By: Dina McQueen
Though I never seriously thought about having a baby as a single woman, when I married my husband in 2004, we sometimes fantasized about becoming parents together. Finances, overpopulation, and my ill health, however, contributed to our decision not to procreate. When I had a hysterectomy in 2007, and finally became healthy (I had endometriosis for nearly two decades) we realized that we did indeed want to parent a child. We pursued international adoption first with Haiti, and later, after learning that it would take nearly two years to complete the process, decided on Ethiopia.
After the surgical procedure that left me unable to bear children, my husband and I then decided to become parents. I found this incredibly ironic: only after it was impossible for me to give birth did I really pursue becoming a mother. I took the idea further in my mind and wanted to explore more deeply why only after I couldn’t give birth did I then want to have a child. The book developed as a result of the thoughts that wouldn’t leave me alone. I truly wanted to share with women the freedom I experienced in knowing that I was going to become a mommy without giving birth. I found this idea incredibly liberating.
Because the writing of the book was a three-and-a-half year process, I learned more than I ever could have imagined. The last third of the book consists of three appendices that present the research I conducted, along with some of my own opinions. Overpopulation and how it relates to adoption, the infertility business and how it affects the women and couples that go through it, and the history of foster care and adoption in the United States are some of the topics I discuss.
There are things I learned along the way that I wish I had known before going through the process, the main one being do your research. In my book, I offer an extensive Resource section providing websites and organizations I wish I had known about prior to traveling to Ethiopia. I also would highly recommend for first time parents to read parenting books, and even enroll in a parenting class. Most social workers do not council prospective adoptive parents who have never before parented in a way that I feel could be most useful. Studying developmental psychology is very important.
It would have been reassuring for somebody in the know to have sat down with me for a heart-to-heart and shared this truth: Becoming a parent of any child, but perhaps especially an adopted child, will force you to grow as a human being in more ways than you think you might need. Please step off your high horse and put your feet on the ground. What you are embarking on is a very challenging endeavor, wrought with joys, certainly, but filled also with dilemmas, puzzling and maddening situations, and feelings of helplessness. Realize now that you will, at times, be on your knees praying for guidance. Do not allow yourself elaborate fantasies about motherhood. Whatever images you hold, add space for experiences you cannot fathom. They will arise, and you must be willing to meet the challenges with creativity, patience, humility, and gratitude.
Becoming the kind of parent that I aspire to be requires daily attention. I believe that having some kind of spiritual practice is important to keep one’s heart open, and mind calm. Raising any child is tough, but raising a child who has experienced trauma in the first months or years of life makes it vital that you realize how taxing the job is going to be. Be prepared: Have your “village” on call. Ask for and receive the help you need, even it this means finding a good therapist who is familiar with adoption-related issues.
Perhaps most important along these lines: If you do not feel capable of staying present with the challenges that accompany the experience of adoptive parenthood, trust yourself. Allow yourself the possibility that parenthood may not be right for you, and stop the process. Honor your limitations, so that you can honor the child that needs available, healthy parents.
If you make the decision to go for it, which my husband and I did and cannot now imagine life without Aster, I strongly urge that you find your adoption agency only through recommendations. Seek out adoptive parents who were pleased with whom they chose. Because full transparency is not a sure thing in international adoption, it is imperative that you find the most honest and trustworthy adoption agency possible.
I have learned so much so far, and our daughter has yet to turn four. One of the most astonishing discoveries I have made since bringing Aster home from Ethiopia is how special it is to raise a child that did not come from my womb. I deeply appreciate being able to watch my daughter develop traits that don’t resemble anybody I know. I wish that all women knew that becoming a mother without giving birth is not only a viable choice but also one that makes sense for the planet.
Finding Aster: Our Ethiopian Adoption Story
Author: Dina McQueen
Available at Tapestry Books
About the author: In 1998 Dina received her Master’s Degree in Biography/Autobiography from Vermont’s Goddard College. Prior to Dina’s graduate study research, she came upon her grandfather Robert J. Wolff ’s manuscript, The Man From Highbelow. Fascinated with his story of awakening as an artist, and the way that through discovering his life she better understood and accepted who she was, Dina decided to dedicate her life to facilitating the writing of memoir. Since then, she has helped dozens of writers discover the story they want to tell, and helped them write and publish their memoirs. Dina is the 2006 New Mexico Discovery Award winner in the category of Fiction. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with her husband, Brian, and daughter, Aster. Authors site: HERE
Check out Book review on Adoption Today