The next instalment from Mexican Takeaway
Chapter 2, Does Your Cat Speak Spanish?
“Do I look OK?” Rick said as he came into the bedroom, wearing his cream suit and his best tie.
“Uh oh. Cream?”
“I don’t want to wear a dark one. It doesn’t seem friendly enough; too businesslike. They might think I don’t have time for children if I wear that.”
I’d never seen Rick this anxious. He was normally so calm and composed about absolutely everything.
“I think I want to marry you all over again. It means a lot that you’re going along with me on this.”
“Fra, I believe in adoption too. I am not going along with you just because you are stubborn, which you are! I can totally see the point, but I want to know more and see if it is for us. I’m our left brain, remember?”
I collapsed in giggles on the bed. Rick bounced over and gave me a huge hug.
“Careful, you’ll crease the suit.”
“Shut up, you.”
We kissed, then lay there just holding each other close for a while. I had opted for a more casual look than Rick. Smart jeans, a long blue cardigan, and a pair of boots instead of recycled shoes. It was freezing again. In the car, I asked him: “Where do you think you are in your heart, Rick?”
“I find it frustrating that they have to decide for us that we cannot adopt locally. It’s not like there are no children who need a family here in London.”
“I mean what about adoption? How do you feel about it now?”
“I think if we decide it’s worth a shot, we should start the adoption and try to have natural children at the same time.”
“And then let the Universe decide which one is right first.”
“I knew you’d say that! You and your Universe!”
There were times when Rick’s pragmatism and my spiritual outlook clashed, but on the whole our combination worked. We filed into a room with the other couples who were doing the training. There was tea, coffee and biscuits on offer. Everyone seemed very shy. This wasn’t surprising, since for most couples choosing adoption is a public admission that they can’t have children.
We were invited into a room and directed to a circle of chairs. I chose to sit next to a woman who appeared to be alone. Rick sat on the other side of me, munching a biscuit.
“This is what it must be like attending a twelve-step programme,” he whispered.
“Sshh! Someone might hear you!”
The two trainers arrived and introduced themselves. They were both women, and they exuded warm energy. One had an endless mane of hair and wore a long hippie skirt. With her big eyes and enormous glasses, she reminded me of a cartoon character from A Bug’s Life. The other woman wore a suit and smart flat shoes, and sported an elegant short bob.
“Hello everyone, and well done for arriving on time in such bad weather. It shows this means a lot to you. We are trainers for this course, and also we are both international adopters. I have two Bolivian children, and Susan has a Chinese girl as well as a natural one.”
“Oh, good,” I whispered to Rick. “They’ve actually done it.”
“At the end of today you will have understood more about the process, and we will file a report for your council to say whether or not we feel you are ready to start the Home Study.”
No pressure then. We were asked to introduce ourselves and say a little about why we were there. I realised suddenly that we would be putting ourselves on show in public for the first time. Amongst the couples talking about their fertility problems, multiple miscarriages, and failed attempts at in vitro fertilization, we would stick out. God, what were we doing here? Did we have a right to be in that room? I felt slightly ashamed when it was my turn to speak.
“For all intents and purposes we can conceive, but we feel strongly that adoption should play a big part for various reasons.”
It turned out the single woman next to me, who was a Spanish journalist, had also decided on adoption, even though she could have children. At the end of the introduction, one of the trainers gestured towards us and said:
“The three of you are called preferential adopters. This means that you have chosen to build your family via adoption and not because of fertility issues. The rest of you are traditional adopters.”
“What if we wanted to adopt and try and have natural children too?” asked the Spanish lady.
Thank God she asked that one.I was dying to know but didn’t want to appear too radical or anything.
The woman from A Bug’s Life answered.
“You can’t do that. If you happen to fall pregnant during the Home Study you will have to stop the adoption, have your baby, and wait until he or she is at least three years of age before you can start the process all over again. If you have a miscarriage, you will have to wait for two years to grieve and overcome the trauma.”
Two years to overcome a miscarriage! How did they work that out?
“How do you even know if we are trying, anyway?” I joked.
“Your life will never be the same, my dear, once you say yes to the adoption process. Believe me, it’ll feel like a crowd of people are watching you having sex.”
Laughter from around the room. “Seriously, guys, your entire life will be scrutinised every step of the way. Nothing will pass unnoticed.”
Later, when we were let out for lunch, we sat with the Spanish woman and three other couples in a nearby deli, conducting a post-mortem on the morning’s proceedings.
“So which country do you think you would like to adopt from?” asked the Spanish lady.
“We would like to adopt from Russia because my husband has blond hair and mine is dark, so we figured that whether the baby is from the eastern or western part of the country, it will look like one of us,” said one woman.
“We’re going for China, as we want a baby girl at any cost, and all babies for adoptions are girls,” said another woman.
“Anyway, as if I’m going to stop trying in the meantime!” said
Michelle. She and her husband Simon had already attempted I.V.F. a few times.
“What was that all about? What gives them the right to be all Stasi-like about sex?” I said.
“No disrespect to you guys,” said the single Spanish lady, looking around the table, “but it seems almost as if adoption is an industry for infertile people. Unlike those of us who choose, often in your cases it’s a second best, right?”
She may as well have thrown a hand grenade. It was clear that at least one couple were taking her comment personally. The table went quiet.
“Oh, look at the time,” said Rick. “We’d better get back.”
The rest of the day was spent in various exercises, scenarios, and conversations about the pitfalls and challenges of the adoption process. At the end of the day, one of the trainers looked around at us all and said: “It won’t be the same for all of you, and some will handle it better than others. But it’s neither an easy ride nor a short one. You have anything from two to four years ahead of you from this moment. But I am sure you will all be fine. Good luck.”
I felt like I do when my Chinese doctor sticks a million needles in my face, tummy, ears and neck, then calmly says, “You can sleep now till I am back.”