They say if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. Our plans always included adoption; it was something that Adam and I talked about when we were dating, when we were engaged, and once we got married. But our plans were to adopt after we had biological children. Funny thing is, our plans were not God’s plans. After years of trying and one not so helpful diagnosis of unexplained infertility, in 2017, we felt in our hearts we needed to start pursuing adoption. In our picture-perfect plan, we were going to choose an agency, sail through the home study and requirements process, be chosen right away and all live happily ever after. Looking back now, I can almost hear Him chuckle at our plans.
In February of 2018, we began researching agencies and started the interview process. The first agency that we interviewed told us that depending on the ethnicity and health of the baby that we desired, would determine the amount in which our fee would be. She dressed up the process very well, and while the timeline was ideal, we left feeling like we would not be adopting a baby, we would be buying a baby. We left confused and praying that this would not be the entire process. The second place that we interviewed faced a different problem. While they were a flat-fee program (meaning each adoption costs the adoptive parents the same amount no matter what), they had a five-year wait-list just to even begin the process. There were twelve adoption agencies in our state and three within driving distance, and so far, we were striking out.
On September 28, 2018, we were officially licensed to parent with our chosen agency. The previous three months were grueling and only the beginning of the test of our limits. We spent hours in training and filling out paperwork. Our background checks were done in a time of transition, so new forms had to be filled out, delaying our progress. Three home studies turned into four because they had a policy change. The safety check standards changed a few days before our final home study and the promised four-week timeline from once our home study was completed to the time we were supposed to be active, turned into six weeks. Even with all of that, we were still told we were one of the quicker families through the process. Once active, we waited.
During this time, we continued to follow up with our reproductive endocrinologist where she continually reminded us that we were “not getting any younger” and that our chances of conceiving naturally would be 2-4%. We underwent five rounds of IUI, where she was sure it would work, and failed each one. Rather, the procedures failed us.
Right around this time, we also learned that the average of 2.5 years of wait time through this agency, was more like six. We knew we needed to do something and that God helps those who help themselves, and turned our full attention to adoption and began advocating for ourselves. We put together a website and started a few social media pages in hopes of connecting with an expectant parent considering adoption. We also began educating ourselves on consulting agencies and independent adoption.
In January we found ourselves interviewing agencies yet again, but this time it was consulting agencies. We quickly learned that while they all operated with the same intent, they all operated differently. It would ultimately come down to which one we felt would work for us. We filled out more paperwork, submitted a deposit to get on a waitlist and were told it would be close to five months before we would be active with our chosen agency. So we waited...again.
April we were officially active with our consulting agency. Over the next two months, our profile was shown a handful of times. We were starting to get into the swing of things and learning how to make quick decisions when profile showing number six happened. The expectant family knew our consulting agency and they were limiting the profiles to be shown only to their clients. At most, we were contending with 4 other hopeful adoptive parents. 20% odds. The opportunity seemed perfect and we submitted our profile with hopeful hearts.
A few days later, I was leaving work when our consultant called. She had not called since before we submitted our last paperwork. I answered not sure what to expect but hopeful for "you are matched" news. She said that the couple was having a tough time deciding between us and one other couple and would like to schedule a thirty-minute phone call that evening. I asked for thirty minutes to get home before the call. I barely entered the door when my phone rang with the family's caseworker on the other end. She was amazing. She explained what the intent behind the call was, told us just to be ourselves, gave us questions to ask and provided a little bit more background information on the family. She asked if we had any questions and also offered prayers as well. We disconnected knowing we would speak again in another 10 minutes.
The phone rang as we settled in on the couch. The thirty-minutes seemed to go by faster than I would have thought. We hung up and knew what was done was done. Everything was in His hands.
Two days later, we left for a weekend trip to San Francisco. I was anxious to not have cell phone service for the three-hour flight. Like, panicky anxious. “What if she calls and has good news? Would she leave a voicemail? What if it's bad news? Would we be greeted in San Francisco with a text, an email?” It was a long and painful three hours. Once we had service, I turned on my phone, closed my eyes and waited for the notification sounds to come in. But there was no sound. I opened one eye and see that there was no email, no text, no voicemail, nothing.
