How It All Began...
It Was Always Adoption
Whether it was foster care or private adoption, we always knew we wanted to do this. Bri’s dad adopted her after marrying her mom when Bri was in elementary school. It was life changing to have that father figure. We both witnessed family members adopting children from birth and also going through the ups and downs of fostering. We wanted to open our home to children who needed it because we had seen and experienced the positive effects of reunification and open adoption.
Open adoption was the only option for us. If Bri’s biological father ever wanted to come back into her life for any reason, that would never be an issue for us. It was that perspective that led us into our adoption journey and why we felt so strongly about open adoptions.
We were trying to get pregnant, but adoption was still in our hearts. Honestly, we didn’t care if our children came to us biologically or through adoption. One day we were just sitting in a parking lot somewhere and realized we were too excited to wait any longer. We wanted to start the adoption process. It had already been a big part of our lives, and we were ready for our adoption journey together. We couldn’t wait to get started.
The first time we googled “baby adoption,” Angel Adoption was the top result. We were shocked that a small company from Illinois we had never heard of reached us from across the country. We fell in love with the website and everyone we talked to about their experience of working with Angel. We felt confident in the marketing skills and the team’s compassion to walk us through our adoption journey.
Angel Adoption was like a therapist for us! We could not have gotten through the process without the team there. They made us feel like it was okay to cry and mourn the losses of children who were never ours. That validation was everything we needed during some of the more difficult times. Ultimately, we are so grateful to have experienced the disrupted adoptions because this is where it led us. We truly believe we needed to play a part in the lives of every expectant mother we talked to. At the time, we hated to be that stepping stone, but if talking to us gave someone the strength to parent, we were happy about that.
We’ll be honest; when we started this journey, we were 100% naive about broken connections and disrupted adoptions. We just thought we would get the call one day and—boom!—we would be parents. We learned a lot about adoption and about ourselves because of the disruptions we experienced. Now we can look back with gratitude and would never want it to play out any differently for us.
The first expectant mother we spoke to was having twins. We were over the moon and couldn’t believe it! We had one great conversation with her and never heard back. It was hard not to think, “What did we do? Did we say something wrong?” We didn’t want to be sad that maybe she had chosen to parent, but we were sad our arms were still empty. It’s hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t gone through it—to mourn the loss of something that was never yours and to also hold space for an expectant mother who found the strength to parent her child.
Our second disrupted adoption was more involved. We started talking when she was around 23 weeks in her pregnancy. We knew the gender, picked out names, exchanged photos, and created a birth plan together. We built a close relationship, and at around 36 weeks, we stopped hearing from her. While all of the details still remain unclear to us, we found out she did ultimately decide to parent, and we were happy for her.
We created a nursery during our waiting process because that’s what worked for us. It was a place of comfort on the hard days and a place of hope that always reminded us we would be parents someday. There were many tears shed in that room. But at the end of the day, we wouldn’t have wanted to cry in any other room than the room where we knew we would rock our baby someday.
A few weeks after our last disruption, we got another call from Angel. We were almost scared to answer the phone, but obviously we did! After learning the details about this new opportunity, we were so excited. This expectant mother found our profile on the Angel website and said she just kept coming back to it. We felt like the needle in a haystack, like this was meant to be! Then we heard she was only eleven weeks pregnant. The past disruption came flooding back, and our walls flew up.
We felt like there was no way we could handle going through an entire pregnancy and have it not work out in the end. We felt there was no way this expectant mother could know how she felt about adoption so early on. Our adoptive parent coordinator brought us back to reality very quickly. She encouraged us to think about this as our first opportunity ever and to proceed as if those previous experiences never happened. It wasn’t easy, but we decided to persevere!
We became fast friends with this expectant mother. It felt like a fairytale! The first time we met her, we flew her and her family out to visit us. She wanted to see where we lived, and she wanted to have a gender reveal celebration with us. We had to go into that with the mindset that we were celebrating our friend and had to be there for her in that way. We didn’t all jump up and down or scream with excitement when the balloon popped and pink confetti flew out. We hugged each other and shared an unforgettable experience that was mixed with happy and sad emotions.
The next day we had a blast showing them around and just having fun together. She would tell us how she felt grateful to have found parents like us for her daughter, and we could hardly express how lucky we felt to know her. Making sure she felt comfortable and never felt pressured by anything during the process was always our main priority. We knew it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. She had to make the hardest decision of her life, and we just felt blessed to have that relationship with her.
No Matter What Happens
The plan was for the baby to arrive via C-section, but the expectant mother had a rough time toward the end of the pregnancy. We actually ended up staying in her state for the month prior to the scheduled C-section date and spent every single day together. Her entire family was very supportive of the adoption and welcomed us with open arms. She had a couple of false alarms, and we went to the hospital with her every time. Ultimately, the baby waited until the scheduled date, and everything went according to plan.
Bri was in the operating room with the expectant mother. It was the most surreal experience. The environment was super calm, and there was music playing. As soon as Kaeslee entered the world, she screamed for the first hour of her life. She was so beautiful. Bri cut the umbilical cord and was the first one to hold her. Kaeslee’s birthmother was the first person to kiss her. Bri was sent outside the room while they prepped Kaeslee’s birthmother for recovery. Bri remembers holding this tiny little baby in her arms, still unsure if she would actually become ours. In that moment, Bri told Kaeslee, “I love you, and I love your birthmother. No matter what happens, I will always be a part of your life.”
Everyone was finally reunited, and we spent three days in the hospital together. We played games, laughed, joked, hugged, and cried. We gave Kaeslee and her birthmother time alone with each other. We even had professional photos taken together! Even though it was the hardest day of her life, we all look back at it now and feel like it was the best experience in spite of the circumstances. Two years later, we see each other as often as we can and FaceTime on a regular basis. We are like best friends and could not imagine life without each other.
Just the Beginning
Our advice to other prospective adoptive parents is to be as open as possible with this experience, especially to the opportunity of having an open adoption with your child’s birth family. It is safe to love your child’s birth family! There is space for everybody to love your child, but you have to be open to allowing space for that love. There is nothing we love more than talking about adoption. Nothing makes us happier than adopting our children and advocating for expectant mothers to have ethical adoptions.
Remember, expectant mothers are human just like any other pregnant woman who may be giving birth to a child she planned to parent. These are real pregnancies and real people making the hardest decision of their lives. We have to maintain openness in our hearts that it’s okay if an expectant mother chooses to parent. We don’t pretend to understand what it’s like to go through this as a birthmother, but there has to be more people out there advocating for HER and not just a successful adoption placement.
We discovered a lot of these feelings after our lost opportunities, and we don’t know if we would have found them any other way. When we removed our own selfish feelings about wanting to adopt and be parents, we opened the space in our hearts to advocate for these women. Looking back, we wish we would have known to remind Kaeslee’s birthmother that this whole experience was not ending at the hospital after Kaeslee was born. It was just the beginning. We were all forever changed by the choices she made. She gave this beautiful child life, and now we get to call this child ours. She will always be a part of our family, and she deserves to know we could never do any of this without her.