It was three years ago. The day dawned warm and a little bit cloudy, but the morning held much excitement in our household. We dressed the children and ourselves in our “Sunday best” and headed to the courthouse. The day had finally arrived for us to legally and officially make our youngest daughter our very own. We met my best friend and our families at the courthouse and proceeded into the building with our attorney, eagerly and nervously awaiting our moment before the judge. With just a few simple questions and time for pictures, we were soon stepping back out into the March sunshine as a legal family of five. It was our youngest daughter’s Gotcha Day.
Three years later, as we celebrate the anniversary of her joining our family, it is amazing to recall the events that led up to that day.
We were perfectly set as a family of four – one boy and one girl. Anyone looking in on our family from the outside would have thought we were done. What more could we want? We were living the American dream. But my husband and I have always longed to have several children, not just two, and we had determined from the very beginning that we would not hesitate to say yes if our children’s birth mother had more children. We felt it would be in the best interest of our children to keep them together with their siblings if God allowed us.
I can recall the moment I received the phone call as though it were yesterday. I had just left the ladies’ book study that was held weekly at our church. I was driving home when I saw our attorney’s assistant’s phone number on my caller ID. As she is the coordinator for families and birth mothers, my heart began racing as I answered her call. Sure enough, our children were going to have a new sibling. The question was, did we want to pursue this adoption? Of course, we answered yes, although we proceeded with much more caution than the first two adoptions.
We had no money. When I say no money, I mean we were able to barely pay our bills each week and maybe have a little leftover to go out to McDonald’s occasionally. But that was with generous help from our parents, who often let us “shop” their cupboards when it was a beans and rice type of week. We weren’t poor, but we weren’t very far over the line. Did God really want us to have another baby? And how would we ever afford the adoption costs?
Private adoptions can run anywhere from $10,000 to $60,000. But because this was the route the birthmother had chosen, this was the route we would have to take if we wanted to keep the siblings together. I told my husband that the only way that I would be confident that this adoption was from God is if we could do it without going into any debt – at all. No loans were to be taken out that we would only struggle to pay back anyway. We were working to be debt-free, and we were still paying off the loans from our second adoption. My husband was skeptical that we would be able to do it loan-free, but I insisted that we had to trust God to provide. And I began to look into every grant I could.
Unfortunately, there are very few grants available for a private infant adoption. Most grants are for agencies, foreign adoptions, sibling adoptions, or special needs adoptions. None of those grants applied to our situation. But I persisted in applying for every single one of them anyway. My full-time job became filling out mountains of paperwork.
Along the way, I discovered a random website (through Pinterest, no less!) that offers an adoption grant once a year in November. The entry process is pretty quick and simple, and the final step is to write an essay answering the question of that year. Our question was, “If your adopted child came to you one day and asked you why you chose them, what would you say?”
I was so touched and inspired by that question that I decided to write a love letter to my children in response. I was so surprised when I received the phone call to tell me that I had won the grant!* It was the last little bit we needed for the adoption. Our fundraisers had done well, and many people were happy to donate to our adoption, although many were concerned about us adopting a third child.
We were asked the same questions over and over again. “Why would you adopt a third time? Are you just going to keep letting her get pregnant and give you the children? Why don’t you adopt for free from foster care? Where will the baby sleep? Are you sure you can handle this?” We were even told by a few people that we were being selfish.
To say that this adoption was a roller coaster ride of emotions would be an understatement! One day we were on a high from someone’s generous donation that just met the amount we needed to continue with the process. But then the very next day, someone would say something so discouraging that we would doubt our decisions and forget how God continued to open doors.
My emotions were all over the place as I was often the one fielding the questions. By the time we were called to the hospital for our baby’s delivery, our nerves were frayed. In addition, it was the holiday season, and my dad had just been given the news that his heart was not doing well, and he was preparing for heart surgery the very next week. At that point, I was so stressed out that I could only process one emotional event at a time, and I am sure that it seemed as though I didn’t care about my dad’s news. In fact, it took me a couple of days to really process what his surgery meant and to be able to prepare mentally for the stress that it would bring.
We dropped off our kids with my family and hurried to the hospital, where we would wait for another 24 hours. It was the longest and loneliest time of my life. I started to have panic attacks that were so bad that my husband almost checked me into the emergency room. I could barely breathe, and I kept making myself sick. The stress of the last few months had caught up with me, and I was having a hard time waiting in the cold, hard chairs in the family waiting area. I also missed my kids, who were hardly ever away from me. It was a tough night. In fact, my husband sent me home for a couple of hours to get some sleep, promising to call me if there was any sign of progress.
As I drove back to the hospital a few hours later, it started to snow, and I felt a slight uptick in my spirit as I anticipated our daughter’s arrival. When I arrived at the hospital, her birthmother had decided that she wanted me by her side after all. So in I went to wait out the last hour of birth with her.
I was the first face my daughter saw when she entered the world, and I had the privilege of cutting her umbilical cord. Her birth mother, who is so precious to me, held her for a moment before handing her to me, and then she was mine.
I wish that I could say that it was all sunshine and roses from there. But due to some health concerns, our daughter was not released from the hospital for five days. In the meantime, we still had people bombarding us with their concerns when all we wanted to hear was, “Congratulations!” It was a dark time, and it was hard to not want to shield our baby from the critics.
To say that I shook off my melancholy after we finally brought her home would be a lie. One of the least known, but very common, conditions for many adoptive parents is post adoption depression.
While most post delivery “Baby Blues” are of very short duration (less than two weeks), 77% of survey participants with PAD reported that they suffered their symptoms from two months to over one year with 45% suffering for six months or more. 85% of sufferers reported that their depression affected their health in some way (serious weight gain/loss was followed by sleep disturbances and headaches), 70% felt that PADS had interfered with smooth transitions and bonding with their new children. Clearly, Pots [sic] Adoption Depression is a significant, multi-faceted issue supported by the entire adoption community! – The Attachment Coalition
I am sure that the trauma of my dad’s heart surgery played a part as well, and we nearly lost him at one point. If I wasn’t at home trying to bond with my newest addition, I was at the hospital, sitting with my parents as we waited for dad to recover enough to come home. I was exhausted as a mom of a newborn, and I was sick for over three months.
But spring had come. And, as is common in spring, things were coming back to life. My dad’s health was much better. I had finally shaken off my illness. And we were ready to stand before the judge and become a forever family.
Every year, on my daughter’s Gotcha Day, I am reminded again how God brought us through that difficult season and showed us that “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Eccl. 3:11). First, He had to bring me low so that all I could do was lean on Him. Only then could I see His hand in this adoption and in the life of our precious baby. Now I can’t imagine our life without our spunky, little, curly top girl!
*The adoption grant that I won inspired me to write a bedtime story for kids. My beautiful friend Sarah encouraged me to pursue it and agreed to illustrate it for me. I am hoping to see it published very soon.