Bill and Karin’s adoption journey was not without its setbacks: they were discouraged from adopting by adoption professionals, they had a disrupted identified adoption, and they even lost their home to a flood. But through it all, Bill and Karin remained determined to become parents.
“If it hadn’t happened the way it did,” Bill says. “We wouldn’t have Ali.”
Bill and Karin met online in 2005. She taught kindergarten at the same air force base in their North Dakota town where he was working as a Master Sergeant in the Air Force. They started dating in December, got engaged at the end of the month and sealed their whirlwind relationship with a marriage in April of 2006.
Karin knew she had bad fibroid tumors, and after the couple tried several fertility treatments, they decided they would pursue adoption with a local agency. “We were really disappointed when we went in for our first appointment,” she says. The local agency told them that they it would be difficult to adopt because Bill had two children from his first marriage, in spite of the fact that they lived with their mother in Mississippi.
So the couple pursued an identified adoption through a friend of a friend. They met the young woman, “clicked right away,” and felt confident about the adoption. But, “When the baby came, she had some struggles,” Karin says. “She wasn’t sure she wanted to go through with it, and we went through all that at the hospital. She finally let us take her home, and we had her with us for eleven days.” Then the woman changed her mind and took her baby girl back.
“We decided right away that we wanted to try again, but we just didn’t know what to do, didn’t know where to go,” Karin says. “I think we would have always wondered if we hadn’t tried.”
A recommendation from an adoption social worker led them to American Adoptions. They started the process in December of 2010 and went active in March. For many couples, the wait for a match is fraught with worry and anxiety. But Bill and Karin had an additional and unanticipated worry: a flood. Their North Dakota town was threatened by rising flood waters. In May, they evacuated their home temporarily. They evacuated again in June; this time, the waters rose almost to the roof, and the couple began plans to rebuild elsewhere.
“Even with everything else, the house and the evacuating and everything else, [the adoption] was kind of on our minds all the time,” Bill says. “We even had a discussion, maybe a week before we got the call that we were matched, of wondering if it was going to happen.”
While family and friends helped them evacuate their home, the couple joked, “Now, we’ll probably get the call about the baby,” Karin says. “One of my aunts was actually packing up all the baby stuff. And she said, let’s pack this really carefully because I just know that tomorrow, we’re going to get the call and you’re going to have to leave.”
But in the end, all the timing worked out pretty well. “We had pretty much finished cleaning out our our house and sanitizing and everything else,” Bill says. “Literally two weeks later, we got the call that we were matched [in September]. We had told the [social] workers about the flood and everything else. We moved into our new home in November, and the social worker here in town was here a week later to look at the house and update everything to be able to get it submitted before the baby was due.”
The new house, built “way up on a hill,” closed quickly, and “it was almost exactly a month later that we were driving to Oregon because Ali was being born, who we thought was Jameson at the time,” says Bill, but we’re getting ahead of the story.
Bill and Karin spoke with their birth mother Heather over phone and emails frequently throughout her pregnancy, but they were very nervous to finally meet her upon arriving in Oregon for their daughter’s C-section. “But it was actually a very comfortable evening,” says Bill about the dinner they shared with Heather, her daughter Bailey and Heather’s good friend.
Heather had arranged for Bill and Karin to stay in the hospital and for Karin to be in the delivery room with her. Both women were equally surprised when the doctor said they had a little girl. “Heather had had three ultrasounds in Arkansas. And all three of them said it was a boy,” Karin said. “I started laughing and crying, and we were like, we love that it’s a girl, too.”
Bill and Karin enjoyed spending time with Heather in the hospital. Karin and Heather even had a girls’ night with Ali. “She and I just visited, and we cried,” Karin says. “We just had the best evening, and Bill let us have girl time. And Heather said that meant a lot to her.”
While at the hospital, the couple used the in-house photography service and selected a package of newborn photos to take home. “We had [Heather] pick out a package too, and we paid for that and considered that a part of the pictures agreement,” Bill says. “I guess the advice we would give is that whether it’s semi-open or open, whatever you can do—especially when it comes to pictures and communication—it’s good to reinforce that you’re actually going to follow through with that is good.”
Bill and Karin’s bonds with Heather and her family grew still when they spent Christmas with her and her family. “They invited us to Christmas Eve dinner at her aunt’s house,” Karin says. “So we went and took Ali and got to know her family… On Christmas Day, we had them to our hotel. And we cooked dinner for them, for Heather and Bailey and her grandmother.”
The couple also saw Heather one more time before they left town. “Heather was just so amazingly strong,” Karin says. “And I know that it was hard for her.”
Since bringing their daughter Ali home, Bill and Karin have been keeping in touch with Heather.
“We’re in contact with her by Facebook and email and text and calling, and she’s going to come and visit. So, Ali will be able to know her. And we’re planning to take trips to Oregon, too, as we can,” says Karin.
The couple had long decided that they were comfortable with an open adoption.
“We decided that we were willing to do whatever the birth mom had really wanted,” Karin says.
Bill noted that it helped to make Heather more comfortable also.
“I know that Heather did comment to Karin that was one thing about our profile that really caught her attention, that we were so willing to have an open adoption,” Bill says.
Now that they’ve had a couple months to look back on the process, Bill and Karin have both come to a realization or two.
“I think God was really clearing a path for us to have Ali,” says Karin with emotion in her voice. “We learned so much from the first one, and we were really better prepared for Ali because of our experience with the first baby.”
Meanwhile, Bill is taking in the details.
“When you’re able to have your own biological children, there are things that you don’t necessarily appreciate and take for granted. I think you pay a little more attention to the little things: How fast they grow in two months, how nice it is that they sleep for three hours instead of just one.”
And what are they most looking forward too? First, introducing Ali to Bill’s children Ben and Bailey when they get out of school this summer, but also…
“I’m waiting for Dada,” Bill says.
“I’m waiting for Mama,” Karin chimes back.
And now that their wait to adopt is over and their house is safe and dry, both know they have everything to look forward to.
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