By Guest Blogger Amelia Caudle
Although my husband and I just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary (gulp!!), I can still remember what it felt like to be newly married and planning the rest of our lives together. I have to chuckle at the word “planning,” because don’t we all feel like we are in control? And don’t we all know what it is like to find out how flawed that thinking really is?
You see, I had it all planned out.
I got married when I was 26 and just knew I would have a child by the time I was 30 (because that is old) and then I would have another two years later because that was the perfect spacing in my mind. Then, we might have a third, because, hey, why not? Like I said, I had it all mapped out.
So fast forward to a year and a half into our perfect marriage and we begin trying to get pregnant – after all that time of trying NOT to get pregnant. Luckily, I did get pregnant, but it ended up being an ectopic pregnancy, which required emergency surgery to repair my ruptured fallopian tube. We were told that there was no reason we couldn’t get pregnant and so we began trying again.
About two long years later, I had another ectopic pregnancy, this time in my other fallopian tube, also requiring surgery. After healing (at least physically, if not emotionally), we started the in vitro process. After implanting two embryos, we found out that the attempt was unsuccessful and that the seven other embryos we thought we had were not viable. I am sure it is obvious that these years included a roller coaster of emotions that could be its own blog, but this blog is not as much about our infertility struggles, as it is about our adoption joys and sorrows.
After our failed in vitro process, we decided to begin the adoption process. But in reality, as soon as I had the first ectopic pregnancy, I knew we would adopt. It’s hard to explain, but I just knew that was how I would be come a mother. I have never been one to have definite feelings like this and so it was a little surprising to me to be so certain. Adoption has always been part of my life. My cousin is adopted and her younger sister is biological and I grew up very close with both of them (and still am today). Even though adoption was not part of my initial plan, it was easy to see how adoption was the perfect choice for us.
It took my husband a little longer to get on board with the new plan. It is fair to say, with his permission, that it took him longer to give up the dream of having a biological child. That is a real grieving process and spouses need to be sensitive and aware that each person deserves time and space to sort through whatever feelings they are experiencing.
We decided to adopt domestically because both of us really wanted to adopt an infant and be present as parents from the earliest moments possible. By the time we got to this point, I was so emotionally and physically drained that I didn’t even want to research all the options out there. This was in 2001 and well before the internet was so ubiquitous. We were put in touch with some family friends who had adopted through an agency in Florida and because they had two successful adoptions, we decided to use the same agency. We began the long and arduous application process which included making a profile book of how awesome we are and filling out lots of paperwork on what kind of child we would and would not accept. It is very strange to mark boxes regarding medical conditions and skin color but my husband and I had many straightforward and honest conversations during that time.
For our first adoption, we were matched fairly quickly with a birth mother and flew to meet with her about three months prior to her due date. Talk about nerves! I was sick with excitement and fear: what if she didn’t like me or us? what if we said the wrong thing and she changed her mind? what if, what if, what if??? Just typing this brings back all those feelings of nervousness and inadequacy! But, our lunch with our son’s birth mother was wonderful. She was funny, smart and clever and I am so grateful we had that time to get to know her. She loved reading 18th century literature and the outdoors. Ultimately, I was struck by how courageous she was to carry a baby to term and make a thoughtful adoption plan for him.
When the day came for our son, Ellis, to be born, we saw him when he was an hour and a half old. A nurse placed him in my arms for the first time while we were in the hospital room with his birth mother. I love that my son was surrounded by people who loved him and I know that his birth mother enjoyed watching my husband and I hold him and feed him. She laughed heartily when I changed his diaper for the first time. She was so gracious to allow us time with him and I hope that seeing us with him brought her some joy as well.
I will never forget how she said goodbye to him in the hospital. She held him, kissed him and told him quietly she hoped he would understand why she made the decision to place him for adoption. With tears streaming down her face, she gently placed him in my arms, looked me in the eyes and asked me to please take good care of him. It is absolutely the most profound and beautiful experience I have ever had.
