Just one week before my final foster care certification
class I was taking in my home state of Alaska, I sat at a work conference only absentmindedly listening to the
conversations going on around me. To my left, a co-worker thumbing through her
phone casually said, “Ladies, do you know anyone looking to adopt?”
I stopped what I was doing and shot her a confused look.
“I’m actually in the process of adopting through foster care, and I know a lot
of couples looking to do the same in my classes. Why do you ask?”
She barely looked up as she said, “A woman from my village is
in town and about to give birth any day now. She had an adoption set up, but
once she met the adoptive parents in person she no longer felt like they were
the right fit. She is desperately trying to find someone to take the baby now.”
Adoption in the Native Alaskan culture is fairly common.
There is a very real “it takes a village to raise a child” mentality, and the
stigma that often surrounds adoption within Western cultures doesn’t seem to
exist there. The goal becomes simply to provide a solid home for children;
families unite and work together to accomplish that task, with openness
almost always being a key component of how those relationships are formed.
Living in Alaska for five years now, and working within the
native communities for four of those, I have seen these scenarios play out
myself several times: Aunties, neighbors or friends step in to take over
the primary parenting responsibilities whenever there is a need. I had
witnessed how easy these tribal adoptions could be, without agencies involved
or the coercion and large sums of money exchanging hands—an issue that sometimes plagues more traditional adoption avenues. But I had never fully considered the
possibility for myself. Mostly because I am a Caucasian woman, and I knew that
these adoptions more commonly took place between native families.
Even beyond that, I had basically talked myself out of ever
having a baby, convinced that everyone
wanted babies and that no one would ever give an infant to a single mother. I
told myself there were too many children in need of homes for me to fight for
those coveted infants, particularly when I knew I had enough love to give to an
older child who really needed it. As much as I had once yearned for a baby
grown beneath my heart and borne in my arms, that was a dream I had now let
go of, replaced instead by this new ideal. Still, I told my co-worker to have
this woman call me. Perhaps I could connect her with some of the couples from my
classes. Surely there was some way I could help.
“Do you think you would want this baby?”
Fifteen minutes later, my phone rang. The woman on the other end of the line was distressed. I could hear it in her voice. I knew that the decision to place her child for adoption could not have been an easy one, and that having the rug pulled out from under her at this stage in the game must have only added to her anxiety. I started out by asking if she was aware of the services available to single mothers, wondering if she might be faltering in her adoption decision. If she wanted to keep this baby instead, I assured her I would help to find the resources she needed to accomplish that. She quickly told me “no,” explaining that she had three young children at home already. Her husband had died several years before. This baby had not been planned. The father was not in the picture. It was already a struggle to care for the children she had, children she loved deeply and wanted to continue providing for to the best of her ability. She could not take this baby home, she told me. Not without making life that much harder for the rest of them. Her heart was set on adoption, as difficult as she knew it would be.
She was strong, resolute and filled with love for this baby
to be, one she just wanted to find a wonderful home for.
So I began telling her a little about myself, and the connections
I had formed that might be of use to her. After a few minutes, though, she
stopped me and asked, “Are you looking
I told her that yes, I had been hoping to adopt an older
child once my foster care classes were complete, likely a little girl between
the ages of 8 and 13. “You don’t want a baby?” she questioned. I explained it
wasn’t that I didn’t want a baby so much as, everyone wanted babies. I
just wanted to be a mother. I knew I had it in my heart to adopt an older
child, so that was the path I had decided to take.
“What about this baby?” she asked. “Do you think you would
want this baby?”
The question caught me completely off guard. I stumbled on
my words as I said, “Oh, I’m sure we could find a couple to take the baby! I
promise I will help you to find someone!”
Even as I said the words, I chastised myself. Had I just
turned down the offer of a perfectly healthy newborn? Hadn’t that always been
the dream, before I started talking myself out of the possibility? What was I
saying right now?
But I couldn’t seem to correct myself, not even as she told
me she was walking into an office to review the files of prospective adoptive
parents. She asked if she could call me when she was done. I stammered out a
“yes” and hung up the phone.
I told myself I would wait it out. If she called back, we
would go from there. If not, though, I would have to assume it hadn’t been meant
to be. I would have to be OK with the fact she had found somebody else. It was
probably too good to be true anyway. Things like this just didn’t happen. Not
to me, at least. It was a fluke that the
conversation had even taken place at all. A story to tell, and nothing more.
But several hours later, my phone rang again. It was her.
And before I could even get a word in, she was stopping me.
“I know you said we could find a couple,” she said “but I really
feel like it is supposed to be you. I can’t explain it. I looked at profiles
all day today, and I didn’t feel the same connection to any of them that I felt
after just a few minutes on the phone with you. I don’t know if you believe in
God, but I feel like He is pushing me towards you.” She didn’t care that I was
single, or that I personally had no native blood flowing within my veins. She
brushed aside each of my concerns, saying only, "If you would be willing to
take her, I really think you are supposed to be this little girl’s mother.”