By: Stacy Ellis
I was going to write about the way people react to the words “We are adopting.” Such as the woman in Babies R Us who said, “Oh how great! You’ll love that baby just as much, I’m sure!” Or the dozen people who have responded with, “Oh you just wait, now that you’re adopting, you’re going to get pregnant!” Not quite possible in my situation, which they all knew, but to them it seemed like the right thing to say. And I was going to talk all about how every person I tell that I couldn’t have a biological child says, “Oh I did so many rounds of IVF and I totally understand.” But every one of those people all have natural biological children as their IVF worked…again not quite the same. But I am no longer going to talk about any of that because this past week, the phone rang…
On Tuesday, we received a call. There’s a baby in Pittsburgh and if we can get there by tomorrow morning, the baby is ours. There was limited information provided on the birth mother. She is white, the father was black. Both the birthmother’s parents died of cancer twenty years ago. She has a son who is a high school senior. The birthfather is unknown – a guy named Charles – whom she had a one night stand with nine months ago. The baby was delivered at 37 weeks – 40 weeks is full gestation – yet the baby was just 5 pounds. The Apgar test was 9 out of 10. Otherwise, the baby appeared healthy according to the hospital social worker.
This kind of adoption is what is called a “safe haven” adoption. A birthmother ignored her pregnancy for the past nine months and decides at the hospital, after giving birth, she does not want to take the baby home. Our adoption attorney, along with numerous agencies, have established connections with nursing stations who then call them, saying, “Do you have prospective parents? We have a baby that needs a home.” If no one claims the baby by the time the birthmother is discharged, the state is called and the baby goes to foster care. Eventually the baby will be adopted – but once the state gets involved, that could take months or years even if it is a completely healthy baby. However, if a private attorney or agency gets involved, the baby is released to the new adoptive parents. That is, IF the prospective parents get there in time.
My husband and I were on the phone staring at the paperwork on our respective computers. We were both at work. We desperately wanted the paperwork to say more. More medical history about the birth mother and random birthfather, just…MORE…we didn’t know what to do. If we turned down this chance to be parents, would it take that whole year for another opportunity to come? If we turned it down, would that taint us in the process for other birthparents? We had just one hour to make a decision because if we were not the adoptive parents, they had to find someone. Like I said, we struggled with what to do and then, an epiphany. We’ll have one of my friends who is a private investigator run the birth mother’s social security number and see what it says, and then we’ll make a decision.
Within minutes, while on the phone with the investigator, we learned she had five convictions for theft. Okay, theft. Maybe she’s poor and needed to feed her son. It wasn’t a violent offense. Okay. But then it got worse. She was convicted three times of manufacturing methamphetamine. Now this was bad. I know a few things about meth from my reporter days and the one main thing I know is that the byproducts from manufacturing meth are worse than the meth itself. They are toxic and they stay in the walls, carpet, bedding…and the byproducts don’t disappear over time. The home needs to be cleaned as if it were being eradicated of mold. It can cause serious medical conditions and even if she didn’t use the drug, if she lived in a house where it was manufactured, that could be the reason the baby was only five pounds. Then the last information: two convictions for conspiracy to solicit. This is prostitution. The baby was most likely conceived out of some kind of prostitution – she knew nothing about the guy except his first name was Charles and he was black.
Our decision was made. This was not the right match for us. We had to let it go and believe that our baby was out there growing in the womb somewhere. Of course we wondered if all future “matches” would be like this. Even if they weren’t “safe haven” matches, would future matches have such limited information? Is this what we signed up for?
And then two days later, the phone rang again…