example of a baby who was beaten up by his biological dad: whenever the parents argued or there was some noise, like a glass breaking, he would get really scared. He also didn’t like physical contact. The parents took him to see a psychologist but then simply had to accept the situation as it was.
On the other hand, seeing a psychologist can be useful to understand what the problem is at times. She talked about a baby who messed up every family reunion and party: every time there was an event (birthday, dinner out, party, etc.), he was in a bad mood and the party ended up with an argument. With the help of a psychologist, the parents figured out that the child felt guilty about having fun towards his biological mum. He didn’t want to allow himself to have fun. But once they worked this out, the adoptive parents were able to put less emphasis on festive events and the child to better accept that he could have fun.
Finally we discussed the reasons for which these babies are abandoned. She asked what we found hard to accept and understand. For me financial reasons are hard to understand, but discussing with her it was clear that it is hardly the case that babies are abandoned simply for financial reasons. She gave us the example of a young couple who had financial problems (they both had low paid jobs) and two children. They didn’t have enough money to pay rent so they were hosted by a couple of older people with their kids. When she got pregnant the third time, they could feel that this third baby was too much for then to handle. Not just in financial terms, but also in terms of strength to face the situation: the couple hosting them wasn’t too happy about the pregnancy and they already had two young babies to take care of. So they gave the third baby for adoption.
I really like when the social assistant gives us examples. It makes all the issues and the situation a lot more concrete. For instance the story of a baby girl who wanted to be adopted so much that during the day she did all she could to be the most perfect baby. But then at night fears and stress caught up with her and she had horrible nightmares. Or the story of a boy of Vietnamese origins who, once grown up, decided to go back to his origins: he joined the Vietnamese community groups and hanged out with Vietnamese people only, isolating himself from his previous friends. All to then find out he didn’t really feel Vietnamese and to go back to his family and friends. Or again the story of a guy who was so motivated to find his biological mum he went to ask for details about her on his 18th birthday. He met her but found she was leading a life in isolation and with lots of issues. When asked whether he wanted to meet her again, he said no and added that you cannot help those who do not want to be helped.
We’ll be able to carry on in the fall with a number of other meetings: one or two meetings with the psychologist, one individual meeting with the social assistant to discuss our family and education background, two with a pedopsychiatrist and one meeting with the social assistant at our place. Not sure yet of what will come first. In the meanwhile, I better found out what a pedopsychiatrist is…
I may have been a lot more detailed than needed. But I hope some of the people who at least once in their lives said to someone “Why don’t you JUST adopt?” will read this post and rephrase the question.