A year ago, my partner and I applied to become adoptive parents. We all but completed the assessment and preparation process, our assessment was done, and we were a matter of weeks from sitting in front of the approval panel when we had a bereavement and had to postpone these plans. It was a dreadful time and a hard decision. We had started to see our identity as ‘Adopters’, we had been very excited about our less common path towards parenthood, and we had made some solid bonds with others who were on a similar journey.
One of the key parts of the assessment process that we went through was attending a three-day preparation course with others who were waiting to be approved. Talk about building a sense of community in a short space of time! We shared a huge amount, including our anxieties about adopting and the experiences that had led us there. We agreed to stay in touch, and have done ever since.
I remember reflecting at that time on something that John McKnight had talked about at a conference on inclusion*. He said that communities exist by creating outsiders. He talked about his own community, how a group of dog-walkers became connected because they all have dogs (even a particular breed of dog); people who don’t have a dog are not really welcome to join this group. Geographical communities feel stronger when they are certain of their boundaries, and where ‘outside’ begins. I could identify with this. People who had their children by birth surely wouldn’t be welcome in our group, and I was – to be honest – comforted by that.
And then, six months after we ‘paused’ our adoption process, we found out I was pregnant. We are over the moon about this, just as you would imagine! It was a strange process though, to let go of the identity of adopters. In fact, I still haven’t. I am holding on to the idea that adoption may be a part of our future, even though I know we can’t predict what will happen.
Throughout all of this, I have remained close with two of the women from our adoption preparation course. They and their partners have been matched with their children and will become parents within the next few weeks. They will all be wonderful parents, I am certain of that, and I am hugely excited about their fast progress. When I shared the news with them, I didn’t doubt they would celebrate our good news and that we would continue our friendships. They are both warm and generous women, after all. But I did doubt that we would be invited to join in with the get-togethers we had all imagined having when our children came along.
I was wrong. Both these wonderful women revelled in our news, were excited that we would all be parents within a matter of months, and suggested we meet up next year with the children and babies. I rarely doubt John McKnight’s wisdom, but I do think I may have found the exception to his rule. We are welcomed outsiders, and are included in a community we thought we had no choice but to leave.
* For the inclusion conference, see www.inclusion.com and look for the Toronto Summer
Institute. For more about John McKnight, go to www.abcdinstitute.org