Note from Kayla: I love sharing unconventional, inspirational tales of motherhood, and I love it even more when those stories come from my friends! I’ve been fortunate enough to follow my friend Kylee Benson (@kyleecbenson on Instagram) and her family’s adoption journey, and I asked if she would be interested in sharing her family’s story with my readers. I’m so grateful she said yes – her words gave me goosebumps and reduced me to a puddle of tears. Girl can write! All words hereafter are Kylee’s.
Hi! I’m Kylee and I currently live in Austin, Texas with my husband Brandon. I met Kayla through her husband James in my hometown Tuscaloosa. I’m a huge fan/supporter of her blog and Instagram, and I was so excited when she asked me if I’d be willing to do a guest post about our adoption journey.
I had no experience with adoption prior to last June, when we had our first meeting with an adoption agency. I didn’t know anyone who had adopted, which is partly why I was so eager to share my experience here. There were many times that I desperately wanted to be able to turn to someone and ask, “Is this normal? How did it happen for you? What are your experiences?”
While I’ve learned that there is no “normal” adoption experience, we were incredibly lucky with how everything unfolded for us. I’m hoping by sharing my experience, I can bring comfort to someone who is on their own adoption journey.
Adoption requires paperwork, a home study, and profile. Brandon and I took four months to complete these three tasks before we went on a “waiting parents” list in the beginning of October 2018. The profile we’d created of ourselves would be available for expectant parents. While the profile works differently at different adoption agencies, at our agency, we were presented with referrals: general and basic information about the expectant mothers and babies. We then had a short amount of time to say, “Yes, we would like to be considered” or, “No, we would not like to be considered.” If we said yes, then our profile, along with 3-5 other waiting adoptive parent profiles, would be presented to the expectant parent for her to chose from.
To put it lightly, this part of the adoption was turbulent.
A handful of times, the agency contacted us in a frenzy as a birth mother was going into labor, demanding an immediate yes or no answer with no time think or plan or consider. This immediacy was a shock to our system.
The first week and a half we were on the list, we got five referrals. Every time we said yes, it was impossible not to start imagining this child as ours, daydreaming about baby snuggles and being a mommy. Every time we heard no back, it was crushing.
I won’t lie. It wasn’t pretty or easy. I spent a lot of time in bed, struggling to stay positive, and sometimes just unabashedly inviting in the pain to wallow in it.
A week of multiple referrals would often be followed by several weeks of hearing absolutely nothing from the adoption agency.
A week before Christmas, we had just heard back that we had not been selected on a particularly hard referral that I had felt a very strong connection with. Even though we’d only been on the waiting list a relatively short amount of time, I was beginning to grow cynical to it. I can’t imagine the hardship that some couples face, the toll it must take on them to wait for months and months, sometimes even years.
December 19th, we received a referral for a baby boy due January 15th. We eagerly agreed that we wanted to be considered, but this referral didn’t feel any different than the others. Deep down inside I knew it was going to be another no, but I tried to seem optimistic. It was Christmas, after all.
It usually took around 5 days to hear back, but Christmas passed without word. I shoved down my disappointment, and began to try and look forward to receiving the next referral.
My phone rang December 26th. It was the adoption agency. My whole body electrified. They never called. Rejection came through emails, succinct and harsh, like ripping off a band-aid.
I can still remember how surprised I was that my voice sounded so calm when I answered.
And just like that, our lives were changed.
We had been chosen. It was a yes. In the adoption world they call it being “matched.” It was pure elation. We couldn’t stop shaking. It felt like the grand finale, the crowning moment. I didn’t know it was only the beginning, that we hadn’t even made it to the hard part yet.
We had two weeks to prepare as much as we could to bring this baby home.
If we got the privilege of bringing this baby home. The possibility I hadn’t wanted to consider prior to matching was that being “matched” didn’t guarantee anything. It didn’t make this baby ours.
In Texas, a birth mother has 48 hours from the time the child is born until she can sign a relinquishment of her parental rights. And during that time she has every right to decide not to go through with the adoption plan. We always knew the risk. And at the end of the day, as horrible as the anxiety of those 48 hours would be, the last thing in the world we wanted to do was take a child away from a mother who wanted to parent.
On January 10th our time to prepare was cut a little short when a 6 pound 9 ounce baby boy was born in Houston, Texas.
We were driving to Houston when we got the call from the adoption agency. The birth mother had decided she didn’t think it was a good idea for us to come to the hospital that day. The agency warned us that the adoption might not go through.
