Today is the 17th day of National Adoption Month!
See the rest of the Adoption Month posts here.
This week I am answering questions about the private domestic infant adoption process and our experience.
On Wednesday I talked about the Home Study process, where adoptive families apply to adopt and are approved. My story left off there, but obviously there’s more to the story.
So what happened between getting an approved home study and bringing our son home?
Our home study was approved and we were officially “waiting parents” at the end of July 2014. At this point we had told a handful of people, and so we began to tell a few more (but not many).
Every agency/situation is different, but our agency, Bethany Christian Services, uses a Match.com-type system for matching birth parents with adoptive parents. During the home study process, Chris and I had gone through a list of situations they provided that we needed to decide if we were prepared for. We were asked what ages we were open to, whether we were open to multiples, what races we were open to, what birth parent mental health situations we were open to, what birth parent drug and alcohol use we were open to, what already-known birth defects and/or disabilities we were open to the baby having, etc. Then, we were asked what type of adoption we were interested in: minimal openness, semi-open, fully open, how often we’d commit to meeting in person, how often we’d commit to writing letters, etc.
Birth parents were being asked the same questions about perspective adoptive parents. They are asked by THEIR counselor questions about what type of family they want to place with. Middle class? Already has kids? Already adopted? Super religious? Minorities? College-educated? You get the idea. THEN, they are asked about their openness desires. Are they wanting to have an ongoing relationship with the family? If so, what are they wanting a commitment of, communication-wise?
So now you probably see where this Match.com analogy is going. Once the birth parents decide what they are looking for, they get to see the profiles of any families they match with. If there are any questions about matching, the counselor will send the adoptive parents an email with identifying details removed listing the birth parent profile info. Then the adoptive parents can say “yes, show our profile”, or “no, not this one”.
At the beginning of the waiting process, we had to make a Shutterfly photo book about ourselves. We showed photos of us, our family, our house, our neighborhood park, etc. We talked about ourselves and what we like to do. In the book, we included a “dear birth mother” and “dear birth father” letter. For Bethany, we needed to have (if I’m remembering correctly) one hardbound book and two paperback books for each Bethany office in the NW. The hardbound ones are for birth parents who come into a Bethany office, and the paperback ones are for people who might call from a remote place and have books mailed to them. So it ended up being 6 hardbound books and 12 paperback books. If you’ve ever made a photo book through Shutterfly, you know how expensive that is!
Sidenote: my wonderful college roommates, girls who are like sisters to me, found out about this and contacted a few of our local best friends, and took up a collection to get these paid for for us. They said that was their way of blessing us and supporting us through this process. Wasn’t that wonderful? We were SO touched and we’ll never forget it!
Okay, so anyways, we waited for a while, and while we waited, we prayed every single day, we made conscious decisions to babysit friends’ kids together, we took a cool baby class that was JUST for adoptive parents, we read a ton of parenting books, and [one of us] worried! We had a few “near misses” with babies we thought were going to be “our baby” but never did. We never met any birth parents or any babies though.
We were away on a weekend getaway with my parents in February 2015 when we got a call about a baby who had already been born and the birth mom’s parents were making the decision about adoption. They had looked at our book and had a few follow up questions. We quickly answered the question and got back to them. They had a few more questions, we got back to them. They had one more question about the baby’s name (they wanted a certain name included in the baby’s permanent name), and since it actually was a family name on our side too, we agreed. Chris and I went out together to a brewery just the two of us to pray about this and to talk about baby names.
We had had a few names we’d thrown around but now that we had a middle name to go with it, and a potential baby in the next day or so, it was time to nail it down! None of the names we’d talked about already fit with the middle name, and then I remembered a name I’d loved forever: Anthony! I remembered naming my boy Barbies that and writing in my diary that I liked that name. Chris immediately loved it as soon as I said it! We laughed at the thought, because we’d just finished watching The Sopranos for the second time through and would that be weird or cool?! We looked up the meaning of the name and saw the word “priceless” and we just knew. We decided Anthony was to be the name of our son, and then we just waited!
