This guest post is by Rebekah Tate, an adoptive mother.
It has taken me almost a year to gather the courage to write about our failed adoption match last March. That week was absolutely the best and worst in my life.
I knew that open adoption wouldn’t be easy. There are some things in life that you can’t prepare for and open adoption is certainly at the top of that list.
It’s funny how going into this journey my top concern was always could I love a child that didn’t come from me. But that ended up being the absolute last thing my husband, Justin, and I needed to worry about.
Our profile had gone live a few months earlier. I was very active on social media and advertised our profile on as many websites that I could find. Within days we were getting contacted by women all over the country.
It was so scary. I put so much hope in each and every woman who contacted us. I was honest with them and tried to convey to them how sincere we were. I knew that most of these women were just as scared as we were, probably more so.
Within the next 3 or 4 months we were contacted by 20 or so women. Some were obvious scams. Some changed their minds and told us. Some just never contacted us back.
It was extremely emotional but we had done our research and knew that this was common when you go down the path of private domestic adoption.
Laura contacted me on October 1. (For privacy reasons, I’ve changed people’s names) She was due with a baby boy on March 10.
We spent the next four months emailing back and forth almost daily.
We became very close and talked about our families and our likes and dislikes. I helped her with her chemistry homework and was emotionally there for her whenever she needed me.
The relationship that developed made me feel like I was a part of the pregnancy; I was there every day and experienced it with her.
Laura sent us a video of her stomach moving. For Christmas she sent us the original sonogram pictures. I knew that each and every adoption story was unique but I thought that the relationship we had was special and would only benefit our baby boy in the future.
Laura was scheduled for a C-section on March 3rd. We arrived at the hospital that day and were surprised that everyone there was so nice to us. Laura had arranged for us to have wristbands so we could be with the baby the whole time.
We met Laura’s family at the hospital and they welcomed us and reassured us that Laura was 100% sure about her plan.
That night James Joseph Rae was born.
We were in love the instant we saw him. He had a head full of strawberry blond hair and was absolutely perfect. We cried. Our prayers had been answered. I never imagined how sincerely complete he would make us feel.
The next three days we spent 16 hours a day in two hard chairs in the corner of the hospital nursery. We didn’t care because we were so happy. We took turns holding him and singing to him.
I whispered to him how much I loved him and how life was going to be back home. I had never experienced a love like that. Any doubt I had about loving a child that wasn’t genetically mine went completely away. This was OUR child and he was perfect.
The social workers at the hospital told us that they had never seen a birth mother that was so set on her decision. Laura left the hospital the next day but the law didn’t allow her to sign the relinquishment papers until 72 hours after birth.
Our first night with James was so special. We were just so excited to experience everything, including sleepless nights. Our long journey of infertility and then of adoption had come to an end and we were anxious to go home. I texted Laura a couple of times that day to see how she was and she was so appreciative.
She thanked us for taking such good care of him in the hospital.
Having three other kids of her own, she gave us a few pointers on how to handle the first night. I was so thankful for our close relationship and was glad I wouldn’t have to worry about any drama. I liked this woman; we were similar in so many ways. She was my friend.
The next morning was the 72 hour mark and we waited patiently to hear if Laura had signed the relinquishment papers. Our lawyer spoke with her lawyer and told us that “she wasn’t sure.”
I was so confused. I had been talking with her all along and she never conveyed that she was unsure. I texted her right away and she confessed that she was worried that we would take him away and never talk to her again.
She had been reading stories online of adoptive parents that lied to birth mothers about the agreed upon degree of openness. I tried as best as I could to convince her that we weren’t those people. We wanted what was best for James, and knowing where he came from was the best situation for him.
Waking up that morning I think I subconsciously knew the day would be the worst of my life.
I tried to cherish every moment with James. I memorized every beautiful feature of his little face.
There were numerous calls made, emotions ran high. We weren’t getting any straight answers. Finally I just texted Laura and asked her what was going on, her response was “I’m sorry I feel so horrible but I can’t do this. I’m sorry but I am really beyond words and it’s not anything you guys did, you’re so perfect, but I just can’t, I’m sorry.” It’s crazy how a few sentences can set you on a complete different path in life.
All kinds of thoughts went through my mind: “I don’t understand. He’s ours. I love him. We have to give him back. I can’t do that. I don’t understand. You sought us out, we were friends. How could a friend do this to us?
I can’t let him go. I need to get out of this horrible hotel room but I don’t want to go back home to life without James. A childless life at home is miserable. I can’t face everyone at home. We need to move and start a life somewhere else.”
I don’t know how we found the strength to feed him, change his diaper and get him ready to bring him to the lawyer’s house. That car ride will forever be scarred in my brain. I was curled up in a ball in the front seat. I don’t know how Justin drove and kept it together.
We arrived at the lawyer’s house and I just couldn’t even look at James. I know that it sounds horrible but I just couldn’t fall in love with him anymore. I gave him a quick kiss and said goodbye.
The pain and sadness of my lost child will never go away.
I think about him each and every day. I wonder how he is doing and what life would be like if he was still with us. I never harbored any anger or resentment towards Laura. I knew she didn’t “scam” us. I knew she did what she had to do.
Going home and back to reality was the second hardest thing we had to do that horrible Friday afternoon. It felt as if my child had died and I had to somehow go back to normal life after that. My mom met me at the door of our house. She climbed into bed with me and held me while I sobbed.
