When my husband and I adopted our son, Ryan, it took less than a year. A few weeks after completing our home study, we learned about a high school student considering adoption, met her and her family and she chose us to parent her baby. Seven weeks later, Ryan was born, and two days later, we brought him home.
When we decided to adopt again, I was a bit naïve. I thought it would be just a few months before we became a family of four. But I was wrong. While we were considered by three pregnant women considering adoption, all decided to parent.
More than 15 months later, I was burned out and discouraged. Then a former student, Katie, called. She and her husband wanted to adopt-could I meet her to talk about it? I had no idea what the next 19 months would bring, but I'll let my journal tell the story:
June 16, 2008: Had coffee with Katie today. I'm excited for her, but so sad for myself. I know I'm incredibly lucky-I am a mommy, after all, and I love Ryan more than I dreamed possible. What about people like Katie who desperately want nothing more than to be parents? Maybe asking for another baby is just asking for too much.
Aug. 17, 2008: OMG! I got a call from one of our ads, and she sounds great. … She's a high school junior from downstate. "L" and I clicked right away. She's from a small town she says I won't have heard of-wrong! One of my best friends is from there. That's got to be a sign.
Aug. 24, 2008: "L" and I have been e-mailing every day. I'm going to meet her this weekend! I can't wait.
Aug. 25, 2008: "L" e-mailed. She's changed her mind-she's keeping the baby. I'm crushed and angry-at her, at myself. How could I get so excited in just a week?
Oct. 8, 2008: Talked to Katie tonight. She's really upbeat-she's had two possible leads and is hoping to get "picked." I'm just numb. Erik and I have agreed to stop "trying" by the end of the year and move on as a family of three. We're both 42, after all, and we have to draw the line somewhere. But I keep hoping something will happen before then.
Dec. 14, 2008: I spoke with "N," a pregnant girl who knows a family friend. We met her in person-she's shy, seems very committed to making an adoption plan. The baby's father supposedly doesn't care what she does.
Jan. 3, 2009: It's been weeks since we met "N." Nothing. I guess maybe we're done.
Jan. 5, 2009: "N" called! She asked if we would adopt her baby boy, who's due in March. We are thrilled! I'm taking her to the doctor next week.
Feb. 19, 2009: Where do I start? This is so hard. "N" isn't as mature as I thought, and she has some mental health issues that worry me. Plus I'm afraid that she may be smoking (and maybe doing other stuff) while she's pregnant. She is going to the doctor regularly (I take her) but sometimes I want to back out. The baby's father has consented to the adoption, but I am still nervous.
Feb. 26, 2009: I felt the baby kick! Things are becoming real. … We've told everyone we're "expecting" again, and it's been so fun to get new baby stuff. And Ryan is so excited about being a "big brother."
March 7, 2009: "N" had the baby! We're waiting to meet him once she's ready.
March 9, 2009: We met Connor James (the name we chose) today-he is healthy but tiny. I held him and he was content in my arms. "N" told me he screamed when anyone else held him, and I thought, "Well, that's because I'm his mommy," but I don't say it out loud. It was incredibly hard to say goodbye to "N," but I told her whenever she's ready to visit, we're ready too. When we were waiting for him to be released, our caseworker called. "N" has changed her mind. She's keeping the baby. I couldn't even speak-I just looked at Erik and shook my head. We left the hospital without even being able to say goodbye to him.
March 13, 2009: What can I say? I really thought this was it-that he would be our son. I cry, a lot. My heart just hurts.
May 14, 2009: It's been a rough couple of months, but I'm working toward peace. I've talked to friends, seen a therapist and prayed a lot. I think I'm finally ready to "move on" with our family of three.
May 25, 2009: My "baby" brother Mark's wife, Lyndsi, is pregnant! I'm truly happy for them, and I told them they can have all of our baby stuff after they move this summer. That feels right.
June 17, 2009: I must be crazy. I just had lunch with "K," who knows Jodi, Ryan's birth mom. "K" is pregnant and knows all about our family. She says she knows she wants to do an open adoption, like we have with Ryan's birth parents. "K" is tall, cute, funny, smart. … We have a great lunch. I'm excited but trying not to get ahead of myself.
