For some couples, the wait for a match can fly by in almost an instant. This was the case for Mike and Ashley. For them, the match call also meant the call that their son was already born.
“It could happen very quickly,” says new father Mike.
Luckily, Mike and his wife Ashley were as prepared as they could be, having attended couple’s counseling and completing a gender-neutral nursery in the nick of time.
Mike and Ashley met through mutual friends and knew they were ready to have kids as soon as they married in 2008. After trying to have children for three years and pursuing a few fertility treatments, Ashley became pregnant at the beginning of 2011. But the couple lost the baby during the first trimester.
Ashley has friends who have adopted — and adoption was something they’d discussed during their infertility — so Mike and Ashley decided to pursue that parenthood journey. When the couple saw that American Adoptions, who they’d already heard good things about, was holding a seminar in November in McClean, Virginia, where Mike’s company is based, they felt it was fate and drove from their Pennsylvania town to attend.
Soon after, Ashley and Mike officially began the adoption process with American Adoptions.
“We didn’t even look at another adoption agency at all,” Ashley says.
While the APQ and profile process can be strenuous, Ashley handled it all with her perfectionist tendencies. The couple went active at the beginning of February 2012, with the help of their Adoptive Family Coordinator Justin, Adoption Specialist Kathie and a home study worker, Michelle, based in Pennsylvania.
“Everything was so — I don’t want to say easy — but it was so nice to know that we had three people right there,” Ashley says.
Right after activation, Mike and Ashley made the decision to decorate a gender-neutral nursery.
“I said, ‘Let’s just paint and put a crib up,’” Ashley says. “Kathie said it could be week or a year, but Mike and I went shopping and got some furniture. We put the stroller together. I don’t know what got into us, but that whole weekend, we got the room ready.”
On the following Tuesday, Ashley called Kathie to give her an update. Just two days later on Thursday, Kathie called back to let the couple know they had a match.
“They asked us if we were OK with the match, and we went over everything. I was at work, and my husband was traveling for business,” Ashley says. “They started by telling us he was full African-American and where his birth mother lived. They didn’t tell us right away that he was born. And they were like, but the catch is, he’s already here. He’s a couple days old.”
Mike and Ashley’s son Collin had been born in Louisiana just a couple days earlier, on the very Tuesday that Ashley checked in with Kathie. They were shocked and overjoyed.
“Pretty much the rest of the day was a blur — so many things running through your mind,” says Mike, who returned from his trip as soon as he could.
The couple flew to New Orleans on Saturday morning after what Ashley calls “the longest day and a half ever.”
“I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. My son’s here. I just want to meet him. I just want to hold him,’” she says.
When the couple arrived, they met up with the social worker who took care of Collin until they arrived. Although they were warned to bring little clothes for Collin, who was born about five weeks early, Ashley says, “I did not realize how tiny he was. He was just barely five pounds.”
Mike and Ashley were ecstatic at the sight of their child. Mike couldn’t believe it, and Ashley says she never wanted to put Collin down. They spent about a week with Collin in New Orleans for ICPC.
“Looking back, that week was one of the best weeks of my life,” Ashley says. “You want to come home and be with your family, but for Mike and Collin and I, it was just amazing. It was beautiful there, so we could go outside. And just to not have to share with him anybody but Mike and I was great.”
But, shortly before leaving Louisiana, Ashley and Mike did have the opportunity to meet Collin’s birth mother.
“She’s a very nice person and was open to sharing information with us,” Mike says. “She was happy that she picked us. If other adoptive parents have the opportunity to meet their child’s birth parents, I think they should. It’s kind of a glimpse into where he’s coming from and gives some more insight.”
The couple was able to take pictures of Collin with his birth mom and all together, too — which Mike and Ashley plan on sharing with their son later in life. They also received more information about Collin’s four older biological siblings and say that he looks more and more like them all the time. Like Collin, they all have names beginning with C — and Mike and Ashley made a point of using the same convention with their adopted son.
Ashley also made sure to ask if there was anything Collin’s birth mother wanted the couple to do with him at holidays, birthdays or just in general. The couple plans to stay in touch with Collin’s birth family through pictures, letters and emails.
Like many Caucasian couples pursuing a transracial adoption, Mike and Ashley gave a lot of thought to their decision.
“We were open to any race of a child,” Ashley says. “It never even came into our minds.”
All the same, they decided to go to couple’s therapy before adopting to talk things over and make sure their child would feel like part of the family and community as he grew up. Through this discussion, the couple learned that there were things they could do for Collin, like make efforts to embrace diversity in their community and make sure that he has friends of other races in school and on sports teams. The couple also has books about adoption and African-American children at home.
The couple also has the normal first-time parent jitters, but they have a helpful resource through a weekly visit from a parenting specialist.
“She sits on the floor with us, we play with Collin, and she goes over any questions I have,” Ashley says. “With him being premature, we go over infant massage therapy, which helps him sleep better. It gives me some adult conversation and helps me learn a little bit more about the stages of his life and development, and I can share the information with Mike.”
Even though their parenthood journey was unexpectedly and quickly thrust upon them once they chose adoption, now that things have slowed down, they’re soaking up every moment with 3-month-old Collin.
“We take him out to dinner, even though he just stares at us,” Ashley says. “Mike plays on a flag football league on Sundays, and so we’ll bundle up Collin, and he can watch his dad play football. He just wants to see everything.”
Ashley and Mike feel blessed to finally be parents and would definitely consider adopting again. Although Ashley admits it would be awesome to get pregnant someday, Mike and Ashley would also love for Collin to have a brother or sister that has the same ethnic background as him. But, for now, they’re OK with one baby and the special story of how he came into their life.
“If you want to be a mom or a dad, just getting pregnant and having a baby isn’t the only way to be a mom or dad. This is just amazing,” Ashley says.
“It makes it even more special,” Mike says.
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