Tuesday, May 25, 2010

All Alone in a Crowded Room

Tonight was one of the most emotionally difficult and challenging nights in our journey to adopt a baby. And the weird thing is, you'd have never even suspected or realized it if you weren't us.

Which you aren't.

I don't think.

As required by our agency -- and rightfully so -- we attended a class at a local hospital on infant care. Seems innocent and simple enough, right? Well it is....and it isn't.

If you're a guy who impregnated his wife and are attending this class with her, you probably feel perfectly normal.

If you're a woman sporting a big, cute pregnant belly and are attending this class with your husband, you probably feel perfectly normal.

But if you're an adoptive couple with no pregnant belly to display, and are being looked at a little differently because people are not really sure why exactly you're in that class, then you sure as hell don't feel perfectly normal.

Such was the case for us tonight as we sat through an otherwise well taught and clearly presented class on caring for newborn babies. And don't get me wrong, we learned a lot of good stuff that can and will be applied when we become parents. But the truth is that we were apprehensive about going to this class tonight to begin with. Since entering the official "waiting phase" a month ago, we've really been struggling with not knowing when our baby is coming home; when that phone call is coming; and knowing that most other expecting parents have full clarity in those areas. (Note: if you're one of our pregnant friends, please know we're not bitter at you at all, and are excited for you; we're just really struggling in this gray area of unpredictability right now).

We tried to go into this infant care class with a positive attitude, but right from the start, the instructor spent a lot of time on aspects of the birth itself, followed by loads of information on the importance of breastfeeding. This was certainly not out of place given the obviously pregnant women throughout the room, but would it have hurt so much to simply ask the crowded room of couples if there was anyone currently in the adoption process? When is it going to come to the point when adoption can be legitimately recognized in these kinds of infant care classes without the class having to be a specific "adoptive couples" class??

Throughout the two hour class, Tara and I seemed to take turns mentally checking out at various intervals. At the end, as we were turning in our class evaluation, the instructor asked Tara when she's due; always a great thing to ask a non-pregnant woman. We said we're adopting, which surprisingly, seemed to catch her way off guard. Is this really the mentality of infant health care in the year 2010?

As we exited the classroom, pretty emotionally detached, we purposely distanced ourselves from the five or six pregnant couples in front of us, hoping to avoid any chance of interaction. Now mind you, Tara and I are hopeless chatterboxes, and 99.9% of the time, we embrace any kind of potential awkwardness and happily discuss adoption in detail with anyone. Unfortunately, tonight was .1% of those other times.

After a few minutes of hanging out in the hallway to let everyone else exit, we headed to the elevator to find one of the couples still there. Crap! Didn't wait long enough! As we got into the elevator and literally stared at the floor, hoping for a quick and silent ride down to the parking garage, the guy inevitably spoke up: "When are you due?"

And just like that, the part of my brain that keeps me from making crudely sarcastic comments at inappropriate times got switched off. "I wish we knew!!" came my blunt response, followed by a few moments of awkward banter in which we, regretfully, were probably a bit stand off-ish.

We got in the car and left, feeling as though we'd run an emotional marathon, which was compounded by learning that the Phillies had lost 8-0 to the Mets. You know, the important things in life...

This blog entry is not about throwing a pity party or thinking that people should feel sorry for us. We are unbelievably blessed in every way and never want to lose sight of that. And we are going to someday be the parents of a beautiful baby, which keeps us excited every day. But we are pretty upset at the way our infant care class seemed to completely ignore the fact that a growing number of couples attending these classes are adopting due to infertility...and that maybe, just maybe, those couples are feeling somewhat inferior and a little out of place in a room full of pregnant bellies. If this blog serves any credible purpose to any infertile couples in the same situation, please know you're not alone. And if this blog ever falls upon the eyes of an infant care class instructor, please understand that adoptive couples deserve to be acknowledged as legitimate parents-to-be, instead of simply assuming all couples in your class (especially the ones who clearly don't look pregnant!) have due dates to give birth.