Today we want to share a preemie parent story that’s a bit different from most! Preemie mom Jessica was gracious enough to do a Q&A with us that touches on her experiences pursuing adoption in the NICU and the challenges of navigating the world of prematurity while also coping with the uncertainties of the adoption process. We appreciate Jessica contributing her unique perspective to our series of Preemie Parent Voices – if you’d like to add your voice, click here.
- What can you tell me about your journey toward parenthood? What led you to adoption?
We always knew we wanted to be parents and we began trying a year after marriage. We also knew it wouldn’t be easy as I was previously diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), but we never expected the journey that lied ahead. We spent 5 long years, with multiple specialists, and tens of thousands of dollars utilizing today’s medical advancements with no success. We experienced so many negative pregnancy tests, with more bad diagnoses. We lost 6 sweet babies during that time and every year that passed stretched the hole in my mommy heart.
January 2014 we decided to take a break and pray about God’s plan for us. Do we continue the modern medicine path, adopt a child, or live child free. Not even a month into our break, I received a text message from a young woman that was long time acquaintances with my sister. She was pregnant, working with a local adoption agency, and making an open adoption plan for her expectant child. She asked us if we would be interested in parenting her baby.
We felt this was God answering our prayers! We spent a lot of time together, and I was able to be at her doctor’s appointments and the gender ultrasound! The evening she went into labor, she was at our house. We took her to the hospital and we spent 5 days by her side until the baby was born. All three of our families were anxiously waiting in the waiting room when he came 8 weeks early, weighing 4 lbs 2 oz. My husband and I spent 24 days in NICU with this sweet boy, bonding with him, doing kangaroo care, gave him his first bath, before mom decided to parent.
It was completely devastating! We knew her decision to parent was a risk, we just didn’t understand why on earth we had to spend so much time falling in love with him. What was God’s plan in all of this? We walked away from that with an approved home study and a hesitation to continue the process- we took a six month break.
- Did you know beforehand that there was a possibility that you’re be adopting a preemie? Was it something you specifically sought out or were open to?
Early in the home study process you fill out a five page checklist of situations you will/will not consider. Things such as race, age, special needs, abuse exposure, premature birth, etc. (http://www.odjfs.state.oh.us/forms/file.asp?id=518&type=application/pdf) You can revise your list at any time, but it better lets the agency know what you are prepared for. This list was incredibly intimidating. As badly as we wanted to accept ANY child, in some instances we knew that we may not be the best thing for that child. We were young, with no prior parenting experience, and we had a thre story house in a not so diverse neighborhood.
We spent a lot of time researching, discussing, and praying when completing this document. We did not begin our search looking for a preemie, but we were willing to consider. There are so many different circumstances for every opportunity. No one birth parent is the same. Every family was completely unique and in every opportunity, we stepped out of our comfort zone and asked ourselves if we could be what this child, and mother, needed.
We ended up with 2 more failed placements, before getting THE call about our son. In July 2015, the adoption agency told us that a young woman had her child at 25 weeks gestation and the baby boy weighed 1 lb. 10 oz. and was 13” long.
They wanted to know if we were willing to be presented. I immediately saw Gods plan! Being with the boy we lost minimized our fear of NICU, gave us insight into the strength and fight of these precious littles, and brought us to this baby! My husband quickly agreed with me – this was it! Two days later, on my 31st birthday, we were told that we were chosen by his mother, to parent this child! OMG!!!
- How would you describe your early days of parenthood? Was it shocking to be NICU parents – did it feel very sudden?
Being first time parents of a preemie and seeing his fragility, was extremely shocking! I didn’t know it then, but I subconsciously was numb to so much. I had a guard up for sure! Coping, I suppose. And, once again we were with a child that wasn’t yet legally ours. It wasn’t until 19 days later when his birth mom signed the paperwork terminating her rights, that I felt like I could breathe… Yet, I couldn’t because our son’s future was still undetermined… and we still had six months before he was legally ours. For now, the adoption agency was his legal guardian, and they had legally placed him with us to care, nurture, and parent him.
- Was Brody’s birth mother able to spend some time with him in the NICU? Did you spend any time with her?
