Writes Valerie: I’ve been at a bus stop for a month now.
Emanuel Levinas, a philosopher and writer, once wrote that ideas are like buses. We “board” them thinking it will carry us to where we want to go. But somewhere along the journey, we learn, we change, reality goes sideways and the bus, which once held so much promise of reaching our destination when we knew so much less, dumps us unceremoniously in the middle of nowhere.
Levinas called these crossroads of life “way stations of unbelief.” I call them bus stops of indecision.
At some point, in the midst of all the decisions of adoption – foster, private, domestic, international? – and all the challenges of adoption – attachment disorder, transracial families, developmental delays and, most significantly, the great unknown of who my child will be – I jumped off the bus. I wandered around the bus terminal wondering where I’m going.
Fortunately, unlike your average bus station that is generally stocked only with surly ticket agents and uncomfortable seats, the world of adoption is filled with people who are ready to offer kindness and advice on how they made their way.
I spoke to my adoption agency first and told them I needed to slow down. They offered to put my paperwork on hold for up to six months, and said they would not require any fee payments while I considered my options. (This is an important consideration in choosing an agency. Ask about this scenario before you sign with an agency. You should not be punished financially if you need more time to think things through.)
I also asked my agency for contact information for single women who have adopted children of about the same age and circumstances. I had a lively and insightful conversation with a woman in Boston that adopted an 8 month old, and another who adopted an 11 month old from Ethiopia. Not only did they answer my questions about the process, but they painted a picture of what life as a single Mom looks like day by day. Most important, they acknowledged that all my worries were perfectly normal.
Then I started researching resources for the main source of my anxiety: attachment disorder. By chance I happen to be living in one of the few cities in the U.S. that has a hospital with an international adoption program (Children’s Hospital of Dallas). They were a wealth of information and will be there to assist with both medical and therapeutic challenges if needed.
I also spoke to two therapists of another organization who have worked with more than 400 families that have had challenges in adjustment post-adoption. They provide counseling and play therapy in your home, anywhere in the U.S. They gave me hope and, better yet, a list of books to read and activities to do with my child to form a lifelong bond.
I related all this information to friends and family who now understand better than before how to support me in this choice. And more importantly, it gave them an opportunity to voice their concerns and joy in seeing my new family being built day by day.
There is an African proverb that says “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. But if you want to walk far, walk together.”
Adoption is a long journey. If your bus feels empty, it might not carry you far. For me, this month has allowed me to develop a new and more realistic idea of adoption and being a single mother. Better yet, as I get back on the bus to continue my journey, I’m not traveling alone – which is a good thing because I have a long way to go.”