“We had three biological boys. Life was good, but I still yearned for another child. Friends would comment about how they were ‘so done’ after their last child, but I never felt that way.
We had our three boys very close together, and life was extremely busy and went too quickly. Talk of another child would come up, but then nothing would be done and life would continue. 3 years, 5 years, 8 years.
Of course with having three boys, we always talked about a little girl. But in reality, it didn’t matter. I just wanted another baby – to hold, to love, to nurture, to protect. My mother would bring up adoption, especially from China. ‘Oh Amy, why don’t you adopt one of those precious babies from China.’ I knew nothing about adoption, and I would dismiss it, mostly out of fear.
Almost 7 years after our last son was born, we started to talk seriously about another child. At this point, my husband, Derek, and I were in our late thirties. I wasn’t sure, at this age, that I wanted to put my body through another pregnancy and to take a risk of something going wrong. We also wondered if we were too old and still had the energy to be fully engaged with a baby. But the feelings kept yanking at my heart. My oldest son, Aidan, came home one day and said out of the blue, ‘Can we adopt a baby girl?’ His friend’s family had recently adopted a baby girl from China. Adam was eight years older than Jade, and Aidan loved the interactions and relationship they had. He thought it was cool.
So of course the talk of adoption again came into the picture. ‘What about adopting?,’ I would say not so convincingly because I was unsure myself. My husband was not certain, and I had to let it all sink in and think about what this would truly mean. I knew in my heart, however, I would love another baby with all that I had no matter how they came to me. Oddly enough, my parents had a connection with a man that worked in the adoption field. I remember my mom giving me his business card three different times. The first two times, I was scared and threw the card in a drawer.
Another year or so went by. During that time, I often brought up another baby and adoption to Derek, but he still wasn’t fully on board. ‘Amy, we would be starting all over again, and I’m not so sure I can do that,’ he would say. Our youngest was turning 10 years old. He could see the disappointment and sadness in my eyes. At times, I thought – ‘be happy with what you have, you are blessed with three healthy, beautiful children.’ I would often wonder if I was wrong for wanting another baby, but I was also terrified I would regret for the rest of my life not moving forward.
It was our 15th wedding anniversary. I remember the day like it just happened. It’s one of those days that will be seared in my memory until my last breath. We went away for a long weekend. It was a beautiful sunny day, the air was crisp, and we were sitting at a bar, eating lunch and looking out over the ocean. We were in casual conversation, and I can’t remember exactly how it changed, but Derek looked at me and said, ‘I think we should do it. I think we should look into adopting.’ My heart skipped a beat and a huge smile washed over my face. ‘I am not sure I can go back to an infant but I would consider a toddler.’ ‘OK, I replied,’ still numb and not sure what this really meant. I knew, however, I would do all that I could to learn about adoption and to hopefully add to our family.
Monday morning couldn’t come quick enough. I took the third business card my mother gave me and dialed the number. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. I knew that with this one phone call our lives would change. I would never turn back now. A man answered, ‘Hello, this is Mike.’ I told him my name and who I was. I asked him every question I could think of – not even knowing if they were the right ones. ‘We would like to adopt. We are not sure where to begin. Can you help?’ I learned that Mike actually worked for the CT Department of Children and Families… adoption through foster care. At this point, I wasn’t really sure what this meant, but I wrote down everything he said. He told me who to contact and how to start the process. Without even confirming with Derek, I called the contact. ‘You will need to come in for an Information Session. We have next Thursday night available,’ the lady on the other end said. ‘We will be there, thank you,’ and I hung up the phone. There. It was done. One step closer. What I didn’t realize, at this point, was that the main goal of DCF was reunification. How would I know?
After attending that session, we decided to move forward with our PRIDE training. We talked it over with the boys, and they were excited at the chance of a new sibling but nervous as well. They talked about gender and names and what might he or she might look like and where they might be from.
Six weeks of parenting classes – every Saturday for six hours. We were annoyed at first. We had three children, what in the world did we not know? I will tell you… a lot. A lot about children with trauma and children from different cultures and ethnicities. It was an invaluable experience even if it meant finding care for our boys and coordinating their activities from afar.
