We are so beyond thrilled for Jennifer and Ryan's story to really just be beginning with baby Grant! David and I actually get to meet him this Friday:-) From the moment you get called to the hospital to when you actually get to bring your baby home is truly 2 days that change you forever. It's something most people will never experience and some are a little afraid of what that could be like so Jennifer was open enough to share what their personal experience was like. What she shares is absolutely what we felt when each of our 2 girls were born, it actually brings back the emotion I felt reading her words and describing it so well. This is so worth the read and might just help get you to the next step if you are have been scared of the unknown!
What were you thinking and feeling the last week leading up to when Grant was born?
There was a lot of excitement and anticipation! I know a lot of people feel anxious or worried but we had a real peace about everything and were able to enjoy the process which was wonderful. Our birthmom had a "false alarm" two weeks before her due date. She was already somewhat dilated and having contractions so we were on high alert waiting for the call. We wondered when we should travel to be near her, how we would get the dogs to the sitter and if we had attended to all the little details.
How did the process at the hospital work? Did you get to be in the delivery room? Who cut the cord?
Well, I am so glad we signed up for the tour of the hospital with our precious birthmom and did it together! It was helpful to see the rooms we would be in and we were able to ask adoption-specific questions privately at the end of the tour. Every hospital is different concerning how they handle adoption. Also some things the doctor had told us were not accurate so getting the information right from the maternity floor helped us feel prepared. We were very blessed and fortunate to have been included in the prenatal care which gave us the chance to build a relationship with our birthmom. We arrived at the hospital the same time as our birthmom so we were there for the whole process. I was able to accompany her to maternity triage and then my husband joined us after she was admitted for labor and delivery. I was the first person to hold Grant as soon as he entered the world and my husband was able to cut the cord. All three of us were able to enjoy the first hour of his life in the delivery room, taking turns holding him "skin-to-skin."
What were your first thoughts/feelings when you saw Grant being born?
It was the most amazing experience to witness! The first thing we saw was his dark black hair. Seeing his little face for the first time was surreal. I felt so proud of our birthmom for her strength and courage. It was hard to stay composed. I think we all cried a few tears. The most amazing moment for me was when our birthmom said I should hold him first for skin-to-skin time. When the nurse placed him on my chest, she laid him where I could feel his heart beating directly above mine. That was such an incredible moment. I remember holding him thinking "I can't believe he's really here!!!" And "He's so perfect!!" I still feel that way.
Before the legal papers are signed, there are these 2 days that are just awkward and so hard for everyone involved before you get to leave the hospital. They are some of the most life changing moments you will ever experience. How did the 2 days go before you got to actually leave the hospital?
Well, from what I am told, our adoption was different than most. We had developed such a good relationship with our birthmom that we were able to be present for much more than most adoptive parents. We are so thankful for that! She went into labor on Friday night but he wasn't born until the next day, so I stayed with her all night and we watched movies to take her mind off of the pain of labor, which was moving slowly at that point. My husband went to sleep at the hotel, but she had welcomed him to stay too. I also stayed in the hospital the first night after he was born at her request, which is very rare but amazing. We took turns holding him. I took the night shift so she could sleep.
About noon the second day we left to give her time with her birthmom coach and with the baby. I think that was the hardest part, leaving him knowing that it's not final yet. You're just praying nothing changes and you're waiting for the call to come back and take your baby home. One thing that made it harder was that we live far from where he was born, so it wasn't like we could go home and distract ourselves with laundry. We prayed together, cried a little, had a nice lunch, picked up a small present for our birthmom, played at an arcade, and saw a movie. I think it was important for us to release some of the emotion that had built up. While very exciting it is also a very emotionally heavy process.
The adoption agency told us the papers were to be signed at 10:30 the next morning. So, we arrived at 10am and waited in the lobby until they called us. However, when the attorney arrived our birthmom asked for me be with her during the signing. When I entered the room she was holding Grant in her lap and sobbing. I sat down next to her on the side of her hospital bed, put my arm around her, and provided whatever comfort I could. At one point, she gave Grant to me. I took him but then felt like I still needed to be 100% focused on supporting her at that moment so I asked the birthmom coach to hold him while I continued to comfort her. I didn't say a word. Just rubbed her back and cried with her. It was all I could do. Once all the papers were signed, they invited my husband to come back in. We asked if we could pray for her and Grant and she agreed. She gave us both big hugs and told us she loved us. It was a very tough but precious moment.
