Our Adoption Story, Chapter Five: A New Beginning

It may be over a year later, but there is more story to share!

About 40 hours after arriving at the hospital, we got the all clear that we could go home. We couldn’t believe it; we were prepared for a lengthier stay. However, as it turns out, CJ’s birth parents were also from Oregon, so we were allowed to leave. Since he was born in Washington we figured we would have to wait it out, since the paperwork to cross state lines with an adopted baby can take a while. Apparently what really matters is where the birth parents are from. It all played out very conveniently in terms of timing. After such a hellacious, agonizing wait it was hard to believe the placement was truly so simple! 

Our nurse came in to help us with final details and asked us if we had any questions. It was so embarrassing, but we had to ask how to feed the straps back through the lowest setting on the infant seat. Three years was enough for us to have forgotten how to do it properly! And of course, we didn’t want to wing it and just hope for the best! She technically wasn’t allowed to touch the car seat but she did anyway. That hospital and all the staff were just amazing. 

We successfully secured our little nugget after much ado.

The hospital chaplain had been visiting us regularly, and even brought in a second chaplain to share his experience as an adoptive father. It was really reassuring to hear someone else’s experience and to be given such encouragement. Shortly before we left, the first chaplain asked if she could bless baby CJ, and then she proceeded to anoint him with the most beautiful blessing I could imagine. It was all sort of surreal and magical. ​

Many couples find themselves in hospitals that aren’t adoption friendly, and they aren’t treated kindly by the staff. Our experience was the opposite; they did anything and everything they could to make us feel right at home and like we were part of something natural and really great. Perhaps because it was a Catholic hospital and they view adoption as a solution to abortion. That’s just my guess, but I think it’s a good one. 

When it was time to leave, we left our room with the Hubs toting our precious cargo in the infant car seat. As we entered the elevator a nurse joined us. She asked us if this was the baby born two days ago that was to be adopted. With big smiles, we told her he was and that we were the lucky parents. She started to choke up, and told us she was the first nurse that held CJ after his birth and did kangaroo care. She struggled to speak, finally saying, “He’s special. There’s something special about your baby.” Needless to say, we were pleased to hear this and touched at the nurse’s kind words. 

As we got off the elevator we felt like the luckiest people alive. Imagine finally having your dreams come true, and the circumstances surrounding them being next to perfect.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude at how everything had unfolded. It seemed too good to be true, but somehow it wasn’t. 

Walking down the hospital corridors with our baby was a funny feeling. We both felt like someone was going to stop us and ask for proof that he was our son. No one did of course; people just smiled at us as we passed by. Less than two days before we had met this tiny, perfect creature, and now we were taking him home to be ours forever. Our son. It’s difficult to explain how hard it was to wrap our brains around all that had happened in 40 hours! 

As we pulled out of the parking garage and made our way to the freeway, it began to rain. I was driving at a crawl so as to protect my baby, but the increasingly torrential rains caused me and all the other drivers to slow almost to a stop. Less than five minutes after leaving the hospital, we were caught in the hardest rain we had ever experienced. It was still summertime! That kind of rain was highly irregular for early September, but there we were. When the rain finally let up and the sun shone brightly through the clouds, I took it as yet another sign that this perfect baby and this adoption were meant to be. God was doing his best to let us know He was with us on this journey! 

Here is a current picture of my little bruiser. Our 5.5lb baby is now 24lbs!

His smile melts my heart.

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Present Day 

Nine months have passed since our beautiful baby was born. What once resembled a tiny little Sasquatch is now a strikingly handsome blue-eyed butterball. We love him so! 

So much chubbaroo goodness.

CJ, or Cam, or Campbell, is the happiest of babies. People often ask us, “Doesn’t he ever cry? He’s just so joyful!” Well yes, the truth is he is one joyful little bugaboo. During the daytime he is all smiles and sunshine and truly a happy-go-lucky little dude. It’s the nighttime where he unleashes the full power of his lung capacity to make sure the hubs and I understand his great displeasure with bedtime. The kid hates to sleep. He’s a wee social butterfly who loves to interact and suffers from some serious FOMO (fear of missing out, in case you were wondering). But we think that’s pretty typical, and he gets a free pass for screaming at us every night since he’s practically perfect in every way all the rest of the time. 

