PAGE # 19

12:50 pm

The social worker arrived ten minutes early.  I was in my bedroom when I heard TJ, our 16 year old, open the front door.  I hurried into the foyer and introduced myself.  
"It's great to meet you, Paula."  I offered her water and led her to the dining room table.  "My husband ought to be home in a few minutes.  Should we wait for him?"
"I need to interview each of you anyway, so we can just start with you first," Paula suggested.
"What about me?" TJ asked.  "You need to interview me too, right?"  
 "Sure," Paula replied.  
 "I was in the delivery room when my sister, Sara, was born," TJ explained.  "And I've been helping take care of her ever since.  Especially when my dad has to travel for work.  That's when she really looks up to me like a father.  So, you see, I'm not just a brother--I'm my dad's understudy!"
"Well, then, I definitely need a full interview with you too," Paula smiled at TJ.
"Okay then, let me know when you need me!" TJ went to his room.
I liked Paula immediately.  She was warm and friendly, easy to speak with, and had a quick sense of humor.  She thoughtfully answered my questions and I never felt judged.  She was able to interact in a way that was personable and engaging, but still maintained appropriate boundaries.  
"How do I know Kendra really wants to do this?" I asked.
"Well, you can never know for sure.  There are birth moms who change their minds after delivery."
"No, I mean, how can I know she isn't being coerced into this by her husband or in laws?"
"That's part of my job, Jennifer," Paula assured me.  "After I leave here today, I'll be scheduling an appointment with Kendra too.  I'll be making sure that this is her plan, and that no coercion has taken place." 
"It's just that I don't understand why she is doing this," I explained.  "I mean, I'm so happy she picked us.  But I can't understand why she is doing this, so it just seems like maybe someone is forcing her into this?  You'll make sure and get back to me?"
Paula nodded.  "Yes, I will make sure.  I won't be able to share what Kendra talks about specifically.  That part is confidential.  Just as I am here to help you and your husband through this, I'm here to support and counsel Kendra as well," Paula said.  "But I can give you my overall general  impressions, just not the specifics."
I was comforted on multiple levels:  Paula would be looking out for Kendra's needs and providing support.  I was grateful that Paula would investigate whether Kendra's decision was self-initiated.  And...I trusted her because she promised not to breach confidentiality or make ethical violations.  This was in great contrast to the attorney, who had already revealed the birth father's identity to me.  I am not the kind of person who likes getting information on the sly; in fact, such proceedings induce anxiety in me and disable my ability to trust.

Tom arrived soon thereafter and Paula completed all the forms pertaining to each of us.  We had to answer questions about our financial capacity to support another child.  Provide information about our own families of origin.  The kind of stuff I expected.  Toward the end of the home study, after these more concrete details were ironed out, we had time to explore the psychological impact this adoption process was taking on us.  One of us, probably me, brought up our rescue fantasy:
"We just keep thinking that maybe we should be helping Kendra to realize she should keep her baby," I shared.  "I know that sounds crazy, and I know we are totally projecting stuff here, but I think we just feel so bad for Kendra."
Paula remained quiet.  She waited for me to continue.
"We just don't know how we can take her baby away from her!  How can we take home her baby and cause her so much pain?"  
The social worker looked me straight in the face and said:
"Jennifer, this is not your decision.  You and Tom are not making Kendra place this baby for adoption.  This is Kendra's decision.  And you are right--it is likely to cause her pain.  But she initiated this process--not you.  She needs you to be there for her baby.  To honor her decision.  To know that you are going to love her baby and take care of her baby.  That's what is most going to help her through this process."
I considered what Paula was saying.  What was I feeling just then?  Looking back, I think it was shame.  I was so worried about someone else manipulating Kendra into the adoption plan, I myself had completely failed to respect her very autonomy.  In fact, I was practically ready to talk her out of what was probably the most difficult decision of her life!  How could we have been so condescending and judgmental?  So self righteous?  

Paula seemed to read my mind:
"There's nothing wrong with your feelings.  Adoption is complicated.  It's normal to feel bad for the birth mother, even to feel guilty that you are getting a baby due to someone's crisis situation.  But you need to be able to love that baby, without any guilt over this.  I think once you have the baby in your arms, Jennifer, you are going to feel more empowered."
I felt like I needed to sleep for 100 years. 
"I hear you, Paula, I do," I said.  "It's a lot to process in such a short time.  We had talked about adoption, but we weren't even trying to adopt when this opportunity fell in our lap.  Exactly one week ago today, I thought I was going to Disney next week, not bringing home a new baby."
The social worker agreed:
"That is highly unusual.  People are usually waiting for a long time," Paula said.  "The other thing, too, Jennifer, is that you have two biological children.  Some adoptive families have never had a biological child.  But you have.  You know how hard this is going to be for Kendra.  And also," Paula continued, "a lot of adoptive families have already suffered through years of infertility and failed adoptions.  They've suffered so much loss, they might not be thinking about the birth mother as much as that they just want a baby.  It's going to be different for you.  You don't have that type of desperation."
Out of all the reasons we had hoped to adopt, desperation was not one of them.  But this too left me feeling somewhat guilty.  Like I was stealing someone's long awaited child.  I felt bad to take the baby from Kendra.  I felt bad to take the baby away from all the childless couples who were waiting for years.  I was having a hard time feeling good about any of this. 

My husband, on the other hand, had much more positive coping mechanisms.  After Paula left, he grabbed my hands and said:
"You need to stop doubting everything.  We are good people and we are a great family and this baby deserves the best life.  We need to start getting ready for our new daughter.  We've had our share of hard things to deal with, that's for sure.  Maybe we deserve to be lucky once in a while."
And that was the moment I started to let myself fall in love with Baby Lily. 

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