As I stared at the picture of my family – my husband Scott, and my son Brian – I hoped that the birth parents reviewing our portfolio would be drawn to our family and give us the honor of raising their unborn child.
At first, family consisted of just Brian and me, then I married Scott in 1994. We purchased a home in Pennsylvania and were excited to expand our little family with more children. And we did, but just not the way we anticipated or planned.
After years of trying to conceive, we decided to see a fertility specialist. I had been diagnosed with severe endometriosis and endured two laparoscopic surgeries, followed by different fertility drugs, then finally one unsuccessful in vitro fertilization (IVF). We made the difficult decision to stop fertility treatments based on medical recommendations along with the emotional and financial toll it had placed on our family.
It took a long time for me to accept that we would not have a child naturally. We had to grieve this huge loss of our dream, so I could start healing physically and emotionally. I remember it being such a difficult period in our lives.
In 2003, Scott’s job moved us to South Jersey. As we were settling into our new community and school, I remember walking up the steps from the kitchen one day when the idea of adoption hit me so hard. I stopped mid-step, turned back to Scott and Brian, and victoriously said “we are going to adopt”.
From there, I began to investigate, reaching out to people who adopted children, knew someone who had, or were adopted themselves. I also searched the internet, and we gathered information about foreign adoptions, private domestic adoptions, and agency lead adoptions.
After completing our research, we decided to use an agency and applied for domestic adoption as the first step of many we would take on this journey. Our application included our family background, details of our marriage, our struggle with infertility, our parenting philosophy, along with other pertinent details about us.
In September 2004, the agency scheduled a visit for a home study, to screen our house and life as prospective adoptive parents, ensuring that we would be suitable for placement. While waiting for approval, we attended several educational workshops about adoption, parenting issues, the waiting period, accepting a match, match meetings, disappointments, placement, bonding and attachment, positive adoption language, profile creation, birth parent issues and services, losses in adoption, parenting an adopted child, legal issues, race and ethnicity issues, and adoption celebrations. Despite the numerous situations to consider and challenges we might face; we decided to continue and were approved by month’s end.
We were added to the waitlist and prepared our family portfolio for potential birth parents to review. We included a brief background about us, our family and friends, our careers, hobbies, and our hopes and dreams for our future children. We communicated our thankfulness to the birth parents, assuring our willingness to send letters and pictures over the years. We also included several pictures of ourselves and our home, doing things we enjoyed – we wanted the birth parents to see the life we could provide to a child, and that we could be trusted to raise the baby they would birth in a loving home.
After our portfolio was published birth parents to view, it then became a waiting game. This was both an exciting and stressful time rolled into one. I’d alternate between dreaming of what our baby would look like and worrying if we’d ever received a call.
My heart would pound every time the phone rang with the agency’s name on the Caller ID. Thoughts flooded my mind – would this finally be the call we were waiting for? Would we finally have our baby? Unfortunately, it was usually just a check-in or someone with additional questions. I’d hang up in disappointment.
Our first call came in the early spring of 2005; by the time we discussed the situation and prayed about it, the boy was adopted. In hindsight, it was for the best as that family was better equipped to deal with his special and medical needs. A couple of months after that, we received a call that a birth mother picked our profile and wanted to meet us.
After nervous introductions, we spent time talking about ourselves and why each of us wanted to adopt. We discussed expectations for during and after the baby’s birth, and how we would communicate and update them over the years. We were thrilled to learn the birth mom selected us to be her baby’s parents!
I remember driving to work on July 13, 2005. We had been waiting for the call that our baby was on the way, and that morning my feelings were on overload. Then suddenly, peace surrounded me like a blanket, and I remember thinking “everything is going to be OK”. A few moments later my phone rang, notifying me that the birth mom was in labor. It was as if God had prepared me for that moment.
As we waited in the hospital room, the song “Longer” by Dan Fogelberg played over the speaker. I closed my eyes, remembering when my mom sang it to me as a child. Our daughter was born at 4:19 pm. It was the most amazing moment to look into her eyes for the first time. Scott and I watched her receive her first bath, and at that moment, we named her Emily Catherine.
In New Jersey, parental rights are terminated seventy-two hours after birth: the biological parents both must sign the paperwork at that time. We took Emily home and fell in love with her while anxiously awaiting that phone call confirming the parents hadn’t changed their minds. We had a couple of visits with our family support worker to monitor our adjustment as new parents.
Over the next months, we completed the steps for Emily’s legal adoption. In March of 2006, we went to family court to finalize this process and received a new birth certificate listing us as her parents. The emotions we felt were indescribable. It was an amazing time watching her grow and develop, and we were grateful for the blessing of her life to our family.
We dove into raising Brian and Emily, and after a couple of years, we started to talk about adopting again. However, something was holding us back from contacting the agency again. We continued to talk about it and pray, but we never had the peace to move forward.
In January 2008, while I was away in the Poconos on a girls’ weekend, Scott received a call from the agency that Emily’s birth mother was pregnant again and wanted us to adopt this baby. When I received this astonishing news, I collapsed in tears.
For this child, I have prayed and God heard the desires of my heart.
1 Samuel 1:27
God knew I desired another child and responded. We went through the same home study process again and met with both birth parents this time.
On May 8, 2008, we received the call that the baby was born. When we entered the hospital room, the birth father handed me our son. Instantaneously I fell in love with this handsome baby and could not wait to bring him home. It was terribly difficult to leave him there, but the nurses and doctors were amazing, and we knew they would take good care of him.
We returned home and focused on sending Brian off to his Senior Prom the next day. My mind was in a whirlwind with everything going on. When we finally brought the baby home, Emily looked at and touched him like she knew she was meeting her biological brother for the first time.
Seventy-two hours later, on Mother’s Day, the paperwork was signed, and the birth parental rights were terminated. We named our son Scott Joseph aka Scottie J. In December 2008, Scottie’s adoption was finalized in the courts. We were now officially a Party of Five.
Nine years later, we received another call from the agency that our birth mother was pregnant again, and they were required by law to contact us since the baby was Emily’s and Scottie’s biological sibling. Because of that relationship, my first thought was yes. My husband convinced me that this would not be our best yes as Emily and Scottie were entering adolescence and Emily required so much attention due to her autism spectrum disorder diagnosis (see Emily’s story here). We simply didn’t have the capacity. The baby was meant for another family, not ours. Our family was complete.
We were eventually contacted by the adoptive family and began emailing and sharing pictures of the children with each other. We told Emily and Scottie about their baby brother, and in early 2019 we decided to meet, hitting it off right away. We have been in touch and have had frequent visits, we even had a weekend getaway at the shore. What a blessing it has been to be part of this little boy’s life while gaining two incredible friends in his parents. We are our own version of a “blended family”.
As I think about our journey, I’m grateful for my children’s biological mother’s selfless sacrifice, through which God has blessed our family. Never in my wildest dreams when I stood at the altar with Scott, would I have imagined this to be our family’s story. I have learned to trust His plan even now, as I don’t know what the future holds for my children. But I do know that God will continue to perform the good work He has started in my family. That’s one thing I can count on.
PRAYER FOR MOMS:
Dear Lord, I confess that hindsight is 20/20, looking back I can see you in every step of our journey, although at the time I didn’t always, and it left me without hope. I pray for all that are on this infertility/adoption journey that they can see you in their times of despair and darkness and have hope in their future. I pray that they lean on your strength and the strength of those supporting them. It’s in Your name I pray. Amen.
My Moms Night In Conversation with Jeanine:
Or watch on Facebook here: