“I’m old enough to remember when cellphones were actually used to make phone calls. Then came texting. And the whole world ever so slowly, yet ever so abruptly stopped talking to each other. No one ever calls each other anymore – unless it’s your mother or grandma.
Then, you get a phone call that changes your life.
Turning in all of our adoption paperwork, scheduling, and executing our home study, landed us on the proverbial ‘waiting list.’ I was excited. For many adoptive parents, this can be a stressful time, but I’ve found through the years I thrive in the eleventh hour, and I felt like we’d finally made it to the front of the line, even if I couldn’t see around the corner. I truly had a peace that passed understanding because, despite 2 years of trying to get pregnant, I could smell that newborn baby scent right around the corner – and I didn’t know how or why, but I felt down deep in my bones we were close. This was silly, of course, since we’d only been waiting 6 weeks.
It was about this time I was planning our daughter’s third birthday party. Being a June birthday, we usually have a modest throw down in our yard. I take great joy in planning and hosting Molly’s birthday parties. This particular year, it was also a great distraction from constantly wondering, ‘God, how much longer must we wait to grow our family?’
Molly’s birthday was slated for a Sunday afternoon. On Saturday afternoon, the day before the party, we received a notification from our agency. ‘URGENT!’ it said. It was a stork drop. ‘A baby is being born in Georgia. The birth mother has been admitted to the hospital. She has no plan yet. This baby desperately needs a home. Please only apply if you can be in Georgia immediately upon match. We will be showing her profiles as soon as they arrive. Please submit immediately.’
I was thrilled. But I was always excited. I’m one of those people that every time I learned of a baby being placed for adoption, I dreamt down the bunny hole and planned out our entire life together as a family of four. It somehow helped me cope with the long journey we were on to grow our family. Because I knew deep down in my bones – it was going to happen. It was just a matter of when. It was 4:13 p.m.
My husband, Chris, had been perfecting our yard for the party and ran into the house asking if I’d seen the latest notification. It was a baby boy. He thought we should submit our profile. I stopped prepping dinner and we pulled out our phones to fine comb the details. What did we know, what did we not know? Had we saved enough? Were we capable of raising a child that looked different than us, prioritizing a different culture? Could we drop everything tomorrow and make this happen? Could Molly handle the major adjustment to our family with no lead time? Despite all the worry swirling in my head, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, we were supposed to be ready for this child.
I went over to my laptop and emailed our agency. We were in. ‘Please share our profile with this birth mother.’ It was 5:16 p.m.
The next day, a Sunday, party prep was on. There were tables to set up, a sprinkler to blow up, fruit to cut, and sandwiches to be picked up across town. We were having a dinosaur themed party for Molly’s third birthday. And about 40 guests. It was a gorgeous day.
Chris and I, along with my brother and sister in law, were all standing in the kitchen when I heard my phone go off. I looked down at my Fitbit and saw our caseworker was calling. Oh my word. ‘CHRIS! It’s our caseworker!’ I shrieked. I looked at my brother and sister in law wide-eyed. They froze, eyes wide too. I ran to find my phone. ‘We have to answer this call together,’ I said, already halfway up the stairs. It was about 12:45 p.m.
I knew. My heart was pounding, but I knew. At this point, I’d figured out our caseworker wouldn’t call us unless there was a development. And, it was a Sunday afternoon, way outside normal working hours. We scurried into our bedroom leaving the mess downstairs with my brother and sister in law. Thank God they were here.
‘Susannah, Chris,’ our caseworker said, ‘you’ve been selected. Do you think you can be in Georgia tomorrow?’
‘Yes.’ I answered without a single nanosecond of hesitation. Meanwhile, Chris started silently mouthing to me something along the lines of, ‘Are you nuts?’ I felt so strongly about this exact baby. I literally went to church that morning and kept my phone in my hand the whole time because I was sure we were going to get a call any second. I knew. I don’t know how I knew, but I knew. I knew he was our son.
We walked downstairs in a blissful daze. My sister in law stared at me – too scared to ask any questions but dying to know. We were matched. They went bananas. The adventure had begun.
