The Call That Changed It All

Every time we received any news about our adoption progress, I seemed to have the day off. It was just an ordinary Friday, December 2, 2016 to be exact. Scott was the main contact for the adoption agency, and they had some wonderful news to share with him. It just so happened that he was in a meeting and couldn’t answer their call. Much to my surprise, my phone rang and it was the agency on the other end! Once I saw the name and number in my caller ID, goosebumps took over my entire body. It was obvious what the purpose of the call was. I had to calm myself down before answering. I didn’t want to seem too eager or excited. So, I put on my best “phone voice” for the occasion. I felt so important. They were calling me to deliver the news that a birthmother had selected us. She lived just outside of Memphis, was pregnant with a boy and was due on February 10th! Holy crap! February 10th! My mind immediately began to race. We had a lot to prepare for in a very short amount of time. I could not contain my excitement any longer and turned into a giddy schoolgirl on the phone. Of course, I told the woman from the agency that I thought I had psychic powers because we had just discussed having a boy the night before. She explained that our next step was to contact the mother via email and that she was expecting to hear from us that night. My first reaction was to call Scott. He answered and I told him what had happened. Guess what? He had already listened to his voicemail and called the agency back. He was still on the other line with them being told the same things that I was. And, here I was thinking I was special because of the whole knowing first thing. Nope.

That night, we sat down and typed an introduction email. We kept it short and simple:

Hi ___________,

How are you?  Do people call you ________?  We are very happy to introduce ourselves to you. First we want to say how brave you are for considering adoption and how honored we are that you have chosen to communicate with us.

Our profile has a little bit of information, however, if you have any questions, we are open books and will answer anything that can help you to get to know us and get to feel comfortable with us.  

We are very excited about this possibility and hope to hear from you soon.

P.S.  Since it’s our first email, it’s hard to sound fun and witty. But trust us that will come with time.

Scott and Mike

She wrote back to us right away. She thanked us and explained that she was drawn to our profile because she and I had similar degrees and she shared Scott’s art background. She also relayed to us that she was sexually assaulted and this pregnancy was the result. After a lot of therapy and introspection, she decided that adoption was the best option for her and the baby and asked that it be closed. She stated, “I don’t think I could deal with the guilt of still being in the baby’s life while not actually having him, plus, I’m also concerned with the baby bringing back memories of the rape, as selfish as that may sound. I’m not sure how you guys feel about a closed adoption, though.” When we first started the journey, I wanted a closed adoption and Scott wanted the adoption to remain open. So, we compromised and chose to list semi-open as the preference in our profile. We were totally fine with whatever decision she made. We just wanted her to be comfortable.

We now found ourselves in a bit of an overwhelming situation. We had just written a check the week prior to a contractor so he could begin a complete kitchen gut and remodel. This was something that we knew had to be complete before a baby came along or it would never get done. We joked that since we just paid for the kitchen, we would be getting THE call, and that’s exactly what happened. We had to hire a lawyer and social worker in Memphis. We had to get ready for Christmas, which was literally 3 weeks away. We had to completely redesign and paint the nursery because it was still pink. The running joke was that our son wouldn’t know the difference if we just left it that way. I mean, seriously, color has no gender anyway. And, most importantly, we had to concentrate on building a strong connection with our birthmother.

Scott is a worrier by nature. He had major concerns about the potential for a third failed adoption and about the financial aspects since we had to shell out a lot of money at this point. Our life savings was pretty much tied up in the adoption and kitchen. I did my best to stay positive and ease his fears. We also had to accept the unknown which was having zero information about the birthfather. Our birthmother never saw his face during the assault and had no idea what his race was. Without having any medical history, it would definitely be something that would need to be addressed in the future.

We contacted the adoption agency hoping to get a referral for a lawyer. They reached out to the only one they had in Memphis. Sadly, he refused to take us on as clients because we are gay. Our lawyer in Rhode Island ended up referring us to another attorney, Susan Mackenzie (http://www.susanmackenzielaw.com/), who we retained right away. She found us a social worker and before we knew it, we were under contract with them both.

