The Joys of Paperwork
“Here’s something you can do,” said our social worker, a woman whose own (now teenage) children were adopted from India, and who knows first-hand how hard it can be to wait for an adoption to go through. “The second round of paperwork!”
Though it sounds strange, Neil and I cheered. After months and months of waiting, we now had something concrete to do. Rather than sitting around twiddling our parental thumbs, Neil and I were eager to start ticking off items from a checklist, and moving, we hoped, one step closer to our daughter.
The dossier we needed to put together — different from the packet of information we compiled to get the adoption process started many months ago — included a dizzying array of forms. We needed, among other things, three notarized letters of recommendations from friends or colleagues, certified birth certificates and marriage license, financial statements and letters from our employers, a good citizen certificate from our local police department, a personal statement about why we want to adopt, medical forms, a written promise from me to stay home with the baby for the first three months, a pledge from Neil to be financially responsible for our child’s education and upbringing, and a formal photo of us in our living room dressed in our “Sunday best” clothes, (no pets allowed). All this will go to the adoption agency we are working with in the US, who will pass it along to the orphanage directors in India. Eventually it will make its way to an Indian judge who will approve our adoption.
The list of required forms is long, and at first, overwhelming. But the work also has been satisfying, and not as mind numbing as we’d imagined. Having a partner who is willing to do more than his fair share helps. We studied the list together one Saturday morning in early August, and I took out a yellow pad of paper, made a line down the center of the first sheet, and assigned myself the tasks I thought I could manage, relegating the really onerous administrative ones to Neil.
Some we did together. Neil drafted the essay about why we wish to adopt, and I added my comments and suggestions here and there. I was moved watching him outline all that becoming a parent meant to him. Several of our close friends wrote us heartfelt, beautifully crafted letters of recommendation, and I cried when I read them. My friend Paige composed her letter in the spare twenty minutes a day she has in between caring for her new infant son and two year old daughter. Our friend Julian wrote paragraphs about Neil’s kind heart that made me weep. Even the “Sunday best” photo shoot turned out to be fun. My Sunday best is usually yoga pants, and Neil’s is jeans and a t-shirt. But Neil put on a new gray corduroy suit, and I wore a favorite sleeveless black shift dress with a cream cardigan for modesty’s sake. Then our friend Erin, who has a sharp eye for aesthetics and the patience to spend more than an hour snapping photos, came over and played America’s Next Top Model Parents with us.
I have been amazed and cheered by how far people have gone out of their way to help us in our bureaucratic odyssey. When I called our university health clinic for an appointment to sign off on our medical forms, instead of the usual several week wait, we were given an appointment that very afternoon. “An adoption form?” the receptionist said warmly. “Can you be here in forty-five minutes?” With that, we were given our doctor’s last Friday afternoon appointment before her summer vacation began. When we explained the reason for our visit, a few days later, to the police station records department, the tired looking clerk smiled and brought a bowl of water out to the waiting room for our dog. Another town clerk sent us our property tax form back with a note stuck on top — “congratulations and warm wishes” — followed by half dozen emphatic exclamation marks. A bank administrator sent a bank statement from the first of the month so that our finances would look as hearty as possible.
In the last few weeks, we have had some difficult moments too. A stinging anti-adoption comment from an acquaintance, and a look of pity from a friend’s wife — “It must be horrible,” she said, holding her own baby close to her chest, fingering his foot — meaning all this waiting, all this bureaucratic red tape. She was just trying to be compassionate, I know. But the last thing I want is for anyone to feel sorry for me. It’s not so horrible at all. It’s more like a joy. Every day we wait, every form we fill out, takes us one step closer to meeting our daughter. What could be so bad about that?