Baby A’s Adoption Story, Part One…
I had already chosen life; that is, carrying the pregnancy to term. Now I had to choose who the baby would be placed with. Grow up with. Be raised by. Spend the rest of his or her life with. (At this point the baby’s gender was still a mystery.) Where it would live. (Near or far?) Who it would be around (were the extended family of the adoptive couple supportive of the adoption?) Would the baby have siblings already in he family or possibly no siblings, ever? What about finances? Morality? Religion? Would their environment be fun and loving or austere and strict? Endless questions… and when I thought think I’d sorted through them all another would pull me from a dead sleep out of bed.
There are so many variables involved. Along with the intellectual variables, there are matters of the heart. How did I feel about the potential families? (The birth father and I had already decided we definitely wanted a couple, not a single parent. That was just our choice.) No matter how good the family looks on papers chances are you’re also going to have a “gut feeling” about them. And if you go against how you really feel deep inside, your choice will feel forced. And no matter how great every other variable fits in the situation that one missing puzzle piece, that odd feeling, matter how much you wish it was different, it won’t be (different).
After the health of the baby growing inside me the next thing that caused me the greatest anxiety was finding them… The ones… The couple or family who would raise our biological child as their own.
I searched every possible avenue. Different agencies online. I must have clicked through at least a hundred different profiles for potential adoptive parents. There were no local agencies in my area to my knowledge. And the agencies’ values in my region conflicted with my own.
I was already in a stressful position to begin with. The baby’s father was in jail at the time so it wasn’t like we could go through the profiles and make a decision together at that time. I couldn’t even bear to tell my immediate family that I was even pregnant; let alone considering adoption. I felt very alone. I became frustrated and disheartened even though I had tried to mentally prepare myself not to expect the same ease of “finding a match” that I was so lucky to have experienced before. (That’s another story, for another time.)
There is a certain baby-centered website that I used to vent my frustrations online. My post in an adoption-related forum asked for advice and let me rant about how I was feeling. A handful of people sent me private messages, most were asking me to consider their families to place my baby with. Two were closer geographically: “traditional” families with at least one other child in their home (which had been my “must-haves” in choosing a family before). The other message was from a man all the way in California. He had been in a long-term relationship for something like 15 years. They had no kids.
I looked at all of their information, their profiles and corresponded with them all via e-mails and messaging. It’s a very odd situation, trying to find a “match”, as it’s called in the adoption world. You see all these wonderful people, their hearts aching for a child. There’s a feeling of sadness when one family feels more “right” for you than another. For me I would sometimes wish I had a thousand babies growing inside me to help them. I wanted something good to happen for them so bad. As a parent myself I know how special children are to have in your life.
I don’t know what it feels like from the other side; there must be some feelings of rejection. Why weren’t we picked? Is there something wrong about our profile? Did we say something to put the birth parents off? Back on my side of the table I felt like I was disappointing the families I turned down… Yet the choice was never based on anything personal or concretely “wrong” with them. Two families had just struck a chord with me for whatever reasons. One met my prior guidelines with our previous adoption that had went so seamlessly well. They were a traditional couple in the same state I was living in. They had two kids already. The mother seemed vibrant and lovely. The other family was almost the complete opposite of what we wanted the first time, the childless couple in California. I couldn’t make a choice without meeting them in person AND making a joint decision with the birth father. So I chose to get to know them both before I made a decision on which family to present to the birth father.
I ended up deciding to meet with the family in our state instead of the couple in California. The biggest factor in my decision at the time was that I thought my husband would never place our child with a gay couple. The other family was nice and met all of my “safe” parameters like before. I had a better gut feeling about the couple in California but they were different. That scared me. I wanted this time to be as great as our experience before and following the same path as before seemed like the best chance at recreating that. But this road was different. No two situations are ever the same.
In the “adoption world” you hear a lot of specific terms. One of these is the term to “match” — to match means that a birth family connected with a potential adoptive family enough to say “Okay, we’re going to plan to place our trust and our baby with you” before the child is born. It’s not a legal contract. I guess it’s kind of like an engagement before marriage. Sometimes engagements are broken well before the wedding comes around. Sometimes the forlorn lover is left at the altar. Sometimes a happy union is made. Most of the time when you hear about a match failing it’s the birth parents who changed their minds and decided to parent their baby. I wanted to find a family, have them filed away, one less thing for me to worry about. I wanted to find them and be done with the search.
