More of the Roundtable
We each interacted with at least one professional during the adoption process (agency, lawyer, facilitator, consultant, hospital social worker, etc.). What was one thing that they did that was most supportive of open adoption? What one thing was least supportive?
Strangely I thought this would be difficult to write about until I spoke with Athena about it. In our conversation we came to realize that we didn't encounter much direct opposition. In truth we didn't encounter any direct opposition from any of the professionals we encountered. Oddly the person who was most directly supportive of adoption was also the least professional person we encountered. That was the pregnancy counseling center woman (the full account is here). But it feels like a terrible cop out to simply put up a link to an old post and say "there it is." However I can't ignore the role that woman had in my experience of Athena's pregnancy and our decision to make an adoption plan. Instead I'll take a different tack and talk about two pairs of people. The two negative experiences we had with professionals and the two most positive experiences we had.
The woman at the pregnancy center was hugely supportive of adoption. She frequently referred to it as "the bravest," "most courageous," "most loving" choice. She was also, flat out, the least supportive of us as human beings. She did, after all, threaten that Athena would die of breast cancer if she had an abortion.
The close second in "least supportive professional" category goes to the obstetric gynecologist at the hospital. The full account of this can be found here. I honestly don't know how much of her terrible bedside manner was related to our adoption plan. It's possible she's just not very good with humans. Early in the visit she mentioned there was a note in Athena's file indicating we were considering adoption. She asked us if that was correct and we confirmed it was. The reason she hits number two on the list is how she ended the appointment. For the most part it could have been brushed off as a bad doctor's appointment and left at that. Until she left the room. Just before closing the door she uttered the one word we couldn't bear to hear. "Congratulation." Here I'll quote from my earlier post because I don't think I can do justice to how I felt hearing that word right now.
" She had slipped out the door before I could react. I wanted to grab her by her highlights and pull her down to a chair. I wanted to lecture her about the gross insensitivity she'd displayed. I wanted to grab her by the head and shake it until she understood. We didn't plan this. We don't want this. We shouldn't be here! But we're dealing with it. We're being responsible. It's taking everything we have to put one foot in front of the other and survive but we're doing it! This is so hard that I lock myself in the hardware room at work to cry, but I'm still here! Every day takes everything we have but we got to this appointment. We even put up with being treated like cattle on a conveyor. We're trying so hard to do the right thing! "Congratulations." One word and it felt like every sacrifice we'd made had been spat upon. I wanted to breathe fire and melt the building down to glass. "Congratulations" meant this shouldn't be hard. It meant we shouldn't make the adoption plan. "Congratulations" meant we should choose to parent and give up everything we want for each other. "Congratulations" meant she was too busy to attempt understanding us or any situation she'd not found herself in personally. "Congratulations" meant we were too alien to matter."
Those were the bad parts.
Now that catharsis is out of the way let's move on to something sunnier. There were a lot of good experiences with professionals during the creation of our adoption plan. The single most supportive person I encountered was Julie, our adoption social worker at Catholic Social Services. Julie was incredible. She lent us every book she had to read about open adoption. Actually she was the one who introduced us to the idea of open adoption. Neither of us had heard of it before. We were still thinking of closed adoption days where we'd have to negotiate if we wanted to see our boy immediately after birth, let alone after placement! Julie consistently affirmed the difficulty of the work we were doing and reminded us over and over again that this was just a plan. We could change everything at any time. The most important thing was to be honest with ourselves and each other. There wasn't one thing she did. It was everything Julie did.
With an eye at symmetry it only seems right that I should mention another positive professional interaction. This one caught me by surprise. Athena and I went to the hospital for her ultrasound. I believe it was the six month check. We had been preparing myself for a terribly emotional experience. I wasn't sure if I could even be in the room. I promised Athena I would try. Imagine my surprise when the ultrasound tech had us both laughing within minutes of entering the room! We were there for about half an hour chatting away. That was a very important moment for me. Not only did the ultrasound give me the chance to see the Visitor in a new way, but the tech gave me the chance to see the pregnancy in a new way. In observing his approach to us I began to understand much more about the apparent dichotomy we were in. Pregnancy was funny and scary. It was lovely and terrible. It was joyous and horribly sad. It both connected us to life and isolated us. Most importantly all of this was okay. All of it was normal. The Visitor was rolling and tumbling and showing off for us for a solid twenty five minutes. The tech had taken over 100 images. He sifted through and selected the best 30, printed them for us, and headed for the door. Just before leaving he said something that surprised me. "Good luck."