The months following our failed adoption were hard and although we were more than a little gun-shy, Greg and I forged ahead. With the passage of time I was able to crawl out of the depression and felt a renewed sense of purpose. As mentioned in my previous post we had decided to branch out to several different agencies in hopes of broadening our chances of being chosen by a birth mother. That way if another agency dropped our “basket of eggs” we’d have other eggs to spare in other baskets. Most agencies, we found, operated in a similar manner to the one we had been previously working with in that we were asked to submit a family profile. The intimate details of our life were still going to be on display for birth mothers to browse. Hopefully something about us would catch their attention and we would be deemed worthy recipients of their baby.
Then *sigh*, a breath of fresh air! Greg’s sister had a connection to an agency that operated across the entire United States. Most agencies, while capable of managing adoptions across state lines, usually only cover their state of origin. This greatly limits the pool of birth mothers who see your profile. Adopting families are encouraged to create blogs or websites in order to branch out as much as possible. It is heart-breaking when you begin searching and reading some of these blogs. Most of these poor families have been waiting for so long they begin to feel as if they will never be parents. It was discouraging to add our names to this vast pool. I wondered if I should start a new franchise called “Parents R Us” where birth families could shop for potential parents. This agency, on the other hand, had a very refreshing view when it came to matching birth mothers with potential parents. At first I was skeptical but decided to contact them anyway, besides what could it hurt? It had to be better than collecting dust on the proverbial shelves of my new franchise!
Over the phone the social worker gathered basic information from me about our family, ages, general health and well-being, etc… She asked if we had completed our home study and made sure that it met their equirements. She explained that they would oversee the matching process and to negotiate the money. After that point they would hand everything over to a local agency based in the state where the birth mother lived. Instead of paying them separately they would take a cut from the final amount paid to the local agency. I asked her where I should send our profile. When she responded that she didn’t need one I was confused. She explained that they worked a little differently; they believed that rather than leave it all up to the birth mother, the agency gathered information from both birth and adoptive families then presented several options to each that they felt were a good fit. Birth mothers and adoptive families were presented with four – five options to choose from. Each party would then decide who, if any, they would like to meet. After that initial meeting all involved would be able to say whether or not they were interested in the situation. If so, a match is made and things progressed from there. I said, “Wait, you mean Greg and I get to decide whether or not a birth mother is a good fit for us? We don’t just wait around to be chosen?” When she replied in the affirmative I just about fell over with relief. This felt right, this felt good. Whey didn’t all agencies use this approach? It made perfect sense! I was encouraged even further as she mentioned that because we were, ahem, of a certain age, we would be put on a priority listing which meant that they would work to find us a match within six months. Finally, a reward for getting married and trying to start a family while being considered relatively “old”.
To say I was elated would be a gross understatement. Two days later when they presented us with a possible match I could hardly contain myself. The couple we would be working with lived in Kansas and was expecting a little boy. A conference call was arranged in lieu of a meeting. Greg and I sat with nervous excitement answering their questions and asking several of our own. The more we spoke with them the more we felt that this was the right situation for us. They seemed to want for their child what we were willing to offer and, in turn, we felt that they were genuine in their desires to offer their child a life they weren’t able to provide. We discovered that they had a son at home but that the birth mother had placed two babies previously with another family. She had not been married at the time and felt that in both instances she would not be able to care for her babies properly. Then she had met her husband and they had a child of their own. We were curious as to why they would choose to place this baby for adoption. I felt great sadness as she described their current socio-economic situation. They felt their circumstances made it nearly impossible to care for the child they already had and, knowing how much her other two had benefited from adoption, she wanted this child to have those same opportunities. I still had a moment’s pause until she said “I just want what is best for all of my children and by placing this one for adoption I can devote more resources to my son at home while taking comfort that this baby will also be getting the best of everything life has to offer.”
The phone call ended and we were told to take a few days to think things over. The birth family would also be taking a few days to make their decision. If things were mutually felt, a match would be made. Greg and I pondered and prayed over our thoughts and feelings and came to the decision that we were interested and would accept a match. A few days later we received a call from the agency letting us know that this family would love to place their baby with us if we were willing. The answer, of course, was yes! Could it really be this easy? It seemed so and from there we began the discussions of logistics. We would be supporting her and her family throughout the pregnancy. This was in May and the baby was due in September so it meant that for the next 4 to 5 months we would be buying their food, clothing, paying their utility bills, rent, and of course providing for internet, cell phones and making sure her medical expenses were taken care of. Additionally the birth mother requested that we make a visit to Kansas before the baby was born in order to meet and get better acquainted before the birth. She wanted us present at the birth and felt better about having me there if we’d at least met once face to face. I couldn’t blame her really.
