February 12, 2007, is the day I became a mother. It was a day I remember vividly. Cold and brisk, my husband, my sister and I walked to the bus stop to take the ride to the Eastside. We weren’t talking much as a sense of shock was beginning to settle in. My husband looked as if he might pass out. We were about to meet our daughter for the very first time, and we had had only 11 days to prepare for the event.
On February 1st Marlo and I got a call from Spence-Chapin, the adoption agency. I was at work when my husband called me to tell me that Samantha wanted to speak with us. Samantha was our social worker with whom we had been working with for the past ten months. It seemed like a lot longer, with months of filling out forms, attending meetings, and preparing our adoption book. The process was an open adoption, which meant that both we and the birth mother got to choose each other. The mother would initially pick us from a brief written introduction and a few pictures that we had provided. Then, we would have the opportunity, based on her information, to say whether we wanted to be considered as possible parents. If we said yes, she would then see more detailed information in our “adoption book.” The final decision would be hers. An open adoption also meant that we might meet in the future and that our child would come to know his or her birth story. There would be no secrets.
Marlo and I had been through this process more than once. We had turned down a few opportunities based on medical history, and we had said yes more than once, only to be turned down by the birth mother. Being on an emotional roller coaster was part and parcel of the process. Samantha made sure that we knew that we were not to prepare in advance for the adoption. There was to be no purchase of a crib, stroller, or car seat until after we got “the call.” The emptiness of a room with a crib and no baby would only contribute to the stress of this journey. We listened.
Meanwhile, I braced myself for “the call.” Each time we had been turned down, Samantha had gotten us both on the phone. I was at work when my husband and Samantha called me on February 1st. We exchanged pleasantries and then I heard Samantha say the words that I thought I would never hear. “I am calling to let you know that you can pick up your daughter on February 12th.”
After the momentary shock, I started screaming, “I am a mother! I am a mother!” I slid down the nearest wall to the floor. I am not sure about the rest of the call. My co-workers crowded around and hugged me, thrilled. Tears were shed. I then went into a small office to call my Dad. My mom had passed away two years before on February 1st. Being a mother without my mother was something I would learn to endure, but I was grateful to have my father there to be able to say, “Hey Dad, you are a grand pop again.”
My husband and I scrambled to get everything we needed and on February 12 – with my sister at my side as my mother would have been – we finally met our daughter, Carys.
Marlo and looked at each other and the beautiful little girl he was holding. How did we get here? How did we make this happen? It seemed so unreal.
We were both 48 years old. We had gotten married when we were 45. Marriage and kids had never been on the top of my to-do list, and I am not sure my husband had ever even put the two thoughts together in a sentence. He enjoyed being single. I, on the other hand, had been in a unhealthy long-term relationship but had found my way out. Being single was a relief. When we finally discovered that we wanted to share our lives and to have our own family, it was too late in the game for me. The proverbial clock had about run out. This didn’t stop us from trying and going to specialists to get pregnant. But quickly, we realized, weren’t willing to take such extraordinary measures. Our only other option was adoption.
Initially, Marlo was not thrilled by the idea of adoption but was open to finding out more. We did our research and found Spence-Chapin, an adoption agency in Manhattan that has been around for over 100 years. One Saturday afternoon, we went to a meeting where we listened to a young couple describe their experience of adopting not one but two babies. It was the father who helped us make the decision to adopt right there and then. At first, he described his fears, fears very similar to my husband’s own. Mainly, how would he feel about a baby that wasn’t his biological child?
He said he knew the answer to that question the moment he held his son in his arms and looked into his eyes. “I knew at that moment that he was my son.” Tears were in his eyes. I looked at my husband and knew instantly that we were going to do this.
Marlo and I ended up adopting not only Carys but also her biological sister, Lyla, who was born a year and a half later. They are everything to us. The joy and love that we experience as a family is beyond anything that we could have imagined. Biology isn’t everything.
Happy Gotcha Day Carys!