Big brother Ezra loves being big brother Ezra. He adores CJ and he is never happier than when his silly antics cause CJ to go into a giggling fit. This usually involves a dance of some kind followed by calling CJ “poopy Campbell.” For some reason, being called poopy is CJ’s favorite thing and he can’t laugh hard enough when he hears it. Unfortunately, this has led the Eldest Son to believe that everyone he talks to must find poopy talk equally hysterical, and has taken to greeting everyone with poopy in front of their name. I fear this is my reality now. I am a mama of boys, and I expect I have many years of “poopy” talk and bathroom humor ahead of me. Lord, have mercy on my poor mama soul. 

This is just a quick update to share how we are today. We are a blessed family, poopy talk and all! We don’t take anything for granted when it comes to our boys. I have many tales and anecdotes I can’t wait to share with you, as well as a couple more chapters of our adoption story. Stay tuned!

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Our Adoption Story: Ch. 1

Hello dear ones! When I said six weeks ago I would share the story of our adoption soon, I meant it. Then I quickly realized four years had dulled my memory of how rigorous it is to care for a newborn, and how any free time one might have would be devoted to sleep! Forgive my idiocy. I’m back on track and so excited to share the unusual circumstances of how baby CJ joined our family and changed our lives forever. ❤️

When the hubs and I awoke on Tuesday September 1st, we had no idea that it was to become one of the two greatest days of our lives. Life is funny like that. 

Hubs went off to work and I settled into the morning routine with E. Grandma came over to play with the little man, so I had the opportunity to work on creating a brand new adoption portfolio. This was a bitter pill after the 50+ hours spent creating the first one. Our current book did not seem to be doing much for our cause, so the agency recommended creating a new one. Oh the sweet, sweet irony. I spent about four hours working on it, and I had many more ahead of me. After putting E down for his afternoon nap, I decided to indulge in one myself. 

At 3:45 pm I received a phone call, startling me awake. I glanced at my phone and saw it was the adoption agency, so I answered. 

“Hi! This is Cathy.* There’s an adoption situation I wanted to run by you if you have a minute.”

“Hey Cathy. Good to hear from you,” I responded flatly, sans enthusiasm. I wasn’t trying to be a jerk; I just wasn’t expecting, nor anticipating anything that we hadn’t heard before. I was weary of the let downs and protective of my heart, since it had been subjected to more aches and injuries than it deserved in such a short time. We had received plenty of calls about situations, but they always ended in disappointment, and I freely admit I had become duly jaded about the whole thing. 

“So,” she continued, “a baby boy was born at the hospital this morning. His birth parents have signed the termination of parental rights papers and want to leave the hospital as soon as possible. They have made their decision and this is an emotional time for them, obviously,  and they want to go.  They would like a closed adoption.  He’s a healthy, perfect baby boy.  Are you guys interested?”

Are we interested? My initial mild engagement in this phone call immediately changed to my heart dropping into my stomach and beating so loudly in my head I heard trains rushing between my ears. I was barely awake due to the interrupted nap, so this news hit me like a triple shot of adrenalin to the heart. (Think Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction.)


Not actually how our baby was “delivered” to us, but it captures the overall spirit fairly accurately.

Perhaps you’ve heard of those moments in time where you experience something so unimaginable, you do not immediately process that what you heard was true. Perhaps you have even had a similar experience. The hubs and I had intentionally stepped away, at least symbolically, from our adoption dreams only two weeks before. Although we were still in the waiting pool, since climbing out would not magically make our money return to us, we were no longer really pursuing situations but the agency kept us on the list. We could best be described as agreeing to passively dip our toes in the pool. We had decided it was best for our family to move forward, away from “the wait” that was constantly hanging over us like the Sword of Democles. Away from the nonstop disappointments in that left us  reeling each time. Receiving this phone call was the surreal experience I couldn’t immediately grasp, and certainly couldn’t wrap my mind around.  

Me: “What? Like, he’s ours? Or are you just showing our profile? Or, like, can we leave now? When should we leave? Is now good?”

Our coordinator laughed. “Leave now! As soon as you can, in fact! No other couples are involved, he’s all yours. Get to the hospital as quickly as you can arrange it! The baby’s birth parents have chosen not to see or hold him; it is just too hard for them. The nurses have taken turns doing skin to skin and nurturing him all day, but he’s ready to meet his mommy and daddy.” 

