This is the twenty-seventh post of "30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days," a series designed to give a voice to people with widely varying experiences, including birthparents, adoptees, adoptive parents, foster parents, waiting adoptive parents and others touched by adoption.
We Didn't Get To Keep the Other Baby, But This One Is Ours Forever
Written by Lindsey Redfern for Portrait of an Adoption
Sunday, 8:16 pm
As I write this, I am sitting at my kitchen table waiting for the call for us to come to the hospital to meet our hopeful third son.
I'm nervous and relieved that this day has finally arrived. If I am being totally honest with myself, I am scared. We've been to this point before but experienced a reversed adoption after placement.
My heart is racing, my neck muscles are tight, my toes are tapping and I am grateful to have something to keep my fingers busy while we wait. Tears are close to the surface -- not sad tears, more sacred tears ... if that even makes sense.
I cried tears of joy and relief for her last night when she told me her contractions were getting closer and closer together and that the baby was coming soon. She is a dear friend and has been so miserable. Although so anxious, my heart and home have been filled with peace.
Right now my house is full of my husband's siblings who will be holding down the fort here while we are blessed to experience this miracle. My shoes are on and I have a bag packed -- camera, lenses, book, phone charger and candy.
We started talking to this expectant mom early this summer. She is the sister-in-law of one of my oldest friends and college roommates. I've known her family for a decade and they are such great people, fun people, loving people.
Ahhh. So anxious. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Checking my phone every 15 seconds. I can't believe this is really, finally happening.
Monday, 2:46 am
We got the call about 40 minutes ago that Baby was arriving soon and were invited to come to the hospital. We shot out of bed where we were trying our hardest to catch a few last minute winks (I did eventually give in and take my shoes off) and drove to the hospital downtown in record time.
Utah has just had its first big snowstorm of the season and the trees and ground were blanketed with a covering that reminds me of frosting on gingerbread houses. The sky was clear boasting a deep plum and the stars were visible over the Wasatch Mountains. What a beautiful city to be born in.
I caught myself in the car daydreaming of how I will react when I see Cammi and the baby for the first time since her delivery. My emotions run deep. Will tears stream down my face like they did with my oldest? Will my smile stretch from ear to ear like when we saw our second son? I wonder what his hair will look like! I hope he is chubby so I can kiss on his fat neck from Day One. That really is my favorite place to kiss on babies ... OK, and on toddlers too.
Right now I write from the Labor and Delivery waiting room. We feel peaceful, and tears acknowledging the miracle of life are close to the surface. Can this really be happening again?
We just got a text message that he is here and cute ... and a boy -- something we had already known, but it made us giggle. We told Cammi and her family to take their time. Although anxious to see her and him, we are in no rush. We know how precious this time is.
Finally able to relax a little bit, I now realize that I forgot my glasses/contacts. Ha! I also forgot to wear the special jewelry I had picked out that will have more meaning along with the gift we got her and her family for placement time. Oh well, if that’s our biggest concern right now, then I think we are sitting pretty.
What a miracle it is to be invited into this tender time. We have no right to be here; we're just blessed with a generous family who opted to include us. I don’t know how we got so lucky.
My thoughts are turned to Cammi. I hope this experience is everything she wants it to be. As we chatted about this last weekend when we hung out, I hope she will do everything just the way she wants so she can look back with no regrets.
Cammi and my mutual friend just arrived. She’s a professional photographer and Cammi asked her to document this whole event with some photos for her.
Next: "It's going to be a big week."
Monday, 5:30 am
I write now from the comfort of my home right before I crawl into bed to catch up on some sleep. It's going to be a big week.
We had the beautiful experience of being invited into Cammi's room after what she said was a really easy delivery. Good for her! Due to an infection that the baby was born with, he was rushed off for an antibiotic treatment right after delivery and she didn't get to spend any time with him. It breaks my heart. The hospital is aware of her adoption plan -- I wish they would communicate better with her and make sure she has as much time with him as possible.
After what seemed like forever, he was finally wheeled into her room. She grinned from ear to ear. I love seeing how proud she is of him. The nurse seemed to be in slow motion and in my mind I was seriously yelling at her, "Get that baby to his mama! She hasn't even held him yet!"
My husband and I tried to sit out of the way and just watch her hold him and love on him -- memories we will for sure share with him as he grows. He is so loved by his birth mother and they look exactly alike! Cammi looked radiant and is a natural. She dove right into the loving and snuggling. I loved seeing it.
Tears stung my eyes as she held him, kissed him, inspected him. She is amazing. He is amazing. We are so blessed to be part of this experience.
