My husband and I were married only 4 months when we learned that we wouldn't be able to conceive without a great deal of medical intervention. We weren't even thinking of trying to have children yet even though I was already over 30, but it was quite a blow to deal with that so early in the marriage.
Before we married, we talked about having a family and I thought I might not be able to get pregnant, so I brought up adoption. We agreed it was an option, but even after finding out we couldn't conceive, it was almost 7 years before we checked into adoption.
I won't go into the details of the process, but I will say that unless you or someone close to you have gone through it, you have no idea how much work is involved and how much personal information you have to disclose. You have to really, really want to adopt to jump through the endless hoops of applications, fees, interviews, references, parenting classes, etc.
And most people don't realize that in the vast majority of domestic adoptions these days, the birth mother chooses the adoptive parents; not the agency. So once you have laid bare your soul, medical records, and financial details, you are at the mercy of a woman or even a teenager who is under a great deal of stress herself. Don't get me wrong - I think it is the BEST possible way for adoptions to occur, but as a 30-something professional, it does have it's irony.
Our lives were condensed to an 8-10 page "book", as we competed with all the other "books" out there for attention. It's like high school all over again; wondering why you aren't being picked. What's wrong with us? Are we too fat? To religious? To goofy looking? Not wealthy enough? It can undermine your self esteem like nothing I have ever experienced. We waited for almost 2 years as we watched all the other parents in our program get picked and take home their little bundles of joy. You are truly happy for them, but you begin to think that perhaps this is not the path your life is meant to take.
After a year and a half, I was emotionally spent and every contact asking for fees or paperwork, or another home study update reduced me to a blubbering mess. In June of 2005 I told my husband that I could hold out until the end of the year. Then I was throwing in the towel and needed to move on with our lives. Either we were going to get a baby, or we were going on one freaking fantastic vacation.
A year before this we moved to a kid-friendly neighborhood - all part of our plan to look like the perfect adoptive parents. The shrubs were horribly overgrown and we wanted to take it all out and redo the beds, but our money was going into savings for the adoption expenses. Well, on July 3rd I was off work early for the holiday and to vent some of my frustration, I spent the whole day chopping down and digging up the shrubs. My poor husband had no idea. It was just a spur of the moment thing. I'm sure the neighbors thought I had finally lost my mind, out there in the hot sun all day, making a complete mess!! But man, it felt so good to just destroy something - to get out all that frustration and pain!! And I was very proud of my work. My husband actually took it pretty well, even though he did have to spend the whole weekend digging up the roots and finishing off what I had started. And the yard is his "thing" so having it now so unattractive really bothered him.
Then 1 week later, as we were deciding how to rebuild the beds, we got "the call" or actually "the e-mail". A wonderful woman had seen our book and we were the only people she wanted to speak with. She couldn't believe that we hadn't already been picked. She felt we were the answers to her prayers. She was more than we had ever expected in a birth mother and kept thinking it was to good to be true.
We talked to her on the phone that night and again a few nights later. It was scary but she took the lead and got all her questions answered. The father signed away his rights to the child a few days later and we drove down to meet her in person. We were thrilled, but scared, so we hadn't told anyone that we'd been picked. We wanted to wait until after we met her to make sure things still felt right. The meeting was fabulous and we drove the 5 hours home making calls to everyone with our good news.
August flew by as we furiously tried to get ready for our son to be born. We spoke to our birth mother every week and since meeting her in person, she always referred to the baby by the name we had chosen. She even put it on his original birth certificate. She made us as much a part of the pregnancy as possible and it really felt like we all three became parents together over those few weeks. Our son was born a week early, but healthy as can be. She called us from the hospital just before she began to push and again after he was born. She even commented that he had dimples just like me!
In the state where he was born, the birth mother cannot sign away her rights for at least 48 hours. Between leaving the hospital and being placed with us, he was cared for by a transitional care couple who worked for the adoption agency. His birth mother was insistent that he be with us as soon as possible and she wanted to sign as soon as she could. Of course, this meant traveling out of state before she signed, and there is always a chance that she might change her mind. We were caught between doing what she felt was best and the agency's warning about possibly driving all that way for nothing. But our commitment was to our son's birth mother, so we went.
I can't describe the feelings when she brought him in and placed him in our arms. It still makes me cry to think about the sacrifice she made. She truly became a part of our family in a few short weeks and she entrusted us with the most precious gift of all - her child. We cried and hugged and looked at our son for what seemed like hours. The social workers took lots of pictures so we have always had a picture of our son being held by his birth mother in his room. After the birth mother left, we got to meet the transitional care parents who had already fallen in love with him in just one night. We changed him from the outfit they had dressed him in and into our "going home" outfit. I have never felt more awkward in my life! And then we were off with our paperwork, emergency phone numbers, and this tiny little 6 lb. baby in the car seat.
What were they thinking, just handing over this baby to us?! We both sat there looking at each other, like "now what?" We had to stay in the state for almost a week waiting for permission to take him across state lines and back to our home. Talk about a crash course in baby care 101! No grandparents or friends, just the three of us in that little hotel room. But with so much time alone, we were able to bond with him and get into a routine.
Three years later, I can say I don't regret one day of the pain of waiting, but I can truly remember how hard and painful that journey was. I call my son "the love of my life" because he is in so many ways. He's the best part of my life for sure. It was probably the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life - and I have had some very hard times, but it's the one thing I am most proud of - becoming his mother.