At 30 years of age, I was happily married to my wonderful husband Erik yet also working crazy hours on Capitol Hill. After my boss lost his Senate seat and I lost my job, Erik and I decided it was time to start a family. But you need to know something right out of the gate: Erik and I cannot have biological children. I will document our journey with infertility in a future post. This post is about how we became parents for the first time through the miracle of adoption!
We chose a Christian adoption agency that specialized in domestic infant adoption. This agency also ran a home for young women who had become pregnant. The birthmothers are allowed to live free of charge, receive training on parenting and adoption, and they receive a free college education. At the end of the program, they decide whether to parent their child or place them for adoption, which about 50% do. We filled out a ton of paperwork and started a home study (which is a huge paperwork to-do list to prove that you are good people and not crazies). We also had to select parameters for the birthmom. More on that later. I also started an adoption scrapbooking album, which I hated, since I’m anything but The Crafty Lady. “The Album” is what the social workers show to birthmothers so they can choose adoptive parents. You place tiny little pictures of your life into an album hoping to make a good impression on a young scared teenage girl you have never met. Over time, we completed all of the paperwork except for The Album and sent it over to our agency. We were excited and couldn’t wait to become parents!
That’s when all the setbacks happened. In addition to financial set-backs, we experienced a series of mini-health crises that Erik and I had to work through, including a cancer scare. I was trying to go as fast as I could but something kept slowing down the process for us. It was infuriating and humbling. I remember praying “Lord, your will be done, not mine” many times during those months of delays and set-backs. I think waiting is one of the hardest trials anyone can face.
Erik and I were required to attend a Weekend Adoptive Parent Training Program put on by our agency.
One session was very helpful to us in a spiritual context. The speaker basically said that God uses two unfavorable situations (infertility and an unexpected pregnancy) to bring unspeakable good – a baby placed in a loving home.
Another session dealt with the question of “Which Boxes Should You Check on the Birthmother Form?” That session was a kick in the gut. Would we accept a child from a mom who smoked pot or did other drugs, or drank alcohol during her pregnancy for example? Would we accept disease x, y, and z for example. Excruciating choices. With every box you fail to check the potential adoption pool grows smaller. What we really wanted was a child conceived in the back of a car from two young people who were maybe away for the weekend due to their sports championships and wanted to get back to taking their entrance exams for MIT as soon as possible (while not disrupting their volunteer activities of course). I did not see a box for that one however.
I remember sitting in that meeting and thinking “this is completely unfair, God! Not only can we not have our own biological children, but now we have to take a huge risk with respect to our future baby?”
“Trust God, He is with you and will guide you. He loves you and your future baby. And check boxes!! The more boxes you check, the more birthmothers we can present your album to,” was one take-away of the training weekend.
After much prayer, Erik and I decided to check more boxes than we would prefer. Here are the ones we checked:
Birthmother experienced —
- No prenatal care
- Drank socially
- Drank heavily
- Light Drug use
- No birth father information
- Pregnant as a result of a rape or incest
- Smoked regularly
A couple more boxes I can’t remember. I think the ones about poor mental and physical health.
There were also boxes about the mental and physical health of the baby. I can’t remember the boxes we checked, but I remember that we were trying to be as open and full of faith as we could be.
With every box we checked a little piece of me died. I dreaded the thought of something going wrong, all because I was trying to exercise some level of faith in God. “God, please don’t let me down!” I remember crying out to Him.
Selfishly, we also hoped that the other couples in the group (there were about 18 couples hoping to become parents) would be too scared to check some of those boxes. You get to know the other couples, and grow to like them, but it is also sort of a weird competition.
Then you wait.
Unlike pregnancy where a baby shows about 9 months later, we could wait a week or we could wait a year. We had to be ready to become parents at a moment’s notice.
Our waiting came to an end soon with one very brief phone call.
I had completed and mailed The Album. I’ll never forget the call that came in. “Hey Heather, this is (insert social worker’s name), how are you? Well, I literally just received your album – it was just delivered to my desk a few minutes ago. It looks good. Hey, I’m heading over to the hospital right now. A young woman who was referred to us just delivered a baby girl. I’m going to show her your album. And because of the boxes you checked, you’re one of only a few albums that she will be reviewing. Have a great day!”
After I hung up the phone I just sat there in awe. “No…there is no way this is going to be our new baby. This is just a fluke, it’s too sudden.” I thought. But a little tiny feeling of hope was born in the pit of my stomach.