Aug. 26, 2009: We sent e-mails for a while, then "K" fell off the face of the earth. I can't reach her, so I ask Jodi to talk to her. Jodi's the one who called to tell me "K" had the baby … and is keeping her. I'm amazed I can still be hurt like this.
Aug. 28, 2009: A young couple has chosen Katie and her husband to adopt their baby who is due in December. They're beyond excited, and she and I talk a lot. She reminds me of how I felt waiting for Ryan to be born. It's funny, but I think I'm ready to be done. I know Erik is. I pray, not for another baby anymore, but for peace.
Sept. 7, 2009: We took all the baby stuff up to Mark and Lyndsi. I had to leave when Erik took down the crib, and sobbed in the garage where Ryan couldn't hear me. I feel like I've given up, but I can't do it anymore. I tell all our friends and family that we're moving on. At least my life isn't on hold anymore.
Sept. 10, 2009: A friend called me to tell me about a pregnant girl looking for parents for her baby. She's due in seven days! Are we interested? Of course I said yes, but Erik is not on board. After a long, emotional conversation, he and I agree that IF she chooses us and IF she goes through with the adoption plan and IF she and the baby's father both consent, THEN we can go downstate and bring the baby home. But neither of us is willing to meet another baby only to say goodbye.
Sept. 19, 2009: I spoke to "E" twice, and tried not to get excited. Good thing-of course she kept the baby. I should call our caseworker and tell her to officially (finally!) close our license. But I don't. It's called denial, I guess.
Oct. 3, 2009: Katie called this morning. I knew she'd been mentoring a young woman out West who's expecting. Chaleigh wants to make an adoption plan (the baby's father isn't in the picture), but Katie and her husband can't adopt her baby-they're already committed to the couple who's picked them. "Don't be mad, Kel-I told her about you and Erik," Katie says. I'm not mad, but I shake so hard my teeth start chattering. She isn't due for three months! She lives in Idaho! What am I thinking?
Oct. 5, 2009: I e-mailed Chaleigh, and I was honest. I told her Erik's given up, and that I'm pretty close to doing so, too. I told her about our family, about Ryan, about how much we love being parents. A few days later, she e-mails me back … with pictures! She is beautiful, thoughtful, intelligent and funny, too. I love her already. I don't say anything to Erik for quite a while. When I finally told him, he wasn't excited. He's mad at me for pursuing this-he thinks I've lost my mind.
Nov. 6, 2009: I flew out to Idaho to meet Chaleigh and had a mini-breakdown on the way. I think I have lost my mind. What am I doing in Idaho? But I believe God brought us together and that her baby is going to join our family. I never said that to anyone else, not even to Jodi. But Chaleigh tells me she believes it, too. I come home and tell a few close friends and my mom that we may have a new baby soon. Like Erik, my friends aren't excited-they're scared about what might happen. But I think this is it.
Nov. 7-Dec. 10, 2009: Katie and I have been talking almost every day. We are excited, terrified, elated, anxious, thrilled, fearful, often in the same few minutes. I couldn't get through these weeks without her support.
Dec. 11, 2009: Katie's a mom! She and her husband are spending time with their baby and his birth parents in the hospital. I cry, but because I am so, so happy for them.
Dec. 28, 2009: Chaleigh went into labor this morning! It took forever for us to get flights, and we're at the Minneapolis airport when I reach her by phone. While we were flying over Iowa, she became a mom! Both she and the baby are fine. I start bawling, and run to Erik, blurting out, "it's a girl!" between sobs.
Four hours later, we finally make it to the hospital. Erik seems calm but I'm a wreck. When we get there, I hug Chaleigh. I hug her mom. We all cry. I can't even look at the baby. I'm too overwhelmed. When I finally do, I just know-I had the same feeling when I met Ryan. This baby in my arms is my daughter.
Kelly James-Enger is a former lawyer, a mom of two and a freelance writer.
See more of Kelly's stories here.