It was an excruciating thing to hear.
We were confused and hurt. We could have cried and screamed and lashed out. The child that we had prepared for and daydreamed about and envisioned as our son was here and we weren’t going to be allowed to meet him. We didn’t understand what was happening or why things had changed.
We. We. We. That’s all we were thinking about. Ourselves. I don’t fault us for thinking that way. I can’t begin to describe the stress of it all, and the toll it was taking on us. But if we felt this we way, then how must the birth mother feel? What trauma must she be enduring?
We rearranged our perspective of the situation. We decided to stop putting ourselves—our emotions, our desires, our stress—first. This wasn’t about us. We were bystanders there for if, and only if, she decided that going forward with the adoption plan was what she wanted. This wasn’t about us.
I genuinely believe that this shift of perspective made all the difference in the world.
We settled at a hotel just a couple blocks away from the hospital and waited for news. It was unclear if we would get to see the baby the next day, or at all for that matter. There was nothing for us to do but wait.
“One day,” I said to Brandon as we lay in bed that night, hopelessly searching for sleep. “We will be grateful for this pain.”
However it turned out, whether this was our son or another baby out there somewhere, we would be grateful for everything that happened that led us to our child, whoever he was. We would be grateful for every referral that didn’t work out and every low along the way.
On the way to breakfast the next morning we got a call from the birth mother’s counselor letting us know that we could come to the hospital.
I can honestly say that I have never been so nervous in my entire life as I was to walk into that hospital room. I was terrified that the birth mother wouldn’t like me, that she’d think I looked too young or my accent was too strong or I didn’t look like a mother. I was shaking when we entered.
Her story—the birth mother’s story— is not my story to tell. So I’m not going to go into details or specifics. I’ll say that when I met her I thought she was an incredibly smart and thoughtful person.
The baby was in the room when we came in. She asked me if I’d like to hold him.
I wish I could say something more warm or sentimental about the first time I held him. All I can say was that it was strange. I felt a lot of things all at once. I was holding a baby that could be my child, but that at the moment very much was not. I had to keep a firm grasp on the knowledge that he wasn’t mine. Because if I let myself fall in love with him like most mothers are allowed the first time they cradle their babies as my heart begged me to, then I didn’t know how I was supposed to walk away from him if she decided not to go through with the adoption.
We spent most of the day at the hospital. We got to know her a little bit and she asked us questions about ourselves and our lives. I was very careful to always make sure it was okay with her before I interacted with the baby. She wanted us to get to spend some time alone with him so the hospital staff got us a room for just the three of us to spend time together.
I read to him All the Wonderful Things You Will Be, and The Little Engine that Could. I held him tightly, breathing in that sweet newborn smell as if I might be able to memorize it. I whispered to him promises and marveled at the dimple on his chin.
Those were precious hours, a gift that his birth mother was under no obligation to give. We said goodbye to him, knowing that we might never see him again.
We went back to the hotel exhausted and starving, and were once again left with nothing to do but wait. So that’s what we did.
The phone call came the next morning. It was done. The relinquishment papers had been signed.
There was a sort of delirious happiness, a feeling near tipsiness. We went back to the hospital and filled out mountains of paperwork, barely able to think straight. I couldn’t wait to see him again, to get to hold him in my arms.
I wanted to stare down at his dark eyes and dimpled chin and get to call him by his name for the very first time. Miles.
Adoption is a lot of things. It’s a lot of wonderful things, I firmly believe that. But you must never ever forget that adoption is also trauma.
Because when our son left the hospital with us, it meant that someone else was having to leave without him.
I could not have predicted the way I feel about his birth mother—the fondness and deep love and connection and pride. She is the strongest person I’ve ever met in my entire life.
When it was time to say goodbye to her at the hospital, she took a moment to hug Brandon and then she turned to me. Miles was cradled in my arms, between us as she embraced me. She looked at me for a long moment, searching my eyes for something. Then she smiled, small but brave, even as tears ran down her cheeks. I nodded, making her an unspoken promise.
We understood each other perfectly.
We understood each other in a way that only mothers could. It’s a hard thing to explain, the connection we share. There’s a quote by Desha Wood who puts it into words far better than I could.
“He is mine in a way that he will never be hers, and yet is hers in a way that he will never mine, and so together, we are motherhood.”
As Brandon and I drove home with our sleeping newborn, I realized I had been right all along. I was so grateful for the pain.