National Adoption Month Series – Christina’s Story

My husband and I tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant for 16 months before we pursued fertility options. At our first clinic visit they ran some tests and called me a week later with the results. They discovered that I have what’s called “diminished ovarian reserve” and told us it was unlikely that we would be able to successfully conceive on our own.

I was extremely saddened by this news, but I refused to stay depressed over it. I gave myself 24 hours to cry over it and then my husband and I discussed our options. Despite my disappointment, I felt relief amidst the pain. Neither of us can actually remember who thought of adoption, but we both always knew we were open to it and immediately decided to pursue that route instead of additional fertility treatments at the clinic.

My mother suggested meeting with her and my dad’s trust attorney, who was very passionate about adoption and could possibly represent us as we moved forward. When we met with him for a consultation we overwhelmed with the many different types of adoption to choose from. He encouraged us to sleep on it and see how we felt the next day. When we did, our hearts leaned toward private domestic adoption, so on Easter Sunday we announced to our family that we were pursuing adopting a U.S. baby through our new attorney.

I got straight to work on our paperwork and home study and I couldn’t help but also start to create a nursery for our hoped-for little one. The crib came first, and one of my best mom friends took me to Babies R Us to register for gifts. I was definitely excited! Since I hadn’t yet experienced any heartbreak on our journey to having a baby, I viewed an empty nursery with hope and it wasn’t painful for me. If anything it made me more joyful.

I must have emailed our attorney three different times, asking if there was anything I should change in our profile. I was politely reassured that we should be as authentic as possible and that someone would love us and pick us for who we are. Nine weeks later, we got a call with a match and were informed that we were their second choice. I have adoptive couple friends that had experienced failed matches and placements that fell through, so I tried not to get my hopes up, but I was still ecstatic.

We met with the expectant mother and father a week later, along with our attorney. We immediately hit it off, exchanged numbers and began texting. Over the next few weeks we took them to lunches, shopped for maternity clothes and even got to go with them to a doctor’s appointment and see the baby girl on 3D ultrasound! It was really important to me that they agreed with the name we had chosen for our daughter. I wanted them to see her in their minds and call her by the same name that we would raise her with, even though I knew we had the final, legal say in the matter after the adoption was finalized.

Not long after, our birth mom showed early signs of labor and was admitted to the hospital. Finley was born nine weeks early with minimal complications. In a normal birth situation in our state of California the birthmother will sign relinquishment papers upon being discharged from hospital. She then will have only 24 hours to change her mind. But due to legalities and because our baby came so early we had to wait about three weeks before she was able to sign. I was nervous, only because I was growing so emotionally-invested in this little baby that I could now hold and help care for. And I could tell that our birthmom was in love with Finley, too.

Our baby was in the NICU for a total of five weeks, and I was there around the clock the entire time. The birth parents also visited frequently and I realized that we were about as open as it gets. It was odd to most of the nursing staff and one social worker kept encouraging our birthmom to call and get updates on her baby. She made me feel like a bad person, questioning my reasoning for requesting that I be the only one to hold Finley skin-to-skin. I had asked our birthmom not to hold her this way because I wanted Finley to bond solely with me and to get used to my scent since we would be taking her home. But, for some reason the social worker continued to call our birthmom with updates, even after the medical rights were released to us.

Needless to say, I learned very quickly that some people just do not support adoption. I was filled with what-if’s and life-changing emotions that I had never experienced before. It was truly one of the most difficult times in my life. I also struggled with guilt as I watched our birthmom grieve her loss, and I literally cried myself to sleep one night over it. Who wouldn’t? Someone had placed their firstborn child in our arms. My husband and I believe it is the most generous thing one can do for someone else. It’s just indescribably amazing.

After the birthparents terminated their rights, they still visited each day and it was as though nothing had changed. The hospital staff was very confused, wondering why I would let the birthmother still see and hold the baby. I knew that some adoptive moms are very sweet and open with the birthparents but as soon as those papers are signed, they change their tune. I didn’t want to be one of them. I wanted to build trust. I knew we were going to be forever attached with this couple.

This relationship we share is unique; bonded by a baby. And on top of that bond, we also have a friendship. We discuss life, interests and experiences; probably more so than we discuss Finley. The first year after she was born we had visits about every six to eight weeks because we live fairly close and my work schedule was nonexistent. We have open communication and I text photos every Friday. Our open adoption works best this way. Of course, I understand that life can and will change things as time goes on, but as long as my daughter knows she was carried and placed in love then I am happy.

We finalized our adoption this past summer. Finley is now 14 months old. I’ve thought of her as our daughter from the beginning so I didn’t think that officially finalizing it would be that big of a deal. I literally thought it’s just signing another paper, but as soon as we sat down in court and the judge began to speak, it hit me like a ton of bricks! I cried the ugly cry and could barely get out my words. We were able to profess our love for our daughter in a courtroom. The official terminology they used alone is enough to make you cry and it was by far one of the best days of my life. I got to sign my first birth certificate. You can watch the court finalization video here.

Two days later we had Finley dedicated in our Christian church, and her birth family came to witness it. It was so beautiful to me because the first open adoption picture I saw on Pinterest was of birth parents and adoptive parents together at their child’s baptism. I still get emotional thinking about how I accomplished the exact moment that I longed for!

To say we are blessed is an understatement. Our placement happened very quickly and our daughter came so early. She’s a happy and healthy baby with many people that love her. I want to continue to create awareness about adoption and educate everyone I can on the importance and origin of open adoption. And we look forward to adding to our family through adoption again in the coming years.

~~~~~

Christina Smallwood is a 29 year-old business owner from Southern California. She loves God, her family and taking photos of everything. Her greatest joy is living a simple life as mom and wife!

Christina

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