Our Journey to Family— An Unfiltered Adoption Story
Updated: Sep 21, 2019
And so it begins...
In the fall of 2010, what was suppose to be a non-committal daytime date in Seattle, ended up being 3 days of non-stop sharing. We spent hours sharing every life experience that could be remembered, unpacking emotional luggage that neither one of us was too prepared for, and then in the middle of the day laying on turf in a public park, I realized this was also the momment I met my future-husband. Just under four years later, we were saying "I Do", and officially became Paul and Jamie Trudel-Payne.
It wasn't as immediate for Jamie, as it was for me. The need to have a child.
Jamie, a devilishly handsome All-American Senior Account Manager and freelance writer, came from a tightly woven and kind household. While I, Paul, a cute (ish) bi-racial (Mexican/Caucasian) Designer and Realtor®, came from a somewhat intrusive, rambunctious and very large Hispanic family. It wasn't as immediate for Jamie, as it was for me. The need to have a child. But soon enough he was on board, and we both were enormously thankful that the desire and support received from both our families was unianimous. Just six months later, after saying, "I do," we began the adoption process. Wearing rose-colored glasses and nothing but excitement in sight, we set out on our journey. A journey that we soon would find out, would in fact be anything but rosy.
We threw everything we had at our profile; Jamie's writing skills with my marketing skills, plus a highly sought after professional photographer. It was a winning combination aimed to make a strong connection to a Birthmother. And boy did this combo come through with a win! Not even a few months had gone by since we made our profile live, before we were matched and talking to a birthmother who was 6 months pregnant with a baby girl. The fairytale started in hyper-speed and we were decorating a nursery, filling her closet with every adorable little girl outfit we came into contact with and fighting over baby names just like every other parent-to-be.
A nightmare dressed as a daydream...
There were some red flags along the way that we blindly ignored, like talk of extra bills and Christmas gifts. But then her 9th month of pregnancy came and we were hit with a flag that was so large, there was no way we could claim ingornance. We recieved a text at 11am on a Tuesday morning, that asked us for a large sum of money so she could purchase a home. She sandwiched the request between how she is going through so much to give us this gift we are asking for, and how much this gesture of a new home would really mean to her. Then she naturally ended with one last request. To not mention any of this to the agency or she would have to move on to a family who really did want this baby as much as we claimed.
You can't imagine the feeling of someone asking you to put a price on a child that in every particle of your being, already felt like your own. Not to mention, a child you would be holding for the first time, in just a few weeks! We felt paralyzed. There was no way we could give up this child, but the alternative of illegally purchasing a baby, felt just as infathomable. We contimplated every possible outcome for our dilemma, but after a few days of running through each scenario four or ten times, we knew there was only one decision we could ethically... and legally make. We contacted our agency and made the insanely difficult decision to stop the adoption along with the communication. And with that decidion, we closed the door to the fairytale that never was, along with the door to our never-to-be baby girls half decorated nursery.
A nightmare dressed as a new dream...
We held her hand, and calmed her cries and never once thought about how just a few weeks prior, we had also mourned her.
Just a few weeks had past, when we recieved a message. A message that in our minds, was a true miracle. The Birthmother was in labor and she wanted to give us her daughter and be done with everything, putting the drama behind us. We were shocked, confused and ecstatic! In an instant, we dropped everything. We flew out to PA on the first red eye we could book, and spent the next four days in the NICU with a beautiful baby girl, ensuring the methadone was no longer in her system. We named her, and fed her, and changed her and learned how to bathe her. We held her hand, and calmed her cries and never once thought about how just a few week prior, we had also mourned her. The moment she was born, the Birthmother made the decision to not be involved, so she wouldn't get attached. She was done, just like she had said. But it was O.K, because we were there every day. From morning until night, we never once left her side.
We were scheduled to sign all the final adoption documents with the birthmother at 11:30am on day four, a Monday. At 11:01am we received a call from the hospitals social worker. The birthmother had informed her, that she had changed her mind, which meant the adoption was over. Again, we were paralyzed. We hadn't run through this scenario. Instead, we let the excitement of a dream coming true, get the best of us. We had put aside the mouning, because the fairytale was alive again. The social worker apologized, but said there was nothing we could do. We called our lawyers to plead our case. To convince them that she had abadoned that baby, like she probably would do again. But they too quickly confirmed there was nothing we could do. And in that moment I had to watch as my husband broke. Silent, at first. Just a state of shock that overtook his face. But slowly the breaking became so painful and heavy, that tears poured from his eyes like a heavy rainfall, and his cries of loss were cavernous as they bellowed out from his siffening and hunched body. He broke in a way that I have never seen before or since.
Surviving the nightmare...
