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. But it ends with our daughter joining our family and her birth mama becoming a very important person to me.
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 age and 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 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, and since time wasn’t on our side, 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 $40,000, and there were some questionable practices we came across by agencies, but we were very naive.
I dove headfirst into researching the adoption process, but things moved quickly. 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 once certified with an expectant mother due in two months. There were some definite red flags with this expectant mama (who we’ll call “Sarah”) and the agency, 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, but so much happened in those three days. Our agency gave us very strange direction and advice during this process, and ultimately, that adoption disrupted, and not because this mama chose to parent. 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, and we weren’t chosen for the adoption opportunities we presented to those next few weeks. 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 (and now Purl’s Director of Graphic Design) 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 hope and contentment when she thought of her child’s life with us, if it couldn’t be with her.
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 opportunities. Right before Thanksgiving, we received a new opportunity for a baby girl due on December 19. The expectant mother (who we’ll call “Hope”) was not going to make her decision until the following week. My birthday was December 2nd and we went out with friends to celebrate, but I was very distracted. We knew that Hope was planning to make her decision the following day.
Ray and I prayed hard that week that she would choose us if an adoption plan was her decision. The next day, we received the call that Hope had loved our profile and had selected us. We were so hopeful, 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 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 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 had planned to name Cora and we were so excited that Hope seemed to love the name we considered. 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 children, and told us about her life and upbringing. Before Hope was discharged she asked if I minded whether she saw Cora before she left. I didn’t know how excited I would be when she asked that. Looking back, I’m sure I was fearful by that question too, but I was also so relieved I’d get to share the experience I had with Hope with Cora. 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 before being discharged shortly after. We still had another 48 hours to wait until Hope would sign the consents.
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 one of the most emotional days of my life. While I’m not sure I knew it at the time, looking back I know I felt so much happiness, but also sadness for both Cora and Hope.
A few days later, we took Hope to dinner and learned more about her and her reasons for choosing adoption. I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to get to know her better so I could tell Cora as much as I can about her wonderful birth mama. Our openness with Hope has evolved over the past few years, but I cherish those few days we had together, and am hopeful that Cora will always know firsthand how loved she is by all her family members, both through biology and adoption.
In another interesting twist of fate, the same week we took Cora home, we found out we were surprisingly pregnant. I had done another round of IVF a few months before at our IVF doctor’s insistence, 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 upon hearing of my positive pregnancy test and having conceived naturally. He cautioned us that the pregnancy would 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 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 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. But during that experience, there were definitely things I thought I could do differently (and better), which ultimately became my spark for starting Purl. I knew I wanted more guidance, education and connection to more ethical professionals for other prospective adoptive families that I had been afforded. While many know how difficult our disrupted 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 Cora, and I can’t imagine a minute of my life now not being her mother. Because of that passion to help other families through a difficult process, I joined the Board of Directors for the Arizona Chapter of Gift of Adoption, an organization that gives grants to families adopting vulnerable children. About a year later, I would leave my corporate law job to form Purl, stemming from our own experience and a passion to create better adoption experiences for all.
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.