This is Part One of a series on Adoption called Everything I Want You to Know About Adoption. To see the links to each individual post in this series, click the “adoption” tab on the nav bar at the top of the blog, or click here.
“Sandy, I don’t want to get your hopes up, but I have a friend who works with a girl at Chili’s, and she’s 30 weeks pregnant with a boy. She hasn’t really bonded with the baby and is thinking about adoption. Don’t get your hopes up. I probably shouldn’t even tell you this, because she hasn’t even been into the office or anything yet. But…”
I’m not sure what my friend Jessica said after that, because all I heard was the voice in my head screaming, “THAT’S MY BABY!!!”
Our adoption journey started about a year earlier. Our biological daughter, Rebekah, was 14 months old. Our biological son, Noah, died 2 years earlier. Our amazing church family lovingly carried us through the aftermath of Noah’s death, and Glenda was no different. Glenda attended our church and knew very well the tragedy our family suffered when we lost our 9-month-old son. Many times in the months following Noah’s death, Glenda would hug me and whisper in my ear, “When you are ready for another baby boy, just let me know.”
Glenda is an adoptive mom and the Founder/Executive Director of Bundle of Hope. Glenda’s heart is to unite hard-to-place children with Christian parents through adoption. (Glenda mostly deals with bi-racial or African American babies—sadly, these babies are harder to place for adoption than Caucasian babies) And Glenda was eager to find me a baby boy.
Jon and I had always liked the concept of adoption. Jon has an adopted sister–and we like her a lot. (winking at you, Kate!) But, honestly, we always just assumed we’d have “our own” kids. That is, until we realized that I and our biological children faced potentially deadly medical risks should we continue to conceive. (Read Noah’s story for details about all of this).
Suddenly, adoption became not only a viable option—something we wanted to explore–but maybe the only way we would be able to add to our family without me or my baby dying.
On Mother’s Day, 2000, sitting on our back patio, Jon and I decided to begin the paperwork to bring a baby boy into our home through adoption. Once we completed the home study (I will explain more about the home study in a future post), Glenda placed us on Bundle of Hope’s waiting list.
And then …we waited.
And nothing happened.
Adoption Surprise Number One: For most people, adoption is a process of “hurry up and wait.”
A few times throughout the long months, Glenda called us with a confident declaration, “I have your baby!!” And then she proceeded to share the details of each baby’s unusual situation.
Because Glenda worked specifically with hard-to-place children, Glenda’s babies had more unusual situations than most adoptable babies. For example, one birth mom was an immigrant worker from Mexico, impregnated from an incestuous relationship. One birth mom was in jail, on drugs during most of her pregnancy, and gave a list of a dozen potential birthfathers.
And with this information, Jon and I were expected to perform the impossible task of deciding whether to accept or reject these babies. And yes, I use the word “reject” on purpose. Because when you are faced with a baby who needs a family, with the power to say “yes” or “no” completely resting in your hands, your “no” feels like you are personally tossing this precious child onto the streets to starve and die. It’s no fun.
While my heart ached for these poor children and their unfortunate circumstances, I wasn’t so sure either of these children were “ours.” I was a mom who had just buried her baby boy. Her very sick baby boy. I was healing, emotionally and spiritually. But I still had a long way to go. The thought of willingly taking on multiple known medical risks was too much for me to conceive at that time in my life. I was fairly certain I needed a healthy baby. I hoped Glenda understood that. But still, in each case, Jon and I felt obligated to spend a few days in prayer about it before deciding, just in case God was asking us to adopt one of these sweet children. I was willing (sort of) to do whatever God was leading us to do—but I couldn’t honestly fathom being strong enough on any level to carry out that assignment.
So, after snot and tears and prayer and fasting, we willingly turned down the first two babies presented to us. And we wondered if we were cutting our own throats. What if Glenda stops offering babies? What if all the babies are high risk? It was heart-wrenching.
A year passed with no sign of a baby. No sign of a pregnant birth mother.
That is, until the day I ran into my friend Jessica. Jessica attended my church and worked with Glenda at Bundle of Hope. And Jessica knew a girl who worked with a girl at Chili’s who was 30 weeks pregnant with a boy. This pregnant girl had a Bundle of Hope business card. But unless she willingly showed up at Bundle of Hope, there wasn’t much we could do.
Therefore, Jessica did not want me to get my hopes up about Chili-Baby.
Um. Yeah. Okay.
