During National Adoption Awareness Month, I will introduce you to numerous guest bloggers, highlighting many parts of the adoption journey. This blog, written by Rachel Patten, is the second in a 3-part series detailing all the emotions she dealt with during the twists and turns of her personal domestic adoption journey. If you missed Part I, read it now before proceeding to the middle of her story.
By Rachel Patten
We did attempt to get pregnant again after we adopted Harper. It didn’t take long before we knew it would be adoption again for us, it was what felt right and neither of us wanted to pursue infertility treatments any further. We had decided that two was likely our magic number, and we felt it was important to have our children be at least similar in race. Our hope was that they would have that commonality and be able to relate and support one another due to having white parents.
We quickly put together a profile book and got all our paperwork in order (figured we’d do all of that first this time). I ended up connecting with a birth mother I had worked previously with and sort of fell in love with the similarities of the stories they would share. This situation was different however in that we would present to this birth mother along with several other families. I was definitely open to another boy, but if this was our last baby I secretly really want to have a baby girl and experience all the girly stuff. This baby was a biracial girl (half African American and half Native American), and as fearful as I was about doing hair, somehow I was less fearful of doing biracial hair.
It took a few days but when we heard she had selected us we were ecstatic! I felt confident in her commitment to place because her previous 8 children were all placed as well. She and I started chatting often and texted from time to time. Things felt “normal.” She had told us that the birth father was a one-night stand and she didn’t want her boyfriend, who was incarcerated at the time, to find out. I was so cautious with our first adoption about telling people and buying things prior to the actual placement happening, but not this time. I was so excited and started buying baby girl things, I just couldn’t resist. I bought Harper a baby doll and started talking a bit about babies. He didn’t get it of course, but I was trying (he was about a year and a half). The baby girl was due in about 3 months and I was ready after about a month (mentally and physically).
We became Facebook friends, (not saying this is necessarily a good idea just FYI) so even though we talked every few days, I also was able to see what was happening outside of the pregnancy. As we got closer to the due date, I noticed some things that made me worry just a bit. I’d seen so much working in adoption and witnessed often what we call “red flags.” Sometimes, even with all the flags flying, the birth mom still places. I didn’t want to stress my hubby, so I kept it to myself and tried to keep my mind busy with Harper and work. I knew it could be nothing, I mean she had placed 8 kids, it was fine right!?
She posted a lot of pregnancy pics of herself, comments would come in asking when she was due, telling her how cute she was, congratulating her, etc. She would answer and thank them. She talked about counting down the days until the baby was born and about how she wondered what she would look like. Some women never want anyone to know they are pregnant and put nothing pregnancy related at all out there, and some post daily and enjoy the attention from others (again I tried not to worry). She spoke a lot about her boyfriend in jail and how they talked daily, I knew his last name and I happened to notice that some of her comments had the same last name.
I allowed myself to be a bit more nervous now.
I decided to just ask her if she was possibly having second thoughts and maybe wanted to raise this baby. I let her know that I would absolutely not blame her if she had changed her mind. I just wanted to know. She swore up and down that wasn’t the case, said she had no way to financially support this baby and her boyfriend would have a tough time finding work once he was out. We chatted a lot about the pros and the cons of keeping the baby (she did, I listened), and in closing, she stated she very much still wanted to place.
It felt weird and I wanted to believe her. I tried to continue on as normal (the baby was due in about 3 weeks). She would report to me after every doctor appointment and usually text me pics of her belly. A couple of weeks before she was due, she told me the baby weighed over 9 pounds. She had gestational diabetes and had been lectured often about her eating choices, but she stated they did not plan to induce her early, which seemed strange to me. Obviously, the bigger the baby, the greater the risk to both of them and truly, I was surprised she was still pregnant.
We chatted a bit about what she wanted her hospital time to look like (she wanted at least a day alone with the baby), and I was 100% on board with all of it. I also was reminded that she would have ten days to revoke her consent if she chose since she was Native American, which made me super nervous in general, but it wasn’t my biggest fear.
The Big Day
I remember the day well, it was the end of August and I was grocery shopping after work. I had been at the store for about thirty minutes and was wrapping up when the text came in. It was a picture of a baby and then a short text that followed…
“I’m so sorry, but when I held her and saw her face, I just couldn’t do it.”