We didn't stay long and only held him for a few minutes before getting him back into the arms of his mother. My heart swelled as she teared up watching my husband hold her baby. She had told me weeks previous that she chose us to be the family of her baby because of my husband. Interestingly enough, it is something that all of my boys' birth mothers have expressed. After all, they are/were/could be amazing mothers, but they couldn't be a dad. I love hearing that he was the reason -- after all, I picked him to be my husband. I think all three of them have great taste.
Tuesday, 5:01 pm
I just got a text message from Cammi from the hospital. I have been worried sick about her as we haven't heard from her since we left the hospital. My heart beats wildly as she tells us how much she loves us and how cute Baby Jackson is getting. She adores him. We chose his name together with his middle name being Cameron after her (Cammi) and my great grandfather (a hardworking, good looking blacksmith).
It was hard to not hear from her, to wonder what she is thinking, but this time is so sacred and I would hate to impose on it. If she invites us back to the hospital, then we will go and support her. If not, then we will respect the space that she needs. We would do anything for her ... including wait patiently for her to be ready.
I am praying for Cammi tonight -- like I have done since the early summer. An overwhelming feeling of love and peace radiates in my heart and I drift off to sleep with a calmness that I have come to recognize in all the adoptions we have had that have worked out. There is clarity.
Wednesday, 9:34 am
Today is my day to volunteer in my oldest son's classroom. I wake up early and get ready. Placement is scheduled for shortly after I get home at the hospital. Placement gifts, car seat, diaper bag and camera are ready to go.
I was teary on the way home from the elementary school. I cannot wait to see Cammi. I miss her! I think I will walk right into the room and give her a huge hug.
I excitedly walk into our house with a huge smile on my face and see my husband's countenance. It does not match mine.
"What?" I say. I know by the look in his eyes that it is serious.
"Placement is cancelled for today. She needs more time with him. She wants to try again tomorrow," he replies with a forced smile.
I shed some tears and lay down on the couch. Of course we wanted placement to happen today, but her feeling good with her decision is more important. If she needs more time, she needs more time and we can give that to her. We would do anything for her.
Just as was the case with our second son, his birth mother is taking him home from the hospital. Although disappointed and worried, I am glad that she was able to express what she needed. Again, good for her!
Next: "I tell her to please take all the time she needs and that she is brave."
Wednesday, 11:20 am
I get a text from Cammi thanking us for being patient and understanding and saying that she just needs more time. I tell her to please take all the time she needs and that she is brave.
My husband and I pull ourselves together and pick up the kids from a neighbor's house and school. Today we will celebrate them -- the family that we do have. We head to lunch, to a movie, to a cupcake shop, take a train ride, eat dinner, play at the Apple store and head to "Disney On Ice." There is just something so healing about Disney magic. It was just what we needed.
Thursday, Placement Day
Placement has already been pushed back two hours today. I am grateful for my mother-in-law who flew in from the East Coast last night to spend time with my big boys -- ages 4 and 5. I head to the gym and over-do it trying to work out some nerves.
I jump in the shower and after blow-drying my hair, run into our home office to ask my husband how long he needs to get ready. Not long.
"Let's get ready as fast as we can and go out to a fancy lunch." Done.
I am a ball of nerves and need the distraction. We put the car seat, placement gifts, diaper bag and camera into the car and head to one of our favorite steakhouses. I think of all the times I have been this nervous -- driving to our oldest son's birth mother's house to meet her for the first time, driving to the courthouse to hear the judge's decision during our second son's contested adoption ... and now. I think it's just because I don't know what to expect and we haven't really heard from Cammi.
We have a beautiful and tender lunch together. I thank my husband for being the rock of our family this year. In January we had a failed adoption where the expectant mom changed her mind about an adoption plan for her baby girl. In August we experienced a reversed adoption where we had to bring the baby boy back to his mother after spending 3 perfect days with him. Both events rocked me to my core.
"I could never have made it through this year without you," I confess.
"I could never make it through any year without you," he replies. I love that man.
We finish our lunch and head to the agency where she has chosen to have placement. My nerves do not settle until we turned onto the agency's road ... and then peace envelops me. Whatever happens we can handle and we will never stop loving Cammi.
We wait in another room for her to sign papers and spend some time with her baby. She is surrounded by her wonderful family. My heart breaks for her.
Next: "This girl, there are no words to express our love and gratitude."
