Thursday, July 28th, 2011. We were in line for a sneak peek of the new Jason Bateman movie, “The Change Up”. And we were miserable. The only reason we stayed in the theater was to take our minds off of making a life altering decision.
Three months earlier we turned in our application to adopt a child. Our dossier would not be complete for exactly another two months. And here we were, presented with a match. The agency already found a child to place with us. After receiving the girl’s file and reading the description we knew we had to say no.
One piece of advice to prospective parents: If you are adopting from the special needs program, go to a doctor you trust. Make sure you understand each condition on the list and ask questions until you can determine whether you are capable of caring for a child with that condition. When a match is made, you have one week to decide whether this is your child.
The first match was a girl with severe myelomeningocele, or spina bifida. Her paperwork stated she would probably never walk. Certain cosmetic “defects” (as defined by the adoption paperwork) and surgically correctable conditions, along with “healthy” children, were on our list. We knew the moment we read this girl’s file the doctor had glossed over something. We would not have said yes to paralysis. Now we were seriously thinking about it. Was this girl our daughter? How could we say no?
So we watched the movie. For two hours we were partly distracted from reality. We left the theater and returned home. The next day we had another appointment with our family doctor to review the match file. As the paperwork stated, she would most likely never walk. A malaise settled over us for the following week. I called the agency seven days later to tell them we were not accepting the match.
It was one of the lowest feelings I’ve experienced. We had no way of knowing whether this beautiful little girl would every find her forever family. A lifetime of institutional care and ostracization in her homeland was more than I could bear to think of for any length of time. We kept compiling our documents, getting fingerprints, and photos taken.
I haven’t felt comfortable discussing or writing about it, until now. I saved the emails, the photos, the medical records. Occasionally I would open them up and think about her, hoping she was with her family. When starting the adoption process the agency says you can deny a match. In the euphoria and anxiety of the moment we never thought we would have to do it. All we could think is “we’re going to be parents!”. When we said no thoughts of inadequacy ran rampant because we couldn’t care for this child. I know in my heart, mind, soul and whatever else is lurking inside me we made the right decision. I never question that. Penelope is our daughter and always will be.
This week I felt the time was right. I replied to the original email from July 2011 and asked our rep at CCAI what the girl’s status was.
Two days later I received a reply with words that fill me with immense joy:
“I am happy to tell you she is home with her forever family now too!!”