I burst into tears; there was no holding back, even in the middle of the grocery store. I decided to check out as opposed to abandoning my cart. I tried to maintain composure; I didn’t make eye contact and hoped no one would inquire about my puffy wet eyes. Thankfully, the lines were short and I made it to the car before losing it again.
I forwarded the message to my husband, drove home and climbed into bed. I cried until I fell asleep and was awoken by my hubby snuggling in with me. He had left work early after getting my text, to come check on me. He didn’t need to say anything, I could tell he was grieving too and it meant so much to have him with me. I sent out a few other texts to family and some close friends who all tried to call right away but I just couldn’t, I needed to just be. I wanted it to just go away, I wanted to fast forward through the grief or better yet rewind to before we matched.
We had planned an extended family gathering that weekend and I really wanted to go. My hope was it would take my mind off things. We packed up and headed to the cabin, against our better judgment. I kept retreating back to our room to check my phone and would linger longer each time, I was terrified someone would ask me about it and I’d lose it. I put Harper down for a nap and stayed with him, the tears found their way back and I just couldn’t stay, it was too much. I had to still be a mother, wife, and employee so I couldn’t stay in bed.
For weeks afterward, if someone even asked me about it, I would cry. I couldn’t and didn’t want to talk about it. I have no idea if her intention was always to parent her child or not. It didn’t matter. Was I mad at her? No, absolutely not. How could I be mad at a mother for wanting to keep her child, even if my financial support was the way she was able to do it? She deserved to be a mother, I wanted this woman to have the chance, just like someone had given me that chance and hopefully would again.
She actually texted me (off and on) for months afterward. I think I had become a friend, a confidant for her and I wanted to give her the support to succeed. Some days it was hard, but I think she also truly wanted to check on me and let me know she was sorry. I worried a little about her and the baby, I wanted her to know I was there for her and deep down if things didn’t work out for her I wanted her to call me. I honestly wasn’t in a hurry to rematch and go through the risk of another failed placement.
My job at the adoption agency was to match families. I saw all the situations come through and truly none of them felt right. I always seemed to find multiple families to present for any given situation, but for one particular situation that came up, I was having the hardest time finding anyone to present. Strangely, it was the first profile I had read through that I felt some sort of connection with. I decided to send it to my husband. I knew he’d likely say no but I didn’t want to make the decision without getting his opinion.
This expectant mom stated she didn’t find out she was pregnant until she was around 6 months along. During that time, she admitted to going out several times with friends and having some drinks. Out of all the exposure situations I’d seen in the decade I’d worked in adoption, alcohol was the only thing that scared me. I’m assuming that’s why all the families I had sent it to were saying no. Nothing else stood out as alarming to me. My husband responded – “sure, let’s present.” I was shocked! I was also shocked that I too wanted to present. I just felt like she seemed genuine and honest and I respected her for being so forthcoming.
We decided to present along with just a couple of other families. Our odds were pretty good and that was a bit terrifying. After a few days, she asked to speak with us over the phone. My husband and I weren’t together, so it was one of those awkward calls where you can’t nudge your husband and mouth to him to say something or scribble a message on the notepad. It was one of those where both of you answered at once and no one could hear each other well. It went okay-ish! My husband barely spoke and she didn’t have a ton of questions for us. I tried to make small talk and get to know her as best as I could. Her voice was so so sweet, I instantly felt love for her. She was eloquent, kind, open and I wanted to give her the biggest squeeze.
Within 15 minutes of hanging up, I received a text that she wanted us to be the parents. I was shocked and still on the phone with my husband telling him he had to talk more with the next possible match. She was due in about a month or so.
I was given her number and a few days later I sent her a text.
Several days later I sent another.
Still no response.
I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, she probably just didn’t want much contact and I could respect that. I knew she was talking to her caseworker so I took comfort in that, although I was secretly preparing myself for another failed adoption after several weeks of no contact.
I was a bit numb; I was sad, hopeful, hopeless, and excited, it all just depended on the day. All I could do was wait and see.
