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.
The Long Road to Motherhood
I felt a calling to adopt early in life, as early as junior high. My husband and I discussed adoption before we got married and decided we would create our family with one biological child and one adopted child. As if that decision was something we could freely choose. We got pregnant not long after trying and were so excited when we saw a healthy heartbeat at the first office visit.
We followed the social norm and waited until the first trimester was over to announce that we were expecting. A few days later, we learned the baby stopped growing and died around twelve weeks. We then made calls to our family and friends to tell them about our loss. I am an emotional mother and wept and cried for many days.
A few months later we got pregnant again. We decided to wait to tell people about the pregnancy. At the doctor’s appointment after the first trimester, we learned the baby had died. We ended up telling our family and friends in the same call that we were pregnant and miscarried again. We were “young” per the doctors and had no answers as to why the babies died.
I was heartbroken and cried many days and didn’t know how to express myself. So, we joined a pregnancy and infant loss support group and made lifelong friends who shared their babies’ stories, and really their hearts, with us.
When we were ready, we discussed building our family again. We decided to do two things – meet with an IVF clinic and an adoption agency, which we arranged in the same week. The adoption agency wasn’t a fit.
We went through IVF once which did not result in a pregnancy. The stress, disappointment and sadness continued to make my heart ache. I questioned if I would ever have a living baby to love. We decided not to pursue more fertility treatments but rather move forward with pursuing adoption.
At the end of 2012, we signed up with an adoption facilitator. We did all the home studies, passed background checks, met with a social worker, had physicals done and checked every box and dotted every “i” with the support of our family and friends. Then we waited optimistically hoping to be one of those families that were matched quickly.
While we waited, I went to the Mayo Clinic and a wonderful doctor found a non-cancerous tumor on my pituitary, treated it, and got my cycles back to normal. We made the conscious decision not to get pregnant, as we did not want to go through the emotions of potentially miscarrying again. We waited and waited with the adoption facilitator.
Two years later, at the end of 2014, we finally received the call we were waiting for. We talked with a birth mom and she chose us to adopt her son, she was due in February 2015. We kept in contact via telephone calls weekly; we learned about her family, her cravings, her likes and dislikes. She had expenses that we helped pay for because she was living in a shelter with her other children. She decided she wanted us at the hospital when the baby was born.
Our family and friends showered us with boy clothes, toys and baby gifts. When the time game we flew to the state she lived in and waited at a hotel for her call. She called us to let us know she was in labor. My husband and I anxiously awaited news in the labor and delivery waiting room. The nurses took me to the nursery and brought the minutes-old baby with them.
They set up a rocking chair for me and I was able to do skin-to-skin with the sweet baby boy; who we named after family members. His birth mother chose to use the first and middle name we gave him on the birth certificate.
We were able to give him his first bath, his first bottle and just love on him. His birth mom did not want him in her room, so he stayed in the NICU, even though he was healthy. They didn’t have any extra hospital rooms for us to stay with him.
The next day we brought his birth mom ice cream and talked with her in her room. We all cried and hugged as she left the hospital without the baby.
Before we left, a nurse in the NICU came to talk to us and stated that the baby’s birth mom came many times to the nursery the night before, and she thought his birth mom was going to change her mind. We were super excited and feeling like we were on cloud nine; nothing could stop the overflowing love we shared with the baby boy and each other.
We were half-way to a relative’s house, with bad telephone reception when his birth mom called my phone and said she wanted him back. We called our attorney and the adoption facilitators; we had no option but to return him to her. We cried and loved on him as we turned the car around and drove hours back to the hotel, that we had paid for her and her kids to stay in for multiple nights.
In the middle of the night, we gave him back to her in a parking lot, wrapped in a quilt I made him. We called our family and friends with the heart wrenching news.
Our adoption facilitator never reached out to us to check on us. When we called and discussed being open to a new adoption a few weeks later, they mentioned they were still providing services to the birth mother in our failed adoption.
