By John & Stephanie
We’re adopting. There, I said it. Two words, heavy with meaning. We’ve decided to expand our family. It started a few months ago, after Addie’s miracle Boston inpatient stay. We were in the shower one morning, talking about how we still couldn’t believe how well she was doing – how we felt like she’d finally turned a corner. The line was out, she was handling feeds, she was growing. All of the struggles of the first 2.5 years of her life felt like they were slowly fading away. Almost simultaneously, we said to each other – that maybe, just maybe, it was time to start thinking about expanding our family. That Addie needed a sibling. That we didn’t think we were done. That 4 sounded better than 3.
So many people would ask us if we were going to have more children and my immediate and emphatic response was always, NO! Of course I wanted more children, but Adeline on TPN was just too much. I never thought I could give an infant what they need and give Adeline what she needs given our current situation. But when the line came out, things slowed down, and we both kind of decided together, at the same time, that it was worth the consideration. As mothers I think you can sort of feel when your family is done growing and I had that desire inside me to continue ours. I just did not know if I was going to carry, have a surrogate, or adopt.
Crazy to think that we’d even be entertaining the thought after the horror that was the start of the first attempt at Durfees plus one. Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. There are very few things in this world that fill my heart as much as ABD’s love. But…yeah. You’ve been here long enough to know that everything leading up to the toddler we have now hasn’t been…easy. If a normal first parenthood experience is the pre-Hero’s Duty invaded Sugar Crush – then what we went through is Slaughter Race. Sharks in the sewers, stolen appliances, and street hewn face tattoos. But just like Venellope, we love it. And we want to stay. And for who the f knows why, we want more.
Days after Adeline was born, the high risk doctor came to my room and said, “You probably should not carry ever again.” But 3 years have gone by, times have changed, the medications for some of the complications I had during pregnancy have improved so I decided to get a second opinion. We took Addie with us and went down to see our fertility doctor to talk about our options, one of which was me carrying. Without hardly any time she said, “I don’t think you should carry any more children.” It was what I thought would happen, but I needed to know for sure. As we continued to talk she then said, “I’ve never had such a sick person on fertility drugs, before you or after. We should have listened to your body, I just do not think you were meant to be pregnant.” Talk about a punch in the gut, and all I could do was look over at Adeline who was happily moving from chair to chair, making a mess of her office and know that regardless of the words she said, Adeline was meant to be.
We wouldn’t change a thing about the outcome. Our life is fuller. Our backs are stronger. Our souls are gentler. And we have…her. So yeah, we decided to expand the Durfees. To add another human to our tribe. But we knew Steph wouldn’t be carrying again. We both knew it, almost as soon as the Magnesium-induced fog had worn off. We couldn’t take that risk again – and that risk only increases the second time around.
But we had more Addies on ice. Frozen in time. Some kind of weird Addie twins, in a Walt Disney cryogenic stasis at Shady Grove. Surrogacy, we thought. We. Thought.
Holy expensive. Prohibitively. One hundred sixty thousand and 00/100 dollars. Who can afford that? We don’t have Kardashian money and I don’t see me signing a 1st round NFL draft pick contract anytime soon. We had no idea. But when you think about it – you’re paying the salary for your carrier, paying for legal fees, medical expenses, and it’s a business. And that’s if your insurance covers pregnancy for someone who isn’t you. A crapshoot according to the doctors. So if the surrogate didn’t have her own insurance, we’d be paying for a pregnancy, a birth, and everything in between. So we made the difficult decision between living in our car under an underpass on 83, or adoption.
I’ve always wanted to adopt. When John and I first started dating two decades ago and would stay awake all night long in my extended twin bed we would talk about our future family. I would tell him how I wanted to adopt and have our own 1 million children, a house down the shore, and we would just laugh and dream. Even though we were teenagers in love this is just something that was always in my heart . When I found out at 30 years old I had less than 5% of getting pregnant on my own, we considered adoption. We decided to try IVF first, but simultaneously I was researching international adoption from China, Haiti, and we still get stuff in the mail.
Maybe innately, there’s a desire for your kids to be your own. To be the actual fruit of your science-enhanced loins. Initially, I know I was pretty set on this. Even if the only time people say Addie reminds them of me is when she’s making the dumb faces she’s learned from me, or when the volume of her voice is too loud, or when she’s going completely bonkers…she’s part of me – literally. Maybe some of that is learned, but some is genetics. Surrogacy was appealing for that reason. It’d be another of our own – without all the risk. Like a tandem skydive in one of those self-contained indoor skydiving places.
But the barrier to entry was too great. So adoption, it is.
Typed out, that statement reads a bit sad. But I say that now, not with a downward inflection on it is. Instead, it’s with the excitement of knowing that we’ll be adding to our family. It might not be conventional. But nothing about how Addie came here was conventional. And if you’ve read this far, you already read the part about where I said I’d trade nothing for the fallen wires, dumpster fires, creepy clowns, or burning tires that it took to get here.
