In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption is hosting the fourth annual acclaimed series, 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days. Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.
By Lindsay Powelson
Andy and I met and dated through two years of college. We were married in June of 2002, one year after graduation. Four years into our marriage, after both our graduate degrees and my professional counseling licensing were obtained, we decided it was time to start our family. We began with the notion that it would be simple and no problem.
Three years later, we had been through rigorous fertility treatments, had seen multiple specialists and were on the cusp of starting IVF.
Suddenly a thought hit me on a Labor Day weekend trip, when I spotted a little boy sucking away on a hilarious little bubba-teeth-looking pacifier. It was in this moment, watching him intently take in the sights with this little funny binkie, that I realized my desire to be a mommy far outweighed my need to be physically pregnant with our child.
I shared my epiphany with Andy, and we discussed what this would mean. We immediately cancelled our IVF cycle and started researching adoption. Should we go with the international route or focus on domestic adoption?
After loads of research and speaking with others touched by adoption, we made the decision to go with domestic adoption so our child would hopefully have the opportunity to know his/her birth family.
Four months from the time we made our first contact with our adoption firm, we received a call from an unfamiliar voice at the firm. “A birth mom has selected your profile!” We were elated, tears streaming, and we listened as she described a little of the birth mom’s situation and her background. We learned she was a young single mom living in Arizona. We immediately called our family and friends with the news.
Two days later, with an adoption coordinator, we had a conference call with our birth mom. I don’t think I was ever so nervous in my life, worrying will she like us and what questions will she ask and how can we reassure her? I began to wonder how I would feel about having a birth mom in our lives, and how it might be awkward to have a relationship with the person that actually carried the pregnancy. Would I be threatened by her presence? Would she try to make parenting decisions? I couldn’t understand how this would work now that we were actually in the thick of it all.
Once we were connected, the conversation easily flowed. Andy and I shared our story and what we do for a living and how excited we were to be parents. She told us about her other biological children. She had never before made an adoption plan. Her words and her plan put us at ease a bit about our match. She was dedicated to providing a better life for this child than what she felt she could offer at the time. She told us this was the best chance for this child to have a successful and love filled future.
We exchanged numbers, and from that point on, we began speaking on an almost-daily basis. She would call and keep me on speaker through her appointments and I was lucky enough to be on the phone when the doctor shared the news that the baby was a girl! I heard the baby’s heartbeat, and each time I cried and cried at the amazing fast little steady beat that I could hear over the static of the speaker phone. Our birth mom was only about twelve weeks pregnant at our match time. I’ve been told this is unusually early to be matched, but it worked for her and for us.
In addition to our birth mother, we spoke frequently with our birth father and his parents through phone calls and emails. As the time came closer, I shared pictures of the nursery we had decorated, the stroller, diaper bag, endless hair bows and outfits I had readied for our baby girl, who we would name McCartney. I realized this amazing connection we had all formed as a result of this baby girl would be an incredible gift to her and to us as well. I was so lucky that our birth mom and her family wanted to maintain contact! All the fear and worry of the what-ifs had evaporated during these months.
Ironically enough, on Labor Day of 2009, we got the call that our birth mom was officially in labor. One year to the day that the little boy sucking that funny-toothed pacifier opened my eyes to what God’s plan for us would be. We frantically made calls and travel plans, as she wasn’t due for a few more weeks. We traveled first thing the next morning. Full of nerves, exhausted from travel and fearful of what would be of our baby girl’s early arrival, we had arrived and the time was upon us!
Our birth father’s mother had also been closely involved and assisted our birth mom in rides to her appointments and had a strong relationship with our birth mom. The minute we entered the small hospital, our birth father’s mom was there to greet us with open arms, and I think I may have actually run into them! I cried as we hugged; I couldn’t believe our daughter was about to enter this world.
She walked us up to our birth mom’s labor room, and for the first time, we laid eyes on one another. I was so nervous we wouldn’t be what she expected. My nerves eased quickly as we hugged, and I offered her a few little gifts I had picked up here and there with her in mind throughout our match. She seemed so comfortable, and this gave me confidence that we were exactly where we were meant to be. Starting this new family, with her, our birth father and their families all included.
Andy, the big strapping manly-man he is, had every intention of cutting the umbilical cord. One look at the fetal monitor and IV, and he was queasy and seated in the only chair the room offered. All five feet one inch of me suited up in the traditional doctor/nurse garb; gown, gloves, booties and all, and in three quick pushes, our dark-haired, dark-eyed daughter came into this world kicking and screaming.
As I stood on my tallest tippy toes, I cut the umbilical cord with tears flooding my eyes and a smile I don’t know I’ll ever have again, and they handed her directly to me. This tiny girl, fists tightened, searched the room and saw my face as the first thing in this life. Andy and I cried and we watched as the labor and delivery team cleaned her and checked her out and within minutes, she was in Andy’s arms scanning the room curious about what had just taken place.
Our birth mom had a restless night, and the next morning, it was time for her to complete the paperwork for the birth certificate. She struggled with leaving the birth father off the birth certificate, as he had requested, and giving McCartney our last name. While I was never so afraid, I had some small idea of how incredibly difficult this all must be for her. She was losing a child. She completed the paperwork and showered and changed and decided she needed to be discharged so she could be distanced from the situation, as it was so full of emotion and loss. We remained in close phone contact, and Andy and I stayed in the hospital a second night with McCartney.