A local agency was found in Kansas who would handle the transfer of money as well as the details of Kansas adoption law etc… Bank accounts were set up and the transfer of necessary funds commenced. This agency did not require any payment until the adoption was finalized so it was decided that instead of sending a lump sum we would put just enough in the account to cover the birth family’s needs one month at a time. The birth family wouldn’t have access to the account and so all money had to be approved by us and transferred through the agency. I still get confused thinking about it. The owners of the Kansas agency were so kind and helpful. Run by a husband and wife team, the wife was chiefly over the agency and the husband was an adoption lawyer. The husband would handle the Kansas portion of our adoption. When you adopt in Utah there is a 6 month waiting period after the birth in which the state monitors your situation to ensure that the all is well according to state standards. After 6 months has passed there is a final home study at which the social worker ensures that you are ready to go to the courts and have your adoption finalized. We were ecstatic to learn that, in Kansas, there was no waiting period. When you adopt across state lines you can pick and choose which laws you follow, sometimes… Again we’ll leave all of this to the lawyers. Bottom line, we were told that we could bring our baby home and finalize the adoption immediately. It was all working out beautifully.
The agency encouraged me to stay in close contact with the birth mother, building a relationship with her. We spoke on the phone at least twice a week if not more and exchanging emails. It is common to give small gifts to your birth mother. The laws on this are a bit fuzzy. (I know, you’re shocked! Adoption laws are hard to understand? Noooo!) Despite the fact that a huge amount of money is changing hands, in certain states, it is against the law to give the birth mother any money directly, it must all go through an agency. On the other hand, gifts can be given freely as long as the paper trail shows that you are not “bribing” the mother or “purchasing” a baby. This seems strange to me considering that after paying the agency anywhere from $30,0000 to $60,0000 isn’t that what you are essentially doing? Buying a baby? Well, we were told that gifts were definitely appropriate as long as it wasn’t a monetary gift. It is all very confusing, especially when you cross state lines. Long story short, I would send her notes with gift certificates (apparently these didn’t count as monetary gifts according to our agency) to shops where I thought she might be able to purchase various items needed during her pregnancy. I sent her flowers to brighten her day and fun toys for her son on occasion.
All in all, I felt that she and I were building a genuine friendship in spite of the situation. It can be awkward navigating a relationship where you are essentially taking a woman’s baby from her and calling it your own. Think about it… really think about it for a moment. Indeed it was awkward at first but as we talked more and more that all melted away. Our conversations would begin with updates on how she was faring but would quickly progress to deep thoughts about life and giggle fests over things we had in common. The more we got to know one another the more I began to love and cherish her. She and I shared similar views about family life and the way we imagined motherhood ought to be as opposed to how it was in reality. We laughed about our sons and how fun it was to raise boys. We talked for hours about how different life had turned out from what we expected. We exchanged pictures back and forth. She didn’t have very many to send but I made sure she had plenty of us. She seemed to love receiving our photos saying they helped her feel connected. We began to end our chats with “I love you’s” and I would hang up the phone with a contented sigh. Things were going so well and I was beginning to feel overjoyed about, not only a new baby, but also about the fact that I felt genuine friendship and love with the birth mother.
Sometime in June we got a call from the agency with an odd request. Apparently the birth family’s only car had died and as adoptive parents we were responsible for making sure that the birth mother could get to her Dr’s appointments. Normally this would be an easy thing to take care of. If we were living in the same area I would just drive her there myself but seeing as we were half a country away, literally, we needed to come up with a solution. The owner of the agency had driven her a few times but lived an hour away and it was difficult for her to make the 2 hour round trip. The agency’s suggestion was that we provide money for them to purchase a cheap vehicle. The birth father mentioned that he knew of a car that he could purchase for $1,000. Greg and I questioned this at first but after multiple conversations with the agency we felt that we could understand the reasoning and would happily comply. The money was sent, the car purchased, and all was well again.
