Sarah: When my husband John and I decided that we wanted to adopt, we started by looking into international adoption. A friend had adopted a baby from Guatemala, and she had a good experience with that path. In January of 1998, we went to a local meeting of an adoption support group. There, we heard a lot about domestic adoption, specifically open adoption, and we decided that we should at least look into it. Another friend had adopted from Texas, and she gave me the name of a couple of agencies. AAI was one of them. We had already started our homestudy through Lutheran Family Services, and the lady there had recommended AAI as well. I called five or six agencies, and most of them took our name and number and promised to send us information. When I called AAI, Linda spent about fifteen minutes finding out what we were interested in and what we were looking for. She went through the financial aspect as well as the philosophy of open adoption. That was sort of what I liked about AAI – they took some time at that initial conversation.
Our homestudy was a little more involved than some of the others we’ve heard about. We actually completed an autobiography, and they based their study on what we had written as opposed to interpreting stuff that we had said. The homestudy really made us think about things. Part of what Lutheran Family did was to go to the courthouse and make sure we didn’t have criminal records. They also got our birth certificates and our original marriage certificate. We even had to get fingerprinted. We also had to get mandatory health screenings and HIV tests. Michelle, our social worker, met with us together and individually. She came out to our house right before and after we adopted to get a feel for what our home situation was like. During the initial meeting with Michelle, John and I were both nervous, but we really clicked with Michelle. By the time she came out to the house, we weren’t nervous. Some people said we needed to get our house super clean, but it wasn’t really like that. She didn’t do a white glove test or anything.
We also did an eight-hour educational course over one weekend, and that was very good. In the midst of all that, we were filling out our paperwork for AAI. They had initial paperwork that asked for general information. They went over that and let us know that we had been accepted as adoptive parents, and then they sent us more detailed paperwork.
Our placement happened really quickly – we got our son in May of 1998. After we had sent in part of our parent profile, AAI called us to say that they had a birth mother and they wanted to give her our stuff. Over the phone, Yvonne from AAI told us more about the birth mother, and we Fed-Exed the rest of our profile the next day. We got another call two days later. The birth mother had been due in six weeks, but the baby had been born early and was in the NICU. John and I are both pediatricians, so we tried to find out as much information as possible – was he sick, was there anything wrong, were we going to go through with it. We hadn’t even been sure if we were ready to have a baby in six weeks, and then we found out he was already here!
John and I do a nightly Bible reading, and the reading two nights after we found out that Nicholas was born was from the First Ephesians. It said, “We are all adopted sons of Christ.” Right after we read the verse, our air conditioner made a loud bang and we thought, “Oh no, we’re going to have to fix the AC in the middle of all of this.” The next morning, my husband called me from work to say that the noise hadn’t been the air conditioner, it had been an earthquake. That was it. We thought that was a pretty loud sign from God that Nicholas was supposed to be our son.
That happened on a Friday, and we flew out to Texas on Monday. Nicholas was still in the NICU for the rest of the week, and we got to bond with him there. His story was not typical, since we really didn’t get to know his birth mother ahead of time. We had a little complication before the adoption, but Yvonne came down to Corpus and got the situation remedied. Obviously we were very happy with AAI, because we went back for number two.
With the adoption of our son Noah, we started in January of last year, and we got matched up with Mary, his birth mother, in May. She was only five months pregnant, so it was very different from our first adoption. We talked every two weeks or so, and we actually went out to Texas to meet her. We’re still in contact with Nicholas’s birth parents, mainly his birth father, and we’d dropped them an email saying we were going to be in San Antonio. We didn’t hear from them, but we sent another email telling when we would be there and giving them our hotel information. The night that we met Mary, I went back to the room to get something. There was a message from Nicholas’s birth father saying that they were on the way. We ended up all meeting for dinner – John, Nicholas, Nicholas’s birth parents, Mary, and me. I mean, people talk about what open adoption is, and that dinner was sort of the epitome of it. We went back to Texas for Noah’s birth – I was actually the coach on the left for Noah’s delivery, and I got to cut the umbilical cord.
To new adoptive parents, I’d say be ready to have your whole life changed. There’s so much that happens between the process of trying to have a child or waiting to adopt that is out of your control. When you finally put those papers in, be ready to relinquish control. Be prepared for that, and try to do something good for yourself during that time. You have to just know that your baby is there.
John: The people at AAI have become part of our family. They are an amazing group, and Jane is just an absolutely amazing person. Adoptions never go hitch free, but they were there at the right time for us when things needed to be done. With our first adoption, Yvonne got everything figured out and then stood by our side and cried with us. With the second adoption, Jane skipped a trip out of town and ended up spending half of a Sunday helping us out. AAI does a small number of adoptions every year, and as a result, they just get really embedded with the people they work with.