One day in October 2006, having arrived home from dropping Brendan off at school, I heard a message on our machine from Mary, our favorite case worker at FIA. One of her “call me right away” messages which I tried not to get excited about but is impossible not to. She told us about a pregnant woman in our area who was due in a couple of weeks and looking for just the right parents for her baby. She was having difficulty finding what she needed in the way of post contact. Reassuring ourselves that things happen the way they are suppose to, we agreed to jump right in and meet with her. Mary let her know we were interested, but she never heard from her again.
It almost felt like a test at the time… we took the excitement at the reality of having another child as a sign we were definitely doing the right thing and so happy we decided to move forward with this journey.
We got a few postcards in the mail here and there, but nothing materialized. I don’t think we even got a phone call from any of them.
Then, in January, we got a call out of the blue. There was a baby girl born just two days before. The couple had been considering adoption and FIA brought some profiles for them to review. They wanted to meet us! We needed to get in the car and head straight to the hospital. The baby was not being released that day; this was strictly a meeting to get to know each other. We all seemed to click and before leaving for the night, we got to see the baby, hold her, check out her perfect fingers and toes, and it all felt so right. The meeting went very well and heading home from the hospital, we kept talking about how it all seemed too perfect — the biological father completely involved and supportive, because the baby was already born, decisions being made now wouldn’t be thrown out the window with the unexpected emotions of having given birth — we couldn’t help but feel this was it!
We got the call and returned to the hospital the next day to bring home the precious Courtney Elizabeth. Brendan was with us and completely fell in love with her. We have photos of him helping Mary carry the seat out to the car. He was so excited! The ride home was filled with screeches of joy from the many loved ones we called telling them of our news.
The next day, a dear friend sent a mass email with photos to the company where Pete and I had been working. Knowing our history all too well, she was sure to remind everyone about our 30 day revocation period. We were overwhelmed by the prayers and good wishes that came flooding in. This was really happening!
On day 3, Brendan was playing next door at a friend’s house. A neighbor had just left from a visit, and my parents were on their way from out of town to meet Courtney for the very first time, when the cell phone rang. I got that familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach. “Hello” I said timidly. “Traci, it’s Mary.” I paused a moment waiting for her trademark “Nothing’s wrong!” but it never came. I looked at Pete, my eyes confirming our worst fear. He immediately sat on the kitchen floor, slumped over with his head in his hands. The couple had decided to parent and we needed to return the baby. We were both devastated but it was hitting Pete especially hard. He literally could not function for a short period of time, a state I had never seen the man I so often call my rock fall into. I believe at times like that, somehow God reaches down and fills the other person’s bucket of strength because I don’t know how I kept it together to make all the calls that had to be made, arrange a babysitter for Brendan, pack the bags, and got us moving. By then, Pete had pulled it together enough to drive but I’m thankful he has such a big heart because there is no doubt he lost a chunk of his that day.
When we got to the house with Courtney, we sat in the driveway for a moment and said our goodbyes. I had packed a couple outfits, some formula, bottles — I had no idea how prepared they would be. We knocked on the door; I was holding Courtney, not knowing what to expect in the next few moments. Courtney’s grandmother opened the door but I felt so sick to my stomach that I never made it past telling them there was formula in the bag. I had to get out of there! I kissed her cheek, handed her over, and got into the car as quickly as I could. I remember sobbing harder than I ever had before. My throat was tight and I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. We called Mary to tell her it was done, but ended up having to call her back as I tried to pull myself together on the side of the road. Pete finally called back asking Mary to contact them and tell them she was scheduled for a doctor appointment in 2 days and that she was past time to eat, that they’d know she was hungry when she made this sound, that it was a bath day, that she liked her left eyebrow rubbed when she cried for no reason, that she liked to lay with her nose tucked just under your left ear when she finished her bottle, and the list went on until it occurred to us that Mary didn’t need to tell them anything — they would figure it out.
We returned home with barely a word in the car.
We knew that Courtney was where she belonged. That for some reason, God needed us to care for her for those few days. Because we had been blessed once with the addition of Brendan to our family, we have a strong belief that these babies find their way home to where they are meant to be. That faith is what kept us going and reminded us that we are part of a bigger plan. It didn’t eliminate the pain we felt, but in the end, it was what got us through.
