‘I found pictures. ‘You can leave now.’ They went to cut off the ‘mother’ bracelet. We prayed for a miracle.’: Woman describes adoption scam, ‘We are trusting in God’

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“In March of 2018, we had three girls, two by birth and one by adoption, when an adoption attorney reached out to us with a birth parent looking for a certain family. We knew if we were to add to our family, we wanted to give our daughter a sibling who also was adopted like her. At the age of seven, she had started to ask for a baby sister. When she was an infant, we had always said we would adopt again, but with three girls ages three and under, life was hectic for a bit and it got pushed to the side.

Courtesy of Vanessa Jacobson

That situation didn’t work out, but it led us to the first step in adoption which is to complete a home study. Anyone who has adopted knows the amount of paperwork involved. It is daunting and at times, exhausting. Between home study visits, background checks, grant applications, and running our lives as parents to three girls and business owners, we were quickly reminded this was a lot of work, but as we watched our youngest daughter joyfully show us her gymnastics routine she just learned, we knew it would all be worth it because we could have missed this.

In May of 2018, with our home study complete, we signed on with an adoption consultant and waited. This was our least favorite part of adopting the first time. It doesn’t matter how much paperwork there is, waiting is ten times worse. Due to the large age gap between our youngest and this baby, we purposely chose not to tell very many people we were adopting. We wanted this baby brought into our family with pure joy, and even though we knew an age gap was present, we also knew it wasn’t unheard of and this feeling of not being complete was there for a reason. We also naively thought this would be an easier and quicker process this time around, so why not just surprise people?

Courtesy of Vanessa Jacobson

A year later, we were renewing our home study and wondering how we were still waiting. Our youngest daughter would soon turn nine, and we just didn’t feel like our family was complete. In that year of waiting, we had found an adoption agency and signed on with them. We had several situations come our way we would pass on, and several to whom we would send our profile book to and find out later we weren’t chosen. Perhaps it was because we had gone through adoption before, but each no we got just felt one step closer to our yes. So, we continued with hope.

Courtesy of Vanessa Jacobson

On July 10th, a week after presenting our profile to an expectant mom, we found out she chose us. We were ecstatic! On July 17th, seven days after we first found out we were matched, we were on a plane. It was surreal, and we were nervous, but we also had so much peace. We had waited for years to add to our family, and it was finally going to happen. Wearing my ‘love is on the way’ necklace in the hopes the expectant mama knew our love was not only for the baby but also for her, I took video pushing the stroller into the airport, dreaming about the baby who would fill it just days later. With each adoption we have entered, our goal was to honor the expectant parents knowing the decision they made was one out of love. We didn’t get to the city until late that night, but we went to bed with excitement in our hearts as we prepared to meet the expectant mom the next day.

Courtesy of Vanessa Jacobson

July 18, 2019: The plan was to meet the expectant mom for ice cream in the late afternoon. We were tourists during the day in an attempt to occupy our minds until we got the call. It was hot, so once we got the call, we quickly ran back to our hotel to freshen up and then headed to the diner for what ended up being dinner. We met S and her two children, and the first thing she asked me was, ‘Where are the girls?’ I explained how we just come home days ago from a camping trip, and we felt it would be best for them to be home.

Courtesy of Vanessa Jacobson

We talked for hours. It was carefree, light, and beautiful. She asked me if we had a name picked out, and when I told her the name we loved, she told us she did have a name, but she liked our name too and maybe we could incorporate the two together. We got to know her and her kids, and when it was time to go, she reached across the table to grab my hands and ask if we could pray together. Our faith is very important to us, so that night, I would describe this meeting to my older sister as God-ordained. It was exactly what we wanted as a relationship with birth family is important to us.

As we hugged goodbye, she asked that we be in the delivery room the next day. We told her what an honor that would be and we would come as soon as she let us know. She casually mentioned to me she loved my diaper bag and she had looked at one just like that at Target. It was my first red flag but one that easily could be ignored because she did have a young child.

