I don’t remember significant portions of 2007, but what I do remember is mostly traumatic. In the fall of that year my first child, John Henry, was safely and miraculously brought earthside. After a pregnancy plagued by a rare neurological disorder triggered by high levels of progesterone, we were sternly warned to never attempt another pregnancy. The warning was unnecessary. Our extended family had been blessed by adoption several times and we knew before John Henry was ever born that any future children would come to us through adoption.
We began filling out our mountains of paperwork before John Henry was a year old and we were approved to adopt in January of 2009. We knew that the average wait time for a domestic adoption was just over two years. We also knew that couples who were proactive in their adoption efforts often decreased that wait significantly. I have an MBA with an emphasis in entrepreneurship and social marketing. We learned everything we could about domestic adoption and I threw the full force of my education and experience into promoting our desire to adopt.
Something that couples looking to adopt domestically are rarely told is that most of them will go through at least one failed adoption. Laws in this country protect the rights of the birth parents (as they should) to parent their child until after the birth of the baby, depending on the state, for as long as six months. (Three to seven days is a more common waiting time before a birth parent can sign relinquishment papers.)
My husband, Lincoln, and I are just overachievers, I guess. In 2009 we suffered through four failed adoptions and by November of 2009 we were emotionally spent. We pulled all of our profiles down. We weren’t giving up, but we were heartbroken. We needed some time and space to heal. I believe that God often lets us get to that brokenhearted stage so that we will truly recognize and appreciate a miracle when he sends it to us.
In December of 2009 I got a call from our agency. I didn’t respond because I thought they were only calling to tell us that we needed to renew our home study, something I didn’t want to think about right then. A few days later I got several phone messages and an urgent email from our case worker to “Call her right away!” I finally called. Because we had matched the very specific requirements of a potential birth mother they had sent our profile to her. She wanted to talk to us, and more so, she wanted to place with us, which is highly unusual. Typically prospective birth parents want to talk to several prospective adoptive families before they choose the parents of their child. We were so excited, and yet so afraid to open our hearts once again.
I talked to Lisa (*not her real name*) on the phone for the first time a week or so later and it was as if we were long lost friends. Her story was heartbreaking and I mourned with her. We spent the next several weeks getting to know her through email and over the phone. In February I flew to Alaska a few days before Lisa was scheduled to be induced. Those were precious days for me. The day I first saw her in person there was no awkwardness; we hugged as if we had known each other our whole lives and fell into the happy and comfortable conversation of old friends.
Lincoln and I spent the entire day in the hospital with Lisa the day she was induced. It was a slow and painful labor and we did what we could to make her more comfortable. Finally, more than twelve hours after her initial induction, they gave her an epidural and things moved fast from there. Our son, Leo, was born late at night. I was with Lisa as she delivered. I cut the umbilical cord and it was one of the most miraculous experiences of my life. I cried as they handed this precious baby to Lisa. A baby who would bond two mothers together for life.
She held him and I kissed her. We marveled together for a moment. When a nurse took him from her, I was torn. Should I go with the baby or should I stay with Lisa? As a true mother, Lisa told me what to do. I called Lincoln to come into the room and we assisted as the nurse cleaned, measured and swaddled our newborn son.
The next few days were a whirlwind. I was flooded by conflicting emotions, often hitting me in waves, one after another, without respite. But in the chaos of intense joy and unbearable pain swirling around the adults, the perfect calm of a sweet new baby anchored us and we moved forward. Lincoln had to return to Washington state to his job and to our older son. I stayed behind in Alaska, waiting for clearance to leave the state and for an opening on a flight back to the lower forty-eight. Lisa and I spent at least part of everyday together. We took turns holding our precious boy, kissing him, feeding him, and smelling him.
Some might think this would have been difficult for Lisa; spending so much time with the child she had carried, nurtured and given birth to, but would not be parenting. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but she cherished that time and took the chance to tell him how much she loved him and to say goodbye. Like most birth mothers, Lisa is an astonishingly strong woman. Some might think this would have been difficult for me, ‘allowing’ Leo’s birth mother to spend so much time with him, to cuddle him and to bond with him. Some might assume I would feel threatened or anxious that she would change her mind. But they would be wrong. I would not have had it any other way.
Lisa and I share the bond of motherhood; each of us giving Leo something the other could not. We both love our son fiercely, and each of us have and will continue to make great sacrifices to ensure he is given the very best we can give him.
Leo is now seven years old. He is a gentle giant, enamored with dragons, and often happily covered in dirt, We all talk to Lisa often. Leo loves to talk to her, he loves to hear about her, about how she sang to him, and about his birth siblings. He loves them and both boys giggle with sneaky delight at any opportunity to tell a confused adult about how one of them has sisters, and one does not. Lisa and I are also friends on Facebook. She watches Leo grow and shares in the journey. I get support from her as I parent; someone to ask about medical concerns, and best of all, the knowledge that Leo will know his birth mama and know how much he is loved by both of us.
Adoption is a miracle. Open adoption is a living miracle. It requires work and commitment. It takes strength. Its rewards are eternal.
Megan is a mother of two boys, both miracles. She raises them alongside her charming husband accompanied by a menagerie of dogs, cats, and chickens. To stay balanced she gardens in the summer, knits in the winter, and paints all year round. To learn more about domestic infant adoption visit adoption.com. To learn more about foster adoption visit adoptuskids.com