Adoption Adventures

Follow Cory and Rebecca on their quest to adopt!

The Big Update Part II

And now for the thrilling Part II of our adoption tale!

When we left off, Katherine’s birth mom-to-be was in labor, and the plan was for Cory, me, and the adoption coordinator to visit her in the hospital once the baby was born. I got a call while we were having lunch from the adoption coordinator. She said that Katherine’s birth mom was requesting that I be in the delivery room with her and her mother. This was definitely a change of plans since for the weeks we had been communicating, she stated that she really just wanted her mom with her. And who could blame her? But she said that she thought it was important that I be with Katherine from the very beginning, so of course I accepted the invitation. I told the adoption coordinator that I would be honored to be there, and that I would also be completely open to leaving if Katherine’s birth mom wanted to kick me out at any point. Although we were part of the adoption plan she created, first and foremost this was a young woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and facing a situation that was both emotionally and physically difficult. Anything she wanted me to do was fine with me.

A scenic view from our trip (rather than photos of needles)

A scenic view from our trip (rather than photos of needles)

Now, those who know me understand that I don’t do so well with needles, blood, thinking about the fact that there are skeletons within all of us, etc. When completing our adoption home study and updates, I drove all around the county and ended up getting our mandatory HIV tests at methadone clinics because they were the only places that offered the cheek swab test rather than one that requires a blood draw. (That was actually pretty great because I got to spend half an hour each time talking with nurses so passionate about their jobs helping folks through addiction.) And now I had just a few hours to prepare for being in a real, live delivery room. The up-side about this particular type of medical situation is that I’ve worked for several reproductive health and rights organizations, so I was much better prepared for witnessing childbirth than, say, open heart surgery. I texted a former labor and delivery nurse friend for tips on not vomiting or passing out and was told “don’t lock your knees.”

We headed to the hospital around 4pm and got to spend time with Katherine’s birth mom-to-be, her mother, and her grandmother. Cory stayed with us until the contractions got strong and nurses began checking on Katherine’s birth mom more frequently. I won’t go into all the details, but will say that Katherine’s birth mom was AMAZING as she went through the tough process of giving birth to a surprisingly large baby. I got to be part of her support team and was right in the middle of things–not just standing on the sidelines. It wasn’t until she was pushing that we all found out she had only seen people give birth on TV, where an actress pushes once or twice and then her doctor holds up a magically clean and alert baby. Things got even more dramatic once the doctor could see that Katherine was larger than expected and NICU nurses were called in just in case the baby sustained any injuries (like a dislocated shoulder) while making her way into the world. Katherine’s birth mom powered through the pain and Katherine was born–shoulders intact–just before 10:00 that night. I managed not to lock my knees (thanks, Sarah!) and the only time I thought I might pass out was when the doctor asked who was cutting the cord and I heard Katherine’s birth mom say, “Rebecca is!” And then the doctor handed me blood-covered scissors, and then this vegetarian was cutting through an umbilical cord. (It seems odd that that particular medical procedure is an “honor” given to the untrained.)

Things moved pretty quickly after that point. Nurses whisked Katherine away to check her vital signs. They called me over to the baby warmer and handed Katherine to me. Aside from the medical staff, I was the first person to hold her. The adoption coordinator called Cory in soon after Katherine was born and he got to hold her, as well. Although I’d like to say it was the most beautiful, tear-filled moment of my life, the truth is there was so much going on that it was hard to get too emotional at that point. Our concern for Katherine’s birth mother was equal to our love for this new baby. How could we shift our focus so quickly to Katherine when the doctor and nurses were still working on her birth mom across the room? It was surreal to her, as well. Soon after the doctor left, Katherine’s birth mom was already saying, “Did all of that really happen???” Additionally, at this point Cory and I were legally nothing more than family friends to Katherine. The earliest her birth mom could sign relinquishment paperwork was 48 hours after her birth, or once she got a discharge order from her doctor. All births are emotional, but these circumstances added a few more layers. Cory and I stayed with Katherine and her birth mom for another hour or so, then stumbled out to the parking garage and headed back to our rental home.