I really tried not to get excited. I promise, I did. But everything in me screamed that Chili-Baby was MINE. I raced home and sat Jon down at the kitchen table. Our conversation went like this.
Me (in one breath with no breaks) “Jessica from church knows a girl who works with a girl at Chili’s who is 30 weeks pregnant with a boy.”
Jon: “That’s our baby!”
Me: “AHHHHH!!! I KNOW!!!!!”
Jon: “Let’s go to Chili’s for dinner and look for her!!”
And we did. That night and over the next few weeks, we hit every Chili’s in the greater Jacksonville, Florida area, looking for a pregnant waitress.
We never found her. For five weeks, we waited for her to show up at Bundle of Hope, but she never did. Which was so strange, because Jon and I both so sure that was our baby…
Adoption Surprise Number Two: the waiting period of a domestic adoption turns you into a stalker.
You find yourself looking EVERYWHERE for your baby. You start telling everyone you are adopting: friends, neighbors, the college guy at Kinko’s whose printing out your adoption profile. You follow pregnant girls at the mall, wondering if they are married–if they really WANT their baby. You enlist all your close friends to do the same. The waiting period makes you nutty.
So, enter my next-door neighbor, Terri. Terri was on the lookout for my baby, when she located one in Missouri—through her mother’s hairdresser, of all things. I told you: NUTTY!
She (not HE) was a 6-week-old baby girl. Her young, single mother could no longer handle the responsibilities of caring for a newborn, and she was looking for an adoptive family. The only problem? The mother drank heavily during her pregnancy and the baby was showing signs of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Okay, God. Maybe you want us to have a girl and not a boy. And maybe the whole high-risk thing is just what you have planned for our family. Maybe Chili-Baby isn’t ours, after all. Fine. Let’s move forward with this little girl. Besides, I love little baby girls…I could totally get used to having another baby girl.
With that, we started the process of trying to obtain pictures of the baby and medical records for a medical review on the Fetal Alcohol issue. Glenda was finding us an attorney familiar with inter-state adoptions. I was looking into flights from Florida to Missouri.
One day, while on the phone with Glenda discussing the attorney, Glenda said nonchalantly, “Oh, guess what. Remember that girl from Chili’s? She finally called. She’s coming in tomorrow to talk to me about placing her baby.”
I screamed into the phone, “GLENDA!!!! THAT’S MY BABY!!!!!!!!!!!”
“No, Sandy.” Glenda calmly replied, as if I didn’t speak English, “You have a baby girl in Missouri. That is why we are on the phone right now. Besides, I have another family picked out for this baby.”
“Oh, Glenda, please.” I begged. “This is my baby. I know it. Jon knows it. Please just show her our adoption profile. If it’s not our baby, then she won’t pick us, right? Please, Glenda. Just show her our profile.”
“Okay, I can’t argue with that…but I don’t think this is your baby.”
Chili-Baby and his Chili-Momma came in, as scheduled, on Friday afternoon, but decided to take the weekend to review the two profiles. Sweet Glenda must not have realized I was tethered to the phone hanging in my kitchen waiting for a call from her—all. weekend. long. (Remember pre-cell phone days when you couldn’t leave the house if you were expecting an important call?)
Nutty, I tell you. Adoption will make you nutty!
On Monday morning (!), Glenda called, saying Chili-Baby and his Chili-Momma were coming in at 4 pm.
At precisely 3:45 pm, I left the house and went grocery shopping. Yes, ma’am, I did. I did NOT want to be glued to that phone again, counting the minutes to NOTHING.
At 5 pm, I returned home…and the answering machine was flashing. “Sandy, where are you? I need to talk to you. Call me back!”
I dialed. Frantically. And listened to Glenda say the words I had been waiting to hear for a year and 3 months:
“Congratulations. She picked you. And she wants to meet you.”
Chili-Baby was born just 3 weeks later—completely healthy—on August 16, 2001. He is our son. And though we grew quite fond of the name Chili-Baby, we re-named him Elijah Joseph Cooper.
Remember the 6-week-old baby girl from Missouri? We never received her medical records. We never received pictures. In fact, we never heard another word about her after that day I was on the phone with Glenda, despite our repeated attempts to establish contact with the birth family. It was almost as if God had set the whole thing up just so I’d be in the right place at the right time to beg Glenda to show Elijah’s birth mother our profile. Maybe. Maybe not. But I think it’s pretty cool that it worked out that way.
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