By Rachel Kessler
My journey to adoption started in high school. I remember sitting in a specialist’s office as they delivered the news to my mother and me that I would never bear children. I remember my mother crying and I remember that I did not understand fully the implications of it. As an 18-year-old, the idea of children was still far off. I continued my life, moving on to college and still was not concerned with it.
It did not begin to affect me until I had a failed relationship due to not being able to have children biologically.
This was one of the first times I remember being angry with God. Why me God? Little did I know about His plan. I had met my husband in church before I went to college but we did not begin dating until I was in college. By our second date, due to the previous relationship, I told my future husband that I could not have children biologically. Thankfully, he was not scared off by this. Our relationship continued and blossomed into marriage.
We were roughly four years into our marriage; we had a house, cars, and felt called to adopt. Nothing prepares you for the process of adoption. When we first started the process, we wanted to do a closed adoption because neither of us could think of how we could “share” our child. It was at this time God broke my heart for open adoption. During one of the many parenting classes we had to take, they handed us a puzzle and said, “put it together.” We were in different groups and it quickly became apparent that not all of us had all the pieces. This was a picture of adoption. When a child does not have all the pieces in their story, there are holes. Right there in that class, I knew we had to be willing for an open adoption.
We took parenting classes, had our entire lives picked over with a fine tooth comb, had our marriage questioned from every angle to make sure we were adopting for the right reasons, and that we could provide a stable home for a child. It took us just under a year to finish all the paperwork, classes, home studies, interviews and certifications.
After that the waiting began. We had created a profile about us to show prospective birth parents, similar to a dating profile. We waited to be chosen.
The way our agency worked was, as prospective birth parents came into the agency and decided to adopt, we would receive an email containing a few details about the child and the birth parents. We could then decide if we wanted to have our profile shown to them. Our profile was essentially a biography of our family and life. With each email that came in, which was roughly once or twice a month, my heart would skip a beat. I would get the email and then forward it to my husband. We would pray and decide if we wanted to have our profile shown or not. Most of the time we agreed to show our profile. Then the waiting game began.
After we said “yes”, we would wait – sometimes days, sometimes weeks. The waiting was the worst. For three years, we received one “you were not selected at this time” after another. Each one to me was a glaring “you’re not good enough.” During this waiting period, I experienced one of the darkest times I have ever had in my life. It was the spring of 2014. I had started to question God about why it was taking so long.
When we started, our agency said generally couples wait 1 to 2 years. We were over that, well into our third year of waiting. I remember a dear friend had announced her pregnancy and I knew that morning I would need to face her and smile and tell her how excited I was for her when deep down I envied her. It was a Sunday morning, I was in my kitchen and I was trying to walk out the door to church and I was overcome by anger, bitterness, and self-doubt. I remember crumbling to the floor in my kitchen unable to stand, sobbing. I called my mother and asked her to please come as my husband was not home and I needed help to get up off the floor. I remember her walking in, putting her bags on the floor and joining me crying. I was so overcome that I was physically unable to stand up.
My mother pulled me from the floor and together we went to church.
I cried most of that morning but I knew I was in the right place. After that day, our life of waiting continued. When July 2014 began, I was deep into doubt about God’s plan for our lives. I put a call into our social worker and began the process of pulling out of the adoption process. I couldn’t do it anymore. I could not take another rejection. My social worker prayed with me and asked me to take some time and really think about it. She put me in touch with another couple who had had a long wait. Not long after that phone call, we went on vacation with my husband’s family. We spent almost two weeks driving cross country to Montana. I had told our agency that, while we were still on the wait list, we would be out of both email and phone contact during the trip so, if for any reason they needed us, to be patient as we would get back to them.
During that trip, I did a lot of praying and even researched other adoption agencies that I thought might work better for us. It was our second to last day on vacation, we were driving through the Badlands in one of the few places where we had cell service and an email came through from the agency as it had in the past many times. It was a straight forward email sent to all waiting families telling that a baby had been born and other specific information. As we had done in the past, we responded that we wanted our profile shown to the birth mother. I honestly did not even give it a second thought. We came home from vacation and we continued our lives. Oddly enough two days after coming from vacation, I went on vacation again, this time much closer in Ocean City, NJ, with my twin sister and her daughter.
It was a Tuesday. We went to the beach for most of the day and then returned to the hotel to change and hit the boardwalk. After dinner, we were walking back to our hotel on 8th Street. My phone rang, the adoption agency number filled the screen. My heart stopped beating. I picked it up to hear the amazing voice of our social worker Rebekah (name changed). She asked me where I was and what I was doing. I gave the details and she said that a birth mother liked our profile and wanted to meet us later in the week. I had the entire conversation with Rebekah as my sister was waiting with bated breath. She could tell by my conversation and face what this call was. She even snapped a photo of my niece hugging me while on the phone. That was Tuesday evening, August 5, 2014.
I called my husband to tell him what Rebekah had said. He was somewhat speechless but told me to keep my emotions in check and we prayed. This was an amazing evening with my sister. You see, a few years before that I had the pleasure of being with my twin sister when she found out she was pregnant. While we are identical twins, my sister did not have the same problem as me. God gave me my sister at the very time that my “pregnancy test” came back positive. That evening, my sister and I sat in our hotel room talking about what if this happened. I did my best to keep my emotions in check. We had never gotten to this point in our adoption journey. I was skeptical. I was guarded.
The next day, my sister and I drove home and my husband and I sat down to talk for the first time. During the day, Rebekah had called a few times to ask us some questions the birth mother had for us and with each phone call from Rebekah I felt one step closer. During this time a select few people knew what was going on. I was again guarded. I did not want to tell people and then have to call them all back and say, “Never mind.” It was the following afternoon that Rebekah called and said the birth mother wanted to meet us the next day. I was stunned. That evening, my best friend went shopping with me for a gift for our birth mother. What do you buy a woman who is placing her child with you? We had settled on a few things and one of the things was sunflowers. I just wanted to give her sunflowers so she could see a physical manifestation of my happiness.
The following day, my husband and I drove separately to meet with the birth mother. My husband worked very close to our adoption agency, but we lived farther away. I remember driving alone, almost scared. I just prayed the entire ride there. When I finally got to the agency and found my husband, our social worker ushered us into a room and prayed with us. I remember walking from one room into a conference room and we sat down and waited for what felt like forever until our daughter’s birth mother walked in. I remember being immediately struck by her beauty. She had the most amazing blue eyes. I hugged her and did my best to not cry. In complete opposite to the feelings I had two weeks prior, I was thinking, “How are we worthy to adopt this woman’s baby?”
She gave us a little of her story about what brought her to adoption and we shared a little about our life. I felt connected to her. Her eyes were tired, like those of a person going through a great struggle. We talked for what felt like hours when in reality it was 45 minutes. After that she left and we exited, Rebekah told us she would be in touch but it would take days or weeks, perhaps even months for a decision to come. Later that afternoon, we got an email from Rebekah letting us know that our birth mother had picked a name for the baby, Christina. She wanted to know how we felt about the name and if we would keep it somewhere either middle or first.
I remember sitting at the computer googling what names would go well with Christina. We (my husband and I) had decided that we wanted to honor our birth mother and keep the name Christina as her first name. After hours of looking, we decided on
Avery as a middle name. Christina means “follower of Christ” and Avery means “wise counselor.” We sent a few different names over to our social worker to run by our birth mother but we liked Christina Avery. Then we waited like we had never waited. I was knee deep in a pint of ice cream at about 9 p.m. when my phone rang…. to be continued in our next issue.
By Rachel Kessler. Rachel is an active member of Grace BFC, Wallingford, PA.