‘Tell me about when you CAME OUT.’ We left the interviews feeling a sense of ‘otherness.’ ‘Why does that even matter?’: LGBT couple adopt medically-complex baby boy from NICU

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“Ever since Anna and I met, we knew we wanted a family.  I can’t even remember how young I was when I started compiling a list of names I liked for my future children. Adoption, without a doubt, was the first option for us, as far as adding a child to our family. We could have gone the IUI or IVF route, but for whatever reason, it didn’t even cross our minds this time around. Maybe it was because ever since I was a kid, I have felt called to adoption. I was fascinated by the idea. Or maybe it was because neither one of us was ready to be pregnant and all of those medical procedures just seemed overwhelming at the time. Who knows?

After being together for 7 years, and with our wedding just a few months away, we decided we would start the process of adoption. The decision actually wasn’t an easy one. It took months for me to plant little seeds in Anna’s brain about the possibility of adding a child to our family so soon. I mean, she wasn’t really the crazy one, I was. We weren’t even married yet, and here I was, asking her to start the adoption process. Eventually, she gave way, and I took off running before she could change her mind.

Courtesy of Sarah and Ana

I don’t think about my sexuality often. It is such a small part of who I am. Usually, it doesn’t even really matter. Adopting as a same-sex couple really put our ‘non-traditional’ relationship at the forefront of our lives. I quickly learned I would need to specifically research ‘LGBTQ friendly adoption agencies.’ Adopting from any other country other than the US was pretty much out of the question, as most require the couple to be heterosexual, and we generally stayed away from any religiously-affiliated adoption agencies. I found the first question I would ask the agency when reaching out for more information was always, ‘Do you work openly and honestly with same-sex couples?’ Those who did always replied with an enthusiastic ‘Yes!’ and also offered to put us in touch with other same-sex couples who had adopted successfully with their agency. Then there were those who did not reply to my inquiries at all.

We finally settled on an agency. I thought making that decision would be the end of the ‘othering’ feeling we had been exposed to during the selection process, but I was very, very wrong. Over the next few months, we were subject to fingerprinting and physicals–including a blood test to prove we did not have any communicable diseases, such as HIV. Then came the 40 plus hours of online training we had to complete, and the 35-page intake forms we each had to fill out. All of this is typical of any family wanting to adopt, but what was really hard for us was the home study. The home study consisted of four pre-adoption meetings with a social worker. One was an interview with both of us together, and then we each had to complete an interview individually.

Finally, the social worker came to our home to inspect it for safety and to make sure we had the proper space for a child. The one thing during this process that really made us feel as if we were different was the one on one interviews with the social worker. We both had to answer intimate questions about ourselves and our childhoods, but then we were both asked the same question: ‘Tell me about when you came out, and how your close family/friends reacted.’ Anna and I are both lucky, and we have amazing support systems, but some people don’t. I can only imagine the type of trigger this must be. However, even though we both have fairly simple and easy coming out stories, we both left those interviews feeling a sense of ‘otherness.’ We wondered, ‘Why does that even matter?’ I am sure the heterosexual couples didn’t have to recount the time they told their parents they were straight. I bet their home studies don’t include a detailed recall of each and every one of their family members’ reactions. I can guess they weren’t asked, ‘How do you plan on including a positive male role model in your child’s life?’ I know the social worker was just doing her job, and none of these questions were meant to make us feel inferior, but the point of the matter was, they did. And I think that other than the ‘waiting period,’ this was the hardest part of the adoption for us.

Finally, after hours and hours of interviews, the home study was complete, and all that was left to do was wait. We waited for what seemed like an eternity, but in reality, it was only 5 months from the time we were officially home study approved. I remember the day I received the call so vividly. I was at lunch with two of my good friends, and my phone rang, but I didn’t even pull it out of my coat pocket. I got this overwhelming feeling I should check my phone, and when I saw the missed call, my heart literally stopped. I could barely get the words out as I told my friends it was the adoption agency calling. They both yelled, ‘IS IT A BABY?!’ Before I could even answer them, I was walking outside to call back.

