The most recent news from our agency is that there aren't many birth families that they are working with right now. So I need to retrain my mind for what is likely a long wait ahead. Another year or possibly two. And while so many of us keep thinking that we're going to be the lucky ones -- those with a short wait, so fabulous that we're snatched right up off the waiting parents list -- the reality is that it's likely to be another year or more and that I will be less heartbroken if I can stop living day to day for that phone call and instead just live my life, take vacations, enjoy wine and sleep in. But I'd be lying if I didn't say that I'm blue and left feeling like after working so hard and waiting so long already that it feels just maddening to have to continue to wait.
HOWEVER, the wait will be worth every moment. You may not anticipate what I'm about to say. Yes, of course the wait will be worth it for the baby that was meant to be ours and the chance to finally become parents. But it will also be worth waiting because our agency works incredibly hard to support birth parents to make the right decision for them and their families about their babies. As I recall, our agency connects with more than 300 birth families each year and finalizes 20 or so adoptions. Yeah, that's a small percentage. But it means that those families have been supported fully in their decisions, whether or not the choice is adoption. And that's critically important because that wasn't always the case for women.
I'm reading a book right now, shared with me by a friend who is also an adoptive parent. The book, The Girls Who Went Away, is a study of the girls and women in the late 50s, 60s and early 70s who were forced to give their babies up for adoption. Unwed, pregnant women had few options and no voice in making decisions and were routinely sent away to group homes to live out their pregnancies, give birth and sign away rights to their babies. These young women were made to believe that they would be unfit mothers and undeserving of raising their children. If they tried to fight to keep their babies, they were often presented with a bill for thousands of dollars for room, board and medical expenses, which meant that signing a release was the only option. This was in the time before Roe v. Wade and girls were not only left to trust their boyfriends to take care of birth control but also had no choices in the event of an unplanned pregnancy. And these girls carried the guilt and shame of stigmatizing their families.
So these girls were sent away to institutions and special centers, often hundreds of miles from home, with little support from their families. Friends and neighbors were told of a sick aunt who needed care or a special opportunity to summer in a faraway place. And these girls went, had their babies, and were told they would forget all about them. That they would move on and another, more deserving family, would raise that baby. And these girls were sent back home to pretend that nothing had happened, that that little life they carried for nine months meant nothing and to just get on with their lives.
But of course they couldn't and didn't. They thought about those babies every day for the rest of their lives. They remembered tiny toes and buttery skin and wondered, forever, if their babies were okay and if they knew they were loved. Some turned to drugs and alcohol. Some never reconciled with their families. All grieved. And some reconnected with their biological children later in life, often leading to finally coming to peace with what had happened.
I can only read this book in small doses -- it's extremely emotional. And while we will be so happy to have a baby through adoption, I don't forget for a moment what these birth families are giving up so that I can become a mom. As someone who has wanted to be a parent for at least five years, I can't imagine what it must feel like to decide that the best option for you and your baby is for someone else to raise him or her. But it relieves me to know that now women have options. For some, abortion is the right option and even though adoption is how we will build our family, my pro-choice stance hasn't waivered one inch. For others, maybe the right choice is to raise that child alone, or with less means than one would like, or to have a parent, grandparent or sibling become the primary parent. And for others, adoption is the right decision and for one of those babies, Bill and I will become dad and mom.
I guess what I'm trying to say is thank goodness women have choices about their bodies and their families and that our agency works tirelessly to support women in making the right decision for them. And that every day that we wait for our little one and every day of our little one's life we will be in awe of that birth mom who made the most selfless, difficult decision of all on behalf of her baby.