We had completed four rounds if IUI, a ton of hormones, vitamins, minerals, and most of the grieving process when we decided to adopt privately and it was time to actually start the adoption process. After we had “the talk” we started to research everything adoption and found a few constants. One was a local attorney that was highly recommended by Google, blogs and a couple websites.
Walking into an attorney’s office was a bit daunting. The dark wood, formal front desk, big cold leather chairs in the waiting area made us feel quite small, almost like we were waiting to get in trouble. I guess we never gave it much thought but we had many preconceived notions of what attorneys were like. Luckily, she was warm, inviting and very informative. She referred us to a case worker who would help us with the certification (approval from the court to adopt) process and educated us on the profile or birthparent letter. We created what we thought our letter should be and she tore it apart. This letter is actually a short book of pictures and stories from us to the potential birthparents to let them know about us, our beliefs, family and friends and our everyday life. The version we showed her was “too perfect”. It didn’t show our personality, sense of humor, the fun quirky side of us. We found it extremely difficult to show the real us in words.
I called the case worker the next day to setup the first meeting. She sounded sweet as ever, is a mom through adoption and has been working in the industry for many many years. The days before the meeting we scrubbed (raw hands) our house like we have never scrubbed (bruised knees) before. Every corner of every room and closet was spotless, the oven shined and the entire house smelled of lilac as I heard it was a smell that appealed to women. We opened our home to her and she was an absolute pleasure. She talked with us, asking questions about us, our relationship, family and friends. She then toured our house, never really noticing the sparkle but the safety aspects of it all, the flow of the house. She also let us know that our pool fence would have to be replaced as our windows facing the pool were under (no idea what the height was) the required height. To add a financial insult to injury the adoption law regarding pool fences exceeds the state law so we had to have the entire pool and spa fenced with a self-closing and lockable gate. All of this had to be completed before she could submit her report to have us approved to adopt. While we had the work done in the pool area we moved along in the process; produced financial documents, finger prints (creeped me out for some reason, maybe I associated it with being a criminal?), had meetings with and without my husband (I can talk about him all day and am proud of our relationship so this seemed really easy); he did the same with and without me (thought it was weird and was a bit uncomfortable as it was a lot about feelings and that isn’t his strong suite in conversations with virtual strangers), and had family and friends submit letters (which we never read, they are sent directly to the case worker and we never asked for copies) to her saying how great we are and why we will be amazing parents and of course the payments. She was encouraging, engaging and made the process seem a bit less invasive. In just a few months we were certified by the court to adopt, aka paper pregnant.
When we met with the attorney she also asked us to write up a list of have to have, would like to have and deal breakers when it came to our future child and the relationship we would have with their birth parents. This got us to really talk about sex, race, drug exposure, family history and openness and how open or closed adoption. This got us talking to each other, family and friends. This was a HUGE deal to us and we were talking about things we have never had to talk about in such detail. When you talk to people about race, it can get uncomfortable. Thank fully no one spoke up with strong views on any race but we did learn a few things (i.e. some had experiences as kids that still impacted their way of thinking decades later). The other topics we kept to a select few as they had first-hand experience with a child with special needs, or developmental issues that we thought would be better than hearsay.
We met with many other attorneys in our area and provided copies of both our profile and requirements and waited. I am not a very patient person so while we were waiting I was searching for other resources to help us find our baby. I came across the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys who are a group of attorneys nationwide that must meet specific criteria. They seemed like a perfect group to reach out to for help so I emailed every attorney nationwide asking if they would take our profile. Most responded quickly! Some are not legally able to take our profile as some states do not allow attorneys to match families, some chose not to but either wished us well or provided a name of someone that could assist us or happily provided their address to send our package to.
We received a call here and there to tell us that they had a potential birthparent that wishes to place her child for adoption and their criteria matched our requirements. They would share what they knew about the mother, baby and any other factors (i.e. drug use, prenatal care or lack thereof, etc.) that they had and asked if they could show our profile to the potential birthparent(s). We said yes to almost all of them but there were a few deal breakers for us. One example was a baby that was born that day, also known as a "stork drop", who was likely to have severe special needs that we did not feel equipped to handle.
During this time we joined every distribution service of attorneys or facilitators (mostly in California as they are not legal in all states), adoption related blogs, websites, Facebook groups I could find. We created cards the size of a business card to place on boards, place in our mail and give to anyone willing to take it. All in hopes that our information would find the person who wants to place her child for adoption. It is essentially marketing us to everyone in hopes of finding the one or two people who would make our dream of being parents come true.
After about a year we were matched with a couple who lived locally. We were thrilled! They didn’t want to meet us but they were described to us so I was able to picture what our baby girl would look like. How soft her skin would be, how dark her eyes would be, how good she would smell. The attorney that matched us called us later and shared his concerns as the mother didn't seem as convinced this was what they needed to do but the father was. He didn’t have a good feeling about this and suggested we be cautious. Our hearts sank
We took the attorney’s words to heart and told ourselves this probably wasn’t our daughter. If only my heart listened to my head. We didn’t hear anything for a few weeks which was concerning as she was due a week later and this is their third child. Our attorney tried to get in touch with them to see what their decision was with no success. I called him one morning from my office at work expecting him to tell me he hadn’t heard anything. Instead, he said they chose to parent the child.
To say I was heartbroken is such an understatement. I held in my tears through most of the conversation until he asked if I was okay. The tears were larger than life and burned tracks down my cheeks. The sadness came from deep within, guttural. I composed myself as best I could and called my husband. He was comforting, as always, but his tone spoke the truth of his hopes being crushed.
We had been told from the very beginning of our adoption journey that failed matches are common and to not let them deter us but this truly hurt. We were also told that the baby was not our baby it was the parents’ baby until legal documents are signed, as if this is possible for my heart to comprehend. Can we do this again? Can our hearts take this beating over and over? YES!