Meanwhile, we were both texting with our birthmother multiple times per day. It was great because she would initiate the contact most of the time. We ended up getting very close in a very short period of time. We got to know her very well. She was 29 and a Cornell graduate originally from Atlanta who was now living on a military base in Tennessee with her five year old son. Her mother was deployed so she temporarily moved there so she could care for her younger brother. We felt like she was now a part of our family and suggested to her that if she wanted to change her mind about a closed adoption, we were all for it. She told us that she would think about it.

We made it through Christmas without a functioning kitchen. We spent the actual holiday at Scott’s parents’ house on Cape Cod. It is his favorite holiday because his birthday is on Christmas Eve. When he was a kid, his parents used to tell him that people put up lights to celebrate his birthday. Christmas is not my favorite time of year. I do not have a relationship with my family, so the season is a real struggle for me emotionally. I have been warming up to it the past few years because of Scott and his family. I see the joy and the love that they all have for one another. It is contagious. Plus, we were both full of excitement with the pending adoption and knowing that this time the following year, we would have a little one of our own to celebrate with.

We did not tell many people about our new connection right away. We had only told Scott’s family and our closest friends. We waited until January 9th before we officially announced that we were expecting. We had an outpouring of love and support from everyone. It was almost as if they all knew that this was the one that was actually going to happen.

Our plan was to drive down to Memphis on February 8th, which was two days before the due date; unless she went into labor earlier, of course. Friends of ours offered to repaint the nursery for us while we were gone, but, it was something that we wanted to do ourselves. Scott loves to paint and insisted on doing it himself. He worked all day on a Saturday and got it all done. He certainly has a keen eye and designed the space himself.

We had no plans to have a baby shower, but we really didn’t have much baby stuff and people were asking us what we needed. We decided to put an Amazon registry together so people who wanted to get us gifts could. All of our friends and family purchased everything on that registry. We were getting packages delivered to the house on a daily basis. I can’t stress adequately how having that much love and support touched us and truly can’t thank them enough! Then, Scott’s coworkers ended up throwing him a surprise baby shower which was very sweet and much appreciated.

With everything else that was going on, we also had to mentally prepare ourselves for becoming parents. We knew our lives were going to change in a major way, which was welcomed. We also knew that we may end up facing some challenges along the way as two white, gay fathers of an African-American baby. We did a lot of reading and soul searching. We spoke to friends about how they dealt with racism in their own lives and, basically, how we should handle it if it were to happen to us. The best piece of advice was to not sweat it. Why worry about something that may never happen? Cross that bridge if it should ever be thrown out in front of you. Follow your instincts and just be great role models to your son. Pretty solid, if you ask me. As our departure date grew closer, we had to start thinking about accommodations in Memphis. Our birthmother let us know her birth plan in advance, so we were able to find a hotel that was pretty close to the hospital. Luckily, I am a travel agent and able to get very deep discounts at Marriott properties. We booked the hotel with an open-ended reservation, checking in on February 9th and staying for upwards of a month. I am actually very grateful to Marriott for being so accommodating. Then, before we knew it, it was February 8th and time for us to hit the road……………

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The Road to Adoption: Part 2

I had the day off on Friday, March 11, 2016. I followed my normal routine which was to begin the day by drinking coffee and stalking our birthmother’s Facebook page. Much to my surprise, I discovered that she had “unfriended” us. Alarm bells went off in my head. I knew right then it was over. I was in disbelief. I was confused. I was devastated.

After taking a few moments to shed some tears and grab my composure, I decided to text Scott. My exact text to him was, “Honey…..(——-) deleted us on Facebook.” I look back on that decision today and realize how insensitive it was. I should have called him like a normal, caring, decent person. You don’t drop a bombshell like that via text message. What the hell was I thinking? And, now that I think about it, I have never apologized to him for that.

Scott did not know what to say or how to react. We both ended up emailing the birthmother to ask her what happened and if everything was alright. We never received replies.

I thought it was best to contact the lawyer that we had in Missouri to let her know what was going on and to ask for our money back. Scott contacted the adoption agency. Both were very supportive, encouraging and apologetic.

Scott wanted to come home from work to be with me so we could console each other. I really wanted him to, but I thought it was best that he stay and be around his work family for support. He was also scheduled to play tennis that evening, which he wanted to cancel. I told him not to. Hitting tennis balls is a great way to let off steam and get your mind off of your troubles. That’s probably what he needed. If he came home, we would have ended up crying and being depressed all day. I am sure that neither one of us would have done a great job of making the other feel better about the situation.

