By Sara Cole
**Originally published in the Winter 2007-08 Adoption issue of The Journal of API
Recently, the Seattle API group had a birth-sharing night. Four of us sat down in my living room and shared the stories of how our children came into the world. Listening to the other mamas talk about their different experiences with each of their children, it occurred to me that I also had two stories to tell. As the mother of two children, you’d think this would not have come as a surprise to me.
But I had come to the evening with the expectation of only telling one story – the story of my biological child’s birth. Along the way, though, I realized there are different parts to our birth stories. One part is what happens to us, the mothers. Another huge part is how our babies come into OUR worlds. This is one of the stories I had the privilege of sharing that night in that warm, safe space.
The Roller Coaster of Adoption
Preparing for a child, in adoption, begins with piles and piles of paperwork. Once the paperwork is complete, the agency warned us to be ready for a period of waiting, probably around eight months. Ready to hurry up and wait, my husband and I sped through the forms and essays, compactly scheduled all the necessary home study appointments, and on a non-descript Friday in June, we became “waiting” parents.
Confident that nothing would happen for months, I left town with my two-year-old son Theo, and Bill buckled down for a weekend of uninterrupted work. An hour out of town, I was annoyed to see a call on my cell phone from the agency. “Which form did I forget?” I complained to my friend who was driving.
Except I hadn’t forgotten a form. The program coordinator was calling to ask about a baby: Would we consider a certain potential medical issue? Several frantic phone calls to my husband and our doctor later, I reached her by 5 p.m. to say, “Yes, we would.” The next day, she called to let me know the birth mom had chosen a different family to parent her baby.
Wow, I realized the “waiting” period might have a few roller coaster moments.
About a week later, we got a similar call. And the week after that, another – this one for twins ready to be released from the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). More frantic phones calls, this time to the doctor and many layers of the insurance agency hierarchy, which promised to cover the hefty $80,000 hospital bill as long as we signed papers taking responsibility for the babies before they were checked out of the hospital. After a weekend filled with slightly panicked conversations about what it would take to get our lives ready for twins, we were saddened to find out the placement agency’s social worker had moved the twins from the hospital to a foster family before checking her voice mail.
Another week’s downtime brought us another phone call – this time a baby boy due in a few weeks with a traumatic conception history. Bill was in San Diego at the annual Comic Convention, so our weekend of thoughtful conversations was interrupted by bad cell phone service and reports of super heroes and storm troopers in the background. We paused the conversation while Bill took a late flight home Monday night. Determined to keep our family sane, we decided to take the next morning “off” and go swimming at the park. Climbing back into the car, I noticed I had a message from the agency. I took a deep breath and called, prepared to explain that we were still working on our answer.
Instead, I heard, “There is a healthy baby girl, born on Sunday. The agency chose you. Would you like to have her?” I gulped out, “Can I call you right back?” and hung up the phone. I turned, blurted out the news to Bill, said “Can we have her?” and burst into tears.
Rosie Comes Home
Seconds later, around 11 a.m., I called the agency back to give our hearty, “Yes!” Determined to have our baby in our arms as quickly as humanly possible, we became a whirlwind of paperwork and travel arrangements. Twelve hours later, we climbed onto a red-eye flight to the East Coast.
Apparently, it is against toddler principles to sleep on airplanes at night, so we arrived at our destination without a wink of sleep. Our family trudged our way through a new airport, eventually locating the car rental agency and procuring a minivan. We left the airport just in time for morning rush hour, doing our best to navigate the way to our hotel through the gridlock traffic. After almost an hour of driving, Theo finally fell asleep blocks from the hotel.
Finished with lunch and a short nap, we headed off for our appointment with the placement agency. Too tired to be nervous at this point, we filled out yet more forms and reviewed again the paperwork filled out by the birth mom we had received via fax in Seattle. And finally, they said it was time. The foster family had arrived with the baby. Were we ready?
A white-haired couple came into the room, and what I could see was a tiny pink bundle with a fuzz of soft, curly black hair. I’m sure there was talking and introductions, but all I remember was the moment of feeling the tiny weight of her being passed into my arms. She was very small (at least compared to my suddenly gigantic toddler), pink-brown, and perfectly beautiful. Her tiny hands were clutching in little fists near her head.
More talk, the foster parents telling us about their 24 hours with her and complaining that we had come entirely too fast for them to enjoy her properly, and then she began to fuss. I took a deep breath and put her to my breast. And she sucked and sucked and sucked.
Joy but Pain
Now she is ours, and we are hers. The days, weeks, and years that have followed that moment of bliss that was Rosie entering our world have been filled with so many days of laughter, sweetness, and gratitude for all she is.
But adoption is complex. There are also dark, sad moments filled with glimpses of understanding the pain that Rosie and her birthmother will carry for a lifetime, understanding that the joy of the moment she came into our world was the moment she left someone else’s. Rosie and I nursed for more than three years, one signal that our attachment is deep and strong.
However, my husband and know deeply that newborn babies should travel directly from the safe, warm womb to their mama’s breast and stay there forever. The gift of our attachment with our passionate, lively daughter is born out of the primal wound of her loss of that attachment that should have been.