June 25, 2005

Adoption Update

Friday I went to see the social worker with our "adoption profile" in tow. Seeing her always reminds me anew how deep and dark my problem with authority figures truly is. When we had the home visit I managed not to freak out, but I was being asked for paperwork when I'd already cleared away all my clutter so the house would look neat. I did feel at times like I was close to tears.

Now I feel all those same things, but they don't get as close to the surface, post-prozac: I can maintain a little bit better. And I needed to on Friday.

The adoption "profile," at our agency, consists of two different things. First, there's a resume, which is silly information about age, religion and ethnicity, along with a photo (which renders some of the info listed below rather redundant: after all, can't the average birthmother look at the photo and figure out that we're white, and what color our eyes and hair are?). On the flip side of this sheet, in the same plastic protector, is a "dear birthmother" lettter, in which we talk about ourselves and our approach to parenting.

The second part of the profile is a photo album, and I was rather pleased with mine. I have a magazine background, so the layouts were clean, and my use of color was good. On the cover was a beautiful, artistic portrait done by Scanman in our backyard: Attila the Hub and are holding a tangerine out toward the camera, our eyes wide and knowing. It was a hip photo, beautifully composed, and my hand—along with the tangerine—was distorted because it was so close to the lens. The tangerine also lent it such a strong splash of color that I put this picture against a yellow background, and then constructed the "spine" of the notebook/album out of orange construction paper. On the back cover is more yellow background and a small, goofy picture of us eating home-grilled burgers and ears of corn on one of our anniversaries, with a little note: "thank you for looking at our profile." No one else does this on their profile albums, and Attila Hub compared it with those movies that have a small scenelet right after the closing credits, as if to thank people for sitting through them.

The social worker didn't like the front picture at all. "But it's art," I wanted to protest.

"You're not even smiling," she replied. I mentally stomped my little feet.

She got out a few other albums from her shelves. "This is what you're up against," she asserted, and then added quickly, "not that it's a competition."

"But it is," I acknowledged. And I looked through the other albums. They were very warm and reassuring. People smiled a lot. But the shots were ill-composed and the use of color was dreadful. Design elements were thrown around like so much confetti.

I was being told we might not get a child because we weren't Philistine enough.

Next she deconstructed the portrait of us that I'd used for the resume page (the flip side of the "dear birthmother" letter). Now I hadn't liked the way my hair looked in that shot, but Scanman and his office manager felt that the devoted way I looked into Attila the Hub's eyes said something about the relationship (probably that I'm terribly codependent). Scanmaster also insisted that Attila Hub looked younger in that particular frame, and that was important for adopting. (In retrospect, I think this might have more to do with Scanmaster's anxieties about fatherhood than the birthmother's, but we'll let that one pass. The fact is, Attila-Hub is, technically, on the far side of fifty despite his dashing good looks and even-steven blood pressure.)

No, no, insisted the social worker, who is a very nice person despite the fact that her job is to ride herd on me and push all my buttons. You both need to be facing the camera, and you both need big smiles. After all, a lot of the birthmothers see this one sheet first: we show them the resume before they see the album. If that single photo is appealing enough, some of them make their minds up just from looking at that.

I faced her and gave her a big smile. But my heart wasn't in it.

Meanwhile, she was scouring our album for more signs of my husband's teeth. "How come when he smiles we don't see his teeth enough?" she asked. It had never occurred to me that there was a correct number of my husband's teeth I should be seeing when he smiles. She turned to the trainee next to her and remarked that "Attila Hub has a marvelous, dry sense of humor."

I want to ask whether it would still be dry if he broke out into hail-fellow-well-met smiles all over the place, but I just folded my hands in my lap and tried to look obedient, and like I was hanging on her every word. And like I didn't think that the process of adoption—all things considered—sucks big donkey dicks.

In point of fact, she was probably right about all of this. But the life of a visual snob is hard and lonely, at least if you let on what you're thinking half the time.

If I had a blackboard here at home, I'd write on it : "I will not be arty, I will not be arty, I will not be arty."

And I guess I'll go look for more pictures of people—my husband in particular—showing teeth.

I can't go on; I'll go on.

Posted by Attila at June 25, 2005 12:41 AM | TrackBack
Comments

Rule number 1 of actress/model headshots/portfolios - if they aren't showing their teeth it's because something is wrong with them.