There were a few things that didn’t go well after we matched. The couple had a gender preference and we didn’t know what the gender of the baby would be yet. It was always in the back of my mind, would they bow out because the baby turned out to be the opposite gender? Would they stay in a match with us even though they didn’t really want a boy? (She turned out to be a baby girl anyhow.) The potential adoptive father would never seem available for my spouse, who was then out of jail, to speak or meet with.
Another issue was their agency, the employees were rude and aggressive. (After the fact I’ve heard from other birth mothers that I am not the only one who experienced this type of treatment from this agency. I’ve heard about the use of aggressive, bullying tactics–basically trying to influence the birth parents’ decision. That’s another topic for another time.) Near the end of my pregnancy, after finding out information that should’ve been discussed/disclosed with me, I felt like I’d been lied to. It was then it was a failed match and I was thrown back into the misery of searching for the perfect family again.
In the end I should’ve gone with my gut. I should have not been afraid to communicate my heart’s clear choice to the birth father. Because he actually didn’t care that the other couple were two gay men. So we called them and they came to meet us almost immediately from all the way across the country. They were open and honest and wonderful. Intelligent and understanding. The agency worker was much nicer to deal with. Even though baby A would live farther away, that was peanuts of a price to pay compared to not being truly comfortable with another family.
We had initially met at a hotel and then went out to lunch. We have two older children we parent and they took us all out to lunch. I wanted them to meet our kids; both to see how they interacted with kids (the fact they didn’t have any still scared me a little… kind of a feeling like “Do you really know what you’re getting into???” … The fact that they interacted with our kids so easily, especially our older son, melted my heart immediately and I then knew we were making the right decision. Almost as soon as they had flown in they were back on a plane to California (which is also the birth father’s home state) but my decision was settled. These two amazing people were going to be her parents.
(Part Two, The Baby’s Arrival coming soon…)
The Opposite of a Dear Birthmom Letter,
A letter to potential adoptive parents from an anonymous birth mother.
When you’re developing your profile online or on paper, this birth mom will tell you what helped win over her heart and feel a connection before even meeting you.
Be open and honest. Don’t over glorify your life. Life is not all sunshine and roses and if I know you’ve faced some obstacles and adversities you will seem more real to me.
Don’t hide any skeletons in your closet. No matter what an agency says. Do you take an anti-depressant? Did you have a substance abuse problem? I will respect and trust you more if you’re forthright and honest with me. That doesn’t I mean you have to lead with “I’m a recovering alcoholic who’s been sober x amount of years”. It’s okay to feel the birth family out first, to find the right time and place to disclose these things… But if you’re so desperate to have a child that you’ll lie or omit the truth to adopt one… you shouldn’t be adopting. I would want nothing to do with you or an agency that condones anything but full disclosure…
The birth father matters. If he’s in the picture and reaches out to you to make a connection, do it. Imagine yourself in his shoes. Wouldn’t you want your questions answered? Making yourself available and open could be a big factor in his decision. (More on birth fathers and adoption later in our upcoming article “Birth fathers: Lost in translation?”)
If your extended family is very supportive in your adoption journey … include them in your story. It meant a lot to know that not only would my child be parented with love, but also surrounded by it. It also tells me you’ll have a support system, people who will help you and be by your side if and when times get hard. Because whether it’s the teenage years or the terrible twos, one day it’s going to get hard. Remember we were all kids once upon a time, too. Knowing you have support will make me feel more at peace with the situation and more secure in my decision.
Finally, never, ever attempt to make a failed match feel bad, terrible, etc. for whatever reason they chose. It’s terrible etiquette to begin with and it makes you look childish and desperate – two qualities I would never want in choosing the parents of my child. It’s okay to be hurt, offended, sad… but it’s not okay to bad mouth people because “you didn’t get a baby”. That baby never belonged to you; it belongs to us and we have the right to choose who we feel will provide the best home… for whatever reason, at whatever time.
– A birthmother