Some nights before bed, I find myself sitting in a rocker in Cate's nursery, staring down at this beautiful girl in my arms, the embodiment of a desire my heart has had for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, my home was always filled with people, related both biologically and by circumstance. Since I was a toddler, people had moved in and out of our home through foster care and through less formal living arrangements.
When I was a senior in college, my best friend found out that she was pregnant. She decided to pursue an adoption plan, and together we pored over parent profiles as she searched for people to raise her child. Months later I found myself in the delivery room with my friend and her chosen adoptive mom. I watched as she handed over her beautiful baby to an amazing family. Two years later, while pursuing a master's degree in family communication, I decided to conduct my thesis project on the stories parents tell their children about coming to their family through adoption. It seemed only natural. I was enthralled with each story I heard in my project, and I found myself emotionally connected to the adoptive parents who told them. Something inside of me said, "I was meant to do this, too!" My husband, Jason, and I began to discuss the possibility of adoption as a way to grow our family. We were in our early 20s, and not yet ready to parent, but I knew that adoption was a road I wanted to take eventually.New Family Directions
Slowly, this dream of mine took root. One day Jason told me that he, too, would be interested in adopting. Soon after, we found that our plan of waiting 10 years to start a family had been changed...I was pregnant with our son, Max. When Max was a year old, we began discussing adoption again, and started the process soon after. In a flurry of home studies, paper chases, notaries, and emotional fatigue, we pursued an international adoption before deciding to adopt in the U.S. The questions changed from "Boy or girl?" to "What ethnicities would you accept?" and "How much openness would you feel comfortable with?" Though we secretly hoped for a girl, we declined to request an ethnic or gender makeup. Two months later, we were matched with a birth mom.
"You're going to have a baby!" our agency called to tell us, and we quickly asked for information about the couple who had chosen our family. They were a few years older than we were, and they already had a daughter. And so began our adoption story, one that was anything but typical.
"Oh...is Max adopted also?" people would ask when they heard we were adopting. "No? Then why are you adopting this time?"
"You mean the birth mom [or, to quote precisely, "real mom"] isn't a teenager? And she's married? Then why is she giving this baby away?"
People seemed shocked to hear that a young couple, able to bear children, chose to adopt a baby girl born to a birth mom years older than we, married to her husband, the father of our child. I knew from our first conversation with our birth mom that she would not take the baby home from the hospital. She had already gone through sleepless nights and diapers with her daughter. In many ways, she viewed herself as a surrogate. When I went with her to the ultrasound appointment (where we found out that my wish for a daughter would become a reality), she immediately told the technician, "This is her baby." I was with her when she informed her daughter, "Did you know that Erin is going to have a baby, and that baby is in Mommy's tummy?"