Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives.
By Elizabeth Lewis
This is the end of the story: my husband and I are the happy parents of a twenty-month old boy. As Yoda would say, ending you now know, beginning you must learn.
Our story of how this particular baby found us begins in October 2015. My husband and I had just said no to showing our profile to another family. I thought to myself, “That’s it. The universe is going to punish us good for refusing this one.”
Days later, we were shown another family profile; the defining feature of this baby was his parents’ deep love for Star Wars. Something clicked…this was the one. We agreed within minutes to have our profile shown. I called my friend, who is one with the Force, and told him to send out the midichlorians. I was strolling the aisles at Jewel when I found Golden Books of all six episodes of Star Wars. I’m telling you – it was a sign.
Two weeks later, we heard from our agency. They told us that they were closing, effective January 8, 2016. My first question was, “What about the Star Wars baby?” They hadn’t heard from his parents and considered the case closed.
We did what anyone in our position would. We went on grown-up vacation. To Harry Potter Land. Obviously. We decided we’d deal with the rest of it after spending time with friends and copious amounts of Butterbeer.
After vacation, we started our research to find a new agency. We were introduced to a magnificent woman (the same magnificent woman who encouraged me to write this essay) and found ourselves interviewing with a new agency. We filled out paperwork, we hoarded coupons for a new profile, and we spent NYE 2015 in our pajamas completing training.
And then on January 4, 2016, I got a phone call from a number that my cell phone didn’t know. "Hi, this is [adoption supervisor from our existing agency]. [Our caseworker] is out of the office, so I wanted to give you a call. This family that you had shown a profile to a while ago is back on the radar. I wanted to know if you are interested in possibly working with them again."
I was on my way to the vet with the dogs, and so my voicemail back to her was literally, "Hi, we're fine with whatever, but I'm taking my dogs to the vet at the moment, so please contact my husband if you need to speak to someone tonight."
And then I promptly went to the vet.
And promptly got a phone call from my husband while I was in the waiting area of the vet that went something like this...
Husband: So I talked to [adoption supervisor] and they're not sure if this is really something or not but wanted to know if we're open to it.
Me: It's the Star Wars baby, isn't it?
Husband: [pause and deep breath] Yes.
Husband came home later and we didn't know what to think. We had a conversation about how we would approach this, as this family had been off our radar for a few months. We'd be breezy, open but guarded, hopeful but careful.
And just when we’d decided on breezy, the phone calls started.
January 5, 2016: One of my first phone calls of the day was from the birth parent counselor. She was the first person who confirmed for me that this could be real. I will attempt to describe both our conversation, and my internal dialogue here:
She described that baby's mom had seen our profile online and had chosen us at that time, in September. [Internal dialogue: that wasn't even the good profile!]
Following her viewing of our online profile, mom contacted the agency, asking for us. [Holy s---] Then the agency showed them the requisite 12 printed family profiles. Mom looked at them in one room and chose us again [that profile was much better], and then sent dad into a different room to choose without telling him who she had chosen. He also chose us [Holy s---].
They went off the grid in October, because they needed some quiet space to make sure this was really the decision they wanted to make.
And then mom texted her counselor on January 4: "Do Beth and Rob know that we chose them? Are they ready?" [Holy s---, holy s---, holy s---!!!] And I replied, "Well, if by ready you mean do I have a credit card with no balance on it and an Amazon prime account, then we are good to go!"
The baby boy is due on January 6 [OMG, that's tomorrow].
For context, we had basically nothing: a handful of onesies purchased at garage sales, one bib, and two Tigger loveys. I was pacing around our guest room going over all of the things that needed to be done in there to make it baby-appropriate [We need to paint! We need to move all this furniture! Where is all this furniture going to go?! Holy s---, holy s---, holy s---!]
But based on mom's most recent doctor's appointment, it is likely she will deliver late. So our tentative plan is this -- we will meet parents at the office on January 9, or we will meet them at the hospital if she goes into labor before that. She has another doctor's appointment on January 8, and again on January 11, if necessary.
I ask if this is the time where we should call an attorney. She says, "Yes, call your attorney." [I don't have a f---ing attorney!] "I don't have an attorney." She gives me the name of someone and we end this particular phone call.
