“Maybe I shouldn’t have e-mailed again.” “Am I coming on too strong?” My mind was filled with thoughts like these during the months my husband and I waited for the call. As I questioned each contact with an expectant mother, I was reminded of a different stage in my life.
For most of my early twenties, my girlfriends and I spent our Saturday nights laughing, dancing, and searching for Mr. Right. Yes, we were having fun, but we were often filled with insecurity. Most women have dated guys with ulterior motives or experienced the “fade-out” breakup. I remember dating a friend of a friend, John*, and analyzing his one-word, sometimes one-letter, texts — “maybe”; “K” — with a girlfriend.
When I met Anthony, one crisp October evening, my insecurity ceased. My phone rang before I went to sleep that night, as I knew it would. I didn’t have to wonder what his texts meant. I knew he liked me and, eventually, I knew he loved me.
I never expected to ever again feel like a vulnerable single woman, not with my husband by my side. But as we met more and more expectant mothers in our quest to adopt, that is exactly what happened.
I waited by the phone feeling as I had when I was a singleton, and felt that old jolt of excitement when it rang. I speculated about the exclusivity of our relationships with expectant mothers: Is she talking to other couples? Does she like them better than she likes us? What do they have that we don’t? Instead of a girlfriend, I confided in our adoption attorney.
“OK, tell me what happened with Jaclyn,” she’d say, and I’d relay the latest conversation.
“So, when you mentioned the social and medical history packet I sent her, she changed the subject?”
“Right, that’s why I don’t think she’ll send it back.”
As you wait to be chosen, you doubt every aspect of yourself. You wonder whether you are smart enough, wealthy enough, attractive enough. For Anthony and me, uncertainty was like a leech. It attached itself to us, and, with every failed situation, it drained a bit more of our blood, a little more of our hope.
Just before Christmas a few years ago, we were contacted by an expectant mother named Stephanie*. As the relationship began, we kept in close touch. Stephanie would chat on the phone for 45 minutes and text entire paragraphs. I began to feel that this was it. After a few weeks, though, I was always the one reaching out.
One Saturday afternoon, I texted Stephanie to ask how she was feeling. When my phone whistled as I stepped out of the shower, I smiled at myself in the steamy mirror. I dried my hands and opened the phone. But instead of her usual wordy response, she’d written: “I’m doing well. Thanks.”
There it was. John’s “K” all over again. The fade-out had begun, and, soon after, she was gone.
Meant to Be
In the end, our adoption was more like an elopement in Vegas than a prolonged courtship. Three hours after giving birth, our daughter’s birth mother, Marissa*, selected us. We called our lawyer and pediatrician, booked a flight, and packed our bags.
When we met Marissa, she asked us questions about ourselves and showed us pictures of her extended family. She seemed confident in her decision, but we couldn’t believe it. Not quite yet. And when I held Rosemarie in my arms for the first time, when I placed the bottle to her lips and changed her tiny diaper, I couldn’t admit how naturally my hands moved, how it felt as though they’d been waiting to care for this baby my whole life. I made myself doubt what was happening for fear that it was all a trick.
As we waited to hear from our lawyer the next day, I paced the rust-colored carpet in our hotel room. Finally, we got the word: Marissa had signed. Anthony wrapped his arms around me and we sobbed on each other’s shoulders.
I lay Rosemarie on my lap and stared into her dark blue eyes. My insecurity disappeared and I was finally able to feel the same kind of relief I’d felt when I met Anthony. Just as I knew he would someday be my husband, I knew that she was meant to be mine. This time, it was my doubts that faded away, only to be replaced by the purest gratitude and truest love.
*Names have been changed.