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Having to present myself to someone on paper is always an intimidating thing. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that way. When my husband and I first met our social worker at our homestudy, I could tell that she was a bit wary. She had just finished going through the extensive autobiographies and Q&A’s we had to complete before she met us, which meant that this woman we were shaking hands with for the first time knew more about our lives than most of our close friends. But it wasn’t our personalities, our life stories, our finances or our accomplishments that put her on guard. She knew that we were a unique couple who have known each other since early childhood. That neither of us had ever really fit the mold of the small Montana town we grew up in, both of us prefering art, literature and theatre to the traditional hunting, skiing and hiking that most of our peers took part in, but none of this was an issue either, in fact it made us interesting. She knew that we were both driven and had accomplished an unusual amount for our age. And I knew that, right there, was the problem she couldn’t get past. When reading about our lives on a piece of paper, there is that one glaringly obvious fact that stands out to someone who has never met us. Our ages.
This wasn’t anything new to either of us. We were high school sweethearts, and got married a year after graduating from High School, so we have both experienced our fair share of strangers who think we are “just too young.” But for every stranger who questioned us, we had a friend to say “If anyone can make it, they will.” We hadn’t just jumped into the idea of getting married. We discussed it with friends, family, parents, mentors, and councilors. And everyone who took the time to know us agreed that we were both responsible adults who were ready to make this decision if it was what we really wanted. When it came down to the decision to adopt, none of our close friends and family were surprised, in fact they were all thrilled. Every one of them knew how much we love kids, and none of them doubted for a moment that we were ready and capable to become parents.
Now don’t get me wrong when it comes to our Social Worker Helen. There was never a single moment where I felt like she was being unfair. In fact I think it would have bothered me if she wasn’t concerned about our age. But the moment of knowing that once again we were going to have to prove ourselves felt daunting. We are young. I won’t try to deny it. But we have been happily married for five years. We started out with our few meager posessions, a college scholarship for Ryan, two old beater cars, and a small amount of savings we had both managed to put together throughout high school. In the five years since then we have both gone to school and worked at amazing jobs where we have gained valuable experience. We have traveled around the country. We have no debt, we are self-sufficiant, and are both continuing to expand our experience and education in working towards our future careers. We are making plans so we will eventually be able to purchase our own house, and have even begun saving for retirement. And above all else, we are best-friends who love eachother more each year and who have been through extreme highs and lows of life together. We rely on one another, trust one another, encourage one another and never allow anything to come between us. We are partners in everything.
The day after our first meeting with Helen, I went to meet her at a coffee shop for our individual meeting. Immediately I could tell she was feeling completely differently from when we had first met the day before. She was far more relaxed, and shared with me what a relief it was talking to us the previous day and seeing for herself that we really were all the things we had said. She had gone into the first meeting wondering if a 23 and 24 year old could really be ready to adopt a baby, and she left having no doubt that this 23 and 24 year old were ready. And then she said the words that made me nervous once again, “Now we just have to get everyone else to give you a chance to get to know you the way I have and not just dismiss you because of your age.”
So here I am today, filling out another profile; one with the little box that says [AGE] ____. As I was about to fill in that blank, I felt the familiar knot in the pit of my stomach. But this time, I don’t feel as anxious as before. I know who I am and what I am capable of, and I know that even more so about my husband. I have chosen to see Helen’s words as a goal rather than an obstacle. We CAN get others to see what she sees. And this time, that knot goes away much quicker as I replay all the kind things Helen has said about us, knowing that we have one more cheerleader on our side, and knowing that, sooner or later, I will get to meet that amazing little person who all this work has been for, and it will be completely worth it.