Our Adoption Trip
by Barbara James
In December 1993, my husband Bob asked me what I wanted for Christmas. "A baby," I told him. He agreed that a baby would enhance our lives and told me to go ahead and do whatever was necessary to make it happen. I mentioned adoption, he agreed again, and so we began that long, strange trip for which no one is ever really prepared.
Unlike many adoptive parents, we had no history of infertility tests and treatments. I had gotten pregnant unexpectedly a few years earlier, miscarried at 10 weeks, and it took a while for us to fully recover. We kept trying but nothing ever happened, and month after month, we grieved anew and wondered what was wrong. Neither of us believed that fertility treatments were right for us. Personally, I was not comfortable taking unnecessary drugs, having surgery, or other treatments for which long-term side-effects (on mother or child) were not known.
The next month, I started calling all the adoption agencies listed in the Yellow Pages. Most of the people I spoke with were very discouraging and suggested that I consider adopting an older child, one with special needs, or a child of color. I contacted attorneys, who quoted exorbitant figures and told me I'd have to "find a birth mother on my own". I called one agency on their toll-free number, and the receptionist asked me if I was a birth mother. "What's that?" I innocently asked, "No, I want to adopt a baby, can you help me?" She then told me that the toll-free number was only for pregnant women who wanted to place their children, and I could darn well call back on their regular number!
I was discouraged, but as luck would have it, the last call of the day proved fruitful. I spoke with a lovely woman at Adoption Services Associates in San Antonio, Texas, for over half an hour. She explained how much adoption had changed over the years. No longer did agencies match babies with parents. Now it was the birth mother's turn to choose the parents. Not only that, we might have to advertise to find a birth mother, then support her, and after all that, she could still change her mind. Undaunted, I decided that I liked the agency and requested an information kit.
Soon after that, came the home study. We cleaned, we polished, the house shone, and the social worker could have cared less! She just wanted to make sure we had a room for the baby, and working smoke detectors. She was far more concerned that we wanted to parent for the right reasons and spent a lot of time talking with us about potential difficulties. While waiting for home study approval, we put a portfolio together, wrote a "Dear Birth Mother" letter, and tried to get on with our lives without dwelling on the adoption process. We also joined a local support group, Concerned Persons for Adoption, and began attending meetings to learn more about adoptive family life. I heard wonderful things about our agency and began to think that we might eventually have a baby in our lives.
In May 1994, our home study was approved, and we were accepted into an adoption program. They began showing our portfolio, and we started advertising in the newspapers. It was hard at first. We'd jump every time the phone rang! We got lots of calls, many of them crank calls, some from lawyers, some from other agencies, and some from women trying to sell us their children.
The agency also sent us portfolios on birth mothers, but none seemed right for us. We had no problem with bi-racial or full Hispanic babies, which some of these cases were; but there was strong drug usage in just about every case. We declined the cases and hoped it wouldn't be held against us.
Just when we were getting discouraged, we heard from K.. She was 21, had a 2-1/2-year-old son, and thought she was five months pregnant. We talked for a long time that night and, for the first time, we felt really positive and hopeful. K. went to the agency with her boyfriend N., the baby's father. He was 17 and had dropped out of high school. He immediately signed relinquishment papers. Soon afterwards we heard he was in jail. We also learned that she was only three months pregnant and was due in February. We received complete medical information on both parents and the baby, and decided to proceed. We were going to be parents!
Six months passed...six months of mixed emotions, confusion, fear, and unrest. Sometimes K. would call us daily, other times we wouldn't hear from her for days on end. She refused counseling, saying that talking made her uncomfortable. Her boyfriend moved in with her, much to our regret. When I called her, I'd hear sounds of partying in the background, which she dismissed as N.'s high school friends. She started missing doctor appointments, saying that she was always tired and overslept. She kept telling me that she didn't want to be pressured by anyone, she knew what she was doing, felt fine, and couldn't wait for the pregnancy to be over so she could get on with her life and go back to school.
