The Trade-Offs

This is an ongoing meditation on the process of adopting a child. I’m in the early stages; paperwork is mostly done as I go through a series of workshops and collecting information about myself to prove that I am a good person without TB and that I can drive.

When it comes to acquiring a very new, small person, what pretty much takes only two people to do biologically takes dozens of people the other way — through adoption. This adoption process started out, in my mind, as a solitary excursion. Me and endless forms and Xeroxed reading material. Me alone for an hour each way to Santa Ana, where the agency is based. Me tallying up how much I will have to spend on daycare, and worrying if there will be enough money for a comfortable life, for a college fund, for a cute pair of shoes if I want them.

But I’m a little over a month into it and I’m learning that there are people coming with me on this journey. The social worker who cheerfully sends me new fingerprinting forms when she realized I messed up the first set. My hard-working boyfriend who helps me scrape vintage wallpaper to turn a dingy second bedroom into a bright, cheerful haven for a child. My girlfriends who have been tasked with writing referrals and warned that they may get interviewed about my fitness as a parent.

My friend Carolyn has the soul and wardrobe of an indie rock queen. She is practical beyond reason, cuttingly funny, and bore a chubby-cheeked redheaded sweetheart of a daughter a year ago. It was Carolyn who opened her Rowena Avenue door to me on April 10, 2005, when Lucy and I began the California chapter of our life. We watched one horror movie a week for a year. And so Carolyn is one of the people I tapped to write a recommendation for me.

Today, as her daughter practiced standing and I tried to keep her occupied, Carolyn filled out the form my agency sent her. When she was done, she read it aloud. She’d gotten through eight or nine answers, and then stopped. She looked up at me, unable to read any more. Tears streaming down her face, she handed me the paper.

Here is what she could not read out loud: “What special qualities do you believe Vanessa has that would enable her to successfully parent an adopted child?” “She has an immense capacity for love and understanding and is extremely patient.”

Of course, this sent us both into floods. I was — and still am — moved beyond measure.

Instead of the wonder and thrill of conception, morning sickness, sore boobs, stretch marks and ultrasound snapshots, I have trade offs. I have to look good on paper, I have no idea who this baby will be or when he or she will come, and I need to rely on so many other people to make this happen. I can’t do it without them. And the most amazing thing of all is that they are there for me, wanting to pitch in, helping me bring a child into my world. Our world.

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Vanessa McGradyThe Trade-Offs

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