After several years of trying to have a baby on our own and several attempts with fertility treatments, Rob and I decided that adoption was the right path for us. Rob had always wanted to adopt but I wanted to try for a biological child first. When we did finally decide to go the adoption route, we chose to take a class called Adoption Discovery at one of the local churches. It was a great resource for explaining the different adoption options and led us to choose domestic voluntary infant adoption. I knew I wanted a newborn and we really connected with the option of an open adoption so our child would have every opportunity to know where she came from and know that she is loved by her birth family. Once we chose which option we wanted, the class offered a matrix of adoption agencies for our state (they are always looking for volunteers to contact adoption agencies to help this continue to make this matrix as complete as possible). Based on the matrix that defined key attributes for each agency, we visited 4 or 5 agencies by attending their information sessions. Every adoption agency definitely has their own style and when we found the one that fit for us, it was very clear. We chose Homes of St. Mark which is the adoption agency branch of the Presbyterian Childrens Homes and Services (http://pchas.org/).
We quickly got busy filling out background check information, getting our fingerprints, identifying and contacting references, and filling out the impossible form that defines what "kind" of baby we wanted. It went into detail about gender, race, situation of the parents, family health history, etc. Once we were approved, we then had the task of developing a picture resume of our life and a "Dear Birth Mother letter". Luckily the agency provided us with lots of examples and there was plenty of help online. A copy of this is below. The purpose of it is to add to the book of families that potential birth mom's will see when they contact the agency to find a forever family for their child. We were also encouraged to do our own advertisement outside of what the agency was doing. They said often you meet your birth family through a friend of a friend of a friend more often than through an agency contact. So we posted our resume on facebook and posted a shorter version of it on the PCHAS web page. (There were options to spend money posting on adoption web pages, but we chose not to go that direction.) From a timeline perspective, we met PCHAS in August 2010, finished the approval process and completing all the requirements by January 2011 and then started the wait.
In November 2011, we received a call from the agency that a couple in Corpus Christie wanted to meet us. They had been connected with Homes of St. Mark through a pregnancy center in Corpus. Homes of St. Mark sends copies of their family resume book to pregnancy centers around Houston and this is the one that brought us our birth family. So we drove to Corpus with our Homes of St. Mark adoption counselor and met Shay and Wayne at a restaurant for dinner. They were both 21 years old and both had adoption in their history (Shay was adopted by her Great Aunt and wasn't told until she was 15. Wayne spent his childhood in foster care with different foster families and aged out of the system.) They said they looked at the pictures in the resume book first and read just a few birth mother letters before choosing us. Our situation was somewhat rare because the mother and father were together and making the choice together (many times you don't have the father there, or may not even know who he is). They invited us to attend the ultra sound with them the next day where we would find out the sex of the baby. We were invited into the exam room with them and we all discovered together that the baby was a girl. The doctor was awesome and allowed us to ask questions and talked with us as much as Shay and Wayne. They even gave us a copy of the ultrasound pictures. We went home that night with the understanding that we had been chosen and that we would come back in March when the baby would be born.
In the mean time we kept in touch with Shay and Wayne via an anonymous gmail account. This allowed us to get to know each other better and allowed us to follow the details of the pregnancy. So we knew when she started kicking, how Shay was feeling, etc. Our adoption counselor visited them often to help them with bills, food, medical fees, etc. and to make sure they were doing o.k. She also gave us updates on how things were going. This was true until Shay and Wayne decided that she needed to be closer to her family, so she moved to Iowa to finish out her pregnancy. This started our research into interstate adoption agreements and a completely different process than we had originally prepared for. Shay was still planning for us to adopt her child, but we would have to travel to Iowa when the baby was born and follow Iowa laws for the adoption. It turned out that she ended up just spending the holidays in Iowa and decided she missed Wayne and wanted to be back in Corpus. So she moved back to Corpus in January, much to our relief.
We communicated via email often and in one of those email exchanges we discussed possible baby names together. Shay and Wayne said they wanted us to name her, but we involved them in the process so it could be something we could tell the baby that we decided together. We eventually decided on Lyra, which was a name that Shay had used previously as a pen name in high school and sometimes signed her emails with. It is the first name of the character in our favorite book the Golden Compass, it means “lyrical” in greek which fit my husband who is a choir director, and it is the name of a constellation, which fits me because I’m an aerospace engineer at NASA.
In one of the conversations between Bianca and Shay, they discussed what they anticipated the birth day to look like. Shay said she wanted us to at least be in the hospital and maybe in the room for the birth. A little later it changed that she didn't want us to be in the room, just because she didn't want us to see her that way. But she wanted us to be right outside so we could meet the baby right away. When we got the call from Bianca the morning of March 8th to tell us that Shay was in labor, she also told us that Shay and Wayne decided that they'd like the first day with the baby to themselves and we could come the next day to meet her. So we traveled to Corpus that night and waited until the next day for a call from Bianca that we could come up to the hospital. (On the way, we chose the middle name Kathryn, with the help of our little god daughter who was texting us through her mom during our trip.) We were invited to the hospital after lunch and finally got to meet the baby. We spent the entire day with Shay and Wayne and Lyra in the hospital room. We met one of their friends, and Wayne’s birth mother, Lyra’s grandmother who came to visit.
Texas law dictates that the birth mother must wait 48 hours before she can sign the papers to relinquish parental rights, so we wouldn’t be able to leave until the next day after 2:00. The next day we spent some time at the hospital in the morning, then gave them some time alone with Lyra until it was time for Shay to sign the papers. (Wayne had already signed his paperwork weeks before.) At this time we had an opportunity to meet with the nurse to get Lyra’s paperwork and ask newborn care questions. Then we went to lunch to wait. At 2:00 we got the call from Bianca that the papers had been signed and we could come up to the room to say goodbye to Shay and Wayne. We took pictures, said good bye and then took Lyra to the nursery for a lesson on how to feed her and to finish up the checkout process.
We returned to Houston the evening of March 10 to a house full of family waiting to meet our new addition. It was very good timing that she was born the weekend prior to spring break so Rob was able to spend the week at home. I was able to take 6 weeks off of work to be at home with her.
Lyra is now 6 months old and the adoption finalization is scheduled for September 21. We have kept in touch with Shay and Wayne who have since moved back to Iowa together. We email often and let them know all of the new things that Lyra is doing. Rob also set up an online Picasa photo album that we have shared with them through our anonymous gmail account. So they are able to watch her grow and change. They plan to come to Houston for Lyra’s first birthday and we hope to get to Iowa once before that to visit. Right now we are still keeping last names confidential and will meet at the agency when they come to Houston. I am confident that over time we will be able to progress to sharing last names and having visits in our home.
Our plan is to wait until Lyra is about 4 or 5 and then we will adopt another child. Next time we will choose a child younger than Lyra out of the foster care system rather than the voluntary infant adoption. We will most likely still use Homes of St. Mark for the second adoption.