A phone call changed my world on a cold January day. I was standing in the narrow hallway outside the classroom where I taught when I saw my caller I.D. light up with the number from our adoption agency. I grabbed the phone and heard our social worker ask if I was sitting down. I looked around and all I saw were preschooler-sized chairs, so I leaned against the wall.
“An expectant mother named Melissa* has selected your profile—you’re going to be parents!” exclaimed our social worker. There were many more details, but what stood out in my mind was that Melissa was uncertain about a due date. She had been pregnant before and delivered early and, based on this, she believed she could go into labor soon.
We borrowed a car seat. I clipped a coupon for diapers and bought a single box of the newborn size. We braved Babies R Us and allowed ourselves one purchase: a brown pack ‘n play with circles in shades of blue and green. We tried to temper our excitement with a dose of reality; Melissa could change her mind at any point. The baby might be born prematurely and need a long hospital stay. Nevertheless, we were ready to rush to the hospital at the drop of a hat.
Tangible Steps Toward Family
Half a year earlier, my husband and I had decided to abandon the ship we had been on for four years; we decided to stop trying to conceive.
The dream of having a child was eating at us as a couple and became the major topic of our conversations. We were finished with invasive medical procedures and charting morning body temperatures. I’d had enough of my internal debate about whether or not to have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine every month around the end of my cycle. I was tired of waiting for my body to cooperate.
Month after month I longed to feel nauseous or note some other early sign of pregnancy, but the only changes I ever experienced were side effects from infertility medications. Now, for the first time since trying to start a family, I could finally do something that produced tangible results.
When I mailed the completed home study papers back to our agency, I saw progress. I felt justified in repainting a room with the knowledge that it soon would belong to a child. I could actively search for profiles of sibling groups that seemed like they might be a good fit in our lives.
Now that we were matched with an expectant mother, however, we were on to a new type of wait. This wait held the promise of something wonderful, but it was also stagnant; aside from gathering the bare minimum of supplies we couldn’t physically do anything.
We desperately wanted to prepare for a baby but didn’t want too many reminders around the house in case things didn’t work out. After all, this was a fluke. Although our agency processed newborn adoptions, they hadn’t handled one in several years and primarily matched families to children waiting in foster care. We had expected to be matched with a preschooler or even a group of siblings. The odds seemed slim that an expectant mom would find our agency, and even slimmer that she would single us out of the pool of waiting families.
I had read stories about women changing their minds after giving birth and was fearful this might be our reality. The fact that a complete stranger picked my husband and me to parent her baby felt too good to be true. I steeled myself for disappointment while hoping for the best.
The days slipped by, and I slept with my phone in the bedroom in case we were summoned to the hospital in the middle of the night. Days turned into weeks, and I let my fellow teachers know I might have to leave with little notice. But then weeks turned into months. Our social worker reassured us that Melissa still wanted to make an adoption plan, but could share little more than that. I couldn’t help second-guessing whether this was actually going to happen. I had next to nothing to share whenever close friends and family asked for updates. All I could do was wait.
Three months after that initial call from our worker, I sat on the couch in our living room and cried. I was tired of waiting. I was ready to give up hope and resolve myself that she must have changed her mind and not wanted to tell us. I was unsettled and tried to distract myself by reading and taking a walk, but nothing worked. I had allowed the wait to make me bitter, but I wasn’t sure what I could do to change.
And then, as I was pulling the Easter ham out of the oven, I saw my phone light up with a text message. I had to reread the words on the screen before I could make sense of them: “Melissa’s water broke. She is on her way to the hospital. Can you meet her there?”
Our family sat down at the table as my husband and I frantically left the house. My heart was pounding; this was the moment we had been waiting for. My nerves took over and I started shaking with anticipation. After navigating unfamiliar streets and a large parking garage we found ourselves in an empty waiting room.
Our social worker met us with a calm smile on her face and took us to meet Melissa for the first time. We nervously exchanged a few words about how she was feeling while I tried to discreetly glance at her protruding belly. Our meeting was brief; we wanted to respect Melissa’s wishes to give birth privately.
We returned to the waiting room and waited.
We read and we waited.
We paced the floor and we waited.
We waited and waited for any news, and yet were startled when a friendly young woman dressed in scrubs asked, “Are you the adoptive parents?”
“Yes,” we replied anxiously.
“It’s a girl!” she smiled as she turned to walk away. “You can come back to see her in a minute.”
We met our daughter in the delivery room a few minutes later. There she was, all five pounds of her lying on her back with her eyes shut tight against the bright lights. The dream I’d carried in my heart for so long was right in front of me getting identity bands wrapped around her dainty limbs. I was timid at first, wondering if I really had the authority to touch this sweet baby. It felt surreal to call myself her mother. I saw my husband looking at our daughter with adoration and awe and knew those expressions must be mirrored on my own face. I carefully reached my hand out to caress her smooth, soft cheek and allowed my heart to open up.
The wait was over.
JESSICA WAGNER is a mother of two and a teacher taking a break from the classroom. She spends her days chasing kiddos, coaxing her chickens away from the road, and savoring the respite called naptime. Her writing has been featured on Coffee + Crumbs, Parent Co., and Dandelion Magazine.
You are viewing this exclusive AF content as a guest. To access our full Adoption Parenting Library — plus digital issues, eBooks, expert audio and more — join Adoptive Families today.