By Ellen Rondina
It’s hard to pick a time and place where our adoption story began. In some ways, it began decades ago when I decided I wanted to adopt. When I met Andres, one of the first things we talked about before we started dating was having children. Despite believing in adoption and being open to it, and knowing how much I wanted to adopt, it still took some time for him to come around and step forward into the process. There was a great deal of anxiety and heartache, but also patience and love, as we passed in and out of being on the same page in our adoption journey.
Our values and worldview took us around the globe to find an international program in either Africa or Latin America where we could adopt young siblings. As we discovered things about each program, it was easy to cross most of them off the list. The international programs seemed wrought with insurmountable challenges.
We ultimately settled on the Democratic Republic of the Congo and set out to adopt our young siblings. We were told very young children — as young as 2 years old — were available. There really was nothing about the process that was easy, and most of the time it wasn’t encouraging. It was a roller coaster, and the information coming our way was constantly changing and making us question everything, including the ethics of the process.
We pulled out of the DRC program because it was imploding. We had participated in our second international phone call with several high-ranking folks involved in the politics and adoption process between the U.S. and the DRC. All the parents on the phone call were told it was best to walk away. We had not yet been matched, and this turned out to be an incredible blessing, given the outrageousness of the situation and what we could have gotten ourselves into if we were already matched.
So, after almost two years of research and working with an international program, we found ourselves back to square one.
I was absolutely determined to move forward as soon as possible with another option, but Andres wasn’t sure. What if this just wasn’t going to happen? What if this just wasn’t meant to be?
With lots of soul-searching, a couple of therapy appointments and some heart-to-hearts with our amazing social workers at our home study agency, we stepped into the next phase of our process: domestic infant adoption. The biggest shift for us here was moving from adopting two children to adopting one. Being older (relatively speaking, at least in terms of being a mom) and having spent all of this time and money, we knew that domestic infant adoption most likely would mean having one child. I got my mind around this fairly quickly.
Our social workers were relentlessly positive about the adoption process. They never faltered in their knowing that things would work out as they should. This was often annoying and also unnerving. How could it always just work out for everyone? We had heard of horror stories about adoption; we had concerns and fears.
To address those fears, we started a new search for domestic infant adoption programs and looked at several agencies. We decided to go with American Adoptions in January of 2015, started the process in February, and our profile was active by June 2015.
We got our first match within a month. Unfortunately, the medical information was not a match after all, so we had to go through the agony of deciding no. Even though we had already decided no on this medical issue on our APQ, we still went through a day of researching all over again and ultimately deciding no again. This was gut-wrenchingly difficult — not only because we were matched and saying no, but because the birth mother had chosen us and we felt like horrible human beings for saying no. We relied heavily on our American Adoptions social worker through these times. There were emails, phone calls, and conversations of enormous depth trying to sort through all of the questions and layers of emotions.
A month later, while in-route from Maine to California with our car, a moving truck and all of our belongings, we got another call for a match. A birth mother in Arizona had chosen us. Oddly enough, we stopped at a gas station to take the call, and the gas station was positioned at the crossroads of the highway that would take us straight to where she lived. This was mid-August, and the baby was due Nov. 4.
We established a relationship with this birth mother by phone and then text. We were nervous and excited and prepared for our first phone call with guidance from American Adoptions. We eventually went to her home town to meet with her and her two children about a month before the due date.
However, this birth mother ultimately decided to parent her baby. We knew that this was her baby. This child was never ours to have; it was always hers to give. We cried on the floor feeling shock with severe disbelief — knowing in our hearts that this was her baby and that we were loving her and supporting her for following her heart.
So, here we were, early November 2015, more than six years after we decided to start the process of bringing a child into our family. Three miscarriages. Three IVF cycles. Two adoption matches and one other possible adoption opportunity. No baby.
We put our profile back up very quickly. It was like being on a train: just keep going until we brought a baby home.
Two weeks later, we received a call. There was a birth mother just 60 miles away from us. American Adoptions wanted a few couples to say “yes” to this birth mother first, so that any profile she looked at she knew would be a definite. She had chosen adoptive parents at least a couple of times, and by the time she chose them, they were matched with someone else. We had a few reservations, but we said yes pretty quickly.
On Dec. 3, in the phone call where American Adoptions let us know that this mother did not choose us, they presented us with another opportunity. This was also a little unusual, as the birth mother had not chosen us. American Adoptions had chosen us — we had been waiting the longest out of all the possible families to be matched.
We were a bit deflated by the fact that this might be a match in which we were not chosen. To be “chosen” was a special and magical thing. We had been chosen twice already. That feeling was special and, I dare say, unique in the pantheon of human feelings and experiences.
Ultimately, the prospective birth mother did not want to know us or anything about us. Having come all the way around to believing in open adoption and wanting a relationship with the birth mother and birth family — and having already formed a relationship with another birth mother and family that we were matched with — this was a fairly excruciating reality to consider. It felt like a major loss and a long-term loss, as she did not want any contact whatsoever with this baby.
This was one of the hardest moments of the entire six and a half years of trying to bring a child into our family. It was a tipping point. We were either going to say no because we were so angry and it felt like an impossible situation to say yes to — or we were going to say yes, because here we were on the threshold again, and how could we possibly say no?
We said “Ok, we are in,” on Dec. 3. The baby’s due date was Dec. 24.