Since it’s National Adoption Month and one of my values as a blogger is community, I believe one of the best ways to educate you is simply through sharing stories. I was introduced to Karen through a mutual friend, and honestly I just remember us being friends right away. I have loved learning from her, watching them walk through this foster care journey and laugh at the similarities in personality between her daughter Eliza and my son. It’s an honor for me to have her share her story, and I know you are going to walk away challenged, encouraged, and full of hope. Because they adopted domestically and are now a foster family, there blog will be in two parts, so be sure to catch both. Grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and meet my friends, the McCommas family.
Tell us a little bit about your family.
Cody and I met our freshman year in college and have been best friends ever since. We were married in 2006 and decided to wait before starting our family. We adopted our daughter, Eliza, in 2014, and started fostering in 2017. We live next door to my mom – it’s seriously the best – and live close to all of our siblings. Family is a big deal – we love spending time together. My husband is an executive pastor at a local church and I’m a stay-at-home mom.
What led you to adoption?
It’s been a desire of ours since the beginning of our marriage. When we were ready to start growing our family we weren’t able to get pregnant. We struggled with infertility for 2 years before moving forward with the adoption process.
Were you and your spouse on the same page, or did it take time? What were the steps you took to become unified in that decision?
We’ve known that we both wanted to adopt, but our timelines looked a little different. I don’t think it ever occurred to me to start with adoption, but when we struggled to get pregnant for about 6 months I was ready to start the adoption process. Cody wanted to adopt too, but his desire was to have biological children first. It was about a year and a half before we were on the same page and God absolutely used that time. In that year and a half we both started attending church and became believers. I spent the time praying, talking to women who have adopted, and reading books about adoption. Throughout that time Cody always had an open mind. I shared with him the things I was learning and it was an ongoing discussion for us. God was changing his heart. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for testing related to our infertility when Cody told me he was ready to start the adoption process. Within two months of that conversation we were applying to an agency.
What led you to a private domestic adoption? How did you choose your agency – what were some things you looked for?
Cody and I were in agreement that we wanted to pursue adopting an infant. What we knew about international adoption and adopting through foster care at the time led us to private domestic infant adoption. With both we understood that it was unlikely that we would be matched with an infant and if we were that it would take a long time to be matched. Specifically with international adoption we were hesitant because we knew that countries can close and stop adoptions even after you are matched, there were very few countries that we qualified for, and we were aware that there are varying lengths of time that you need to be out of the country once matched. Private domestic infant adoption seemed like the best fit for us.
We did very little research regarding agencies in terms of making calls to different ones and asking them questions. We did, however, talk with friends who had gotten the run around at several agencies, so we knew we wanted an agency that was established and came recommended. The agency we chose came highly recommended – it was the name we kept hearing when families would share their adoption stories with us. We signed up for orientation and were blown away by them. Up until the orientation we hadn’t really considered the role the birth family has in an adoptive relationship. After meeting several birth moms and hearing them tell their stories we realized there was a huge piece to the puzzle that we had been missing. I remember leaving orientation feeling so encouraged, knowing THIS IS IT. From day one we knew our agency was knowledgeable, showed support for adoptive families AND birth families, and communicated well – and that’s why we loved them.
What was the first process of waiting like? Were there any struggles or hurdles you didn’t expect, or anything that was easy that you didn’t expect?
Even now I can remember how difficult that time of waiting was. There were good days and bad days – and bad days usually meant not wanting to get out of bed. I also remember feeling out of place. I was fighting feelings of jealousy for those around me that were pregnant. I didn’t understand why it was so hard for us to start our family and seemingly so easy for others. I wanted to believe that I was preparing for motherhood just like them, but it felt so different, too different. The paperwork was a good distraction and kept me busy.
Our experience is different because while we were waiting to be matched we were approached by a family that wanted us to adopt their unborn babies – twins with significant medical and developmental concerns. We spent time praying about it and knew that God wanted us to say yes, so we did. We brought the family into our agency and two weeks before the babies were born the family changed their mind and decided to parent. We were really heartbroken. It was a challenging situation. We understood and want birth families to raise their babies. None of that made it hurt any less, but in time we appreciated this greater understanding and know that it was good that they decided they could parent. From there we took some time off and went back to waiting.
After the failed match I was definitely more nervous and more aware that there were no guarantees that we would be able to adopt. We spent 4 months committed to the birth family of the twins. We were so ready to be parents and thought we were going to be to those babies, but God had something different for us.
Part of your question was if we there was something that was easy- the easiest and definitely a very comforting thing, was talking to other people who have adopted. I feel like there’s this instant connection and no one understands you quite like someone else who has been through adoption. You’d think, or at least I thought, it would be hard to reach out and talk to a stranger about this deeply personal stuff, but it wasn’t. And I’m so thankful for the people who have walked before us and shared their wisdom with us.
Many people fear this type of adoption because they are afraid of having a relationship with the birth family. What would you say to them?
Read things written by birth parents. At our agency’s orientation there was a panel with birth moms and our eyes were opened to their experiences. We consider it a gift to know the birth family. We have special stories to share with our daughter that are part of who she is. It’s worth getting over that fear to better love and serve these kids. Having a relationship or at least an understanding of their birth family, of their roots and their background, helps make them feel whole. You can’t deny the fact that their story starts before they came into your home, that isn’t fair to them.
What are ways that you talk about adoption with Eliza and honor her birth family?
From the beginning we’ve read stories about adoption and pray for her birth family. We continue to do those things and as she’s gotten older she’s been interested in knowing more. Now we’re sharing her birth story and pictures with her. We never want to shy away from questions she has even if we don’t know the answers. She doesn’t fully understand it yet, but now, at four years old, she knows that she has a first momma who loves her very much, and that she also has her momma who God personally chose to be her mom for forever. At birth we gave her and her birth mom matching necklaces. We hope it’s a visual reminder to both of the love shared between them.
Beyond that I remember that there’s always room to grow. I love reading and talking to others to learn more ways we can talk about adoption and honor her birth family.
Some people want to choose this type of adoption because they think getting a baby will be easiest (as in they won’t remember). Have you found this to be true?
I think it’s easy to forget that children adopted as infants experience trauma from not being with their birth family. Remember, for nine months this little baby heard the same voice, felt the same heartbeat, went through the same rhythms, and had a host of experiences in utero- and then, boom, that voice, that heartbeat, those rhythms are all gone. No matter how young, every adopted child has experienced deep loss that leaves its footprints in those little souls and bodies. We try to keep this in mind and remember that it’s a potential factor in her behavior and development.