My Path to Motherhood
Motherhood had always been part of my life plan, but then I faced infertility. My husband and I went through infertility treatment without success. Our marriage broke up, but I still wanted to be a mom. I continued infertility treatment with donor sperm, but these treatments also didn’t work. At this point, I decided that my path to motherhood must be adoption.
Deciding on the Type of Adoption
I knew domestic adoption would be difficult for a single woman. My single status also limited my choices on countries with international adoption since some countries do not place with singles. Based on guidelines from each country, it came down to China, Vietnam, and Russia. I had heard that babies in Russia often had more delays and issues. China was limiting the number of singles it would accept, so my social worker suggested going with Vietnam.
Deciding on an International Adoption Agency
In choosing an agency, it was important to me to go through an agency who would follow the set protocol for adoptions and would always be ethical. I also wanted to use an agency which had a great deal of experience in the countries I was investigating. I recommend that parents go to several informational meetings before making the decision.
The Home Study
My placing adoption agency was the same as my home study agency. The home study was not as bad as I had anticipated. They don’t look into your closets like you will probably worry! I recommend keeping on top of the social worker. If he/she says it will be done by a certain time, contact her if you don’t hear anything. This can prevent delays. My social worker was not sure what to include in the home study report, but she did not contact me for further information. This put us behind.
Financing My Adoption
As a single mom, financing my adoption was going to be difficult. I tried for one grant but did not receive any money. My family and church helped by sponsoring a spaghetti fund raiser. My co-workers helped me gather donations for “gifts” to give while in Vietnam. They donated items themselves or they actually went to business to ask for donations!
I had been told that Vietnam was going to close for a moratorium and that I might want to consider changing to another country since it could be several years before it opened back up. I decided to stay the course and wait it out if I had to. Shortly after that I met and started dating a wonderful man. I told him about the adoption, but added that it would be several years before anything happened. Well…a month later I got the email to start my dossier and to do it quickly! It definitely changed the dynamics of our relationship. We decided that we probably should tell his parents about the adoption as it seemed to be coming to fruition much sooner than expected. Within two months I had a referral and within two weeks I traveled to Vietnam for the first trip! About six weeks later I was back in Vietnam to bring my son home! My boyfriend started dating a single woman, but was soon dating a single mom.
Evaluating an Adoption Referral
I was floating on cloud nine when I received my adoption referral. My excitement plummeted to hell when I received a very scary response from an international adoption doctor. He was worried about the baby’s measurements, especially the head size. He was also concerned because the picture showed him with his hand clenched in an unusual way. The developmental information I received was pretty sketchy, but the baby was very young. He painted a pretty grim picture of what might happen with this little guy – ADHD, cerebral palsy, and autism to name a few.
The international adoption doctor suggested that I get more information from Vietnam. I asked for new measurements, more information on his development, and a new picture. I sent this new information to the doctor, and although his second response was more positive, he was still guarded. Of course he couldn't say anything for sure, so he was trying to paint a complete picture. I don't blame him, but it was pretty hard to take at the time.
I had a week to decide if I was going to accept or decline the referral. It was a very long, long week. I knew I had to decide right away as I needed to be in Vietnam three days after the deadline! I am a strong believer in intuition, and my intuition told me that this little being was meant for me. I accepted the referral and started packing! I made the decision to accept the referral based on the new information, but primarily on my gut instinct that this was the child for me. I am a true believer in fate. I decided to make the initial contact to the adoption agency on a whim one day after having investigated it for a couple of years. The next informational meeting was the following day and even with my busy schedule, I was able to attend. Looking back, that would have been about the time his birth mother got/figured out that she was pregnant . I view this as a sign that this little boy was mine. Then the whole ordeal of the program closing and the rush to get the adoption in before it actually closed. I made it and this was another sign. Then, in March when we were celebrating my birthday, my mother said, "Just imagine, there could be a baby in Vietnam for you who is being born about now." We know now that Cameron's had been born a couple of days before that! How could I have declined this child who so clearly was meant to be mine?
I had two wonderful trips to Vietnam. I adopted under the old adoption law and was in the country one week for the first trip and two weeks the second time. Adoption travel is nerve wracking. Becoming a brand new parent while traveling in a foreign country is very scary! I traveled with my aunt for the first trip and my parents came along with me on the second trip. I couldn’t have done it alone. I suggest taking grandparents along if possible. Adoption is a very special part of all of our lives, and I am so very thankful that I was able to share that with my parents. One other piece of adoption travel advice: If traveling with an infant, be sure to request bulkhead seating with a bassinet. It is nice to have a place to lay the baby and to have the extra leg room.
Seeing my son for the first time, literally took my breath away. I cradled him in my arms as my aunt videotaped the moment for all time! I checked him over from head to toe. He was only two and a half months old so he didn’t really have much of a reaction to me. We only stayed for a few hours that afternoon and then had to leave. Leaving him in the orphanage and returning home was not as hard as I had anticipated. It was a wonderful orphanage run by the adoption agency, and the nannies obviously loved the babies and took very good care of them.
When we returned home from Vietnam, I took Cameron to the same international adoption doctor for an initial visit ,and he got a very good report. We now assume that his referral data was wrong. His health has been fine ever since other than a minor problem with one eye crossing.
He was only four months old when I adopted him so he had very few developmental delays. Also, the orphanage had a great nanny to child ratio so I know that he received pretty good attention from them. He did have weak muscles and it took him longer to sit.
He has had no emotional problems and he is very intelligent! As a teacher, I am amazed at how quickly he learns things. At times I wonder if the ADHD or autistic issue is a remote possibility. He has a very short attention span, which we now are noticing at school. He can also show some tendencies on the autistic spectrum. His pediatrician has not said anything, but as an educator I am always looking deeper into things and as a mom I worry.
Many friends and family members now will say to me, "Remember the horrible news you received from the doctor about his referral? Just look at him now. Imagine if you had declined the referral." It makes me sad to think that I may have missed out on one of the most precious gifts in my life because of inaccurate measurements or a cautious doctor.
The first few days home were really tough on me, more so than for Cameron. He quickly adjusted to the time and culture changes. Soon we both settled into our new lives and have never looked back. The wonderful guy I met during my adoption journey to Cameron is now my husband and last year we adopted Sophie from China. If you are thinking about international adoption, I recommend you go for it and keep a daily journal of your journey and your feelings. It is a wonderful keepsake.