From what I've been told, often after the papers are signed the birthmother is immediately discharged and then leaves the hospital even if the baby has not yet been discharged. At our particular hospital they left it up to us. We invited our birthmom to stay with us until right before the baby was to be discharged. I think that was a special time because it reinforced that we care deeply about her too. I had the privilege of driving her home and making sure she got settled in. Then I returned to the hospital to ride out in the wheelchair to the car with our baby boy, Grant!
What did it feel like after the papers were signed and you were leaving the hospital, heading home with your new son?
Witnessing the paper signing was one of the hardest and best things I've ever been part of. Here we were about to receive the greatest joy and treasure but for that to happen our birthmom must endure her greatest sorrow. Of course we felt relief, excitement, gratitude and a host of other joyous emotions but we also felt the heaviness of her loss and the sting of her grief. There was a moment when she was hugging me and sobbing that I was able to whisper to her, "You are a good mom. Mom's do what's best for their children no matter what and that's what you're doing. You are a good mom." During this whole process I was thinking of our Heavenly Father. In her sadness I saw the same sacrifice God made for us when He released His only Son for our salvation. And in our joy I reflected on God's choice to adopt us as His own and graft us into His eternal family making us heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. What a beautiful picture it was. I think when we were leaving I was still trying to take it all in and process what an incredible thing had just happened.
People are often times scared of "open adoption" and interaction with the birth mom. Can you share how that went?
Well, there again our story isn't the typical story. We came to the adoption agency pre-matched because our birthmom learned about us through a mutual friend. As the agency director told us, we kind of came in on step 10 when most people have already done steps 1-9.
So, we had to catching up to do and we have to learn fast and make decisions even faster. We learned quickly that legally there is no such things as "open" or "closed" adoption. Those are terms we use to describe how much the families will know about each other. Because the agency that our birthmom chose only does "open" adoptions, very early on we had to make decisions about just how open we were willing to be. We wanted to promise only what we knew we could follow-through on, so as not to hurt or disappoint our birthmom.
I think we had the same fears that everyone has. There is always the risk that the birthmom will utilize your support then change her mind. There's the "what if" scenarios like "will she show up at our house one day and want to see him?" And so many others I could name. We began praying through all of those things as we proceeded. At first we were cautious about sharing contact information, so we set up a special email and phone number to use on for the adoption. But once we built a good relationship with our birthmom we felt confident that we had healthy boundaries and that she was trustworthy. So for us, even though on paper we agreed to monthly pictures for the first year and then an annual picture after that, we plan to do more as long as the relationship continues as well as it has been.
I know people are concerned about the term "open" but I think it's mostly because they don't fully understand it. In the end, once the adoption is final any and all decisions about contact belong to the adoptive parents. And, as adoptive parents, there may come a time when you have to make hard choices based on what is best for your child and your family. We anticipate having to make those choices as well, but it's just like any other big parenting decision we will have to make. We will prayerfully do it together, trusting God to protect our family. In the end, I am so glad we chose open adoption. Open adoption won't be right for everyone in every situation but for us it made our experience a million times richer and we wouldn't trade that for anything!
How has this process changed you as a person?
Wow! That's a big open-ended question that is ongoing. Adoption is still changing us. For me the process started changing when Ms. Carrie Wildes posed the rhetorical question of "how much is too much to pay to rescue a child from experiencing the foster care system?" That's when my paradigm started to shift. I had always thought we could never afford adoption. I also thought "why would we pay for it privately when there are so many foster children in need?". But that question stuck with me. As a trauma therapist I see the result of early childhood trauma. How many times have I wished someone would have rescued my clients from their abandonment or abuse? You just can't put a price tag on that gift.
Adoption has definitely increased my faith! People we know who have adopted told us that if this is the child God has ordained from the creation of the world to be in your family then the money will come and it did! Exceedingly abundantly more than we could have ever asked for or imagined!! Our Pastor frequently says "faith builds on faith." We've taken some pretty bold steps of faith in our walk with God, but this was one of the biggest by far! It not only increased my faith because of how God provided the means, it also increased my faith because little Grant Banner is the answer to many long years of prayer and he is the fulfillment of a promise the Lord gave us a year before we ever knew he would be arriving.
In addition to increasing my faith, this process has changed me heart in ways that are hard to explain. When I sing or hear a song now with the word orphan or adopted it touches my heart in a new way. I have new and greater compassion for birth parents making the hardest decision of their lives. It has also given me an opportunity to minister to a precious young lady in a way that no one else can. I think it has made me more generous and more compassionate. It has also made me more grateful for "every good and perfect gift that comes from above!"