So the last month has been very... hairy. Very stressful, emotional, rather exhausting. And not so much because of Emily alone. I write this all down because I think I just need to. I need to be able to remember the details in case I start doubting our decision or forget how incredibly stressful these two weeks were.
Four days after Emily was taken back, we got a text from a young woman we met a little over 2 years ago. Let’s call her Carol. Carol is pregnant again, and at 33 weeks along, beginning to seriously consider adoption for this child but “would only give her to Brad and I”. You see, we’d met her and her boyfriend when they were 7 months pregnant with their first child and going to give that child up for adoption. We were connected through adult friends, and ultimately said ‘no’ after we found out we were pregnant with Anna and counseled by our adoption agency at the time that it wasn’t good for either child to live in an ‘artificial twinning’ situation (2 non-biologically related children under 9 months of age). It wasn’t a pretty scene at the time, and we learned they chose another family that they ended up dumping a few days before the child was born because they couldn’t agree on the open adoption agreement. They kept their baby. And Brad and I thought we’d dodged a bullet, after all. Since then, I’d gotten sporadic odd and out-of-the-blue communication from Carol, including requests to help her move when I was 8 months pregnant, to take her to Urgent Care several months later to get a pregnancy test (couldn’t afford to buy one), and then a ‘check-in’ on how we were doing in April or May that ended in asking if we wanted to be godparents to their second child, due in August. We respectfully declined. Many a time Brad and I had commented that we were glad the original situation never worked out, as it would almost certainly have been messy with this birthfamily.
But now, here we were again, having just lost our second child, being asked if we wanted a third. Initially her boyfriend - let’s call him Al - wasn’t on board with the idea so the matter dropped. A week and 1/2 later though, a decision had been made and we all met on a Saturday evening with birth-grandma - let’s call her Renee. They insisted there had been lots of conversation and they were now ready to commit to adoption. We pressed upon them that we were fresh from losing Emily and very cautious, which they accepted. Two days later, Monday, they contacted our current adoption agency to get the wheels in motion. (To say our social worker was stunned and struggling to catch up with us is probably an understatement). On Friday, after realizing they truly did not have the finances to support themselves now much less with another child, Carol & Al contacted the agency again and we received communication stating that they’d retained a lawyer, were going in to sign PreAdoptive Custody Orders the next week (the same papers that allowed us to bring Emily home), and the lawyer wanted a few thousand dollars to do the work. Mind you, we’d already paid this same lawyer that same fee to do the work with Emily. No refunds, no retainer, a flat fee regardless of how things go. Plus, they are more expensive than our own lawyer and considerably less professional. I was, shall we say, not happy. AND not ready to have Carol & Al sign anything!! Too much to be done, too much to figure out, too much information still needed for us to be able to get on board here and make a decision ourselves.
The problem soon became that we felt tremendous pressure since this family insisted they wouldn’t adopt their child to anyone else, thinks we’re “the best family possible”. So the next Tuesday (now 10 days after the initial meeting), we met to go over the open adoption agreement since it was such a sticking point with the other family 2 years ago and Brad and I had real concerns about how much involvement the birthfamily wanted with the child and with us. We worked it out, felt better about that piece by the end. Figured we had enough leeway in the wording to stick to our commitment to them but also allow for more casual interactions if it felt appropriate. Okay. But during the course of that 3 hour conversation, several medical and social history pieces of information emerged - very casually, from Carol. Significant pieces. So Brad and I spent the next 2 days trying to assimilate it, research, talk to friends and medical professionals, etc. Only to find that a key piece of information was flat out wrong and the other maybe not such a big deal given the circumstances around which a diagnosis was made.
Meanwhile, we’re leaving a mandated meeting the next day with our social worker from the adoption agency (regarding Emily’s loss), and receive word that Carol ‘would likely give birth tonight or within the next couple of days’ due to an anticipated general anesthetic she would get that night for a medical procedure. YIKES!!! Turns out the anesthetic didn't happen, so labor never ensued. But the very thought pushed our stress to new heights. We. Weren’t. Ready. And if we were forced to make a decision within those two days, we knew we would have had to say ‘no’. Finally by Thursday night we realized we had to tell this young couple that we were really struggling and ask if they’d thought about what they would do if we in fact said no. Brad talked to Carol Friday night and to Al on Saturday. Both took it well, and with the pressure valve released, both Brad and I felt we could breathe and try to come at this with a little more perspective. We met with Carol, Al and Renee on Sunday evening. Brad and I wanted to talk in person, and I really needed to communicate aloud my concerns about boundaries (and ended up tattling a little on Carol - no one else apparently knew that she’d called for favors over the last couple of years. Whoops.) I felt better having voiced some things, but still reluctant as I don’t think Carol really “heard” us. Brad and I would bring up key points and the response was most often “we want to do what’s best for the baby, and not be selfish”. Which is all well and good, but not addressing the topic at hand! Still, we get along quite well in person and so many of the fears that come out at home seem less concerning when we’re all together. But then, but then. They had brought a copy of the medical/social history form they’d filled out for the agency, and Renee suggested we look through it in case we had any more questions. Lo and behold...we learn she’s been smoking throughout the pregnancy.
As in the game Angry Birds, when sometimes it takes a minute or two for the weight of broken piece to actually collapse the structure, this tidbit slowly but surely tilted the scales to a definitive No. We want a child very much, but we don’t want to sell our souls to have one. With this child came a family whose potential drama and issues we just couldn’t risk bringing into our lives for the rest of our lives. The child itself may also have some issues based upon prenatal care and genetics that would also be more difficult to manage if the dynamics of the birthfamily were also at play. Given the choice between near constant challenges from the birthfamily for the next 30+ years (and possibly parenting Carol herself to some extent) and a more peaceful life just the two of us, we would pick just the two of us. (There is more I haven’t written about here involving anticipated dynamics with the sibling, other comments, discussions, etc. It’s just too much to go into, and probably unnecssarily cruel and invasive to the birthfamily. Even though you don’t know them. Still. Ya gotta draw the line somewhere.)
We still have adoption thru the agency, we are not giving up. This was a really difficult decision, but after it was done, we both wondered why it took us so long since we feel so completely sure we did the right thing. Most, if not all, of our family and friends with whom we shared this debacle agreed and voiced relief in our choice (which is nice affirmation too). Brad and I know there are other couples out there who do not have similar concerns about prenatal care, and most especially will not have the history of inappropriate boundaries that we have experienced given the personal connection that started this whole thing 2 1/2 years ago.
We do not know what this young couple has now decided to do, we don’t know if Carol has given birth yet. I am curious, but also know it is none of our business now. And it is best to gently close the door to this family for good. Please join me in wishing them well, and praying for the best possible scenario for everyone involved....and especially for those innocent, little children.