My husband Frank and I decided to adopt after in vitro didn’t work. We had been trying off and on for seven years, and we had done the whole gamut of infertility treatments, including IUI’s and one line through in vitro.
We had heard about AAI a couple of different ways – it was really odd, because it had come up so many times out of the blue. A year before, a man working on our air conditioner had mentioned that he had adopted from AAI. When we first started thinking about adopting, we called our local department of social services to find out what kind of information they had and if there were any prospects through our local office. They told us that it could be a long time until we got a healthy infant, but they asked if we would mind if they gave our name to someone who had had a good adoption through an agency. It turned out that the person who called was a close friend of mine from school, and the agency she had used was AAI. At some point after that, I called AAI to do a very general inquiry to find out how one would begin the adoption process, and Beverly gave me some good information. I just filed it away, since we weren’t quite ready. A year later, when we were ready to take formal steps to adopt, we contacted the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina to do our home study. After the study, when we were ready to be considered as adoptive parents, they recommended Adoption Advocates in San Antonio, Texas. I was so shocked to hear that name again, but I figured that that was a sign that it was meant to be!
In early 1998, we started the formal application process. I called AAI and got an application. I felt like it was a very professionally run organization, and that we could count on their word. Everything that they said would happen, happened. When they said they would send a package, I could tell that it must have been sent the same day or the next morning. Things like that say so much about the way they run their organization.
Very early in the process, Linda was assigned as our placement coordinator. As we worked on the paperwork, especially the Dear Birth Mother letter, a lot of questions came up. I called AAI for help, and Linda guided us through the whole process. We were approved for application in April, and then in May of 1998, we sent part of our work in. In June, AAI reviewed our home study.
At the time we adopted Josh, we weren’t required to go to Texas for training. We attended a three-hour class once a week for ten weeks through our department of social services. It was geared more toward parents of foster children, but it did help to open our minds and to gear our mindset towards families that are formed many different ways. We also did readings to complete our training requirements, and that helped us to understand what open adoption really means and how much it does for both birth parents and adoptive parents. At first, I was narrow-minded, and I wasn’t sure I wanted anything to do with open adoption. But after we did the readings and went through the training, I realized that through openness comes peace, which lets you start a healing process and move on.
It took about nine months for us to finish all of our paperwork, our profile, and our Dear Birth Mother letter and pictures. We sent in our completed application in the fourth week in August. On September 24th, we matched with a birth couple.
The first time we talked to Josh’s birth mother was incredible – I’ll never forget it. It all started when Linda called us to say that a birth couple had selected us. She told us that they were a married couple and gave us their first names and physical descriptions. We understood that this wasn’t their final decision; the next step was to talk to us on the phone, and then they would talk back with AAI and give a report of that conversation. After that, we would both decide if we felt like it was a match. We were supposed to call the birth mother that night for our first phone call. Frank and I didn’t know where to start, but Linda really coached us on what to say and suggested that we start by asking why they had selected us. When we finally got on the phone with Melanie, we talked for about an hour. In general, we just tried to get to know one another, and we talked through their situation and our situation. We explained our answers to questions on the questionnaire that went with our profile.
My husband got on the phone, and we were able to talk to Melanie together. I was very impressed with her, and it was obvious that she had studied our profile. Then, about an hour into the conversation, it just shifted gears and got a lot deeper. My husband and I had been praying throughout our struggle with infertility, asking if it was God’s will for us to have a child. We just wanted that to be revealed to us, and we asked for peace if we weren’t supposed to have a family. We had been praying for that every day for quite a long time. During our conversation, Melanie said that she and her husband had been praying for a good home for this child. Once she said that, I revealed that my husband and I had been praying for a child for our family. That one comment just created a bond that you couldn’t describe. We just knew it was right. At the end of the conversation, Melanie said, “Forty-five minutes ago, I knew I wanted to talk to you again. Now I know that your home is the right home for this baby.” As we said our goodbyes, we decided that we would talk again in a few days after we’d both had a chance to talk to AAI.
When we talked again in a few days, we decided that we would all like to meet each other. Melanie was 32 weeks pregnant at the time, so there was plenty of time before the baby was born. Frank and I went to Texas in October and spent a long weekend with Sam and Melanie. On the first morning, we visited in their home, and then we went out to eat. On Sunday, we went to church with them. That was such a neat opportunity, because I always thought I’d like to sing to a baby while I was pregnant. Melanie was carrying Josh, and there we all were singing to him. After church, Melanie cooked us a big lunch at their house, and that afternoon, we made a cake together. It was just like a typical Sunday afternoon with somebody in your family. Melanie had another little boy who was three at the time, and we had the best time getting to know him. It was neat because our little boy has a lot of the same mannerisms – sometimes I can see similarities in his gait or his speech pattern. One day, I’ll tell Josh about meeting his big brother.
Originally, Melanie had said that she wanted me to be in the delivery room, but as the weeks went on, she didn’t ask us to come down to Texas. Neither Melanie nor the doctor wanted to induce, and that sort of made it impossible for us to be there. The first call we got was on a Sunday night, after Melanie had already checked in at the hospital. At the time we got the call, all the flights had already left and we knew that we couldn’t get there until the next morning. Sam promised to call us after the baby was born and let us know how everything was going.