You aren't trying to impress the arty crowd. Some people would distrust you simply because you are in that crowd.... (How many people know Jimmy Carter was a nuclear engineer before he was peanut farmer?)

Best of Luck

Posted by: Zendo Deb at June 25, 2005 05:50 AM


I think parenting takes more true courage than any other human endeavor.

So if what they're doing is putting that to the test, you are passing with flying colors.

Because, as anyone can see, you are extraordinarily brave.

Posted by: k at June 25, 2005 07:09 AM


Well, Zendo--no one could accuse Carter of not showing enough teeth! The irony is that Attila Hub has a much nicer smile than I do: his teeth are straight and pretty white. Mine are slightly "bucky," and my smile just shows too much gum. Also, my teeth are chronically tea-stained.

K--believe me, I'm scared to death. But I'm being pushed by someone who insists, gently, that procrastination is not my friend.

Posted by: Attila Girl at June 25, 2005 11:17 AM


Great Godot reference!

Did she ask you to add in a few spelling and grammar mistakes to make you seem more 'approachable' too?

You definitely get bonus points for restraint.

Good luck.

Paul

Posted by: Light & Dark at June 25, 2005 01:30 PM


Good luck, Atilla.

Being an adoptee, I say go for what you think is best. I have met my birth mother and, if she had the option of looking through photo albums to choose the family, I am pretty sure she would have loved the album you described over other, more Ho-Hum ones. (She's into scrapbooking.)

Trust what's in your heart... or gut, as the case may be.

Again, best of luck.

Steven

Posted by: Steven at June 25, 2005 02:35 PM


I do think it's wonderful that the young ladies (and sometimes middle-aged women) who make adoption plans for their children are treated with respect and allowed to steer the process. I know it wasn't always so in the past.

They are making such a huge sacrifice that I can't begrudge them the opportunity to pick. (They are also allowed to keep the album, and it's customary to send them annual letters and pictures. Some have yearly visits with their adoptive family.)

My social worker also tells me that the matches made by the birthmothers go more slowly than if social workers still got to make the determination--but that the matches are generally so right, it's spooky.

Posted by: Attila Girl at June 25, 2005 04:12 PM


Thanks for sharing this personal story. I found myself holding my breath as I read. We have three wonderful adopted nieces/nephew and so look forward to following you on your journey and celebrating when the new member of your family does arrive. And they will. In the meantime, we'll be praying for you.

Hang in there.

Posted by: Charmaine Yoest at June 25, 2005 07:33 PM


I have a friend that went through the same thing recently. His wife took a similar approach because she's also very artistic. The social worker hated it and made them redo it. It makes me wonder if the birth mothers wouldn't appreciate the more personal approach IF they ever were able to see one.

Good luck Attila!

Posted by: Janette at June 25, 2005 09:06 PM


I'm trying to be teachable, here. After all, these people know the "market." And, strictly speaking, she's only insisting that I replace two pictures.

Posted by: Attila Girl at June 25, 2005 11:34 PM


Funny thing about courage: If you aren't scared, you're not being brave.

Posted by: k at June 26, 2005 05:37 AM


I think you should keep your album like it is...okay maybe add a nice toothy picture but the person who is making the most important decision in your life will be the person who loves who you portray yourself as. I think trying to confirm to a cookie cutter album will do a disservice to the birth mom and to you... Good luck! :)

Posted by: jody at June 26, 2005 08:48 AM


It kinda makes me wonder if the social worker would approve more of a picture of you wearing a Britney Spears or Jay-Z t-shirt so you'd be more appealing to the birth mothers...?
I know, I'm being snarky--it just bugs me that you're expected to look a "certain way."
You'd think a birth mother who has appreciation for art would be more likely to give birth to an artistic child, which would probably be a good match (for lack of a better word) for you.

At least it's only two pictures, though. I think the adoption process sounds like a test to see if prospective parents have enough patience to be parents--which is fine, but it's kinda funny considering any reckless idiot can be a birth parent. Good luck!

Posted by: Beth at June 26, 2005 09:47 PM


Oooh. I was furious about that for, like, two years. "We're OVER-QUALIFIED! And young women can go out and have babies without going over ANY HURDLES AT ALL!" Which isn't true, either, but of course I was aggreived by THE UNFAIRNESS OF LIFE!