It turns out, it was her home number I had been texting which is why she never responded. When we finally made contact, she had been given an induction date. She was due to deliver on December 22nd and asked if we would come out the day before to meet her. Ugh! We were so excited, but leaving our two-year-old son days before Christmas for thousand dollar tickets was scary. Obviously, if she placed it would all be worth it, but if it failed at this time of year for that much money … We packed our bags and hoped for the best.
Meeting Our Expectant Mom
We planned to meet for dinner and we arrived at the restaurant early, only to receive a text from her stating they were running late. By the time she got there, we had been waiting for nearly an hour and our nerves were shot. She was beautiful, and I felt like I was going to puke. She had come with her aunt who ended up doing most of the talking initially, and I could tell her opinion would be key if things got tough. Both were super polite and very genuine.
We talked about openness, names, school, religion, and so much more. Dinner was well over an hour and I felt that we had gotten to know each other quite well. Sure, there were the awkward moments where you felt you’d said the wrong thing, but all in all, I felt it had gone fairly well. We took pictures together and she asked us to come up after the delivery. I completely respected and understood the request, but was a little bummed since I was hoping to have a similar experience as Harper’s delivery and possibly be there for the birth.
The Big Day – Take 2
Delivery day was rough!! Of course, I didn’t sleep much the night before, it was like Christmas Eve (almost literally) and my mind was spinning. We got up early and I kept checking my phone waiting to hear something, anything at all. Strangely, I was thankful to have a delivery happening elsewhere at the same time, that I was busy working on for my job. It helped to pour myself into walking someone else through what I was experiencing.
We finally decided to go out for food since it didn’t seem like we would be heading to the hospital anytime soon. We were finishing up at the restaurant when our birth mother texted me pictures of the baby. She had delivered…
and invited us to come up.
Once again I felt nauseous.
I was so excited and so terrified to look this baby in the face and love on her knowing that she may or may not go home with us. We walked into the room and she was snuggled up with the baby girl, she seemed genuinely happy to see us and the mood/vibe seemed good! She immediately wanted to hand her to us and I didn’t hesitate to take her. When I took this beautiful little girl in my arms I caught a glance of my husband and the love I saw was real. In mere seconds he was smitten, a puddle really. The daddy-daughter thing was brought to life right before my eyes. It made what I was feeling at that moment even harder.
I looked in her sweet innocent face and I didn’t know if this was my baby. In that very moment, I doubted everything. Fear had gotten in my way of giving this baby girl my love. What if I allowed myself to love her and it was all taken away again, why didn’t I feel at peace like I did when holding Harper? I knew the second I held him he was my son. I so desperately wanted to feel that again.
Letting My Guard Down
I didn’t want to be guarded, I truly didn’t. I wanted to love this sweet baby fully with all of my heart. We stayed for a couple of hours and then left so she could rest. We went back again that evening for a bit. Everything seemed to be going really well and we left feeling pretty good about things.
The next morning, her kids were visiting (we had met them the night before). They hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, so my husband took them down to the cafeteria while the birth mother and I visited. The conversation went well, she had more questions, all appropriate and I felt like we bonded quite a bit. It was at this point that I allowed myself to let go a bit and the love for this sweet baby girl started to ooze from me. The kids came back and we all visited for quite some time. Her sister was also there- guarded and quiet, but still polite. She held the baby often.
The signing was scheduled for later that day and up to that point we hadn’t bought a car seat or anything necessary for discharge. We left for a bit to get that taken care of. The plan was for her to sign and discharge at the same time the baby was discharged.
We went to probably four different places before we found an infant car seat (guess that’s what happens when you wait to shop that close to Christmas). We headed back to the hospital and my husband dropped me off while he parked the car. I came bounding in the room hoping to pick up where we had left off, but as soon as I stepped foot in the room I could tell things were not ok. The feeling was not good, the mood was somber and she was very quiet. I immediately texted my husband to not bring the car seat up.
I asked her if she was struggling and she said yes.
I asked if she wanted some alone time and she stated she did.
I could tell she was emotional and before I left, I told her we loved her and this baby girl so much.
Stay tuned for Part II of Embracing the Ups, Downs and All-Arounds of Domestic Adoption: One Woman’s Personal Adoption Story.
Rachel is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker that has worked in adoption for the last fifteen years. She recently joined the RG Adoption Consulting team as a consultant. For her full bio click here.