Friday, September 12, 2014

On a Day in September

National September 11 Memorial and Museum
Today is a significant day for our nation.  We remember the events of September 11, when terrorists attacked the Pentagon, the Twin Towers in Manhattan, and another plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.

There is another memory I have that is inextricably intertwined with the terrorist attacks.  Each year, when September 11 rolls around, I remember.

In the days following the attacks, my husband and I received the first phone call from the woman who is our oldest son's birth mother -T.   It was a moment in time that joined our past of hoping to adopt with the future of parenting a child.  That moment, and the days that followed created memories that are both sweet and difficult to think about.

The memory of that conversation is sweet because it marks the beginning of the story about how my husband and I became parents of our oldest child; not some imagined, hoped for child, but the one that lives with us now.  It is sweet because that first conversation marked the beginning of a relationship with someone I felt I had known forever - our son's first mother - T.  Meeting T for the first time, going to the hospital for the birth, seeing our son for the first time - these are some of my most cherished memories.

It is difficult to remember other things.  The reality of T's circumstances, those that made her decide to place her son for adoption, are hard to think about.  It is hard to remember the several times she changed her mind about placing him with us, and then changed it back again.  It is difficult to remember her grief and loss, even in the midst of making the best decision she could.  It is sad that our relationship with T has grown distant over the years.   As time has gone on, our primary contact with our son's birth family has been through email with T's parents, and they have not responded to those most recently sent.  It is hard because I know that T's life has not turned out the way she hoped, or that we had hoped for her.


Our oldest son as an infant
You discover early on that there is a lot of "hurry up and wait" in the adoption process.  There are forms that need be filled out to meet a deadline.  Then you wait.  You prepare a letter that will be given to birth parents looking for the right family for their child.  Then you wait for it to be approved.  That letter/information is shared.  And you wait for the social worker to call.............. on and on and on. We attended the first meeting and training in December 1999.  T called us in September 2001.

Early in October 2001, after many conversations with T, we drove from our home to T's - over 2000 miles round trip.  We arrived one evening, and waited anxiously to meet her.  When she arrived, we loaded into the car to meet with representatives from the agency - a 1.5 hour drive away.  As we drove, we talked like old friends becoming reacquainted. We spent several hours talking and signing papers, then drove T back home.  We were exhausted but elated when we headed back home the next day.

At the end of November, after much anticipation and planning and gathering of baby things, we were on our way back for our son's birth.  We had the luxury of knowing the exact date of our son's birth beforehand, as the doctor scheduled a cesarean section for T.  We arrived the night before, and went to the hospital mid-morning to discover that our son had just arrived.  We had the joy of watching him as the nurses weighed and measured him, bathed and dressed him in the hospital nursery.  Then we were fortunate enough to be able to spend some time with him and feed him while T recovered from surgery.  As soon as we could, we gathered with T and her family in her room to take turns holding him and changing diapers, feeding him and burping him, and just marveling at his beauty.

In the days that followed, we spent time together with T and her family and the baby, and together chose a name for our son.  Both T and the baby ended up staying in the hospital, which delayed the signing of relinquishment papers.  While in the hospital, T's postpartum hormones arrived and her milk came in.  In the midst of hormones and the emotions of the situation, T had a change of heart.  It was the first of two times she changed her mind.  She left the hospital with the baby, and we didn't know what would happen.

The next day, she called and said she had definitely decided she wanted us to parent him.  We stayed in town with the baby, visiting with T until it was time to get on the plane home.  There is waiting period after birth parents sign relinquishment papers before they are finalized, and the waiting period had not yet expired.  We offered to stay until that waiting period ended in case T needed more time, but she insisted she was fine. We arrived home and had barely gotten settled in when the social worker called and said T had again changed her mind.  It was the last day of the waiting period.

We were heartbroken, but knew that it was her decision.  We made plans to go back to T's home to return the baby to her. With two hours left before the waiting period was over, T once again decided that she wanted us to parent her son.

In the days and weeks to come, T and I talked several times a week.  When we knew we were moving, T was among the first to know.  We sent pictures; T and her family sent birthday presents and Christmas presents.  She seemed to be getting her life on track, attending school and making plans.  We were excited for her, and we looked forward to the day when our so was old enough to talk to her on the phone.

However, as the years passed, contact with T became less frequent.  When we were unable to reach her, we exchanged an email with her parents, and found that she had been having a difficult time since the baby was born.  She had struggled with depression and substance abuse.  Her parents told us she no longer had a reliable phone number or address, but that we could contact her through them. We have heard from her on occasion, and continue to send updates and pictures.  We have not heard from her parents in about six months.


Most days I am occupied with the normal activities of a busy family.  But each September, I remember that phone call, and I remember my son's first mother.  I wonder how she is doing.  I wonder if we'll ever talk to her again.  I wonder if she'd like to talk to our son, and if he'll ever have the opportunity to talk to her.  I hope so.

My husband and I now have two sons, both of whom were adopted.  Our youngest will never have contact with his first mother, and I grieve that situation, too.   When you adopt children, you also adopt their first parents whether they can be an active part of your life or not.

I'd like to think I've become more compassionate through the process of adopting my children.  I know that I can't begin to comprehend what it is like to make the decision to place your child for adoption.  I know that I can't begin to understand what's it like to have your parental rights terminated by the court because you cannot parent your child.  I know that loss and grief are a part of every adoption, as is joy.  And there is always love.

That first phone call from T is for me and my husband one of those "Where were you when ...........?" moments.  It was a moment that changed our lives forever, in ways we thought we understood, but couldn't begin to imagine.   And it all began with a phone call one day in September.

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