We celebrated the 7th anniversary of my daughter’s “Gotcha Day” last weekend. That was the day we met–the day we became a family. The day I became a parent. Most people become parents the old-fashioned way. There are really only two steps . Step 1: Get pregnant. Step 2: Deliver a baby. Yes, there are all sorts of doctors appointments and stuff along the way, but that’s the gist of the process as designed by Mr. Spock. Simple, logical, and straightforward.
Step 1: Yay, we want to have a family! Attempt traditional step 1.
Step 2: Step 1 does not work. Consider other options.
Step 3: Take a bunch of tests to see why Step 1 does not work.
Steps 4-7: Attempt various medically induced methods of achieving Step 1.
Step 8: Cry a lot.
Step 9: Realize that the love in our hearts does not need to be confined to bio-kids.
Step 10: Decide to adopt.
Step 11: Go to parenting certification classes through county.
Step 12: Complete home study with county social worker, who inspects your house and has to ask some very personal questions.
Step 13: Wait around for county to match you with a child.
Step 14: Get disappointed a few times and wait some more.
Step 15: Switch to a private adoption agency.
Step 16: Make the decision to go with an international adoption.
Step 17: Repeat Step 12.
Step 18: Fill out a gazillion forms.
Step 19: Collect copies of every important document in your and your spouse’s life short of high school transcripts.
Step 20: Mail everything off to the adoption agency in a starry-eyed dream of parenthood.
Step 21: Wait 12.5 months (note that this is one trimester longer than the old-fashioned method but less than half the gestation time of an elephant, so we’ve got that going for us).
Step 22: Receive a photograph from the adoption agency of Your Kid. Fly over the moon as many times as necessary.
Step 23: Get visas and other travel documents together.
Step 24: Make arrangements to leave the country for two weeks. (If you don’t have pets, perhaps you can skip this step.)
Step 25: Pretend to go to work and do all the things you’re supposed to do while surreptitiously looking at photo of Your Kid and flipping out.
Step 26: Fly to Beijing, where you spend a nervous few days trying to remember every moment so you can share it with your child later while you acclimate to a time zone 12 hours opposite your own.
Step 27: Fly to the city where you’ll meet your child. Walk into the hotel room in this city and see two beds, a crib, and a stroller an realize This Is Really Happening.
Step 28: Sit nervously in said hotel room in new city for two hours waiting to meet your guide while your husband finds an NFL game from four days ago to occupy his time (and takes a video of you babbling your excitement so your child has future documentation of what a spaz you were before you met her.)
Step 29: Meet the guide and other family who is adopting in the lobby and walk down the street to the civil affairs office.
Step 30: Sit down in chairs across from the door of the waiting room so you can see people walking down the hallway. Wait
Step 31: Other family is adopting an older set of twins. They get there first. Watch this new family take shape before your eyes.
Step 32: Hear the elevator bell ring and know that in two more heartbeats, a stranger will turn the corner and walk down the hallway toward you, carrying the baby who is destined to be Your Child.
Step 33: Wait the longest two heartbeats of your life.
Step 34: Have your breath taken away by the first sight of Your Child.
Step 35: Sit down with your guide/translator and people from the orphanage.
Step 36: Have person from the orphanage hand Your Child to you. Reach out your hands, wondering if you are really prepared for this, if you are totally going to screw up this whole parenting thing, if someone made a terrible mistake somewhere because this can’t possibly finally be happening, if you’ll ever manage to be as good a parent as this little human deserves to have.
Step 37: Hold Your Kid in your lap for the first time. Breathe. Feel an unimaginable wave of gratitude wash over you. Repeat as often as necessary.