by Brooke Balderson as told to K. Aleisha Fetters
Find the one, get married, have kids. That’s the way the story goes. But I’ve never really been one to worry about following the traditional path.
I have, however, always wanted to adopt a child. I’ve always felt like it was my calling. I wanted to give a warm, loving home to a child who otherwise wouldn’t have one. I didn’t feel like I needed my child to be biologically mine. Love is love, no matter how it comes to you.
Then, last year, I found myself at a folk concert in Annapolis, Maryland. Between a couple of the songs, the performers started talking about their own experiences with adoption. I felt like I was the only person standing there in that crowded room. They were talking to me. The thoughts kept repeating in my head: This is crazy! How can I do this? Now?
I was 28 and single, and I knew I just had to go for it. It was time to adopt. Two and a half months later, I first held my beautiful son, Isaac. He was three days old.
Baby for One, Please
I expected to wait years, not weeks, for the process to run its course. Adoption is generally an infamously long process, and it was just happenstance that my application moved so quickly. See, my son’s birth mother didn't know she was pregnant until the delivery. So she didn’t have a birth plan for him, and when she signed him over to the adoption agency, she also didn't choose a family for him. It was up to the agency to decide who his family would be.
I was fortunate enough that the agency chose me. While some agencies do not take on single clients, my agency was very accepting of the fact that I wanted to adopt a child as a single parent. The agency staff did, however, want to make sure I knew what I was getting into. We talked a lot about the challenges I would face and how I planned to make it work. Just like everyone who applies through the agency, I went through extensive interviews, background checks, and mounds of paperwork. I was fingerprinted, my home was visited, and my references were interviewed. This is where my type-A tendencies came in handy. I powered my way through checklists and timelines.
I am a very contemplative person, so I tended to approach the topic with people in my life by stating the obvious—“I know this may sounds crazy, but...”—and then by explaining why and how I planned to make it work. Everyone I needed to have support from just knew me well enough to understand that this was the right decision for me. I would not have been able to make this kind of choice without my family and my friends. They were my cheering section throughout the entire process.
For me, the hardest part of adopting was waiting to take my son home once I met him. Like I said, I met my son when he was just three days old. But in Maryland, birth mothers have 30 days from when they sign the adoption papers to change their mind, no questions asked. So for those 30 days, he stayed in interim care. I was able to visit him, but I knew that at any time, this tiny baby who I already loved so much could be taken away from me. That fact was immensely difficult to bear. However, I’m glad to say that after those 30 days passed, I took him home with me. His adoption was finalized 10 months later.
The Plus Side of Parenting Solo
Isaac is now a year old, and I often find myself wondering what I did with my time before he was in my life. I just feel like I have such a huge purpose now. He makes me try harder and be better every single day, which is fortunate because being a mom is a lot of work. Life is much more hectic than it once was.
I have tons of help. My parents bought all of Isaac’s formula for his first year. My best friend and her mom, who have an amazing in-home daycare nearby, take him every day while I’m at work. I am very lucky to have such a tremendous support system, and honestly, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have pursued adoption when I did.
I tend to describe myself as a “mom who is single” rather than as a "single mom." It’s much more empowering—and so is having a child on my own. Life is too short not to make it what you want, and this is what I want. I can’t tell you how many older women have told me they wished they had been so brave and could have made the same choice I did.
While I still see marriage in my future and a dad in Isaac’s, in some ways, right now, not having a man in the mix actually makes things easier. I never find myself fighting with a husband over parenting responsibilities or having to battle it out over how much TV he lets Isaac watch or how much junk food he feeds him. If I make a poor parenting decision, it’s on me. If I make a good one, it’s on me. I can own it.
I talk to Isaac all of the time about our lives together and say that I chose him to be my baby boy. He doesn’t yet understand my words, but I think it’s important not to keep secrets. I made him a book that tells his adoption story and explains everything. We read it and talk about it pretty regularly. One day, he will understand that I adopted him—and as a young, single woman. I hope he thinks it’s really cool.