In the meantime, my husband has been talking between our existing agency and our new agency, trying to figure out which agency actually represents us. In the event this goes through, we had to decide who would monitor us for the six-month period before we could finalize the adoption. We agreed to make that decision tonight. I told him we needed an attorney. He started that phone call cycle as well.
I received a second call from the birth parent counselor that day. She tells me that mom is very planful and that she requested my cell number so that she could text me. I provided my number and received my first text 12 minutes later.
The text messages were breezy, but then I thanked her for considering us. She replied back that she had chosen us, there was no more consideration. [Holy s---]
No one in our life knew this was happening. By the end of the day, we had an attorney, a match meeting, a decision about who would follow our case for the six-month post-placement period, bosses on alert, and a dog-sitter.
January 6, 2016: It was baby’s due date but he elected to stay put. Instead, I shared the news with the person at work most likely to take me out for coffee if this worked or copious amounts of wine if it didn't. I told her that I wasn't sure if I was more worried that it wouldn't happen or that it would. She said that that's how we knew for sure that this one was THE ONE.
Who was still in the dark? The grandparents, and we were dodging phone calls.
January 9, 2016: We set out for the meeting in the morning. I was dressed appropriately, wearing my lucky R2D2 socks; husband had his Star Wars Rebel Alliance shirt on. The forecast for the day was freaking cold (a technical term) with some snow (I mean, blizzard) to come in the afternoon.
When baby's parents arrived, we got right down to business. They wanted to know everything about us not in the profile. We had some snacks. We told stories about our crazy puppies. His mom gave me his sonogram picture from her appointment the day before, and showed me where his little hand was.
And we talked about what would make them feel most comfortable in the hospital when this baby boy came -- would we take him straight home from the hospital? In our state, parents cannot sign any surrender for seventy-two hours after birth. As such, we'd wait until those papers were signed. They wanted to know if our families knew about this baby yet - still nope. We explained our last "close call" when we were chosen and then the family changed their mind. We could only manage our own grief, so we didn’t share the daily updates with our families.
It was at that time that I told his mom that we would be ok if they changed their minds and decided to parent this baby; I just asked that they be straight with us the moment that their minds shifted. I also told her that I couldn't imagine making this decision that she was about to make, even as I was fervently hoping for her to make it.
Our one-hour meeting went on for two hours, and only ended then because of the aforementioned blizzard. Baby’s mom pretty much kicked us out then, because she didn't want us driving in dangerous weather. We promised to text when we got there, hugged them and made our way to the highway. We drove very carefully, as cars were in the ditch the whole way home.
Though we had talked about hitting the baby store the following day, we decided to do it that night, just in case. We picked up a pizza, got home about 9pm, and passed out.
January 10, 2016: And then we got a text message at 2:30am, advising that mom was in labor; evidently, now that he had gotten a listen to us, this boy was ready to make his entrance into the world. At 2:30am, it was still snowing. I texted back that we would leave at first light.
Now, I would like to say that we left our already packed bag and all the baby gear we purchased the night before in the car on purpose, but I would be lying...we were exhausted. Good sleep eluded us for another night, as we snuggled with the dogs and wished for a speedy and painless labor and delivery.
We did leave at first light, learning only then that instead of a blizzard, it was even colder and ridiculously windy.
Text messages started pouring in about 8:30am -- the baby boy had been born at 7:24 am and was perfect and healthy. I was straight up freaking out...I worried that by the time we got there, mom and dad would already be in love with their baby and would be ready to take him home, and we would have struck out. Again. We held hands the whole way there.
We got to the hospital around 10:30 am and met the birth parent counselor in the lobby. And then we were ushered to the room where mom was recovering. In her arms was this perfect baby boy, big brown eyes and a bruise on his ear from delivery. He had a whole bunch of dark hair (my family doesn't grow babies with hair). We were in love.
His mom asked right away if we wanted to hold him, and we spent most of the rest of the day in the hospital room hanging out, taking turns holding the baby, and watching football. My husband and baby’s dad took some time together to put the car seat in our car.
Baby was a good eater right away and very sweet in disposition. He was strong as an ox from the first day - lifted his head right up while the pediatrician was examining him. The hospital staff was extremely respectful of our situation and talked to all four of us like we were on the same team.
Later in the evening, we left them for the night. His parents would take care of him that first night and we'd come back in the morning. We had no idea what the next day would bring.