I understand and support mothers that choose to raise their babies, however, there were many signs that this woman used us to pay for things for her and her family. A few months later, the birth mom texted me pictures of the baby, which makes me cry as I write this. I am bitter about this experience to this day, and I wished I had asked the nurse more when she mentioned she expected the birth mother to change her mind.
A few months later we received another call. This time the adoption facilitator told us about a birth mom that was having a baby girl that did not match with us but she had seen our “Dear Birthmom” letter. Although it went against their protocol, the birth mother insisted they call us.
This is the first time I have talked (or written) openly about this with anyone except a very close family member. Ultimately, we turned down that potential match, because we were not suited to provide for the extensive medical needs of the baby. Our hearts ached after we made the hardest decision we had to make in our lives.
A few months after that, we got a call that birth parents chose us as the adoptive parents for their newborn son. Within hours of the call, we boarded a plane and drove to the hospital. As soon as we entered the hospital room, we knew something was off — the baby wasn’t in the room but in the NICU having tests run and was not with his birth parents.
This is the first time I have talked (or written) openly about this baby too, with anyone other than the same very close family member. A hospital worker asked to speak with us privately, our stomachs were tied in knots but our heads knew the ball was about to drop. The baby was born with special medical needs and they were expecting to keep the baby in the NICU for an undetermined amount of time for observation and more testing.
Doctors met with us and discussed the medical needs that were known up to that point for the baby. We needed time to step back from the situation to think and talk to each other. The adoption facilitator put us in contact with an adoptive mother whose baby had similar medical needs.
We talked with that adoptive mother, our family and had a lengthy discussion between the two of us. We never went to see the baby but with heavy hearts we decided that we were not suited to provide for the extensive medical needs of the baby.
The town the baby was born in was very small; there was only one hotel. We stayed the night in the hotel as it was too late to get a flight back home. The next morning as we got out of the elevator, we heard the discussion between a husband and wife about the baby boy they were going to adopt and go visit in the NICU. I can’t explain why, but seeing and hearing this family lovingly talking about the baby boy we never met gave me a sliver of peace.
We decided to keep our file open with the adoption facilitator but to also sign up and pay for an adoption agency; which we did at the end of 2015. I will get back to this later.
Then we waited some more.
At the beginning of 2016, we got a call from the adoption facilitator that birth parents wanted to place their baby girl (yet to be born) for adoption. We talked on the phone with them and we instantly felt comfortable with each other and we were matched.
We drove to the state the birth parents lived to meet up with them and their extended family multiple times before the due date. During one of the visits, an extended family member of the birth parents told us she wanted the baby to be adopted by a family member.
We left brokenhearted and called our adoption facilitator, who did not provide any comfort or words of wisdom. Although the match was through the facilitator, we called the adoption agency and the adoption worker told us to keep an open line of communication with the birth parents.
The birth parents eased our fears and said that the family member was not an option and they still wanted to be matched with us. The birth mother went into labor early. I was working in a state far from the birth parents, so I called an airline and begged them to find a way to get me on a fully-booked plane. They said if I could get to the airport in an hour that they would make it work. They kept the gate open and I was the last one on the plane.
During the layover, I cried because I didn’t have any contact with anyone and didn’t have news of what was going on at the hospital. When I arrived at the airport, one of the extended members of the birth family picked me up. She drove fast and when we got to the hospital I ran in, kissed my husband in the waiting room, and ran to the delivery room. The birth mother somehow managed to slow the contractions for fifteen hours, because she wanted me to be in the room during the birth.
I just made it in time for the baby to be born. She was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. My husband and the extended family of the birth mom and birth father came in and everyone shared the love in the room with the baby.
We left that night with love, joy and happiness filling the hospital room and our hearts. The next day we returned to the hospital; the room changed to a cold feeling, and the birth father said he needed time. We respected that and left the hospital. We knew in our hearts that he was changing his mind.
