A Dad Finds Hope After a Failed Adoption
This past October, my husband Douglas and I began talking seriously about having another child. Raising our adopted daughter, Alli Mae, has helped us understand that family is what truly matters to us. So we started getting our federal and state background checks in order to adopt. Then, we renewed our home study.
Then, we waited. And waited. And waited. And then we waited so more.
Finally, we got a call—it looked like we might be matched with a birthmother in Mississippi. Our hearts jumped out of our chest. We quickly typed out a portfolio about our life and sent it over. Soon after, however, we were informed that the birthmother had chosen a family member to adopt her baby.
Back to waiting.
In the meantime, we were told to make a hardback portfolio album about our lives. We included some information on where we live, our daughter, and our church. We were pretty excited about this, and it helped pass the time. We worked really hard on it and the finished product came out wonderfully.
Two weeks later, we received another call. Our portfolio was being shown to another birthmother. Once again, we allowed ourselves to be excited. We felt really positive about this opportunity; from the feedback we were getting, it seemed like everything was moving in a positive direction.
Eventually, however, the birthmother chose another family. We were declined because we already had a daughter—I have to admit, this reasoning felt like a punch in the gut. This whole time, I figured putting our little family on the cover of our portfolio would be a strong visual that would show just how happy we were.
But some birthmothers want their baby to go to a family that is desperately seeking to find a child. They want to know that their child will not be loved more than a sibling. As hard as it is for us to understand, its important to respect each birthmother's unique decision-making processes. I was heartbroken. But I understood.
You might think we’d be better prepared for ups and downs of adoption, having already gone through the process with our daughter. But in comparison, Alli Mae practically fell from Heaven into our lap. With her, the three-to-five year average wait time we were told to expect turned into a matter of three and a half weeks.
It was clear this time around we weren’t going to be so lucky. So we continued to wait.
Three months later, in mid January, I found myself in a horrible mood. It was January 20th, and I was home alone; just me, the television, and the inauguration of Donald Trump. The morning was already going south. But then the phone rang, giving me a welcome excuse to mute the T.V.
Here, out of nowhere, was the call we had been praying for—this was it, I was sure. I started shaking as the woman from our agency went over the details. So inauguration day—a day so sour and dreary for so many—turned into a beautiful day for our family. Out of the blue, like a shooting star in a thunderstorm, we matched with our birthmother.
We excitedly began to prepare to bring home our new baby. First, came a major shift for our daughter, Alli Mae. We decided to move her out of the nursery and into her very own room. We worried about moving her into a new, unfamiliar space, so to help, we decided to transform her room into a tropical jungle. We decorated with palm trees, monkeys, butterflies and other fun pictures on the walls. We picked out a vibrant paint color, called “Tiger Lilly Orange,” to match her personality.
Next came a big change for me. For the last 10 years now, I have run a restaurant in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Being the general manager, the job kept me busy. I knew things would have to change once we brought the new baby home. So, with the help of my dear friend and owner of the restaurant, I began to make plans to transition out of work and into life as a full time stay-at-home papa. It would be a big change, but the feeling was empowering.
When my time came to leave—about two weeks before our baby was set to come home with us—it was emotional. I felt like I was jumping off a cliff, not knowing how deep the water was below me.
The day we got the sonogram picture of the baby was when our adoption process really began to feel real. To see this tiny treasure inside of a tummy was so surreal. We were so excited, and in contact with the birthmother weekly it seemed.
But then, just as suddenly as she had come into our lives, she just as suddenly disappeared.
I was in shock. We had invested so much into preparing for this adoption—my job, the money, moving our daughter into a new and unfamiliar room—it just seemed so unfair. I felt sick. I was a soggy mess for days.
I was just so sure it would happen this time. As we prepared to bring home our new baby girl, I sorted through three huge bags of Alli Mae’s old clothes in the middle of the nursery floor. Those clothes are still there, in piles. I just can't bring myself to open that door.
Each day that goes by, I get a little stronger. Douglas is my rock and Alli Mae is my angel. Her laughter and curiosity warms my heart. We are so blessed to have her in our lives that to let sadness and depression overshadow her light would just be wrong. Yes, this hurts. Badly. But we knew in the beginning that anything can happen—adoption is not for the faint of heart.
People love to hear the beautiful side to adoption—but the truth is there is a dark side to the process as well that also needs to be heard. Having gone through a successful process once already, I can guarantee you that it is truly a wonderful thing to experience.
And now having experienced a failed adoption as well? All I can say is it’s important to learn from it, walk away a smarter person, and apply it to your next experience. Life is about learning, growing, and seeing the beauty even in the darkness. Find the silver linings and go from there. Don't let this failed attempt dictate your future. I know it will not dictate ours.
I take solace in knowing that everything happens for a reason, and that this adoption journey was not in our plan. Our plan is still being written. I don't know the story's plot, but I do know how it will end:
Alli Mae will have a little brother or sister one day.
Over 2 years ago, we spoke with experienced filmmaker Carlton Smith about his documentary featuring gay dad families created through foster-adopt. It was a heartfelt project that shone a light on the number of children in foster care (roughly 400,000 as referenced at the time) who desperately needed a home. And the large population of same-sex couples, many newly married, who were interested in starting families of their own.
"Let's skip," my daughter said on our way to school the other week. She took my hand and started skipping along, pulling me forward to urge me to do the same.
Wouldn't it look, well, gay, for me to skip down the street? In public? I wasn't willingly going to make myself look like a sissy.
As part of our ongoing #GWKThenAndNow series, we talk to dads who have gone the distance and been together a great many years. Terry and Michael have been together 15 years, have two children, and live in Orlando, Florida. We find out how it began, and what they look for in a partner in life, love and fatherhood.
Johnathon and Corey, both 29, met in 2011 working for the same employer. And since their first date, they've been inseparable. Johnathon is a full-time student pursuing a degree in Human Services, and once he completes his degree, he will return to his Native American tribe to help fellow Native American families in need. Corey is a stay-at-home dad. Together they adopted 6-year-old twins, Greyson and Porter, from foster care on June 1, 2017. We caught up with the first-time dads to see how fatherhood was treating them.
The Long Island Adoptive Families support group was created by parents going through the adoption process or who had already adopted. It was a great way to help members navigate the path of adoption whether it be private domestic, international agency, domestic agency or foster care. We spoke with Chemene, one of the founders, and found out how this group is supporting local gay men interested in becoming fathers.