Shonda Rhimes and daughter
Shonda Rhimes and daughter Harper

Did you know that Shonda Rhimes, creator of the TV shows Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and Scandal is the adoptive mom of two girls (Harper and Emerson) from domestic infant adoption—one open and one closed. Nope, neither did I. Her shows are some of my favorite guilty pleasures, so I jumped all over The Daily Beast article she wrote about adoption. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, but boy, can that lady write!

I especially appreciate her thoughts on surrendering to adoption. I’ve thought a lot about the idea of surrendering in parenting in general. In many ways it seems to me that parenting is all about surrender. Sometime we view it in terms of surrender vs. standing firm, but just as often it’s a matter of surrender vs. going crazy. It’s a balancing act that continues throughout parenting, but I agree with Rhimes that the act of adopting requires surrendering outside the norm.

I’ve had kids by both birth and adoption, and while the degree of surrendering might be similar, in reality we think we have more control when we are pregnant. I know we really don’t have as much control as we think, but control is 75% perception, and I clung to the fiction that I could control the outcome by reading my pregnancy books, eating my healthy foods, abstaining from anything remotely harmful, and thinking my positive thoughts.

Adoption is a different animal all together. We have to rely on others to read, eat, abstain, and think. We have to rely on others to approve us… to choose us. No amount of pretending can give the illusion of control. Come to think of it, perhaps this is the best preparation possible for parenting.  But as hard as it is, even in the midst of feeling out of control, it’s important to remember that we are far from the only ones feeling out of control—the surrendering required of birth parents is almost unimaginable.

Here’s what Shonda has to say about surrendering to adoption.

Looking at the process of adoption, it makes sense how comfortable I was with it. I’m a former straight-A student. I am driven and I like goals. I am a list maker and nothing makes my mind hum at a better frequency than huge quantities of research to complete. When you are planning to adopt, you spend months researching—domestic, international, agency, private, foster, open, closed, older child, newborn, special needs. You become well versed in a new lingo—interstate compact, service provider, decrees. There are mountains of paperwork—financial statements, personal essays, biographies, medical reports. You get fingerprinted and photographed and interviewed and examined … and then a birth mother picks you. You get picked. Your hard work pays off. Let me tell you, the annoying teenage girl who likes to raise her hand first in class still lives inside me and she was euphoric.

I didn’t count on what happens after that. After all that paperwork, all that control, I didn’t count on the need to face what it means to surrender. …

I had questions. I had type-A hand-raised-in-class intense questions. Did she eat vegetables? Why hadn’t she had any early medical care? Could she feel the baby moving? Did she read to the baby? Had she REALLY stopped drinking once she knew she was pregnant?

I did not ask. I kept my questions to myself. It was driving me insane, but I knew to leave her be. I knew I had no control. I had read all the books and I had talked to other parents who’d adopted. Surrender, they told me. You have to just let go and accept that you have no control and surrender to the process, one friend said as she buckled her daughter into her car seat. She’d adopted three times from two different countries. Surrender, Shonda. Surrender.

There were babies growing in bellies and it didn’t have a thing to do with me. They weren’t my babies yet. I loved them and I loved their birth mothers and I decorated nurseries and bought baby clothes and came up with names, and all the while, running through my mind in a continuous loop, was the reminder that anything could happen. That I needed to surrender to the process. …

… I finally fully accepted that this wasn’t my process. That something in me broke open. Because I realized that I wasn’t sitting in that car thinking about me. I was sitting in that car thinking about the scared girl heading for an operating room having a baby she would ultimately hand over. To me. This wasn’t my surrender. It was hers. …

I try to stop lying awake at night worrying. I look at the ultrasound photo 5,000 times a day and I breathe and I try to refrain from raising my hand at all. I let go of any sense of control and I tell people that anything can happen. That maybe I have a baby. But mostly I think of the birth mother who doesn’t want to meet me. How scared she must be. How alone she must feel. What a leap of faith she is taking. …

How have you surrendered in adoption? Has it helped you grow or basically been a pain in the b_tt?

This article is excerpted from Carried in Our Hearts: The Gift of Adoption; Inspiring Stories of Families Created Across Continents by Dr. Jane Aronson (2013). We hope to have Dr. Aronson on the Creating a Family radio show/podcast in the near future. To get more info about upcoming shows, sign up for our twice a week e-newsletter below.

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