This guest post is by Haris, a hopeful adoptive parent.
My husband and I lived through an adoption nightmare. The absolute worst case scenario.
I am writing this post to help us in our grieving process and to offer lessons that may help others who are hoping to adopt a baby through open adoption.
After Clay and I decided that we wanted to have children we waited for about a year before contacting an adoption attorney that our friends referred and started the process.
From the beginning, this attorney seemed very transactional, more concerned about who was getting paid when than about the welfare of the birth mother, the baby, or us.
One day at the end of February a woman from Georgia contacted us and told us she was six weeks away from giving birth to a baby boy.
We spoke to her a few times and she seemed great. This was her ninth pregnancy, and she had had eight healthy babies.
None of them were in her possession, as she had gone through a few adoptions before, including some that were with her ex-husbands or ex-boyfriends.
We felt safe talking to her. It seemed like a low-risk adoption.
But then things got complicated when she began submitting her budget to our attorney, which included thousands of dollars for pregnancy and postpartum expenses.
Whenever we discussed money with her, she became volatile. She threatened to find another family if we did not give her exactly what she wanted.
I ran a budget by our attorney and he agreed to it. The budget involved some minimal help during the pregnancy but the bulk of it would go to her after the birth of the child.
For about 4-5 weeks, I spoke to the expectant mother about twice a day. She texted all the time and was excited to place her baby with us.
The week before she delivered, as we were getting ready to go to Georgia, our attorney suddenly decided to stop providing any support for her.
He also said that he would not help her financially after the birth of the child. He was essentially pulling “a bait and switch” and thought that she would go through with the placement anyway as it was so close to the delivery.
We felt so wrong about this that we fired him and hired a different attorney to work with.
Luka was born on March, 27th. He was two weeks early and his birth mom wanted us to be present during the delivery process. Clay cut the umbilical cord, and I held her as she was giving birth.
During the process Luka had swallowed meconium and had to be taken to the NICU as he was having a hard time breathing.
His mother gave us the hospital bracelets and all the medical decision making powers. We felt the heavy responsibility of being new parents.
Luka’s mom checked out of the hospital less than 12 hours after the birth, and left us in the NICU with the baby. Clay read to him and we stayed with him as much as possible.
We began the attachment process and bonded with tiny little Luka. The nurses in the NICU were real-life angels, and Clay and I learned all we could about Parenting 101 from them.
After three days, we checked out of the NICU and Luka’s mom came to say goodbye to him. She was really happy for us and thanked us for all of the support.
She even told us that she loved us and was glad we could give Luka a good life.
We soon realized that the town where she lived was full of moms like her, who carry and place their kids. Most of her friends had placed four or five of their babies for adoption.
Even still, we felt safe with her decision, and she never made us question her. The attorney who was there when she gave consent to the adoption told us that this was a very low-risk adoption as well.
He did not think we had anything to worry about as we prepared ourselves for the ten day revocation period.
Once we left the hospital, we took Luka to the pediatrician and decided to get a hotel suite in Atlanta so we were closer to the airport. We spent the next seven days in Atlanta, waiting.
We were parents! Clay stayed in the room while I hunted through various Targets and Walmarts for a formula that Luka liked.
We bought him a stroller as we wanted to take him to the park. We set up a changing station, feeding station, bottle cleaning station, and bassinet area for him in the hotel suite.
We slept in two-hour intervals as we constantly worried about his breathing. We would wake up in those two hours to look at the bassinet and make sure he was okay.
We were typical insane parents who worried about all kinds of things. However, we did not worry about his birth mother changing her mind.
The day before the 10 days was up, she called to see how we were. She told us that she was so happy we got to go home soon and that we must be homesick.
She laughed when we told her that we were scared to venture out of the suite in the stroller. That was the last time we ever spoke to her.
Our Worst Nightmare
In the last hours of Luka’s mother’s 10-day revocation period, we got a call from our attorney. He told us that she was in the midst of a manic episode and had changed her mind.
They tried talking to her, but it was of no help. She wanted her child back.
They told us to prepare for the worst but that they would see if there was anything they could do. We waited for about 30 minutes and then got a call that Luka’s mother hired a new attorney and that we had to return the child within the hour.
The attorney also told us that we should call child services as she was in the midst of a manic bipolar episode.
We had to give this child back to a mentally unstable woman. We put the address of her new attorney’s office into Google Maps and watched it go from 20 minutes away to “You have arrived.” We felt like we were taking him to a guillotine.
Her new attorney was really sorry for us, but there was not much she could do. The next day, we got a call from Child Services. They asked us if we noticed any unusual marks on the child.
I told them that we did not, but she kept asking if we noticed anything else wrong with him, as something awful happened to him the previous night after we gave him back to the birth mother.
I asked her if we would ever know what happened to this child, and she just plainly said no.
Clay and I are broken. Our hope is broken. The system in which we wanted to create our family is also broken.
We wanted to provide a better home to a child that may not have much when he comes into this world.
Instead, we got lost in an opportunistic transactional system that does not care for the well-being of the child and only supports the wishes of the birth parents.
Today, we are healing and we want to offer these few lessons:
1. Hire an attorney that feels right.
If at any time, you do not feel you trust your attorney or you lose faith in his abilities, just move on. Forget about the money you may lose.
Your attorney is your biggest partner and this relationship is the most important one in the adoption process.
Our current attorney has been a blessing through this situation. He knew how to help and when. He knows when to push back. We trust him completely and his advice is very important to us.
2. Hire an attorney that respects women.
Our attorney had no respect for the expectant mother we sent to him as leads. He repeatedly called them drug addicts although some of them had no history of drug abuse.
Our current attorney speaks about expectant mothers who are considering adoption with a totally different tone. He treats them as human beings who are worthy of respect.
3. Keep your desperation in check.
We were desperate and that is our fault. Had we had a better attorney through the process we may have listened to him more to keep us in check.
However, the reality is that we did not see clearly and were getting trapped with a few leads who just wanted money.
Our current attorney would have prevented this from the beginning and would have helped us. Had we had the right attorney, this lead would have gone away and tried to find a different family willing to pay almost $10k.
4. Be careful with your relationship with the expectant parents.
I developed a strong relationship with Luka’s mother, as I was the only one speaking to her. Our attorney did not speak to her much.
I wish I knew that she was supposed to have had her own attorney from the beginning who she spoke with. I would not feel as betrayed personally as I do now.
I have gone over every single text and conversation we had over the course of those six weeks many times to find some reason for this insanity.
5. Educate yourself about the revocation period.
They are awful but part of the process. Stay away from states that have really long ones.
The bottom line is that a lot of things went wrong in our adoption process. There is enough blame to go around and we accept our share of it.
However, websites like America Adopts! has a list of reputable resources that we suggest as a good starting point for building an adoption team that you trust and respect, as well as them respecting you and the birth parents.
Clay and I are healing in many ways. This adoption fall-through made us face some of our biggest fears.
We are now taking a deep breath and reassessing what we really value and want for our future. We look forward to better days ahead.
Haris and his husband, Clay, are hopeful adoptive parents.
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