The call ended with the promise we would be there as soon as humanly possible. It was now 4:00 pm. 

I immediately dialed the Hubs. I had nothing clever or witty planned to announce our new arrival, but I knew he needed to get home stat. My heart was banging like a drum and my head felt light, almost like I was inhaling pure oxygen. Some small part of my brain remained calm and focused on the steps I needed to take. We needed someone here to watch E on zero notice and we needed them immediately. We needed to pack because we could be gone up to 7 days since we were crossing state lines. And we needed to be gone in 30 minutes to avoid hitting one of the most gridlocked rush hours in the nation…

…but first, I needed the hubs to answer his freaking phone! I had called three times, and each time he was ALSO calling me, so both our phones were going to voicemail again and again. What are the odds at that exact moment we would both be calling each other repeatedly? Each time I reached his voicemail I hung up hollering at nothing, “Stop it!” Finally, I sent a text: Stop calling! We never discussed that text, but I imagine it was at the very least temporarily confusing for the hubs to see those words from his wife!

Finally he won the game of phone chicken. 

Hubs: “Hey sweetie. What day do you think would be best for me to take off this week to go to the fair?”

Me: “Stop stop STOP talking! You need to come home right now!”

Hubs: “Um. Huh. Okay. Everything okay?”

Me: “We have a baby! Come home because we need to leave!”

Hubs: “Huh? No. A baby? What? Seriously? What? Seriously? What kind?”

Me: “The kind with a winky waiting for us at the hospital. More later. Home now!”

And so it went until he accepted the details were forthcoming and to get home STAT. 

Next up was my mom. Remember how E was sleeping soundly in his train bed? In my first act as a mom of two, I called my mom to babysit. 

Me: “Mommy! I need you to come over now! We have a baby?”

Mom: “Huh? At your house?”

Me: “What? No! There is no baby at my house presently. An actual stork did not arrive at my porch carrying a baby in a bundle in its beak. Our baby was born this morning at a hospital and we need to go get him immediately. He’s ours. Come over!”

Mom: “Wow! So is this a for sure thing or…”

Me: “Mom! Mommy! Mom. This is happening. Details later. Hurry.”

As it turned out, my daddy was able to get here quicker than her, so he came to our rescue, arriving ten minutes later. 

The hubs and my dad showed up at about the same time. I told hubs to go get the infant car seat out of the attic and install it, please. I raced around throwing things in a bag without really thinking about it. I remembered how I seriously overpacked for our first baby, and how the hospital provides absolutely everything for a baby during your stay.  In the end I tossed in my cellphone charger and toothbrush and a couple comfy outfits. I didn’t know if we would be there for two days or a week, but since it was just an hour and ten minutes away I decided to call it good. 

Meanwhile, the hubs was done with the car seat and also stuffing essentials in his overnight bag. His eyes were huge like a Margaret Keane painting and he was moving a little on the slow side. It was clear he was in disbelief. I gently and lovingly addressed him about our time frame. 

Me: “Pack it up! We need to get out of here! Make it happen, Cap’n!”

Hubs: (Lengthy pause).  “We really have a baby? I mean, really?”

Me: “Really? Okay, yes, you got me. It is all an elaborate ruse with no explicable objective or motive behind why I would do such a thing. Come on sweetie! Our SON, our real, actually existing son, is waiting for us. And it’s paining me to be here while he’s there. Show some hustle!”

This marked the first time in our ten years together that I was the first one ready to leave the house. 

There was one final thing to do before hitting the road, and that was fill our little boy E in on what was going on. It seemed like the mother of bad ideas for both mama and dada to just disappear without explanation during his nap, only to reappear at a later date in possession of a newborn. He’s just a little guy, just shy of four years old, but he is perceptive and smart; therefore we try to keep him in the loop when it’s possible to do so. 