Should we cancel the party? We had plane tickets to book, mounds of paperwork to comb through, accommodations to figure out – for us, for Molly, without any idea when we’d be returning home. We didn’t know what hospital to go to, how early could we leave here tomorrow, who was going to watch Molly. Nah, let’s have this party!
Our family and friends arrived about 2 hours later and enjoyed the days’ festivities. Bellies were full, kids were soaking wet from the water activities and it was time for dessert. Everyone sang happy birthday to Molly, which I asked my other brother-in-law to video for us. I had butterflies in my stomach.
The song wound down and Chris started to thank everyone for coming. Everyone was sort of gathered around an outdoor table where Molly had wasted no time sampling her birthday cupcake. As Chris started to talk, he put his arm around me as he addressed our little community of college friends, church friends, neighbors, and family. It felt surreal, like a dream.
We stood in front of our friends and after Chris thanked everyone, he said to the crowd, ‘As many of you know, Sue and I have decided to adopt. We just found out we’ve been selected by a family – they want us to adopt their baby.’ There were little shouts of joy throughout the crowd, small gasps, and widening grins.
‘It’s what’s called a stork drop,’ he said. Some of our closest friends who helped carry us through this process squeal as they know what this means. ‘The baby was born yesterday,’ he continued. People’s eyes began to widen as they looked at one another, not sure what we’d say next. More squeals.
‘We’re going to Georgia tomorrow,’ he said. The small crowd started to go nuts with jubilant disbelief and sheer happiness. Choking back the tears— tears that represent not just the weight of the day’s news, but the weight of the last two years of trying to grow our family. Chris finished, ‘…to meet our son.’
What a difference a day makes. The next morning came a little too quickly as we got up with the sun to figure out our game plan. You know, the one that needs to be implemented almost immediately… Ya, that one. But you know how you know it’s going to be a good day? At 6:15 a.m., we booked flights for a 12:45 p.m. flight, one-way, of course, because we had no idea how this was going to play out, and we were actually able to use our airline points for both of these tickets. On the same day. And the seats were together.
It is also on this day I realized our local Target doesn’t open till 8 a.m. I arrived around 8:09 a.m. Sheer panic set in as I walked through the doors. I was literally boarding a flight in 4 hours, I hadn’t showered, packed a darn thing, and here I was at Target. I first picked up the items my family had purchased from Guest Services. They were perfect. I could have cried.
I actually wanted to cry I was so happy, but y’all, I was way too stressed to cry. Stressed and focused. I start running around Target. And, I mean, legit running. The six other moms who escaped their homes early in the morning were quietly enjoying their Starbucks while I awkwardly dislodged items from their tidy positions as I sideswiped hangers on my way around tight corners. I picked up formula, pacifiers, pacifier clips, a few onesies, and some bibs. I grabbed another cute outfit, hit up the snack aisle, and made my way back to the front door. I also want to let it be known that for once in my life I made it in and out of Target in less than 30 minutes. I have the receipts to prove it.
The next 2 hours were spent packing. But, no surprise here, we were late. Car packed, extra snuggles for Molly, and off we went to meet Chris’s sister, who was taking Molly for the first 2 days. I fought back giant crocodile tears hugging her tiny little person in the movie theater parking lot. It was probably the worst moment of the whole experience. I knew she was going to be in good hands with Chris’s sister’s family, but I also knew things would be different when we returned.
Chris and I rode those first few minutes to the airport in silence, the sadness palpable in the car. Thankfully, it was June and we had sunglasses to hide our watery eyes. We boarded our plane in the nick of time because strong coffee was not optional. The stress of the morning slowly dissipated as we flew through the clouds discussing boy names for the first time ever. It was real. It was happening.
This was also the part where we let go of control, something I am not very good at. I am a Type-A planner type and relinquishing control is incredibly difficult for me. From this point on, we rolled with the punches, we went with the flow. Our job was to meet and love on our son – and for that, we couldn’t wait.
Fortunately for us, our son was born in a picturesque part of Georgia, not far from the ocean. This was a big win in the ‘I have no control’ department rather than some Podunk town 3 hours from civilization (and a Chick-fil-a… just saying).