We left and went to Target because I didn’t have a baby outfit I wanted to change the baby into for pictures after the birth. There, we happened to run into our social worker who was representing us at the birth. She mentioned our meeting had gone so well she didn’t think she needed to be at the birth, and if we were comfortable with it, she’d just stay back. I asked her if she thought Mama S for sure was going to place, and she hesitated. Perhaps our second red flag, but knowing no one truly ever knows if an expectant mom will place or not, I understood her hesitation. The decision was made that she wouldn’t be there, and we left to try and get some sleep at the hotel. Our life would change tomorrow, just not in the way we expected.

Courtesy of Vanessa Jacobson

July 19th came, and it was baby day. Our excitement ran high as we got ready for the day, knowing at any time, we could get a phone call. After missing our daughter’s birth because she came early, we did not want to miss this birth. We tried to eat breakfast knowing labor could go long, and we may not eat for a while. We went back to our hotel room and read scripture and put on worship music, praying over Mama S and ourselves. My husband led us in prayers for God’s guidance, for health for mama and baby, and for peace to fill the room.

We got a call a little while later that said to come and come quickly as things were going fast and she didn’t want us to miss it. In a text, the social worker told me Mama S was so happy she chose us, and she felt everything was planned by God. On the way to the hospital, I took a video for the baby to have later. In the video, I mentioned how God is bigger than any mountain we would face. I had no idea at that time what we were about to face. I was just trying to document as much as I could.

As soon as we got into the room, I hugged Mama S and saw her last name on her hospital bracelet. She started to cry, and I asked if I could pray over her and she said yes. I laid my hands on her belly, half hugging her and asked God to fill the room with peace, that her labor would be smooth, and that God would be glorified through all of it. What I didn’t realize is He would, it just wouldn’t be in the way I wanted. Things were progressing to the point a nurse came in to do a check. Mama S asked that I stay in the room, but my husband and the social worker there to represent her left.

Courtesy of Vanessa Jacobson

While giving her privacy, I looked up her name on social media. In less than a minute, I found her and saw a post with a picture of a nursery that said, ‘Waiting on baby S.’ I knew immediately we got scammed, but I had no idea what to do. I managed to make small talk with the nurse, then asked Mama S how she was feeling about placing. She told me she thought maybe she could parent, but the agency told her she needed a car seat and she asked if we had one she could have. It was as if I could suddenly see she was acting all along. I knew this was not a sudden change of heart.

I texted my husband and told him to find the social worker. He never found her, so when she entered the room she still didn’t know. However, she asked me if I wanted to go get a snack, and I agreed. As soon as we are out of the room I said, ‘She’s not placing,’ and showed her the picture. Her response: ‘I knew it!’ Since she was there to represent Mama S, she had to go back into her, and we had to call our social worker to come for us. I stood outside the room bawling in my husband’s arms and a short time later heard the baby’s first cries. I had missed the birth after all.

The head nurse came and showed us to our room as adoptive parents. I was mad and told her, ‘She isn’t placing so why are you giving us a room?’ Bless her heart because I was hurting, but she was still so kind and told me no one had notified her of that, and the baby was supposed to be with us at all times according to Mama S. She put a mother bracelet on me. I texted close friends and family and begged them to pray. I looked up to the mountains and prayed for a miracle.

Courtesy of Vanessa Jacobson

We went into adoption knowing that expectant parents have every right to change their minds. Our goal was to honor, love, and respect this mama. We said many times we did not want to parent a baby in which the expectant mom wanted to parent but was being forced to place because of circumstances. In the end, we found over 60 social media pictures making it clear she never intended to place.

‘She wants you to come meet the baby.’ Those were the words the nurse said as she entered in our room. My husband was adamant we didn’t do that. He knew it would be that much harder on us, especially me if we did. I called our social worker who still hadn’t arrived and asked her what to do. She assured me the social worker in with Mama S said Mama S was still wanting to place, and we should go meet the baby.