Day 2 of air breathing

Day 2 of air breathing

We headed back to the hospital the next day. After a few hours’ sleep, we were all in a better position to enjoy spending time together and learn more about this new baby! The highlight of that day was when Cory and I got to spend time with just Katherine and her birth mom. Katherine’s birth grandmother had to work that evening, so it was just the four of us. While Katherine slept, the “grownups” talked about favorite books, movies, holidays, and just generally got to know one another better. Katherine’s birth mom told us more about how she came to make an adoption plan. She approached it with such maturity and selflessness. She looked into all of her options and found that adoption was the best choice for her and for her baby-to-be. Seriously, people with ten and twenty years more life experience than this young woman don’t possess the same amount of self-awareness and goal-setting abilities for themselves as she does. Katherine is so lucky to have the birth mom and adoption story that she does, and we’re so looking forward to telling her about the conversations we all had that evening.

The following day, Katherine’s birth mom signed all the necessary paperwork to move her from a “mom” to a “birth mom” and Katherine came into the care of the adoption agency. Later that day, Cory and I went to the adoption agency office and signed our own paperwork to have her placed with us. In the coming months the Florida courts will formally terminate the rights of Katherine’s birth parents, and then finalize our adoption. Until then, we operate pretty much as any other parents do. We had to stay an extra couple of weeks in Florida while FL and NC okayed Katherine’s placement with us, then were free to come home near the end of July.

We’re so grateful for open adoption because it alleviates much of the fear that parents in closed adoptions may feel during this legal waiting period. We’re in ongoing contact with Katherine’s birth mom and can continually assure her–through photos and answering questions about the baby–that she made a great choice. We also get to hear how she is doing (currently excited that she can once again fit into her “skinny jeans” and looking forward to starting back at a new school!). We’re so honored that she chose us for Katherine, and thrilled that our relationship with her gets to continue into the future.

First family selfie

First family selfie

So that’s the short version, folks! We’re back home, our family and friends have been so excited to welcome Katherine with open arms, and even the cats seem happy to have her. (Until she gets to the tail-pulling phase, at least.)

 

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The Big Update Part I (Because no one wants to read this much at once)

After years of talking with social workers and agency folks, taking all the steps to complete and then annually update our home study, marketing ourselves online (or at least attempting to), and just generally waiting around hoping for a call that would lead us to our child, everything about our adoption happened very quickly and not in the way we anticipated.

Spoiler alert!

Spoiler alert! Cory and baby Katherine

In February, we had been “on the books” with our adoption agency for a year. (We had been hoping to adopt for several years prior, first through foster care, then through private adoption.) As we moved through month after month with no contacts from potential birth parents, we looked for other ways to increase our chances of being noticed by people making adoption plans. We asked friends to share our adoption Facebook page and family profile, we made sure coworkers knew we were hoping to expand our family through adoption (in case they met someone hoping to place a child), Cory mentioned our adoption journey in music label interviews, I talked about our desire to adopt with the county social workers I met through volunteering as a Guardian ad Litem for kids in foster care, and we updated our family profile with new photos and a more eye-catching design. Still no bites. We asked our agency for suggestions and most of their ideas that we weren’t already implementing involved what felt like the same type of online exposure we were already getting–but with a higher price tag. Then I remembered a women whom I had gotten to know years earlier, while working together on local adolescent pregnancy prevention efforts. She started her own adoption referral service several years ago. After making sure it was ok with our adoption agency, we signed on with her service in early February of this year.

A referral service serves as something of a middleman between agencies and waiting families. The woman at the referral service is in contact with around 12 adoption agencies across the country. When one of those agencies has a potential birth mom who wants a different type of family than the agency has “in house,” the agency contacts the referral service, which then puts a brief description of the birth mom and situation (including agency fees) out in an email to the waiting families on her list. Families can then opt to have their profile shown to the potential birth mom/family. Once she chooses a family, everyone can agree to be matched together and the waiting family connects with the agency that the birth mom has chosen.

