I Felt Nervous the Day I Met the Couple Who Would Adopt my Son
But I Didn’t Need to Be
by Kelsey Quesenberry
Extenuating circumstances meant that I didn’t meet my son’s parents until they were at the hospital to pick him up and take him home. I had decided to place my son for adoption last minute, and my son’s would-be parents had only been on the books for ten days. This was new and terrifying for everyone involved. They had to rush around and put together a nursery in a matter of two days. Zach, the birth father, scrambled to find one of his three button up shirts that weren’t just t-shirts. He was nervous. It was the first time during my hospital stay that I saw him falter even slightly. The news that the couple we chose were on their way unnerved us both.
It was easier for him to look presentable. I was three days into a hospital stay, with only one shower for all those days. A shower, without conditioner, I might add. I felt greasy, and sick. I staunchly refused pain medicine stronger than Tylenol after a c-section (although after the first day, the nurses insisted on one small dose, I didn’t take anything else after that) and I was angry because a nurse had tried to force me to walk around the room earlier that day. It was exhausting. I craved real food, (specifically burgers and root beer). I felt unhinged, like some sort of cave dweller who had just seen sunlight for the first time.
It had been an exhausting three days, my family had been in and out, and then firmly out as Zach and the hospital nurses put their feet down. My family was crying and angry, trying to get me to change my mind, try to convince me to parent. They were directly disobeying my wishes regarding an unnamed baby boy who I had not seen yet. I felt gracious enough to let my family see him, and spend time with him even though they were being awful towards Zach. They were told not to talk to me about him (because I didn’t need to hear their biased sentiments any longer), and not to take pictures. Zach’s mom was the only sane person over the age of 40, so we allowed her to spend as much time with the baby as she wanted, snapping whatever pictures she pleased.
None of my family was to be at the hospital when we finally met Mike and Amanda. The couple with a pair of goofy pugs, and a silly, and happy picture with a stuffed penguin (from a friend’s wedding, I found out later) that made me pick them. Zach’s mom met them before we did, running across them in the hospital cafeteria on her way up to us. She said they were a cute couple, and friendly in the few moments that they spoke. It made us even more nervous.
Zach and I were not the couple that people would describe as cute and friendly. We were more biting, sarcastic and deadpan. I can’t tell you how many shocked faces I’ve seen over the years after jokingly threatening to punch him in the throat (although sometimes I wished I could follow through). We were worried that this cute, friendly couple would think that we were weird and not like us. I desperately wanted them to like us, to like me.
Even though at the time, I was sure I only wanted a limited open adoption plan — the very basic open agreement plan that my agency had, letters and pictures for the first six months, then a letter and pictures once a year on his birthday with a yearly visit — and perhaps not even that much. I was still worried that they would think that we were weird, rude, stupid kids who got themselves in a stupid situation and couldn’t fix it themselves. I was worried that after they got the baby (I still couldn’t bear to think of him as my son. I still struggle to see him that way, four years later), they would cut me out and I would be left wondering. Maybe I didn’t want to hear from them all the time, but I did want to know how the baby (who had dark hair and long toes) was, at least yearly, wondering if he would take after Zach or myself.
As with many things with Mike and Amanda (as I’ve come to find out), I didn’t need to worry. Amanda was a sweet thing, with a huge smile that made you feel like smiling too. Mike was tall, and charming. They both had a natural ease about them, even though we were all nervous, I felt calmer. They felt like people I already knew, who I’ve known for a while but didn’t know anything about. They came bearing gifts, based on the few tidbits of information they were able to glean about us. I got lotion that smelled soft and light, along with a journal. I’ve always been a writer. For Zach, ever the car junkie (although he does have very specific tastes. Mostly late model wagons, of all things), he got two books, one about motorcycles and another which I can honestly never remember.
The details from that day, and the surrounding days can be fuzzy. Sometimes I forget what day my son was born, how many days I spent in the hospital, and some of the smaller details. I remember Zach bugging nurses to get me jello (or maybe it was pudding) late at night when it was just the two of us. I can’t remember if he stayed with him every night (I think he did), but I remember the jello.
I met Amanda’s sister, and we chatted for a little bit. They asked us about names (they barely had any time to think of names with all they had been doing). We had none. His birth certificate listed him as Baby Boy with my last name and Zach’s hyphenated. All my nieces and nephews had honored my father, before because he had always wanted a boy named after him and then after he died, a way to remember him. Henry would be his first grandchild to not have his name. He was their son (still unbearable to think of him as ours in any way) and we wanted them to pick a name. They said Henry, maybe Hank. Maybe Michael for the middle name, which I thought would be nice, Zach’s middle name was Michael.
