by Ellen G., an Adoption Connection Praent
A touching reflection on one family’s adoption journey – written following their son’s 10th birthday.
Some families might come to the decision to adopt as a natural idea that was their first choice and no other options have to be pursued. Others arrive at the adoption threshold after a long and trying journey– one that includes injections, procedures, disappointments, and sweet nurses but doctors that seem to only care about their professional accomplishments and don’t really listen to you. Much of that medical journey seems to be shrouded in secrecy with partners burdened with the knowledge that each new attempt at assisted conception may fail as miserably as the previous one and at an ever-rising price tag — not willing to tell anyone because it is easier to deal with your own sadness than it is to have to manage the feelings of others in your circle.
After trying to conceive for close to four years (with and without medical intervention and a year’s salary worth of expenses) my husband Larry and I had a heart-to-heart talk during a hike. I said I couldn’t be a medical “test site” anymore. He asked me if being a parent was really what I wanted. I was adamant that I saw us raising a child and if we had to pursue another avenue I guess we’d have to think about how to do that.
What no one tells you that when you need to abandon the possibility of birthing your own child it takes a really long time to get over it. I was grieving for quite a while. And even once we decided we’d adopt a newborn I was still grieving. It was so difficult to shift gears. So many years and so much mental and physical energy had gone into this pursuit and now we were entering into totally new and unknown waters. One thing that struck me was how strongly I felt a complete lack of control with the next phase of our lives. Our medical efforts were laser-sharp: make a baby. Adoption was a vast universe of forms and interviews and decisions. It was a lot of work, and very scary. Would this be the right path?
Adoption Connection was recommended to us by our Rabbi. I knew of Jewish Children’s and Family Services so to know that Adoption Connection was affiliated was a comfort. A well-oiled machine, Adoption Connection had a lot of information to share at our initial meeting and a clear set of activities for us to embark upon. Some tasks were fun—build a “Dear Birthmother” letter (which we jokingly called our marketing brochure) and fill it with great photos of us.
Other tasks were daunting—checking boxes on forms about what you would or would not consider in an adoption (medical conditions, abnormalities, etc.). Yes, I felt really guilty that I wanted a “perfect” baby to take home! Get fingerprinted because they need to confirm you are not an axe murderer. Do a homestudy and answer a million questions about how you’d raise your child. Often I was furious that some gals just “pop out a baby” without a single question as to their plans and aspirations or their suitability as a parent, and here we were jumping through hoops.
Interesting challenges arose. In regards to spreading the word that we wanted to adopt we did not have a huge network of people to tell we were looking for birthmothers. I had hoped we could have done more there. Much shifted from print to internet over the years that we were waiting to adopt. We were told a few times to condense our letter and at the very end of our wait our profile was indeed online as well as in a printed version. I know our letter went out many times to prospective birthmothers. Were we just like every other couple and not desirable? Too unique? Were they looking for families vs. couples? Why weren’t we being matched?
Set up a nursery? Plan ahead? These thoughts all swirled around in our minds, daily. It was grueling to be in yet another “waiting game.” I tried to prep myself for the possibility of being chosen by a teenager who changed her mind about adoption each day and might take the baby back after the birth. I thought about what it would be like to have a birthmother and perhaps her own family as part of my adopted child’s world. So many unknowns kept me awake at night. And all the while we were waiting. So much of our journey seemed to be about waiting.
Throughout the journey it was so nice to have Adoption Connection working with us. The staff was always patient and helpful, kind and thoughtful. They inherently knew what we were going through and did their best to assuage our fears and clarify when information would help us move forward. Workshops provided us an opportunity to hear both birthmothers and grown adopted children talk about their life experiences, serving as an important window into a new world we were entering.
In the end, things happened in a way I’d never have expected. And I mean in a REALLY GOOD way. I received a phone call at work around 3 pm on Thursday, November 29, 2006. The Adoption Connection social worker said “A baby boy has been born in San Francisco today. He is healthy. The birthmother does not want to parent him. You need to let us know if you want to move forward and adopt him.” I managed to gather myself enough to ask for an extension on time so I could go home and talk it over with Larry. She gave me until 9 a.m. the next morning.
Wow, perhaps it was the crib that my friend didn’t need anymore and we put it in our basement a few days earlier, or perhaps we’d just been waiting so long that the universe decided to give us a break. Regardless, we said yes and arrived at the hospital to view our little baby boy. Later that night we sped to the store to get formula, diapers, wipes, bottles, the works. A local resale store just happened to have a bassinet and a community listserve had an infant carseat. We dashed around preparing as best we could knowing we’d bring him home in a few days. We joyously called siblings and our parents to spread the news warning that the birthmother had not signed off so they could not tell a soul.
At the hospital, we did need to prove, without a shred of doubt, that we were the correct people to take the baby home. Our case manager showed our three forms of ID to the hospital and they provided us wristbands. Tough security–and thankfully so. We hugged her, loaded our newborn son into his carrier, and headed home.
Weeks later the birthmother signed off, and three quarters of a year after that the lawyer was able to file proof that a birthfather had not responded and thus we could proceed with the adoption finalization. A visit to the courthouse and a very sweet female judge’s signature made it final. We held a baby naming ceremony a few weeks after our son came home. Grandparents filled with joy, friends brimming with happiness. Everyone so thrilled for us and excited to meet our new addition. We named our son Everett for Larry’s paternal grandfather and Lee for my paternal grandmother Lena. His Hebrew name is Isaac for my maternal grandfather Irving. We are sharing in him a little bit of goodness from people we admired and loved.
And now today, ten years after Everett was born, I look back. Nature vs. nurture, genetically linked or not, does it really matter so much? It is so very comical that Everett has the same eye color and jawline as I do. He has a slim build like Larry. People don’t believe he’s adopted because he’s always looked so much like us. And is that so important? No. It really is not at all.
What I’ve learned to be essential is that we’ve always worked to be truthful and honest (in age-appropriate ways) about his being adopted. He knows that any question about his adoption is okay to ask and that we love him unconditionally. He has a supportive network of friends and family that revel in his Everett-ness. Everyone wants to feel safe, loved, protected and we do our best to provide that every day. We are fortunate to live in a time and place where adoption is common and not kept a secret. It is just one part of Everett’s life story.
Ten years seems like an eternity but also like just yesterday. I remember holding him as he smiled up at me and grabbed my pinky soon after he was born and now he’s almost as tall as me and grabs my hand as he skateboards past. Everett brings out the best in us and also constantly challenges us. Was it worth the years of trying and waiting? Yes. Yes. And, yes.
Patience and trust and good partners on your journey to adoption are what you need in your toolkit. Thanks to Adoption Connection we had that. I can’t imagine my life any way other than the way it has turned out. I am glad that we took the leap and decided to adopt. My life is very full. And to those that are in the throes of despair as they navigate the issues of starting a family in a manner other than what they’d envisioned all of their life, be gentle with yourself. Take the time you need to care for yourself and find people who support you and make you feel strong and loved. Love your spouse/partner above all else and try to be patient. Things do have a way of working out.
Adoption Connection is licensed to work with birth parents (women and their partners who are considering placing a baby with an adoptive family of their choice) throughout the United States, adoptive parents in 19 counties in Northern California for homestudy, adoption preparedness, post-placement and finalization services, and home study approved adoptive parents throughout the United States for birthparent outreach services. Since its inception, we have completed more than 3,000 infant adoptions.