We woke up our sleepy little boy and nervously/excitedly told him that mama and dada had just learned that his new baby brother was waiting for us to go pick him up. Having been educated about adoption as much as developmentally possible over the past year, he accepted what were we doing and where we were going. We told him he was going to get to spend some special time with Grandma and Papi until we returned, and then he would meet his baby brother for the first time. He could not have been more relaxed about this. He was neither excited nor apathetic, just weirdly understanding. At the time I was in awe of the maturity he demonstrated, which appeared to be that of a much older child. I realize now of course, that he simply knew the sooner he got rid of us, the sooner he would be watching Little Einstein on the big TV at Papi’s house and getting nonstop attention from his doting grandparents. 

With promises to my dad that we would be in touch with details as they became available, and hugs and kisses showered upon E like we were leaving for a year, we finally hopped in the car and headed north, fully aware that what had began as an ordinary day had manifested itself into the most extraordinary adventure…and it was just beginning. 

Chapter Two is coming very soon! Scout’s honor! To read about our journey from the very beginning, visit www.borrowedgenes.com and follow along on Facebook as well!

Perhaps I Didn’t Make This Clear: My Family is Awesome

Nine years ago today I made the single best choice of my life and married The Hubs. We had an amazing anniversary and just marveled at everything we have been through, good and bad. Nine years seems like forever, but we both remembered our wedding like it was yesterday. As we walked along the river after brunch today, I started having some Very Deep Thoughts. We were discussing our sweet little E, each other, funny memories, and of course, adoption. Talking or thinking about adoption is a pleasant thing, lately. For a while it wasn’t. But there is one adoption aspect that is bothering me. 

Everyone from our adoption education class (cohort) and the two classes after us have adopted already. In fact, so many people have adopted that there are only 8 home-study ready families, including us, even left remaining in the waiting pool! I’m not wallowing in self-pity, but it does make me feel a bit sad. Also, I stumbled upon another surprising emotion while reflecting on why this bothered me: indignation. 

Here’s why. Getting passed over and being second choice again and again makes me feel very defensive of my family. It isn’t only because we haven’t adopted yet, but because not being picked feels a lot like being the last kid standing alone after all the cooler students have been chosen for teams in gym class. It feels worse than that, because this is my family. I’m not saying I’m anything special; however, I’m sure married to someone who deserves that title. And I will take credit for birthing the other member of this family who is absolutely something wonderful. Not just because he’s my son. Because he’s good, and kind, and generous, and loving. 

  And while initially it irritates me that my amazing husband and kind little boy (and myself) aren’t being chosen to adopt, my emotions after irritation are quite different. I feel very sorry for those who have reviewed/will review our profile but moved on. They missed out on the best father any kid could ever have. I can state without hyperbole that I don’t think I could find one fault with the Hubs and his role as Dada. He’s just a great guy who fulfills every aspect (playing, learning, nurturing discipline) of fatherhood effortlessly. It just comes naturally. And E has all the makings of a great big brother. He’s sensitive, empathetic, and loving. He loves being a helper. E will be one of those older siblings who looks out for his little brother/sister. He asked for a long time when his baby was coming; he would ask God every night during bedtime prayers. He hasn’t done that in a while, and I feel scared that maybe he “gave up.”  I hate the idea of my little boy losing faith in his prayer. After all, he’s 3; he’s not sure how the whole faith thing works just yet!

I ache for any expectant mother (or father) who is on the heartbreaking, emotional journey of placing their baby for adoption. I have read that many birthmothers say a great deal of stress was lifted after they found the “perfect family.”  I’m not even going to entertain the idea that we are perfect. That’s pure silliness. But we are most assuredly a family that could put some of an expectant mother’s stress at ease if she met us and saw what we are: a genuinely joyful, imperfect, adoring couple who choose to lead very kid-centered lives devoted to parenting, with a bottomless-soda glass amount of love to shower upon a new member of the family. The thing I wonder is, why isn’t it enough? 

I just had an interesting thought: I think if I was an expectant mother and I was interested in choosing an adoptive couple that had a child already, I would want to meet the kid. You could tell a lot about the hopeful adoptive parents just from sizing up their child, I bet. You could also see the parents interacting with their son or daughter and decide if that’s how you would want your baby to be treated (or not). It’s a good idea, right? 

Just to drive this point home once more, I don’t dwell on the above very often. Usually only after I hear someone else has just adopted, or after we hear we were second choice again. I’m doing a great job of enjoying the blessings in front of me and not obsessing about the ones we hopefully we have one day. But as anyone who has adopted would certainly agree, there are inevitably going to be moments where you question yourself as well as the process. Mostly the process. 

