I remember the day of our failed adoption opportunity so well – not just because of the emotional toll but because there was an ice storm in Texas.
My husband, Drew, and I had flown to Texas on high hopes. Our birth mother was ready to deliver a baby boy, and we were to check into a hotel and wait for her call after delivery.
Up to this point, we had been in touch with the birth mother, and had been for months. She had three children already and this fourth would upset the dynamic, she said. The woman and I traded texts regularly. She even sent me photos of her other children.
On the plane down to Texas, Drew and I even thought of a name for the little one who was yet to be born – Henry. We saw “signs” that foretold a good outcome to our trip. We even passed a hardware store called Henry’s once we got into the city.
We got to the hotel and checked in. Full of exuberance and hope, we shared our story with the hotel staff. They were so excited for us and gave us little freebies. It was wonderful and we were sailing high.
After check-in, Drew and I settled in and waited for the call. I stood and stared out the window at a bizarre sight in Texas – an ice storm had shut everything down. The palms were glazed and beat against our windows. Nothing could bring my mood down, however. I was focused on our future, and my mind was on trips to the store with Henry, play dates with other moms and the like.
The phone buzzed and we jumped. Instead of a call from the birth mother, however, it was a text from a social worker that the mom had changed her mind. I started to shake. It couldn’t be true. We had a relationship with this woman. I’ve seen pictures of her children. We named the baby, for crying out loud.
Many tearful phone calls and texts that day proved that indeed, what we feared was true. The birth mother did not want to give up the baby. I looked outside again at the ice storm and saw only gray. Drew and I couldn’t get out of Texas fast enough. In a weird way, the worst part was having to tell the hotel staff, who had celebrated with us. They were very kind when we left but that didn’t make it much easier.
You see, the reason that this Texas experience was so difficult was because Drew and I had been through it before. Texas was the third (or fourth – after a while we were numb) missed opportunity. The worst part about the Texas trip, however, was that we had actually flown there and gotten a hotel.
We are not a family of unlimited means and we weren’t sure that we could take another trip. Not just financially, but emotionally. Because of the ice storm, Drew and I were stuck in the hotel and paced around and past each other like zombies. It was a waking nightmare. We were absolutely gutted.
I don’t really remember the month after Texas. I returned to work and just started busying myself with a daily routine. Something I learned about all these adoption opportunities is that you take a huge number of people with you. After Texas, my mother, who would be a grandmother for the first time, stopped getting excited about a potential grandchild. My boss, who was quite supportive, became reserved. I could tell that I really was testing the limits of her patience with requests for time off.
I settled back into my 9 to 5. Drew and I hadn’t really made a conscious decision to go ahead with another opportunity. We just sort of went through the motions. We had a bit of money left, and the only decision was made was the decision to do nothing and let things stand.
One month later, I got a call at work from Drew. A birth mother in California was set to deliver and chose us as parents. As I write this, I can tell you that I was not at all excited. I had been completely spent. Looking back, there was a tiny light of hope, but it was so dim.
Drew and I went through the motions of packing for another trip. Actually, it was easy, because we were so depressed that we hadn’t even unpacked from Texas. We threw the stuff in the car and went through the motions – drive to airport, fly, rent car, drive to hotel, check in. We spent six hours overnight on a layover in some airport I can’t recall. On the morning that we were set to meet the birth mother in California, we had traveled for 24 hours.
In slow motion, we deposited our luggage in the hotel room and drove to the hospital where the mom had delivered. A baby boy was born the day before. We went to the hospital and introduced ourselves. We met with a social worker. The social worker took us to the birth mother’s room.
The woman was sitting up in bed with an infant between her crooked legs. She was quiet and sweet and smiled at us. Softly, she said to me, “Would you like to hold your son?”
My world shifted as I asked her if I could sit at the foot of her bed. I took the baby and held it, waiting for the daydream to be over. The birth mom and I talked for about an hour. She was nice, smart and funny. Someone I could be friends with in other circumstances. A nurse came into the room and asked Drew and me if we wanted our own hospital room to be with the baby. We said sure, said a quick goodbye to the birth mother sure that this was just a routine separation or whatever, and left with the baby. We never saw the birth mother again. Per her wishes, we will not be contacting her either.
What happened next was a blur. Drew and I left the hospital with a one-day-old infant and went to our hotel. For two weeks, we had to stay in California with the baby while paperwork was finalized that would allow us to travel out of state. The hotel gave us a crib but it sat too low to the floor and next to the air conditioning so the baby got cold. Drew and I put him in our bed and took turns staying up all night so that somebody didn’t roll over on him.
Finally we got the nod from our lawyer that we could travel back to our home state. I held the baby – now about 16 days old – on my lap during the trip.