We found our way to the hotel, checked-in, made dinner plans, and started exploring. We wandered around Union Square for quite some time. We walked through the city hand-in-hand, taking in the sites and found ourselves in Neiman-Marcus testing driving strollers - imagining what it would be like to have a little one looking back at us from within. About the time the thoughts of "wait, we still haven't heard about this showing" started to make the way into our conversation we get the following text:
“I just heard back. She liked you two a lot, but felt more of a connection with the other family and has matched with them.”
Our dreams were gone, with just a few words from a casual text. No other feedback. No, “sorry, let me know what you need”. Nothing. We found a quiet spot on the water, watched the cars on the Oakland Bridge shuffle back and forth, and just cried.
The next few months were filled with more cases. Some of which we had to pass on, some in which we presented on. We went into adoption stating that we were going to be true and honest, and we were going to do just that. When the expectant parents had very clear requirements (i.e. political party affiliation, ethnic, career and appearance requirements) that did not match who we were, we passed. When we were not capable of meeting the needs of the baby or expectant/birth parents, we passed. When our financial threshold was exceeded, when there were tribal compliances that we would not be able to cater to, and when the extent of openness exceeded our comfort zone, we passed. Every time we had to pass, it felt like a dagger to my heart. It was not that we did not want a child, it was that we wanted what was best for the child and to uphold our integrity.
Each time our profile was shown, and we were turned down, we viewed that “no” as a “not yet”. It was hard not to get invested each time our profile was shown, and while it hurt when we were told “not yet”, we knew that we were part of someone else’s story, someone else’s “yes”. And when the time would come, someone else would be told no and we’d be told yes.
In July, I received a phone call from our state agency. The district manager was coming down and meeting with all the families individually. I inquired a bit more, but the receptionist stated she didn’t have any further information and that the staff had no idea as to what was going on. We set a date for two weeks out and hung up with an ominous feeling in the air.
The day finally came - the day I dreaded as I just knew that this agency was closing. I sat outside in my car, minutes before walking in for my appointment and called our consultant. She answered and I briefed her on what I thought was about to go down. She gave me questions to ask and said she'd say a quick prayer.
I walked in and sat in the "hot seat". The three of us in that room all knew why we were there but we settled for introductions and small talk. Soon, there was nothing left to say without getting right to the point - they were closing our agency (all branches within the state) to adoption services. They were working on a transition plan for moving their in-state clients to three different states but in the meantime, there would be no more profile showings.
After much discussion and asking the questions I was provided just moments ago, we chose to continue using the agency as a contractor but to withdraw from their program. Coming right on the heels of this news, due to an emergency, our consulting agency had temporarily closed, effectively halting all of our profile showings. Both of our agencies were closed and we were left in the dark in a complete stand-still. We could only trust that in the bigger picture, there was a reason for this.
Fast forward several weeks later to lucky (profile showing) number 13. There was something about this one. Maybe it was the certainty of our consultant, or how we were able to get together all of our paperwork together, even being separated by several states, or how 13 is my husband’s favorite number. But we were sure this was it. The case came in on a Saturday and the paperwork needed to be submitted to the new agency within a few hours.
Everything was completed and our profile was lined up to be shown first thing on Monday.
Monday mid-morning, we received an email from our consultant stating that the expectant mom got impatient over the weekend, and took to Instagram to find a family – which she did. Reading those words, we were crushed. Our feelings weren’t even considered and it felt like we were just pawns in a larger game. Not a good way to start the week and 13 proved to be far from lucky.
No less than three hours later, we received another case (13.2 because 13 didn’t technically count if the profile was not shown) where mom was being induced the following day. Our profile was shown less than 90 minutes later and within 2.5 hours I was on the phone with her. The call lasted 10 minutes and was very different from the last phone call we had in May. She was straight to the point, five questions, and no pleasantries; I was unable to ask questions and my husband was unable to join in as he was still at work. I hung up and immediately began to pace. Half an hour later Adam came home and I filled him in on the last few minutes. I needed to keep busy so I made a list of things to do/take, in case we were called. Adam was running through the house looking for enough clean socks for a week. We didn't react (except the sock thing) as we had been down that road before. Instead, we found clean socks, ate dinner, added to the list, and paced some more. Then the all too familiar text came in - "sorry, you were not selected..." Our hearts were shattered. Two no’s in one emotional fueled rollercoaster of a day, and fourteen overall.
