So - where do we go from here?
Having officially joined the waiting adoptive family list, we're very relieved. And a little anxious. But sending out good vibes into the universe. And here's a continuation of my terminology experiment as a way to guide my explanation of what happens next in the process.
The wait: Until this past year or so, the average wait time between married and same-gender families for placement of a child was about the same, although we've been told that it's now 20 months for a same-gender family, and 14 months for a married couple. But it could also happen much faster, or take longer - it really depends on if and when our profile falls into the right hands, and we become part of a...
Match: From the long profiles (see my prior posting) of those families who agree to be presented as "finalists," the birthmother chooses an adoptive family for her child, without having met any families in person. The decision is entirely hers to make (but only if she chooses to make it), and, at that point, you're considered to be in a match. I had initially thought that it would be like a job interview - a birthmother would meet with several prospective families and then make a selection - but I think this way is probably better, in that it would be far too emotionally draining, both for the birthmother and the prospective adoptive parents to go through that. (Families who are not selected at this stage are "released" back into the waiting family pool. This may happen several times before a match occurs, so you can imagine the roller coaster of emotion that occurs each time you know you're being considered as a finalist, but not knowing if you're going to be chosen. We've been told that the average wait time between the long profile being presented and a choice being made is generally a week.)
A match could happen at various points in a birthmother's pregnancy, typically in the third trimester, or it may happen after her child is born. From my understanding, we would then have two in-person match meetings with her - the first being "getting to know you" (although she would know a lot about us already, having most likely read our long profile many, many times over), and the second to discuss other adoption-related items, such as the level of openness in the adoption; the amount and regularity of contact; and maybe even potential names. Both of these meetings will be facilitated by Cradle staff.
If a birthmother does not want an open adoption - or if she does, but her circumstances or feelings about it change in the future - the match meeting could potentially be the one-and-only time that we get to meet her in person, so we know that it will be important for us to learn as much as we can about the birthmother so we can tell our child about her in the future.
72 hours: By Illinois state law, the birthmother cannot sign the legal paperwork making her adoption plan official until after 72 hours has passed after giving birth to her child. She can, of course, take longer, if she is still mulling her options. Until we actually go through this ourselves, I can only imagine what that period of waiting is going to feel like. Once the papers are signed, the birthmother's decision is irreversible and cannot be challenged by law.
Change of heart: It's a reality that a birthmother could potentially change her mind and decide to parent her child, even after having selected an adoptive family. We're aware that there is always this possibility before the paperwork is signed, but of all the emotional ups-and-downs that may occur, I think this might be the most challenging. But it is the birthmother's decision to make, and we respect that.
Placement: This will be the moment that we take placement of our child - and when our lives will change forever. I've been purposefully trying to avoid thinking about this in emotional terms, because I know it's going to be both amazing and mind-boggling at the same time, and I don't want to let myself go there - at least for now - because I think that it might add to my anxiety about this whole process. Logistically, one thing I'd like to at least try is to get someone else to come with us and record/photograph the placement, because I think that: (a) I'm going to be a wreck and probably unable to hold a video camera with a steady hand; and (b) I don't want to miss a single moment of it while trying to capture it on film!
At the request of the birthmother, and with guidance from Cradle staff, we may have the opportunity for a direct placement from the hospital, meaning that we could potentially take placement of a child shortly after birth, and before the 72-hour window has passed. This will be a tough decision to make (for everyone - see change of heart above), although the birthmother does have the option of placing her child in the Cradle's on-site nursery until she has finalized her plans. Should that happen, we would take placement at the Cradle itself, if and when the paperwork has been signed. The adoption becomes official six months after placement.
And - should everything go well - that's how we would become dads. Perhaps I'm not feeling as anxious as other waiting parents may be, but I think I'm definitely feeling a sense of powerlessness in this whole process, in that we don't know if and when a match will occur. While we can - and will - do our best to get the word out there and network (because you never know if your dentist's son's neighbor's niece's BFF might be pregnant and considering an adoption plan for her child, and wants a really fantastic gay couple - like us! - to adopt her child), the decision is entirely up to the birthmother to make. And so it's hard not to look at our fellow waiting families and feel slightly "competitive" (for lack of a better word); it's hard not to second-guess our profiles or photos if we're not getting chosen, but others are; and it's hard not having any control, when we have (or like to believe we have) so much control in other areas of our life.
So, in the meantime, we're going to keep busy. Reading books about babies and parenting. Getting around to setting up that Facebook group page we've seen other waiting families do. Spreading the word about our plans to adopt. Living life.
And blogging about it ad nauseum.
Thanks for reading.