Adoption is an Odyssey, by Corvette H.
Adoption is an Odyssey. You follow leads, but there’s no roadmap and not much is guaranteed. But one of its core blessings is that it’s not done alone. For my husband and I, adoption was a tribal experience.
My induction into the tribe began (and also came full circle) in Saratoga Springs, New York. It was winter. In somewhat of a final effort to open my mind to the possibility of adopting a child, my husband signed us up for an adoption workshop there and bought two bus tickets — we live in Brooklyn and don’t have a car.
I was not into the idea. Not at all. I had no talent for cradling infants or changing diapers. I didn’t have that need for a brand-new person in my life showing me no respect or teaching me things I didn’t care about — turns out I was wrong about this.
My husband is persistent, though. He bought me books and sent articles written by gay guys we admire who’d also become dads — I’m a gay guy and my husband is too. But these scenarios didn’t attract me.
He made dates with other dads who invited us to their brownstone apartments and walked us through their experiences of private adoption with attorneys, but I couldn’t relate. Finally, we attended a seminar at a gleaming agency on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It seemed so transactional — one attendee in a Chanel suit asked, “When may I expect to receive my baby?”
The more I learned, the more foreign the process seemed to me. It wasn’t by fault of these respectable institutions, they hadn’t fallen short on their own terms. It was me. I had a tough exterior. I didn’t understand why anyone would choose to be a parent. I didn’t understand parenthood.
That winter, on a hunch, my husband signed us up for a Friends In Adoption workshop in a small and picturesque town, two-hundred miles North from where we live in Brooklyn.
It was Christmas time and we were off to a bad start. The bus was sold out, cramped, and smelled like graham crackers. One of the passengers was wrangling a crying toddler.
After two hours of the wailing baby my husband joked that this was the initiation of the workshop, but I wasn’t amused. I thought if this was a test, then I’ve failed. If I can’t deal with this, I’ll never take care of a baby in need of anything — I was wrong about this too.
Saratoga Springs, 2014. This was how we met Dawn.
Something was different this time. Dawn floated into the room. If you know her, you know this isn’t exaggeration. She floats. Her presentation was organic, somehow cosmic, and old-school — there was a slide presentation.
The first projection was Dawn and her partner standing in front of a classic New England A-frame home with a peace symbol. Then she looked to the large group and spoke the words I would never forget, “Adoption is not for the faint of heart.”
Then there was a short film, words, sentences, the flicking sound that actual film makes, and a voice from the perspective of an adopted soul. The words pierced me. The sentences spoke to me, human and spirit. I no longer saw adoption as a transaction, but understood it as a doorway.
The door cracked open and this began my Odyssey.
Adoption is not for the faint of heart. This statement resounded throughout our journey. It happened so fast. Ninety-seven days after we became active with FIA, the door swung open and a soul had traveled through.
It was an emergency birth and eight weeks premature. Both the mother and the baby had almost been lost, but the force of life was here and I was changed, no longer the guy on the bus annoyed by the crying baby. My husband and I committed to match the life force of this tiny boy. Our son.
And Dawn was there for us. Every phone call, every panicked question or momentary freak-out, she dealt with us directly and calmly. She was our solid lifeline and we used it often.
Things got complicated. Thirty-eight days in the hospital put us in a proverbial fishbowl with the birth family who were in grief. They’d been informed about the adoption too late, there was anger and confusion and sadness. But each step of the way Dawn was there with practical advice and wise guidance.
And not just for us. Something specific about Dawn’s mission of family kept coming through and showed us that our hearts could open enough, not just for the brand-new human, but also to expand and be present for the hurting family. The open door.
When our son was five weeks old, we finally took him home. The way he just looked around at this new place — the words from the film came back to me. I understood the perspective fully that the physical door of our home was opened and the three of us were inside.
Late that July, it was time for us to return to the town of Saratoga Springs, this time to be granted legal custody of our son. We took the train — why didn’t we take the train the first time? Who knows, but the rail up the Hudson River was spectacular and this time the crying baby was ours. And when we arrived, Dawn was there.
And thank goodness, because city folks sometimes clash with small town cultures. My husband’s brass-knuckle Iphone case was confiscated at the courthouse and the judge was offended by my tattoos. He made a comment and an inquiry. I got red, and was about to say something that could’ve unraveled the whole thing.
Dawn put her hand on my arm and answered for me. Once again, her words remedied the tension, and more than that, she wasn’t just there as the founder of the agency, she was there as family. The tribe.
Adoption isn’t for the faint of heart. I would also add that it has the potential to expand that heart. The Odyssey from closed to open. I’m proud and grateful to be part of this tribe of humans. We are the open door.