Returning home seemed odd. I kept waiting for the dream to end but it never did. The baby, named Alex, had been with us for 10 months. One week ago, Drew and I had a telephone hearing with a judge in California. We cried as she asked us if we would like to recite after her the “parents’ pledge.” Of course, we said. Little Alex was ours, our first child. Our little family was complete.
So many times during this process I wanted to stop but didn’t. To this day I’m not sure what kept me going. Drew and I are both faithful people and to us it was the strength of God. Certainly, neither of us had the strength to persevere on our own. All together, the adoption process from start to finish, took us five years. The lengthy process was due in part to the fact that we moved in the middle of a home study and had to restart one elsewhere.
Today, Alex is almost 11 months old. He’s standing but not walking. He smiles with his whole face. He’s an easy going kid and sleeps through the night. Has absolutely zero stranger anxiety, which could prove difficult in the future. I know every curl on the back of his head, every tooth coming in. When he’s tired, he lifts his foot up to his face for consolation and rests his head on my chest. Every morning, and I mean, every morning, bar none, he greets me with a smile when he wakes up. I am his mother.
Looking back on this journey I see two points of view. On the one hand, I’m glad we didn’t know what was in store because I’m not sure that we could have endured it. On the other hand, if I knew that Alex was at the end of this journey – something that I could never possibly know – I would do it over and over again on repeat. That little kiddo is the light of our lives. He is ours just like I bore him myself. I said that Drew and I are spiritual people and truly we believe that God intended Alex for us all along.
Throughout the journey people would say things to me like, “Well, I guess that wasn’t the baby God wanted you to have,” and it felt sooo thin. There really was no consolation during those times. People did their best. Living now, with little Alex sleeping under our roof, however, I am loathe to admit that this is the child intended for us. I can see no other baby for us other than Alex. That other baby, Henry, he wasn’t ours. I hope he has a good life. Sometimes I wonder what the mother named him. But it doesn’t matter. He’s not ours.
Drew and I lived through this but I certainly don’t consider us adoption sages. We did the best we could during the journey. Sometimes I wish we could have done better. But we finished the marathon and I have a few ideas.
For one, don’t get bitter about the process. This is not because the process doesn’t deserve bitterness. Some things about it feel very wrong. There were times that we felt we had absolutely no recourse. About ANLC, I can say that our contacts were always very willing to sit on the phone with us, even the one time when I vented obscenities. They were very patient and informed and never once laid some platitude on us like “Well, that wasn’t the child meant for you.”
Don’t get bitter because you and your partner need the love. Drew and I had some of the worst fights of our marriage during the adoption journey. We married late in life, the first time for both of us. Almost 40, both of us were rigid and non-compromising. We grew up really fast. In the short months and years preceding the adoption we figured out what really mattered. The process allowed us to flesh out some things that biological parents don’t always get the time to do. We talked about disciplinary tactics, schooling and other aspects of child-rearing. We got together and we got our heads on right. By the time Alex came along, we were united. The ONE and only one good thing that came out of Texas was that Drew and I grew closer. We said later that this process could either draw a couple closer or tear them apart if they let it. Luckily, we fell into the former category.
I think often about our birth mother. I wonder if she will ever change her mind about seeing Alex. I used to have anxiety that Alex would want to be with her more than me but Drew said that is not something we have to worry about “if we do our job right” in raising him.
I think about her that day in the hospital and how she held him away from her. She fed him formula, I assume because she didn’t want the bonding of breast feeding. After all is said and done, I can honestly say, even with all of our missteps, that Drew and I got the easier part of the deal. Knowing what I know now as a mother, I cannot even imagine feeling that kind of love and then letting it go.
I will never stop respecting our birth mother and Alex will know that she was incredible. She took care of herself while she was pregnant and she took care of him. I don’t feel that much anxiety about talking to Alex about his adoption (ok, some) because he was loved from the moment of his conception – first by his birth mother, who made the loving decision to keep him and then take care of him, and then by us. If some day she contacts us and says that she wants to see him, she can. She is part of our family.
I think the biggest thing that I learned through all of this is that it is love that is going to get you through this process. Love for yourself, love for your partner, love for the birth mother, love for the baby. You can’t just love the baby and then get bitter about everything and everyone else.
The other thing is faith. As I said, I am quite sure that without faith, Drew and I would not have gotten through this. We put our faith at the center of our relationship through the process and loved each other as best as we could. We tried to put faith in the outcome and somehow managed to hold it together even though it took a solid beating. We found people who had gone through the same thing and asked them questions. Information provided great healing during times when we were facing unknowns.
In short, just persevere. You owe it not just to the baby but to yourself. You will be stronger and wiser at the end of this, I promise that. You will like who you’ve become. Lean on your contacts and friends. Do what you have to do to get through. When you finally look in the face of a child that is yours forever, you will perceive any pain or hardship during the process as only a minor slight.
It’s so worth it.
Author: Sally B.
Author: Sally B.