What I really wanted was to be alone. When something bad happens in my life, I prefer to retreat into my shell like a turtle until I feel better about it. That didn’t quite happen.

I told a friend, who told another friend. Before I knew it, I was hosting a game night with these friends sitting around the dining room table eating Chinese food and getting drunk. It was fine, I guess. It didn’t take my mind off of things because it’s all everyone wanted to talk about.

Scott came home around 8:30. He was not pleased that there were people at the house. I understood that our friends didn’t want me to be alone. It was definitely appreciated. I also understood that Scott didn’t feel like having company. He just wanted to be alone with me so we could grieve in peace.

I was now at a point where I did not want to continue with the adoption process. I didn’t have it in me to go through another failed adoption. If you haven’t gone through one, let me just tell you that it stings. It sucks, actually. Scott was very good at encouraging me to keep going. He kept telling me that everything will work out in the end and that this happened for a reason. Scott is definitely a better man than I am. He is very forgiving and actually wrote a very nice email to the birthmother wishing her well and letting her know that there were no hard feelings. I, on the other hand, could not echo his sentiment. Unfortunately, I tend to take things personally.

The birthmother never responded to either of us, the lawyer, social worker, or the agency. We were just left with unanswered questions, hurt feelings, and sadness. She never completely blocked us from Facebook and her page was public, so Scott checked daily to see if she had given birth. I had no desire to see or hear anything about her.

A couple of weeks later, she did give birth to a beautiful and healthy baby girl.

The adoption agency had put us back up live on their website. Now, we just had to wait again to be picked by another birthmother. We left the nursery alone. It stayed pink as a reminder of what could have been. For a while, I just left the door closed so I didn’t have to look in there. Time really does heal all wounds, though. I have never told Scott this, but as time went by, I would go up to the nursery and just sit in the rocking chair and stair at the crib and gallery that we had put up. It started with me wondering what our lives would be like if that adoption had succeeded. Then, it turned into me using the time I spent in there as inspiration to hang in there and never give up on my dream of becoming a parent.

nursery

Fast forward to summer 2016. We were still waiting. One day after work, we went to our local neighborhood bar to have a few drinks. While sitting there at the bar, Scott received a phone call from his cousin in California. He went outside to talk. I just sat there with a big smile on my face because I immediately knew what the call was about. He came back in and told me that his cousin knew a woman that was pregnant, due around Christmas, was having a boy, and was considering adoption. The short version of the story is that this poor woman ended up having an affair with a man she did not know was married. The father didn’t want anything to do with her because he already had a wife and kids who did not know that he got another woman pregnant.

We sent her an introduction letter along with a hard copy of our adoption profile. She, along with her family, loved our profile and decided to move forward with us as the adoptive parents. We were very excited, to say the least. We didn’t want to get our hopes up and make the same mistakes that we had made with our previous connection. We told only our family and closest friends. We didn’t buy or paint anything. We definitely learned our lesson and pretty much kept it quiet.

This was now a private adoption and did not have anything to do with our agency. So, we decided not to tell them about it so we could remain on the website just in case it were to fall through.

A few weeks went by and everything was going smoothly. We had begun to look for a lawyer and social worker in California. Then, out of the blue, we were notified that the birthfather had filed an injunction to not allow the birthmother to put the baby up for adoption. He had also filed for custody of the unborn child. And that was all she wrote.

Dealing with a failed adoption isn’t easy and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. However, we handled this one much better than the last. We only had feelings of disappointment. We weren’t emotional at all. We knew, again, that this one wasn’t meant to be. Our perfect match was out there somewhere. So, we waited.

On December 1, 2016, we were sitting in the living room watching TV. I turned to Scott and asked him if we had a boy, could his middle name be Benjamin? He asked why, and I explained that because his best friend Ben had died when they were kids, I thought it would be a nice way of paying homage to him. Scott was touched and he agreed. I remember him asking me, “You really think we’re going to have a boy, don’t you?” I did. I had a dream about it. The very next day, we received the call that would change our lives forever…….