I have a dear friend who asks me periodically if we’ve connected with other adoptive families, and I always tell her we’ve made no such efforts. When she probes further, asking if that’s something we should do, I assure her we’ve got great friends and don’t need it.
But that was before Mike and I found ourselves fireside listening to the dulcet tones of NPR’s Scott Simon talking about traveling to China to meet his daughters.
Sunday evening, we attended a fundraiser for Adoptions Together. Normally we’d pass on such a gathering, but we made the effort this time for two reasons: (1) The invite came in the mail (funny how snail mail commands more attention now) and (2) Mr. Simon would be talking about his and his wife’s experience with adoption, and promoting his book about the same. Mike and I enjoy NPR in general and Mr. Simon in particular. Plus, it was called a “fireside chat.” That just sounded like a cozy way to spend a cold evening.
We reserved a Zipcar and drove to Upper Northwest DC, searching for house numbers to guide us–and getting distracted by the enormity and beauty of the homes we were passing. I began to feel nervous. We do well financially, but these homes and the cars parked out front made it clear we were entering VERY well-to-do territory.
We found the house, parked the car, and timidly knocked on the door. We were greeted by the smiling social worker and fellow adoptive parent we’d spoken with at the adoption expo we’d attended more than a year ago. This was the same social worker whose conversation 16 months ago confirmed for us that Adoptions Together was the agency we wanted to work with. We inaudibly breathed a sigh of relief. There was at least one friendly face here. Despite the grandeur of the home (and the fact that most of the men were in suit jackets while Mike and I sported sweaters), we immediately felt like we belonged. And that was just the beginning.
We mingled, sipping wine, munching hors d’ouvres, and accepting congratulations for our new addition, which our social worker announced to people as she led us through the house. While waiting for the main event to begin, we chatted with one couple who had adopted two little girls from Asia (one from China, the other from Vietnam), lamenting to each other the frustration of the wait but rejoicing in the growth of our families and discussing what the future might hold.
Then we were all called into the living room (where a real fire was crackling) and the president of our agency introduced Mr. Simon. He spoke briefly about his and his wife’s journey to adopt two girls from China (who were present). I wiped tears as he recalled the moment each girl was placed in his arms, how he and his wife immediately began to fall in love with the rosy cheeked babes. I chuckled as he described his girls quibbling like any sisters would.
The floor was opened up for questions and comments and I felt encouraged as one adoptive parent shared how friends would comment that her kids (all from Asia) looked like her, a caucasian. They didn’t, of course, but because they shared mannerisms, it seemed like they did. It’s that nature vs nurture thing again. Another parent asked for advice about how to persuade friends who had been trying IVF for 10 years that maybe it was time to think about investing their resources in a child who already needed them. She was asking as someone who had also tried those medical options and had finally given up on them. So many of us in that room had been that route. I could relate both to the friends in question trying desperately to achieve what nature had denied them and to the parent yearning for her friends to open their hearts to a different–but no less legitimate–path to building a family.
And that was part of what made this evening so enjoyable. So much of our story didn’t have to be explained. Whether it was the frustration and emotional roller coaster of fertility treatments, the basics of the adoption process, or the fishbowl feeling of raising children of a different race, these people understood. It was already part of the conversation without the need to articulate it. And we could make comments like, “We hope to finalize mid-summer” and not have to explain what that meant.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind explaining. I love that our friends are interested in the process and want to understand it. But there’s something to be said for being able to jump right into the nitty gritty without needing to lay the foundation first.
I don’t know why I didn’t think I would appreciate this. Shared experiences always enrich conversation.
So the next time my friend asks about our efforts to connect with other adoptive families, I’ll let her know we have–and that we plan to continue doing so.