Valerie: The ups and downs of adoption as a single woman

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.”


  2 comments for “Valerie: The ups and downs of adoption as a single woman

  1. Sara
    February 26, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Valerie and Cyndi,

    Thanks for these posts.

    I adopted my son at birth, through an out of state domestic infant adoption.

    Once I made the decision to adopt, after much contemplation about finances and single parenting, my sons adoption took five months, and was finalized six months later.

    Attachment disorder and its degrees depend a lot on the age of the child at adoption, the experiences (if any) the child has had, how you bond with your child, how you talk about and treat adoption on a daily basis in your home, etc.

    I’m adopted myself, so have the adoption experience to share with my son as he grows up. The only difference being my adoption was closed (42 years ago), where my sons adoption, as most adoptions are now, is open.

    Single parenting in general is a challenge and must be taken day by day. You’ll find your way.

    Good luck with your adoptions. Adoption is truly a blessing and a wonderful way to grow a family.

  2. Cyndi Garnto
    January 21, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Valerie – what a wonderful metaphor. I am also looking at the adoption route and feel like I keep hopping on and off the bus. For the past six months, the "bus" couldn’t go fast enough for me and waiting was an agony, and now I feel wracked with indecision and keep quesitoning my decisions. Like you mentioned, I want more feedback on what life is like as a single mom, and would absolutely love to hear real life tales on attachment problems and how real families have dealt with it. You’re right – it does seem the scariest issue to deal with – that our child might not love us the way we love them – and the one that seems most inscrutable and impossible to deal with. I’d love to hear some of what you learned in your discussions. I’m glad you wrote – it definitely helps to hear other people who have the same concerns and have gotten through them.

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