This was the first time in 14 years that I was worried about Justin. He was my rock and always carried me through any obstacle; military deployments, the death of my brother and pharmacy school, just to mention a few. This was the first I had to carry him.
I was in no state to provide any kind of support but I had to gather courage when I realized that he wasn’t moving from the couch. The first few days I sat there with him, watched the movies and ate chocolate. Our lawyer referred us to a great grief counselor.
As that first week unfolded I slowly decided to advertise our adoption profile again. We had gotten lucky with Laura and had matched in two short months but I knew this was not the norm.
I knew it could take years to match again and that frightened me.
I didn’t know if we could handle a long wait and then maybe another failure but we needed hope, we needed something to look forward to.
One week after we had lost James, our profile went live. That night, while Justin and I were out at a restaurant, I got an email from an expectant mother named Abigail. I was excited but then instantly scared.
When we got home we called Abigail and spoke to her and her mom for a while. We were completely honest with them about what had just happened, Abigail had just gone through a similar situation.
She was 34 weeks pregnant with a girl and the couple she had chosen to adopt the baby pulled out on her because the husband had “accepted a job promotion”. She was scared that she wouldn’t find another couple in time.
Her mom got on the phone and asked us some hard questions; what would we do if the baby came out and had an issue, would we decide not to adopt her? What was our family’s stance on our adoption plan?
We were honest and sincere. We weren’t trying to be something we weren’t. Frankly we were too emotionally spent for anything else.
That night before we got off the phone with Abigail and her mother, she said she wanted us to be the adoptive parents for her baby. Exactly one week after we had lost James and 12 hours after our profile had gone live.
The next four weeks were insane, calm, and emotional all at the same time.
We both had to go back to work that next Monday. It was hard to face everyone after our failure. I was so thankful that we had so much support and love but I also couldn’t handle the pity and sad faces. I know now looking back that the only thing that gave us strength to face going back to work was the little light of hope that Abigail had given us.
We knew it was a long shot and we definitely knew it could fall apart miserably but we needed that hope to move forward. Our lawyer was also apprehensive. She didn’t want us to reject a possibly legit situation but also didn’t want us to get hurt again, so we moved forward as slowly as possible.
We didn’t tell anyone about Abigail except our parents. We didn’t go out and buy any girl clothes. We didn’t do anything. We didn’t know how to proceed, this situation was so different. Abigail and I barely talked after that first conversation.
I would text her to see if she was OK and I would get a few polite words in response. This situation was completely different from what happened with Laura.
I knew in the back of my mind that it was probably a good thing. I didn’t need to get emotionally attached again. I tried as hard as I could to not be excited or to get too emotional.
Four weeks after James was born, we got a few texts that Abigail was cramping and was getting checked out at the hospital. We spent all weekend on edge.
We didn’t want to travel anywhere until it was a sure thing. On that Monday April 7, we got a call from our lawyer that Abigail was in labor and that she wanted us to come to be at the birth of the baby girl.
I was torn. I wanted so badly to be a part of my future daughter’s birth but I was scared.
I was scared of falling in love and becoming attached again. I didn’t want to go, but Justin said he wanted to be there and we were going. I’m glad he did.
We left that rainy Monday afternoon and drove through the night and arrived at the hospital at 1am. We met Abigail and her family right away. It was a little awkward to be in the birthing room and talk to Abigail between contractions but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
Abigail was so sweet to us and so strong. She was obviously in a lot of pain but made conversation and asked a little about us. We spent the next day visiting with everyone while Abigail was in a long, difficult labor.
We learned about their family and the reasons behind Abigail’s choice. They also asked us a lot of questions and we talked about everything with them. It was a wonderful experience.
At 5:14pm April 8, Isabel Rose was born. Meeting her for the first time was absolutely scary. She was this perfect little angel that wanted to be loved and yet I tried not to love her. I didn’t want to fall too hard.
Justin held her first and cried. He told her how beautiful she was and sang to her. I was afraid to hold her; I wanted to wait until Abigail signed away her rights.
I knew if I let myself fall in love and we lost her I wouldn’t make it out in one piece.
Then the nurse came in and didn’t give me chance, she sat me down and gave me Isabel and a bottle. That was all I needed to get out of my head. I was in love.
The next morning Abigail’s adoption lawyer arrived at the hospital early to meet with her. About 15 minutes later he came out and asked us to sit down.
I thought she changed her mind. I had to stop him right away and asked, “Did she sign?” He smiled right away and said, “Oh, yes of course!”
That was it. No drama. No waiting. I immediately cried.
I didn’t think it would ever happen like that. After all we went through and everything we loss, this girl had come into our lives like a sunny day after a horrible storm.
We left the hospital and we were back home one short week after Isabel was born. This homecoming was a joyous one and we were met by tears of happiness rather than sorrow. Since we didn’t tell anyone we were leaving, showing up with Isabel was a big surprise for everyone.
Looking back on this past year I can’t even believe how our story unfolded. Even though we experienced so much sorrow we are so blessed that our story ended the way it did.
I know now that all of our infertility struggles and then our failed adoption match were meant to be because it led us to our Isabel.
She didn’t grow inside me but it doesn’t matter because she grew in our hearts and was always meant to be part of our family. I cannot imagine life without her; she gives us so much joy.
Sometimes I look at her and cry because I love her so much. She has blessed our whole family with her joy and sweet spirit and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Rebekah Tate is an adoptive mother.