So adoption, it is.
After we realized surrogacy was not an option, we did mourn. I mourned over not being able to carry, and am still mourning over not being able to use our embryos. I sort of feel like I am just leaving our two little embryos behind. They are our blood, sweat, and tears. They are our love, our fight to have children, our hearts, so much hard work, morning sickness, time, effort, I could go on and on. I love them as weird as that sounds, and we are going to keep them on ice until we know what we are going to do next. It has been a tough one to get through. One day we were shopping for Halloween costumes and we got in the car and I just started crying over all of this. It was the kind of cry that just sort of sneaks up on you and escapes and you cannot contain it. I just cried and cried the entire way home, and told her Mommy was just feeling really sick. When we got home and I carried her inside she said to me, “Why can’t Mommy carry a baby?” I hadn’t realized she understood or was even listening when we went to the doctor. I could not believe she connected that to my tears. I tried to tell her that it made me too sick, and so another mommy was going to have to carry a baby for me. She looked at me and said, “Mommy, I will carry it for you.”
Now we work the process. We sign our lives away to an agency that will pull apart our finances, the state of our home, our criminal past, and every other nook and cranny of privacy we’ve ever had. We work the process to prove that we can be capable parents. Part of me just wants to send them a link to our Instagram and ask them to email me when they have a baby. If you think about it long enough, the amount of care that’s taken to prove your worth to someone who’s going to give you another person’s baby can feel like overkill. But it’s necessary. You need to make sure you’re placing this new life in the hands of someone who will not only be able to feed and change a diaper, but that will also embrace them and love them – even if they’re not theirs by blood. And I know that’s just how the system works. We have to fill out the psychological profiling tool cleverly disguised as a questionnaire. I’m sure it was adapted from what the FBI uses on their most high profile cases.
We’ve decided to adopt!! We are currently in the home study phase and this is required by all states and takes about 6 months to complete. We have to do all this paperwork, interviews, social work visits, BEFORE we are even placed on a waiting list. I’ve been working on this stuff for hours each week, and we currently have until April 25th to complete our portion. 112 days and counting, but who is keeping track?? Because of Adeline and her needs, we have decided to adopt domestically. We did not want to add a travel component to a potentially third world country that may not be equipped with the hospitals and such that we need. We did not want any travel component actually, so we are using a very small local agency. Some states require you to live there for a few weeks or even a month during the waiting period and we did not think even that was very feasible with Adeline. Our baby will either be from Baltimore or DC, which I love.
One of the things we had to do recently was complete our preferences. This is a list of essentially what you won’t take. An odd thing to think about. Something that as conceiving parents, you don’t really think about. Babies from parents who indicate occasional heroin use. Babies where the parent has a family history of depression. Babies from families with a history of diabetes. White babies. Black babies. Asian babies.
You don’t get a checklist like this when you conceive. You get what you get. It can be a bit of a mindf*** to think about. Who am I to choose these things? But occasional heroin use is something Steph wouldn’t have chosen to do during pregnancy. Maybe before. Maybe after. Definitely not during. Our heroin use is purely recreational and social – only at 1st birthday parties. So some of these things, we placed a check firmly in column No.
He kids. This felt incredibly yucky and such a weird thing to have to do. I felt like I was rejecting children, or making decisions we had no right to make. Thankfully John is incredibly realistic and made sure we did not check yes for everything. When you come from a field as a special educator, and have my personality, you are drawn to children who need more than typical children. Now that I have all this experience with medical needs, I feel like I could really help a baby with medical needs. But because of Adeline, we decided to try and decrease some of the risks of special and medical needs by checking off no on a few more boxes than I wanted. But this is something you have to be really honest about, and it needs to be right for your family, at the time you are making the decision since this will impact you for the rest of your life.
But others, we were open to.
Race is one. We’re not naïve. We know that what this means is that we’re more likely to get a child who is a different race than we are. And we also know that we don’t live in a colorblind world. And we’d never, not for a moment be naïve enough to say that this won’t be a challenge of its own. And that we have it all figured out, we’ll just teach them that color doesn’t matter. Because that’s a load. But we know we’ll figure it out. And we know we’ll love that kid not matter what – because they’ll be a Durfee.
I am so excited to be sharing this process with all of you, and it has been tough since I am so open on here about our life and what we are doing. We do not really know what we are doing, and would by lying if we said this recent admission with Adeline did not totally make us freak out about our decision to do this. Family members are worried. But in the past year, AB was only inpatient 3 times, so we think we can handle it and we now have a plan in case it does. All of those plans involve my mother so if everyone could just gently coax her to retire that would be great. Happy New Year to all of you, and I teared up last night thinking that this may be our last New Year, just the 3 of us.
So here we are. Working the process. Filling out the forms. Scheduling the appointments. Getting our life in order. Trying to prove that we’ll be capable parents. That we’ll be able to raise another person’s biological child to be our own.
So adoption, it is.