Adopting Single: Feeling the Fear, Pursuing the Dream

by Caro In The City

Fear of adopting single

It’s been almost two years since I started to think seriously about adopting. It’s something I always thought that I would do, but put off over fears of such a big expense. I filed it away as something I would do in the future, when I felt more financially secure.

Two years ago, back when my plan was to meet Mr. Right, get married, and then adopt, I went out on a blind date. It was clear from the beginning that my date didn’t want to have children, though he was a friendly enough guy. This kind of thing can happen but in our conversations I discovered that he was the father of an actor who played the lead in one of my favorite movies - one that I had seen 4 times (not typical for me), all about a woman taking charge of her life. During our brief time together, I asked what being a father was like and he talked about how wonderful the experience of parenting was. Out of the blue he blurted out, “You should just adopt a child by yourself!” This annoyed me. Later I was recounting the incident to a colleague, who knows me well and her response was, “Yes, you should do that.” Bam. I was doubly annoyed. Then a few days later, it hit me. What was I waiting for? I was doing well in my business. And although nobody likes the idea of spending tens of thousands of dollars on anything, it was within the realm of possibility that I could manage. I certainly could manage the costs of parenting. But here’s the funny thing: once the idea took hold, I actually started doing better in my business and began saving money too.

It seemed to me that while it was fear of the costs and the unknown holding me back from my dream, it was God or the Universe telling me to go on and just do it. I go on a date with (coincidentally) the father of an actor in a movie about overcoming obstacles and living your dream. He tells me to adopt as a single mother. I accept this idea as something to do now, but with legitimate financial reservations. Now even those fears begin to recede as I see my business and savings start to grow.

This conflict between fear and putting my dream into action was a yin-yang, back and forth process.

I began attending a local adoption support group, leaving each meeting way past the point of overwhelm. There were too many things I needed to do and I couldn’t imagine having the time to do all of it. I still had financial fears. I vacillated between optimism and pessimism. It had become a cycle for me: go to a meeting with hope and apprehension, listen to the speakers, and take voluminous notes. Overwhelmed and barely able to keep up with - or fully understanding - everything I would need to do, I stayed until the Q&A and after-meeting socializing. I stayed until the very end, even though I felt like an outsider. As a single women I was very aware that there were usually only couples in attendance. And of course they seemed to gravitate toward other couples. This was my perception. But how much was it colored by fear of being an outsider and the odd man out? My desire to be included only worked against me. It made me seem overly energetic, anxious and pessimistic. I tried hard to impress. Thankfully, this period only lasted a few months. The meetings stopped in the summer and I met with an adoption attorney. I rarely looked at the notes, out of fear that I wouldn’t be able to do the hundreds of tasks required of me.

Fear has been my constant companion in this process. It fills me, I calm myself, take another step forward, and it fills me again. This is a feeling that starts in my gut and rises into my chest. My heart starts to beat faster. My brain unwinds into a nightmare scenarios. I’ll never get my baby. I will be offered the perfect baby but I won’t have enough money to pay the referring agency. All my friends will get babies before I do. Maybe there is something wrong with me. Something that I can’t control or don’t know is wrong will prevent me from becoming a mother – my age, marital status, religion or online profile. Deep breath. I calm myself. My ribs expand and contract more slowly. My brain slows down and I think of other possibilities or realize that it is too soon to figure out problems before I even know what they are.

Some of these things have actually happened. Single mothers who started after I did have matched before I have (I am still waiting…). Couples I knew got their babies, while I am still waiting. After a twinge of jealousy, I get over my disappointment and feel truly happy for them. Each step has its challenge. I meet that challenge and move on to the next.

I try to focus on spiritual solutions. You are already a mother, you just don’t have a baby yet. But you will. Picture your baby. (S)he’s yours! Meditate. Focus on things that you can control. Sometimes I can stay there and sometimes it is a brief respite and I watch a movie or do something to take my mind off this.

Late last year, I started to feel less overwhelmed. Certain facts and information started to sound familiar. As a result, I started to relax. There were a finite number of things to remember to do, and they were quickly ticked off my list as I gained momentum. I found I was actually informed enough to give advice to newer members of my support group. Fear about not being able to do everything started to recede.

It took me two months to complete my Home Study application, which required visits to the police, a fingerprinting outfit, my doctor, and many others. I met with a social worker to talk about my biographical essay, so as to make sure that I was including all the important facts and not underselling myself. It took another month for the agency to begin the actual home visits. If you have not yet been through the process, you show your social worker all the rooms in your home/apartment. You show her where you plan to put the bassinet, if you have not already bought and placed one. You talk about emergency and disaster plans: what happens if you get sick or seriously ill, how you will manage work and child care, and your plan for healthcare. They want to be sure you realize that you are about to turn your life, and yourself, upside down. I admitted that while I knew this intellectually, I could not anticipate how it would play out. My social worker approved of that answer.

Isn’t that a prime condition for fear? You know something will drastically impact your life, in ways that you can’t know but still imagine. Fear of the unknown, fear that it will not be what you thought. Isn’t this what we are all going through now with COVID? Here is a disease that we don’t know much about. Intellectually, we believe we are in a good place. But still we wonder: are we the ones who will have no or few symptoms, the ones who will suffer a little, or the ones who won’t make it?

Three months later, when the report finally came out, I had passed and was deemed an acceptable parent by the state. Now in spite of my fears, I know what to expect. It doesn’t always make things easier to bear, but I have become a veteran of facing my fears, even when my stomach feels awful, my mind is racing, or I feel the fear rising from out of my chest. Sometimes I still feel judged insufficient as a single parent. But what can I do about it? It is my truth. I will be a single parent, and I already did the therapeutic work to be okay and feel good about it. In the end, despite my fear and insecurities, I have learned to say to myself, sternly, just do it. Just ask, or fill out this application. Allow yourself to be interviewed, or later, text back that woman who says that she’s pregnant. Don't worry about the response. Just stop, breathe, and do it!