As I sit here watching my daughter spin and dance in our living room while watching Rapunzel, I can’t help but ask myself, “What did I do to deserve this little nugget of happiness?” She is so much more than just a daughter to me and if you had asked me 10 years ago…5 years ago…or heck, even 3 years ago, I would have never predicted she would be in our living room making me giggle as she so seriously announces that she in fact, is the REAL Rapunzel.
The story of how she got here is so much more than just a pregnancy or birth story. It is her story, her own individual story. A private journey that someday she will be able to choose to share with her friends. It is now, in this month of November for National Adoption Month, that I will try my hardest to do justice to her story.
Her story actually begins with my husband and I. Our story is not glamorous or exciting, but in my opinion it does have a happy ending. We had been married for almost 5 years when we decided it was time to start trying to have our own family. I’m not really sure why we waited so long, but it did take us almost 6 years of knowing each other before we got married, so maybe we just operate at a slower pace!
At any rate, after trying to conceive for over 5 years, with the assistance of various medications, two failed IFV procedures, and a very frustrating medical diagnosis of unexplained infertility, we were emotionally spent. Our doctors met with us to go over what other options we had, but neither one of us were ready to go full force into yet another medical procedure that would most likely once again not end well.
I kept thinking back to Thanksgiving and our second try with IVF. Yes, you know that holiday that everyone spends with their family? We were in the hospital going through a gut-wrenching event all by ourselves. At one point I actually apologized to the nurses as they were away from their families as well, but one of the sweetest nurses I have ever known, took my hand and said, “It’s okay. We will see them later today. Right now, we are here for you.” This same nurse held my hand and said a prayer over me as they put me under and I will never forget the tears in her eyes as she told me that someday, yes someday, I would be a mom. It was then while remembering those sweet, sweet words from that wonderful nurse that I decided I would be okay if I never had a biological child. I knew in my heart that we were meant to be parents and after talking with my husband we both agreed that we would take a different road to become parents. It was then that we started our adoption journey.
At first I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle all of the things that come with adopting a child. It’s a packaged deal. With it comes an emotional roller coaster that you sometimes feel you’re going to fall off of, a whole bunch of baggage that you are responsible for carrying for how ever many months you have to wait, and work. And I mean lots of work!
After we first met with the staff at Bethany Christian Services for the first time, I was so overwhelmed. I knew it would be tough to get all of the steps done in order to even be considered by a birth family, but after I really thought about it, I decided that if I had survived more shots than I care to count and two different IVF procedures, then I certainly could put on a brave face and do this full-force too.
After several months of completing paperwork, various required trainings, a lengthy home study with our social worker, background checks, a home visit, and a non-successful meeting with a young pregnant teenager, we were feeling quite defeated. It was just when I was about to give up hope that one of the social workers called and told us that a young woman still in high school had looked at our profile book and wanted to meet with us.
We were so incredibly nervous. We had everything on the line and I was a wreck. The whole drive to the city to meet her, I felt sick. I wanted to be strong, but what if she didn’t like us? Was I ready to again be disappointed after all we’d been through? What if I wasn’t the woman she pictured mothering her child and what if she wanted someone thinner or prettier? Yes, as vain as that sounds, those thoughts actually went through my mind!
When we arrived at the Bethany Christian Services office, we had to walk through snow and blustery winds to get inside. All I could think about was that now my hair was messed up and I looked like a crazy person! I wanted to make the best impression possible, but I wasn’t sure that I could. The armor I had been carrying to protect myself all this time had come off and I felt so vulnerable.
As soon as the social worker walked us into the room to meet the young woman, her parents, the young man, and his parents, I was slightly put at ease. She looked like such a normal high school girl and once we all started talking I realized that these two “kids” were a lot like my husband and I were in high school. Their parents and the way they described their families were so much like our own families. We were amazed at how much we were all alike and they just seemed like such normal, Midwest people. We had so many things in common and the comments she made about our profile book made all of the hours we spent on that silly thing, soooooo worth it!
We talked and talked, with all of us asking different questions. It was like we’d known each other for a long time and frankly, it was at that point that I actually began to relax and think that maybe, just maybe we were going to have that fairytale ending that I’d always pictured. Here was this normal, outgoing, well-rounded 17 year-old girl that had a tough situation presented to her and here she was taking it like a champ. She was the one that was the answer to all of my prayers and I could hardly believe that our struggle could possibly be over.