Not wanting to do anything to potentially disrupt the adoption, we met the baby. She was perfect. That was my first thought. And beautiful with a head full of hair. Mama S told me to go ahead and take pictures of baby S, so I did in case she would be my daughter. Within minutes, I could tell Mama S wasn’t feeling well. My husband ran to get a nurse, and I stayed to make sure she was OK. As soon as she was stabilized Mama S turned to me and said, ‘You can leave now.’ And I knew it was over.

I left the room and collapsed into my husband’s arms, sobbing. I could not believe just hours ago we were so sure and full of excitement, and now we were utterly heartbroken. Our social worker encouraged us to leave while they talked to Mama S. As we left the hospital, a nurse ran out, and as gently as possible, told me Mama S wanted them to cut off the mother bracelet. I was shaking and crying SO hard at that point, I’m not sure how she managed to get it off me without cutting me. It wasn’t until we got in the car that it hit me our girls had been waiting to hear about their baby sister, and we would have to somehow make a phone call letting them know what happened.

Courtesy of Vanessa Jacobson

Where does one go when your heart has just been broken? I did not want to go back to the hotel. I could not just sit and think. We wanted to stay close enough just in case, by some miracle, the agency would call us to come to the hospital. I was in complete denial at this point. There is no way this was over. It just couldn’t be. After a while, we both just broke down and decided to take a drive up into the mountains. We drove for a bit until it became clear no call to come back to the hospital would come. We would not hear from the agency until over 24 hours later. We went back to the hotel, and I remember feeling absolutely weary; like everything had gone into that day, and I still came out empty.

Courtesy of Vanessa Jacobson

We expected the agency to call us and check on us or give us some type of direction, but they were silent. It wasn’t until late the next afternoon we were called to the agency office and met by the director who told us, ‘If you stick with us we will find you your baby.’ When asked about social media checks on Mama S, we were told they tried but never found her, yet I did in less than a minute. They told us to go ahead and book our tickets home, but because of a large convention going on, tickets home were way too expensive, so we would stay an additional 2 days. At this point, we just desperately wanted to be home. We spent the evening driving through the mountains. In pictures, you can see the pain in my eyes. But nature is healing for me, so we went to the mountains where we felt God’s presence in our pain.

Courtesy of Vanessa Jacobson

We would spend the next few days being tourists. We drove to the one place God had consistently shown us throughout the adoption process: the mountains. At the very start of our adoption process, I felt God was using the symbol of mountains to represent this adoption. After seven years, we were ‘starting over again,’ facing a mountain of paperwork, a mountain of unknowns, and a mountain of faith that would be required for us to adopt. I had no idea God would place us in the mountains for an adoption. That it would be on the mountain I would cry out to God and that these mountains would end up being a balm to my hurting heart as I listened to worship music and talked to God. Being here gave me the courage to go home and start the journey toward healing.

Courtesy of Vanessa Jacobson

After questioning how they had handled this adoption and our finances, we only heard from the agency two more times. Forgiving Mama S has been much easier than I expected; forgiving the agency for looking the other way has been a lot harder. Forgiving them for taking away our chance at another adoption is still something I’m working through.

In October 2019, we got matched with a different expectant mom through a different agency. Upon talking to the agency about what happened to us in July, they gave me her full name, and I found her on social media. What I found led me to believe that I again found a woman who had no plans on placing. Our home study agency (different from the placing agency) closed doors at the end of December. Thus ending our journey to adoption. Completely burned out and heartbroken, we realized we needed a break. On top of the grief and trauma over a failed/scam adoption, we’ve had to deal with pain over most likely being done growing our family.

While we don’t know what the future will hold, we still would love to add to our family, and we are trusting in God to redeem all things.”

Courtesy of Vanessa Jacobson

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Vanessa Jacobson of Minnesota. You can follow her family’s journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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