Friday, 28 August 2015

Are You Good Enough To Be a Mother?

For a few years, during our second adoption process, I chose to step back from writing temporarily.

To go off the radar awhile.  I was tired, deeply weary, of having to defend and explain my choices and decisions at every turn to everyone.

After so many years of intense examination and scrutiny, I wanted to live a more private life. Although I share a lot when I write and occasionally on social media, I am always in control of what I share and therein lies the difference.

I think sometimes people find it difficult to understand that going through an adoption process shines a spotlight into every area of one's life.  Areas we haven't thought about in years.  Details we'd rather have kept private. Choices we aren't proud of, choices we are. 

As prospective adoptive parents we are allowed to keep nothing for ourselves. 

The gritty details and realities of marriages are laid bare, written down, and passed along through the ranks where they will be read by numerous discerning people who know us only by what they will read in the reports.

There are questions like: How often do you fight?  What about?  In what ways do you fight?  Slam doors?  Yell?  What do you wish you could change about your spouse?  What does he do that exasperates you? 

Then there the details of our lives before marriage.  Our childhoods.  Education.  Moral and religious beliefs.  Family histories,  Prior relationships.  Everything is held up to the light for closer inspection.  A professional person often meeting the hopeful adoptive parent for the first time, holding a pen and a clipboard, asking questions that really translate to: Are you worthy?  Are you good enough?  Are you fit to be a parent?   

Until we no longer really know.  We just sit there, smiling desperately at these people with all the power and hope they think we are good enough to do this thing that most other people are able to do without much prior consideration.

The fact is that after years of interviews with people from child services, lawyers, doctors and psychologists all watching our faces for signs of discomfort as we speak, all examining body language, the way we communicate with our partner, choice of clothing (yes, this was actually in one of our psychological evaluations), it is natural to begin to feel uncertain of oneself and ones abilities in a way most parents never do.

Biological parents are not asked to justify their desire to have a child.  As prospective adoptive parents, we are asked to justify this desire. 

Why do you want to have a child?  And our answer must not be selfish, it mustn't be anything along the lines of just longing for a child.  Nothing that simple.  I invite you to consider this for a moment. 

What answer could a person possibly give that would hold up in court?  Because in the case of adoptive parents, the answer we give actually must hold up in court.

I don't believe biological parents should be asked to justify their decision to have a child, that's not what I am saying so please don't misunderstand me.  I do think though about how different it would be if everyone had to do this.  If before having a child, people had to be interviewed extensively for years.  Anticipating every scenario.  Planning a course of action for everything that could possibly go wrong in a child's life and always aware that someone out there who didn't know you at all, had the power to say no, this will never happen for you based on any number of reasons.

I read a book about adoption explaining it like this (in my own words), that on paper, in order to be allowed to adopt, one must be perfect.  The perfect mother, father, couple...  

We are expected to know exactly what we would do as a parent long before we ever are actually parents.  We must ace the test.  Be perfect on paper, perfect in theory.  But how can anybody ever be that perfect in reality?

So when the reality of motherhood (or parenthood) is presented and we are naturally not perfect, we feel fear, guilt in an intense way because we promised, we begged for this chance to be a mother.  We fought and fought and fought for it. 

It is easy to be burdened by the pressure of being expected to be so flawless and many people are not aware of this, but post adoption depression is common as reality sets in and life with an adopted child is often not as picturesque and perfect as we've been led to expect and as we see that it is impossible to be as perfect as we have hoped to be.

I am a perfectionist myself which means I am under no illusion that I am perfect.  I am simply  trying to explain the way that one's confidence can be undermined and the way this can make a person wary of scrutiny and more defensive than one otherwise might have been. 

It can take a long time sometimes years, to recover.  To get one's confidence back.  To stop feeling desperate and defensive.  To stop feeling what we had to prove ourselves worthy for years of having, could be taken from you in the blink of an eye.

Adoptive parents need grace too.  It can take a long time to regain a sense of normalcy after adoption.

An understanding that we are both worthy and not worthy.  Just like any other parent out there.


  1. It is true,biological mothers are not asked this question and many of us are not fit enough to be a mother too.Today,at 71 yrs,i am much wiser than i was when my kids arrived.I might have been a bad mother too many a times.The knowledge of psychology i exhibit today was absent then;or maybe it was smothered beneath other tussles.

    Expecting you to be a perfect mother and asking all those questions must have been daunting.

    1. Thank you for understanding.
      I know in my heart that they don't really believe you will be perfect, they are smarter than that no doubt, but the pressure of such intensive observation and scrutiny leads one to feel that they had better be.
      Thank goodness we have the chance to learn as we go.

  2. Wow, Colleen, I had no idea the process to adopt was so scrutinizing. I understand why they must make sure the child is going to a loving family, but I wish there was a better way of doing it. With time I'm sure you'll begin to feel like yourself again. Writing blog post like these are sure to help the healing process! ;)

    1. Thank you very much Monica! I am sure you're right. :) At the time, you just do what has to be done but it sure is a good thing the end result is worth it!!:)

  3. I completely hear you and understand you, Colleen. A close friend of mine adopted a baby daughter and was frustrated with the process. I remember him voicing the same concerns to me. Why, indeed? I know that they need to make sure that the child finds a loving home and stable parents. Beyond that we are all imperfect. I know I am a deeply flawed mother who tries to do her best. I would have wilted under all that scrutiny. I hope you are holding up well. Love.

    1. Thanks so much Rachna. I appreciate your words! Although I think you would have handled it all quite beautifully! :)

  4. I would love to hear more about your experience with the adoption process! My husband and I hope to adopt one day as well. :)

    1. Hi Ginger! Thank you for your comment.:) I wrote a lot about our first adoption process on another blog I have and I will probably publish some of those posts here as well as writing about how it all feels now in retrospect.
      I wosh you and your husband luck as you choose which path you will take!

  5. Dearest Colleen - my heart goes out to you as I know full well the interrogations you have been subjected to. My husband & I went through the adoption process in Australia & I thrilled to share with you that we are now the proud parents of a beautiful little girl named Annabelle. She was just 16 weeks old when I go to hold her in my arms for the first time. I know sometimes the 'process' can get you down and seem unfair. I just kept telling myself that I would do whatever it took to meet my child...and I did!

    I have also written about my adoption journey if you would like to read about it at

    I wish you all the best with your adoption journey & I truly hope that you get to meet your beautiful child one day soon - Love Chrissie xx

    1. Dear Chrissie, thanks for your comment! Congratulations o the joy of adopting your beautiful daughter! I would love to read about your journey! Adoption is endlessly fascinating!


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