My Adoption Story
For more on my labor and delivery please see: The Longest Labor
When I was 20 years old I found myself pregnant for the fourth time with 3 other children all in diapers and ages 3 or younger. My boyfriend (now husband) was not the most responsible guy back then and didn’t really want to commit. My 2 oldest children were with my high school sweetheart, my youngest (and one I was currently pregnant with) were children from my boyfriend. My story is very long and drawn out but I will try to keep it as short as possible. J (boyfriend – now husband) was only with me out of obligation in the beginning. I know this, I accept this. I got pregnant 3 months after we started dating and didn’t find out until he was long gone, in the Army on the other side of the country. He stayed in the military for a year and came home to meet his 3 month old daughter. At this exact moment in time J and I had really only “known” each other for 3 months. The 3 months we dated before he moved. Yet, because of his upbringing, he made it a point to try to work out our relationship and “be with” the mother of his child. What ended up happening was I was pregnant 2 months later and we fought like cats and dogs. He resented me for being tied down, I resented him for not being what a father and boyfriend should be.
J did NOT want another baby. He was already struggling to be a father to the baby we had. I must stop here and say a few things. I was SMITTEN with J. I fell in love with him after knowing him for 2 weeks. I would do anything just so he wouldn’t leave me (this goes back to a very tumultuous childhood
I will get into at a later date Read here).
I did a lot of thinking. My life was no fairy tale. 3 kids in diapers, a boyfriend that stayed with me out of obligation and at times could be downright vile to me, sometimes to my kids. I was technically homeless (I stayed with this friend, then this friend, then this friend). I decided J had been right about one thing, even if his reasons behind it were selfish…we couldn’t have another baby. My circumstances and financial situation just didn’t allow for it. It was then that I decided to contemplate adoption.
We moved, when I was around 5 months along, to Wisconsin from Illinois. I knew I needed to start looking into adoption, and soon. We were staying with a friend and his wife (who happened to be in prison at the time) had some old girly magazines. I flipped to the back and saw a couple ads for adoption. You know the ones….”Pregnant? We can help!” I dialed the 800 number and was connected with an adoption agency on the east coast. The woman I spoke with was pleasant and understanding. She did a survey of sorts and mailed me (snail mail, email wasn’t as common in 2000 as it is now) 3 profiles of couples hoping to adopt that matched my answers to the survey she had given me.
J and I held onto these profiles for about 2 weeks. We read and reread them. We even argued a bit about who to meet. We knew that just because we met with a couple didn’t mean we had to pick them. But still, these couples were mostly from the east coast and I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time or money coming to Wisconsin to see us if we weren’t sure they may be a good fit. Finally I conceded to meet the couple J really wanted. (Anything for him to not leave me, right?)
I was so pleasantly surprised by A and L. Their personalities seemed to fit ours perfect. I loved that they had the ability to provide but came from humble beginnings. I wanted down to earth people who would teach our child the value of hard work and earning your keep. Needless to say, the meeting went well and we went forward with an adoption plan. One more visit ensued and many phone calls. And then I went into labor.
By the time my daughter was ready to come out we were getting evicted (J had a problem keeping a job, mostly due to lack of motivation),were on the verge of having no gas and no electricity and the contents of our fridge were provided by WIC (Women, Infants, and Children). Thank goodness for them or we may have all starved. I didn’t want A and L at the hospital when she was born or while I was there. I thought that time belonged to me and me alone. They would have a whole lifetime with her. I just wanted a few days alone. In November of 2000 at 8 lbs 1 oz, my IKL was born. It was bittersweet. I was so happy to see her and so terrified of what was to come.
I changed my mind. I told J I changed my mind. I begged for him to let me keep her. I begged for him to get a job so we could not get evicted and get our utilities back on and keep her. He became angry at me for suggesting his lack of employment had anything to do with a lack of trying. He told me if I wanted to take that baby home from the hospital I would be doing it by myself. What else was I to do?
So Wisconsin state law says that to place a baby for adoption you must first get a court date to relinquish rights. This can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 4 weeks depending on how backed up the courts are. Our date took 3 weeks. In the meantime I was given the option to take the baby home with me or sign temporary papers to let the system find a foster home. The pastor of the church I had been attending was also a foster father (along with his wife, a foster mother) and they had agreed they would take the baby for me if that is what I wanted. I really wanted to take her home with me. But I also knew that would make relinquishing so much harder. Also, caring for a newborn without utilities can be a bit tricky. The first week and a half IKL was in a wonderful foster home with my pastor. Her adoptive parents had flown in and we were both spending time getting to know her and us know each other. At one point, for a couple days, I didn’t go to the foster home. J asked why I had not been to visit and I broke down and told him it was just too hard. I couldn’t watch another woman mother my child. It was easier to just step out of the picture. J managed to be very supportive and encouraged me to just get through it and visit because he didn’t want me to regret it for the rest of my life. So I did and I’m so glad he had the wisdom to tell me that. I would have regretted it.
The pastor’s mother in law passed away. They needed to go out of town for the funeral. They couldn’t foster anymore. DHS found another home for IKL. We were able to drive her there ourselves. Upon arrival I was NOT impressed. The house was filthy. Half naked children ran amuck (foster dad’s grandchildren I was told). The house smelled of stale cigarettes and sweaty pillows. The foster father seemed nice enough though. I didn’t want to judge a book by its cover. I expressed concern to J and he told me we would be back in the morning and not to worry.
