It’s weird to admit, but one of the most important decisions of my life happened in a bathroom at an amusement park.
My husband and I were enjoying our day at Six Flags, when my doctor called to tell me that once again, I wasn’t pregnant. Feeling disappointed, I went to the ladies room to pull myself together. As I stood there, leaning against the stall door, I felt like an unimaginable loser. Not being able to do the one thing that millions of women have done since the beginning of time made me feel like a gigantic failure. And that’s the exact state I was in when I noticed the brand name on the toilet – Sloan.
I repeated it in my head, Sloan, Sloan, Sloan. As I said it, I had a vision of little girl, and I knew that although she didn’t come from me, she was mine. In that moment, I was convinced. I marched right out to my husband and said, “We’re going to adopt a little girl, and we’re going to name her Sloan.” Without hesitation, he agreed.
A week later, we were knee deep in adoption paperwork. We started off by pursuing international adoption, but a year later, realized we were facing an indefinite wait. So our focus shifted to domestic adoption. Once again, we took classes, submitted paperwork, did home studies - and nothing. In fact, our agency wouldn’t even return our phone calls. Then one day, we were informed that our case worker was missing, had stolen our file, and was wanted by the police.
So there we were, almost three years later, not one step closer to becoming parents. By now, my feelings of failure had multiplied exponentially. Yet, I could not shake the conviction that I was supposed to adopt a child.
So for the third time, I called an agency. Making that phone call was incredibly hard, because sometimes, allowing yourself to hope is the most heart breaking thing you can do.
Although we live in an area with dozens of adoption agencies, I chose one located about 5 hours away. I’m not sure why, but when I looked at their website, I got a warm feeling. Plus, they only offered open adoption, and by this time, I had come to believe that open adoption, when possible, is in the best interest of a child.
Two months later, an expectant mother wanted to talk with us. I’ve never been so nervous to talk to someone in my whole life, but our conversation came easily. That weekend, my husband and I drove to meet her and her parents.
Here’s the part of the story that I love the most. A few weeks earlier, this expectant mother and her mom had been discussing the baby’s name, when she said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if the adoptive parents named her Sloan.” Sloan had been the name of one of her teacher’s daughters and she had always loved it.
Although the baby wasn’t due until March, on January 27th, a 2 pound 5 ounce little girl entered this world. And of course, we named her Sloane.
I don’t know why it happened in a bathroom, but that’s where God placed my daughter’s name on my heart. It’s where He connected me to her birthmother, so when we met, we would have a way to recognize each other.
I love my daughter and her name. I am so blessed to have this everyday reminder that God loves us, wants the best for us, and that His timing, certainly not our own, is always perfect.
Through the grace of God, we have an open adoption. Because our daughter was a preemie, she spent the first month of her life in the NICU. Being the parent of a NICU baby can be tough, but I am so grateful for that time. Every single day of the first month of her life, my daughter’s birth mom came to see her. She was able to hold her, sing to her, read to her, pray over her, and above all, love her in person. I thank God for those days and how precious they are to my daughter. I also know it was very painful for her birth mom; each day she was falling more and more in love with a child that she would not be able take home. I am continually awed by her selflessness and courage.
That first month also gave us the chance to solidify our relationship with my daughter’s birthmom and grandparents. We spent many hours at the hospital getting to know each other. Over the past 4.5 years, we have gotten to know each other a lot better. We see each other several times a year and stay in communication by phone and email too.
People often ask what it’s like to have an open adoption and the best way to describe it is that it feels like family. It can be wonderful, but it can also be awkward. But seriously, what family doesn’t have its fair share of uncomfortable moments? At the end of the day, we know that we all love and are committed to the same beautiful little girl – and that is truly all that matters.
Q. How has being adoptive parents affected the way you look at life?
A. Being a parent changes you, but when you layer it with being an adoptive parent – it’s pretty mind-blowing. The thing that I never could have expected is that by adopting my daughter, my husband and I weren’t just gaining a child, we were getting an entire extended family. That part has been an unexpected blessing.
I also wasn’t prepared for how much adopting a child of a different ethnicity would change me. I’ve always been pretty intolerant of racism and prejudice, but now, I am acutely sensitive to it. Things that would once roll off my back affect me deeply. Now, when people say things, even in jest, I realize that they are speaking about someone’s child – and it could just as likely be my child. I have become painfully aware that our attitudes and words can be powerful weapons to degrade and limit the future of others.
Q. What would you say to help educate people on adoption?
A. I think we would all be better off if we simply remembered that at the heart of every adoption is a child. Our words and attitudes, specifically about other members in the adoption triad, inevitably shape the way that child feels about himself and his place in the world. That’s why education is so critical.
Most of us operate from a knowledge base limited to our own experiences, but adoption is very complex. One of the more powerful things for me is to simply go online and read as many blogs as I can find. That’s actually how I had the good fortune to find Birthmother Baskets. I intentionally seek out blogs written from a different perspective than my own. At times, the opinions and thoughts, especially those of birthmothers, have been painful for me to read. But learning about their experiences has changed me. It has allowed me to see things through another set of eyes, helped me to form my own beliefs, and most important, has given me deeper compassion.
Q. If you could tell your birth mom anything, what would you say?
A. It’s a peculiar thing to be an adoptive mother because the single most profound joy I’ve ever known is directly connected to another woman’s deepest suffering. I hope my daughter’s birthmother knows that I have never, will never, forget that. I also hope she knows that not a day goes by that she isn’t thought about or mentioned in our home. When I look at our exquisite girl, I see her birthmother. I see her eyes, her spirit, and her sacrifice and it makes me proud. I pray she knows that I also see her when I envision the future of my family. When I dream of things like graduations, wedding, etc., I see the two of us, side-by-side, celebrating the journey of our magnificent little warrior.