‘That wasn’t our baby, and he got to stay with his mama.’ Couple’s failed adoption leads to beautiful open relationship with new birth mom. ‘I never felt a love so strong.’

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“When my husband, TJ, and I first started dating, we both shared a desire to adopt someday. When we came to a point in our marriage where we felt ready for kids, we knew adoption was our first choice. We’ve been lucky enough to know birthmoms, adoptees, and adoptive parents our whole lives. We’ve been able to see firsthand the beauty of adoption. My husband and I began our pursuit to adopt when we enrolled with our adoption agency in July 2015. At the time, I had been working in Special Education for our public school system. I didn’t return to work that fall because we knew that adoption can sometimes move quickly. Little did we know the long journey that was to come!

After our home study was completed and our online profile was posted, which takes long enough, we became a waiting family. Over the course of almost two years, we were ‘matched’ with four different expectant mothers considering adoption. One situation after another, we spent time getting to know each of them, but each of the four women chose to parent. The hardest situation to move on from was the fourth expectant mother. We were there for labor and spent a few days in the hospital after. She ended up deciding to parent. While we wrestled with disappointment at the time, we now have peace with her decision. That wasn’t our baby, and he got to stay with his mama. We went back to waiting for our next match, everyday hoping and praying we would get matched again.

After 11 long months, in February 2017, we were contacted by an expectant mother. We were excited and eager to hear about her pregnancy. When she shared she was only four months along, I felt my nerves spike. I was nervous to spend five long months getting to know someone and getting our hopes up about parenthood, only to have someone change their mind again. We met for dinner and immediately hit it off.

‘Would you be interested in an open adoption?’ It was a timid question she asked us during dinner, and we immediately responded, ‘YES!’ I knew right away that whether we ended up adopting her little one or not, that it would be an honor to get to know this woman. Her name was Maryellen and she’s the most incredible person we’ve ever met.

Courtesy Pauline Pearce

We didn’t fully realize at the time, but the five months we spent getting to know each other was filled with memories we will all look back fondly on forever. TJ, Maryellen, and myself were able to get together about 20 times in that time period. We celebrated Maryellen’s birthday together and we were able to go to several of her doctors appointments.

Courtesy Pauline Pearce

While I attended one of her doctors appointments, labor started. TJ had to quickly rush to the hospital! Maryellen was extremely welcoming to us being there, and we were able to be there for the baby’s birth. During the first stretch of labor, I sat off to the side. Maryellen beckoned me to come and support her, and in that moment, I was so very thankful for the relationship we had already spent so much time building.

Courtesy Pauline Pearce

After the baby was born, TJ entered the room and cut the cord. Maryellen and I held hands and laid eyes on that sweet boy together for the first time. We both cried and cried. Maryellen later described that moment as, ‘the moment our lives changed forever. I never felt a love so strong.’ Soon after birth, 16 of Maryellen’s friends and family came to visit the hospital. We refrained from inviting anyone, as he wasn’t our baby and we were there to support Maryellen. It was an emotional few days for all of us. I’m sure you can imagine the mixed emotions involved with giving birth and then placing your child for adoption.

On our end, we were also filled with mixed emotions. On the one hand, we were filled with excitement and joy at the idea of having a baby boy, on the other we were fearful she would choose to parent. We were also filled with grief at the thought of their separation. Suddenly, we realized the full gravity of adoption. In a perfect world, adoption wouldn’t exist; babies would be able to stay with their mamas. Unfortunately, circumstances arise that make that difficult and that’s why the world needs hopeful adoptive parents. We didn’t expect to feel so emotional at the separation of Maryellen and her son.

Courtesy Pauline Pearce
Courtesy Pauline Pearce

When the baby was two days old, Maryellen and baby were discharged from the hospital. The adoption wasn’t final for 10 days, but the baby was able to come home with us immediately. Over the next week, we struggled to balance our feelings of joy at having a newborn, and our fear of the adoption not finalizing. We chose to focus on the joy of being parents.