Never mind that it isn't fair for anyone. It wasn't being "fair" to ME!

You know what?--Fair is an event you go to in the late summer or early fall to eat ice cream and see who won the blue ribbon for best corn bread.

Posted by: Attila Girl at June 26, 2005 10:54 PM


I do. I make the best corn bread. The BEST.

Even if it is Jiffy Corn Muffin mix, gussied up. I could do exactly the same from scratch.

It's not just the substituting buttermilk. There's also a little cooking trick most everyone ought to know but don't seem to.

It's so light and fluffy it almost lifts itself off the plate. How often can you describe corn bread as "light" or "delicate?" And gooooood, good, good! SO tasty.

It's so dainty we can only use whipped butter on top, because regular butter isn't airy enough. It clashes.

My point? Maybe you should do an American Gothic photo. But substituting teeth for the Grim Visages.

See, it used to be fashionable to show you took life and your responsibilities quite seriously. That's why they didn't smile much in those old photos and paintings.

But we must strike a new balance these days. Expressing responsibility no longer cuts it! (According to your social worker.)

So: instead of a pitchforK? A nice nurturing mother-&-father-ly plate of cornbread! So light, it almost flies off the plate!

And big toothy smiles with which to eat it!

Posted by: ksquest at June 27, 2005 12:42 PM


Great idea. I should think about posting a few of the pix that are actually digital.

And there is that small pic of us on the back cover, eating corn on the cob.

BTW, I love to make cornbread muffins. But I like to add blueberries, and this often has the effect of making the muffins green. They look terrible, but taste great.

Posted by: Attila Girl at June 27, 2005 06:38 PM


Are you making duplicates? One for yourself, at least? Maybe you could post a digital copy of the whole book. I think we'd all really love to see it.

And who knows? - maybe the right birth mother - the one who actually values art over teeth - will see it and say, Finally, finally, a match for me. Surely there's more people out there than the adoption office serves.

And oh, lord, those blueberry corn muffins sound delicious! And cute, too, plenty enough. I don't care what food looks like, I want great flavor and smell and texture. (Green Muffins and Ham, Sam i am?) HMMM! which reminds me of certain very yummy-but-ugly mangoes.

If you're eating corn on the cob, that's not enough teeth for Social Worker?

Your blog always makes me hungry.

Luckily, I just pulled a batch of the infamous Sin Rolls out of the oven. Soon my 4 loaves of bread will go in. My whole house smells like yeast and cinnamon.

And I kneaded each batch, one right after the other, as usual, except - standing up. Not sitting on my high chair, my bread kneading chair. I stood up on my own two feet the entire time.

And breathed really, really deep.

It's working.

Posted by: k at June 28, 2005 07:22 AM


The agency wants four copies of the book. We're going to make a fifth copy for family and friends. You may get a copy of it with a note to pass it along to so-and-so at thus-and-such an address in Northern California or Illinois. ;)

Posted by: Attila Girl at June 28, 2005 12:51 PM


Oh, goody!

And snail mail! I love snail mail.

It's so...retro.

And it keeps old co-workers in business.

Posted by: k at June 29, 2005 02:47 AM


We mailed some mail at the Skokie post office while we were out there! It was very fulfilling.

Posted by: Attila Girl at June 29, 2005 06:36 AM


Oh, that's wonderful! I just KNEW you'd stop by there. Did you go inside for a behind-the-scenes tour?

Posted by: k at June 29, 2005 12:11 PM


No, but we stopped by cousin Jim G's house, and I heard many, many stories about what it was like in the old days. Of course, Attila Hub had already told me a handful of these vignettes, but his cousin was the mother lode of post office anecdotes.

Sounds like a bunch of people with too much brainpower, and too much time on their hands . . .!

Posted by: Attila Girl at June 29, 2005 12:25 PM


Ha! That's it in a nutshell.

Well...not always too much time on their hands. They actually worked hard. (Attila Hub likely disagrees.) Part of the cut-ups were to relieve the pressure of working so hard, right? But they hire based on tests, so there are a lot of very smart, and very educated, people working there.

Anecdotes from that gritty behind-the-scenes perspective was a lot of why I signed up.

Plus, the physical labor, of course.

And neat equipment to ride around in, and to drive. And tip over.

ahhh, back in the day...

Posted by: k at June 30, 2005 04:07 AM




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