To put this into perspective, Greg and I only had one car at the time. Because Sean was adopted so quickly after we were married, we knew that we would need to be making some financial sacrifices early on to accommodate any future adoptions and the fact that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I will readily admit that each morning as I would stumble, bleary-eyed, out of bed and pack Sean into his car seat, I thought about the money we had spent to buy a car for another family. I won’t lie, there were mornings when I grumbled a bit, well a lot, about how maybe we should have spent that money on ourselves. Then I would think about how excited I was for another little boy. We eventually agreed that purchasing a car for them should be considered an investment in our own family.
In the mean time all of the necessary preparations were underway. We had transitioned Sean to his first “big boy” bed to free up the crib for the baby girl but now I was glad to pull out the blue and red decor. The boys would share a room and Sean began to show some excitement about the little brother who would be coming home later that year. I meticulously cleaned and folded all the little baby clothes we’d put into storage. I had our carpets cleaned and we pulled out the baby swing, play-pen and other baby furniture from storage. I loved shopping for a new diaper bag, formula, bottles, binkies, diapers, wipes… all of those “baby” things that you need to have when you bring a brand new little one home. It was pure bliss, I was so very, very happy. I loved every minute of this nesting phase.
The closer we got to the blessed day the more the reality began to sink in. We were ready to begin considering names. Sean’s middle name was passed down from my husband’s side of the family so we decided that this little boy needed a family name from my side. We settled upon Alexander as his first name and gave him the same middle name as my father. As the boys’ room came together and the name was chosen the reality sunk in that in September I would be holding a little baby in my arms! The hurt of the previous months finally seemed to melt away. I always wondered, indeed I still wonder, about that little baby girl, but as September approached I was able to shift my focus and anticipate the arrival of a little boy. I continued to build and nurture my friendship with the birth mother. Our relationship blossomed and I grew to love this woman and her family deeply.
Our visit was set for mid-August. I was thrilled and nervous all at once at the thought of meeting my new friend face to face. The owner of the adoption agency had a large home and invited us to stay with them for the duration of our visit as well as after the baby was born. This was going to help us tremendously with our financial situation. Supporting two families for several months, the purchase of the car, and the travel costs were beginning to add up. We had borrowed a good portion from my parents but in order to eventually be able to repay that debt we were pinching every penny and stretching our dollars until they were screaming in agony. We were really beginning to feel the effects when I opened my wallet one day and I swear I heard it moan in agony and whisper, “so… hungry…”
In the days leading up to our visit I had begun to feel a little nervous about all that was happening. I wondered what they would think of us. After all that had transpired, what if they just simply didn’t like us? I began to feel the stress of getting ready to travel with my young son as well. Remember, that at this time we still were not aware of Sean’s Asperger’s and Greg’s ADD was, as yet, undiagnosed. By the time we made it to the airport I was on an emotional roller coaster that I couldn’t seem to exit. Imagine my dismay then, when we arrived at security, things started to fall apart. I had not flown in a long time and was worried about how to pack a carry-on for my young son that would live up to security’s standards. I researched the best way to do this and thought I had it all under control. However, upon approaching the security scanners, it wasn’t our bags that were the issue, it was Sean himself.
Something about the security station set him off. In hind sight, knowing what we do now; I can pinpoint a million different little sensory hurdles that we navigated that day. At the time, however, I was wholly unprepared for the meltdown that ensued. I had to remove his shoes and you would have thought the apocalypse had come. He began to cry and scream at the top of his lungs yelling numbers, trying to communicate his distress. Between a screaming child, several bags, because I always say that the younger the child the larger the luggage, and a husband who had ADD and didn’t know it yet… Let’s just say the stress and desperation I felt in that moment is causing me to hike my shoulders to my ears as I type.
Greg just walked away from us, somehow oblivious to the fact that Sean was having one of the biggest, knock-down, drag-out, meltdowns in “Sean” history and there I was stuck; shoeless, with a shoeless child, trying to juggle about a million bags all by myself. Greg was almost out of sight before he realized his wife and son were nowhere to be seen and then he back tracked to find me livid, in tears along with Sean, and just about bald from the hair-pulling experience. Isn’t it funny how stress makes these memories so vivid in our minds. After surviving airport security we were finally on our way. I’m surprised we made it to Kansas in one piece! Well, we did…
Yep, you guessed it, because I am so very long-winded I’d better leave you with a favorite phrase of mine, “That is a story for another day…”