The Baby Wait

This is the one year anniversary (or close enough to it) of the first time we were not-picked for an adoptive placement.

It is a weird thing, let me tell you, to talk to someone who is thinking about giving you her baby. By the time we connected with the Fustible’s birth mom, we were actually somewhat more comfortable with this whole thing. And it is a weird thing to be comfortable with it.

But let me back up.

It is the two year anniversary (or close enough to it) of our first orientation session at our adoption agency. There, we learned that the “typical” wait at this agency—from starting the process to having a child placed securely in your home—is one to two years.

We started our paperwork in July 2013, and went through the home study process in August and September. By mid-October 2013, our home study had been approved and we were ready to “go on the list” and the wait would officially begin.

We had to put together our profile, which was really, really, really hard. We are both writer and editor types. We are both interested in presentation, in branding (as crass as that sounds). We were muddling through this in a leisurely fashion until the middle of October, when we received a phone call from the agency: a woman due the first week of November had just gotten in touch with them; they wanted to send our profile out to her (along with a number of others that fit her criteria). We had to scramble to put something together while on a weekend beer crawl with friends. Obviously, perhaps inevitably, this led to one of the biggest fights of our marriage, in the middle of the night at a hotel vending machine.

Ultimately, we got our s*** together.

And then we waited. We never heard back about that first woman. When we followed up with the agency, they had never heard from her again, either. Most likely she decided not to go forward with adoption at all.

The months crawled by. Some adoption agencies will inform you (or indeed, *ask* you) every time your profile is presented to a potential birth mom. Ours didn’t do that. Instead, we identified in advance what kinds of situations we would be comfortable with (this involves EVERYTHING, from health, gender, race, and age of the child to knowledge of the birth father, financial situation of the birth mother, extended family health history, etc. You have to check yes or no for every imaginable category). The agency then adheres to your parameters in determining when to send out your profile.

That six months was probably the hardest for me, because of the silence and because this was all new to us. We had not yet learned to live in wait. (OK, let’s be honest, you never really get used to this. But it gets in the way less over time). In the meantime, our families would press on what the agency was doing to help things along. Waiting was hard, and they wanted an explanation, or a scapegoat. It was hard to defend what we really felt—and still feel—was the best possible choice of agency when it looked like nothing was happening.

Did you know you can put up flyers asking people to give you their baby? That is, if you can physically get up the nerve to do something like that. We made business cards, so if the topic ever came up, you know, in regular conversation, you could give someone a handy way for their neighbor’s pregnant niece to reach you. I think I tacked two up on bulletin boards in gas stations. I just took the stack out of my wallet a couple of months ago. I’m convinced that these measures are useless except as a way of feeling productive and killing time while you wait.

Around mid-April 2014 we finally got up the courage to ask the agency whether our profile had even been sent out at all. The news was encouraging: our profile had gone out 1-2 times per month since we’d gone on the list. In a few of those cases, someone else was chosen. In other cases, the mother decided not to proceed. The agency was doing their job, there was just nothing to report.

And then we waited.

We sought healthy coping mechanisms (poetry, literature, scripture, talking to friends, cautiously and slowly preparing a nursery, talking to our friends and family, creating a playlist for when we brought our baby home, random crying).

We developed unhealthy coping mechanisms (stalking everyone else in America blogging about their happy adoptive placements; starting a spreadsheet of everyone I know who announced a pregnancy during our wait–more than 60 people, by the way–refreshing the adoption agency website 400 times per day, random crying)

Finally, in early July 2014, we got our first call: a mother (and father, it turned out) wanted to talk to us. I nearly threw up. We were terrified; elated.

The call was set for the evening before the long 4th of July weekend. And it was weird. The expectant couple were talking to three prospective families, of which we were one. The conversation was really like a job interview. They had a long list of questions, which we answered, and in 15 minutes it seemed that we were done. At the time, we felt it went well and felt sure that we’d have a chance to speak to them again. So sure, that we spent the long, looong, loooooong weekend coming up with additional questions and information we would want before proceeding. That, and shuttling back and forth to IKEA to order furniture for the nursery.

