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Adoption Diaries: Stories of Domestic, International, and Foster Care Adoptions

Adopting a child is such a powerful, emotional experience that it's hard for parents to put it into words. But we got four families -- who adopted in different ways -- to tell us what it's like.
Anhalt family Erin and John Anhalt: Open Adoption

The couple, who live in the Florida panhandle, had endured multiple miscarriages before choosing to adopt domestically. They completed the process through an agency and brought home their newborn girl. But four days later they received devastating news: The biological mother had decided to raise the child herself. The agency had warned the Anhalts that some birth moms change their mind after the baby has been placed. (In their case, the biological mother had delayed signing away her rights, which was probably a clue to her intentions.) But it was one more setback for the Anhalts. "You have this baby, in your home, in your arms. You think that she is your daughter," says Erin. "And then she isn't."


Fortunately, the Anhalts -- Erin, 28, worked in retail sales, and John, 29, is an officer in the Navy -- didn't have to grieve their loss for long. Within a month, the agency set up a meeting with a 24-year-old woman who was in her seventh month of pregnancy. The couple spent several weeks getting to know her and asking probing questions. "We wanted to make sure that no one was pressuring her to give up the baby and that she'd thought about the emotional impact of doing so," says Erin. "We felt confident that she had, and she chose us to be the adoptive parents."


Both women had good reasons for wanting an open adoption. The birth mother was an adoptee herself. And Erin had never met her father, who vanished soon after her mom became pregnant. Erin and the birth mom connected right away. She and John drove several hours to attend the birth mom's ob-gyn visits, and they joined her in the delivery room. But as Erin left the hospital with Alison in her arms, she felt strangely conflicted. "I was thrilled about having a baby," she says, "but I felt real sadness for the birth mom's loss, because we'd made a real connection."


Their friendship has blossomed during the last two years. Erin talks to the birth mom several times a week and shares every detail of Alison's life as a toddler. Each has met the other's extended family, and they exchange birthday and Christmas gifts. Still, the Anhalts stress that they aren't coparenting. "To Allie, Erin is 'Mommy.' Her birth mom is more like a member of our extended family," says John. Both sides are committed to making the dynamic work, for their child's sake. "Alison is a very happy kid," says Erin. "I'm grateful that she'll always know her adoption story and how much she is loved by her birth mom."