If there was ever a time when I could assure you that we had dotted every i and crossed every t, it would have been this one. To admit a fault, we had pinned quite a bit of our hopes and dreams on receiving an adoption grant. And when it didn’t happen, well, it was devastating.
Let me back up for a moment, if you don’t mind. I’m talking about a grant given out by an organization called HelpUsAdopt, whose mission is to award life-changing grants to couples in the adoption process, who might not otherwise be able to afford the high front-loaded cost of an adoption.
Every year, grants ranging in size from $500 all the way to $15,000 are given out by a committee whose job it is to select the appropriate beneficiaries. These grants are subsidized by donations given to the HelpUsAdopt organization, and they in turn pay that kindness and generosity forward.
We had set up our GoFundMe account, and faced disapproval from others when we mentioned it. I’ve spoken about this in a previous post, but it still leaves me shocked when I hear people in our various communities talking about their perceptions of our GoFundMe account. I’ve heard things like “What are you gonna do when the kid needs braces, set up another GoFundMe?” and “If you can’t afford to raise a kid, you shouldn’t have one.” Or one of my favorites, “I raised three kids of my own, no one helped me pay for them.”
Those comments, thoughts and whisperings betray a basic misconception about the adoption process, that somehow my husband and I must not understand what we’re getting ourselves into, or that we’re financially beleaguered in a way that prevents us from raising a child into adulthood. A gentle reminder, then? When you adopt a child, you pay for that adoption up front, and not in payment plans or installments. When you adopt a child, you aren’t pre-paying for the 21 years of that child’s life. We’ve never asked people to support a child into adulthood, that’s our job; we asked for a push to get over the hurdle of getting a child through our front door in the first place, to then assume the normal costs of parenting on our own.
A stranger from California gave $500 and told us that we were loved, and that we would be incredible dads. Yet we had people who’ve known us for years who remained silent, turned their backs, or pretended we didn’t exist.
Enter HelpUsAdopt, then. The organization came onto my radar about a year ago, when Dom and I were first discussing and researching our options. We completed our home study, as previously reported here for GaysWithKids, within a specific timeline, so as to be eligible for a grant within the present grant cycle. Grants are awarded three times a year, and we sent our application off with a week to spare before the deadline.
But if you’ve been following along, and I know you have, Lovely Reader, then you know I’m nothing if not painstakingly and excruciatingly prepared and equipped when facing an uphill battle. Dom and I worked for days, and days, and days, on our grant application. We worked hard, crumpling up ball after ball of electronic copy and throwing it into a mountainous virtual trash bin. Was this tone too plaintive? Was this word too simple? Do we sound enough like ourselves? Will the people who are on the committee get the right feeling, that we are as hungry to become fathers as ever there’s been a pair of men?
We agonized over the tone, the words, the ebb, the flow. Hell, the font. And in the same way that we had forced ourselves to release our home study envelope into the world, we pushed a tiny butterfly of hope out of our collective palm and into the arms of those with the power to change our lives.
Before my Mom passed away on April 26, we’d had discussions about the grant, about how it could give us the immediate power to say yes to any potential birth mother who matched with us. The possibility of a grant became a reality for my mom, and she passed away with hope in her heart about our prospects of becoming first-time dads. And for that, I will always be grateful.
But delicate dreams often have a way of escaping those who clutch at it too tightly. On the evening of June 23, a full week before we were told we’d be notified, I got the email from HelpUsAdopt.org, thanking us for our application, but denying our request in this way:
“We received an overwhelming response to our call for applications and had a limited amount of funds to disperse. Unfortunately, we are not able to grant your request. This grant cycle we received over 300 applications with financial requests approximating over $3 million dollars. We had $100,000 to award. Though we understand that it is no consolation for the disappointment you must feel at receiving this news, please know that we are working to increase the amount of funds we can grant in the future. Our commitment to helping families grow through adoption only becomes stronger with each letter like this that we must send.”
And that was it. Though it hadn’t changed our resolve to become fathers, it certainly forced us to hit the reset button and reconsider the ways in which we might move forward. There was anger, and there were tears, and there were hugs. Eloquent though it may have been, the rejection letter hurt so deeply. It wasn’t a matter of counted chickens, but something more visceral. We were hoping so deeply that the selection committee would select us, that we had entombed in ourselves the option that we might receive nothing at all.
And so we return to the present. Not to the future, and not to the past where the rejection lives, but the now. The here. The this of it all.
So here’s the rub. I’m telling you this story because I want you to go through this yourself.
It’s not sadism, I promise. And I know that by informing other people, men, women, couples about the grants given by HelpUsAdopt.org, the pool will only be further diluted should we choose to apply in the next cycle. And I also know that it means that I am encouraging those same people, friends even, to risk having their hearts broken if their application is rejected.
But the world that my husband and I live in, still, even after it all, is still a world of hope. Where we hope for a child, hope for the means to make it happen, and hope for other people to live in that same world alongside us. Because if it had happened? If we had been chosen to receive a grant? You would have read about one of the happiest endings imaginable, and you would have felt like maybe you could do it too. But the real word isn’t perfect, and yes, we were a bit shattered by the ending of this chapter.
But in the days and weeks and months leading up to this moment, our lives were filled with hope. Working on our grant application meant spending time together, and communicating who we are, not just to a committee of folks we’ll never meet, but to each other. Working on making our dreams come true meant living in a world where there weren’t people rooting against us, but cheering for us, alongside us.
And when we take a full measure and really assess the totality of nights filled with hope and love versus nights filled with disappointment, well, the scales tip overwhelmingly to one side. And that’s not a bad life to live. A life governed by love.
While never a teacher by trade, my Mom imparted quite a bit on me. We love, and we lose, and we linger for just a few moments. But then it’s back to work. Because when we are inspired, when we are motivated, and when we are courageous, we can speak authentically to you as a reader, to our families, and to our friends. And we can remind ourselves of the boys we were, the men we are, and the fathers we’ll be.
Then and only then is there a story worth telling.