At home, our parents were there with Brendan, everyone trying to act as if nothing was wrong for his sake. Thankfully, we had not mentioned the words “big brother” in an effort to protect him, knowing the realities of the revocation period. We told him from the moment we brought Courtney home that we were going to take care of her for a little while. When we had to bring her back, we told him it was time because her Mommy and Daddy were ready to take care of her. He was sad. He loved her and missed her like crazy. But it made sense to him, and he talked about her regularly for about 8 months and still mentions her now and then.
When we began our first adoption journey, we quickly learned we had to assume the role of Adoption Educator and it was shortly after that we realized all the responsibility that goes with it. But after a number of meetings with adoptive families and biological families thinking about adoption, sharing our stories through different forums, and being contacted out of nowhere via the phone or email to help a couple figure out where to start their own journey, we have come to own this role. We put ourselves out there whenever we have the chance. As many adoptive parents know, it can be completely exhausting at times, even as you realize most people mean well and simply aren’t educated about what is spewing out of their mouths. But it can be totally exhilarating at other times, like when I heard my Mom use my thoughts to defend Brendan’s birth mom to one of her friends. We are proud to be ambassadors for adoption!
That said, within hours of being home, we were fielding questions about how this could happen and the calls began flooding in. We felt as though we’d been continually up on our soapbox defending everyone involved, the birth parents’ rights, the best interest of the child, etc., and we were sick of it! For the very first time, we just wanted to STOP talking about adoption! It wasn’t about adoption at that point, it was all about our hearts breaking and missing this little girl we came to love like crazy. I don’t know if some people didn’t get that or if they just didn’t know what else to say so they felt they had to bash. Either way, it was tough overcoming the desire to tell everyone to take a hike. Luckily, we didn’t. We continued to explain all sides as we knew them and it felt right. Selfishly, it was our little way of supporting our family, Brendan, his birth family, and the adoption community at large.
Over the ensuing weeks, the clouds did begin to clear. The number of times I wanted to drop to my knees had fallen significantly although I do remember, with all my senses, the moment I realized that her blanket no longer smelled like her. I kept thinking I should have rationed my fixes for her scent even though I knew in time, it was bound to fade anyway. There wasn’t much left at that point — a couple bottles we had forgotten about in the fridge had finally been put away. I started feeling a new kind of sad, knowing it would all soon be a memory. She would never remember us, but she would remain in our hearts forever. Pete just kept busy and luckily we have some really great friends and family who aren’t afraid to barge in and push any awkwardness aside for a good laugh.
We were left wondering whether we could put ourselves out there again. There were several moments we truly thought this was it — we’re done. We can’t go through this again. We began focusing on Brendan. He brings us so much joy and if we were to be a family of three, then so be it. But, we could never shake that feeling of our family not being complete. In the end, we decided to continue.
We got a few more postcards. Then nothing. A few more. Then nothing.
I kept trying to make connections with the names, due dates, locations, etc. — I remember one card from a Tracey who was due in March (my birthday!). Anyone who waits daily for these cards knows exactly what I’m talking about!
May rolled around and we got another call. A pregnant woman expecting a girl due at the end of July wanted to meet with us. She had been working with a family who decided not to move forward with her. She was young and already had a son the same age as Brendan who lived with her Mom. We met both her and her Mom for lunch, talked for a couple hours while our other favorite case worker, Patty, entertained our Brendan at another table. We felt good about the meeting but never mentioned it to anyone, including our parents. I think we felt a need at that point to protect everyone else. We knew there was no way to protect our own hearts but maybe we could protect everyone else’s. We were ultimately matched. We talked on the phone, emailed, and met a couple more times. We made ourselves readily available to her, knowing she was struggling with her emotions. There were a couple red flags, but at that point, what would we gain from not seeing this to fruition? It was then we agreed that if this situation fell through, we would be done. We both said it out loud and we were just plain tired of our lives feeling “on hold”.
We wanted to be done with the wait one way or another and move on.
By the time July came, we were thinking pink! We hadn’t allowed ourselves to buy anything but we discussed the princess parties, the barbies, the boys, and so on. We had all agreed on a name, received the post-adopt contract to sign, and began asking for prayers; if we were facing exposure of any kind, please let it be early on.
We spoke with Maria the night before her c-section and were told about the hospital plan — when we should arrive, where we should go, etc. The big day arrived; she had the baby! But she wouldn’t take calls from FIA. We tried to stay positive but in our hearts we knew. Hours later we got word she had decided to parent.