Brody’s birth mom was able to be with him until she was discharged from the hospital, but due to circumstances in her life at the time, she was unable to return. She never got to hold him and she was too scared to change his diaper. The nurses told us that she was very attentive and asked all of the right questions. She sent me a picture of her standing with him at his incubator. I’m so thankful to have that, but it breaks my heart to know how hard it all must have been for her. She is strong, though. And feisty. He definitely takes after her in the personality department! =) The first time we met with her was so intense. I wanted to know EVERYTHING about her and the father. I wanted to reassure her that we would love him unconditionally and keep our promise to her to remain open in communication and visits.
She had chosen us based on our profile book we made to present to expectant parents. (http://www.mixbook.com/photo-books/interests/butch-jessie-s-adoption-book-12135226?vk=mK4wXkUjgU) She knew so much about us, yet we knew almost nothing about her. We spent 2.5 hours talking and I remember feeling as though I didn’t want to leave. I’ll never forget the nervous way she twirled her hair around her long fingers. I just stared at her, and hoped I didn’t make her uncomfortable. I just couldn’t help it. It’s an incredible feeling when you love a complete stranger and share a closeness that you can’t share with anyone else. We were suddenly all family, united in the love of this sweet boy.
- What was your experience with the nurses like? They must have known you were adopting him – do you think that changed your interactions at all?
Most of the nurses were really great! They knew we were adopting as they had to have so much paperwork and signatures of approval in order for them to discuss his medical needs and us to make decisions for his care. I’m certain this isn’t the first time they have dealt with unique circumstances such as ours, but it’s not an everyday routine, so at times there was confusion and lack of communication. They tried so hard to keep us comfortable and allowed us as much time as possible with our boy! It’s safe to say that at times, they bent the rules 😉
- Was it tough to deal with the upheaval of the NICU while also doing all the things required for an adoption?
This period of time was in many ways the most difficult time of our lives, yet the overwhelming joy and pride that we experienced shined a light on the dark moments. Not only were we getting to know our baby, but we were getting to know his first mom & maternal grandparents. We were traveling 4.5 hours one-way to see him, and only on weekends. We live in Northeast Ohio, and he was born in West Virginia. We were both working full time, managing a home with pets to find care for, preparing meals and packing for the trip, and meeting agency requirements for the adoption. We had post-placement visits with the social worker, in Brody’s hospital room and when he was discharged (after 78 days, weighing 4 lbs. 6 oz.) the social worker then came to our home for visits. Then, of course, the loads of doctor’s appointments and medical supply companies and isolation during RSV season and everything else that comes with being a preemie parent. We honestly relied so much on our faith to carry us through. The Ronald McDonald House was such a miracle during this time as well. We found a home away from home with them.
- Where are you in your journey – how old is Brody and how is he doing?
Brody is now 11 months old, 7.5 adjusted, and weighs 16 lbs.! He is a thriving, happy baby and overall healthy. He still has bad reflux and slight developmental delays, but expected to grow out of these. He really loves music, spoon feeding, and talking LOUDLY. He’s not one to enjoy tummy time, and hasn’t quite figured out how to sit up unassisted, but he is close. Brody’s adoption was finalized in court this past March on his 8 month “birthday.” Our parents and siblings were all there with us and we celebrated at a fancy restaurant after. It was a perfect day! We went to visit his birth mom before finalization, and she finally got to hold him for the first time. It was a blessing to witness. She held her emotions together and just couldn’t seem to get enough! She couldn’t believe how big, yet small he was! We plan to visit again for his 1st birthday.
- What would you want parents who might be pursuing an adoption that could include premature birth to know or consider?
It’s very scary, but so is adoption, and here you are! Have faith in these wee ones and show them an abundance of love. That is what they need most to thrive, and that is what our yearning hearts long for- a child to love. One of the most difficult parts of adoption, for the child and adoptive parent(s), is the ability to bond/attach. For us, Brody’s premature birth allowed him to be able to hear my voice reading and singing to him as he developed. He was able to feel my skin and hear my heartbeat sooner than if he was still with his first mom. We had the opportunity to experience one another in such a unique, intimate way. This really helped us develop a closer, more intense connection that is very apparent to those around us.