It’s been told to us so many times: “adoption begins with loss”. I don’t think I really started to grasp this gut-wrenching truth until we started to get closer and closer to meeting our child.
Hard truths: There’s no cabbage patch. Storks don’t bring babies.
The fact is it’s more than likely our child is not in a very good situation right now. They might be living in a dangerous environment. There might be alcohol abuse or unsanitary conditions. The parents may be so destitute that proper nutrition and basic care items like nappies and a soother are unobtainable. But no, this child will not be plucked gingerly away to be placed into our open and waiting arms.
Hard truths: No mother wants to lose her child. No child wants to lose their mother.
If we are “lucky” (and it pains me to say it that way) our child’s birth mother has made an adoption plan. This has certainly not been done with altruism. Making the decision to place one’s child for adoption is so selfless, unimaginable, that I find it impossible to have anything but profound respect.
Knowing there is a woman, right now, contemplating the fate of her baby, to possibly become our child, breaks my heart. The very thing we are wishing and hoping for will ultimately be life-altering and devastating to someone we may never even have a chance to meet, let alone thank.
It’s easy to say the child will have a better life here in Canada. Of course, we plan to do our absolutely best raising our child. But in those private moments between birth mother and child, I’m certain practicalities like a stable home environment, better education and opportunities, seem a galaxy away when love is involved.
It is more likely that our child has come to the orphanage because they have had to be removed from their home. These situations are complicated and painful. In many cases, the birth mother is unable to parent because they themselves were not parented adequately. Or she may not be able to afford another child to raise. And there are probably a multitude of other scenarios that I try not to stay awake thinking about (but often do). In these cases, a social worker and the government, acting in the best interests of the child, brings the child to the orphanage, ultimately to be adopted, by people like us.
(There are a number of other phases before a child is eligible for international adoption, but that’s for a different post).
We won’t be sharing the details of our child’s birth story. It isn’t ours to tell. He or she should be able to decide how they wish to tell it, and to whom. But most likely, it will involve trauma – even being transported across the globe to a whole new life and without anything familiar is scary enough. It’s going to be hard. A lot of healing will be required.
Hard truth: Adoption does begin with loss.
*This post is based on the adoption situation in Lithuania and does not reflect domestic adoptions in Canada, which are entirely different.
Through the marvels of modern technology, I am able to take the bus to work while playing a “Learn Lithuanian” app on my iPad. So far, I know my numbers and colours, basic greetings and vocabulary, plus some random phrases like, “where’s my luggage?” All a good start, but since the toddler we will adopt likely won’t speak a word of English, I can’t help but think I should have a few key sentences in my back pocket like, “What’s that smell?”, “Did you really swallow that?”, and, “No seriously, where did my child go?!?!”
It’s incredibly daunting to imagine what it will be like to have a child we first won’t understand, and who will most likely have endured some form, if not multiple instances, of trauma.
But forget about us.
Imagine you have your friends and caregivers, familiar sounds, smells, and foods, around you. But all that changes. Suddenly, a couple of strangers show up with goofy smiles and weird words. They start playing with you and in a matter of a few weeks, they seatbelt you into a plane, you play a bit, have some warm food, take a little nap, and WHAM! you wake up away from everything you ever knew.
Oh yes, I have no doubts that our child is going to really hate on us for a good length of time.
International adoption can be an ethical landmine, one that can be difficult to navigate without a few explosions of conscience. I have been kept awake many nights thinking about whether it is right to remove a child from their culture, even if it means a much safer and better quality of life. Or is that a better quality of life by only our standards? And will our child feel stolen from their culture? These are tough, tough, decisions.
We have sought to adopt domestically. We attended the last Adoption Resource Exchange (ARE) where potential adoptees are presented in the form of 90 second videos – one after another, heartbreaking story after story. Did I forget to mention that adoption isn’t for the faint of heart? At the time of ARE, we hadn’t completed our homestudy and could not apply. Once our application is finalised with the Ontario Ministry (soon, soon, soon!), we will place our profile with CAS and hope for a match.
There are no guarantees and for a few private reasons, we are sadly not optimistic. This is why we have considered an international match as an option.
The first step towards international adoption (IA) is selecting a country. Not all countries perform IAs. Likewise, Canada honours the Hague Adoption Convention, so the pool of countries you may adopt from is limited (this is a good thing, as it is meant to prevent child trafficking and ensure high standards of infant/child care).
So, now you have a refined menu to choose from…. not so fast Angelina and Brad! Each country has their own, very specific rules and regulations, about who they consider eligible to adopt their children. This can be anything from religion, age difference between you and the child, health (including BMI), length of your marriage, proof of infertility, or even the profession you work in. It can feel harsh, but these countries are looking to ensure the best possible lives for their children.
Okay, you found a few countries that you eligible for – congratulations! Well, not really. Some programmes for countries may already be full (such as Ethiopia, which was a country we seriously considered), or the waiting lists are exceptionally long (7 years for China). And don’t forget, you can select one country, and one country only.
Given my Polish heritage and Martin’s German background, we decided to look into Eastern Europe simply because of geographical proximity.
It was our social worker who suggested Lithuania. After a lot of research, meeting with an adoption liaison, using our social network to connect with anyone with Lithuanian backgrounds, we decided that it would be a good match for a few reasons:
- Where I lived in Poland is only a few hundred kilometers away from Lithuania (which is a bit of a freak coincidence….). Whilst different countries, there are some similarities in lifestyle and culture.
- We visit Germany frequently and we could easily travel to Lithuania, keeping cultural ties.
- There is a strong community of Lithuanians in Toronto.
Do we still have a lot of questions, fears, and doubts? Absolutely. Nothing about this process is obvious. You are deciding a fate for a child you haven’t even met yet, but that you already love like mad.
So that’s the story of how we became Team Lithuania.
Until further notice, I keep on learning….labas nakties! (good night!).