One day, after this all just started, I walked into the gym I frequented. I ran into my friend, Mary Ellen, that I didn’t see often. We started talking and she was telling me about a toddler girl that her brother and sister-in-law were fostering. ‘Mike and Cathy are looking for a family for their niece’s baby. She is 15 months old.’ ‘Amy, she is so adorable and so good natured.’ Mike and Cathy had been fostering Sammie for over a year at this point. They were trying to find a good home for her as they were not in a position to care for her permanently. I think I stopped breathing for a second, ‘Mary Ellen, we will be that family. Derek and I just decided on the adoption of a toddler, and we have just started PRIDE training,’ I blurted out. ‘I am serious,’ I explained. She told me she would put me in touch with Cathy, her sister-in-law, and she did. I thought right then and there, this is fate.
So much happened with our Sammie within 12 months, it would be hard to tell it all. The first time we met her, my husband and I were by ourselves. We walked up to Cathy’s door and rang the doorbell. The door opened and around the corner came a toddling little girl who looked so much like me, my knees almost buckled. I think I even gasped. I could not believe it. A beautiful brown haired, brown eyed baby girl. From that moment on, we felt a connection and we did everything we needed to do to add this baby to our family. Her birth mom was not working her case plan and we soon became the court appointed pre-adoptive family. We had a relationship with Sammie for 12 months – visits and overnights. She fit in so well, and we ALL fell in love with her. My teenage boys were completely smitten with her. It was magical. They were attentive, gentle and sweet and taught her so many new things. My husband was in love. However, after having a year-long relationship with Sammie, she was reunified with her mother. I am not going to get into the specifics of the way DCF in CT and MA worked, but I will tell you that we felt like we went through hell and back.
Sammie was reunified with her mother at the age 2 years 6 months. She had not had a permanent plan since birth. Although we did not agree with the reunification and the terms of it, we had absolutely no say. We fought along with her great aunt and uncle for a different plan, but on a hot day in July, I got the call that Sammie’s plan had changed. Derek and I were taking a walk. We happened to be away with my older son at a baseball tournament. The phone rang and I saw that it was Roz, our DCF caseworker, ‘Sammie’s plan has changed and the judge ruled to reunify her with her mother. She will be going back to her mother in three days.’ She said it just like that, so matter of factly. ‘What?! What are you talking about?,’ I screamed, tears rushing down my cheeks. The rest is sort of a blur. I felt the wind knocked out of me. I fell to the ground and cried and cried. I felt the grief of death, and I had no idea how I would recover. My husband and my boys, especially the youngest, were devastated.
In hindsight, I honestly believe that Sammie led us to our daughter Mary Claire. I also believe, now, that Sammie is where she is meant to be. Her mother has remained sober and Sammie seems happy and healthy. It’s amazing to me how much love I had for a child that didn’t come from my womb and in reality, only knew for a few short months. I loved her fiercely and would have done anything to protect her.
After grieving a while, my husband and I decided that we wanted to move forward with adoption. I knew, at this point, with all that I had, I wanted another baby and that it was right for our family. We stayed with DCF for a couple more months, but soon realized it was not the path for us. I started researching domestic infant adoption. I walked into our family room where Derek was sitting, and said, ‘I don’t think I have the strength to move forward with DCF. I am not sure I can emotionally do it anymore. I want to look into private adoption.’ ‘Ok,’ he said. I quickly added, ‘this means we will be adopting an infant.’ ‘I am alright with that,’ he said smiling. I think all his fears were washed away by Sammie.
I somehow, by the grace of God, figured out that we needed a home study first. The home study that we went through with DCF would not be accepted for a private infant adoption. I reached out to a CT licensed adoption agency in May and our journey to our daughter began.
Late July, we were home study approved. I had no idea what to do next or what agencies to apply to. It was very daunting and completely overwhelming. The home study provider gave us a list of some agencies which I went over thoroughly. I called each one, asking questions I thought were necessary. I settled on two agencies. One happened to be in Texas, and I felt very connected to the social worker that answered my call. ‘Hi this is Caitlin, can I help you?’ OK, I thought to myself. Here we go again. Don’t let fear get in the way. We spoke for over an hour and she answered every single question I had.
