“Millennials hate us. I need you.” I grew up with Nancy. Our relationship has long been free of standard pleasantries and conventions. It didn’t surprise me to be ushered into a conversation with her via this plea. Her urgency concerned me, though.
She and Paul had been trying to adopt their second child. Their process had dragged into an exhausting third year. When she and I had last discussed it, Nancy explained that they were taking a break. I didn’t totally believe that this was her plan. Nancy is a profoundly driven person. I was pretty sure it was a fake out—like turning your head and pretending not to watch the pot so the water boils faster.
“Listen, I can’t look at this profile anymore. I need you to overhaul it. Make us pop. I need these birth parents to see us. It’s excruciating. The agency makes us keep that damn room ready. It’s like haunted. Actually, it’s un-haunted. There’s nothing in there. It’s the loudest nothing ever, and it’s killing me.”
“I know, Nancy. I’m in.”I didn’t want to be “in.” I was filled with apprehension about this project. It’s not the kind of writing I do. I’d never written or even read an adoption profile. How could I possibly guarantee results? And it mattered so much. I’m a pro when it comes to handling rejection—it’s a huge part of my job as a freelance writer.
But I couldn’t stand to think about treading in this delicate space without scoring a victory for Nancy and Paul.
I started my research, sifting through various profiles on the adoption agency’s website. It was unbelievable, seeing page after page of wonderful families eager to adopt children. I was humbled by the good people, the worthy families, with un-haunted rooms of their own.I read a couple of their profiles everyday to learn about them and to hope with them that those rooms would get the children they ached to cradle.
As the manager of the project, it made me nervous. How do we make ourselves heard with so many beautiful voices singing around us?
I poured over the profile we were rebuilding. The pictures delighted and devastated me: Nancy, Paul and Grant, smiling in matching Halloween costumes; Nancy’s parents helping Grant open birthday gifts; Nancy’s brother, sister and grandparents all laughing on Nancy’s porch.
These characters populated my childhood. Now I was trying to market their goodness.
I realized that this is how we had to communicate—from our shared place of hurting. “Nancy, the birth parents are just like us. We are all in this unexpected place—sad and searching. We’re not trying to impress birth parents. We want them to see that we’re like them. We understand them. We’re all in different parts of the same boat—wondering how we got here and trying to make the best of this unexpected situation we find ourselves in.”
Getting our approach down was step one. There were a lot of required elements. Incorporating those was the easy part. Sometimes I felt like Nancy and I were back in junior high hanging out in her bedroom, doing a school project or making posters for an event. Our collaboration was familiar but refined. I was fascinated by the executive and the academic Nancy has become—her professional side is one I glimpse, but I was so impressed to have the chance to really see.
Our final product was honest, genuine, tangible. It’s the only adoption profile I will ever write. The process is too emotional, taxing and high stakes. Once Nancy submitted the revision, she immediately got two inquiries. They didn’t go anywhere, but I was relieved that our work was at least turning heads. Then the attention dried up. Nothing for months. I worried and hoped.
Then Nancy and Paul learned that a couple wanted to meet them, and things progressed quickly. Several weeks ago, I met Miss Natalie—the perfect addition to their family. Natalie is calm and gentle. She smiles all the time. One of the most amazing things about her is how she connects with her brother. They light each other up. When you look at these kids you can clearly see that they are siblings.
Adoption has its own magic. It works at its own pace. It has its own pain, and a spectacular, hard-earned beauty. I’m in awe of the process in which I was invited to share. I learned so much about the families we make and the families that make us.
This article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.