In the State of Arizona, the law requires a seventy-two-hour wait before termination paperwork can be signed by the birth parents. The day the attorney representing our birth parents arrived, we took photos of McCartney in her birth mother’s arms with her birthfather and his parents by her side. This picture is framed and sits in our living room for McCartney to see and know her beginnings.
We celebrate our daughter’s adoption day each year. We maintain contact with McCartney’s birth family on both birth mom’s and birth father’s sides. We do this through phone calls, emails and pictures.
Almost one year after McCartney was born, our birth mom contacted us to let us know she was pregnant again and wanted to make another adoption plan. Andy and I discussed what we could do to help her and to assure her that McCartney would be able to have a relationship with her sibling.
One day after this phone call, a previous colleague of mine named Ryan, called to ask if he and his partner could review our adoption profile, because they were preparing to start the adoption process. I told Ryan about McCartney’s birth mom and her desire to make an adoption plan for her current pregnancy. Ryan and Eric were so excited to hear this news, and they made contact with our birth mom. Four months later, they were on their way to meet their little boy, Gavin!
We consider Ryan, Eric and Gavin our close family and share and celebrate holidays, birthdays and adoption days with them, just as we do with our parents and siblings. We are so very blessed to have Gavin and his parents so close and so open to wanting our children to grow up together, sharing their story and the heritage that forever bonds them.
About six months later, we were quite surprised to hear from our birth mom, who was once again letting us know she was expecting, and she wanted to make another adoption plan. Andy and I discussed what we could do and it was decided that this baby would join our family. We quickly updated our home study with Adoption & Beyond, and within six weeks of our completed home study update, we received the call that our birth mom would be induced early due to complications. It was almost seven weeks before her due date.
Within an hour of receiving the call, we were packed and speeding to the airport. We barely made the flight that we booked on the way to the airport. Our birth mom was very excited to see McCartney and was blown away at her mirror like resemblance! We were so happy they were once again together to share a few hours. She made it clear how very proud she was of McCartney’s intelligence and sweet, giving nature.
Two days later, our son Hudson came into this world, late one Wednesday evening, twelve hours after our birth mom had been induced. The day had been a very long one preempted by a sleepless night for me. Andy and McCartney were sleeping back at our condo, as it was much too late for McCartney. To my distress, it was immediately clear that Hudson needed assistance breathing. Weighing in at four pounds and 13 ounces, he wasn’t as tiny as I feared, but I never anticipated the fight for his life that lay ahead. Things went from bad to worse within hours of his birth.
I had never considered encountering something so frightening or worrisome when it came to adoption, because our experience with McCartney had been so smooth. I thought that once our baby is here and the paperwork is signed, that is the end of the stress, but with Hudson, it was only the beginning of a level of stress I had never before known. Everything about this adoption was different from the start of the match.
He was born at a level two hospital, where they were initially able to care for him. However, on Easter Sunday, Hudson began displaying seizure-like behavior, and his oxygen levels dropped continuously, despite still being intubated and on a ventilator. He was life-flighted to a level three hospital — fortunately in the same city — where Andy and I quickly followed. I was in such shock. The horror at watching our son struggle to breathe was heartbreaking and terrifying.
We sat staring blankly as we watched teams of nurses and specialists crowd around his little NICU bed, putting needles in and central lines and x-rays and performing tests. Life seemed to be moving at a fast pace all around us, but we were frozen, watching what I have only ever seen before on television. We were blessed to have family come to help, including Ryan and Eric, who stayed by our side. They helped take McCartney back to Missouri to stay with her grandparents, while we lived at the NICU for several more weeks, before finally making our way back home with Hudson, almost one month after he was born.
We arrived in Missouri late on a Thursday night, and first thing Friday, we went to the pediatrician simply as a follow-up from our trip. Hudson’s body temperature was too low, and the doctor informed me he would need to go to the NICU to attempt to determine what was happening. Was it simply stress from the travel or an infection? I was once again terrified, a feeling I was coming to know all to well.
We arrived at the NICU, and once again, teams of nurses and doctors surrounded tiny Hudson and started hooking him up to tubes and lines and asking questions as he laid there, seeming once again almost lifeless. I could do nothing but answer as best I could and cry. Two weeks later, Hudson was finally home. Since then, he has grown and developed and has completed our little special God-formed family.
Fortunately, Hudson’s health returned, and the adoption was finalized in November of 2012. We had a wonderful celebration with family and friends, and we plan to celebrate his special day each year. We have an incredibly strong little boy — no one would ever suspect he came from such a frightening beginning — and an amazingly beautiful and smart daughter. Our children share a home and a bond as well as a heritage.
We are forever blessed at God’s mercy and grace carrying us through our journeys. All three of these beautiful healthy children are here, with us and with one another. We continue to stay in contact with our birth family and enjoy hearing about siblings and cousins. Our birth family also enjoys seeing pictures and hearing about daily life in Missouri, and are so very proud at what life has brought these little miracles. Looking back at our journey, we wouldn’t trade anything. For us, these babies have always been ours, growing in our hearts, as we waited for them, making us a family.
Lindsay Powelson holds a Masters in Professional Counseling and is a Licensed Professional Counselor for the State of Missouri. She currently stays home with her children and enjoys advocating for adoption awareness and education.
This year’s Adoption Portraits series is filled. You may send a submission for next year’s series to Carrie Goldman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Portrait of an Adoption on Twitter and Facebook.
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