Eighteen Years Later: An Adoption Story (Part 1)

November 17 is the day Adoption STAR Founder and CEO Michele Fried and her husband Chuck became parents for the first time when they brought home their son Zack, who is now Adoption STAR’s Intake Specialist. Michele wrote a two part story on their open adoption journey six years ago when Zack turned 18, and we would like to share these posts again today and tomorrow. Part one of their adoption journey is below, and part two will follow tomorrow.

Our adoption journey was one filled with great ups and downs.  The first potential match fell through before it came to be when I surprised my husband at our celebration dinner at our favorite restaurant by saying I did not want to be matched with this pregnant woman.  Why?  I remember quite a bit of information about her even today and though there was nothing specific about her or her background that made me say no, it just didn’t feel right.  So I said no.  Saying no was hard, but it was the right decision.

Our next match we accepted.  It was exciting as we received updates for close to three months.  It all ended though when the birth father’s mother decided to raise the baby herself.  Left with this information and never learning the gender of the baby, I will forever remember this loss (soon to be coined an “adoption miscarriage.”)  I cried incessantly and called our home study social worker in hysterics, feeling foolish and lost, only to find her reassuring and spectacular not to call me crazy!  I called my friend from my childhood town and cried to her.  She too surprised me with great compassion recalling her mother once telling her of an adoption loss she and my friend’s father once experienced.

In a short time I realized that I needed to continue with our adoption journey so I spoke to an attorney who promised quick results with a Colombian adoption, but after a few calls, I didn’t feel comfortable with the attorney.  So I looked into agencies in another State.  I learned of a toddler who needed a family and found myself challenged by his social worker who asked me, “Why would a white couple want this child?”

After these and other ups and downs we found an agency that was in its first year of operation.  This is where we heard the term open adoption. I remember sitting in their office with my husband… nervously waiting to meet with the social worker.  During that wait, in a cramped office in the outskirts of Philadelphia, the director of the agency bounced in the office and waved at us.  I don’t recall her exact words but it was something to the affect of:  “What a young cute couple you are!  You will be picked so quickly!”  Picked?  What did that mean?

We soon learned that “being picked” meant “open adoption,” at least to this new agency.  We were shown a large three-ring notebook with one-page (back to back) profiles held together by a plastic insert.  I remember flipping through the book and viewing countless profiles of married couples of all ages hoping to be “picked” by a potential birth mother.

Wow.  So many couples; so many people to compete with; I was overwhelmed. I was not so concerned about a to-be birth mother choosing an adoptive family for her baby.  But I just didn’t want to be “one” of a large group of people.  I told the social worker how I felt and she seemed genuinely surprised.  “I want you to profile us when you really think that we would be the right family for someone.  All of these families can’t be right for everyone.”  She didn’t debate me and after a brief dialogue seemed to say okay.  In retrospect it was probably because we were open to a baby of all races that there was no reason to debate as the people in the book were seeking a healthy white infant.  I wanted her to realize however that healthy white infant or not, how could a woman flip page by page and find the right family… and by the way, how did one get put first or last in the “big book?”

Well, being open to race or not, didn’t make our being “picked” any easier.  There were times the phone rang and other times they didn’t.  The first call was regarding a pregnant woman who was parenting two to three children already.  After receiving some basic information about her, I agreed that our profile could be shown.  A day or two later the feedback was we “were too young for her.”  What happened to being young and cute?

More time passed and then the call came.  He was born already and we could pick him up tomorrow.  The funny thing is neither of us remember hearing whether the baby was a boy or girl. We just remember hearing about a baby, being selected and taking a baby home the next day.  We were numb with excitement.  You know what I mean if you have experienced “the call.”  The social worker says she told my husband it was a boy, but he didn’t remember by the time he had me pulled out of the class I was teaching.  It was a baby.  That’s all he could remember.

Come back tomorrow morning for part two of Michele, Chuck and Zack’s adoption journey.