Our Founder's Personal Adoption Journey

 Our founder, CEO and adoption advisor, Katie Zimmerman 

Our founder, CEO and adoption advisor, Katie Zimmerman 

My own adoption story is relatively short as far as time… we took home our daughter within six months of being certified to adopt… but it was not without its fair share of drama. Fortunately, it ends with the most perfect child becoming a permanent part of our family.

My husband, Ray, and I first talked about adoption on our second date. I knew that I was going to have trouble conceiving due to my endometriosis. So, when Ray asked me on our second date if I wanted children, I quickly said yes, but I also told him that children may not happen for me naturally. I told him about all the adoptions in my family (I have many cousins who have been adopted domestically and internationally) and how excited I was about the possibility of adopting. Ray immediately responded that he too was open to adoption and that his oldest niece had been adopted as an infant. That may have been one of the first signs that he was the one for me!

Given that Ray and I were both older when we got married, we decided to start trying to have kids immediately. We decided to do one round of in vitro fertilization before launching into the adoption certification process. When our first IVF cycle failed in April 2015, we immediately began researching the best way to proceed with adoption.

We hired a consulting company recommended by someone at our church. The company provided its clients a list of recommended adoption professionals that would not charge high up-front fees. This model gave us visibility to expectant mothers working with each of the professionals selected, increasing our chances for matching with an expectant mother quickly. However, the average costs for most of adoptions through these agencies and attorneys was well over $35,000, most closer to $40,000 or $45,000.

I dove headfirst into researching the adoption process, all the while continuing with fertility treatments. We were eager to grow our family in whatever way possible. I gathered all the numerous documents needed for certification and became rather obsessed learning about the process and trying to bring our child home as quickly as possible. I spoke with our consultant regularly, and she was helpful in understanding the process. We were certified to adopt by late July 2015.  

After certification, we signed up with numerous agencies and attorneys.  We had paid to have the consulting company design our family profile, but the final product felt a little impersonal and didn’t best reflect us and our family.  But we were so eager to get started that we had those profiles printed anyway and then compiled dozens of profiles to send to our selected agencies/attorneys.

We were almost immediately matched with an expectant mother due in two months. There were some definite red flags with this expectant mama (who we’ll call “Sarah”), but we were so excited about the possibility that we might have a baby quickly that we proceeded. After a tumultuous six weeks with Sarah (and her two children), she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Ray and I got to be in the delivery room, Ray cut the baby’s cord and we snuggled that sweet baby for hours in the nursery. We were overjoyed. We sent out texts and pictures announcing our new arrival. But unfortunately that wasn’t our happy ending.

We spent three days with that precious little boy in the hospital and then the NICU and those days were filled with all sorts of emotion: happiness, sadness and anger. The baby eventually struggled to withdraw from the intense drug exposure he had received even days before his birth and we struggled with misdirected anger and erratic behavior from Sarah, who ended up losing all of her children to the Department of Child Safety. Our agency gave us very strange direction and advice during this process, and ultimately, that adoption failed. We returned home with an empty car seat to an eerily quiet nursery.

We were absolutely heartbroken. We couldn’t stop crying. The next few weeks were miserable, the adoption situations we started seeing again either didn’t seem right for our family or we weren’t selected. More heartbreak and rejection each time we weren’t chosen. We tried to return to our normal lives, but I was so depressed. I couldn’t even walk by the nursery we had decorated without tears welling up in my eyes, so that door always remained closed.

I spent the next few months working with my friend, a professional graphic designer, on redoing our profile so that it would better reflect Ray and me and our lives together. I wanted to make sure that the expectant mother who chose us really knew us, and felt at least some happiness and hope when she thought of her child growing up in our family.

By late November, we finally felt more like ourselves again. I was able to laugh again and do things with friends, but I still checked my email constantly for new adoption situations. Right before Thanksgiving, we received a new situation for a baby girl due on December 19. The expectant mother (who we’ll call “Hope”) was not going to make her decision until she arrived in Arizona for the rest of her pregnancy and delivery the next week. My birthday was December 2nd and we went out with friends to celebrate, but I was very distracted. We knew that Hope was arriving in town the next day and would make her decision.

