The Ghost of Adoption Future


I’m a member of a Facebook group of people who have or are going to adopt children from Nicaragua. I joined because we have three children adopted from Nicaragua but it was a long time ago – 1986, 1988 and 1994. Still, it intrigued me, the idea of knowing other people who had made this decision, taken this extraordinary step to make a child from an entirely different country their own. Looking back, it seems almost unfathomable that we did this very improbable thing.

So I see posts on this Facebook page every now and then. Prospective parents asking for advice on the adoption process. New parents in Nicaragua spending the now-required six months of residency to finalize their adoptions. Parents in the U.S. looking for advice about language and attachment. All of it is so fresh. These parents are in labor this very minute. That’s the feeling I get from reading their posts.

Don’t weigh in with the sage advice. That’s what I tell myself. They don’t want to hear about your missteps, your failures or your tangled triumphs. You were then, Jan. They are now. Still I have things I would say, if anyone would listen.

First, I would say, good for you that you are bold enough to take this incredible chance. It is a mistake for anyone to think that adopting a child from another country is an easy thing to do, like the children are lined up like produce in a fancy store and all you have to do is stroll in and fill your cart. It is incredibly difficult. Because few people know that, it’s all the more important that you do. You are brave.

Second, the euphoria you feel will last a long time but not forever. It is a blessing to become the parent of a child who has none. There is almost no greater calling than to take an orphan as your own. It is immense. If you are a person who has struggled with infertility, adoption immediately frees you from the sadness and yearning that has clouded your entire life. You will feel like you can fly to the moon and back. You are free.  But then you move on and your adopted children are just your kids and you are just their parent. And there is struggle and sometimes regret. You won’t believe that, you exuberant folks on the Facebook page, but, yes, sometimes there are regrets. At least the euphoria moderates, it becomes gratitude but a seasoned, balanced gratitude. It stays a blessing even then.

Third, the children? The orphans? They grow up.  They learn the language. They live in their new country. They think. They have minds of their own. They wonder how they got here. They wonder what they left behind. They feel out of place. They wonder if anyone misses them. They are embarrassed by you. They love you. They want to go home. They don’t know where home is. They are sad but not all the time. Most of the time, they are living their lives. Doing what you do, celebrating what you celebrate, wanting you to be proud of them.  It’s complicated. That’s what I mean to say. Don’t underestimate how terrifically complicated adoption is. Not for you. For them. If you are not prepared for this, my wonderful adoptive parent comrades, it will break your heart.

If I thought it mattered or that anyone would listen, I would weigh in on the Nicaragua adoptive parents Facebook page. But I think I am a voice from a place so far down the road from where they all are that they wouldn’t be able to make out my words.

I know that and it’s okay. I talk to myself.

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