We landed and began our 2-hour drive to the hospital. The beauty of the south was not lost on me – especially on this trip. I love the big old trees, the homes with sweeping porches, and even the debilitating heat was endearing to me on this fine day in late June. Between our flight and our drive, we were set to arrive at the hospital around 5. We were hoping we’d be able to stay with our son until 8 when visitation ended. Mind you, we had already had one heck of a day, and I decided to go to Target instead of taking a shower, so there’s that. Bless.
As we pull into town and make our way to the hospital, our nerves really start to kick in. Was this really going to happen? What would it be like meeting our son? What would his temperament be? And this is really where having no control jolted into high gear. We were at the mercy of the nurses, his birth mother, the physicians, all while being in a city where we knew virtually no one, had no advocates. This could go sideways very quickly. She could change her mind; she had all the power to shatter our dreams, and that is an incredibly hopeless feeling. For any adoptive parent, to navigate pure hopelessness with the pure hope of what’s to come is an excruciatingly delicate tightrope to walk. One where you are quite sure your heart is going to burst, you’re just not sure if it’s bursting with joy or something far less desirable.
We parked our car, grabbed our backpacks, and put on our most confident faces. This was it. We arrived at the maternity wing and waited to get buzzed in. We walked in. ‘Who are you here to see,’ they asked. Chris said, ‘We are adopting a baby boy who was born on Saturday. We were told our agency sent the necessary information over yesterday.’
The nurse gave us a wry look. ‘Hold on. Let me get Tammy. She’s in charge.’ A minute later, Tammy appeared. ‘We’ve been waiting for you,’ she said. ‘You look exactly like your license pictures.’ After some small talk with Tammy and a few other nurses, she said, ‘Follow me.’ My heart skipped a beat.
She led us into an empty room. ‘Are you ready to meet your son?’ Tammy asked with a big smile. ‘We sure are,’ we responded probably a little too eagerly. ‘He’s sooooo cute,’ Tammy said, beaming. ‘Mom’s been waiting for you. I’ll go see if it’s a good time to bring him over.’
Chris and I looked at each other after Tammy left. ‘Alright then,’ Chris said with his charming half-smile. Alright then. The excitement in the room was palpable, but if I’m being totally transparent, it’s a slightly weird experience. So this nurse was going to wheel a brand new, precious, perfect gift from God I didn’t know even existed until 2 days ago and we were going to walk out of here and start a life together? It was hard to wrap my mind around the whole thing. And beyond my own emotions, my heart broke for this baby’s birth mother who felt unfit to parent a child she was brave enough to carry for 9 months, and then brave enough to let another family raise… forever. Chris and I sat there in silence with all our emotions, just waiting.
Less than 10 minutes later, Tammy swung open the door to the hospital room, wheeling in one of the clear plastic receptacles atop a metal cart newborns still spend their first few days in. The cart squeaked as it rolled in, Tammy’s smile gradually taking up her whole face. ‘Here he is,’ she announced proudly.
We finally got to meet our baby boy. Perfect in every way. 2 days earlier, I didn’t even know he existed and now, as I pulled him into my arms, I could see our entire future together. I let my mind race all the way down the bunny hole. I could see a chubby little baby splashing water in the bath, a wobbly little guy taking his first steps, a toddler squealing with delight on the swing, basketball games, tee-ball practice, popsicles in the side yard, Kindergarten, art projects hung up in our kitchen with pride, mastering a bike with no training wheels, middle school drama, high school graduation, a young man we are so very, very proud of.
There was no turning back now. And even though we were perfect strangers, lacking the 9 months of bonding most moms and babies get, my heart had already made room for a new addition to our family, joyfully, without condition.
Welcome to the family, Callan James – you are everything I dreamed of and more.
Adoption has changed our life. In fact, it’s changed everything. We even adopted again – and are now a family of five. Building our family has not been an easy adventure, but it has far outweighed my wildest dreams – wouldn’t change a thing.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Susannah McMonagle from Philadelphia, PA. You can follow their journey on Instagram here and here, and their website. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more touching stories about adoption here:
‘The nurse came in and said, ‘Her new parents are ready for her.’ Only 15, I kissed her soft baby cheek, and placed her into the arms of her mama.’: Teen mom embarks on ‘beautiful’ open adoption journey, ‘I couldn’t have picked better parents’
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