It is easy to say that I am thankful for so many blessings this holiday season – the blessings I try to thank God for every day. I am thankful that I am married to my very best friend who I am more over the moon for today than any other day of my life. I am thankful for my daughter and all the love and joy she brings to my heart every day. I am thankful for my dad and our relationship and that I can call him one of my very best friends. I am thankful as a sister, a daughter-in-law, an aunt, a niece, and a friend to have so many gifts in my life both big and small. A home, a warm bed, security, food on my table, family, and good health – I am thankful for all of these things this Christmas and every day.
I am thankful for the blessing of adoption. The gift of adoption is not something that came to my life just three years ago. I was given this gift when I was born. My parents adopted my second brother Steve, who is three years older than me, at birth. I never really thought about this much growing up as Steve was just my brother and my parents never made it a big deal. It was a part of his story and it wasn’t something I ever thought about much. Steve was always my brother in the same way my oldest brother Mike was my brother. Although we played the roles of teasing brother and irritating sister growing up, Steve and I could not be closer now as he is one of my very best friends. So, adoption was clearly a gift to me from the very beginning and a positive force in my life.
Although the story of how Bob and I reached the decision to adopt a child is complicated, the road after that decision was a good experience. I have faced a multitude of heath problems over the years that led me to suffer from infertility. We went through countless tests and four rounds of in vitro fertilization to end up exactly where we were always meant to be, parents to our precious Megan. We knew that from the moment we saw her. I was not able to see it at the time, but I do not regret anything about our journey because each decision and each moment led us right to our daughter.
There is a lot of bad press and misinformation out there about adoption and people are understandably scared and intimidated to venture into the process. It is not easy and there are people who have had bad experiences and long roads with the journey, maybe even have given up. Bob and I had the opposite experience. While we hear a lot of the bad, it is also important to have hope and grasp onto the good.
The greatest move we made as we got started was connecting with an adoption consultant. Once we connected and signed up with Nicole Witt at The Adoption Consultancy, our adoption journey was off and running. Don’t misunderstand me; adoption is a daunting and an extremely vulnerable process. We were terrified and had a lot of frustrating moments along the way. But having an expert there to provide the education, help, and encouraging and honest voice was invaluable. She walked us through the process when we sat down with her at her office near Tampa in December 2009, and everything else was completed by phone and email. She claims she can help you through the process in 3-12 months, and we were matched with Megan’s birthmother in July 2010, 8 months after we first sat down with her!
The first five months of the journey were spent on paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork. We went through background checks, a home study, and spent countless time at Panera Bread drinking raspberry iced tea and completing our questionnaires and forms on our respective laptops. Nicole did the research and connected us with a list of agencies, mainly in Florida and Utah, which she thought would be a good match for us. We had a wonderful experience with our home visits and the social worker could not have been a nicer person, although I was terrified the day she came over to our house. The biggest undertaking of the applications was our adoption profile. It is a 12-page laminated book full of pictures and text, which is what is given to the birthmother when she is deciding on a family. I spent a lot of time at Kinkos making copies of applications for each agency we applied to and laminating page by page of probably 20 copies of our profile. That took me about 4 hours one day.
We were approved to be adoptive parents in May 2010 and the waiting began. We had no idea what to expect and it was difficult. We were presented to a few birthmothers along the way, which is hard because you never hear back from the agency if you were not selected. You just have to assume they declined after a certain period of time. But, one fateful day in July, we received a call from a Utah agency and our first connection with Megan was made. We had an initial conversation with the birthmother on the phone before being selected and the decision was made very quickly afterwards.
One thing that made us nervous and hesitant from the beginning was communication with the birthmother. Our consultant helped us with this issue. When we first started talking about adoption, we were not open to this. My only experience was with my brother’s adoption which occurred in 1971, and all adoptions back then were “closed,” meaning there is no communication or information shared between parties. I actually get this question a lot when people ask me about adoption – was it open or closed? It really is not that simple. Everyone’s experience is different and it usually entails a combination of both. These are preferences we communicated during our application and as we ventured farther into our journey, we became more open and comfortable to the idea of some communication with the birthmother.
So, after two short months of waiting, we were on our way to becoming parents. We had regular communication with the birthmother from July to November when Megan was born. Although our worries and fears about this part of the process consumed us most days during that time, looking back, we had no need to worry. Megan’s birthmother could not have been more giving and did everything she could to keep us informed and part of the pregnancy. She even mentioned the fact she was having a girl when I talked to her on the way to work one morning when I was driving Bob’s car. I like to call the mark on his car that I made when I turned quickly into my parking space at work to call him with the news, our “it’s a girl scratch.” She also texted me an ultrasound picture. She will always be a special angel in our lives.
We visited Megan’s birthmother once in her hometown before the delivery and we all met in Utah in November 2010 for the big day. She let us both be in the room up until the point she started pushing and I was allowed to stay for the birth! We are forever grateful to her for this gift. She even let Bob’s parents and my dad come up to her room later that day to meet Megan. Our agency was so supportive throughout the whole process and was at the hospital with us to make sure everything went as planned. We took Megan home from the hospital two days later to a local Residence Inn and stayed there for almost two weeks until the paperwork was cleared in Utah and Georgia for us to come home. Six months later we returned to Utah for the adoption to be finalized at the courthouse, a beautiful day for us as a family. Megan was baptized at our church in Atlanta the same week.
We continue to communicate with the birthmother through letters and pictures. We send them to the agency and they mail them to her. We agreed to send a letter about Megan with an album of pictures to the agency every month for the first year and it continues quarterly throughout her childhood. This request seemed daunting at first, but I have been grateful for it. I keep a copy of each photo album and plan on putting all the letters we have written in an album for Megan to keep one day. It keeps me writing all the details of her development and special moments and she will always know what was shared with her birthmother.
So, this Christmas, I will be thankful for so many things, and the gift of adoption and all that it has brought to my life is one of them. If you are thinking about adoption and want any help or resources, please let me know. Every experience is different, but it is important to me that people hear the good things too. I have shared our consultant with several people over the years and always love paying it forward to ease the journey for others who are on their way to being connected with their dream come true too.
Susie writes at Running and Living and wants to talk to you if you are considering adoption. Please write us at [email protected] to get her personal email address.