Our story began like many others: we met in college, married, and made inroads in our careers. About five years into our marriage, we decided it was time to expand our family beyond our Australian shepherds. After all, we had stable career paths, a comfortable home, and a large support network. Many of our family and friends were having children, and we couldn’t wait to get pregnant, too.
You’ve heard this before—right?
Sometimes life doesn’t work out like you planned. We were shocked when we learned we were infertile. We are very active. We enjoy hiking, running, swimming, playing ultimate Frisbee, surfing, diving…the list goes on. How could we be so healthy yet somehow infertile? During the first seven years of our journey, we saw three reproductive specialists that helped us through five rounds of IUI with a sperm donor and one round of IVF. Rick picked the sperm donor out of a large catalog (a bizarre process). Our donor was an attractive industrial engineer with off-the-charts sperm counts, yet it didn’t work. Our IVF cycle was more successful and three embryos were implanted with Rick’s sperm. Sadly, Laura miscarried them around six weeks later.
Once we had made the emotional commitment, we jumped in with both feet and felt we were finally on the path to expanding our family.
It took seven years to come to terms with our infertility, but once we did (about two years ago) we began moving into the adoption world—both private and through the state system. It was scary at first, but once we had made the emotional commitment, we jumped in with both feet and felt we were finally on the path to expanding our family. Like we had in our journey to find good reproductive doctors, we researched adoption attorneys until we found one we really liked. We can’t emphasize how important it is to feel that the person guiding you in your adoption journey has your needs in mind and that you genuinely trust them. We were sidetracked early on by discussing adoption with an attorney that we didn’t entirely trust. Once we found what we called the “dream team” (our attorney and social worker), the process moved forward and it took us about a year to make our family dreams a reality.
The best advice we received was to advertise and sign up with as many places as we could afford because opportunities can be few and far between. We were on two agency waiting lists and went through the state foster care training for public adoption opportunities. We also advertised separately to find our own birth mom, which our attorney stressed would save us money and be a more personal experience. It was a seemingly daunting task. We struggled a little early on as we gave a hard copy of our adoption profile to our attorney, agencies, and social worker.
In the beginning, we simply referred birth moms to our attorney because we were afraid of revealing too much personal information. Most birth moms were clearly turned off by this approach.
After some research, we realized we needed to advertise online. In December 2015, we found the Adoptimist.com website and realized we could create our complete profile in a matter of hours. The site was easy to use and had all the tools we needed to advertise ourselves. Starting in January 2016, that’s exactly what we did. We updated our profile almost daily and we were contacted by our first birth mom within a few weeks of posting.
Figuring out how to interact with birth moms was something else we had to learn. While we were contacted nearly weekly through our Adoptimist and Gmail accounts, it took us several months to fine tune our responses. In the beginning, we simply referred birth moms to our attorney because we were afraid of revealing too much personal information. Most birth moms were clearly turned off by this approach and, in hindsight, we understand why. They wanted to get to know us.
With each new interaction, we had another opportunity to be empathetic and understanding. We could just be us.
We evaluated our approach and asked ourselves how we could improve our handling of it. So, we bought a separate phone for conversations. With each new interaction, we had another opportunity to be empathetic and understanding. We could just be us. In the beginning, we had rarely made it past the email phase. However, once we realized we needed to better understand the birth mom’s perspective and just get to know each other first, we found ourselves engaged in multiple phone conversations.
As we communicated with birth moms, we also found our definition of “semi-openness” expanding to take into account more of the birth families’ feelings and desires. We were always amenable to a semi-open relationship, but wanted the level of openness to correspond to the strength of the relationship that we had built with the birth mom. In the beginning, we exchanged pictures, emails, and text messages, with few to no personal visits. Our idea of openness also expanded as we attended adoption classes through the agencies we had gone through. These classes opened our eyes to the importance of maintaining communication with the birth family and entering into a relationship that focused on what is best for the adoptive child.
We learned through this process that “There is strong, and then there is birth mom strong.” None of us will ever forget that day.
In late April, we connected with the birth family we had been waiting for—mom, dad, siblings, and grandma. They saw our profile on Adoptimist, and after speaking to them on the phone, we found out they lived about two hours from us. We visited them in person within the first week of contact and immediately liked them. A few weeks after meeting and getting to know each other, both parties agreed to an adoption plan drafted by our attorney. Our birth mom was six months pregnant when we met, and we made a concerted effort to get to know her family better through interactive outings and going to all doctor’s appointments. We were empathetic with their situation and stressed that we wanted to continue the relationship after she gave birth.
It was the most amazing thing Laura had ever witnessed—a baby we all cared deeply about was coming into this world.
Laura was in the delivery room with our birth mom, and it was the most amazing thing she had ever witnessed—a baby we all cared deeply about was coming into this world. The emotions were raw, everyone was crying, and our birth mom was strong throughout. We learned through this process that “There is strong, and then there is birth mom strong.” None of us will ever forget that day. We are raising our son so one day he understands the sacrifice his birth mom made for him and the ultimate gift she gave us. We hope a deep connection between our two families will continue for the rest of our lives. However, none of it would have been possible had we not “gone all in” in our effort to adopt. Adoptimist was certainly a big part of our success, and we are grateful for all the tools and help we received along the way.