It was a sunny Monday morning in August and there we were, standing in the delivery room at the hospital, waiting for a baby girl to be born.
That we were invited by our birth mother to be present for the birth was beyond anything we had hoped for when we first started exploring adoption. We shouldn't have been surprised, though; our birth mother had shown an amazing spirit of generosity toward us throughout her pregnancy and since we'd first met, including us in doctor visits, health updates, name discussions and more. We were continuously touched and honored that she brought us into those experiences even though it might have been easier not to. She was ever focused on what would be best for this child, determined to set her up for the best possible life that we could collectively give her. It was, and is, amazing.
When we had gotten the call a few months earlier that there was a pregnant birth mother interested in meeting us, we were very excited, and very scared. We knew that we had so much to offer a child as parents, but the stakes felt so high for that first in-person conversation, which was to take place over a casual meal at a restaurant. We were fortunate to be joined and guided by a counselor from the agency we were working with, and she was helping both us and the birth mother to create a safe space and set expectations. But as we sat down at the restaurant table to wait we were nervous and anxious all the same.
It was one of many blessings in our story that when the woman who would be our daughter’s birth mother arrived, we connected with her quickly and much of our nervousness melted away. We all talked about our lives and stories that had brought us to this point. We talked frankly of our hopes and fears in thinking about adoption. And we laughed together at the various ways that my and Kelly’s background and interests seemed to intersect so well with the birth mother’s passions. All of the sudden we could really picture this thing actually happening; there was a specific person who might choose us to be the parents of a specific baby!
Our agency had cautioned us against getting our hopes up. "Be excited, but also protect yourselves” was a theme throughout the process of preparing for adoption. We could learn as much about a potential plan as we wanted, but as a birth mother is able to change her mind at any point before signing the paperwork, we had to know that plans could change. We didn’t have a baby shower or decorate a nursery in the same way others might have because we didn’t know for sure if and when we would be becoming parents. We could tell our friends and employers what we thought might happen, but we didn’t know for sure.
Still, when we got the call a few days after the meeting at the restaurant that the birth mother had chosen us, we were ecstatic. We both had a really good feeling about it and we felt that we were at a new and special phase that was changing our lives forever. We set up a call with the birth mother to celebrate this milestone and to offer our gratitude. I can only imagine all of the things she was feeling and wrestling with at that time, but in that conversation it seemed like we all felt clear and grateful to be moving forward together.
The moments during and immediately after the birth of our daughter are still vivid in our minds, full of joy and tears and the elemental sensations of new life coming into the world. A room of people encouraging and supporting a struggle that is both for and against, as time seems to speed up and then slow down from moment to moment. The realization that a child is is now with us, a new being that is at once both helpless and mighty. The checking, cleaning, cutting and swaddling. Holding her to our chests just moments later. Crying and laughing as we try to wrap our hearts and minds around what has happened.
I have never experienced anything like it.
We tell our daughter the story of her birth often and as she's gotten older she's loved hearing about new details and moments from that time.
We also talk with her about her larger adoption story, which feels just as special. As a part of preparing for the birth and finalizing the adoption, the agency helped us work with the birth mother to clearly establish hopes and expectations for ongoing relationship with each other. We all quickly agreed that we want this child to know and explore her story and the people involved. Through a mix of letters, photos, phone calls and visits we have all sought the right balance of connections grounded in love and space for healing and growth. As with the many other blessings we have experienced in this process, we are so grateful to be connected to our birth mother and that the choices she made and that we made together in those early days have continued to be for the benefit of our daughter. We hope to always honor that.
In respecting her privacy and in not wanting to tell stories that aren't mine to tell, I know this writing will not really capture who our birth mother is as a person. She has undoubtedly experienced heartbreak and pain that we will never fully understand, and yet she has always brought a strength, maturity, clarity and perspective to our times together that we have found astonishing and inspiring. She has given Kelly and me the greatest gift of our lives.
These are just a few pieces of our story that started long before this birth and that continues to unfold daily. Sometimes it's a story about parenting, sometimes it's a story about adoption, and now years later it's all becoming entwined into a story about the wonderful person our daughter is and is growing up to be. We've enjoyed learning about other people's adoption stories too, or talking with those who are considering adoption in their future, and a pleasantly surprising number of people in our lives have told us about how it has affected their own lives in some way.
Today is National Adoption Day here in the U.S., when communities across the country come together to celebrate the joy of adoption and to finalize the adoptions of thousands of children. Knowing that adoption or parenting in general is not a path for everyone, we still take this time to hold up the courage, strength, struggle and love of birth mothers and adoptive parents everywhere, and we thank all of the people who have supported and cheered us on throughout.