Ed: Even before my wife and I were married, we knew her medical history and knew that we probably wouldn’t be able to have our own child. We went through nine years of infertility treatments and had some hopes of having our own child, but we always knew adoption was a possibility. When we first started thinking about adopting in 1997, nobody was really talking about adoption, and no one we knew had adopted. A woman my wife Carrie worked with had a sister who was adopting through Texas, and they had information about AAI. We liked the idea of going through Texas because of the adoption laws. Here in Pennsylvania, it can be three to six months before a birth mother can sign, versus 48 hours in Texas. We didn’t like the prospect of holding, loving and caring for a baby and then down the road having the baby taken away from us if the birth mom changed her mind.
AAI was the most responsive agency we talked to. When we’d mail in things, they’d send back things very quickly. We first called them to get the original information, and we filled out the forms and sent them back. We were nervous; the whole adoption process really scared us. AAI gave us plenty of information and books to read, and that really put our minds at ease that everything would work out.
Carrie: Even though I had heard about open adoption, I didn’t think I’d really care about the birth mother, and I never thought I’d get close to her. I never imagined how rewarding it would be. Our family was afraid, too. Their mindset was back in the 1950s, where adoptive parents didn’t even know who the birth mother was.
Ed: We waited about three weeks from when we applied until we were fully accepted. I remember that we put together our parent profile on a Saturday, and then we overnighted it to AAI. Three weeks later, we got our first call from a birth mom. When we got more information from the agency, we realized that match probably wasn’t going to work out, and we ended that match about a month after we first talked. That was a little depressing.
We first talked to Jenny, our daughter’s birth mom, on June 1, 1999, about nine months after we’d been accepted. We asked her how she was feeling, and we talked about her about her doctor’s visits. We also asked her what drew her to pick us out of all the profiles she’d seen. Jenny said she liked the family pictures – we have a lot of extended family, and she liked that. She also liked the vacations we talked about, and the sports we like. She said that we were the kind of family that she had always imagined as the perfect family. A week later, we found out she had picked us to be the parents of her baby girl.
Our daughter wasn’t born until October 3, 1999, so we had to wait that whole summer. We talked every week, usually on Thursday nights. We told Jenny if it was too much, let us know, or if she wanted to talk more, let us know. In mid-July, we flew to Texas to meet her over a weekend.
There was definitely some anxiety the first time we met. Sure, she had picked us, but we worried about saying the wrong thing or looking different than she had imagined. The first time we saw Jenny, Carrie and I both hugged her and said hello. We spent a lot of time talking about our family and about our lives. Jenny took us around town, and showed us to where the hospital was and where her doctor’s office was. Then we went out and got something to eat. We had thought about maybe getting together that evening, but she was really tired and we had to leave early the next morning, so we didn’t get to see each other again. After the visit, we continued our weekly talks.
There was a period of about two weeks when Jenny didn’t want to talk to us. I think she was a little burned out Ð she was talking to the agency twice a week, she was talking to her social worker three times a week, she was talking to a counselor and she was talking to us once a week. She just needed some time. The agency always reassured us that everything was fine, and that Jenny was fine. When we talked again, she apologized and said that it had had nothing to do with us, she just needed some time to herself.
The plan was that Jenny was going to be induced on a Friday, so we got to Texas on a Thursday. When we got there, the doctor had decided not to induce until Monday, so we had the weekend to hang out. We took Jenny out to dinner on Saturday, and I think the grease from the blooming onions really knocked that baby out, because the next day, she went into labor on her own. Jenny called us at the hotel, and we were at the hospital in less than five minutes. While we were waiting, Jenny’s mother and her son came into the waiting room, and we all waited together. We got to go back to see Jenny, and we told her we were thinking of her and praying for her.
After the baby was born, Jenny called us into the recovery room. She actually gave the baby to me first, and then I gave her to my wife. Jenny signed the papers that let us come and go into the nursery, and they gave us bracelets so that we could do the feedings every three hours.
