(This is a continuation of our detailed story. Begin with part one.)
We started our private adoption journey by attending a seminar on this option. We retained an adoption attorney, contacted a social worker to begin the homestudy process, and started a support group for fellow waiting adoptive parents. We set off to try to match with a birthmother directly by putting up fliers, handing out business cards, setting up a profile with ParentProfile.com, getting a toll-free phone number and a special email account specifically designed to receive inquiries and weed out scammers. As it turned out, for every legitimate inquiry, there were probably 50 scammers.
Apparently, people hoping to adopt are seen by some as an easy target. The assumption is that they are desperate for a child and willing to pay anything for the chance to have one. We prided ourselves on being above such gimmicks. We didn’t “waste” years of infertility treatment before “finally settling” on adoption, the way I saw most of the other hopeful parents had done. We had a very clear idea of what we would and would not be willing to pay for the various services that go into the legal transfer of parental rights and custody. We turned down legitimate matches from our attorney and support group if the associated fees were too high. We were being “smart”.
It was quite a rollercoaster to communicate with people and wonder if these were the mother, father, grandparent of our child-to-be. I read into everything, and saw every little detail as “a sign”. One day we got an email out of the blue from one of our fellow support groupers. She woke up that day having remembered a match she and her husband passed on several months before. She felt compelled to share their contact information with us. The birth father was thought to have been Hispanic, and she knew we were looking to adopt a Hispanic child. I emailed the grandmother, not expecting to hear back. After all, the baby was 5 months old by now, so surely he had already been adopted.
When I read the prompt response email, I got goosebumps. “This is our son” I thought. How could he not be? Why else would he not have been adopted yet? Grandma was very excited about us reaching out, and we arranged a meeting. Small problem – the grandmother doesn’t legally decide if a child gets adopted or not. And in spite of her best efforts, her daughter just didn’t want to part with her son. Yet she did part with her son, who was living with his paternal grandmother at the time. So the lady we were in contact with was optimistic that now was the time to convince her daughter to place her son with us. I won’t go into all the dramatic details of their family life, because the point is not to air other families’ dirty laundry. It goes without saying that placing a child with an adoptive family doesn’t take place in families without drama.
But because social services had already gotten involved with the case, and was monitoring the living arrangement of little Isaiah, we did not feel comfortable trying to interfere with that process. We parted ways, but several months later, the maternal grandmother contacted us again. Social services was initiating termination of the mother’s parental rights. Grandma thought it would be good for her daughter to regain a little bit of control over her life by proactively making an adoption plan for her son rather than having her rights terminated by the court. We had a fall-through in the meantime, and thought that this was a sign that Isaiah was meant to be our son.
In spite of the fact that it turned out the baby’s father was not Hispanic after all, we felt serendipity had brought us together. So we met again, this time both of Isaiah’s parents joined us. We talked for hours, and in the end, they both felt comfortable with us. There was a match. Or was there?
The custodial grandmother was also on board. She was getting overwhelmed caring for him, so one way or another, Isaiah would be going to someone else's custody. I spoke with her on the phone about Isaiah’s routine, his likes and dislikes. But then we found out that Isaiah was placed in foster care. Another monkey wrench. Apparently, a sign that we better move on, so we did.
About 9 months later, and after another fall through on our end, Isaiah’s maternal grandmother contacts us again. Legal proceedings are beginning, and she wants the courts to consider us as parents for Isaiah instead of indefinite foster care. Another sign, right? I accompany and assist her as she picks up her daughter from jail (let’s not go there!) and meets with one of their attorneys. The attorney and I exchange a few words, I give him our contact info, and he expresses the opinion that the birth family’s preferences ought to be taken into consideration when choosing an adoptive family for Isaiah.
As we await news from the attorney regarding the possibility of our adopting now 18-month-old Isaiah, I have an interesting phone conversation with his maternal grandmother. She decides that she ought to share with us information about his medical history that was never mentioned before, since we may really be taking him home now. We already knew about his mother’s issues, though we didn’t really fully understand their ramifications. Still, we were ok with those. But now we’re being told that his mother also has a condition that potentially comes with a shortened lifespan! Since she needed to wait to be tested in her 20s, the results weren’t in yet. Once they were, we’d either know that Isaiah had not inherited this disease (I do not remember what it was exactly), or we’d have to wait until he’s in his 20s to test him to see if he developed it. I wish I remembered what the disease was, but I don’t.
Initially, my response was that we never know what any child will have, so we will love him no matter what. But upon more reflection we realized that he wasn’t ours yet anyway, and we had the moral option to let someone more equipped parent a child with this set of special needs. So nearly a year and a half after first contacting Isaiah’s grandmother, we were finally putting to rest the possibility of adopting him. We stayed in touch with the grandmother, and were happy to learn that he was adopted shortly afterwards by his foster parents.
In retrospect, it was a good way to see first hand the sort of troubled situations that birth mothers often come from when making this difficult decision. And even though I still do not have a baby of my own in my arms, I believe the way this story ended was in the best interest of Isaiah.
(Part three to be continued...)