“As I stepped out of the car into the deluge of rain that soaked through my cardigan, I made an effort to be in the moment. This was the start of something I had waited for my entire life. For as long as I can remember, I always hoped to one day adopt. Just like a young girl plans her wedding or talks about her future career, I talked about adoption. The idea family could be created out of love and didn’t rely on blood always made me feel a sense of comfort. Our adoption agency was located on the second floor of an ordinary office building near the river. I’d been here before, years prior, with the same hope and longing to grow our family through adoption.
This time felt different. The uncertainty was overshadowed by excitement and knowing. Years before, Aaron and I entered this same office building, climbed the dingy staircase to the second floor, and listened to a woman explain open adoption and what made this agency unique. Halfway through the session, we were told to ‘open our packets to the agency fee schedule.’ As soon as I looked at the numbers glaring up at me from the page, I felt the disappointment assume control of my body. There was no way we could afford to adopt a baby at this point in our lives. I’d just suffered a miscarriage. I was feeling scared and my heart felt heavy. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant and carry a baby to term and finding out we couldn’t afford an open adoption only made the pressure I was feeling to start a family more intense.
Years passed and I discovered my fear we wouldn’t be able to start a family was unfounded. I gave birth to two beautiful babies. My pregnancies with Penelope and Nolan weren’t without bumps and bruises, but all things considered, the end result was perfection. Nolan was born in the fall, and by the time summer rolled around the following year, Aaron and I felt the strong urge to grow our family once more. We knew our next baby would come to us through adoption. For us, this would take years of planning and saving.
The road to adoption is not a simple one. There are a lot of hoops to jump through before you can even begin the actual ‘adoption process.’ There we were, climbing the same dingy stairs, stepping into the chilly brick room, and the same woman we’d met years prior standing upfront.
I took a deep breath. I wanted to be present and to take this all in. Looking around the U-shaped table for two empty seats, I noticed the same blue packets casually strewn across the tabletop. Today was the informational session, the first official step in our adoption journey. For us, it was important to find an agency that aligned with our values of openness and honesty. We wanted an agency that was birth-family focused and took the time to establish lasting bonds between birth and adoptive families. This agency checked all these boxes. Without hesitation, but with a great deal of anticipation, we decided to move forward. I kept looking down at my phone to check the time. Aaron was supposed to meet me at 11 and take us to the agency, where we would be doing our 2-day adoption seminar. Anyone who knows me knows sitting anywhere for 2 days is the definition of my personal hell, but I was ready to jump into the process feet-first.
What normally felt like a challenge now made me feel shaky with excitement. It was February of 2019, and the air had a deep chill. Armed with a bag full of snacks, we entered the dingy staircase and climbed back up to the cool brick room. We were met with a roomful of excited smiles for the other hopeful adoptive families. As we took our seats at the U-shaped table, I decided this moment needed to be documented. I got up, stepped out into the hall, and walked into the bathroom where I took a bathroom mirror selfie. I wasn’t ready to share with our friends we’d started this journey, but I hoped this picture would be a future reminder of the long road that would one day culminate in holding my sweet babe. The seminar covered things like birth parent rights, race and adoption, and adoption law. The agency even hosted a panel of former adoptees, birthparents, and other individuals that had successful adoptions through the agency.
When the seminar was over, I felt overcome with hope and the pressure I’d felt years prior was replaced with a sense of lightness and knowing. The months passed, and so did each step on the agency checklist. Before we knew it, we were scheduling our home study. I’d read home study horror stories as I doom scrolled through adoption blogs and posts. I can see how having someone come into your home and construct a 30-page document detailing every aspect of your life could be a little intimidating, but I can say with absolute certainty, it wasn’t as bad as the others made it seem. I actually enjoyed the intimacy of it all. What other situations allow you to showcase your home and family in the same way? As an avid therapy enthusiast, I can say the home study feels like a comprehensive therapy assessment, where your therapist asks for a tour of your home and smoke detectors.
We received the news we were officially in the adoption pool the week before Thanksgiving of 2019. Being active in the adoption pool is super intense. Once a family enters the adoption pool, they could get ‘the call’ at any moment. Waiting for a call that may or may not come was both exhilarating and exhausting. I had my phone glued to my side at all times. According to the agency, the call could come anytime between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. As hopeful adoptive families, we were told stories of families being in the middle of work meetings and grocery shopping when their ‘call’ came in. They were told to ‘abandon’ their cart and head straight to the hospital. When and how this call was going to happen became an all-consuming thought. From one control freak to another, you have zero control when it comes to adoption. When that call comes in, you have to be ready to go.
Not all adoption placements are this dramatic. Periodically, we would receive a screening email. A screening is a detailed account of a potential placement that fits within your preselected parameters, and each hopeful adoptive family is asked to decide if they want their profile presented to this expectant family. Once you’ve said ‘yes’ to a situation, you only hear a response if you’re the chosen family. Receiving a screening email always gets the blood pumping. Each time I heard the ding and saw the email pop up on my phone, I’d get a little endorphin rush and then would inevitably be let down when I didn’t hear a response.
