Adoption · Motherhood Trials

I Won’t Give Up: A Contested Adoption

Winter 2012

The past 48 hours have been riddled with anxiety. One of my best friends was sitting, waiting, wishing for the opportunity to hold Maddie in her arms and know for certain that she was hers forever. In our state, a birth-mother giving her child up for adoption has 24 hours after the child is born to change her mind. After Maddie was born on Thursday, I could do nothing but worry anxiously about what might happen the following day.


Friday afternoon, my friend Steph and I sat outside our work in the sunshine watching the clocks on our phones, waiting to find out whether or not the birth-mother had signed the paperwork at 3:00 PM. By 4:00 PM we couldn’t take it anymore. Chests tight, adrenaline pacing through our veins, we drove in circles in the hospital parking lot, seeking a glimpse of our friend’s car; were they here? Did they know already? What would we do if the adoption fell through? How could we help? What could we say? The devastation we envisioned unfolding if the birth-mother had changed her mind twisted our stomachs with worry for our friend. Helpless to do anything more and feeling like God was trying to make a point of forcing us to be patient, we left the parking lot and headed towards a restaurant to eat. Just after we sat down and ordered our drinks, Steph received the text message we’d been so adamantly waiting for, “We have a baby girl!”


“She’s a mommy! Thank God, she’s a MOMMY!” I couldn’t help but cry with overwhelming joy. She and her husband had been waiting for that exquisitely sweet moment for so long. The roller coaster of emotions and obstacles they’d faced together on their adoption journey brought them to the breaking point, but the strength of their love and passion for wanting to be parents brought them to the finish line with glorious success. I know I could never face what they have faced with such strength and determination to so fiercely love and protect a child whose presence was so uncertain until yesterday evening.


Today’s story of adoption for National Adoption Month comes from one of my closest friends. While facing unimaginable struggles, they maintained incredible strength and hope, holding close to the support of their community that rallied around them. What I didn’t know at the time I wrote that above entry was that the fight they’d had to find Maddie was just the beginning of what would become over a year of struggling to keep their daughter safe and cared for in their home. My heart wrenched alongside hers as she and her husband fought for their daughter. They fought for her life.
Today I share with you all the rest of their story in the talented words of Maddie’s mother.

To my daughter’s father,

I would like to tell you a story. In August 2009, my husband and I decided to start a family. We were giddy with excitement. I went to the doctor for a preconception visit and did all the “right things.” I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting cover to cover. I cut unheated deli meat, caffeine, and alcohol from my diet. I got a prescription for prenatal vitamins. Window shopping quickly turned into hoarding as we found nursery décor, children’s books, clothes, bottles… we figured buying what we would need a little at a time would save us stress later. The empty bedroom next to ours quickly grew.

My stomach didn’t.

Six months passed. The doctor said to give it six more. They passed, too.

