Craig swears that mom and I began planning for our baby girl when the airplane tires hit the tarmac when we returned home from adopting our boys from Russia.
He was right.
I can’t remember a time that I didn’t think about “baby sister”. Our family just didn’t feel quite complete. Our boys were perfect, but there was still someone missing.
We got our first match in May. A birth mom had made an adoption plan. She lived in New Orleans and contacted a social worker. I talked to the birth mom and felt an exciting connection. She was a college student at LSU with one child and knew she couldn’t handle a second child and continue her studies. But perhaps the most exciting part of our conversation was the fact that she wanted the two of us in the delivery room with her.
She had a planned delivery and we loaded up the whole family. Both grandmas, Craig, our two boys and I set off to New Orleans. We got there on Saturday morning and when we called the social worker to check in, she gave us the news that the birth mom had not returned any phone calls for the past 24 hours. I went shopping at Target with my mom and mother-in-law and bought a newborn-size pink bubbly swimsuit, We took the boys swimming at the hotel pool and went to see “Dinosaurs in 3D”.
The next day we left New Orleans without a baby sister.
Our next match was with the same social worker. She was now working for a lawyer in Louisiana who worked to match birth moms with adoptive families. There was a birth mom who knew she was having a bi-racial child and the social worker knew that we were open to ethnicity.
But we chose not to pursue this option once we found out that we would have to pay 100% of the birth mom’s living expenses and hospital costs into an account managed by the lawyer. If the adoption fell through, there were no refunds.
This is where I discovered the 3-day decision technique. This is how it goes: On day one, you believe and live saying yes to a decision. On day two, you believe and live saying no. On day three, when you wake up, you just lay there and feel your feelings. Which experience resonated? Which day felt true?
In the first light of day three, it was clear that the answer, in this case, was “no”. We needed to be patient, wait, and be open to other options.
Then in July, we were contacted by our agency here in WI. Although we were in the “African American” program, they were in contact with a 40-year-old homeless Caucasian birth mom who was making an adoption plan. She was currently living at a campground and admitted to using drugs.
Craig and I knew that although it was tough on a baby to have drugs in their system as a newborn, the ramifications weren’t as devastating as alcohol exposure.
We said that it was okay to share our portfolio with her. The administrator from our agency was taking several portfolios to share with the birth mom. They would go over them together and most likely a decision would be made before lunchtime.
The next day, we waited. When noon came, I knew we hadn’t been picked. I figured that the chosen family would be called first. Then each prospective family would be called, one by one, with the “sad” news. We were obviously just waiting for the call where we would be told to “not give up hope” and “it’s just a matter of time”.
I was on my way home from teaching summer school when my cell phone rang. “Hello”, I excitedly answered.
“Hi Lisa”, the administrator said. Pause.
“We have a twist.”
She went on to explain that the birth mom struggled to pick between two families–ours and one other. She loved our family, and our portfolio, but the other family had no children. We already had two boys.
Then the administrator’s phone rang. It was an agency in Texas. A birth mother–Julie–had picked us.
Now every state has different rules and regulations regarding adoption, wait times, and parental rights. In Texas, the birth mother has to wait 48 hours before signing an irrevocable termination of parental rights. I told the administrator that I would hold my breath until she signed.
Julie gave birth at 7:30 am on Thursday.
The next 48 hours were filled with arrangements. Should we drive or fly? How much does a rental car cost? How long would we need to stay in Texas before we could leave the state and take her home? Who was taking care of the boys? What about our dogs?
At 7:45 on Saturday the phone rang. Julie had returned to the hospital. Signed the paperwork and left. Our baby was waiting for us in Texas.
I immediately called Craig and shared the incredible news. We decided to drive to Texas so we would have more flexibility in coming home. I planned to take the boys to Grandma Blu’s at 5 pm. But I was in such a state…I called her and asked if she could get them at noon instead so I could gather my wits and our stuff in peace.
Craig and I left Beaver Dam at around 4 pm. After driving all night, we arrived 17 hours later in Houston, TX. We called the adoption agency to let them know that we were in the city. Craig and I planned to check into our hotel, clean up, and then come to pick up our baby. the adoption administrator’s comment was, “Oh, no. You don’t need to clean up. Come here first.”
We arrived at the strip mall where the agency was located and walked through the grocery store-like glass doors. We proceeded down a hallway lined with what looked like boxes of donated clothes and baby items. At the end of the corridor was a room with old recliners and sofas. A worn garage sale table at one end of the room served as a desk where we signed the final papers.
After a few minutes, a foster mom and her little blond, pigtailed daughter entered the room carrying our babe.
She was wearing a pink onesie and her dark black hair was spiked up into a baby mohawk. We took a picture of Craig holding her and then one of me holding her. Before we left, we were given a 6 pack of baby formula. Aubrey expressed her excitement about leaving with us by spitting up all over me.
The next few days were spent “loving on her” in our hotel room. I have never watched so much t.v. in my life. We watched Animal Planet and more episodes of Cesar Milan’s “The Dog Whisperer” than I could count. We did take one little jaunt to the Houston Space Center which created extreme anxiety in me. I worried about handling her correctly, if I was feeding her enough…all the things. I was a nervous wreck.
It was way better to just hang up in the hotel room.
Day after day we waited. Before we could leave Texas, the courts needed to approve our adoption and issue an “Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children” (ICPC). Finally, Craig and I decided that we should get as close to home as possible by going to Texarkana, TX so that once we got the go-ahead, we would be 5 hours closer to home.
We set out early in the morning. As we approached the northwestern tip of Texas, Craig stated, “Here comes Texarkana.”
Passing by the city, Craig said, “Here’s Texarkana.”
Traveling just north of the city, Craig said, “There goes Texarkana.”
And we kept on driving.
We drove and drove until in the early morning the next day, we got to Beaver Dam. Craig mowed the lawn and I did a quick load of laundry. My cell phone rang and it was the administrator from Texas calling to inform us that we could leave Texas. The ICPC paperwork was completed, submitted, and approved. We had the court’s blessing to take our baby home.
Of course, the story continues with us showing off baby Aubrey to ALL the family. We first stopped in Horicon to see Grandma Blu and Grandpa Ron. Then we were on our way up to Door County where the rest of the family was waiting for us to share the missing piece to our family puzzle.
Baby sister was finally here.