In honor of November being National Adoption Month, Portrait of an Adoption is running a special series called 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days. Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by adoptees, birthparents, adoptive parents, waiting adoptive parents, and foster parents-turned-adoptive parents. Painful and beautiful, these stories will bring you a deeper understanding of what adoption looks like, allowing you to appreciate the many brushstrokes that comprise a family portrait.
We Nearly Decided to Give Up
By Rob Duval
Our journey began in January of 2009. For us, pursuing adoption was a relatively easy decision; my wife, Hilary, had been adopted at birth, so we have always had a positive attitude toward adoption.
After eleven years together of never getting pregnant, we feared it wouldn’t happen. Neither of us had any desire to explore fertility treatments, or to do in vitro. One day while I was driving to work, I heard a commercial on the radio for a local foster program and started thinking that maybe it was time to adopt.
We began our adoption research the way most people do these days-- on the Internet. We initially considered international adoption, as it seems like a lot of people are going that route these days, and it seemed like the best option.
We think that interracial adoptions are wonderful, but made the decision for our family not to take on potential social stigmas associated with an interracial adoption. We considered adoptions from Russia and other Balkan countries. After learning about the ordeals adoptive parents were going through adopting from Russia, Romania, and Albania, we started to rethink our decision to adopt internationally.
We came across one of the lawyers who helped write the adoption laws in our state of New Hampshire, Jim Bianco, and he told us was that there were more than 25,000 domestic adoptions a year.
Feeling hopeful, we began working on our profile.
New Hampshire requires adoptive parents to go to an eight-hour seminar, which we finally attended sometime in mid-autumn. We dragged our feet a bit (mostly due to fear of actually having a child after so long without!) It took us several months to create our profile, get it printed up, and contract a social worker to do our home study. Our lawyers sent us information about birthmothers almost immediately. It was frightening at first, trying to sort through all the information and prepare our response within a twenty-four-hour period of time.
In late March, we found a birth mother that looked to be our match. She appeared to be a fairly typical birth mother; young and accidentally pregnant, and not prepared to take care of a baby. More than anything, we really wanted her to review our profile.
We heard back in a few days that she had selected us, and that she was due with a baby girl in the middle of April. We panicked! We had four weeks to prepare for a child! We were super excited, and started setting up a nursery, buying baby girl clothes, etc. We happily signed the contract and sent the money to her attorney. Two weeks before the birth mother’s due date, we had a conference call scheduled, so that we could finally “meet” our birthmother and talk. We couldn’t wait.
The call was cancelled on Friday for some reason. On Monday morning, we learned that she had changed her mind and decided to raise the baby herself.
We were completely devastated. We knew that this was always a possibility, but honestly hadn’t considered it happening.
Our devastation wavered between depression and anger. The part of us that respects the adoption process wished her the best in her decision; but, the part of us that had just sent $8000 to a person and attorney that we never met was gravely concerned about what had just occurred.
Through the summer of 2010, we were much more depressed by the failed adoption than we even realized. We continued to receive birth mother information, but never found a successful match. In early 2011, we nearly decided to give up on the whole concept and just live childless.
Then we got matched with a woman who was in a methadone treatment program. Although we had decided early on to avoid birth mothers with drug issues, we did some research on methadone babies and decided to move ahead. We even scheduled a conference call to meet her. After sleeping on it over the weekend, though, we realized that we were pursuing this opportunity simply to have an opportunity. The situation did not feel right for us. We felt horrible, but we chose to walk away, knowing in our hearts that this was not the baby for us.
After we walked away from that last opportunity, we discussed again giving up on the process. We had been riding a roller coaster of emotions for eighteen months, and it felt overwhelming.
And then it happened.
We received birth mother information for a twenty-two-year-old in Ohio who was pregnant with her fourth child. She had placed her third child a couple of years earlier, and was familiar with the adoption process. The preliminary information we received fit well with us. We sent our profile in, but tried not to hope too hard. We had been through this a number of times, and had developed a pretty cynical attitude towards this part of the process.
A week later, we found out that she had chosen us! We tried to temper our excitement; after our first experience, we were guarded about investing emotionally (and financially). The birth mother was due in about six weeks, but we didn’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. In the conference calls, the birthmother was so sweet, telling us that she already thought of the baby as ours; and that she was excited for us.
Before we knew it, we were on a plane flying to Ohio to meet the birth mother as she went to her last doctor’s appointment. It was a Friday, and she expected to be induced on Monday. We left home at 4:00 AM to catch our flight and get there in time for her doctor’s appointment.
The plan was to meet her, go to dinner with her and her mother, relax for the weekend, and go with her for the delivery on Monday morning. When we got to her doctor’s office and met her, the first thing she said was: “My water just broke!”
At 9:30 that night, our beautiful baby son was born. We were in the delivery room, and my wife was the one to cut the umbilical cord. Our birth mother had been through an adoption before, and she truly made our experience wonderful.
We had all the same fears as any parent, added to the complication of meeting a birth mother for the first time (and her mother and aunt), hoping she continued to like us and wouldn’t change her mind, dealing with the stress of delivery, and then hoping we’d make it past 72 hours!
After our son was born, we stayed in the recovery room until about midnight. Hilary was able to stay in the hospital with the baby and the birth mom. The hospital and staff were incredible to adoptive parents, giving us a wrist band that matched the baby, and allowing us to stay in the hospital with him.
When the birth mother went home on Saturday, we were allowed to keep the room, and stay in the hospital with the baby until the hospital cleared him to leave. We ended up staying in Ohio for twelve days, waiting for the ICPC process to be satisfied. It was difficult not being home, but those twelve days gave us the opportunity to bond solidly with our son, allowing us the freedom to do nothing but focus on him and his needs.
Our son turned six months old at the end of October. We have been with him for every minute of his life, and count ourselves lucky and blessed to be able to say that about an adopted baby. Our overall experience has been wonderful, even with the bumps in the road that we encountered along the way.
We are excited and joyful to have a baby of our own, and we’re proud to say that we were able to adopt him from a mother that made a brave decision to place him with a family when she knew she wouldn’t be able to give him the life that she felt he deserved.
We feel so unbelievably lucky to have him.
By Rob Duval