Thursday, 3:00 pm
We are invited into the room where Cammi is with her son and her family. There is a reverent feeling and lots of tears. I sit down and then think better of it and rush over to give her the biggest hug. This girl, there are no words to express our love and gratitude.
I finally take a seat next to my husband. With Cammi, her family and our caseworkers we chat and laugh and tell stories. Cammi's sister mentions something about my husband wearing flip-flops (there's snow outside!) and we all chuckle at how his footwear was actually a major hurdle in Cammi wanting to choose us to be her baby's family. It all seems so silly now. I can't wait to give her a pair of his favorite flip-flops for Christmas.
After a while, Cammi stands up and makes her way to our side of the room. She literally takes three steps forward, two steps back. With each retreat she snuggles her baby's little face, kisses his perpetually cold nose and whimpers. I have only seen bravery like this two other times, and that was with the placement of my oldest two sons.
It takes courage to break your own heart for that of your child. Hers was a hope of a family with a mom and a dad who were married and loved each other. We were blessed to be recognized as that family, that longing family.
Eventually she made her way over to us and placed her baby in my husband's arms. We stood, wept together and I hugged her with every ounce of love I could give. Together we are motherhood for this little baby.
She then pulled all four of us -- me, my husband, herself and her baby -- into a hug that I will always cherish. It was a hug of hope, of trust and unconditional love.
My husband kissed her on the forehead and said, "This is not goodbye."
I took her face in my hands and whispered, "I love you."
And then, after hugging everyone in the room one more time, she and her family left the room.
There is a bittersweet feeling at placement. The bitter is knowing and seeing the cost that such an act of bravery requires. The sacrifice is deep. The sweet is being trusted with a new perfect little life. In our case, a blessing we have been anxious to see for the last 16 months through other adoption plans that didn't work out.
We leave the agency and my husband walks ahead of me holding a new baby in a baby carrier. Tears come. It feels more real now.
I sit in the back of the car next to Jackson Cameron and stare at him. I text our family and friends, "Finally a family of five." There are tears of joy.
After having experienced a failed adoption and a reversed adoption, we know better than to tell our oldest two children about the possibility of a new sibling for them. They had planned for six months for a baby sister when that adoption unraveled in January. It's a scar we all carry although we respect her choice. But, we live and learn and in this moment that meant two things: 1) We did not prepare our home for this baby. No crib is set up. There's no formula at the house. Our next stop is the store. 2) Our oldest two children do not know that they are now big brothers to this darling baby. It's about to get crazy at our house.
We pick up formula and head home. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law keep the oldest two upstairs while we come in and get the video camera ready. I sit on the couch with Baby Jackson. My husband records the older boys' reaction as they walk down the stairs and see their baby for the first time.
"A new baby?!" They scream and joy instantly covers their faces.
There was kissing and feeling of soft baby hair. There was talk of sharing their favorite TV shows with their new baby brother. There were declarations of love, adoration and protection by these two big brothers.
And then, my oldest -- a wise 5-year-old -- said something that seemed to sear into the hearts of everyone in the room.
While loving his new brother he proclaimed, "We didn't get to keep the other baby, but this one is ours forever."
I choke out a "That's right, Buddy" and give him a squeeze. This is what Heaven feels like.
There is such a profound feeling of peace and contentment in our home. My 4- and 5-year-olds are calmer. Love permeates the walls of our home. This is the miracle of a newborn baby. They change everything.
Sunday, 12:27 pm
Sitting on the couch with my three boys all snuggling into me. This is Mommy Heaven.
Monday, 6:10 pm
My phone rings. It's Cammi. She wants to come over. Right now. Dishes fill the sink, the older boys' art project for their birth mothers covers the kitchen table and my reaction is, "OF COURSE!"
About an hour later she knocks on our door with her best friend and her mother. Lots of hugs. Lots of smiles. It's so good to see her.
She stays for four hours or so -- snuggles Jackson, feeds him, changes him, takes some pictures, wonders about his furry ears, gets him in his jammies and all ready for bed. We sit on the couch and tell stories. With tears we talk about placement, the hospital and our emotions. We laugh. We tease. We stare this at amazing little life she created. It's perfect.
This is what open adoption is to me. It makes my heart soar.
Monday, 11:14 pm
I walk Cammi and her family out to her car. We hug in my driveway and she whispers a tender, "Thank you." I squeeze her tighter. She tells me that the hug I gave her at placement was the best hug she's ever gotten. I tell her I wanted her to remember it.
"Come back soon!" I yell from across the street.
"Oh I will!" She answers.
