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:
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……………