This guest post is by an adoptive mother who wishes to remain anonymous.
“What are you open to?” That was one of the questions I was asked at the beginning of our adoption journey.
I was taken aback by it, to be honest. If I were able to get pregnant I would be open to whatever situation I was in—there wouldn’t be a choice.
But I digress. After attending a few adoption workshops we learned that situations come up that may be controversial or considered less desirable to many families.
There was a greater likelihood that the child would have a special need or delay of some kind or would make our family stick out from others.
As an adoptive parent, you have a choice. What are you open to? What are you willing to accept? What are you willing to handle? What types of situations might you want to be considered for?
That is really a tough question to ask yourself when you are anxious — or to put it more bluntly, desperate—to be a mom.
I was tempted to say we were open to anything. But then I realized that adopting is a life-long commitment.
Our social worker gave us a list to guide our decisions—things were on it that I could never have thought of: race, gender, mental illnesses I had never heard of, incest, rape, one or both expectant parents currently incarcerated, habitual drug use, alcohol use, and on and on.
The list then broke down into different types of drugs that we might be open to, some of which I didn’t even know. There were the opiates: heroin, crack, cocaine, vicodine, oxycontin, methadone, morphine, etc. And there were the street drugs: marijuana, meth, amphetamines, spice, K, Molly, etc. And there were prescriptions : xanax, subuxxone, antidepressants and anti-psychotics.
The list went on for two pages. I was overwhelmed. My husband decided we wouldn’t be open to anything but a perfect pregnancy.
But was there such a thing? My mom got pregnant on purpose, did everything the doctor told her and neither my sister or my brother or I are perfect. My husband certainly isn’t perfect. Is anyone?
I couldn’t accept closing the door to so many potential situations. I turned to the internet. Website after website. Article after article. Some horror stories, videos of newborns experiencing horrible withdrawal symptoms.
Then I came acorss an article about “crack babies” in the New York Times and suddenly the sun came back out!
That article changed my outlook. It summarized some long-term studies that all concluded that babies who were exposed to opiates (and most other drugs) in utero were usually just fine when they grew up.
Do they suffer through withdrawal? Probably. Do they need early intervention services? Maybe. Do they grow up to be “normal humans”? Probably.
After reading the article I hopped into my car and drove to a local medical school library where I spent hours reading study after study.
Basically, drugs aren’t a good thing BUT most usually don’t cause lifelong disabilities when the child is raised in a stable, loving home without all that comes with addiction. Short-term or correctable/manageable effects do happen and most likely would.
These would include: Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)- which is a fancy name for withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms apparently vary greatly and are dependent more on the individual baby then on how much exposure there was.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Symptoms often begin within 1 – 3 days after birth, but may take up to a week to appear. Symptoms may include: Blotchy skin coloring (mottling). Diarrhea, Excessive crying or highpitched crying, Excessive sucking, Fever, Hyperactive reflexes, Increased muscle tone, Irritability, Poor feeding, Rapid breathing, Seizures, Sleep problems, Slow weight gain, Stuffy nose, sneezing, Sweating, Trembling (tremors), and/or Vomiting.”
There are several protocols to support a baby experiencing NAS. They include environmental accommodations like creating a dimly lit environment free of loud or sudden noises, using a white noise machine, shhhhhhing, tight swaddling, kangaroo care, and limiting movement around a room.
There are also medical interventions such as administering morphine, methadone or phenobarbital. These medicines would be given in the NICU and require weaning over several weeks.
NAS can last anywhere between a week and six months. Would it be ideal? No. Could we handle it? Yes. Well there it was. So yes we were open to drug exposure. Now to tackle the rest of that list.
Next was the discussion about transracial adoption. We are a white couple of Jewish decent. Our child would be raised in the Jewish faith surrounded by a family of white people. Is it racist to not be open to race? Absolutely not!
Adoption needs to be about the childand not about just getting a baby any baby and living a “color blind” life because that is not the world we live in.
Through my research and reading I learned that it takes a great deal of effort and flexibility to raise a child of a different race well. One must provide that child with rich culturally appropriate experiences and what’s called “positive racial mirrors”— meaningful relationships with people and children of the same race as your child so that your child is not the only Black or Asian person in their daily lives.
This could be their pediatrician, friends, teachers, neighbors, etc. and the tools to grow up as strong proud Black, Latino, Asian etc adults. Then there’s the differences in people- hair and skin care, medical differences,etc.
I joined a few Facebook groups for transracial adoptive parents and have learned so much from our privileged voices who have the lived experiences of being adoptees from transracial families.
The rest of the list was a little more challenging and took even more research.
So if you are a hopeful adoptive family: Think long and hard about what you are open to. Knowing where we stood before we answered any calls was really helpful.
In the end, we adopted two boys at birth. One is White and one is biracial. Hopefully we will do a great job of raising them to be strong, proud, happy men.
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