January 11, 2016: That day started differently…the mood in the room was different. We were waiting for the baby to get circumcised, and then he could be discharged. Parents had not wavered, but they spent as much time as they could with him that day. We got some pictures of them as a family, and waited.
By noon, the baby still hadn’t been circumcised. Mom insisted that she would not be discharged unless she was assured that we could stay with him. The hospital staff found us a room used for families traveling to see patients in the hospital. We couldn’t sleep in the nursery but we could switch off in shifts overnight. By 5pm, mom decided she was ready.
She asked me to make sure that I kissed him twice every day for her, once in the morning and once at bedtime, and we both cried. And then, they were gone.
We finally called the grandparents.
We called each set of grandparents separately and announced, “Congratulations! It’s a boy!” And they went crazy, as all grandparents do. We gave them the details, and swore them to secrecy, and promised updates when we had them.
The baby boy was circumcised a short time later and moved to the nursery. Husband took the first baby shift, while I slept, then rushed back downstairs where I spent the rest of the night with this baby boy...very sweet and very snuggly.
January 12, 2016: We made it through our first night, successfully. In the morning, we waited for the discharge paperwork. The birth parent counselor arrived, as she needed to be the one to officially give us custody and placement.
The hospital staff were awesome...they loaded us up with formula, diapers, wipes and a new outfit. We were charged with getting him dressed and into his car seat so they could sign off that we did it correctly.
Dressing a newborn is no joke -- heads rolling around, fingers getting stuck in armholes -- so many hazards! Add to that all of the eyes on us, it’s nothing short of treacherous! The birth parent counselor grabbed my phone and documented the whole thing on my camera. She also laughed, saying that watching new parents dress a baby was always funny.
The funniest part of the day was that they made me sit in a wheelchair with the infant carrier in my lap in order to discharge him -- even though I was not the one who had given birth! But they walked us to the car, checked the car seat and sent us on our way.
What followed was as much normalcy as one family can achieve in a hotel room. We hung out with this new bundle, watched a lot of Property Brothers and took a lot of naps that day. It seemed like a long day but the following day would be day three, and that was the one that was weighing on us. We were officially attached to this baby; the thought of giving him up at this point was painful but still a possibility. We did have plenty of text contact with his mom that day. The baby had a great day and the contact with her was comforting.
January 13, 2016: After night #2 of successfully managing baby, we waited for word about which direction the decisions were going. The birth parent counselor advised that her appointment was with mom and dad at 10:30 am and that mom may wish to come visit us at the hotel after that appointment.
We had some breakfast, packed up all the gear and waited nervously by our phones, all the while knowing we would need to check out no later than noon.
At about 11:30am, we got the call from the birth parent counselor -- they had signed the surrender, and mom would be calling or texting before we left. I had the baby in my hands when this news came in, so I had a goofy grin on my face as I announced to the baby that We. Were. Going. Home!
Mom texted not long after, wishing us safe travels and feeling reassured that we already loved this baby. I was overjoyed at (finally) being a mommy, but I had so much empathy for this woman who was grieving, because her sacrifice was the reason for my joy.
I still struggle with it some days, but when that happens, she and I remind each other how grateful we are to have found the other.
And so, we got in the car. The day was sunny and freezing but there was no precipitation or crazy wind. I sat in the back with our son [what?!!] on the way home and we called or texted everyone we knew.
We arrived home to much tail-wagging from our dogs. We had a parade of visitors come through in the next few days. We have the most generous friends: everyone who had had a baby in 2015 loaded up their car to bring us clothes and gear and everything that we didn't have. Those who didn't have babies asked what we needed, to which I responded, "I literally have no idea.” Amazon boxes began showing up the following morning and didn't let up for about six weeks. Clearly we were not the only ones who had been waiting for this baby.
And that, my friends, is how you go from nothing to parents in nine days. Even now, twenty months later, his mom and I share pictures several times a week, and I kiss this boy’s cheek in twos. Best. Memory. Ever!
Elizabeth Lewis is a MOMMY to a 20 month-old, red-haired boy, and a wife to her husband of almost fourteen years. She loves ice cream, Starbucks, Star Wars, and Harry Potter, and she got her first tattoo at age 39.5 in honor of their adoption. Adoption brought them a son, but it also brought them a whole new family (his angel-family) and a whole new community. Their family works hard and plays harder, with trips to the zoo, walks with their dogs, and romps at the park among their favorite family activities.
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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie's blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter
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