By the age of 34, I had a graduate degree, a house, a good job and a few years of travel under my belt. I’d been trying to become a mom for 18 months and had 8 failed IUIs with a donor. I had chosen the donor route because I thought it would be faster, cheaper and easier than adoption. Boy, was I wrong. I took another look at adoption and decided to go for it. Here’s my story.
Getting Started – Agencies vs. Attorneys
I started my single parent adoption journey in July 2011 by selecting an agency to do my home study. I also interviewed another agency and two attorneys.
I didn’t like either agency. Their fees were high and they only placed with single women every 2 – 3 years. They required minimum budgets of $15,000 and placement fees were based on race.
One attorney came highly recommended, but most of his birth mothers came from churches and private schools. They were also very young, and most adoptions were closed. I didn’t feel this was a demographic likely to choose a single parent, so I chose not to work with him.
The second attorney (who I’ll call BL) was very positive and energetic, and she never once expressed any doubt or concern about my single situation. She also came highly recommended and didn’t have any upfront fees. She and her assistant gave feedback on my parent profile and even provided little plastic booklets for me to put the pages in. I felt they truly wanted me to become a parent.
I decided to work with BL and completed my home study in October 2011. The process was easy and fun. I took classes at the local hospital and read and reported on some parenting books to fulfill my education credits. The home visit itself went fast and the caseworker didn’t even check to make sure my bath tub was clean.
Three months later, I decided I should get serious about financing. I’d been advertising for myself by handing out pass-along cards and running Facebook ads where legal. I’d been fundraising and had a weekend job, but most of that money was going to cover a 6-week unpaid maternity leave.
My credit score was well over 700 and I had no consumer debt, so I figured I’d have my pick of banks who wanted to loan to me. Wrong. This was the most frustrating part of the process. There were many days I had to mentally pick myself up and force myself to take one step forward.
There’s no such thing as adoption financing. It’s all considered a personal loan, so as far as the bank is concerned, I was asking to borrow $10k to go shopping at Mall of America. I couldn’t borrow against my 401k and my employer offered no adoption benefit.
After multiple loan rejections without explanation, I applied through the National Adoption Foundation and Bank of America, who boast special financing for adoptive parents. Their offer was a credit card with a $3,500 limit at 26% interest! What a joke.
At that point, I learned that multiple credit requests in a 2-week period won’t harm your credit, since the reporting agencies figure you’re shopping around for the best rate. So I applied at a number of credit unions and finally settled on a $10,000 credit card at 9.9% interest.
I opted for a card over a loan because I didn’t know when I’d need the money, and with a loan, you have to start paying it back right away, even if you aren’t using the money yet.
On March 21st, my attorney’s office called because they wanted to show my profile to a birth mother who had rejected a number of other profiles. By chance, she was in a neighboring state with the agency that had done my home study, but they didn’t have any adoptive families who met what she was looking for. I had 2 1/2 of the 3 traits she was looking for, and she was due in less than 2 months.
The attorney faxed me her social profile, and I was trembling while I gushed the details to my coworker…so much for keeping a secret! I immediately emailed my family the details with a warning, “Do NOT get excited.”
For two weeks, I didn’t let go of my phone. I waited in anticipation as meetings with the prospective birth mom kept getting postponed due to sick children, conflicting schedules, etc.
On April 3rd, I left my phone in the car while I changed into a dress for a dear friend’s funeral. He had passed away suddenly, and we were reeling from the shock of it all. When I got into my car to go to the funeral, I noticed I had a voicemail. From the attorney. She wanted me to call her back right away. Eeks!!
I called back. She and her assistant had me on speakerphone as they shared the news. The birth mom had chosen me. She’d wait to meet me at the hospital. Oh my god, oh my god. I pulled into a random parking lot and the rest of the conversation was a total blur.
Sharing the News
Due to birth mom’s personal details, I felt confident this match was solid and the adoption would work out. I immediately called my family members to tell them. My dad had to leave a meeting and could hardly understand me through my tears. My mom was wearing a paper gown on an exam table and took the call anyway. My sister-in-law, who was nursing at the time, said “I’ll pump faster!” so we could have some breast milk for the baby. I had a reason for all my teary friends at the funeral to smile. Such a bittersweet day; I’ll never forget the feeling.
After a last-minute work trip and lots of fast planning, my son was born by c-section a week earlier than his due date. He and I met his birth mom together after recovery, and he spent about half our hospital stay with her. In his birth state, parents can sign adoption papers immediately after birth, and it’s irrevocable – no extra waiting period. Two days later, we were discharged from the hospital and went to stay with friends while we awaited clearance to leave the state. He is the happiest, cutest, most engaged little guy ever.
Finalizing the Details
The adoption ended up being through an agency I didn’t want to work with (because birth mom was with them), but my attorney handled the legal parts. We spent almost 3 weeks in my son’s birth state before getting ICPC clearance to return home, and that was really frustrating. Otherwise, things went smoothly. Two sets of paternal rights were terminated (one for absent birth father and one for legal husband, also MIA) and we finalized on National Adoption Day.
The entire adoption process took about 10 months, with my active waiting time less than 6 months. I know this is unusual and I consider myself very fortunate. I credit much of it to my honesty in my parent profile. If I had followed the coaching of others, I would have made myself sound more “cookie cutter” and his birth mom wouldn’t have seen what she was really looking for.
She never asked about me being single, and never asked what I do for a living or how much money I make.
We have a semi-open adoption at birth mom’s request. I send a letter and pictures through the agency a few times each year.
My son’s adoption story will always be open and talked about, but there are some things I won’t be able to answer for him. I don’t know why his birth mom thought she could handle her other children, but not him. I don’t know why she doesn’t want visits. I don’t know why his birth dad was deported. I don’t know what he looks like, whether he has other children, or where he is. His name is extremely common and will never be of any help. I worry about answering these questions more than I worry about explaining why I’m not married.
If you have questions for me, want feedback on a parent profile, fundraising ideas, grant info or anything else, please let me know in the comments! I had to cut a lot of details here to keep it a reasonable length.