It was a typical Sunday.
We were at church. I was volunteering with the 1-year-olds, which I do about once a month.
The service ended and parents started trickling in to pick up their kids as me and the other volunteers started cleaning up and putting away the randomly-strewn toys.
Jeff popped his head in the door and with atypical impatience asked, “Have you looked at your phone?”
Uh… “No,” I said. I’d been hanging out with a dozen or so toddlers the last hour and a half.
He held up his phone to show me a group text to both of us from our adoption caseworker. We’d been chosen again. For the third time in two months, a birth mother had chosen us to adopt her baby.
And this woman had just gone into labor. 1,500 miles away.
“Call me on my cell phone as soon as you can,” the text ended.
We got our son out of his childcare and found a quiet spot in a back room where we could make the phone call undisturbed.
“It’s easy, but it’s not pretty,” said our caseworker.
What did that mean?
This time we’d been chosen by a birth mother halfway across the country. We were not her first choice, but the first family was not in a position to take a baby right now due to illness.
The biggest things we had to weigh about the “not pretty” part were the distance we’d need to travel on very short notice; the fact that birth mom had a mental health diagnosis over a decade earlier as a teenager; there was little to nothing known about the birth father (other than he supposedly shared a name with a movie character), so we’d never have medical or health history or even know what he looked like.
My heart was racing. My mind was a flurry of thoughts. We’d had two failed placements in the last two months. Here was a birth mother already in labor, meaning we could potentially have a baby in the next day or two if we said yes.
But she could also change her mind. Though that’s a risk with all matches. Was it too soon? We’d just walked away from a very suspicious set of circumstances, after a 4 month match that fell through before that. Our hearts were raw. How do we feel about knowing virtually nothing about the birth father? How do we feel about birth mom’s mental health diagnosis? Is that hereditary? If so, how might that potentially affect our family in the future?
I didn’t want to discount the potential long term ramifications on our family for the short term gain of getting a baby NOW.
After we hung up with the caseworker, we immediately got on the phone hoping to reach a good friend who is a licensed mental health professional and get her take on the birth mom’s teenage mental health diagnosis. Turns out what she’d been labeled is typically born out of trauma, as multiple other sources have confirmed over time.
What about the birth father issue and lack of info about him?
We have an open, ongoing relationship with our son’s bio parents. While it’s mostly me and his birth mom texting, anything we need or want to know about birth dad we can ask and get. That wouldn’t be the case here.
We now know that the relationship we have with our son’s bio family is a unicorn in the world of adoption. We are the exception, not the rule. But we were genuinely hoping for a similar relationship with the biological parents of our second child.
How naïve of us.
Obviously, we all know how this played out.
We ultimately said yes.
But I’ll admit I am the one who hesitated the most. We had a call with birth mom a couple hours after the initial call with our caseworker that was one of the most awkward conversations I’ve ever had in my life. And we haven’t talked to her since.
That was her choice. Not ours.
Now we have this beautiful, amazing baby girl. And I’ve spent the last year worrying about how we’re going to help her navigate the big feelings she is undoubtedly going to have about knowing almost nothing about her background and where she came from. Especially compared to what her brother will know and have access to.
Today is our baby girl’s 1st birthday.
On your first birthday, my sweet girl, I just want you to know how much you are loved. Not just by us, but by so many, including your birth mom.
You are loved. You are valued. You are seen. You are known.
I can’t imagine our lives without you.