Hope, Fate & The Internet: Our Three-Year Wait For Adoption #2

In just the five years that we have been involved in domestic adoption, so many things have changed. But the million-dollar question remains the same: how does adoption happen?

By Cassie

Brad-cassie-adoption

Dear Parents-to-Be,

Domestic newborn adoption does happen, and it can happen to you. We have adopted twice and have had numerous birth mother situations in between our two success stories. The million-dollar question: how does it happen?

Think about how you met your spouse or how you met your best friend. There was probably some amount of planning involved, but most likely it felt like fate or a higher power connecting the two of you together. The same is true in adoption…you have to take steps to make it happen, but you also must realize not everything is in your control. This can be extremely difficult and test even the most patient and faithful of prospective parents. For me, this realization actually made the waiting bearable, for I knew that there were children in this world meant to be a part of my family, and it was up to me to do everything in my power to bring us together. This isn’t to say it is an easy process; it’s the most difficult thing I’ve had to do and that includes medical school! Try to keep this message in the back of your mind as you complete the steps to a successful adoption.

The more difficult part is deciding how to best use your resources to gain the most exposure to potential birth mothers. There are hundreds of agencies, attorneys, facilitators, and websites all wanting to represent you in your journey.

So where to begin? The adoption home study is actually the “easy” part; it’s black and white, has a definite beginning and ending, and questions that can be easily answered. The more difficult part is deciding how to best use your resources to gain the most exposure to potential birth mothers. There are hundreds of adoption agencies, attorneys, facilitators, and websites all wanting to represent you in your journey. My husband and I have utilized all of these at some point in our adoptions, and we have noticed a trend in just the five years that we have been involved in domestic adoption. Potential birth mothers have access to thousands of adoptive parent profiles online at their fingertips, and often they want to make direct contact with you, not an intermediary. At times this can signify a “red flag”, but this is also a chance for you to take the reins and be a real voice behind that online profile. You have to decide if you are willing to be the first point of contact or if you would prefer to have a filter in place to control the information you receive.

In the beginning of our journey, we went the more traditional route, thinking that an agency would simply match us with a birth mother and it would be a fairly passive process. We quickly learned that is not how adoption works today! Birth parents typically play a more active role than in the past, and I believe this is due to the prevalence of open adoption and the access they receive from online adoptive parent profiles. So even though we were contracted with an agency, we quickly explored other avenues, as well. The first website we used to publish our online profile was cumbersome, required administrator approval before any content would go live, and did not offer a “blog”-type feature. We ended up matching with our first birthmother through a mutual acquaintance, so we quickly discontinued our profile on that site.

The second time around, we were prepared to increase our national exposure, thinking that it was unlikely we would happen to match with someone locally again. We signed up with an adoption facilitator with this goal in mind, and this company was very specific in the steps to complete in order to have a successful adoption, including creating a paper profile and content for their website. We thought we would match quickly, but it took a year before we got the call.

Per her wishes, we were present during the delivery of the baby, but, immediately after the birth, we could tell something had changed.

We matched with this birth mother after meeting in person and sharing a couple phone conversations. While she had a colorful past, we felt good about this match knowing she was healthy (no drug or alcohol use), she lived locally so we wouldn’t have to travel for the baby’s birth, and she seemed committed to her adoption plan. We spent the next four months getting to know each other better through email and in person. We even introduced our kids to each other. As her due date got closer, we started to sense more anxiety and sometimes she would lash out at us. We also felt some trepidation about her relationship with the birth father (who was not her husband); there were still questions remaining about his involvement and willingness to sign over his parental rights. Before we could discuss all of these issues with the adoption counselor and attorneys, she went into labor six weeks early. Per her wishes, we were present during the delivery of the baby, but, immediately after the birth, we could tell something had changed. The husband had clearly changed his mind about parenting a child that was not biologically his, but instead of being honest with us, they tried to marginalize our role and manipulate our contact with the baby. After three days of emotional agony, we stepped away from the situation and asked our lawyer to have them contact us when and if they decided they wanted to place the baby for adoption. The next day we were informed they had decided to parent the baby.

