As an adult adoptee in a same-gender relationship, I never expected it’d be hard to let go of the idea of being pregnant. Once I did, I came face to face with some harsh truths about adoption.
When my ex and I started talking about expanding our family, we decided to try insemination first. When that didn’t work, we shifted to adoption.
And we tried to get pregnant — goodness, it’s not like we didn’t try.
Being in a partnership with another woman means the “trying” is always intentional. When you plan to conceive by way of insemination or in vitro fertilization, there are no #oopsie conversations that lead with, I don’t know when or how THAT happened!
We pored over books of possible sperm donors and when we landed on “the one” we ordered his sperm and scheduled the necessary appointments at the fertility clinic.
We decided that our first time trying to inseminate would be done on our own, in our home, because we wanted to create a loving, romantic space. We thought it would help the process energetically.
So the bath was drawn, the candles lit, the vibrator nearby, and we were ready to ease into the experience by way of an intentional — and shall I say, awkward — ritual. I thought it would be MAGICAL, and obviously it would work. The first time.
HA! At the time, we lived in a bungalow with one bathroom and a very small tub. I’m 5’10” and my ex partner is 5’11” — so both of us fitting in one small tub wasn’t an option.
Hell, me fitting in one small tub is barely an option unless I’m cool with having one half of my body in the water while the other half freezes in the open air.
And even though we did all the things we thought we should do, I didn’t get pregnant. Not that time… nor the 8 additional times we tried. We had to change our plan if we wanted to expand our family, because getting pregnant by way of insemination was no longer an option.
I should point out that I’m an adult adoptee who has two adopted siblings and now, two children who are adopted. I love adoption.
Naturally, I thought I would have zero issues with embracing adoption as the way we grew our family. But I was wrong.
Releasing the thought of being pregnant was a lot harder than I had expected. I had fallen victim to society’s messaging around a woman’s worth and pregnancy.
In our culture, pregnant women are glorified and put on a pedestal — if they present as the ‘right’ type of pregnant woman.
We shoot glorious maternity photos, we praise pregnant women who work grueling hours, we celebrate pregnant women who work out and do all the things while pregnant. We talk about having a child of “your own” — a mini-me.
I mean, goodness, look at all the Instagram posts of women dressed like their babes.
In our culture, we send the message that choosing to be pregnant elevates your worth in the world. And who the hell wouldn’t want to feel worthy?
I felt just as disappointed as anyone when realizing pregnancy wasn’t going to happen for me.
But we were determined to expand our family and adoption was the route we accepted. So, our adoption journey began.
When I look back at the adoption process — with all the paperwork, the home visits, the interviews; the combing through our financial statements and job histories; the interviewing of friends — I often wonder why nobody asked us this one very simple, critical question.
I think our population would decrease by the millions if this were the test families were given before having kids.
Regardless, we did ALL the things that you might do when your life is put under a microscope so someone else can determine if you’re fit to parent. We even baked cookies so that our home would smell delicious when the social worker came for our interview and home inspection.
Being a same-gender couple, we’d been told by more than a few agencies that we shouldn’t even be adopting.
We were told we were “ruining it for everyone else” (this one still baffles me), and that adopting a Black baby would be one of the ways to ensure we’d get chosen quickly and wouldn’t have to wait too long.
And we were told if we were open to adopting a Black male baby, our odds would be even better as they’re harder to place.
PLEASE read that last sentence again.
We were given the message — loud and clear — that Black male babies and Black children in general are more difficult to place.
Not so long ago in the world of private adoption, the fee to adopt a Black baby was, in fact, less than the fee to adopt a white baby. Thankfully, that practice no longer exists — at least not with the agencies we worked with.
Well, we said yes to adopting a child of color. Actually it was more like a hell yes, because at the time (and still to this day) we didn’t care what our family looked like. We didn’t care that our family would become a transracial family.
In hindsight, we should’ve spent more time caring. The agencies we worked with should have spent more time educating us on what this truly means for a family — most importantly for the Black baby or child.
When we talk about the work that needs to be done in our country to dismantle racist systems, private adoption agencies as well as the foster care system certainly have their work cut out for them.
This is coming from someone who truly loves and believes in adoption and foster care. It’s hard for me as a white woman who isn’t only adopted, but also expanded my family by way of adoption, to admit this truth.
So we began the waiting process. We waited and waited and waited… and I think you get the point.
We were finally matched with a pregnant woman and planned to adopt her baby. Three weeks before her delivery, we received an email that she had changed her mind.
That was it. That was the closure we received after creating a picture in our minds about what our life would be like with a new baby.
And that’s when I realized that loosening the grip on my vision of what this experience would be like was a must.
I couldn’t make it through this process unless I released some — no, most — of the expectations I had around the entire adoption journey.
Eventually, we did get a match. It was as solid as these things can be — which means truly no solid ground to stand on. But as most (if not all) families who choose adoption know, you learn to find your footing on the most unstable of surfaces, and that just has to do.
So began the next part of the journey: parenthood.
Because the universe works in such fascinating ways, 3 years later we found ourselves diving back into adoption head first.
The adoption process is as unique as the children you adopt, so letting go of a previous experience is key to ensuring that you’re open to whatever comes your way during the next experience.
When I speak with families that have a vice grip on the notion that they MUST get pregnant in order to grow their family, I ask them: What is your ultimate goal? Is it to experience pregnancy? Pass on DNA? Or is it to — quite simply put — expand your family?
If it’s the latter, then it’s important to let go of preconceived notions of how starting a family might look.
You must embrace the truth: You can travel to your destination on many different routes, and accepting that will help ease the bumpiness of the journey.
Debbie Scheer is a speaker, emcee, benefit auctioneer, and humor strategist who resides in Denver, Colorado with her two children. Debbie speaks on a variety of topics including sober life, parenting, transracial adoption, GLBTQ+, grief and resiliency, privilege and mental health. When Debbie isn’t speaking, emceeing, or raising money for nonprofits, she can be found forcing her children to hike with her in the Colorado mountains.