January 14 – The Wrench | Mae’s Adoption Journey
Some have described adoption as a journey of ups and downs, twists and turns. Yet the day after we’d told our parents we’d be adopting only get to get another “hiccup” along the way didn’t exactly feel like another “twist” in the story. Instead, it felt like someone had just thrown a heavy wrench at us.
Life Resumes … For A Few Seconds At Least
Almost a full week had gone by since the first text about a baby and in a matter of days I was involved in a process to adopt a four-month old. Although my heart still raced at the thought, I had more peace that things were getting “in place.” Our adoption agency was giving us the cues. We were in “wait until you hear back” mode.
I decided to resume my schedule and keep a meeting with a former co-worker about a possible freelance opportunity with his new company. It was something new to focus my anxiety upon. Although we were friends, I was meeting downtown with one of the largest Kansas City companies about a possible side-job. Nervousness took over, and my mind wandered to things other than a baby.
Crisis. Panic. Think Quick.
As I’m reminding myself of the route to downtown and merging on the interstate, I received a phone call from Scott. I answer with excitement, wishing him happy birthday. He quickly says thanks, but then gets a serious tone in his voice. He’d just talked to a panicking Nick. Apparently, after Nick spoke with his sister about adoption she called a Christian adoption agency before she called ours. That agency was bringing a couple out to meet her … and the baby … in just a few hours.
I laughed because there was really no other response to the news Scott had just given me. I thought we’d hit the speed bump a few days earlier when we realized the decision for adoption hadn’t ultimately been made. But this was a whole new side of unexpected. And instead of being handed a baby, now I was now being asked to fight for her against another Christian couple who also wanted to be parents.
What Do We Do??
I was less than thrilled to hear this news, yet something in me that wanted to panic, didn’t. At least not yet. I took a deep breath and talked through the game plan with Scott.
In our profile for the agency, Mike & I described ourselves as a dedicated Christian couple. We chose not to work with a “Christian” agency to cast our net as wide as possible, so I laughed at the irony of the situation. Nick was sold on having me & Mike adopt the baby. He was confident in our marriage, personalities, faith, home and our future – and he knew we would be the best place for his baby girl. He just needed his sister to also see that. And in order for us to not only show her, but to “beat out” another couple now in the running, we needed to meet her. And quickly.
I’d been waiting to hear back from the agency and held off making any personal contact with the birth family on my own. However extreme times called for extreme measures. And we needed to break the “rules” and meet her. Tonight. All plans were tentative until I talked with Mike. I desperately tried to get in touch with him while running in to my meeting.
My Most Embarrassing Meeting Ever
Face flushed, heart racing, I found the building and ran through the glass doors to meet my friend. I tried to find a simple way to answer his usual “How’s it going” as we greeted one another, yet I couldn’t hold it in. I quickly caught him up to speed not just with life in general – but the past 20 minutes – and what I was in the middle of dealing with. Thankfully, he was more of a friend than former coworker and understood my lack of focus and necessity to take phone calls during our meeting. By the time we wrapped up, I barely understood how his complicated industry worked – although he’d done a great job in explaining it. I did, however, have an OK from Mike for our evening plans and a text to Scott with the go-ahead to move forward.
I was so embarrassed, I’d never been that unprofessional before. However, this was a life-changing day and luckily my friend could see that. I quickly hurried back to my car just in time for the short breaths and nervous shakes to begin. I needed to start praying, and to get myself calmed down.
Praying Praying Praying
In a rush I went and got Mike from his grandma’s house where we’d originally planned to be that evening and we both hurried home, leaving the extended family questioning our sudden cancellation for a family dinner. I once again felt bad yet had no other choice. I had to get home. I needed to be with Mike. And we needed to pray.
Everything in me felt horrible. I didn’t want to fight. This wasn’t supposed to be a competition. And even as it was, the other couple we were trying to appear “better than” were also solid Christians who would be providing a loving, God-filled home too. Yet in my mind, I had to put us on different teams and figure out how to win over the birth mom if indeed this baby girl was for us. I had no other strategy than prayer.
With only an hour until we needed to leave, Mike and I laid on our bed and he read through the Psalms. We prayed for God’s comfort and his sovereignty. We knew that He knew the plans and the outcome of the evening. And we had to trust that even if this didn’t work out, He had good things in store for us.