This was a pivotal moment in our adoption journey. We weren’t sad over their decision—we didn’t want them to live the rest of their lives with regret; we were sad for the hours away from our daughter we spent cultivating this other relationship, the afternoons I had a colleague cover me at work to get to the birth mom’s doctor appointment, the trips we cancelled as the due date approached, the long emails back and forth to answer their every question about our personal lives. We were willing to do all these things in order to find our child, but for how long? Would we ever have another successful adoption or were we doing this in vain? I truly believed our family was not complete yet, and I knew what obstacles lie ahead of us, but onward we went.

Our facilitator told us they would put us on “top priority” after this last situation. I thought, “Great! That would be perfect, let’s get this over with!” However, after a few months of nothing, we decided to expand our outreach by posting on Adoptimist. I heard about the site from our adoption attorney, and I was excited to discover how user-friendly Adoptimist was compared to the first site we tried. Pictures were easily uploaded, content was edited and posted immediately without requiring administrator approval, and the homepage exposure was a great incentive for me to keep updating my profile.

I gave up worrying about what I looked like in a picture and realized it was more important to show them some action shots!

I was hesitant in the beginning to share too much, to add videos, and to post diary entries. I quickly realized that the more I posted, the more hits I received, leading eventually to birth mother emails and phone calls. I believe it was important to share these seemingly mundane tidbits about our lives because it allowed others to see how we really are as parents, where we go, what we do for fun, what we cook for dinner, how we celebrate holidays, etc. You can describe all that stuff as much as you want in your profile, but it makes a world of difference to show them a picture with a brief caption. I gave up worrying about what I looked like in a picture and realized it was more important to show them some action shots! No one likes a swimsuit shot, but I wanted to show them that yes, I do water ski. Once I got over this fear, I think our site was much more successful.

Along these same lines, start posting videos! This was a huge hurdle for us, but once we did it, we got lots of positive feedback about them. It also allows visitors to your site to stay on your page longer than if they are just looking at pictures. It really seems to help a prospective birth mom put a voice with your image.

We started receiving some birth mom calls because we had a toll-free number on our site. Sometimes it was a legal question: “Do I have to get my boyfriend’s permission to place my child for adoption?” Other times, I would spend an hour on the phone hearing all about two college sweethearts and their disapproving families. We would get so excited after receiving a call like that, but eventually we learned to hold back our emotions until things were more definite. It was difficult to think we made a connection with someone, only to wait for the promised return call that never came. Sometimes we could tell we were communicating with someone being less than honest, and it was extremely helpful to go onto the Adoptimist blog to read others’ comments about potential scams.

So three years into our search for our second child, we sat at our dinner table having a come-to-Jesus talk: is it time to fold our cards and move on with our lives?

After a few months, I felt like we were getting closer to the real thing because we were receiving a great deal of contact. I got a message from a woman who was due in a week and she was extremely anxious and unsure of what steps to take. After our adoption facilitator received some information from her to verify she was indeed pregnant and interested in us, we decided to meet her in person the next day. We flew to meet her, and after a couple of conversations, it was clear to us she was not convinced about adoption. She gave birth the following week and remained in touch for a few days after taking her baby home with her. I felt it was our job to present what our option would look like should she choose to place her child; I did not want to pressure her. We even shared our daughter’s birth mom’s number, and they talked in detail about the emotional toll adoption takes on those involved. We left the ball in her court, telling her to contact us if she decided that was the path she wanted to take. I knew we would never here from her again, and we haven’t.

So three years into our search for our second child, we sat at our dinner table having a come-to-Jesus talk: is it time to fold our cards and move on with our lives and focus on our lovely daughter and look forward to our 40s? We’ve put up a good fight, but maybe God is telling us we are meant to be a family of three. That is the moment my phone rang, and it was our son’s birthmother.


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