At 3:47 in the morning, Sam called us back. I was lying in bed, wide awake, when the phone rang. He was very excited and happy, and he told us that everybody was fine and that the baby had been born at 11:48. I told him then that we had arranged for our flights, and I asked him then if they still felt settled about the adoption plan. He said they did. I had a few fears, but we all just had a peace about it the whole time. My overall gut feeling was that it was just meant to be, and I think they felt like that, too.
The next morning, November 23rd, was my birthday. When we got to the Atlanta airport and we had our flights confirmed, I called the hospital room to give Sam and Melanie the information. When I called, Melanie answered the phone, and she said “Happy Birthday, you have a beautiful baby boy.” I will never forget that moment; I was speechless. Every birth mother is a very giving person, but just the way Melanie handled it was so selfless. She really looked out for our feelings.
There’s another neat story about Josh’s birthday. My whole life, I had always felt that I was going to have a baby when I was 33. When February came and went, I thought oh well, it’s too late. But, Josh was born on November 22, and because he was born in Texas (in a time zone an hour behind us), he was born when I was still 33 years old!
We finally got to the hospital at about 5:30 in the afternoon, and we went straight up to see Melanie and Josh. When we walked into the room, Josh was lying in the basket beside the bed – I can still remember exactly what he looked like. Melanie had a gift for us, some things for Josh, and she gave that to us when we got there. My mother and her husband had flown in, too, and they were waiting down in the lobby. Melanie said that she didn’t mind if they came up, so we went down and got them. While Josh was in the hospital, Frank and I fed him and changed his diapers. When we were in the room, we took care of him. Since Melanie had had a baby before, she did give us pointers on a few things. I could see that she was starting to deal with the emotional break-off. I could see that she was a very mature person, especially with respect to her emotions.
The next day, the baby was circumcised, and I went with Melanie to the class where they showed us how to care for that. Josh was discharged at 2:30 on Tuesday afternoon. We took him home that night, and he stayed in our hotel with us. Melanie was the one who decided how it would work. I carried Josh out of the hospital, and we put him in our car. Sam and Melanie’s car was in front of our car, and so they were getting in their car as we were leaving. That was extremely hard for me. I can truthfully say that if she had changed her mind, I would have been disappointed, but we loved them so much that we would have wanted them to have him. I can say that completely. We wouldn’t have wanted to go through with it if they had changed their decision. It was very important to us to have their total support in adopting Josh, and they didn’t ever waver. They felt like adoption was the right thing.
We met the next day to sign the paperwork. They signed at their house, and then Linda called us when they were done. We came over with Josh and signed, too. Because the next day was a holiday, Linda raced back to Austin to drop off the paperwork. When Frank and I went back to the hotel, I almost couldn’t do it. Just the magnitude of everything was really tough. It was a tough, emotional goodbye for us. We felt so close to them, and we were so grateful for their selflessness.
The next day was Thanksgiving, and Sam and Melanie cooked dinner for us at their apartment. We tried to insist that we should go out to eat, but Melanie wanted to cook. It was incredible. I think Sam actually put the turkey in the oven, but Melanie did everything else. That day when we left, it was hard, but it wasn’t as hard as that placement day.
On Saturday morning, we met them at Burger King and did a morning outing just so we could visit one more time. On Monday, we drove down to Austin to wait for clearance from the state. We thought it would happen sooner, but we ended up waiting almost a week. That week was really a benefit in disguise. It allowed us time to bond, and gave us time to get used to being a family before we were inundated with family and friends back home. It also gave Frank and me time to get used to Josh’s eating patterns and to study him as an infant to learn what he needed. Every day, the baby felt a little more like he was ours. I had to keep reminding myself “This is real. This is real.”
While we were in Texas, all of our friends had organized showers for us, so we got baby supplies pretty quickly. We had borrowed a car seat and enough onesies to get us through the first days in Texas. When we got back home, we bought clothes, blankets, and sheets. That was just the way we decided to do it – some people have showers before they adopt. We had no idea how long it was going to take to adopt, and so we didn’t want to buy a bunch of stuff and then have to look at it for a year.
Three years later, we still talk to Sam and Melanie. AAI requires that you send a note with pictures every month for the first six months and then every year for the first six years, and that was also what our birth family wanted. Since we had gotten so close, we had exchanged phone numbers and addresses pretty early on, but not everyone does that. Once we got home, we called them to let them know that we were home and that everyone was safe. The first year, we got two or three gifts from them and a letter every now and then. We also talked by phone a few times. We went back to Texas for finalization when Josh was six months old, and we saw them then. Melanie went to court with us, and then we all met Sam later for dinner.
When we adopted our daughter Olivia two years later, we called to let Sam and Melanie know, but they had already moved to a new state. I had written them a letter to let them know that we had matched with another birth couple, and that we were going through the adoption process again. That was a hard letter to write, because I didn’t know how Melanie would feel – I didn’t want her to think we weren’t satisfied with Josh. They were really supportive of the idea that we wanted him to have a sibling. They may come through this summer on a long vacation, and hopefully they will come by to see us. Even though we only talk a few times a year, we will always have a very deep relationship with them in our hearts.