I was talking with a couple the other day who was trying to decide whether to go through another round of IVF, this time using donor eggs, or move to adoption. It was an agonizing decision for them. And although this wasn’t the major sticking point, she kept coming back to “all the paper work involved with trying to adopt”. They hadn’t decided between domestic or international adoption, but they knew enough to know that all forms of adoption require paper pushing.
I started to go into my rah-rah mode: gets organized, focus on one step at a time…the whole long journeys begin with a single step routine. But all I said, was, “Yea, the paper chase stinks, but is more doable than you think right now.”
I feel for them and their decision, and wished I had the perfect answer. I know that her focus on the paperwork was probably not the whole picture, but was the easiest fear to talk about– the tip of her anxiety iceberg that she was willing to share.
I was forced to think about a different type of paper chasing the following week when my children started school. A well kept secret is that the first day of school is much more work for the parents than for the kids. The poor parent—me–is inundated with forms, syllabi, requests, sign-up sheets, shopping lists, and schedules. With four kids, I am basically swimming in paper. Usually, I sit right down with my pen, calendar, yellow sticky pad, checkbook, and school file for each child and force myself to finish them all on the first night. This year was different.
For reasons that seemed to make sense at the time, I had decided to wait until after the first day of school to buy school supplies. Big mistake. There wasn’t a single sheet of loose leaf college rule to be found, and it took three stores before we found composition books. I was not in the mood to look at anything school related that night. So, throwing caution to the wind, I took a walk on the wild side. My date with paper could wait until the next night.
From the reaction of my children the next morning, you would have thought that I was asking them to go to school naked.
“Where are my forms?”
“Mom, I HAVE to have them!”
“You know that they are REQUIRED by the STATE.”
“What am I supposed to tell my teachers—that my mom is lazy.”
Yeah, that hits the nail on the head. “Tell them that I spent all day yesterday searching for composition books and paying $3.29 EACH for them once I finally found them!” Jeez, it’s only one lousy day. I can only hope that they will feel the same about going to school without their homework, but I somehow doubt it.
That afternoon, I decided to play my agony for what it was worth. (Suffering in silence is overrated.) “You are the ones that get to go to school and hang out with your friends and play at recess. Why am I the one who has to do all the work? (Sigh dramatically) You guys are a lot of trouble.” My youngest, once she realized that I really was going to wade through my paper stack, joined in the teasing.
Her: “You know, Mom, you shouldn’t put off until tomorrow what needs to be done today. That’s called procrastination.” (I have noticed over the years that little pearls of wisdom sound a lot better coming from me than from my kids.)
Me: “One day does not procrastination make. (Oh how I’ll regret saying that.) I was busy doing other stuff for you, and I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but you, my love, are a lot of work. For the record, I’ve already filled out enough paper work for you to reach the moon.”
Her: Those papers before you got me don’t count because you liked filling them out because you were going to get ME.”
Me: “Well now, I suppose you’re right about that.” With a swat on her bottom, “I just didn’t know that it would never end.”
Her: “Yeah, but I’m worth it.”
When she was little, on most nights she would ask for us to recite “her baby story.” We realized that this was mostly about postponing bedtime, but still we played along. I tried to vary the story to introduce other concepts about her adoption. One night I offhandedly mentioned that we had to fill out a lot of forms to adopt her. I think I was trying to point out that many people in her birth country and this country cared about her and wanted the best family for her. But the part she focused on was how hard her dad and I had to work to get her. After that night, for many months she would nightly ask for me to show her with my hands how big the paper stack was. I would always start out with my hands about a foot apart, but each night giggling, she would stretch them further and further apart until the paper pile was as tall as she. After awhile, she tired of this game, and I had almost forgotten about it until that afternoon last week.
Filling out the papers to prove our worthiness to adopt these precious children is a time consuming pain. No doubt about it. But, after you get your child, you honestly don’t think about it other than as an amusing anecdote. The analogy to labor pain is overdone, but like all clichés, there is some truth to it.
I don’t know that any advice I had to give on adoption paperchasing would have been helpful to the deciding couple. The anxiety over the paper work was a screen covering a whole host of concerns about parenting out of their gene pool, regardless if that diversity came from a single egg or a whole child. I knew that and so did they. But maybe I should have gone into my cliché mode: one step at a time, you’ll forget the pain, etc. Or maybe I should have quoted my daughter, “Whatever you decide, it’ll be so worth it at the end.”