When the day finally came for us to drive to Arkansas to meet our daughter it didn’t seem real. We arrived a day early and went out to dinner – it was our last night being non-parents. We were stressed, anxious, excited, you name an emotion and we probably felt it! We waited for a call from the agency owner the following day when she went into labor. We were so anxious and set the hotel room up to prepare for our baby. We were WAY over prepared (but we didn’t feel that way)! What seemed like forever we got the call to come to the hospital. The birth mother was induced at 7am and our daughter was born at 12:22pm. We received a text from the agency owner with a picture. About 5 minutes later we were told to go to the birthmother’s room. A bucket of nerves and out of body experience is the only way I can describe it.
We met the birthmother (well not necessarily met) but awkwardly stood next to her in her hospital bed. The true feeling of happiness exuding from us and horrible sadness from her. The birthmother handed our daughter to me. It was so hard to speak, all we could say was thank you and that us being parents and family wouldn’t be possible without her. Thankfully the agency owner stepped in and we did a nice prayer for good health and peace of mind for the birthmother. You feel like all the air has been taken out of you-you can’t breathe or even think for that matter.
The nurse took our baby’s oxygen level and it hadn’t increased the way they would have liked. Our daughter was immediately taken into the nursery to be put on oxygen and then a feeding tube. We stayed in the nursery for several days. We received a card, balloon, and little bear from the birthmother the following day which was so nice. It was so hard to talk at that moment and it was so incredibly nice to read her thoughts and be able to share that card with my daughter in the future.
One nurse who did not agree with adoption was removed from rotation while we were there. I don’t hold it against her and just understand that some people will never want to learn about adoption. They have their own views typically that adoption shouldn’t exist and that by me not being able to conceive that was a sign from God that we shouldn’t be parents. I obviously don’t agree and wanted nothing more than to be a mother. I guess I get where these people who have these opinions are coming from to a point. They understand that with adoption comes great loss but what they don’t understand is that adoption is a solution (on both sides) to a somewhat troubling situation.
After several days of shuffling like zombies to and from our hotel, forcing food in our mouths, and just honestly feeling the worst my body has ever felt we found out our daughter had a heart murmur. I myself have had four open heart surgeries so this immediately caused alarm for me. We wanted an echo and/or EKG done to see what specifically was causing the murmur. The hospital didn’t have the equipment to do it and irritatingly the doctor assumed we wanted to know what was wrong to decide if we would continue with the adoption. That was one of the most shocking statements I’ve ever heard. I’ve been in love with this child before I even met her and no matter the issue we would deal with it together. We wanted to know because of my background with heart issues and because we knew after the court hearing we had a long drive back to Wisconsin.
She was required to go on med-flight to have an echo done. We were given 30 minutes to pack up our hotel room so I could fly with her. We were lightning fast and to this day that was the fastest I have ever packed. The hotel manager was amazing to us as well. We drove to the hospital to find our daughter in a huge incubator type box with a huge machine attached underneath and several med flight crew members. Our doctor was explaining what was happening but all I saw was my poor daughter and I started to cry. The doctor was trying to explain that we weren’t yet “legally” her parents and could not ride with her. I started to sob more and look at my husband. Immediately the head of the med flight crew looked directly at me and said you can fly with us. The pilot told my husband he would take care of us. As my daughter was carted out to the helicopter I could see all the other eyes on me from people at the hospital. I was strapped in with a harness and put massive head phone ear protectors on. I watched the doctor write copious amounts of notes (that I later learned would save the doctor at the hospital a great deal of time). The med flight leader was checking vitals on my daughter the entire time. I looked out the window at the beautiful view and tried not to think about my husband driving or my daughter who may or may not need surgery. I also tried not to think about how sick I felt and how hot I was. It was over 102 degrees in the helicopter.
