Cat, what’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
The bravest thing I ever did was decide, with my husband, to try adopting another child after losing our son to the process.
We were matched with our son, Sam, and his birth mother in April, and he was born at the end of May.
His mother had chosen open adoption because, at 18, she knew she couldn’t raise him and she wanted a good family for him. Unfortunately part of the reasons she knew she couldn’t raise him was because he wasn’t all Hispanic. He was part Black as well. Her father was very prejudiced and she knew her son would be in danger if she were to try to raise him. Along with the fact that she really wanted to go to college, this was the main reason she chose adoption.
We had him from the moment he was born until he was 8 weeks old, when she reclaimed him based on her mother threatening to disown her if she didn’t. It was a very sad situation for her, our son, and definitely for us.
Thirteen months later we found out that he had died due to child abuse from his maternal grandfather. It was devastating. After we pulled ourselves out of our grieving we realized we still wanted to raise another child.
So we made up an “impossible” list of requirements, demands we needed to make in order to make the right match for us. One of those would be for the birthparents to sign over their rights within the first two weeks. This is a very hard demand and one we really didn’t think anyone would want to comply with, but also one we felt was necessary for our safety so we wouldn’t find ourselves in the same situation.
Other requirements included items such as an older birth mother, especially one who had children already and would understand how devastating it would be to lose one…in death or in adoption. We really wanted them to understand what they were getting themselves into.
The list was so long we just knew no one would fit the bill. I think, in many ways, we were trying to ensure that we wouldn’t be able to adopt again and would be safe because of our demands.
What we didn’t know was that there was a birthmother out there who knew that we were the perfect family for her child.
We met her on April 6th.
We seemed to click right from the very beginning. Against our lawyer’s advice, we told her all about our son. We told her all about our pain, our fears, and our reluctance to try to go through this again with adoption. We admitted that our demands were hard. We understood that we were asking a lot. But we also said that we knew the right match was more important than making just any match.
Despite our assurances that she could take all the time she wanted to decide, she chose us to be the family for her son that day.
Our son was born just 3 weeks later. His birthmother said it felt like she was looking at someone else’s baby, not hers. She already had 3 children and said that this birth felt nothing like the other three. She already considered him our child.
The next two weeks of our lives were terrifying. Do we love this child as our own? Do we take the chance of risking our hearts? It was definitely the bravest thing I’d ever done.
Then the call from his birthmother came. “Hi, MOM! It’s official! He is legally your son!”
She was standing outside the courthouse where she had just signed away her parental rights. She told me she couldn’t wait to let us know that it was done and we were safe.
I cried, she cried; we all laughed with relief.
She was in our lives for 16 months and then chose to move on with her life, without us. She didn’t just choose us for her son, she chose to take care of us, accept the burden of our grief as her own and safe guard us during this amazingly hard time for herself.
For that short time we became a family that included her and her three children. That was as big of a gift to us as the honor of raising her son. I think it may have been the bravest thing she ever did as well. Forever we will grieve the loss of our first son but will forever be grateful and feel blessed by the birth of our second son and the sad circumstances that led us to his first family and led him to his forever family.
~ Cat Harper