We called the adoption agency (not the facilitators that helped create this match) and described the change in the mood in the room, the change of heart we expected that the birth father was going through and questioned how this match that seemed perfect was going to end in heartbreak for us again. We walked, talked and cried.
Then we got a call from the birth parents asking us to come back to the room. When we got to the room, we felt the energy had shifted yet again. The birth mother asked us to hold the baby girl, and of course we loved on her, not knowing how long we had with her.
The baby girl was released from the hospital to her birth mom, for ease of legal work, but she was put in our car seat and we drove to our hotel. The next few days we bonded with the baby, her birth parents and extended family. We were filled with happiness, excitement and nerves about the birth parents changing their minds.
When the day came to sign paperwork, we received a call from the attorney that the baby girl’s birth parents signed the adoption release paperwork and we cried tears of joy.
We met up with them after the paperwork was signed, ate breakfast together, cried, hugged, loved and said our heartfelt thank you’s, and then we drove home.
We called all our family and friends and shared the exciting news of the arrival of our baby girl. When we finalized her adoption, we met up with her birth parents and extended family. From that point on it, is now her story, it is now hers to tell. She calls it “my story” and asks us to tell it to her sometimes, so we tell her about “her story” and how she came to be our baby girl.
We put our adoption contract on hold while our daughter was an infant and then decided at the end of 2016 to open it up again, as we wanted her to have a sibling. We did all the home study updates again, got our physicals again, took more classes, had our references re-write their letters and got our fingerprints taken again (I really don’t understand why they need you to take fingerprints again when they can just do another background check).
Then about a year and a half later, one morning a little before six a.m., I received a call. A baby boy was born, and we were chosen as to be his forever family. Although we were open to what the adoption world refers to as a “drop in the lap baby” (or a baby that has already been born), we never expected it.
We had discussed baby boy names and decided we would not use the name we had chosen and for the first baby boy we had loved on and then returned to his mama’s arms. We were sent one picture and we decided on a name, once again honoring a family member.
We drove a few hours to get to the hospital with butterflies and nerves and not much known about the baby except it was a boy. When we got to the labor and delivery floor at the hospital, the door was locked, and the nurses had to let us in.
When they asked us through the intercom why we were there my husband nervously said that we were there for the drop in the lap baby, which they did not understand. I then explained our baby boy was born and we were his adoptive parents. The double doors opened, all the nurses were standing at the front nursing station and they looked at us.
One nurse moved to show us a tiny bundled baby in her arms. Right then we knew it was our baby boy. We cried and the nurses cried too. It felt like a scene from a Hallmark movie. We loved on him and spent the night in a private room on the labor and delivery floor with him.
The next day, before we left the hospital with him, a nurse came to meet us. Although she was off-duty, she had been there with his birth mom when he was born. The nurse told us that she had asked if she could adopt the baby boy, but his birth mom had stated that she chose us and we were the family she wanted for her son.
We finalized his adoption when he was eight months old. From that point on, it is now his story to tell. His sister sometimes asks us to tell “brother’s story” after we tell “her story” and we tell him about the memories we have leading us to his first twenty-four hours of life.
People have asked me “would you do it all again?” This is an impossible question for me to answer. First off, they don’t know all the events that have led to today. I don’t believe that things happen to ultimately result in a profound event.
If I had a choice, I would never have miscarried my babies, gone through multiple failed adoptions or had to make the hardest decisions my husband and I ever had to make.
However, I can’t fathom my life without our children. The sadness, pain and loss that my children, their birthparents, and our family has endured has been woven in with the gains, happiness, love and joy that have paved my road to motherhood.
The author of this piece is happy to share that she continues to speak openly about adoption with her children. When her daughter asks for “my story” she tells her. She also tells her son “his story” even though he hasn’t had the vocabulary yet to ask for it. She hopes that if any part of her reflection resonates with readers personally, that the readers gain happiness, love and joy in the road they are currently on.
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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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