And waited, and waited, and waited. And eventually we found out the grandparent had decided to parent, which in retrospect I’m happy for that baby, but at the time I was so sad. That was our closest match yet, and we were still waiting. We decided that we still loved the name “Anthony”, and that’s what we’d name our baby when he finally did arrive (along with our own chosen middle name). We never told anyone else the name or called any perspective baby that name.
In March 2015, we heard about a birth mom who had seen our profile and was interested in meeting with us. Our first meeting! The two of us and our adoption counselor met with her and her pregnancy counselor. We talked for an hour or so, and she asked a whole bunch of questions, and as we drove home we were just so excited: we loved her!!! We were so sure that she liked us and that she’d pick us. That weekend, I didn’t let my phone out of my sight. But we never heard anything.
After a couple weeks, we still hadn’t heard anything, and we were so disappointed. We went on a trip to Vegas for our anniversary the first week in April 2015, and on that trip I told Chris that I thought we needed to move on in our hearts from this situation and go back to praying more generally about our baby who we knew was out there. He agreed. For me, it was sad to move on but necessary. We got home from that trip, and the next day I was at the grocery store, and got a call from our adoption counselor, saying the birth mom wanted to meet with us again. HOORAY!
We went to that meeting nervous for what follow-up questions she might have. What didn’t we answer already? When we sat down with her and her pregnancy counselor, she started talking about logistics for the birth and stuff. We said “wait, are you picking us?” and she said “I picked you at the last meeting, I thought you knew that!!!”
The baby was going to be ours! The anniversary trip where we licked our wounds was really a babymoon! She was to give birth to Anthony in July! She wanted us to come with her to the rest of her doctor appointments! We had a baby on the way!
The next few months were a whirlwind, but also an emotional push and pull. We didn’t want to get our hopes up too much, because she could still change her mind at any time. Friends asked every time we saw her “any signs she’ll change her mind?”. I’d answer no, but inside that hurt a lot. I don’t blame anyone for that, because it’s my fault for not letting them know how hard that was to answer. To me, it felt like a high-risk pregnancy being asked after each appointment “any chance of miscarriage?”. We bought a few essentials, and picked out the others. I wanted to be practical (not bring the baby home to an empty room or stop by Babies R Us on the way home from the hospital) but also realistic (not wanting to come home from the hospital empty-handed to a nursery full of baby stuff).
As the day got closer, it got more and more exciting. My roommates came over the weekend before on the hottest day of the year, stood in the baby room that was about 110 degrees, and meticulously sorted through baby stuff, taking off tags, etc. My roommate Kellie (the artist!) hung paw prints on the wall. Sweat was dripping off of us! Our local best friends brought dinner over the night before Anthony was born and prayed with us.
Anthony Arthur was born via scheduled C-section in July 2015. Chris and I had the privilege of BOTH being in the room when he was born. This is so unusual, since usually only one person is allowed in the surgery room. The University of Washington hospital was SO wonderful to us, not only for letting us be in the surgery room, but also the sensitivity and care they gave our special situation. For instance, until the legal risk period is over, the birth mom still makes all the decisions about the baby and the doctors don’t owe us any info. But with the birth mom’s permission, they kept us posted about everything Anthony-related, even if we couldn’t make any decisions. They also gave Chris and I a room next door to Anthony’s birth mom’s room, and let us stay there for free until Anthony was discharged. Anthony’s birth mom let us have Anthony in our room at night, and those three days were pure joy. I remember the first night, our friends came to visit and meet him, and once they were all gone we thought we’d take turns getting quality sleep. But instead, we both stayed awake and just watched him!
When it was time to bring Anthony home, I think it was hardest on me. Can you imagine taking a baby from someone’s arms and saying goodbye? I was a mess. I was 100% elated and 100% devastated at the same time. Thankfully, we needed to return to the hospital the next day for his 3rd day weight check and Anthony’s birth mom was still in the hospital, so we knew we’d just see her the next day.
We know our situation is so unique in that it is so positive and easy. It has not been without issues, but I think any adoptive parent, no matter how hard it has been, would tell you it is sooooo worth it.
Tomorrow’s the final day of this week of questions, and I’m going to answer a few questions people have asked via the contact form (it’s still not too late to submit one!) that I haven’t been able to weave into the posts, and I’ll talk a little bit about our relationship with Anthony’s birth family!
Thanks for reading!