A lovely chat with someone recently reminded me of what it was like going through my home study in the summer of 2013.
I had started the adoption process about 5 months before; I had finished my PRIDE training. I had done my finger printing and turned in what seemed like dozens of forms. I had been assigned to a lovely Black social worker, who has a big heart and a kind face.
At the time, I was finishing my dissertation proposal, the first 3 chapters of what would eventually be a 6 chapter tome, and my first defense date was just a couple of weeks away. I was prepping for a major conference during which I had several presentations I would be making. I was finishing up a paper on my internship and had finished my last residency for my academic program. Did I mention I was also working full time?
I was wound up pretty tightly, really stressed and perpetually exhausted.
I started reading up on how people prepped for the home study. Folks were out here scrubbing baseboards and practically sterilizing their home. It all sounded insane and stressful. I remember just having mini-panic attacks thinking there was no friggin way I could manage any of that.
By nature, I’m a bit of a clutter bug. I’m not messy, but I’m not the neatest person either. I’m ok with a home that looks and feels lived in. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve intentionally cleaned my baseboards in the 18 years I’ve lived in my home. Yeah, that kind of thing isn’t *my* thing.
Besides, I was in the middle of my dissertation; there were literally piles of paper on my living room floor related to my literature review. And I really mean piles, reams of paper, reams, people!
So, I made the piles as need as I could, and scheduled the first visit of my home study with my social worker for a few days after my bi-monthly housekeeper visit.
What I forgot to do? Deal with my anxiety.
How about I cried through a good portion of my first home study visit.
I felt like I was unhinged. I could not keep it together. I was a nervous wreck. I wasn’t worried about an unkempt house; I was worried about coming across as somehow unfit.
The stress of it all—the dissertation, the schedule, being assessed for being an adoptive parent—it broke me that day.
I remember barely being able to keep it together and thinking that this would surely mean that I would never get a kid.
During my mini-cryfest, my social worker was kind. She saw past the tears and saw me. She comforted me and emphasized that she was there to help me get to motherhood and not to be a barrier, but to be an ally. She was empathic and compassionate.
And still I cried. I was a frigging disaster, and my dog, The Furry One, was all over the place trying to meet our guest on top of everything else. As he skittered around, jumping all over the furniture and skidding on my stacks of paper related to my research, the room became increasingly disheveled. So did I. I was nervous and anxious, and it spilled out all over the place.
In a word, day one of my home study visits was a mess.
A whole mess.
I was convinced that I had failed. That there is no way they would give this overextended and clearly a bit unstable woman a child who might’ve already survived a trip to hell and back. I was surely unsuitable. So, naturally, I was in a state of distraught after the social worker left.
Talk about undone.
We did our visits over a weekend due to both of our jam-packed schedules. So guess what? She came back the next day for a couple of hours to do it all over again.
Because who doesn’t want a repeat of that disaster, amirite?
Day two, I managed to pull myself together. I worked out, did some meditation, drank some tea and took a couple of Ativan for my anxiety.
I was much more confident and gathered this go ‘round. The house? Well, again, I’d straightened up my piles of paper and hid my dirty laundry in the closet.
By the time it was all over, and by over, I meant more than a year later having our last visit with the social worker, I had come to see her as the ally she really was. I’m grateful to her and thankful that she didn’t hold my anxiety about this process against me. I’m glad she saw my piles of paper as a visual indication of my grit and perseverance. I’m glad she listened to my story and saw the real me. I’m glad that she was such a comfort to me from beginning to end.
A few weeks after our visits, a draft of her narrative came to me for review. Thankfully, she didn’t mention my breakdown. All the things she mentioned though…well, it was so lovely. I was and am grateful for her. She remains in my and Hope’s universe.
So, newbies and hopefuls, you don’t have to clean your baseboards if you don’t want to, but you might want to take something to settle your nerves if you’re a crier like me.