Monday morning I emailed our agency to let them know how I thought things had gone, and suggested a time later in the morning that Sam and I could call in. Before we reached that hour, the agency called: the couple had picked someone else.

Oh.

The hardest part of coming to terms with this was what a non-issue it was for everyone else involved. This was not a failed adoption: there was no match made with us, no anticipated placement. This was just a regular day at the agency. We didn’t receive any benefit from our sadness and hurt. We were, basically, just right back at square 1. It was hard to swallow.

It’s so hard not to take it personally, or begrudge the other family, wondering if they had been waiting as long as you or not. What had we done wrong? Was it the crappy speaker on my cellphone affecting our ability to connect with them? Did we answer a question wrong?

And then we waited.

One Saturday in mid-September 2014, while out with friends, I received a cryptic phone call from, I gathered, a woman seeking to place a baby for adoption. She spoke very little English. I was shocked and confused that she had called me directly out of the blue, and our agency was closed for the weekend (they have an emergency number, but we didn’t feel like we should use it).

The next six weeks were a blur. It turned out that this mother already had a 9-month-old baby girl and, for a variety of heartbreaking reasons, intended to place her for adoption. She had chosen us. She did not really speak English. She was working with a lawyer, with a translator, with an advocate from a domestic support agency in her hometown. All of these people were working with our agency. It took DAYS to communicate any small piece of information back and forth, and we could never be sure whose words we were really hearing. A literal game of telephone.

Ultimately, we met this woman and her baby. And her other baby. And her advocate, translator, and lawyer. We talked. We liked each other. We thought this might happen, though simultaneously we couldn’t imagine how it could ever happen. Our agency warned us that voluntary older child placements, for obvious reasons, almost never go through.

And then we waited.

Any day could be the day. This all came to a head on a Thursday in late October: we’d been told THIS was the day. We were to await a phone call and a meeting place where we would go to take this child from her home to a new home.

There was no call. We were heartbroken. Selfishly, for ourselves. But also for this mother and her impossible position. For this sweet baby, who we met and held and talked to. We know she is loved but we hope she will also have the other things she needs in life. We know her face and her birthday, but we will never know what happened to her and her family.

And then we waited. We went on vacation. We put everything pretty much out of our minds. We were looking forward to the holidays, and totally fine with the idea of no more adoption drama for AWHILE.

Ha! The joke was on us. The first week of December 2014, we got another call: we had been chosen. Again. The baby was due in January 2015. We set up a phone call with this next expectant mother. We wrestled with how to guard our hearts without closing them off completely.

Somehow, everything was different from the get-go this time: we were not in competition with other families, trying to guess the right answer to a vague question. We were the only ones “in the running.” And we didn’t have to go through, over, under, or around any hoops: we spoke directly and clearly to her. We set up a time to meet in person that very weekend, and we went from there. And that is how we met the Fustible’s birth mom.

We visited with her twice before the baby came, and were with her in the hospital through 2+ days of induced labor. We’ve remained in touch–mostly by text–since then. Every other day at first, then every week or so for the first couple of months, and now we check in every few weeks or every month. We have visited her with the baby twice, and I hope we’ll continue that. We send real live photo prints and a written update every 3 months. That will go down to a minimum of twice a year for the next five years, and then once a year until our daughter is 18–at which point it will be up to her to decide what this relationship will look like.

I don’t really believe in the idea that our baby was “meant to be” ours in some predetermined way, or that this is all part of some divine plan–that the other situations didn’t work out because this one was waiting in the wings. I don’t believe it because carrying that out to its logical conclusion is cruel and absurd: the universe plotted to give us a baby by planting her in someone else’s uterus and putting that woman through an unimaginably difficult series of events? No.

But I believe, I guess, in the skill of our agency, in the courage and wisdom and thoughtfulness of our daughter’s birthmom, in our own endurance and discernment.

There was something off–doubts, concerns, hesitations, mismatches–in all of the other situations. That is why they didn’t work out. When it finally came together, it wasn’t because it was “meant to be” in a magical sense, it was because we saw something in each other that we were able to recognize and trust and act upon.

That being said–today, as our baby approaches 6 months, it’s hard to imagine that it could have worked out any other way.

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