In October 2010, the testing started. Low motility and morphology. “Incredibly low chances. You’ll need IVF.” We considered our options and decided to adopt. We did our research and talked to friends whose children are adopted. Fourteen months after we started trying, we met with highly recommended adoption attorneys to learn about the process and the cost. I am a teacher, and if we wanted to go through a private agency, the adoption was predicted to cost as much as my yearly salary. Of course, if we found the birthmother on our own, the cost was significantly less. In the next six months, we had two opportunities fall through: one fourteen-year-old birthmother simply vanished, and a college student miscarried. We decided to become licensed therapeutic foster parents while we saved the money to go through an agency, hoping to avoid further heartbreak.
It took us completely by surprise when Melody, our foster care coordinator, told us that she had a birthmother who was interviewing families. I was hesitant: we had already been through so much. It was a risk we would have to take if we wanted to grow our family, so we agreed.
The day we interviewed with the birthmother was one of the most nerve-wracking days of my life. I couldn’t believe it when we got the call less than an hour after the interview that she had chosen us. We spent the next five months getting to know the birthmother, who we’ll call V. Of course, you weren’t there for any of this.
I don’t know what happened during your relationship with V. I wasn’t there the day you choked her to the point of blacking out. The day she was supposed to have her first ultrasound.
All I know, and all I knew at the time, is that you were in jail for assault. We were told you were on board with the adoption. We had no way of knowing otherwise.
I was there for the birth of our daughter. I stood at V’s side, my arm around her mother. Madeline’s first cry was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. She was a tiny little thing. I stood at the nurse’s side as she performed the APGAR. I was the first to feed Madeline. That night, my husband and I stayed in the hospital hotel so that we could take care of Maddie in the nursery. The next day, after V’s paperwork was signed, we were able to spend the night in an empty maternity room so that Madeline could stay in the room with us. Forty-eight hours after she was born, Maddie went home with us. I rode in the backseat of the car and stared at her. My husband cried on the drive home, unable to believe that we were finally going home with our child. Friends met us at our house to help us put together Maddie’s nursery. That night, I read her first bedtime story: Love You Forever.
Two days after she came home, we learned that you had refused to sign the consent for adoption. Our attorney told us you had thirty days to contest.
So we waited.
And, of course, you did.
I was sitting in our loft with Maddie when my phone rang. I grabbed my notebook and pen and took the call.
“The birth father has decided to fight. My suggestion is that you return Madeline to her birth mother. If you pursue this, it will cost upwards of $50,000, and you will lose anyway.”
I dropped the phone.
I sank to my knees.
I wailed as my heart was ripped out of my chest.
When I was able to breathe again, I knew I had to do the most cruel thing I’ve ever done. I had to call my husband and tell him what the attorney said.
We spent the next two days calling every adoption attorney in Indiana. We met with half a dozen attorneys in person. Finally, we spoke with one who took the time to dig a little into your past. He agreed to take the case.
We hadn’t planned on funding a contested adoption. So we sacrificed. And we fundraised. Our entire community pulled together. By this time, Maddie was two months old and well-loved by everyone who knew us. You were released from jail when Maddie was four months old only to violate your parole, putting you back in jail. We worked through the summer to keep fighting.
And then the day came.
There was so much I wanted to say to you that day.
I wanted to ask you, “Why?!”
You sat there in your orange jumpsuit. Your hands were shackled together. Your feet were shackled together. Why couldn’t you see that because you were in jail, because you had spent more time in detention since you were 10 years old than you had out of detention, that you would be unable to care for Maddie?

You accused us of stealing your child. You likened it to taking a baby out of someone else’s cart at the grocery store. You said that there are thousands of other kids waiting to be adopted, that we should go get our own.
I wanted to ask you if you really thought it was that easy.
You talked about how you would raise Maddie with her older brother. How she would be the cheerleader for his football team.
I wanted to ask how you knew she would want to be a cheerleader at all.
I wanted to ask how you could hope to know what was best for a child you had never seen.
I wanted to know why, if you wanted this child so badly, you would risk it all by violating your parole. In the eight months she had been alive, I had done everything in my power to protect her. I wanted to know why you had been willing to throw it away.
I wanted to ask where you were when she was born. When she cried endlessly for her second night of life while she went through nicotine withdrawal. During the hours I paced the floor holding her to soothe her colic. When my husband spent a week of nights sleeping in the recliner because she was sick and wanted to be held. The afternoon she sat up by herself for the first time, looked around, and clapped with excitement. The first time she crawled over to me, grabbed my pant leg, and pulled herself up to me, reaching with the other hand so I would scoop her up.
I wanted to know why you were willing to tear this child away from the only family she had ever known.
We both know how this story ends. And though we celebrated and felt greater joy and relief than we had ever known, a small part of my heart mourned for you.
It has been over three years since we won custody, and Maddie’s fourth birthday is around the corner. In that time, I’ve thought about you often. I know you never asked for it, but I want you to know that I’ve forgiven you. I don’t hold against you the darkest eight months of my life, the two years of salary we were unable to save for the future. Though you and I might have different ideas about what was best for Maddie, we had one thing in common: I really do believe that you loved her too.
She’s a happy kid. She’s strong willed, spirited, and demanding. She has your brown eyes and jaw line. She has curly hair like her brother’s and a nose like her sister’s. She loves singing and dancing, getting dirty and dressing up. She’s goofy and incredibly sweet. She has your temper and V’s big heart.
And one day, she’s going to want to know you. Our open adoption with V has given her one half of her biological identity. And if I know that kid, one day, she’ll want the other half too.

Despite what came before, I hope that one day you two will meet. I hope you want that too. I believe that we’re all capable of change and deserving of happiness, and we’re destined to repeat what we don’t repair. I hope you fix the parts of yourself that need mending so that you’ll be whole enough to get to know our kid. She’s sure as hell worth it.

Until that day,

Maddie’s Momma




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