I got discharged before Baby Boy (name pending), but chose to hang around until they were ready to leave. I still hadn’t seen him, neither had Zach. We wanted the first moments where we saw him to be with his new parents. Bitter sweet, like baking chocolate. You didn’t know why you kept eating it, because it certainly didn’t make you feel good, but there was still that underlying chocolate sweetness.
Even as a baby, he favored Zach. They had decided on Henry. “He was a sweet little thing, so alert,” said the nurses and the caseworker. They had never seen a baby so alert. I think he got that from Zach too. He had always been annoyingly observant. We left the hospital, Zach and I, hand in hand, Mike and Amanda with a baby carrier in between them.
I didn’t cry then, not really. Just a few stray tears, easily swiped away and hidden by my sweatshirt. My oldest sister had shown up to the hospital, but I did not want her comfort. She didn’t and would never understand. After watching Mike and Amanda walk towards their car, with Baby Boy (have to remind myself that his name is Henry) between them, Zach took me to get root beer and a proper dinner. I think I cried then, after my first bite of real food. I’m still not sure if it was because of the food I had been craving or if leaving the hospital empty handed.
The first set of pictures came under two weeks later. So many pictures. A typed letter that they both signed. I still didn’t know his middle name, and when I finally brought myself to writing back, a week later, I asked. Every communication we had passed through the agency’s hands first. It took me forever to craft a letter to them, and I made my caseworker read it over to make sure that it was okay. That I didn’t seem too needy, too pushy, too weird and out of line. I was so nervous on how they perceived me. After I got my first taste of pictures, I didn’t want them to stop.
I checked the mailbox eagerly for the first six months, devouring the pictures and the letters of how Henry was doing. I thought about them often, more than I thought I would. I thought it would be cut and dry. They still wrote to me, even when I would go two updates without a word. In one of my very last letters to them before the six months was up, I slipped in my email address, hoping that they would maybe want to continue to write, that email would be easier for them with a new baby. It was very casual, I didn’t want to seem like I was inserting myself into their lives.
At this point, my revocation period was over, and there was no chance that I would try to take back Henry. I was afraid that would mean that they wouldn’t want to keep up with writing me. Mike and Amanda didn’t seem the type, but I was still scared. Scared and wanting something I didn’t think I wanted before. I was crushed when after six months, I didn’t get any more orange shipping envelopes in my mailbox.
To me, this was a certain sign that they didn’t want me in their life any more than necessary. I had provided my email (although sneaky, and too casual, I knew) and I didn’t hear from them. I let it go, and looked forward to an update in another six months. I think that was the longest we ever went without talking. I honestly can’t remember if I made it to the first full year mark. I know that I got a three page long letter on his birthday, along with a fist full of pictures. I want to say that they were emails in between that they sent the letter according to our agreement, but I can’t remember.
I was a solidary birth mom. I blogged, wrote about my experience, offered a listening ear to other birth moms, helped my agency with whatever they needed from me (because they were amazing and I felt like I owed them that much) but I never reached out for myself. I didn’t ask to talk to someone about my own healing, never shared my concerns about wanting more contact. Until one day I couldn’t bear it anymore. I wanted to know how Henry was, to see more pictures of him (his hair was starting to change, and I was wondering if it would turn blonde like Zach’s), to know how Mike and Amanda were. Because I cared about them too, not just the child we shared, I wanted to know all about them.
I finally spoke to my case worker, who promised me that she would reach out to their caseworker and figure something out. By the next day, I had an email from Amanda. An email address crafted from his name (Henry Oliver, they didn’t go with Michael but I like the sound of Henry Oliver much better) and his birthday (so I could never forget). Like myself, Mike and Amanda had wanted a more direct, open (and easier) form of communication but they were nervous to ask. They didn’t want to smother me, and impede my healing.
It was sweet.
I felt silly that we had gone so long without talking, because we all were afraid of offending each other. It makes me laugh when I think about it now. We emailed (and continue to) often. Every few weeks, I’d have a new email from Amanda, telling me all about their new daycare, how first toddling steps, food preferences (he had an appetite much like myself and Zach), his changing hair color, and how they filled their weekends with trips to the zoo, libraries, and community events.
They have supported me through every decision I’ve made, unlike my own blood family. When I decided to follow Zach clear across the country from Pennsylvania to Washington, I was weary of telling them. I still have moments of being afraid of offending them, and them deciding that they had enough of me. I didn’t want to hurt them, but they understood, like they always did. Promises to keep in touch, and always thinking of me.
I couldn’t dream up better parents for the baby boy with the hyphenated last names.
Kelsey Quesenberry is a Birthmother Buddy with Binti, where she offers to share her experience as a birthmother as well as offer support to expectant mothers considering adoption. Kelsey has also made several video posts about her experience of placing her baby for adoption offering advice to expectant mothers and adoptive parents.