Ray and I prayed hard that week that she would choose us to parent her baby girl. The next day, we received the call that Hope had loved our profile and had selected us. We were so excited, but tried to be more cautious than we had been the first time around with Sarah. Hope still wasn’t sure what kind of contact she wanted with us before or after delivery, so we just waited. A few days later she decided she did want to meet us and we scheduled dinner for December 11, a week before she was due.

Early the morning of December 10th we received a call that Hope was in labor. The caseworker told us to stay available but that Hope wasn’t sure whether she wanted us to be there since she hadn’t met us yet.

A few hours later I got another call saying that Hope had changed her mind and wanted me there. I rushed to the hospital and got there in time to meet Hope about an hour before she delivered. She was so sweet, telling me as much as she could about herself and asking about Ray and me between contractions. She asked me to stay in the delivery room during her delivery. I got to see the most beautiful baby girl born at 12:12 pm on December 10. I got to cut the cord, and do skin to skin right away. Hope didn’t want to see her, so after giving Hope a long hug and squeezing her hand, I was whisked away with the baby to another room.

Ray waited patiently during the delivery in the waiting room and came in shortly after to meet Hope and then our baby girl, who we named Cora. Even after the first experience we had, I surprisingly didn’t have any doubts that this perfect little girl was our child. Hope was understandably sad, but totally content with her decision to place Cora for adoption.

Over the next two days, Ray and I spent most of the day and night at the hospital, mostly in the nursery but also spending more time with Hope. Hope showed us pictures of her other two children, and told us about her life on the east coast. Before Hope checked out of the hospital she asked if I minded whether she saw Cora before she left. We immediately called the nursery and asked them to bring Cora up so Hope could see her. Hope held Cora briefly and I took some pictures of them together, but then Hope handed Cora to me with a smile and tears in her eyes. We still had another 48 hours to wait until Hope would sign the consents. But before Hope left the hospital, she put the full name we had selected for Cora on her birth certificate.

After 72 hours had passed, we learned that Hope had signed the consents. We all cried together, took pictures and then we got to take Cora home to meet the friends and family that were coming to our house to welcome Cora to our family. It was the best day of my life, followed closely only by our wedding day and the day Ray asked me to be his wife.

A few days later, before she left town, we took Hope to dinner and learned more about her. We gave her a pendant with Cora’s birthstone so that she could always hold her close to her heart. Hope asked us if we would buy one with Hope’s birthstone for Cora to wear when she was old enough. We loved that idea, and went out and bought something the next day and it is her most precious item in her jewelry box. Hope doesn’t want much contact going forward, but I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to get to know her better so I can tell Cora as much as I can about her wonderful birth mama when she’s old enough to understand.

In another interesting twist of fate, the same week we took Cora home, we found out we were pregnant. I had done another round of IVF during our adoption journey, but it too had failed, so I didn’t have any more hope for a biological child. My fertility doctor was more shocked than even me when he later confirmed that I was in fact pregnant, having conceived naturally. He cautioned us that the pregnancy might not stick, so we didn’t even tell our families for another few weeks. Once we were out of the danger zone, everyone was so overjoyed when they learned about our double blessing and that Cora would get to grow up so close in age to her little sister! Cora’s adoption became official on April 7, 2016, almost exactly a year from when I first placed the call to our consultant.

Although it was a tough road, I wouldn’t change anything about our path because it led to us to Cora and her sweet birth mother, Hope. I'm especially glad we made the decision to hire a consultant to walk us through the process, to answer our questions and support us throughout our journey. Because of our experience and my continuing passion to help other families grow like ours, I recently joined the Board of Directors for the Arizona Chapter of Gift of Adoption, an organization that gives grants to families adopting vulnerable children. While many know how difficult the first failed adoption was for us, it was all worth it when I look at our beautiful daughter, Cora. Had that first adoption gone through, we would never have met her, and I can’t imagine a minute of my life now not being her mother.

If you or someone you know is considering adoption and wants to know more about the steps in the process, click here. If you would like an adoption advisor to walk besides you on this emotional journey, contact us, or click here to learn more about what an adoption advisor does. 

Cora Love
Jennifer Thompson