I was done. I was reaching the limit of the emotional abuse that I and the situation was doing to myself. I had jumped out of work meetings to take “I need you to decide right now” phone calls; I was constantly worried if we’d have enough funds for the varying fees across the agencies, and I was tired of catering to everyone’s needs because “I forgot to tell you”. We had set a goal to be chosen and done within one year of our home study approval, and any luck of that happening now was slim. More money was going to be needed to keep our home study active and we were sliding down the backside of “most couples are chosen in three months or less” average.
My eyes were red and puffy from crying. I was drained and to add salt to the wound we received a “congrats to the X family as they were just chosen and will be heading to the baby’s birth tonight” email. No previous emails had been sent before, so why now? Why, after the day we just experienced?
My heart was hurting and I began telling my husband that maybe we consider traveling the world instead when the email chime was heard again from both of our phones. He checked it and it was yet another case. “I’ll need an answer ASAP as this one will go fast.” He read. He continued to give me the 411 but I could not truly process the information. I trusted him in whatever decision he felt he needed to make. He fired off a “yes, please show our profile” reply and we learned that Momma S was supposed to meet with her social worker on Friday to review profiles.
Friday came and went, and I continued to question whether or not I have the emotional strength to continue, or if I just needed a break. Saturday greeted us with the devastating news that my husband’s grandfather had passed away. Our hearts were hurting once again, but this time for a different reason. We were anxious to hear back about the latest showing, which kept getting pushed back but needed to get through the next few weeks.
A week and a half later, I was leaving work when our consultant called once again. She told me that Momma S really liked our profile and was going to call us that evening. Once again, I found myself racing home and praying hard. Momma S did not call, rather as luck would have it, it was the same caseworker that we talked to back in May on our first phone call. She told us that Momma S was having a little boy and she was sure we were to be this little boys’ parents. Our conversation ended after forty-five minutes where we hung up the phone, stunned but with the biggest, happiest crocodile tears streaming down our faces.
The next day for a quick trip to California to say goodbye to Grandpa. Friday morning, we ended up on an impromptu Skype call with her, where she asked if we’d like to come to a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday. Of course, we jumped at the chance, made a quick flight change and after the memorial service on Monday, we were on the way to go meet her.
I must have changed my outfit a dozen times that morning, which was hard to do considering I only packed for four days, and one of those was for the funeral were just came from. A flurry of “what if’s” invaded my mind. What if, she doesn’t like us? What if we don’t meet her expectations? What if we pick out the wrong “nice to meet you” gift? The list went on, consuming my morning.
"I'm just a surrogate for the child you are supposed to have. I want you here for everything. To experience as much as you can" she said over lunch, just an hour into meeting each other. "Will you go to the doctor’s appointment with me?" Part of me choked back tears, and part of me was still struggling to accept it. This just felt too easy. The last 18 months had been nothing but, so why was this?
After lunch, we were all crowded in a small room. As the lights were being dimmed, the social worker gave brief introductions to the inquiring technician. When she introduced us as Mom and Dad my heart simultaneously broke and leaped out of my chest with joy.
I attempted to hold back my tears, failing miserably, while my husband grabbed my hand and held it tight. The 4-pound 11-ounce little boy danced across the screen. I was not the one carrying this child, getting heartburn every time I ate, or was woken at 3 am due to his "are you awake?" kicking, but we were experiencing this minute together - a new family forming in that very intimate moment.
After several minutes the precious baby decided he was done putting on a show and settled in for a nap. The technician was pleased with everyone's vitals and stats, printed and handed her the photos which were immediately passed to me.
It didn't matter that we had just walked over a mile in the TX heat, that the humidity wreaked havoc on my hair, or that I, unintentionally, had my shirt on backward all day. Holding those pictures - every fear, every doubt, every "what if" thought from that morning washed away. I felt like I was holding the most valuable thing ever- her trust in us to raise this child.
After that first meeting, we went to several more appointments and were there as much as we could be; spending more time there than at home.
On September 19, on our ninth wedding anniversary, we joyfully welcomed our son, Oliver, into this world. We faced obstacles that many did not but when we held him in our arms it all became clear that His plan was so much better than our plan. It was always supposed to be him. He was always supposed to be our son. And for Momma S, we will be eternally thankful and she will hold a special place in our hearts for the love she had (and still does) for this little boy.
You can read about Oliver’s birth story, at chasingparenthood.com