We got several emails while on the referral list, but none of them really spoke to us until one that came in May. There was a young woman in Florida seeking a family for her baby to be born in late June. She was a petite cheerleader, which stuck out to me because that’s how my own birth mother was described. This¬† young woman’s own mom had also become pregnant as a teen and made an adoption plan for her baby, so her family understood adoption and at least had to have a positive enough view of it for her to also make an adoption plan. Her profile described her as quiet and a book lover. She loved her siblings and didn’t like math class. She wished her mom didn’t have to work so much so that they could spend more time together. She had plans for her future that included starting high school–not taking care of a child so soon. There were still lots of unknowns about the baby-to-be, but we felt connected to the potential birth mom just through reading her profile. I had a really good feeling about it.

This was in a fortune cookie we got the weekend that Katherine's birth mom was making her final decision on adoptive parents

This was in a fortune cookie we got the weekend that Katherine’s birth mom was making her final decision on adoptive parents

We asked the woman at the referral service to submit our family profile for the potential birth mom to consider, then waited. We found out just over a week later that she had narrowed her choice of families down from six to three, and we were¬† one of those three families. A week later, we learned that she had narrowed her choices down to two families, and we were not in the top two. We were disappointed, but honestly elated to have even been in someone’s top three choices. That’s the closest we had ever gotten to being chosen and it felt great to know that someone liked us enough to consider us! Two days later, we got another email saying that there had been some miscommunication about us being ruled out and the potential birth mom hoped we were still interested. She had several more questions for us to answer. That was on a Friday, and we got the word the following Monday that she had chosen us!

We drove down to Florida the second weekend of June to meet the potential birth mom, her mother, and the adoption coordinator with the agency she chose. We were all nervous! Despite the butterflies, it was evident that this young woman had been exceptionally thoughtful in making her child’s adoption plan and choosing the family she thought would be best. It was also clear that she made this decision, herself, and was getting strong and positive support from her mother and her adoption agency. That was a huge relief! As we drove home, Cory and I tried to figure out what all we needed to do to prepare for a baby in just a few weeks’ time. We wanted to tell everyone what was going on, but told only the bare minimum of family, coworkers, and other “need-to-know” folks. If this fell through, we didn’t want to have to explain it to everyone and their brother for months to come.

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After trying out several colors, we went with Benjamin Moore’s Williamsburg Wythe Blue for the nursery

Once home, we brought all the boxed-up furniture, baby clothes, and other goods up from the basement and started putting the nursery together. A neighbor painted the nursery for us and we started a list of all the many “little things” we would need day-to-day to take care of a baby. Luckily, the adoption wait had given us time to poll parent friends about their favorite baby items and to check Consumer Reports for the safest ones. I installed the car seat base in my car, but kept it covered with a towel to avoid any questions people may have had about it. Although we were excited, we tried to stay cautiously optimistic about the adoption. We have friends who had gotten to the point of the hospital before learning that “their” potential birth mom had decided to parent. We wanted to stay realistic and allow the idea that this young woman may change her mind. She had the right to make whatever choice she felt was best up until signing relinquishment paperwork and we didn’t want to put any pressure on her.

James Turrell's Joseph's Coat at the Ringling Museum of Art

James Turrell’s Joseph’s Coat at the Ringling Museum of Art

We kept in touch through her adoption agency over the next several weeks. There were three different estimates for her due date, over a range of three weeks. Each date passed with seemingly no movement on the baby’s part, and an induction date was set for mid-July. Rather than wait for that date, Cory and I opted to drive down to Florida a few days beforehand. There’s so much that adoptive parents-to-be have no control over whatsoever, so it was nice to be able to make that choice for ourselves. We rented a cottage and visited local museums and an aquarium while we waited. There was a James Turrell skyscape at one of the museums, which was probably the highlight of our sightseeing.

It was such a peaceful place to sit and think that we went back to the Turrell part of the museum the Monday morning that Katherine’s birth mom was scheduled to be induced. It was while sitting there that we got the call from the adoption coordinator that Katherine’s birth mom had gone into labor naturally a couple of hours prior to her scheduled induction. We let her know that we were already in Sarasota and she called back several times throughout the day to give us updates. All the discussions we had about the birth up until that point involved Katherine’s birth mom and her mother going to the hospital for her delivery, and Cory and I visiting with the adoption coordinator later that day or the next. But a few hours later, we learned that the plan had changed.

 

 

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