Courtesy Pauline Pearce

Even if it was for a short time, he was in our arms for that time. We wouldn’t let our fears deprive him of connection and nurture. Maryellen ended up finalizing everything when he was 10 days old. The three of us shared a baby boy, our sweet Kendrick Julian.

‘Instead of viewing it as taking away a family member, we are all adding to our families and extended families. The more people to love on Kendrick, the better,’ my husband TJ said.

We all went out to Mexican food and ice-cream that night and celebrated our new joint family. The weight of her decision will never be lost on us. Her love for her son goes deeper than anyone could ever imagine.

Courtesy Pauline Pearce
Courtesy Pauline Pearce

We absolutely love sharing a son with Maryellen. We have an open adoption. Kendrick was baptized when he was 6 weeks old and Maryellen stood in front with us at church. We both had family and friends in attendance that day, and it’s a day I will never forget. Maryellen began college that fall. On her first night of classes, we all went to dinner to celebrate. Maryellen cheers Kendrick on continually, and we get to do the same for her. We love celebrating her accomplishments almost as much as she loves celebrating Kendrick’s! She graduated with her Associates degree last night, and our admiration for her has only increased.

Courtesy Pauline Pearce
Courtesy Pauline Pearce

The first year of Kendrick’s life took a lot of navigating. It was a year of ‘firsts’ for our open adoption. How often do we get together? How should we celebrate holidays? How should Kendrick refer to Maryellen? How did we answer inappropriate questions from people we met? It wasn’t exactly an easy year, but that’s ok. We all CAN and SHOULD do hard things. Maryellen has been so gracious and patient with us. It’s been a learning curve for everyone. Adoption is filled with so many emotions. Empathy and kindness are so very important for both the adoptive parents and the birth parents to have for each other. We’ve also learned the importance of ongoing communication in order to avoid resentment.

Courtesy Pauline Pearce

Kendrick turns 2 this June. He is absolutely the cutest, smartest, strongest, sweetest, and most loved baby in all the world (we may be a little biased). I found a quote last year that resonated with both Maryellen and I.

‘He is mine in a way that he will never be hers, yet he is hers in a way that he will never be mine, and so together, we are motherhood.’ (Desha Woodall). Kendrick has so many quirks and habits that he has inherited from TJ and I, and he also has so many that he gets from Maryellen. Kendrick lights up whenever he sees Maryellen. He runs to her and he holds her tight. He loves and adores her, but that doesn’t make us any less of his parents.

Courtesy Pauline Pearce

We’ve now made it our joint mission to spread awareness of adoption. November is adoption awareness month, and this last November the four of us were featured on NBC Chicago news sharing the story of our open adoption. We texted Maryellen the night the news program aired.

‘Raising Kendrick confident in and aware of his story is something we treasure and look forward to continue doing,’ we told her.

We watch that news clip often with Kendrick. We love seeing him smile and wave at the pictures and interviews of himself and his family on the screen! Maryellen works for an expectant mother/birthmother support phone line. TJ and I have had the honor to share our story at several conferences. We’d like to send the message that adoption IS an option. Whether it’s an expectant mother facing an unplanned pregnancy who needs to hear that, or someone(s) ready to grow their family. Adoption was our first choice and it can be yours, too. A child does not need to be biologically yours for you be able to love and adore them deeply. It is our plan to adopt all of our children. We are currently a waiting family again hoping to grow our family even more. We cannot wait to see Kendrick as a big brother, and Maryellen as an auntie to our next baby!”

Courtesy Pauline Pearce
Courtesy Pauline Pearce

Be inspired by her larger adoption stories:

‘For us, he was only ever our son. Not our black son or adopted son. Even though most folks find him adorable right now, they might feel differently when he dates their daughters, or walks through the mall with his hoodie on.’

‘Eli and his biological brother who went to another family have lived 45 minutes from each other for their entire lives, and have never met. Until now.’

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Pauline Pearce of Chicago, Illinois. Follow her journey on Instagram here. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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