We left that meeting feeling so good. I mean, the meeting had ended with hugs and laughter, so how much better could it be? We ran back through the yucky cold weather to our car and both of us hugged and held hands. We held hands almost all of the way home, but let go only because my phone rang. Before we had even made it past the rest area on the interstate, the social worker called and said that they liked us. We agreed that we really liked them as well and it was right there that our lives changed.
Our daughter’s birth mother was due only about 6 weeks after we met her. At first I thought that wasn’t going to be enough time for us to prepare for her arrival, but looking back I don’t think that there was any way I could’ve waited much longer than that! We took a quick spring break trip to Chicago as our last couple’s getaway and then came home to get ready for her birth.
Because she was so open and willing, our birthmother allowed us to fully participate in her birth plan. Her family even invited us to one of her last ultrasound appointments so we were able to see our little sweetheart before she was even born. They were generous enough to let us take some of the ultrasound pictures home with us as well. I will never forget breaking down in tears as we left the clinic that day. I couldn’t believe that someone was going to actually allow us to raise their child! It just seemed so surreal to me at the time.
As part of the birth plan, the nurses were to notify us when our birthmother went into labor. When that day came, one of the nurses called me mid-morning. Here I was teaching kindergarten a few minutes before and now I was going to be going to the hospital to become a mother! It took us awhile to get to the hospital because as teachers, you just can’t walk away from your classroom and leave all of the kids to fend for themselves. I was so nervous that we were going to miss something important, but the nurse had told me that we had some time and that so far everything was going as planned.
The drive there seemed to take hours, even though it was only about 20 minutes. Our plan included having our own room at the hospital so that we could stay there with our daughter. When we first arrived, it was a little odd, but since we had been out to eat with the birthmother and her family a few times already, it only took a little bit before we were all just talking like normal friends.
When it was go time, we quietly left the room with some of her family members. Her own mom stayed with her and we all waited with anticipation right outside the door. It wasn’t long before the cries of a newborn were heard and we all started crying. My husband grabbed me and we clung to each other for a very long time. Tears of joy, happiness, nervousness, and worry streamed down my face. Here we were experiencing the greatest moment in our lives and I wondered if they would change their minds and it would all vanish as quickly as it started. What if when they saw her little princess face, they decided they wanted to parent her themselves?
Well, as you know, that didn’t happen. There are so many details of our daughter’s story that I did not mention here and so much more I could write about, but those details are for her to know when the time is right. Some details are so special that we want those to stay private for only her to know. The greatest part of her story though is that we have an extremely open adoption. What that means is that we have open communication with her birth family. Over the past three years, we have been together with them countless times. They have celebrated various milestones with us and were even in attendance for her baptism. We attended her birth mother’s high school graduation and in the near future we will be present when she graduates college.
Having an open adoption is not something that many people truly understand, but I honestly can’t imagine it any other way. One of my biggest fears when we adopted was how in the world I was going to be able to have an open adoption where the birth family would know so much information about us. What if they tried to take over and parent her when they visited or what if they wanted to see her all of the time? My worries were so far from the truth of what a real open adoption is like, thank goodness!
I have been heard saying countless times since we adopted that no child can have too many people that love them, so why wouldn’t we want her to experience the love that her birth family has for her? Our daughter will never have to wonder where she came from, what’s in her DNA, or how much she was loved and wanted by all of us. She was loved by her birth family, by us, and by so many others before she even was born. She was wanted by me so badly and I now know that we truly were not meant to become parents through normal common circumstances. She was meant to be with us, in our family, through adoption. That was what we were meant to do from the beginning; only we were the last to know what the plan actually was!
Now that three years have passed, my love for her birth family has grown so much. I respect them with all my heart and we are so lucky to have them in our lives. They are truly like an extension of our own family. The only way I can explain my relationship with our daughter’s birth mother is to say that I sometimes feel like her mom and sister all wrapped into one. Most of the time though, I feel like her friend. She did something that I would never have the courage to do and for that I will forever be grateful. She provided us with the missing piece that completed our fairytale and helped us live happily ever after, together forever as a family.