There is a really neat story about our daughter’s name. On Saturday night, Jenny had asked us what we were planning to name the baby, and we had told her Emma Catherine. Jenny’s social worker had convinced her to name the baby to help with her closure, and the name she had picked was Kathryn Jane. When the nurse asked us how to spell the baby’s middle name, Carrie and I just looked at each other and knew that we both wanted to spell Kathryn the way Jenny had chosen.
Originally, the plan had been that the baby would be discharged to us. But, we got a phone call that Tuesday morning that Jenny wanted to take the baby home with her first. That was a little nerve-racking, but she said that if it wasn’t okay with us, that would be fine and she would still sign the papers. Jenny took the baby to her house, changed the baby’s outfit, took some pictures, and then brought her over to us. I tell people that was the most exciting day and the worst day of my life combined. Jenny loved that baby so much; it wasn’t like she was giving this baby up because she didn’t love her. Tears were flowing. There we were trying to be happy because we finally had our daughter, but we had grown to care and love Emma’s birth mom. I think we definitely got lucky; we got one of a kind for birth moms.
The relinquishments went fine the next day. Jenny signed, and it went very well. In fact, when we signed, we went down to the hotel lobby and Jenny actually sat up in the room with the baby. We had to wait about another ten days to go home because of interstate laws. Pennsylvania had to give the okay, and so did Texas. Jenny stopped by every day to see the baby, sometimes for an hour or for a couple of hours. If the baby was crying, she’d say, “Here, go to your mommy, you need to be fed.” We cherish that time we had down in Texas with her and the baby.
Carrie: I treasure our relationship with Jenny. I know people on the outside don’t understand what happens when you bond like that, but it’s an amazing process. That was even hard for me when we adopted Emma. I was heartbroken for Jenny, because I knew she was suffering.
Ed: We talk about every three to four months now, and send pictures. We still have the 800 number that she calls on; we just like her to know that if she ever needs to call, she can. If we send holiday cards out to the family, she gets one. Our handshake agreement was to send pictures three times a year, but I think Carrie sends them more like eight times a year.
Emma turned one this past year, and we started thinking that we might want to start the adoption process again. In February, we completed new paperwork and made a new profile that included Emma.
Our son Jamie was already born when we got the call from AAI. His birth mom had picked out three families, and we were one of them. That evening, we talked to his birth mom for about 45 minutes. Carrie and I felt pretty good about it, but we knew she still had to talk to two other couples. We found out the next day that she had picked us. She only talked to one other family for five minutes, but by that time she had decided that we were the ones. We went into work the next day to tell our jobs that we weren’t going to be there for a while, and the next day we flew to Texas to see Jamie for the first time. It was amazing. His birthparents had already signed the papers on Wednesday, and it was good to know that they only needed our signatures to make everything final.
Jamie had been born six weeks early, so he was in intensive care when we first saw him. We knew the nurses would take care of him, but we wanted to get there as soon as possible because we knew no one was with him. Carrie and I were at the hospital every three hours for feedings so that we could bond with him since we hadn’t been there for the first week of his life.
AAI was great through the whole thing. Sometimes I used to feel like I was bothering them, but they said no, never, call us anytime. They were always there to answer questions and put our minds at ease. After Emma’s finalization, one of the things we had to do was to go over to the agency to meet them all. Just last week, Sandie promised to send us information about things to do in San Antonio when we’re there for JamieÕs finalization. We’re going to make it our family vacation.
One of the strongest things I could pass on to anybody is just keep the faith, because when it happens, you’ll know why you had to wait. If that first match had worked out, I wouldn’t have had my daughter. Not that I wouldn’t have loved that child any less, I just can’t imagine my life without my daughter.
Carrie: When you first go through infertility, you think there’s nothing like having your own. But if we had, we would have missed out on this opportunity. I mean, we lived three thousand miles away, and the fact that we got connected is amazing. There is nothing more special than these two children coming into our lives.