I don't know how, or where it came from, but I made a decision in that moment as well. A decision that would give us the best chance to make it through this horrible circumstance. I decided, for the both of us and our survival, to go numb. I couldn't let grief, or loss or anger or every other emotion that I was feeling, to escape from my body in any way. Even feeling just a little would be too much. If we wanted to make it out of there with any chance of recovery from this heartbreak, it would require a strength that is found only in an emptiness, I wish not many have to ever find. It required a desolute lack of feeling. Only numbness. So shedding no tears, I quickly began to pack our things and arranged for us to leave that self-induced nightmare immediately.
We drove to the hospital to grab any remaining items, were allowed to give one quick kiss goodbye each, and then groggy and stunned, while booking seats on the first flight back to Seattle, we found our way to the airport. And long after we boarded, in the dead of night, I found myself awake and alone. Surrounded by strangers and recycled air, I made my second decision for survival that day. With Jamie passed out from grief next to me, I made the decision to burry this expereince beneath all of my shame, anxieties, worries and darkest secrets. So even when I went looking for it, the unearthing required to get there would be so trecherous, it would be impossible for me to achieve. I would let myself feel the sharp pain of loss, enough so every ounce of my body was on fire and in agreeance to get rid of this memory. So in the stillness of that flight, alone with only my thoughts, I set aside the numbness. For just a few brief minutes, pain engulfed me and I let myself cry into the sleeve of my coat and say goodbye to the daughter we had just lost for a second time.
Healing and hope...
For about six months after returning home, I made the decision to not be involved in the adoption process any longer. I removed myself from our monthly check-ins, and decided to waste no more energy on a process that almost devastated us to the point of no return. It wasn't until the spring of 2016, that the Marketing Manager from the agency asked if he could come over to talk to us in person. He wanted to check in on us and make some suggestions to refresh our profile.
We knew from the moment we connected this would be different.
I reluctantly agreed to meet, but made no promise of moving forward. Lucklily for me, he convivnced me to try again and renew our profile along with our hope. Shortly after that meeting, we were matched once again. The birthmother, Trisha, was about 5 months along and we arranged to fly out and meet her. We knew from the moment we connected this would be different. She introduced us to her daughter and grandmother, who she lived with, and let us know the baby would be biracial (African American/Caucasian). She took us on a tour of their quaint lakeside town and shared with us everything you could want to know about her home state. Just before we said our goodbyes, she told us how good she immediately felt when first meeting us, and how she could already tell from even our texts back and forth, that we were going to be amazing fathers to "our" baby. She also explained how they couldn't afford another person in the home, and that she just wanted this child to have a chance at a life she couldn't give him. Oh yea, and she also let us know we were going to have a baby boy.
A daydream with no nightmare in sight...
It seemed liked we had only just returned home, when we received a call from Trisha's grandmother, informing us that Trisha had gone into labor early, by a few weeks. It was August 1 and nearly two years from the start of our adoption journey. We dropped everything and began the quest once again to meet a baby that could possibly become our own. We arrived in the middle of the night, and were taken straight to Trisha's room to meet our son. After hugs and some tears, Trisha said she was tired and we should take our son to our room so we could also get some rest. One room away, the medical staff had set up a new parent room just for us. The nurse showed us everything in the space from diapers to formula to extra blankets. She let us know how to get ahold of her if we needed anything at all, then asked our baby's name. She smilled, wrote Alexander Reneé Trudel-Payne on the board and said goodnight.
After a few days in the hospital we were given the OK to check out. Michigan adoption laws do not allow adoption finalization for 30 days, so we opted to stay in a hotel for the first month after the birth, just in case any hiccups arose during the finalization. It was a fun adventure to learn how to parent together in a small hotel room. We became friends of the staff, built routines around the lobby and room cleanings, and fell in love with our son more and more each day. A few days before the 30th day, we received the call that all the papers were processed and finalized. We were officially the parents of a baby boy and we were free to go home.
And so it ends...
He's full of giggles and life, and there hasnt been one day since the first time we saw him, that we have forgotten, how lucky we are to be his fathers.
Ander, that's what we decided as a nickname for Alexander, is now 3 years old. He's handsome, kind, loves being the center of attention as much as he loves being alone flipping through books or playing with cars, he's meticulously clean, full of energy and overflowing with personality. He's full of giggles and life, and there hasnt been one day since the first time we saw him, that we have forgotten, how lucky we are to be his fathers. Our adoption journey was definitely far from rosy, and there is nothing I could ever say to prepare someone for a loss like we first experienced. But every time I look into Ander's eyes or hear him giggle from another room, I know that however hard the journey was, it doesn't come anywhere near to the feelings of love and joy we now hold as a family of three with our adoption journey finally complete.
Original article was published on Gays with Kids, Summer 2019