All night I had this really bad feeling. My intuition told me something wasn’t right. Then at 8 am I woke up J because something inside me SCREAMED to get my baby. He thought I was being paranoid because of all the emotions involved in the adoption but drove me over there nonetheless. When we arrived the grown daughter of the foster dad came outside and said that the baby wasn’t there. Her dad had taken IKL to the foster mom’s work to “show her off”. I tried to come inside and she blocked my way. As we were about to leave a car pulled in the driveway. It was the foster dad. He had my baby in the front seat of his car, not belted in, not in a car seat (just one of those bouncy seats), no coat on (it was 15 degrees outside), and had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth while he carried my baby to me. Ashes tumbled onto her head right before he handed her over. She was SCREAMING. I ran inside to inspect her and make sure she wasn’t permanently damaged. Her diaper was so soaked that her entire body was wet. I pulled off the sleeper she was in, took off her diaper and discovered it was so soaked it was falling apart. I suspect it hadn’t been changed in quite some time. I grabbed the baby wipes and started to clean her the best I could, she is screaming the whole time. I put a clean diaper on her, a clean sleeper. I get a clean blanket and swaddle her. I rock her gently and about 2 seconds later she isn’t crying anymore. I cry and tell her how sorry I am. J leaves me on the couch and goes outside in the car. I gather her things and tell her foster father thanks but no thanks and load her into our car. I shoot J a look of death for leaving me there alone. He tells me had to exit when he did because he was about to get thrown in jail for murdering the man who treated his baby like that. He tells me how sorry he is for not trusting my instincts. We go home.
I call DHS when I get home. I tell them the horrors I saw when I went to visit my baby. They don’t believe me. They just keep saying how awesome that particular set of foster parents are with kids and how they get good results with them. I tell them they need to find new foster parents and I need to approve of them first. I call A and L. They are so angry they threaten lawsuits. But the she wasn’t legally theirs when this happened. They have no suit. We decide to leave well enough alone. I have to keep the baby overnight. They find a new foster home for her – 1 1/2 hours away. I believe they did it on purpose to punish me. The new foster family cannot take her til the next afternoon. I have my baby for one night. I try not to get too attached but enjoy every last minute of it.
New foster family is amazing. Mom is a pediatric nurse and in the process of adopting her foster daughter. I love them immediately but am sad they live so far away. Visits are cut to only a couple times a week. But at least she’s safe. That’s all I care about.
The next week and a half consisted of a lot of soul searching. I had an awesome social worker who helped me so much. I told her how I thought I was placing just so J wouldn’t leave me. She told me that my court date wasn’t set in stone and if I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to relinquish or not by the time it came up then it could be rescheduled. She told me to take all the time I needed. She told me it was okay if I changed my mind. She offered me resources (a shelter for women with children that helps you get back on your feet through a program) and offered me a shoulder to cry on. I felt trapped with a lack of real options. It was in that time period that I realized that I couldn’t keep her. I wanted to, but there was literally no way.
On relinquishment day I wrote a letter to IKL. I told her how much I loved her, how much I wanted to keep her. I told her that if I had my way I would not place her but that I knew I would only be keeping her to save myself pain. I didn’t want to be selfish and sentence her to a life of poverty and emotional turmoil so that I wouldn’t hurt. I really had no idea about how many adoptees grow up feeling and was seriously convinced that my current financial situation would always be this way if I kept her. I told her I would take the pain so she could be happy. We went to court that afternoon. J signed first. Then I signed. I remember looking at the words on the paper. I remember the judge asking me a million questions about my state of mind or if someone was forcing me to sign. I remember signing and a tear drop falling onto the paper. I searched the room for someone to save me. For someone to jump in and say “Ah ha ha! It was all a joke! You really are dating prince charming and here’s a winning lottery ticket!” Of course that didn’t happen.
After signing the papers we were brought to the foster home to officially “present” IKL to A and L. It was a little ceremony of sorts. They were informed before we got there that we had signed. Much to their relief I’m sure. When I walked in L was crying. She hugged me and thanked me over and over. She gave me a book called “Dear Birthmother” and some flowers. We visited for a bit, took pictures, hugged, cried. We agreed to meet for lunch the next day to say our final goodbyes for a while.
Lunch the next day was pretty stressful. I knew the time was coming to say goodbye. I didn’t eat much. We made idle chit chat, talked about future visits. They promised to keep her healthy, happy, safe and loved. We all cried when we said goodbye. It was a rough day. I don’t remember many details. I just kept occupying my mind with focusing on not crying.
The phone calls were frequent in those first couple of months. An 800 number had been set up for us to call whenever we wanted. An email address for us to write. A and L knew I needed lots of contact and lots of reassurance. They obliged willingly and lovingly. I’ll never forget that. Right before Easter we received our first package of pictures, a video and a CD. The CD had the song “I Hope You Dance” on it. I had mentioned to L that if I had money that would be the song I gave to IKL. How sweet that she had remembered. She wrote that IKL had the same CD in her birthfamily box from me to her.
Lots happened over the years. When I found myself pregnant for the 5th time (and in a much better financial and emotional state – albeit not the greatest) J insisted that A and L adopt this baby as well. I went along with it, scared he would leave me. After the birth I changed my mind. I knew what heart ache came from adoption and was not willing to go through it again. We would not be going through with the adoption. Telling A and L was so difficult. Up until she was born I had every intention of going through with it. They were just hurt. The relationship took a hit. It recovered eventually but was different. No more visits, no more direct contact with IKL. Just the occasional email update on her and pictures once every year or two.
The past 2 years have seen a wonderful increase in emails and pictures. We have also been able to write directly to IKL, although she has not yet written back and has no desire to thus far. Its still nice to be able to tell her all about us. I hope it can help her fill in some of the blanks.
The past year has brought direct contact via social media with my daughter. I’m still adjusting to this unlimited contact but, so far, it is going well, to say the least.
This is my story. I’ve tried to stay brief. I hope it helps you understand where I come from when I post on this blog.