In the Eye of the Beholder

Should I change my shirt? My hair? My religion? When you’re waiting to be picked by a birthmother, you question every aspect of yourself. -Check out this article from Adoptive Families magazine, the February 2014 issue

Is it my hairline? Should I have worn a different outfit for the picture? When you’re waiting to be matched with a birthmother, each day that passes without a call makes you question every part of yourself and your life. You may have had this feeling during fifth-grade gym class. But back then, even the kids who were picked last were picked within five minutes. After all, gym class lasts only an hour.

This is more like a police lineup, and the birthmother is behind the two-way mirror. She might see me, but I don’t see her. All I can see is…me. And after staring at myself long enough, all I notice are imperfections: My clothes aren’t stylish enough, my skin is marked with blemishes. Most of all, I see my soul, and I wrestle with the desire to bare it and the fear of revealing too much.

And some days, I wonder if anyone’s even looking at me through the mirror.

The endless wait

I meet others in the lineup. Some become my friends. Some of us are reserved, while others cope with the wait by talking about their every thought and feeling. But unlike those in a police lineup, we aren’t whispering to ourselves, “Pick him.” We are praying, “Pick me!”

Some leave after a month, others after a week. “Is that fair?” the rest of us wonder. “They haven’t served their time yet!” I know in my heart that they must have been the right parents for a baby—the connection with birthparents is why we chose open adoption, after all—but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. It only makes me look harder at myself.

Should I submit a different picture? Are prospective parents rejected because they’re Caucasian? Because they’re heterosexual? Or homosexual? Because someone doesn’t believe in their god? Or because they don’t believe in someone else’s god? While the birthmothers’ choices are infinite, I have only one: to wait.

I’m an engineer, so I try to make sense of the world by looking at statistics. One in three placements is “last-minute.” Average time in the pool is about 10 months. Our agency matches roughly five families per month. But these statistics don’t matter when your wife is having an emotional day, and you both start going a little crazy.

Any Day Now

At some point we crossed the line—from it could happen any day now to I can’t put my life on hold any longer. So we pass the time like others we’ve met in the pool—in a mix of preparation and insanity. We have a fully equipped nursery. Babies-R-Us could practically shoot pictures for its fall catalog at our house. I know that having the nursery prepared will work in our favor in the long run, especially if we get a last-minute placement, but walking by this room every day makes me wonder if we’ve spent just enough time and money to jinx ourselves.

After the nursery was completed, we tore out all the flooring in our home. For now, our new flooring is on a manufacturer delay, the contents of the nursery are crammed into the sunroom, and most of our other furniture is sitting in the garage. That, combined with the two business trips I have to go on later this month, must mean the phone will ring any day. We hope.

Life on hold

I’ve learned that it’s nearly impossible to explain the waiting experience to someone who hasn’t gone through it himself. Our friends and family are universally sympathetic, and they understand our desire to be parents. What they don’t get is the anxiety involved in calling the adoption agency, yet again, just to see if our profile has been requested by any birthmothers, then hearing, yet again, “Not yet, but keep your spirits up. Now’s the time to work on things you’ve been meaning to do, while you wait.” I’m waiting for the flooring to arrive.

I’m waiting for next week’s “Waiting Families” meeting. I’m waiting for my wife to break down in tears, although I’m afraid I’ll only be able to offer her vague statistics and a reassuring hug. I’m waiting to share the love that is bottled up inside of me with a son or daughter. I’m waiting for the phone to ring…