In the fall of 2010, what was suppose to be a non-committal daytime date in Seattle, ended up being 3 days of sharing life experiences, unpacking emotional luggage and the moment I realized I had met my future husband. Just under four years later, we were saying "I Do", and became Paul and Jamie Trudel-Payne.
Jamie, a devilishly handsome All-American freelance writer, came from a tightly woven, kind and virtuous household. While I, Paul, a cute (ish) bi-racial (Mexican/Caucasian) small business owner, came from a somewhat intrusive, rambunctious and very large Hispanic family. The desire and support received from both families was immense and just six months after being married, we began the adoption process.
Wearing rose-colored glasses we quickly learned that our adoption journey was going to be anything but rosy.
We threw everything we had at our profile: Jamie's writing skills to make a deep connection to a Birthmother, and my marketing skills with a highly sought after professional photographer. We were matched after only a few months, and began talking to a birthmother who was 6 months pregnant with a baby girl. The fairytale started in hyper-speed and we were decorating a nursery, filling her closet with every adorable little girl outfit we came into contact with and fighting over baby names just like every other parent-to-be.
There were some red flags along the way that we blindly ignored, talk of extra bills and Christmas gifts. But then her 9th month of pregnancy came and we were hit with a flag that was too large to ignore. She had found out I owned a real estate company, and sent a text asking us for a large sum of money to purchase a home, making sure to not leave out how we shouldn't mention any of this to the agency.
You can't imagine the feeling of someone asking you to put a price on a child that is in essence yours, not to mention a child due in just a few weeks. We felt paralyzed by the dilemma, but after a few days of running through every scenario, we knew there was only one decision we could ethically and legally make. We contacted our agency and made the insanely difficult decision to stop the adoption along with the communication. And then we closed the door to the fairytale that never was, along with the door to our never-to-be baby girls half decorated nursery.
Just a couple of weeks later what seemed like a miracle happened. The birthmother was in labor and she wanted to give us her daughter and be done. We were ecstatic! We flew out to PA on a red eye almost immediately and spent the next four days in the NICU with a beautiful baby girl, ensuring the methadone was no longer in her system. We named her, and fed her, and changed her and learned how to bathe her. The birthmother chose to not be involved and did not come around. We were there every day from morning til night.
We were scheduled to sign all final adoption documents with the birthmother at 11:30am on day four. At 11:01am we received a call from the hospitals social worker that the birthmother changed her mind, and there was nothing we could do. We called our lawyers who quickly confirmed the same and then I had to watch as my husband broke inside. Broke in a way that I have never seen before or since.
I made a decision in that moment that would give us the best chance to make it through this horrible circumstance. I decided to go numb. I couldn't let grief, or loss or anger to escape from my body in any way; if we wanted to make it out of there with any chance of recovery from this heartbreak. So shedding no tears, I quickly began to pack our things and arranged for us to leave that self-induced nightmare immediately.
We drove to the hospital to grab any remaining items, were allowed to give one quick kiss goodbye each, and then groggy with grief we found our way to the airport while booking seats on the first flight back to Seattle. And long after we boarded that flight, in the dead of night surrounded by strangers and recycled air. With Jamie passed out from grief next to me, I allowed myself to set the numbness aside and feel again. For just a few brief minutes, I let myself cry into the sleeve of my coat and say goodbye to the daughter we had just lost for a second time.
For about six months after returning home, I made the decision to not be involved in the adoption process any longer. I removed myself from our monthly check-ins, and decided to waste no more energy on a process that almost devastated us to the point of no return. It wasn't until the spring of 2016, that the Marketing Manager from the agency asked if he could come over to talk to us in person. He wanted to check in on us and make some suggestions to refresh our profile.
We agreed and quickly there after we were matched once again. The birthmother, Trisha, was about 5 months along and we arranged to fly out and meet her. We knew from the moment we connected this would be different. She introduced us to her daughter and grandmother, who they lived with, and let us know the baby would be biracial (African American/Caucasian). She took us on our tour of their quaint lakeside town and shared with us everything you could want to know about Michigan. She then told us how good she immediately felt when meeting us, and how she could already tell from just our previous texts back and forth that we were going to be amazing fathers to "our" baby. She also explained how they couldn't afford another person in the home, and that she just wanted this child to have a chance at a life she couldn't give him. Oh yea, and she also let us know we were going to have a baby boy.
It seemed liked we had only just returned home, when we received a call from Trisha's grandmother, informing us that Trisha had gone into labor a few weeks early. It was August 1 and nearly two years from the start of our adoption journey. We dropped everything and began the quest once again to meet a baby that could possibly become our own. We arrived in the middle of the night, and were taken straight to Trisha's room to meet our son. After hugs and some tears, Trisha said she was tired and we should take our son to our room so we could also get some rest. One room away, the medical staff had set up a new parent room just for us. The nurse showed us everything in the space from diapers to formula to extra blankets. She let us know how to get ahold of her if we needed anything at all, then asked our baby's name, wrote Alexander Reneé Trudel-Payne on the board and said goodnight.
After a few days in the hospital we were given the OK to check out. Michigan adoption laws do not allow adoption finalization for 30 days, so we opted to stay in a hotel for the first month after the birth, just in case any hiccups arose during the finalization. It was a fun adventure to learn how to parent together in a small hotel room. We became friends of the staff, built routines around the lobby and room cleanings, and fell in love with our son more and more each day.
A few days before the 30th day, we received the call that all the papers were processed and finalized. We were officially the parents of a baby boy and we were free to go home.
Ander, that's what we decided as a nickname for Alexander, is now almost 3 years old. He's handsome, kind, loves being the center of attention as much as he loves being alone flipping through books or playing with cars, he's meticulously clean, full of energy and overflowing with personality and humor. He is full of life and we are so lucky to be his fathers.
Our adoption journey was definitely far from rosy, and there is nothing I could ever say to prepare someone for a loss like we first experienced. But every time I look into Ander's eyes or hear him giggle from another room, I know that however hard the journey was, it doesn't come anywhere near to the feelings of love and joy we now have with our adoption journey complete.