Ever since we announced our plans to adopt, we have gotten a million questions. Why are you adopting? Are you adopting domestically or internationally? Why did you choose that? Are you going to have a boy or a girl? How old will your baby be? When will you get your baby?
Basically, the answer to all these questions is the same, and quite simple. We don't know. Just like deciding to start trying to conceive a child, there are more unknowns about how the adoption will play out than there are knowns. However, I am going to try to answer some of the questions the best that I can.
The idea of adoption has been in my mind for a couple of years. Blame it all on the new reality-type shows such as Extreme Make Over Home Edition and Oprah. After catching a couple episodes of Extreme Makeover and having tears of joy about how the simple actions of people can have such profound effects on others, I began questioning my own actions. What could I do that would really make a difference? Unlike the people on the show, I don't have any great building or designing talents. All I really have to give is love. An episode of Oprah helped me answer my question. Oprah had Lisa Ling on her show, giving a special report on the orphanages in China. I was shocked to see the conditions that those little babies were in while living in some of the orphanages. Greg came home from work to find me poised on the edge of the couch with tears following down my cheeks. They were tears of sadness for the children who didn't have families and tears of joy as I watched couples who had traveled to adopt have their children placed in their arms for the first time. As soon as the show went to commercial I turned to Greg and asked, "Can we adopt a child from China?"
From that point on I knew what I could give back to the world - my love. Greg and I have always wanted a family. We started talking about conceiving a child a few years after that Oprah show and I would always follow up the discussion with ideas of adopting. The original plan was to have a couple biological children and then start the path to adopt a girl from China. When we found out that it was likely that we would not have biological children, the decision to move on to adoption was a simple one.
The process to adopt from the US (domestic adoption) and internationally are quite different. With domestic adoption, after signing with an agency birth mothers get to pick who they want to adopt their child. We could be waiting for years before we were chosen. The adoption process takes a minimum of 1.5-2 years. There is a chance that the birth mother could change her mind. Even after the child is placed in your arms, the adoption is not finalized for several months, during which time there is still a slight possibility that the adoption will not be finalized.
With international adoption, there is a more definitive timeline. Once all the paperwork is submitted, our name will be placed on a waiting list. Once our name reaches the top, we will be matched with an available baby. The wait varies from country to country but with Guatemala (the country we have chosen) the entire adoption process can be completed in 6-12 months. The adoption is finalized in the foreign country so once that child is given to you, there are no worries about birth mothers changing their minds.
We have chosen to adopt a boy from Guatemala. I know, more questions. Yes, I did say that I was interested in adopting a girl from China. How did we end up coming to the decision to adopt a boy from Guatemala? China has an age restriction on adoptive parents. Both parents have to be at least 30 years old. That would mean that Greg and I would have to wait at least 3 more years to even start the process. We are anxious to get our family started. We decided that we would try to adopt a boy now. In the future if we decide to adopt again, we may try to adopt a girl from China. Having a boy now means that we can even things out later with a girl, since Chinese adopting almost guarantee a girl.
Guatemala is one of the best countries to adopt boys from. For some reason, most adoptive parents (about 85%) request a girl. There are so many boys waiting to be adopted from Guatemala that almost as soon as we get our paperwork done, we will be matched with a baby boy. (This matching process is called a referral.) Then it will just be a matter of waiting for the adoption to be finalized in Guatemala before we can pick up our son.
Guatemala is also one of the fastest countries to adopt through. Babies are typically referred when they are between 1 day and 1 month old. This means that they are also some of the youngest international babies once the adoption is complete. This will maximize our "baby time" we get to spend with our son.
Almost all the babies in Guatemala are kept in foster care, as opposed to orphanages, while the adoption is finalized. Therefore, they receive lots of one-on-one care as well as medical attention. Depending on the foster parent, we may receive photo updates, videos, and written medical reports - things that are not always available when babies are in orphanages. This type of care will also cut down on the transitional period between the foster care and becoming a member of his forever family. Unfortunately, this good care comes at a price, making Guatemala one of the most expensive countries to adopt from.
Greg and I will also have the option of going to Guatemala to visit with our son before the adoption is final. We can stay in a hotel and our son will be brought to us to care for and bond with during our stay.
The travel time to adopt from Guatemala is also shorter than many other countries. Many countries require that the adoptive parents visit for up to a month and sometimes even make multiple trips. The travel to Guatemala is for only 3-5 days. This will help to cut down costs since less money will be needed to stay abroad and airfare will be less expansive than flying somewhere considerably farther away.
How old will your baby be? When will you get your baby? These are the hardest questions to answer. It really depends on how smoothly the process runs. In an ideal situation, our baby could be as young as 4 months old and our adoption process could take 6 months. Unfortunately, this is the exception. Most of the timeline is out of our hands. Once we have our paperwork submitted we will have to sit back and wait while the US Embassy in Guatemala and the Guatemala government review, reject, and revise absolutely everything. Right now the average time of adoptions from Guatemala are around 8 months, but I did talk to one woman who took over 18 from the start of the process to the end.
Mostly we are going to have to be patient, work at controlling the things we have control over, and be understanding with the things that we cannot. We are also going to need to be flexible. By the time the process is over, we could be coming home with a baby girl from China afterall.
Sorry to say, we didn't get the I600A in yet. This week will be it. Life is just getting in the way. Already we are not very good at controlling the things we actually have control over.