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Are You Kidding Me?

I wish I could have ended on a high note with that last post! I wish that for all of us. 

It would be hard to forget our first adoption situation. It was the one where we were chosen by the birth parents, had a three hour long “get to know you meeting,” and then got dragged along ever so agonizingly slowly by both our agency and the couple for five weeks. 

This is the one where I found the baby registries online. And where the infamous paternity test became its own character in the Adoption Shell Game that the hubs and I suffered through as helpless spectators. The one where the social worker told the agency the couple did not intend to place their baby for adoption, so our agency told us it was over. The whole sordid, yucky, so-not-okay situation that threw me for a loop and made me wonder if I could stick with this if this was how the process actually worked. 

Guess what?  It wasn’t over!  Because that couple indeed placed their baby, through our adoption agency, with a family that was not us this week.  I found this out not through the agency in an aboveboard, professional manner, but through my adoption network support group as well as social media sources. 

Okay then. Between the hubs and I, we aren’t even sure what to make of this. I think we can all agree that at the very least, it’s a head scratcher.  Maybe in our case, it’s fair to say this latest development is simply a par-for-the-course-yet-jaw-dropping turn of events, the very thing we should really be expecting on this strange journey through the looking glass.  

Adoption is agreeing to leap through the looking glass with no guarantee what you might find. This is why anyone who even considers adopting has at least a little spark of badass inside them.

 For Carrie, who reads my blog (thanks Google Analytics),
The truth of what really happened, what was fact and what was fiction, may never be known between us. I think communicating through the agency instead of directly to one another was likely a giant mistake. Know this: you made a selfless choice choosing to place your baby when you knew you just couldn’t give him the life you wanted for him now. That is admirable. I’m sorry you chose to seek another couple rather than us. It breaks my heart, but my feelings are not paramount in this situation. I know you have blessed the other family enormously and given them the greatest gift of their lives, and have also given the same gift to your son. I pray that it gives you some peace to remember that as you grieve in the days and weeks to come. The hubs and I only wish for you to experience calm and fortitude moving forward, and a life filled with good things. 

Get caught up with Borrowed Genes!  Please join me on my truth is stranger than fiction road trip straight down the rabbit hole by registering to receive email updates whenever I publish a new post. Just. Do. It. 

A Fun Lesson About Choosing Your Adoption Agency Wisely

Many of you heard we had a not-so-fun meeting with our adoption agency last week. I waited to write about it until the emotions had cooled off and I could approach the whole thing from a somewhat grownup perspective. 

It lasted two hours.  The meeting objective was for the hubs and I to sit there while the agency director and adoption coordinator told us every reason they couldn’t stand working with us. The agency is very loosy-goosy and not worried about customer service.  They admittedly focus their energy and attentions exclusively on the birth parents, and any communication, or request for communication, from the adoptive parents is perceived by the agency as taking away time from the birth parents. The hubs and I, for our part, feel that since we and other adoptive parents are the ones funding their company, that we are entitled to a reasonable amount of communication, which we aren’t receiving. 

Another reason I held off writing this post is I didn’t want it to be all about demonizing the adoption agency. The truth is, the owner isn’t a horrible person. She’s just not a business-minded person, and she runs the agency like a family, if the family values are that it’s okay to be flaky sometimes and everyone should just chill out, man. She’s the type of person who gets her feelings hurt extremely easily, and holds on to it for all it is worth. We learned at the meeting that a couple emails I wrote back in January and February “hurt her feelings.”  (Not because I said anything mean, but because she thinks we don’t trust them. Spoiler alert: We don’t.) Not to be super calloused here, but the adoption agency owner’s feelings are not high at the top of my priority list. Of course I’m not trying to upset people, but I would say that was going to be unavoidable in this case. She’s what I call a “peach person.” We all know them–the person you have to speak ever so carefully around, even more so regarding sarcasm, for fear they will become easily bruised and offended.  It’s exhausting to be in the company of peach people, and it is just my luck I chose an agency owned by one.