Frustration, disappointment, and, for the first time, we felt anger. I’m not sure if we were more angry with ourselves for continuing with a situation we had some doubts about, taking even more of a financial hit, or if we were actually angry at HER. I think a little of everything. We couldn’t help feel we were taken advantage of this time around. I think we literally just stopped talking about adoption. We never told FIA we were done; we just stopped. But I sup- pose subliminally, we knew from Brendan that the rewards of adoption are endless so we couldn’t officially pull the plug.
Then, on August 6th, we were trying desperately to get Brendan to take a nap. We’d been in his room a good amount of time when I took a break and heard my cell phone ringing downstairs. Probably a wrong number (we aren’t big cell phone people). I made my way downstairs and picked it up. “Hello.”
I was immediately greeted with “Where have you been?” I fumbled for words, knowing something was up. Mary told us about Laurie, a mature, young girl who had given birth to a baby girl two days before, had decided to make an adoption plan, and chose us! Then she said that if we could get to the hospital within the next two hours, we would be able to meet Laurie before she was released. I knew we could get there within the time frame, so I said we were on our way. I walked calmly to the boys and explained that we had another baby we were going to pick up and take care of and that we had to leave NOW. Before we could get out the door, the phone rang. We held our breath as I answered. It was Mary and my heart sank. “Don’t forget the car seat!” Oh my gosh! The car seat! Pete ran up to the attic and threw it in the car. Off we went laughing at the insanity of it all.
We arrived at the hospital, met with Patty, who then took us up to meet Laurie. As we entered her room, we were both thrown by her youth. It was like looking at our 16-year-old niece sitting there. She was a natural beauty with long, thick, curly hair in braids, stunningly gorgeous eyes, and a smile that would knock your socks off. I often think of how awkward it all must have felt for her — here’s the three of us, sitting at the end of her bed, Patty to the side, and we’re trying to make conversation. I believe she had already made her decision and was planning to leave whether she had met us or not, but I am so thankful that we had the chance to meet. If felt like only seconds passed from the time we met Laurie, that the nurse came in, read the release papers for her to sign, gave Laurie a hug, and left. Laurie grabbed her pillow and her bag and gave each of us a hug. We all offered to help her downstairs but she refused, said good-bye and off she went as we stood in shock in the empty hospital room.
The nurse came back and asked if we were ready to see the baby. As we followed her to the nursery, she told us she was one of the most beautiful babies they’ve ever seen. I chuckled to myself, “Yeah, I’ll bet you say that to all the hopeful parents standing in disbelief at the baby they’re hoping to bring home!” But they couldn’t have been more right. She was perfect in every way!
The nurses had stickers, badges and all kinds of big brother stuff for Brendan but we quickly headed them off. Patty took Brendan to play so we could spend some alone time with Kyra Elizabeth and watch the mandatory shaken baby video. I don’t think we ever took our eyes off Kyra! We’d already seen the video anyway. There were still so many unknowns — the birth father “not in the picture” (been there!), only one parent knowing about the baby (done that!) — and a few other items to be worked out. But none of that seemed to matter at that point.
Brendan went with Pete to get the seat from the car and on the way, he looked up at Pete and said “Daddy, I didn’t think we were ever gonna’ get another baby.” But we did! Kyra was released and we drove home. The next 30 days was beyond stressful. The phone rang here and there and each time, we held our breath and felt sick. Friends and family actually began emailing or stopping by instead of calling. One morning, about a week in, Kyra was sleeping and Brendan and I were playing quietly on the floor. He stopped, looked at me and we had the following conversation which I will never forget:
B: “Mommy, isn’t it a nice morning with the phone not ringing?”
M: [surprised that he’s picked up on the anxiety of it all] “Yes, it is.”
B: “Guess that means we get to keep her.”
M: “Well, we sure hope so buddy, but we’ve still got a little bit of time to know for sure.”
B: “I hope we get to keep her, Mommy. I love her so much!”
M: “Me too.”
Kyra is now six months, a giggly, chatty girl with all the beautiful features of her birth mom. We look forward to meeting with Laurie again at the FIA picnic in July!
We finalized Kyra’s adoption in court on Tuesday, March 4th. All those dark times don’t seem so dark anymore. We haven’t forgotten anything that happened to get us to this point, but we also realize that if things would have happened any differently, we might never have had these two little miracles and we can’t imagine life without them. Things didn’t happen exactly the way we wanted, or in our time frame, but our family is finally complete… and it was completed in the most perfect way!
Traci, Peter, Brendan & Kyra