I lay in bed that night with this feeling of complete adoration for Cammi, her family, my children, all their birth mothers, open adoption and this incredible life I have been given.
This, right here, is the good stuff.
Portrait of an Adoption is hosted by Carrie Goldman, author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear. If you have a story you would like to submit as a candidate for next year's series, please email it to her at email@example.com.
Cindy Williams: 'I Didn't Know My Sons For 11 Years' "I don't remember exactly when I found the online support group, but I am so glad I did. I really think that no one understands a birth mom like another birth mom. No one else has ever had the kind of experiences we have had. I can see that all the feelings that I had over the years were normal, and that I am very lucky to have met my birthsons."
Why Do I Have To Be Adopted? A Story Of Intra-Family Adoptions "Adoption was shameful back then. Terminology like “real mother” was de rigueur. Women who couldn’t have their “own” children were lesser, and the only reason a fertile woman wouldn’t raise her “own” child was her own inadequacy. And if she was pregnant “out of wedlock” (another popular phrase), then it was clearly all her fault. Never mind if she was only twelve."
Michelle Mercurio: 'We Realized That We Couldn't Wait Any Longer To Adopt' "Our nephew is at the heart of our adoption story not because we lost him, but because of the love and connections that grew in our hearts because of him. We know now, more than ever before, that we would be compassionate parents who would fiercely love and protect a child to help him or her grow into an amazing adult."
Adoption And Family: How Everyone Is Affected, Not Just 'Us' "As an adoptive parent, I struggled with the loss of privacy, the loss of control over this aspect of my life -- becoming a parent -- and the loss of my imagined child -- that redheaded basketball player I had expected."
Jay D. Lenn, Adoptive Parent, On Helping A Child With Speech Delays Find His Voice "Biological parents cannot, of course, control everything about their children’s development. I suppose a primary difference with adoption is learning to accept that loss of control before you even start parenting."
Searching For The Truth About My 'Grey Market' Adoption "My adoptive parents are the ones who raised me -- they changed my diapers, fed me, and listened to my terrible teenage poetry. The fact that they didn’t trust me enough to tell me the truth is the only part of the past year and a half that still hurts."
Gina Sampaio, Foster Parent, On Navigating The Birth Mother Relationship "I still have no guides to navigating this relationship, but at least for now, I think we’re doing alright forging our own path."
15 And Pregnant: Why I Chose To Put My Baby Up For Adoption "I knew this was why this horribly terrifying thing was happening to me. It was supposed to happen; it was my job to give someone a baby that they could not have on their own. I was strangely at peace, or at least as peaceful as you can be when you find out you are pregnant at 15."
I Was Adopted As A Child, But That Doesn't Define Who I Am "Having been adopted is part of me, and will probably always have some kind of impact on me, but it doesn't need to define me. I am who I am. Does knowing I was adopted change that?"
A Letter To My Son's Birth Mother "You and I will always be connected: the mother that carried him and gave him life and loves him from so far away, and the mother that has been blessed with the unimaginable gift of being called “Mommy” and being here to kiss the boo-boos and chase away the bad dreams. You are my sister, and although I will never meet you, I have more love for you than you will ever know."
The 'Real Parents' Question To Stop Asking Adopted Kids "My real mom is an accomplished author and teacher. That’s my mom. There’s no such thing as a REAL mom and a fake mom. Sure, there’s my birthmom, but I don’t ever care or think about her. She did a very selfless thing to give me up, so why would I want to bug her? That’s incredibly selfish of me."
How My Foster Mother's Love Saved My Life "It is the love, attention and support of a parent which can make or break the people we turn out to be. Although my foster mother died when I was at a precarious age, the substance she raised me with has been a foundation upon which my life has been built."
The Grief In Knowing My Son Will Never Call Me 'Mom'
Saying Goodbye To The Foster Child I Fell In Love With "I did not enjoy a very real Rayna shattering my “mother fantasy.” I realized I subconsciously had hoped not to like her. I was forced to admit quite the opposite after that first phone conversation."
We're Still Learning What An Open Adoption Looks Like "To be the adoptive parents there are no descriptions of your relationship with the birth family, no rules, no prescribed etiquette. There’s this tiny person who cannot talk and her mom tethering you to them and them to you. In other words -- you wing it."
How Becoming A Mother Changed My Mind About My Own Adoption "I was also very aware that I was opening myself up for a potential One might ask why would I subject myself to this -- Talia was the reason. She was my only daughter and literally the only blood relative I knew at that point in my life."
