I imagined myself having children at some point in my life from when I was very young, but I also had a very strong desire to finish my education and develop myself professionally—I didn’t want to stop doing that in order to have children.
When I was about 40 or so, I thought “Ok, I guess I better put some serious effort into the child thing.” I decided at that point that I didn’t have a conventional life and that I wasn’t going to have a conventional family, either; I just didn’t see myself in a kind of traditional marriage scenario. I was going to do it my way and on my own. I decided adopting a baby was the way to go.
It got to a point where I had to make a decision about it because many agencies stop allowing people to adopt when they get to a certain age. It was kind of a now or never thing, like, “Ok, I have to do this now or I’m going to become ineligible to do this.”
Once I decided to do it and I registered with an adoption agency, the whole process, in my case, was much easier than I anticipated it being. In less than a year, Aurelio was with me.
I worked with a [super nice] agency called Spence-Chapin Adoption Services. They have the oldest African-American adoption program around. You have to go through a training where you meet with social workers and they talk about the entire adoption process [with you]. They talk about the experience of birth mothers who make the decision to have their child be adopted, and they talk about what kinds of situations women find themselves in that lead them to those kinds of decisions.
Women who get pregnant have months to prepare, and I had two weeks.
Then you talk to yourself and others about what your expectations are, what you think about parenting… You really have to look at yourself very carefully and understand what’s involved and what the particular challenges are before you can begin to make yourself available as a candidate. I thought they did a very good job in that regard of preparing people.
It really was illuminating to hear people talk about why they wanted to adopt and what ideas they had. There are a lot of prejudices in our society both about adopting and the kids available for adoption; there are all kinds of preconceptions that people have, so I think it’s really good to air that out. And of course there’s a legal part of this where you have to be fingerprinted and checked by the FBI to be sure that you’re not a child molester or you’ve never abducted or done anything bad to children. Everybody had to go through that.
In the case of this agency, they advocate open adoption, [which gives adoptive and birth parents access to each other over the years]. You make a book about yourself with pictures and a written statement, and then those books are made available to women who are trying to choose a family to [adopt] their biological children.
I was picked by someone to be a candidate; we had a couple of meetings, we talked, and that was it. It was funny because I got the call about being a candidate and [they said] that there was a baby right before I was going to a video shoot. I [thought], “Oh my God, can I just have one more weekend?!”
It was ok [though], it was literally like two weeks. You have two weeks to get ready. Women who get pregnant have months to prepare, and I had two weeks.
I brought Aurelio home in the summer of 2005 and I was really lucky. He was a very healthy baby. I had a maternity leave and a sabbatical so for a year I didn’t work. I did my own work with him [there]. We were able to spend a lot of time together and bond. It was a very beautiful encounter.
To learn more about Coco’s transition to single working mom, read our full feature on her.
Have you thought about adopting? Are you an adoptive mother? What was your experience like?
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