The adoption coordinator. Another delicate flower with thin skin. We learned after signing on (paying lots of money) with this agency that our coordinator, the only domestic coordinator, was in her mid-20s. This is her first job out of college. She also placed her baby for adoption about two years ago. I will begin by saying, this is not a job for someone with little work/life experience. It requires someone that understands and respects the complex and emotionally draining road that infertile couples have traveled just to reach the adoption office, to say nothing of the trials after getting there. I think that’s well out of the reach of most 24 year olds. It certainly would have been for me at that age. The fact she herself is a birthmother only serves to drive home the point: that is the group she can relate to. It’s who she wants to talk to. It’s who she wants to help. And heaven knows birth mothers need a kind, compassionate resource they can rely on during an adoption. I suspect she does an excellent job of that. Unfortunately for the hubs and I, she’s an abysmal resource for adoptive parents and she doesn’t hide her resentment very well.  And, she’s it!  There is NO ONE ELSE. What do you do when there is no one to advocate for you?

You advocate for yourself. And this is something both the hubs and I do well. In order to do this, our adoption agency needs to communicate with us. It was our reasonable requests for that communication that got us called up to the world’s most inconvenient meeting to be scolded like small children for two hours, for the heinous crime of being proactive. 

Their goal: to continue to work with us if we would stop bothering them. Trust them to do their job. Stop contacting them. The trouble is, we don’t trust them to do their job. I, Nancy Drew, was the one who discovered the first adoption match was a fraud. ME. By doing a five second Google search. During the meeting, we learned that they consider Googling an expectant mother’s name an invasion of privacy and they don’t do it. I asked them if they regretted having that particular policy in place after spending untold amounts of money on the adoption fraud couple. The adoption coordinator looked thoughtful. The agency owner looked proud. “No, I don’t,” she said. “I won’t ask our birth mothers to sign a release for the Google. It just scares people away if they think you don’t trust them. We still work with couples we suspect of fraud, anyway. In fact, we are still working with the couple you found out about. Because you never know, they may change their mind after all and place after the baby is born. And our focus is on that baby, all the way through the birth.”  I think this was supposed to sound altruistic, but the truth is there is no shortage of agencies that would gladly find a placement for an infant, and collect the hefty finder’s fee in the process. Might I add, if someone admits to scamming you, good business sense would dictate you run far, and you run fast. Or, if you’re this agency, keep working with the couple that admitted they want all their expenses paid, please and thank you, even though they never had any intention of considering adoption

As you might expect, it was not reassuring to hear that our agency is still working with the couple that have actually admitted to the fraudulent behavior. The hubs and I were badly betrayed by the couple, but the agency is still working with them?  Is it okay that we find that a bit strange? We also learned that adoption fraud is quite common in our agency due to the adamant refusal of “the Google” and that it is something to be expected during an adoption journey with the Adoption Agency. 

Did I mention I almost vaulted out of my seat when she mentioned “the Google?”  A business owner, in the year 2015, believes she needs a signed consent form to Google a person’s name. I don’t even know where to begin describing how disturbed I am that this is someone’s reality, and now I’m an unwilling part of it. 

Near the end of the meeting, when it became clear that the hubs and I did not find our communication requests unreasonable, and when they could hide their utter disdain for us no longer, we reached an impasse. The owner badly wanted us to quit. She wanted it bad. She kept leading us to it and then trailing off…it reminded me of two high school kids trying to break up, but the instigator won’t pull the trigger. It was strange, and fit right nicely in with the overall theme of the meeting. 

According to their contract, they can fire us as clients at their leisure.  She didn’t do that, either. I suspect it’s because that would look pretty bad for the agency. After all, who wants to sign on with an agency that has a reputation for firing their clients after they have paid a good chunk of money up front? Probably no one. And that’s when I realized they are basically stuck with us, regardless of their desire to fire us. 

As of this moment, I assume we are still represented by this agency. We haven’t heard anything to the contrary since our meeting that accomplished nothing. 

My hope is that other people may learn from this and have a better adoption experience than we have had. The process is hard enough by itself, and deeply emotional under the best of circumstances. Hire an agency that has a support person for the expectant mother, but also has a separate support system for the adoptive parents. You want your agency to work for you, not actively against you. Not all agencies are created equal, so make sure to do your research with a list of what is important to you within reach. Consider this a cautionary tale.