In August, we were approved as a waiting family with both agencies. Within the next couple of weeks, we were sent a few situations that we ultimately passed on. During the third week, we were sent a situation that felt different. I immediately felt a connection and all of my fears seem to dissipate. I thought, this is it. This is the situation we have been waiting for. I immediately called Caitlin. ‘Yes, we want to present,’ I said probably a little too eagerly. ‘What else do I need to do? Can I write a letter to the parents?’ Caitlin said absolutely and off I went to try to get my thoughts on paper. During that call Caitlin also told me that the situation was actually coming from their sister agency in Kansas and that it was a very sought-after situation. Because of this, they were showing the expectant mom 10 families. My fears grew deep again, especially since we had three biological boys, and the expectant mom and dad stated in their profile that they wanted to help a family that couldn’t have children. I thought – there is just no way.
We were presented on Wednesday. I was leaving for a girl’s trip the next day. Caitlin said she would keep me posted. I was a wreck the entire weekend. On that Friday, sitting in a restaurant with my friends, Caitlin called and said, ‘The mom and dad have narrowed their choices down to you and one other family.’ I told them to take the weekend to think about it and to get back to me Monday morning. ‘Thank you,’ I said not knowing what else to say for fear things would change in a heartbeat. I did also tell Caitlin not to call me until 5 p.m. that Monday afternoon, even if she knew the answer beforehand. I had no idea where I would be during the day, and I had no idea how I would respond to either answer. I wanted to be prepared. I did not sleep much that weekend.
It was 4:55 pm. ‘I am going upstairs to wait for Caitlin’s call,’ I told my family who was sitting around the kitchen, not exactly sure what to do. I walked into my bedroom and flopped on my bed. I’m not sure I can do this. My fears were getting the best of me, and I wasn’t sure I could handle another heartbreak. There is no way we will be chosen. How could we? We are older, we have three children. They said they wanted to help a childless couple.
If I am honest, I laid in the fetal position in my bed, rocking back and forth and feeling nauseous. What seemed like eternity was only five minutes. The phone rang. I answered. ‘You have been chosen. Angel and Connor would like your family to adopt their baby.’ Time stood still for a moment. Was I hearing this correctly? ‘Shut the F*** up,’ is literally what fell out of my mouth. ‘Is this for real? Oh my Lord, I can’t believe this,’ I was screaming to Caitlin, trying not to hyperventilate. I then asked her if she had anything urgent she needed to tell me or could I call her back. I needed to go and tell my family. I ran downstairs, crying and laughing shouting, ‘We’ve been chosen.’ Everyone had a huge smile on their face.
Our adoption journey is sometimes hard to tell, well the private route that is. It is certainly not the norm. Our daughter’s birth parents were young, they were in college and there was very little substance use. They had been together for a few years, and her birth father was adopted as well. We connected on a phone call first. Derek and I sitting in a little hotel room, huddled together around the phone desperately trying not to say the wrong thing. ‘Thank you so much for considering us. We feel honored and blessed,’ was how the call started. ‘I love that you have a white fluffy dog,’ Angel said, ‘and three boys that will protect this human forever.’ Connor chimed in, ‘we absolutely loved the letter that you wrote us. It really reminded me of my own mother.’ The conversation continued to flow naturally and fears on both sides faded and before the call ended, we decided a visit before birth would be beneficial for us all.
We flew out to Kansas on a cold November day. Baby girl was due in January. We had planned to meet at an Applebee’s for lunch. The social worker would be with us too. Derek and I arrived at the shopping plaza early. As we were browsing the shops, my phone rang. It was Angel. My heart sank. ‘Hey,’ she said, ‘just want to let you know that unfortunately we are going to be late. We somehow lost the car keys somewhere in our apartment. They might be under a pile of clothes.’ We will text you when we find them.’ ‘Breathe Amy,’ I muttered out loud. I realized I thought she was calling to cancel.
We got the text and headed over to Applebee’s. We instantly connected and fell in love with them both. During that visit, we learned that we both had chosen the same name for her baby girl. ‘Did you have a name in mind?,’ I asked Angel and Connor sitting across from them in the booth. ‘Evelyn Dawn,’ they said. ‘Are you kidding me?,’ I said as my eyes grew wide. ‘The name we would choose is Mary Claire Evelyn.’ I went on to explain that the name was to honor our grandmothers, and that my Nana, Evelyn, raised my mother as her own (she was biologically her aunt) when her parents had passed away when she was two years old. ‘Wow,’ they said, ‘that is just amazing. We love the name Mary Claire Evelyn.’ Angel believes it was a sign and we were just meant to connect and be together. I agree, as I kept thinking, ‘what 18-year-old chooses the name Evelyn?’