Our daughter received an echo and we met with a social worker. In a couple hours we were told it was a small heart murmur and would hopefully heal itself. She was okay! They did require her to stay over one more night. We found a new hotel later that night and then came back in the morning for discharge. We finally got to leave. When we were carrying her out I kept waiting for someone to say “just kidding.” We got to the hotel and I think we were still in shock. We had a co-sleeper for the hotel and neither one of us slept. Every little noise we got up. We were responsible for a tiny human being! We waited almost 5 more days until our court hearing. Outings were somewhat odd because strangers would make comments or ask questions. The main one was once finding out the age of our daughter they looked at me in somewhat of amazement that I felt so good (assuming I had given birth). I never corrected a stranger because frankly it wasn’t their business anyways!
Our court hearing approached. We were so nervous! We drove to the courthouse the day before just to plan out where to park and load her in. We got there and waited. We were called into a room that was an actual court room with a security person and a judge in robe. We each had to take an oath and the stand to answer questions. The agency owner also took the stand to answer questions. When our court hearing was complete and our daughter became legally ours we took pictures with the judge. I kept thinking please don’t spit up on the judge. Many call this the ‘gotcha day’ but because we were there moments after her birth I really don’t hold this day on a pedestal like some do. It’s a great day but I’ll always remember her birth and when I met her for the first time more!
After the court hearing we drove straight home. We made it home and I held my daughter sitting on our couch and just sobbed. It was real, we were home! We unpacked and enjoyed having her in her own crib. We were visited by family members and friends. I stayed home for 12 unpaid wonderful weeks with her. I also spent many hours (while she slept) trying to get medical records from both hospitals. It was an issue because she had two different names. She was given an alias name at the second hospital due to the adoption which made getting records more difficult. Because it’s a closed adoption I had to apply for a new social security card for her. I know I have many roads still ahead as my daughter begins to grow, mature, and ask questions. We hope we will have an opportunity to build our relationship with the birthmother, too. Even though it is closed we have a private Facebook page where I update her on milestones and photos.
As I finally begin to process all of my emotions I have found writing to be an extremely good outlet. I also LOVE to talk about adoption because I feel like so many more need to be educated on the topic. I think about all the things I didn’t know before starting the journey. I want to also offer any guidance or assistance to those going through the process of infertility or adoption, advocate for ethical adoptions and work on reforms to the adoption process (like requiring all birth mothers post adoption to receive counseling that the agency pays for). After reflecting on this whole story it’s amazing we made it through. Also, it’s wonderful to recognize all the people that helped us along the way, listened to us, and gave us advice. I’m so proud of where we are and what we have overcome.
After completing this process I have changed my view on many things:
- Birthmothers are HEROES. For a woman to choose to not abort and make a plan for her unborn child to have a better future and life is the most selfless and amazing thing. To realize you are not the best fit to be a parent and to offer the chance for another couple/person to be able to be a parent is indescribable.
- I used to be all for a woman’s right to choose abortion (and I still believe that) but now I really hope women think about the amazing thing their bodies can do that some women can’t. I hope all women realize what an incredibly amazing thing having a child is and consider adoption more!
- I’m frustrated with the disconnected adoption process. There are so many agencies, but NO connection. There are no exact statistics on adoption because you would have to go to all the agencies all across the U.S. I don’t understand why there isn’t a standard adoption process for each agency. There is no all-encompassing database of birthparents and adoptive parents (which would make matching seamless). Adoption laws in the U.S. are enacted and monitored by the states. This means that the laws can vary quite a bit from one state to another.
About Paige Knipfer
Paige grew up in Cottage Grove (outside of Madison) and attended Edgewood College, where she graduated with a BS in Political Science, as well as going on a program called Semester at Sea (traveling around the world on a ship while experiencing 14 countries). She is a training specialist for CUNA (Credit Union National Association) and has been for about 3 years now. She is a credit union advocate (along with adoption of course). While in high school, she met her amazing hubby, who she married in 2012. They currently reside in Brooklyn (outside of Oregon) WI with their rescued 9 year old black lab and 6 month old daughter. She also mentors a high school student and volunteers at many local places. She loves to travel, make jewelry, take photos, and read. She is a driven, sarcastic, old soul full of coffee, gin, and sushi.