A couple of nights ago, the phone rang, waking us up out of a deep sleep. It was a woman who said her niece is due tomorrow. I'll call her "C." She wanted to know if we were interested. Of course we said yes and it went from there. She immediately mentioned that she had been working with an adoption agency and that they had only offered to "compensate" her $3,000. Of course that was an immediate red flag but we still felt it was worth getting more information to see if this was a good situation for us.
We all know BMs don't get compensated for their babies. Sure, some reasonable expenses can be paid - such as attorney fees and medical bills - but compensation is completely unethical and, frankly, against the law. I pulled out my list of questions and went through everything as thoroughly as I could, asking for the birth mother's (BM's) name, address and phone number. Me and C made plans to talk in the morning.
The next morning, I texted and called the numbers that C had given me. She soon called back and I asked if we could talk to the BM. The BM got on the phone. She had just turned 23. She was living with her aunt and she was due that day. I asked her a few questions like why she wanted an adoption plan for her child and how she was feeling. She was very soft spoken, well-mannered and answered all of my questions with a little giggle and a "yes ma'am." I got a feeling that she deeply cared for her child and wanted only the best for it. When I asked her what her post-delivery needs might be, she told me I'd have to talk to her aunt. Another red flag.
I spoke with one of our adoption friends that afternoon. I told her about my concerns regarding the "compensation" discussion and the fact that the BM always deferred to the aunt. Our friend reminded me that these folks aren't in the same situation as us. We have no idea what their socioeconomic status might be or what they've been through to get to where they are. I'm so thankful that she reminded me of that. I began to see things differently and gave the aunt the benefit of the doubt. I thought, "what if my niece was in this situation?" I'd fight tooth and nail to help her out. Yet something continued to bother me, and it continued to bother Robert.
That night, around 10:00 or so, we received a text from the aunt. The BM was in the hospital and would deliver soon. We got ourselves ready to put the dogs in the kennel and make a 13-hour trip to the hospital ... not a light decision! That would have meant both of us taking off work until further notice, running to the store to make sure we had everything we'd need to stay with a baby in a hotel while ICPC cleared in another state, book a hotel, buy something lovely for the BM and who knows what else. All that before we even told our families!
We conferred with our lawyer. When he talked with the aunt, she immediately brought up "compensation." Without going into details, she said the BM had living and other expenses and asked for a large sum of money. We were willing to provide the BM with a reasonable amount (and, in fact, the law allows for "reasonable" expenses to be paid). Based on the information provided by the aunt, however, the expenses she was demanding didn't seem reasonable to us, and the lawyer agreed. Plus, we've saved and saved to provide a child with the comforts a newborn deserves.
After much deliberation with our lawyer, we decided to sleep on it and make a decision in the morning. It's my thinking that if the Universe has decided this baby is our adoptive baby, it's going to happen even if we wait eight hours to make a decision. We turned off our phone and went to sleep.
The next morning, I turned on the phone and there it was - a picture of the baby in a little white onesie, sweet as can be. I showed the picture to Robert and we sat down to talk. We decided this baby was worth fighting for. We called our lawyer and told him what we could afford to pay for expenses ... and we felt good about it. What we offered allowed us to help out the BM somewhat (who is a healthy, young 22 year old going through probably the roughest time in her life) and provide for her child in a way that we felt the child deserved. The aunt's reply? She said she'd take the baby home, get on the Internet and find another couple who could afford to pay what she was requesting.
The whole thing just felt dirty and unethical. I mean, the aunt is playing with people's lives ... and I'm not talking about ours. We are certainly disappointed, yet in the great scheme of things, I feel like the right situation will find us somehow and all will work out. We'll be fine. For that baby, though, the future is uncertain, as it is for the BM. If the aunt and BM hadn't planned on taking the baby home, chances are they don't have the first diaper, a bassinet, bottles, and all of the other essentials that a newborn needs to provide him or her with comfort and a good start in life. I hope the baby has love, though. I suspect as much because despite all the challenges, that BM loves her baby.
After talking with our lawyer one last time, we've moved on. And to help us move on, we went shopping. We hadn't bought anything for our nursery under the advice of many adoptive parents. They told us to wait because, chances are, we'd have a few weeks or even months to buy all that stuff after we were matched with a birth mom. After that experience, though, we felt it better safe than sorry. We called our friend who had just had a baby and asked her what "essentials" she would recommend in the case that we have to travel and stay for a while in another city with a newborn. Here's the list:
- Stroller/car seat travel system
- Head restraint for car seat
- Traveling bassinet
- Boppy (okay not essential but great to have)
- Diaper bag
- Bottle cleaner
- Burping cloths
- Nail clipper set
- Baby powder
- Diaper rash cream
I know, doesn't really seem like a lot, does it - but the bill was $550. It sure does add up. And so, even though we thought all of these wonderful things (and more) were meant for this BM's little baby, we know now that everything we bought today and all the love and comforts we have to give are meant for another little baby somewhere. And we'll be ready.