By: Sarah Wittmann
Every adoption story is unique. When people who are considering the process ask me for tips on what the process involves, it’s a hard question to answer. From my perspective, the process of waiting for my son has been long and emotional, but ultimately the most rewarding experience of my life. When I held him for the first time, all the work I had to do just to complete the process and waiting for so long was all worth it.
I have always wanted to have a family. In 2012 I began to seriously consider how I could become a parent. I was 32 and single but really felt strongly that I wanted to be a mom. I thought very carefully about whether or not I could be a single parent, from multiple aspects: financially, emotionally, mentally, and physically. After much contemplation, and with the love and support of my family and friends, I decided to apply to work with a local adoption agency. I completed the lengthy application process, and my initial home study was approved in May 2013. I was told that the wait for a baby would be anywhere from several weeks to several years, and there was no guarantee I would receive placement. I was told that it is generally not recommended to set up a nursery in case it did not happen for me. I was excited to begin thinking about what I needed to do in order to raise a child, but at the same time I could not go out and buy a lot of things to prepare.
At times it was really hard to go into a store that sold baby items or hear about other people around me who were having babies. I was also told that single people often wait longer, as many couples are often chosen first before singles.
Fast forward to March of 2015, and I was still waiting to be a mommy. Most adoptions in Wisconsin are open, meaning that the birth parent(s) are involved in selecting the adoptive parent(s) and often there is some level of contact maintained between the birth parent(s) and adoptive parent(s). I had two “matching meetings” with two birth moms during my waiting period, but other adoptive families ended up being chosen. I thought it was never going to happen for me. There were times when I felt extremely sad and heartbroken and that maybe I wasn’t meant to have children. I work with children every day in my job and there have been days where they have brought me so much joy that I really wanted to feel that in my personal life with my own child.
On June 1, 2015, I received the phone call that would turn my life upside down. A baby boy was born in Chicago on May 31, 2015 and his birth mom had chosen me to be the adoptive parent based on the portfolio about myself that I had submitted. The baby’s father was unknown. I had a matter of a couple days to go out and buy essential baby items and get myself ready to be a mom very quickly. I was told that the baby tested positive for both heroin and cocaine. My son, Henry, spent the first week of his life in the hospital going through withdrawals (vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, sweating). His birth mom had no prenatal care and miraculously, Henry had no signs of developmental or medical issues, and he did not need any type of drug intervention as many babies do to wean them off of the drug they were born addicted to. After Henry was released from the hospital, he was discharged to me and we lived in a hotel for the next week and a half until the legal process was complete and he was allowed to leave the state of Illinois. This was a stressful, exhausting, joyous, and complicated time! I will have a great story to tell him about the crazy experience I had driving down to Chicago to get him and living in a hotel with a newborn. Luckily my mom was with us during this time to help.
As I write this, Henry is now 4 ½ months old. Other than going through a severe diaper rash up until the time he was 2 ½ months old and being on medication for acid reflux (which I had no idea was so common) Henry is doing great. He is a happy boy who giggles and smiles when I talk to him. He likes to grab onto his feet while he’s on his back and he can roll on his side. Henry loves going for stroller walks outside and is an observant little boy.
I have had a tremendous amount of help from my parents, who are thrilled to finally have their first grandchild. I could not have done all of this without their help. Being a single parent has been difficult at times and probably will be in the future, and I feel lucky that I have so much support. I have so much empathy and respect for those single parents out there who are doing it completely on their own.
As far as raising a child who is adopted, I will be open and honest with Henry about his adoption. I want him to see it as a positive thing and know that I, as his adoptive mother, have respect for his birth mother. I send her pictures of Henry monthly, and we plan on meeting yearly if all goes well. Even though there may be times where it might be difficult having an open adoption, Henry’s birth mom is the reason I was able to become a mom. For that I will always be thankful. While going through this process I also learned about Positive Adoption Language (PAL). This will help me to talk to Henry about how he came into the world.
Below is a link to talking about adoption using PAL: