By Rachael Moshman
I have wanted to be a mother my entire life. As soon as I could write, I started making lists of possible names for my future children.
When I was 20, I fell madly in love with Mr. Wonderful. He was handsome, funny, smart, kind, responsible, and settled. Our romance was on high speed, but after a few weeks, he dropped a bomb. He didn’t want kids. Ever. He felt like we needed to discuss this because it seemed like something that would be a deal breaker to me.
It probably should have been, but I was so very young and so very in love. I felt he was worth the sacrifice. But the truth is, I was confident that he would change his mind. We were young, happy and in love. I couldn’t fathom why he wouldn’t want to have a baby with me.
We got married one year after we met. Years went by and I waited for him to change his mind. I waited and waited and waited. I nagged and nagged and nagged. He held his ground. He didn’t want a baby. Too much responsibility, too loud, too stinky. After a few years, he said if he were ever to be open to having a child, it would be through adoption of an older child. He said it didn’t make sense to him to bring a “disgusting baby” into the world when there were children already here who needed parents. I started bringing up the possibility of adopting an older child on occasion, but held out hope for a baby as well.
About seven years into our marriage, I had an “oops” with my birth control pills. I didn’t even realize I was pregnant until the miscarriage started. I was devastated to lose something I had wanted so very badly before I even had a chance to rejoice in it. It just seemed so cruel.
Mr. Wonderful was very sad, but it was because I was in pain. He was totally freaked out by what almost was and was relieved it wasn’t going to be. It became painfully obvious to me that he didn’t want a baby. He really, truly didn’t. Babies aren’t something that should be a compromise or an ultimatum. I didn’t want to continue trying to change his mind and wind up with a baby that he resented even in the slightest bit.
So as much as I wanted to know a little person with our DNA, I gave it up. It was a very difficult time for me. Not only was I mourning the baby lost through the miscarriage, I was mourning the possibility of any other baby.
When the fog of my sadness started to clear, I realized that I just wanted to be a mom. That’s all I had ever wanted and how that was accomplished didn’t really matter. Each time I brought up the possibility of adopting, I seemed to get a stronger “maybe” from my husband. We sold our itty bitty house and bought a different house, perfect for raising a child.
“Maybe” turned to “someday”. We started talking about our future daughter on a daily basis. I started doing extensive research on older child adoption. When I told Hubby about the classes we would we need to take, he said, “Sign us up.” We were moving out of “someday” land!
We started classes in May of 2009. We explored the grief, trauma, and behaviors that come with older child adoption, which is also called “special needs adoption”. Our instructor frequently spoke of children who pooped in their new parents’ shoes in the night or molested the family dog. We had piles and piles of paperwork to fill out and a long to do list. We had to buy a fire extinguisher and get it certified. We had to have our home inspected by the health department, where they looked inside every cabinet with a flashlight for bugs and checked the temperature of our refrigerator. We had to be fingerprinted multiple times for background checks at the city, county, state, and national level, including the FBI. We had to have physicals and evaluations of our past, current, and future health. Our dog had to have the same! The classes were emotionally draining, filled with gut-wrenching videos, role playing, and very personal conversations.
Next our home study began. A caseworker came to our house twice for lengthy interviews. She asked deep, probing questions about our childhoods, marriage, beliefs, family, and every aspect of our histories individually and as a couple. She gave us random situations and asked how we would respond as parents. She helped us use the information we learned in our classes to determine what sort of child we would be able to parent best. She toured our house, collected references from our friends and employers, and studied our financial information. At the end of July we were approved to adopt a waiting child from the foster care system- for straight adoption only. We were not interested in becoming foster parents. The goal of fostering is always to reunite the child with the biological parents. We wanted to be forever parents and didn’t feel we were good candidates for the foster care program.
When you hear about all of the children waiting to be adopted, it sounds like you can just go out and pick them off trees. That’s not the case at all. In our area of Florida, prospective parents are left on their own to find a child to adopt. We spent hours every day scouring Internet photos of waiting children, inquiring about those we thought we might be able to parent and emailing every possible adoption social worker. Searching for a child became second full-time jobs for both of us. We were glued to the computer. I started a spreadsheet to keep track of all the children we had asked about.
I felt we would never be chosen to parent a child. We had inquired about over 200 girls and never heard back from anyone. Friends, family, and co-workers just couldn’t understand our frustration, anxiety, and sadness. To them, it had been less than six months – no time at all! To us, it was an eternity.
Suddenly we were matched with a little girl in Texas who had just turned nine years old. We felt a strong pull to her. She was diagnosed with ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety disorder, and depression. She had been bouncing around the foster care system since age four and had experienced two failed adoptions (one by a biological relative). She had five siblings who were all either adopted or to be adopted separately. After spending a whole day reading her file, we maintained our “yes”. We knew there would be challenges, but we felt we could handle it.
Six months later, we were finally able to meet her in Texas. We arrived home with her one week later. We finalized the adoption in November of 2009.
Is it hard? YES. Is it exhausting? YES. Does she drive us crazy sometimes? Oh, YES. She has major separation anxiety, an inability to talk about her past or feelings, and will scream for an hour at a time on occasion.
She is also so very brave, funny, adorable, smart, and kind. We adore her and are confident that she loves us back. We have bonded and she has attached to us. She wants to do well. She wants to be healthy and happy. We are all working hard to help her heal. Being her mom is the greatest accomplishment I could ever make. She is what I was meant to do all along. I was made to be her last mom.
I won’t have the opportunity to use any of the names from my girlhood lists, but that is just fine with me. I have given my daughter the love, home, safety, and future she needed and that is much more important than giving her a name.
Our little girl was worth all of the time, effort, tears, and anxiety. (I actually ground holes in two of my teeth while sleeping!) Older child adoption isn’t for everyone; they really do call it “special needs” adoption for a good reason. But if you think you have the room in your heart and life to give to a child who needs a family, please explore it. Before you know it, your house might be filled as ours is with giggles and glitter!
Rachael Moshman is a Florida native, but hates the heat. She is a freelance writer, blogger, educator and family advocate. Her greatest accomplishment is becoming the last mom to a little girl adopted from the foster care system in 2010. Aside from her daughter and husband, she lives with three cats and a mannequin named Vivian. Find her at www.rachaelmoshman.com.