Meeting the Birth Mom
Under the advice of Scott, we threw a few baby toys in a bag that we’d gotten from our excited-to-be-grandparents for Christmas. He thought it might help to show we were really ready for a baby. We headed to Nick’s house which was the meeting place of the night, driving carefully along the iced streets. Scott & Patti met us in the driveway. Although it was Scott’s birthday, he offered to be there since we still didn’t really know Nick all that well. We took him up on the offer.
Walking through the front door, we suddenly were greeted by Nick and then saw her.
She was beautiful.
We’d only seen pictures through a cell phone, but that didn’t give it justice. I walked over to the pink bouncy seat where a baby girl was snugly sitting in her green sleeper, content and watching the room fill with people. I noticed her brown eyes and sparse curly hair. And before I got too fixated, I turned around to see her birth mom coming down the stairs to meet us.
Complex Feelings and Hitting it Off
Trying to figure out how to be ‘real’ in such a moment was mind-blowing. I wanted to act interested in the baby – I mean I was interested in the baby – yet not overdo it. I wanted to focus on getting to know the birth mom, tuning into what she was saying, yet not overdo it and freak her out. And I had about one minute to figure out how to act, balance my focus of her vs. the baby, and get my face to not depict my out-of-control emotions and thoughts. Luckily, Nick helped break the ice.
As we began talking, I suddenly felt an ease and comfort with the birth mom. Mike would chime in here and there, too – helping keep the conversation going. Sure, anxieties were still there. Another couple had just been sitting on the same couch Mike and I were on, having this same conversation. Yet pressing through the awkwardness, I just started to get to know her. I wanted to know what she liked to do for fun, and what she was passionate about. We hit it off by having the same phone. She already knew a bit about us because of a profile sheet our agency had given her. She asked about our dogs and love of Dawson’s Creek. It was as nice and comfortable as the situation allowed.
As the “who are you” conversations came to a natural slow, we turned our focus on the baby. Nick offered for us to hold her, and so I slowly walked over and carefully lifted her out of the bouncy seat. Every emotion possible was firing off in every direction inside of me. I couldn’t believe I was holding her. I wanted to study her and know everything there was to know about her. I wanted to kiss her forehead and hug her tight. Yet – at the same time – I didn’t want to jump the gun. No assumptions made. I had to show respect – not ownership. We were one out of two couples vying to be her parents. And I had to remember that.
After holding her for a few minutes, I passed her to Mike so that I could continue talking with the birth mom. Thanks to Nick’s help and promptings, we started to focus on some baby-related questions once she joined Mike & me on the couch. I got to learn about the birth mom’s hope for the baby to be in a Christian home. I got some background on her relationship with the birth father. I got to ask questions. I got real, honest answers. And at the end, I felt comfortable that whatever she chose, everything would work out.
It was getting late and the baby had crashed in our arms. I considered that a good sign, especially when I saw Nick’s mouth curl up and look of “awe” come over him. As the evening came to a close, the birth mom asked if she could take our picture with the baby. Hesitation flooded my mind and I told her I thought it might be best to wait on that. I knew she had a decision to make, and with respect to her, I thought we should hold off on any pictures until things were more final.
She seemed to understand, but as we kept on talking and the baby slept soundly in our arms, something in the back of my head told me to just take the picture. “If this is your daughter, and this is the night that you meet her, you are going to want a picture of this.” So after a few more minutes, I asked her if it was OK for me to change my mind. And we took a few pictures of what could be our first photo of our family of three on the couch…
The evening ended with an exchange of emails from the birth mom and myself. This had already become way more of an open situation than I thought I’d ever want; but in strange way, it felt very right. She’d wanted to ask me a few more questions after getting some rest and I told her I was up for that. We thanked her for meeting, Nick for hosting, Scott & Patti for supporting and shuffled out the door.
Waiting for More Questions
My best friend from college, Amber, and her husband had just gotten into town for the weekend and were spending the night at our place. I told her we had an unexpected meeting come up but that we’d be home soon. We finally got home and began retelling the story of the past 24 hours to them. They shook their heads in disbelief with us. And then we dropped it. There was no use in dwelling on it, so we had a great time relaxing and laughing – and not thinking or talking about a baby. All I knew was that things were still so much up in the air. I was expecting to have an email from the birth mom in the next few days with a few more questions to answer.
Entry filed under: Biracial Adoption, Burgess Adoption, Maeby, Memoir. Tags: adopt a 4 month old, adopt after cancer, adoption, adoption journey, adoption stories, adoption story, biracial adoption, birth mom, meeting birth mom.