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24 Hours

by The Next Family October 13, 2010

By: Stacey Ellis

My phone rang and I couldn’t answer it because I was on a conference call.  It was an unknown number and I get a bunch of unknown callers a day.  I didn’t think anything about it until my work phone rang and I could see it was my husband, Steve, who was simultaneously texting me “Call Me ASAP!” and IMing me on my computer with the same words.  I called him back moments later and he said, “We’ve been matched.”  Birthparents chose us as their first choice.  The Birthmother was due soon and now we have 24 hours to make a decision.

My heart raced.  Who is she? Where is she? When is she due?  Wait, birthparents?  That means there’s a birthmother and birthfather?  What are the details?  Steve didn’t know.  He said paperwork was coming from our lawyer via email in a few minutes.  This call came just two days after we passed on the safe haven adoption.  We knew this one wasn’t “safe haven” because the baby wasn’t born, but due October 1st.  We didn’t know anything else.  We sat there on the phone waiting…staring at our email.  We waited.  It felt like an eternity before the email came in. We opened the 48 page document.  48 pages!  This could be good!

The Birthparents are a couple and still together.  The Birthmother is white, 21, no prenatal care at all, as her first doctor’s appointment was just a few weeks ago.  The Birthmother did not use drugs or alcohol during the pregnancy.  Her family history wasn’t as clean.  Her mother is a drug user.   Her father is deceased.    The Birthmother’s hair was brown and she has green eyes, white/olive skin, and got As and Bs in high school, and wants to go to college.  The Birthfather is 28, college graduate, and presents as black.  But his family history shows his mother is white and Greek and his father is black and unknown, so the Birthfather is actually half black.  Both are unemployed – victims of the horrible economy – and when they ran out of birth control, they couldn’t afford to buy it.  Soon after, they were expecting.    They decided they wanted this baby to have everything and be spoiled and they can’t give her that life since they already had a four year-old son and were struggling to make ends meet.   A picture of their family was included in the packet – He’s a good-looking black man and, weirdly enough, she looks like me.  Their biological son is gorgeous – he’s Caucasian with blond hair and blue eyes!  Bizarre!  They live outside a major Midwestern city, but may be willing to come to California to give birth, which would make life so much easier.   By the time we glanced through the packet, we learned that yes, she’s technically due October 6th but her doctors think she’s going to give birth next week.   Oh my GOD!

We called our investigator friend again and asked him to run a quick background check. The Birthfather has a few traffic violations but nothing else.  Clean.  We asked another doctor friend to review the medical.  It all seemed fine to us but it can’t hurt to have it reviewed.  And we went back to work. Okay, who could focus for the next four hours!  But we had to get back to work and review everything that night.

When I walked in the door, we looked over our budget.  Phase II of the adoption is the most expensive part.   We figured about $18,000 would need to be shelled out to run toward the finish line.  We looked at our bank accounts. Tight.  Really tight.  But doable.  Okay, now, it’s a girl.  We had written down, “either – with preference for a boy.”  I was open to either from day one.  My husband was too, but since we wrote that down, we needed to discuss.  Okay, we didn’t need to discuss.  One second later we were reviewing the paperwork line by line, page by page.  The doctor was to call us soon about the medical information in the paperwork. We absorbed more this time through, but found nothing new.  Then the phone rang. It was the doctor.

She said most of the medical tests, as limited as they were, looked fine except one main thing. The mom was RH- and if the baby is RH+, there could be serious complications.  She wasn’t a pediatrician, so she didn’t know exactly what the complications were, but she did know they could be serious and we needed to call a pediatrician in the morning and find out.  Our hearts sank.   We couldn’t sleep the whole night.

I spent the entire next day on the phone, trying to come up with answers about the health of the baby.  I called my OBGYN. He looked at the few ultrasound photos that were sent and said, “They look okay, but really, it’s hard to tell – a tech would have to look at them and no tech is going to do that if you are not a patient.”  I called a pediatrician who said the same thing about the photos but spent a half hour on the phone with me.  She said if the baby was exhibiting “hydrops” then there could be really serious complications because that causes swelling of the body and head and can cause brain damage, but being that she is so far along and due any day, if the baby was not experiencing hydrops, the baby would most likely be fine and could merely suffer from jaundice when born, but otherwise, could be healthy.  Then she said what I wanted to hear.  “This is definitely not a reason to reject the match.”  The adoption agency checked and the baby was not experiencing hydrops even though the Birthmother already had antibodies that could have attacked the baby’s blood.   We had our answer at 2:30 PM with a 3:00 PM deadline to tell the agency our answer.

At 3:00 Steve and I called the agency together and said, “We’re ready to be parents!”  The agency social worker said she would call the Birthparents and then suggested we call them and have our “first conversation.”  Before we called, we learned that the birth parents would fly to Los Angeles in two days and stay in LA to give birth, making the adoption process as easy as possible.

Steve and I were shaking as we called the birthparents.  How nerve-wracking!  What do you say to the woman who is carrying your potential daughter? What do you say to the birthfather about giving up his little girl?  How could you possibly express your gratitude?  “Thank you” just doesn’t seem to do it.  What words would say it?  How can you show your excitement over the phone?

We just kept it real, telling them how excited we were and how grateful we were and how we couldn’t wait to meet them in person and go to the Birthmother’s doctor’s appointment with her on Monday.  They told us they chose us from 15 Birthmother letters and really felt we were the right parents for their child.  I could barely contain myself.  Yes, I get emotional, and tears welled in my eyes.  The call lasted about fifteen minutes and we felt even better after talking with them.  They seemed just so nice and normal and well, they seemed remarkably like us on so many levels.   We learned from the agency moments later that they too felt even better and more confident this was the right match.

Steve and I made plans to finish our baby registry that night, then on Sunday, go to Babies R Us and get a car seat, crib mattress, diapers, bottles, formula and other baby items we would definitely need for the first few weeks of birth.  But the baby had different ideas and the Birthmother never made it to Los Angeles as planned…

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