The next few weeks were a rollercoaster of emotions. We had received a call about a ‘born-baby’ situation, meaning the child had already been born, and the birth mom was looking to place the child for adoption. We had to decide if we wanted our profile presented to the birth mother, but there were complications we had to consider. The baby was born extremely early, more than 3 months before his due date, weighing a little over 2 pounds. On top of that, he was born not breathing. We were presented with a list of possible medical issues, such as cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, developmental delay, and attention issues. The doctors were unsure if he would be able to learn to feed from a bottle, and he required supplemental oxygen to breathe. There were many other complications to consider, but these details remain part of our son’s history and we will leave him to tell his own story when and if he is ready. I remember spending hours upon hours researching the prognosis of his birth history. I felt lost, as I wanted a baby so bad, but selfishly, we were uncertain if we were ready to take on such a complex child.

Courtesy of Sarah and Ana

At some point, Anna and I put down the computers, stopped looking up diagnoses, and stopped worrying about the ‘what ifs.’ We decided we would let fate take over. If this was meant to be our child, the birth mother would choose us, and if not, she wouldn’t. We agreed to have our profile shown to the birth mother. After that came a week of pure panic. Our son’s birth mom canceled her initial meeting with the social worker to review profiles. We thought she had changed her mind. 10 days after the initial phone call from our agency, we received another phone call. The birth mom wanted to meet us! Our social worker warned us not to get our hopes up. We had no idea how many families she was meeting with.

Two days later, we drove an hour to a Subway to meet with the social worker and birth mom. I was so nervous, I could barely speak. ‘What if we say the wrong thing? What if she doesn’t like us?’ We ended up leaving that meeting with a picture of a sweet baby boy, dressed in an outfit that said, ‘Strong like Mommy.’ Our social worker told us she would call in a few days and let us know if any decisions were made. An hour later, we received the phone call that changed our lives forever. Our son’s birth mom did not want to meet with any other families. She wanted us to parent her child. I just about passed out in the middle of the restaurant we were eating at. Then, two days later, we were finally meeting our sweet boy. He was so small and so precious. I remember walking into the NICU with my heart beating out of my chest, and there was our son–OUR SON–staring at us with his big brown eyes.

Courtesy of Sarah and Ana

From that moment on, it was pure love that helped us all survive. The doctors told us maybe we could bring him home from the NICU in 4 to 6 weeks. We visited every day before and after work, and we stayed all weekend snuggling and reading to him. Levi started to open his eyes more often, and soon he was weaning from his NG tube and learning to bottle feed. The doctors and nurses were able to turn his supplemental oxygen down to the lowest setting. He celebrated his 100 day birthday in the NICU and graduated to his ‘big boy crib’ from the bassinet. He met his grandparents, aunts, and uncles. He was steadily gaining weight. Two weeks and two days from the day we met him, we were bringing home our baby boy. This was in half the time the doctors predicted. It was truly amazing to see Levi grow and thrive, and against all odds, he was coming home early.

Courtesy of Sarah and Ana

People often say, ‘Wow, he is so lucky to have you two as his moms.’ We do our best to provide Levi with everything that he needs, but the reality is, we are the lucky ones. We have an extremely happy and healthy little boy. He teaches us patience and to find joy in the smallest things. His birth mother taught us what unconditional love is and what true strength really means. We were given the greatest gifts we could ever ask for, and for that, we are forever grateful.

To anyone exploring adoption and especially to same-sex couples, my advice would be to do your research and then go for it. It is going to be an extremely long and emotional journey. There are going to be days when you just want to give up and days when you think there is no way you will be chosen. There will be days when all you can do is think about the adoption and there will be days when you don’t think about the adoption at all. But the most important thing is to remember, at the end of the journey, all of the time, the money, and tears will be worth it. You will be blessed with the greatest gift of all time. Our lives changed forever, and yours will too.”

Courtesy of Sarah and Ana

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sarah and Ana. You can follow their journey on 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 stories of  adoption:

‘I’m leaving for the Army! I can’t be pregnant!’ I just turned 18. I had no clue who my baby’s father was.’: Teen mom has ‘beautiful’ open adoption, ‘They burst into tears when they saw her. I knew I’d made the right choice’

‘Shut the hell up! Is this for real? Oh my Lord, I can’t believe this!’ I was screaming, trying not to hyperventilate.’: Couple adopts ‘angel’-faced daughter from young birth parents, ‘it was a sign’  

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