Originally published June 10, 2018
My husband Leo and I had been in the adoption process for two years. Throughout the waiting period we dealt with a few ups-and-downs, including an emotional scammer. We just kept telling ourselves, 'One day we'll be parents. It WILL happen.'
Then, one regular Saturday, we received a notification telling us that our adoption profile was marked as "favorite" by a prospective birthparent.
Anyone could mark 100 profiles and then narrow it down, so it wasn't a huge deal. The past few times, I felt somewhat rejected. We didn't make the cut… why? The feeling reminded me of dating apps. But, on this particular day I didn't worry.
Next morning, another notification. Someone wrote a message! We expected yet one more email from someone in Cambodia with a baby for us - as long as we transferred a moderate sum of money (do people still fall for that?).
I read the message, and my skepticism dissolved. A young woman, due in four weeks, was looking for someone to parent her baby girl. She was very straight forward. No additional drama. "You should read this," I told my husband. He read it with caution to shield himself from disappointment.
A few email exchanges later, and she seemed legit. Could she be? It seemed too good to be true - not perfect, just good. We scheduled a phone call for the next day.
Zoe with her birth grandmother (left) and adoptive grandmother, Leo's mom (right)
It was hard to focus on anything else until the call. We exchanged a few emails. When we didn't hear back right away, we read our original email again. Did we say something wrong? We tried to imagine how many ways we could be misunderstood. Did we sound too needy? Too emotional? Too cold? And then there came the reply - we worried for nothing.
When we finally had the phone call, the conversation felt incredibly natural. We arranged to visit them in Atlanta the coming weekend. In the meantime, she talked to our agency. They told us everything checked out. We packed our bags, and trusted our guts. Atlanta, here we come!
Any similarities to online dating ended when we arrived. We got out of the car, so nervous. We never felt anything remotely similar. Was our child's birthmother just behind that door? Would she like us or would she change her mind once she met us? Our adoption profile showed us in our best light… would we disappointed her?
Too many questions. For all we knew, she could have given us a fake address. We had no time to overthink this. We rang the doorbell… or knocked - it's all a blur now. A barking dog greeted us. A man, birth mother's dad, held him back. The dog calmed down. He seemed friendly.
I remember thinking, Alright, the dog likes us. Now on to the rest of the family.
Top: birth mother and adoptive grandmother; Bottom: birth grandparents, Mark with Zoe on his lap, and Leo
A young woman greeted us. She was pregnant - super pregnant. I froze. All I could muster was, "Oh my God!"
She was real! Could this be the birth mom to our child?
We hugged. Her mom came running from the kitchen, nervously shouting in a heavy German accent, "We've never done this before!" We admitted to the same. Everybody broke out in laughter.
Brunch was delicious. We tried to appear calm as we talked. Everything felt very natural. We expected it to be awkward but it wasn't. We shared a lot in common with the family. They were from Germany. We all spoke a mix of German and English, which is what my husband and did at home anyway. My husband and I exchanged looks every time they said something that reminded us of our families.
While this was going on, and everything felt too good to be true, my internal questions continued. Were they feeling the same connection? Or were they just being nice? We trusted that what they said was what they meant. On the other hand we wondered... should we show them how excited we felt? Or should we play it cool?
We knew nothing was for sure until after the birth. We didn't want them to feel pressured. We didn't want to sound cold. But, we also didn't want to look like we couldn't handle our emotions. We wanted them to know us for who we were. At the same time, we didn't want to do anything that could change their minds. Too many polarized thoughts! So many mixed emotions. We had to trust the process. What was meant to be would be.
Leo, Zoe and Mark
Next, to add to the craziness, they told us that the baby could come early... as in that Tuesday! And, they wanted to take us for a 3D ultrasound. "If you are going to be her parents, you should have this experience," they said. Would we actually get to see our baby that day? Both, the excitement and the uncertainty felt like an incredible tug of war.
Somehow, on our way to the ultrasound our nerves settled a bit. Everything felt so right. During the 20-minute long ultrasound, we were mostly figuring out what we were actually looking at. We joked and laughed. At first, the baby covered her eyes with both hands, but later we were able to see her cute little face. What a moment! Then it looked as if she made a "Lady Gaga Monster claw" with her hand. At the end, they let us hear the heart beat. Everybody cried.
After the appointment, my husband and I went to a coffee shop while the birth family went back to the house. We threw our emotionally exhausted bodies into big comfy chairs. We made a list of what we needed if we became parents in… a few days?? Our friends immediately started contacting everyone with kids to see if we could use their baby stuff. Throughout that afternoon, we received texts informing us we had a stroller, a car seat, newborn clothes… We stopped at Babies R Us. It was so surreal. We had no idea what we needed. Where to start? We must have looked pretty overwhelmed.
During dinner with the birth-family, we laughed a lot and at times teared up. Mostly, we just tried to keep it together.
As we returned home, we wondered if it was possible to get ready for a baby in so little time. Turns out that yes, it was.