K. was so many things to my husband and me--best friend, worst enemy, sister, wife, lover--but most of all, she was an enigma. I respected her wish not to be pressured and told the agency over and over not to bug her over missed appointments, that she just wanted to do her own thing. As her due date neared, the calls got more frequent. Sometimes we'd get messages from her during the day, although we were both at work, just saying hello. Once we learned that she called the house 10 times on our 800-number, which showed on the bill. When I asked her why, she said she liked hearing my voice, and proceeded to keep calling us. She also called at all hours of the night, and would chat away about mundane things such as pizza she'd had for lunch. Her joke was that we had better get used to being up all night anyhow with a new baby!
One day in February, the phone rang, and it was K. She was in labor and on her way to the hospital. And then, we had a daughter! We named her Sara Ann and immediately called family and friends to share the good news.
On Tuesday, we flew down to Texas, even though she hadn't signed relinquishment papers. We were pretty nervous about that, despite all her talk about her commitment to the adoption. When we got off the plane, we learned that she'd been released from the hospital and had taken the baby home. The agency was worried, as were we. However, that evening she and the baby showed up at the agency, and we all went to dinner.
We got along well, she assured us of her plans to sign papers the next day, and asked for one last night with the baby. We reluctantly agreed to meet her for lunch the next day, and she never showed up. She wouldn't answer the phone at her apartment or answer the door, even though we knew she was there. Finally, I reached her on the phone that night, and she said she'd again overslept. She promised to meet us at the agency the next day, Thursday, at 4:00 p.m. Of course, she never came. We left Texas, heartbroken, devastated, grief-struck, and unsure of what to do next. The agency reassured us that they would look hard for us and that we would be parents, soon. Skeptically, we decided to let them try again while we got on with our lives.
We returned home and had the horrible task of calling people and telling them what had happened. I returned to work to learn that I'd been so missed I was being promoted and given a raise! Since at least some good had come of this mess, I resolved to work even harder at a job that I loved.
On Thursday, March 16th, my husband said to me that he had a feeling we were going to be struck by lightening, and that we would soon be parents. I felt optimistic for the first time. The next evening, I came home from work to a blinking answering machine light: it was the agency, telling me to call them as soon as possible, it was urgent. I nervously dialed the phone, my husband on the extension, to hear that a woman had given birth the previous night (around the time of the "lightening" prediction) and had asked the agency for help in placing the baby boy. She selected our portfolio, and signed relinquishment papers as soon as she was able. Were we interested? I wanted to say no, we weren't ready, we wanted a girl...and on Monday, March 20, we got the medical reports and took the referral. Two days later, on Wednesday, March 22, 1995, we flew to meet Eric. I don't remember much, only the tears that splashed on him as I cried tears of joy and happiness. We brought him home a few days later, once the Interstate Compact cleared, and the most incredible feeling was knowing we'd walked out the front door as a couple and were returning as a family.
During the three weeks between the disruption and the placement, everyone kept telling me the same thing: K. changed her mind for a reason...it happened for a reason...there's a reason for everything.
Everyone was right! Even though I wanted to slap the next person who told me that, in the back of my mind, I agreed. Now I know the reason is that our son just hadn't been born yet, and we needed to wait for him.
There is a family waiting for every child that is born, and how the child comes to that family is not that important. What's important is that adoptive parents need to be patient, strong, and have faith that it is not a matter of if, but a question of when their family will be complete.
I tell everyone thinking of adoption to be prepared, to read books like The Adoption Resource Book by Lois Gilman, and There Are Babies to Adopt by Chris Adamec. Most importantly, join a support group, meet as many adoptive parents as possible, and talk to everyone. It's the only way to learn, and it's the one step that I didn't take early enough.
The Internet is also a great place for support and information. If anyone needs on-line resources, I'll be glad to help. Please e-mail me at CyberMommy@compuserve.com.
© Copyright Barbara James
Real Moms is a newsletter by and for adoptive mothers. Support, information, encouragement, and networking for domestic adoption are offered to adoptive and prospective adoptive mothers.
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