The next day we received a call from our social worker. Apparently, the birthmother didn’t like “any of the families.” Hmmmm. Later, when presented with the albums again, she decided that Erik and I seemed “okay.” But she wanted to have a phone call with us before she went further. We also drove down for an interview. Imagine this, the most important job interview ever. Being interviewed by a young girl explaining to her why we should raise her child. The interview went well however and we hit it off immediately. So far, so good! The one thing that concerned her was that we seemed ‘too Christian’. She was concerned that we would shove Christianity down her baby’s throat. Erik and I wrote her a letter and assured her that we would raise her in the Christian faith, but the choice of embracing that faith would ultimately be her decision alone, just like it is for every person. It was a tense few days while we waited for her to respond. But one day a random package arrived on my front door step. Curiously, I opened it up. Inside was a sweet photo of a baby girl with a note beside it, from the birthmother, asking us if we would consider being the parents of her baby girl.
I was home alone at the time and remember screaming, jumping up and down and yelling: “We’ve been chosen!! We’ve been chosen!! We’ve been chosen!!” I immediately phoned Erik at work and told him the good news.
Although Erik and I were overjoyed at being selected, we were concerned as well. The birthmother did not know she was even pregnant with her (our) baby until she was more than 8 months pregnant. And she only had about one week of prenatal vitamins! I couldn’t understand how a person could not know they were pregnant until I watched several episodes of, you guessed it, “I didn’t know I was pregnant.” 🙂 Our other concern was her alcohol consumption. We found out that, due to the fact the she didn’t know she was pregnant, she partied every weekend and consumed large amounts of alcohol.
But we trusted God with the outcome as we believed this little girl was supposed to be our kiddo.
We heard from our agency that the baby was indeed very healthy and alert and bright. I spoke with her foster mom (who later became our very good friend) and she assured me that this baby girl was doing well and right on target! This is a story for another day, but these wonderful couples take care of these babies until they are placed for adoption. They love them and raise them and then they say goodbye. Our 3-month old was already sleeping through the night! Cha-ching! We are still in touch with Claire’s foster parents and have even vacationed with them. They are our extended family now. Claire spent a weekend with them just 2 weeks ago.
Finally, after years of marriage, many baby showers attended with forced smiles, patiently waiting, going through a bunch of hoops that other people don’t have to go through to become parents….the day came when we drove down to our placement ceremony.
A Placement Ceremony is when the Foster or birthmom “places” your baby in your arms for the very first time. In that moment, you officially become parents! It is a significant moment filled with great joy for us, as well as great pain for the birthmom.
I will never forget the first moment Claire, as we later named her, was placed in my arms. When I first looked at her she was sleeping peacefully, and my first thought was “what a beautiful baby girl.” A few moments later she opened up her eyes and just looked around. She had this “knowing” look in her eyes, like something in her world had completely changed. My second thought was “wow, what a smart little baby!”
Erik and I just looked at each other in amazement. At long last, we had become parents! With only a few weeks of notice we had much to learn.
A couple of closing notes. First, I’ve often wondered why Claire’s birthmother didn’t even know she was pregnant until she was almost full-term. It turns out that our birthmother chose not to tell a single soul about her pregnancy or adoption plan. Due to our birthmother’s shame/embarrassment at being pregnant, I have often wondered if our birthmother may have chosen to abort Claire had she known earlier. Whatever the reason, I am so glad that she didn’t know she was pregnant and that she chose adoption because we are incredibly blessed to be Claire’s parents.
With respect to the alcohol consumed during pregnancy and lack of prenatal care — by the grace of God, Claire was protected from any fetal alcohol effect. She’s as bright as a star and as cute as a button. Everybody loves her and she is truly a gem of a kid! I know this sounds crazy, but I am actually glad that we couldn’t conceive our “own” children, because we would never have received Claire, and Claire was meant for us and we were meant for her.
Claire just celebrated her 12th birthday. She’s athletic, super smart, and social. She even started babysitting and wearing a little sports bra (she will kill me later if she reads this blog). How time flies!
I am eternally grateful for her birthmom choosing life for Claire and making that brave choice to make an adoption plan.
And I thank God for his perfect timing and perfect selection. We couldn’t be more happy with the outcome!
Claire bear we love you forever!
PS: Note from Claire: She says hi to all of you.