What A Foster-To-Adoption Process Is Really Like "I do not think there is any amount of training that can truly prepare a person to understand the opposing elements of fostering-to-adopt, and the State’s number one goal, which is reunification of families. Sure they warn you, sure your head “understands.” Logically you can spout off to any person who will listen that it is important to keep families together. Realistically, though, to the heart, it is a different matter."
Meeting Your Child's Birth Mom: When The Challenge Isn't What You Feared At All "My insecurity and fear are more real to me now than ever. I am afraid. That’s what it boils down to. I am scared. Here’s the thing, though: she gave this precious boy life and decided, for all her many reasons, that she wanted me to be his mommy. This fact doesn’t lessen her importance, in fact, it magnifies it. She did something AMAZING. Something I know I could NEVER do. And now … I am at a crossroads."
Hearing My Adopted Son Call Me 'Dad' Was The Greatest Moment Of My Whole Life "But then the greatest moment of my whole life occurred. My son came home and came out onto the back deck where I was hanging out. We talked a little about nothing in general. Then he turned to me and said: “He is okay as a buddy, but you are my Dad.”"
The Adoption Process: Trying To Write The Perfect Letter To A Birth Mom "The next stage for us is to create our profile, our family marketing plan, if you will. It is this profile, we are told, that will attract our birth mom or birth family. This profile is our best tool to find the proverbial needle in a haystack –- a birth mom who believes we are capable of parenting her child in a way she cannot. This is beyond humbling and mythic in its emotional proportions."
Our Painful Struggle Over The Son We Desperately Wanted To Adopt "Before she went any further, I felt a warmth rush through my body. My heart started to race and I choked on tears. She hadn't said a word more but something was telling me, almost like a whisper in my ear, "This is your son. Go get him." (I still get chills when I think about it.)"
'The Click': How I Knew I'd Found The Right Family To Adopt My Baby "A few days later, I signed over my parental rights, and William became Jim and Lynn’s, legally. I cried. She cried. Everyone cried. I was so sad and empty going home without him, but I was equally relieved and happy that he was with these amazing people."
Notes From A Birth Mom: 'I Have Been Very Fortunate To Be Allowed In Katie's Life' "Our annual visits get easier for me every year, and I think that ease comes from knowing my place with Katie and her knowing that I love her as much as I love E and D. When I saw Katie this past summer, she had changed so much. She had cut her hair shorter; she was wearing braces and she was almost as tall as Carrie."
I'm Still Waiting For The Stigma Of Adoption To Go Away "And those family ties count for a lot -- more than you think. Just recently I got into a discussion with someone about tracing my birth family. "Why do you need to know?" she asked. And I answered: how often have you heard or said among your family, "she looks like her dad" or "that runs in the family" or "he's just like his grandfather" or "it's in his blood.""
Why My Son Has A Closed Adoption
My Friends Were Becoming Grandparents And It 'Often Felt Like A Stab In The Chest' "She was tired of the drugs, shots, doctor appointments, rude questions from people, and the whole ball of yarn. She wanted to start a family and didn’t want to wait for more tests, more failed pregnancies and more heartbreak. She certainly put things in perspective. How could I blame her for having had enough? Having had two successful pregnancies, I certainly didn’t understand entirely what she was going through both physically and emotionally. She was pursuing another specialist, but she also wanted to pursue adoption options."
'We Didn't Get To Keep The Other Baby, But This One Is Ours Forever' "We are invited into the room where Cammi is with her son and her family. There is a reverent feeling and lots of tears. I sit down and then think better of it and rush over to give her the biggest hug. This girl, there are no words to express our love and gratitude."
I Finally Understood My Birth Mom When I Gave My Own Baby Up For Adoption "There are so many things I wish I could tell you. The most important of all is that I love you. I've loved you since the day you were born, and I miss you terribly. I spend a lot of time wondering if you know that. I spend a lot of time wondering if you're happy. I pray that you are."
Andrew, Adoptive Father: 'Love And Devotion Do Not Require The Same DNA' "I cannot imagine not being able to feel her hugs or see her smile. Her expressions of love, often in the form of a note or a picture, have always affected me. She is so very complicated, so fiercely independent, and so vulnerable. I love that she wears a storm trooper costume on Halloween and then wears footie pajamas to bed. I love when she talks about her imaginary team of unicorns that pull our car along as we drive. Mostly, I just love her."
What I Never Expected When I Met My Birth Parents "bMom broke away from bDad and ran the last few steps, grabbed me in a hug. I lost it. Tears steamed down my face. I remember seeing bDad walk up. I heard him say, “What about me?”