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.
I Had Missed the Call
By Cathy J.
Parenthood is truly a gift. A gift I often wondered if I would be blessed enough to experience. My husband and I were married pretty young. I was twenty-three, and he was twenty-two. We opted to wait a few years before we had children. We wanted to live a little before settling in.
So in 2003, after having been married for almost four years, we decided it was time to try (or at least not prevent ourselves from) getting pregnant. Eighteen months went by and . . . nothing. Off to the doctor we went. There were tests, more tests, a surgery for my husband and a super painful test for me, some drugs and oh yeah, we completely lost all sense of romance.
Everything was timed, scheduled and scientific. After three years of trying the old-fashioned way with a little help from modern medicine, we got nowhere. Never once even got pregnant. Our next step was IVF and well, that just wasn’t for us.
We took a trip to California and did some thinking. We decided it was time to look into adoption. We got back and called an agency and started the paper chase for a domestic adoption and started our “training” classes.
Six months later we got a phone call that was unexpected and life-changing. A birth mother had selected us! She had twin girls that were four weeks old and already in foster care. We met the twins and took a legal risk placement while the details were sorted out.
To make a long and painful story short, the details never worked out. Two months after we took the twins into our house and grew to love them, we drove to a parking lot about thirty minutes from our house and handed the girls over to a social worker, along with a bag of their favorite things.
It was one of the hardest days of my life. Devastating.
That said, I learned a tremendous amount in those two months. First and foremost, parenting is seriously hard work and yet so completely worth the sleepless nights and crying fits. My time with the girls cemented in my mind that I definitely wanted to be a mom. It also reaffirmed that I had a wonderful husband, and he would no doubt be an amazing dad.
After this “situation” as we lovingly refer to it, we took a break. We asked to not show our profile to anyone as we just needed to heal and to grieve. It was just so hard. I still put the year 2007 as the worst year of my life.
We regrouped, refocused and changed course. I researched every country and every agency I could online. In all of my research, one place stood out and we soon fell in love. Ethiopia tugged at my heart and I just knew that our future child would be born in this beautiful country. So we again started the paper chase and the overwhelming dossier process.
We were expecting a wait of five-nine months for our referral. We waited eleven months, two weeks and one day.
January 6, 2009 was the day I fell in love with my beautiful daughter. I was home from work and nesting/organizing. The phone rang. I saw the number and started to freak out. I couldn’t get to the phone fast enough and when I did, it was all static.
I had missed the call.
Then my cell phone started to ring. I grabbed it and heard the words I dreamed of. It’s a girl. Holy crap this was actually happening! I was going to really and truly become a mom. My little peanut was six weeks old at referral and six pounds with a full head of hair.
On April 3, 2009 we officially and legally became her parents per the Ethiopian courts. We then started to look into travel plans. We left the US on May 6th and arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on May 7th. May 8th was the day we would finally be united as a family of three.
We slept a little but not really. We wanted nothing more than to finally hug our little girl. We arrived at the orphanage and waited for our turn. We were the second family called. We walked up four flights of stairs while being taped the entire time. I started to cry the second we started to climb.
We walked in the room and there she was on the floor doing tummy time with her little friends. We wanted to rush over and grab her but waited. She spit up a little and the social worker reached down to grab her and handed her to me.
I will never forget that moment.
I wanted to hold on and never let go. I finally let my husband hold her.
The rest of our time in Ethiopia was spent learning all we could about our daughter and about Ethiopia. We were fortunate enough to meet our daughter’s birth mother. It was Mother’s Day. My first Mother’s Day. And it was amazing and sad and so very emotional. I will never forget the hug or the tears I shared with Zinash. We had bonded in our love for our daughter.
Adoption is not an easy path. It was an emotional roller coaster ride for sure, yet we dreamed of having more than one child. A few months after returning home with our daughter, we decided to jump in again. The timelines to adopt had more than doubled at this point, so we knew we had time to spend just the three of us before we became just the four of us. We dreamed of a son.
That said, we were officially waiting for a son from Ethiopia by the end of November 2009. We were told we would wait eighteen months or more for a referral. Well as is the case with adoption, things change. Time lines increased and ethics seemed sketchy at best.
I had heard some truly heartbreaking stories. I wanted to be able to look my son in the eye and be sure that we were adopting him because there were no other options for him. My husband and I talked.
We did some research, and from what we learned, we felt uncomfortable and uneasy. We made a difficult decision. We love Ethiopia. We can’t wait to go back, but we just couldn’t adopt from Ethiopia again right now. The process is a mess and way too much gray area for us.
In talking with our social worker, she let us know that they really needed families willing to adopt little boys from South Korea. This saddened me. We searched our souls to see if this would be a good fit for our family and it felt right, so we continued on. When we did our update, we decided to state no preference for a girl or a boy, thinking in the end we will have a son.
Korea is very different, so instead of adopting an infant, our child would be sixteen months to two years old when he or she came home. The wait for a referral was short (0-3 months for a boy and 4-8 months for a girl). We were approved in May of 2010.
I was leaving work one day (July 19) and checked my cell phone. I had missed a call. It had that all too familiar number. My heart skipped a beat. I immediately called back. We had a referral. And the next thing she said was, you were open to a girl or a boy right? I responded yes.
She said well, we have a little girl to share with you. At this point I should have pulled my car over as the tears were flowing. I was in utter shock. We were so convinced we were having a son that we had only talked about possible boy names.
My youngest daughter was four months old when we got her referral and she is Korean/African American. She is perfect. She fits in our family. We are over-the-moon excited. Of course I called my husband. He too was shocked. My family was starting to feel complete.
We are now settling in to wait for travel approval.
We could wait as long as fourteen months and possibly longer.
We get updates and can send her care packages. It is so hard that we won’t see her first steps or hear her first words, but we are ready to open our heart and arms to our sweet girl when the time is right.
So while I was convinced that I would have two or maybe three kids by the time I was thirty, I have learned a valuable lesson. Life is, well, unpredictable. My life is nothing like what like what I thought it would be and yet it is perfect. I am the proud mom to two amazingly beautiful little girls. It truly doesn’t get much better than this.
By Cathy J.