About a year later we began the adoption process for a second child. We were matched right away with a birth mother who was due in three weeks and if the adoption was successful, our two children would be 15 months apart. While our first adoption experience was wonderful, this one did not work out in the same way.
This time the birth mother simply did not contact the adoption agency again and when the due date came and went we knew she had decided to parent the child. So, we went back into the queue to wait to be chosen by another potential birth mother. About six months later we received a phone call that a birth mother had chosen us and that she was due in about three months. We flew to Florida to meet her, and while she had a very quiet and shy demeanor, we were delighted to be able to spend some time with her and loved finding out she was expecting a girl. Once the due date was near, we made plans to fly back. We boarded the plane with everything we needed to care for a baby: clothes, bottles, a car seat. We were not able to be there in time for the birth, but arrived several hours later. We held this sweet baby girl, took pictures with her and tried to wrap our heads around what it would be like to have two children. Soon after we arrived, we received a phone call from our agency social worker who stated she had talked with the mother and she changed her mind about placing the baby for adoption. We were asked to leave the hospital.
To say we were stunned is an understatement. Of course we knew that the birth mother could change her mind, we even knew that she was struggling with her decision as I am sure all mothers who are contemplating adoption do, but it still left us shocked. Leaving that hospital was devastating and flying home with an empty car seat was one of the most difficult and sad times in my life.
While we waited and longed for a second child to complete our family (knowing at this point that I was not equipped to have three), I was so grateful to have that time with Ellis.
When Ellis was a little over two, we received another call from our agency telling us we had been matched with a child who was due in about three months. This time we did go to visit both the birth mother and birth father. Again, we had a wonderful meal with them and loved learning more about them. We saw sonogram pictures and found out the baby was a boy, our Bailey.
The due date approached and we made plans to return again to Florida for the birth. This time the birth mother was willing to have me be in the hospital room with her which was exceptionally generous and kind. However, by the time we arrived at the hospital at our appointed time, she had been rushed in for an emergency C-Section due to a drop in her blood pressure. When we got to the hospital, Bailey had already been born and we saw him when he was about one and a half hours old, just as with Ellis.
Because the maternity ward was not full at the hospital, my husband and I were given a room with two hospital beds and we were able to keep Bailey in our room until he was discharged from the hospital. His birth mother was at the other end of the hall and asked to see him periodically as well. I know that Bailey was given so much love during this special time as we were welcoming him into our family and his birth family was saying goodbye. Again, we were present as the birth mother tearfully said goodbye to him and placed him in my arms, asking me to take good care of him. Again, I was overwhelmed with emotions of joy and excitement, fear and trepidation at having a newborn and compassion for this grieving birth mother. It was the second most profound moment of my life.
Now my boys are almost 15 and 12 years old. While their adoptions seem like eons ago, every day I think about the amazing gifts I have been given. Not just the gift of these two precious children but all the life experiences that have come along with this journey. I know I took parenting for granted. I just figured once I was married we’d have a few kids and I’d begin my life as a mother. Now I realize a little bit more what a privilege and incredible responsibility parenting is and that has definitely made me a better mom (although my children will be the first to tell you I have my bad moments).
Things in my life had always come prettily easily and all the ups and downs of infertility and adoption have taught me that going through rough times make the joyous times that much sweeter. Before the adoption process, I had some preconceived notions about what I thought birth parents were like and I am happy to say that those stereotypes were shattered by the courageous, loving and generous mothers and father I met along the way.
Although we had two adoptions fall through, I’ve learned that I would never want to adopt a child from a birth parent who did not feel certain that her and/or his decision was the best one for them and for their child. My fervent hope is that they are at peace with their decision and I strive everyday to be the mother they so hoped I would be to their boys.
And that “plan” I thought I had all figured out? Thank goodness it didn’t work out. There was a much bigger and better plan than I could ever have imagined and I am so grateful for the ride!