Before my husband and I began our home study, I struggled with many thoughts.
Foremost among them was the prospect of our two children seeking out their birth parents in the future.
That was a nightmare for me. When our children first moved in with us, I made a commitment that their birth parents would never have any contact with them.
Deciding between an open or closed adoption can be tricky. Even if we wanted an open adoption, it was not possible at the time.
Our children’s birth parents had their rights relinquished by the state long beforehand because they weren’t able to get their lives under control.
We began our home study 10 months after our children had been living with us and I will be forever grateful for it.
Our home study helped me turn that dreaded nightmare of my children wanting contact with their birth parents into a possible dream.
They and our home study opened my eyes to how important an open adoption could be and made me realize I was acting out of fear by allowing some unknown to conquer my life.
After our home study, my husband and I agreed to a controlled relationship between our children and their birth parents with the possibility that it could develop into an important relationship.
The adoption process can be daunting but our home study taught me a lot about who I was. I learned about my strengths and weaknesses, what I value in life, what other people mean to me, and about the process itself.
After all, the only way an adoption fails is when a prospective adoptive parent gives up! You have to trust the process.
Here’s what else our home study taught me.
1. The importance of self-reflection
Socrates famously said: The unexamined life is not worth living. From time to time every human being needs time for self-reflection and must view their own life under a microscope. Taking time for this self-reflection can be difficult within our busy lifestyles. Unfortunately, most people are living unexamined lives and this helps them to be judgmental about other people when they should be looking at themselves.
The home study opened myself up to me. You may think you know everything about yourself, including your strengths, weaknesses, raw emotions and your fears, but you don’t know everything about yourself until total strangers start viewing your entirety under a microscope. The home study dove deep in my own actions, character and motives.
2. I can do hard things.
There may be nothing more fearful than a home study.
The home study will have your entire life viewed under a microscope and if you have any secrets they will be discovered and they will be revealed. Everything found under that microscope will be listed in your social worker’s final report to the judge overseeing your case.
3. I can face my fears head-on.
I am fortunate that I have never been too fearful in my life. After all, the only fear to fear is fear itself. My clean slate was threatened when our home study began. I was mortified at the thought of it. However, it had me tackle those fears head on and I discovered they were never fears in the first place. It was just nervousness and the realization that I was never in charge of this process.
4. I can accept the idea that our children may want a future relationship with their birth parents.
This relationship will be based on many factors. Our children will have the full decision to any relationship with their birth mom, birth dad, or with both birth parents. In the beginning I was tormented with this thought. I was scared of what a future relationship our children would have with their birth parents meant. I was destined to make sure no relationship would ever exist between our children and their birth parents.
Our home study turned this nightmare into a possible dream.
Second, this potential relationship between our children and their birth parents will be controlled. It will begin slowly but over time I am optimistic that a relationship can form.
5. Adoption can open up many cans of worms.
I would have never guessed the complexity of adoption and how many people are affected and how many people are involved in one individual adoption.
Adoption is complex, emotional and it can be a bitter process. But it is also a beautiful and loving journey. Adoption means so many different things to so many different people. When a prospective adoptive parent thinks they have something figured out or understood, or when we think we know what’s next, a can of worms open up.
Oh, but there’s so much more to come. It got to a point that I asked my husband, I wonder what fresh can of worms is about to open next? I know our own experience with adoption will shape our opinions in the future. Whether you’re the birth parents, the birth extended family, the adoptive parents, or the adoptive child; each voice is their own and it is real.
Adoption is ours and that is something that can never be taken away.
6. I learned my husband and I have experienced loss too.
It was not until our social worker brought it up but we experienced loss too. This loss? Since we are gay we could never have biological children of our own. The fact of the matter is, as gay men, the only route we had to have children was through adoption.
7. I may have absolutely no control over the process but that’s ok.
Face the fact! You will have no control over this process and you may not even understand it all. Do not try and figure it out or what steps are next. Prospective adoptive parents are not the Captain of this ship. Whenever things seem like they are sailing smoothly an iceberg appears.
8. I came face-to-face with many emotions I didn’t know I had.
I am not the most affectionate person. I recognize this. I love it when my children want to snuggle up with me and read a book. I cannot wait for the next hug or kiss I get from my son and daughter. There has never been a night that all of us have not said I love you before going to bed. And every night before our children go to bed they have to give each one of their dads a goodnight kiss. But I have to face the music. I have never been an affectionate person.
The home study opened up so many different cans of worms. One particular can involved the emotions I did not think I had and they all came crawling out. The entire process, including the home study, is a rollercoaster of emotions. One minute you are confident and smiling, and the next moment you are nervous and you are shaken to your core over what’s next.
I never knew I had so many raw emotions and it is then, when that iceberg appeared, that those unsettling emotions took control. These emotions range from nervousness to questioning what are you doing in the first place to being scared.
Our adoption forced me to face those raw emotions and taught me to keep them in check.
9. Patience is both a virtue and a necessity in the adoption process.
Adoption is a long process and if you do not have patience by the end of your adoption you will. Adoption is constant paperwork—from the initial forms and background checks to the health physicals and financial records. When you have absolutely no control over something you learn patience. And you learn this because there’s nothing you can do to speed it up.
10. Good things are worth the struggle.
No one likes a struggle. This can include struggling with our own emotions through a very long process or struggling with your children wanting to have a relationship with their birth parents in the future. There are times the most difficult roads we travel down provide us with the best education and best gift in life. That is adoption.
There are many turns and winding roads throughout an adoption process and it can be an emotional struggle. But the day you walk into Court for your Adoption Finalization Hearing, it smacks you in the face: This was worth all those struggles.
No two adoption journeys are the same. Although it was sometimes an emotional roller coaster we knew what the end goal was and we were going to do everything in our power to reach it.
Brian Splater and his husband, Austin Karnatz, have been together since May of 2014 and have two children through adoption. Living in Superior, Ne., they started their nonprofit “Ambassadors of Kindness” as a way to inspire and spread kindness around the world.
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