The months seemed to fly by. I was busy being a boss mama, running my pet service business, Platinum Leash, and shuffling my littles to one activity or another. Suddenly, it was March of 2020. My business was booming; however, the knowledge I could get ‘the call’ at any time brought me excitement. Then COVID hit. Normal life came to a screeching halt. I was suddenly a stay-at-home mama. The whole family was home, and this was the perfect time to have a new baby in the house. To occupy my mind, I became a serial hobbyist. Between gardening, becoming an herbalist, baking, kayaking, teaching, and extreme shiplapping (thanks, Joanna and Chip), I was doing my best not to dwell on waiting for a baby. Oh, and let’s not forget the impulse purchases… everyone needs a tiny office and vintage camper trailer, right?
The 1-year mark is a daunting milestone for any hopeful family. The average wait for adoption is 18 months, but when we hit one year, the wait became exponentially harder. We received a few screenings here and there. I let myself get my hopes up on some. Our world changed on January 2, 2021, at 6:36 p.m. We were having our weekly family pizza and movie night. I heard my phone ding and looked down to see an email from the agency. I felt my breath catch, as something about this felt different. We finished the movie, wrangled the kids into bed, and snuggled up to finish our most recent HBO Max binge watch. As we sat snuggled up in the chair, we read the email together. It, in fact, was a screening. A little boy had been born the night before. His birth had been traumatic. Immediately following his birth, he went into respiratory distress and hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. The hospital was unable to stabilize him, and he was transported by life flight to the nearest NICU.
By the time we received the email, the sweet babe was in critical, but stable, condition. As you can imagine, some screenings require discussion before we are able to make a decision. Aaron and I looked at each other and said at the same time, ‘Is there any reason we’d say no?’ Without a second thought, we were sure he was meant to be our little boy. I replied yes to the email, hoping we would hear something the next morning. I lay awake most of the night, feeling like this could be our time and my life could change at a moment’s notice.
The next morning, I did my best not to think about the screening email from the night before. I went for a run and helped my daughter build a craft project she received for Christmas. As the morning progressed into afternoon, a heavy feeling set over me. I was sure we would have heard by now if we’d been chosen. Not a minute after I let myself lose hope, my phone rang. The caller ID showed a number in the same city where the adoption counselor assigned to this particular case lived.
My head was spinning. I remember looking out the window for a split second and seeing a blur of colors but unable to focus on any one object. I called for Aaron. I let the phone buzz one more time and then I picked up. The next 20 minutes are a complete blur. The woman on the other end of the phone told us we had been chosen to adopt the sweet little baby we had just learned existed the night before. The counselor gave us more information on the case and we set up a time to meet his birth mama via Zoom the following day. Meeting the baby’s birth mama was one of the most incredible and humbling experiences. The magnitude of her decision and the love she had for her son was overwhelming. Her smile felt warm and talking to her, I knew she had to be part of our family. We spent a couple of hours getting to know each other and making sure each party felt comfortable with the situation.
When the Zoom call ended, we were given the okay to head up to the hospital to meet our little boy. As soon as I looked at his precious face, I knew it was meant to be. He was still on a ventilator, sedation, and a feeding tube. We hadn’t signed any paperwork, but as I looked at him through the radiant warmer, I realized I couldn’t imagine my life without him. We had found our baby. The hospital would only allow us to stay for a short time, but that’s all it took for him to show us his name. On the drive home from the hospital, we received word the official paperwork was ready to be signed. We pulled over in a tree-lined parking lot in between an old church and a synagogue. In a moment, I had signed my name seven times. Seven is my lucky number, and seven times is all it took to make this sweet baby ours. We submitted the paperwork, started the car, and drove home in the same deluge of rain, knowing we were now officially a family of five.
Everett came home from the hospital today. He is only 19 days old and has come so far. His recovery and resilience are nothing short of miraculous. I talk to his beautiful birth mama daily. We share photos and stories. She tells me about her life and I share about mine. I am grateful for her every day. I frequently get questions from curious people asking about Everett’s situation. I tell them Everett will always know he’s adopted. The love between him and his birth family will make him happier and more whole because of his beautiful and unique story. People seem to carry certain assumptions about adoption and the individuals involved. When done ethically, adoption is both beautiful and brutal. With intense love also comes loss. While my family is growing in love, another mama is grieving. Not because she regrets her choice, but because she loves her child.
I hope, one day, adoption becomes normalized. I will work every day to make sure my son knows he is loved and his story is unique and special. Everett’s family might not look the same as everyone else’s, but what it lacks in uniformity is made up in love. I am grateful every day for the opportunity to have an open adoption. There were times when this dream seemed far off and out of reach. As I sit here with my sweet baby snuggled up on my chest, I am filled with hope. Not the same hope I felt in 2019 when we started down the long road to adoption, but a hope my son will be proud of where he came from and feel the intense amount of love that surrounds him.
Author’s Note: In my mission to normalize adoption and promote adoption-positive language, I am happy to answer any questions about our process or adoption in general. Feel free to reach out via Instagram.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jessica Diamond of Portland, Oregon. You can follow their journey on Instagram here and here, and their website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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