I was running on the National Mall with my running buddy a few weeks ago, and we were talking about how so many of our friends were pregnant (this friend was among them up until last week). Two friends had announced their pregnancies a week or so prior to this run, and we were commenting, as friends do, about how thrilled we were for these ladies and how excited we were to meet the little ones.
Then I shared that Mike and I had begun the paperwork for our second adoption, so soon we would be “paperwork pregnant.”
And my friend exclaimed, “It’s the same thing!”
I love our community. I love that our friends will be as excited for us about our paperwork “pregnancy” as they are every time any of our friends announces a biological pregnancy. And I’m so grateful for the confidence I have that these friends will welcome our second child with as wide-open arms as they welcome all of our friends’ biological children.
We have begun the adoption process again! Last August, we told ourselves that when Teddy was 18 months old, we’d dive in again because we’d like our kids to be close-ish in age. However, my main reason for setting a specific date was so I could have a set amount of time to not think about adoption. At all. I wanted to simply enjoy Teddy without being consumed by the need to make appointments and get forms notarized and meet with social workers.
Turns out, when you have friends, it’s impossible to put the matter entirely out of your mind because they ask questions: Are you going to adopt again? When? (And we appreciate the interest!) But I did manage to wait until Teddy turned 17 months old before dashing off an email to our social worker to inquire about first steps for round 2.
So here’s the thing: I kind of expected that we could take some shortcuts this time. I mean, not that we’d do less than we were supposed to; rather, that we’d have less that we’d be required to do. I was wrong. Adoption #2 requires exactly the same paperwork and number of interviews and hours of training as adoption #1. I still don’t fully understand why—particularly with regards to the interviews; our family history hasn’t changed in two years—but I’m letting it go and getting on with it. I’ve actually come to appreciate that we have the same number of required training hours. Learning is always a good thing, and when it comes to adoption, valuable information is a precious commodity. I’m pretty excited about one webinar we’re logging in for: Top 10 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Parents Knew.
The paperwork for adoption #1 took four months to compile. I’ve managed to cut that in half this time around (although that’s still sluggish compared to my super-speedy friends who turned in their packet in two weeks!). We’re waiting for one final thing that we hope to have in hand this week, and then we click “submit” on the online application system and wait for our social worker—not the same one as before; in fact, we’re her first case with this agency!—to review the whole thing and contact us for our first interview.
We hope to be back on the wait list—and therefore back into it-could-happen-any-day-now territory—by mid-June, which, oddly enough, is when we completed the process the first time around.
We have been irrationally paranoid about giving Teddy peanut butter. We’ve fed him most other highly allergenic foods—shellfish, strawberries, other nuts—but for some reason, we’ve been especially wary of introducing peanut butter. Until a couple weeks ago. With Teddy’s 18-month pediatric appointment coming up, and Mike had the brilliant idea to bring some peanut butter to the doctor’s office, figuring we could give Teddy a taste while the pediatrician was in the room. That way, if he had a reaction, it could be attended to promptly.
The plan went perfectly, although our pediatrician was a little confused about our concern. “Do you have any reason to think he might have an allergic reaction?” Nope. “Has he had allergic reactions to any other foods?” Nope. She just shook her head, gave an amused grin and indulged us. We offered Teddy the peanut butter, peered anxiously at his lips for any sign of swelling, and several minutes later, when he was clearly breathing without any difficulty, concluded our worry was for naught.
We were sharing this story with a group of friends one night, and, as a way of explaining our paranoia, added that Mike’s cousin had had all sorts of problems with her son, who is about Teddy’s age. He had allergic reactions to many foods, including peanuts, which even warranted a trip to the ER. As we were offering this information, I clarified that Teddy wasn’t related by blood to this other toddler. When I said it, I was actually thinking it was the other toddler who was unrelated by blood—and therefore any worries about a genetic connection with allergies were moot. But as soon as I said it, I realized what a ridiculous statement it was. Teddy’s adopted. Of course he’s not related by blood to this cousin. No matter the cousin’s story. (Upon reflection, I realized I was wrong; Teddy’s cousin is related to Mike by blood.)
But that brief moment also made me realize something else: I don’t always think about Teddy being adopted anymore. First and foremost, he’s simply my son.
I realized recently that I don’t actually talk to Teddy about adoption that often. When people ask how we plan to tell Teddy he was adopted, we always answer that we intend to make it part of the conversation from the beginning. We want Teddy to be able to tell people that he always knew he was adopted, that he doesn’t remember a specific time when we sat him down and gave him “the talk”.
Now, it’ll be obvious to him at some point that he’s adopted. It’s not like we run the risk of him not realizing he’s adopted if we don’t mention it. But that’s beside the point. We want to make it such a normal thing to discuss that it’s not a “thing”. It just is.
But that requires actually talking about it. Even from this age. Because if I wait until I’m sure he can understand, that’s too late. I do make a point of reading children’s books about adoption to Teddy, but even then, I’m simply reading a story. I don’t spell out how his story is similar to the story I’m reading. Even though I’m choking up as I read it.
Mike is much better about this. He wears an adoption wristband that Teddy loves to play with. Every time Teddy pulls at the wristband, Mike explains what it is and how we’re an adoptive family because we adopted him when he was 6 weeks old. Obviously, Teddy doesn’t understand this; he just likes grabbing at the piece of stretchy black rubber on Mike’s arm. But each time Mike repeats the explanation, he feels and sounds less awkward. And that is key.
His efforts, along with a webinar we listened in on recently, have reiterated to me the importance of working adoption into my everyday commentary with Teddy, especially since I’m the one he hears from most during the week. Learning to talk about it now is more important for us than for Teddy because when he does understand what we’re saying, we don’t want him to detect even the tiniest bit of awkwardness. We want to be comfortable with the topic so he will be. He’ll learn from us the language and tone he’ll use to explain adoption to others. And he’ll learn from us how to respond to others’ comments and questions.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that casually mentioning adoption is actually easier than I’ve been making it out to be. Many parenting articles urge parents to narrate their day because that’s how children learn language. So the next time I’m working on something or reading something adoption-related (which is quite often since I manage a blog for New Rhythm Project, an adoption-advocacy nonprofit), I’ll simply make a point to tell Teddy what I’m doing.
Too bad he’s napping, or I’d start with this blog…