Perspectives of Adoption: Bringing Home Leo

by Meg McConville

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At first, when Brooke asked me to write about our adoption for her Perspectives On Adoption series, I thought it would be easy.  I have so many things to say about adoption and parenthood, and our placement is still so fresh. But I’ve started and deleted this story over and over, because although I am part of this story, it isn’t completely mine to tell.

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The main character in this tale is a real person.  He’s three months old, with the sweetest brown eyes and chubby cheeks imaginable, and he can’t give us his perspective yet.  The other main character is his first mother, the woman who carried him and gave birth to him and made the decision that we would raise him.  Her story is not mine to tell, either.

There are so many others who have woven the story of our family, from our Adoption Doula to the social workers at our adoption agency, to the kind nurse who rocked our son in the days until we were allowed to meet him, to the staff of the NICU we made our home for 6 weeks, to our families and friends who came together to assist with the massive remodel we were in the midst of when we became parents, and the incredible organization who fund-raised on our behalf to help with our adoption expenses.  It’s both humbling and strange to find yourself in the midst of the most beautiful story you’ve ever heard, and to find that the story isn’t about you at all.

Our part of the story starts with a lot of soul-searching about how we wanted to become parents and what kind of parents we wanted to be. We had experienced two miscarriages and weren’t sure we wanted to try that path again after learning more about why it had occurred.  We mulled it over for a couple of years, actually, and on one fateful day, a post on social media by The Adoption Doula was our sign. Adoption was the way we would become parents.

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Looking back, I’m thankful for the time it took us to make that decision, because when the sign came, we were ready—we had made peace with our grief, and we had answered the question a lot of couples struggle with:  Do you have to give birth to a child for them to be your own? For us, the answer was no. It turns out we love a lot of people and a lot of creatures, and none of them came into our lives through our bodies.

So we moved forward—our doula, Brooke, helped us learn what type of adoption would be a good fit for us, and then helped us select an agency whose practices matched our values.  It wasn’t an easy road, but neither is pregnancy. Some fathers watch their partners grow larger with child, and some mothers feel their babies kicking and moving, but we filled out forms, took online classes, and scheduled interviews for our home study.  The processes may be different, but one thing is the same: there would be a baby at the end of this path! And despite the hard work, we felt more sure than ever that our dreams of parenthood were about to come true.

We had prepared ourselves to wait a year or more, but just a few months after our profile with the agency went live, we received the call we had been waiting for.  If I’m being honest, the call we had in mind was “Your baby is BORN! Come meet them!” But it turns out, this call was better. Our agency had a meeting scheduled with an expectant mother, and they wanted to show her our profile along with a couple of others.  We listened as Nancy filled us in on her situation, and without much discussion at all, we wholeheartedly gave our permission. We felt connected to the situation—the story of this woman and her child spoke to us and we knew we were all in.

There were a lot of twists and turns between that phone call in May and the phone call one July morning that our son was waiting to meet us.  We had been waiting for the call, and in the meantime had packed our bags and started the trek northeast to the hospital he had been born at. It was a gamble—it could have been a sad drive home, but as I said, we were all in.  We were focused on the moment we’d walk into that hospital and meet the third member of our family. The joy of that possibility outweighed our fear.

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And that possibility was better than we had imagined! Suddenly, we were living our biggest dream and the social workers and nurses were telling us we could hold the tiny dark-haired boy sleeping peacefully in the bassinet in front of us.  It was overwhelming, exciting, terrifying, and so real. The inner peace that had guided us and reassured us and kept us going had been telling the truth all along, and Leo had arrived to make us a family.

To say there have been a lot more twists and turns since that day would be an incredible understatement. In the past few months, we have weathered the storm of the NICU and the uncertainty that has come with Leo’s unique medical complications. We’ve begun to learn the intense joy, exhaustion, fear, and humor that parenthood brings and we’ve fallen in love with our son more than we could have even imagined.  Those long, late nights have given us a lot of time to reflect on our story, on Leo’s story, and on his birth mother’s story.

This really isn’t a story about us.  We are in it, but it’s Leo’s story. We aren’t really writing it, either.  We get to write our part in it and choose what kind of parents we want to be, but we don’t get to decide how Leo views this story or how he feels about adoption.  I think that can be a hard pill to swallow for adoptive parents. For us, this has been the most magical and the most definitive moment of our lives, but in so many ways, saying that Leo is meant to be our son seems to imply that he was meant to go through all of the very hard things that brought him to us.  I’m not so sure I feel that’s fair to say. I feel with every fiber of my being that my purpose in life is to be his mother, and I can’t put into words what it means to me that I was chosen for this job, but I can’t let my story overshadow his. He gets to write that, and our attitudes and honesty about his adoption and his first mother will be some of the first tools he uses to write it.

It also feels unfair to say that what Leo’s birth mother went through on her journey was meant to be so that I could be a mother.  I don’t like that, and I reject it. Her story is hers to tell, and what it means to her is something only she can decide. I hope I can tell her that in person someday and that we can share in watching Leo grow, if that’s what she wants.  She carried our son and brought him into this world even though neither part was easy. He looks like her, complete with that thick dark hair, and he has a beautiful birthmark on his forehead that I like to imagine is a kiss she left with him.  In my story, she will forever be a hero, and that’s how I plan to describe her to the son we share.

In adoption stories, I don’t think there are cut and dried good guys and bad guys, as much as human nature always wants to root them out and assign them. Instead, the people in adoption stories are humans, making human choices, doing hard things, and doing their best to love.  Adoption is beautiful, but also complicated. It’s joyful, yet tragic. It’s a loving choice and a heartbreaking one, somehow healing some while leaving scars for others. For our family, it is a lifetime commitment to empathy, to honesty, and most importantly, to listening to and acknowledging the stories of each person involved.

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