We had a four-month match so we had a lot of time to prepare and to get to know each other. Angel doesn’t have much parental support so I felt called to help her through pregnancy, labor, delivery and life itself. ‘I want you there for the delivery and I don’t think I want to hold the baby,’ she told me one day. My heart sank. ‘Yes you do, Angel. You need to hold the baby. You have loved and cared for her so greatly for the past nine months. I will be there with you, and all will be OK.’ Derek and I flew to Kansas early to make sure we were there for the birth. Angel was terrified we wouldn’t make it due to the impending snow coming. Angel was a trooper through the delivery. Our sweet Mary Claire entered the world, and immediately entered our hearts. Derek and I were the first to hold sweet Mary Claire, and at that moment, the world seemed right. I had no idea why or how this was happening to ‘us,’ but I tried to relish every moment. Angel still wasn’t sure if she wanted to hold Mary Claire. I think partly because she had never held a baby before, but also deep down, it was her way to lessen the pain. I encouraged Angel to hold her and spend time with her. In the end, both of their families visited at the hospital and we made sure they all had special time with this beautiful baby girl we were going to bring home.
When we arrived home, we had a houseful of people and house full of PINK! I promised myself I would slow down and cherish and remember each minute with her. During the first year as I would rock Mary Claire in her sweet nursery, I would feel so much love and so much happiness, but I would also feel great sorrow and grief. I couldn’t understand it. How could I be sad when I was cradling this beautiful baby in my arms? I was so happy to be a mom again, but my heart literally hurt for her first mama, my Angel. I couldn’t imagine the pain she was going through. I began to realize over time, that adoption comes with a lot of emotions… fear, joy, grief and everything in between. I know, however, Mary Claire is meant to be in our home, and not a day goes by that I don’t admire the difficult choices her birth parents made for her and for loving her so unconditionally.
To say that Mary Claire is loved and has brought so much joy is an understatement. Our teenage boys love her beyond anything I could have ever imagined. They were 11, 13 and 15 when she arrived home. I tear up every time I think about what she has done for our family and how much we love her. My 6’ 6” husband is absolute putty in her hands. There is something very special about Mary Claire. She is beyond beautiful and people stop us at all times to say she has the face of an angel (and I say, ‘yes…yes she does.’ Literally, I think to myself.). She makes people smile and makes people stop dead in their tracks to say hello or to comment how beautiful and happy she is. She is always smiling… you know that type that wakes up every day singing. She brings such incredible joy to everyone she encounters. We are beyond lucky.
We are also lucky to have a very open relationship with her birth family, not only her birth parents but extended family as well. They are our family. There is no set schedule for calls, updates or visits. They just happen organically like with any other family member. We have visits, phone calls, texts and facetimes. Connor and his family came for a visit this summer, and Angel will be with us for a week at Thanksgiving. We can’t wait!
After Mary Claire’s adoption, I became passionate about promoting domestic infant adoption. Several families asked me to navigate them through the adoption process. The joy I felt from helping these families bring home their babies inspired me to continue guiding others through the complicated and emotional journey. From this, Hello Baby Adoption Consultants was born. I tell my clients who are struck with fear. Just try. Because if you don’t try, it won’t ever happen. Hello Baby is proud to work with all types of families. We believe that on the outside families can look very different, but on the inside, they all share the same heart. We proudly work with traditional couples, same-sex couples, and single parents. We also work with all families regardless of religion, race, or cultural background. Adoption consultants are professionals who know adoption inside and out. We help you navigate the process and help you make the best possible decisions to successfully say, ‘Hello Baby!’”
From podcasts to video shows, parenting resources to happy tears – join the Love What Matters community and subscribe on YouTube.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Amy Twombly. You can learn more about Hello Baby on Facebook, their website and Instagram. 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 inspiring adoption stories:
‘I stood there holding my 3-month-old baby boy as she sent me pictures of an ultrasound of the baby growing in her stomach. I was speechless. But I also knew. Deep down I knew.’: Mom’s breathtaking journey adopting 2 newborn babies only 4 months apart
‘Is she really your child? Are you really her mother?,’ strangers ask. It’s hard. I’m just a mom caring for her 4 kids.’: Biracial couple adopts white niece, ‘I am so proud to call her one of my children’
Help us show compassion is contagious. SHARE this story on Facebook with family and friends.