Adopting the Twins, Part 5: Home, the Miracle of Court Dates, Reflections

We came home on August 4 to begin our new life as a family of five all under one roof. I won’t go into many details here as it is a story still being written with fits and starts, successes and failures, and very little sleep.

God has blessed our kids with some extremely generous grandparents. For the first six weeks home, one or more of our parents stayed with us, helping with the day-to-day operation of the house as well as childcare. That childcare took mostly the form of playing with Elijah while Carey and I tended to the twins’ needs. I don’t know that we will ever be able to adequately express our gratitude for the grandparents.

While we signed agreements to care for the girls and received all the legal permissions to bring them home, we still waited to begin the next step of the adoption process: foster parenting. This could not happen until the courts filed relinquishments of birthparent rights. Again, I’ll spare you the specifics since there are several directions this journey could have taken. The short of it was once we had the needed paperwork, our lawyer instructed me on how to file it at the court. I went to the Contra Costa County Court in Martinez one Monday morning, papers in hand, waited in line, and prayed for helpful clerks. Thankfully the clerks I dealt with gave this novice patience and detailed assistance. I filed the papers and took and sent the needed copies to Independent Adoption Center (IAC) and our lawyer, respectively. Within a few days we officially became foster parents for the girls.


Until the relinquishments were signed and filed, all parties could change their minds about adoption. We therefore still refrained from using familial language with Elijah. Carey and I would cringe whenever an understandably excited and well-meaning friend would ask him if he was excited to be a big brother. Again, we did not want to confuse him more than necessary in case the adoption did not work out. We found this aspect of waiting for relinquishments especially difficult. We wanted to fully embrace being a family. Once the relinquishments came through, we celebrated. We could not tell Elijah enough that he was now Bethany and Joy’s big brother. A weight had been lifted.

We remain in another holding pattern waiting for the adoption to finalize, which will probably take about six months. During this time social workers from IAC will visit and interview us. They will file a report assuring the court of our competence as parents. At the end of this period I will go back to Contra Costa County Family Court to wait in more lines and file more papers. We will then receive a court date for our family to appear. Carey and I will then sign further paperwork and a judge will ask us to legally swear that we will care for the twins. I know, the miracle of childbirth. Except for the bureaucratic labyrinth, the finalization is truly beautiful in its own way. At Elijah’s finalization the judge told us he loves such cases because it is some of the only happy work he does as a family court justice. Normally the court intervenes to prevent abuse or neglect, often making the awful but necessary decision to remove children from their homes. With adoptions the judge helps to legally create new, loving families.

At first we could not convince Elijah to pose for pictures with the girls. This was a symptom of his adjusting to the new family reality. He also initially wanted nothing to do with a stuffed dinosaur we said came from the twins. (He eventually welcomed and named the dinosaur Pickle.) Then when we prepared to shoot the girls’ one-month photographs, Elijah asked to be in the picture with them. He beamed with pride as he held his baby sisters. He proclaimed, “I love them!” Ever since he has been a doting big brother, giving them kisses on the head and wanting to help when they cry. Granted, much of his “help” needs vigilant guidance, but we are grateful for his excitement and love.

Three Kids One Month

IAC reminded us each adoption is unique and we can attest to this fact. We matched with the birthmother beforehand instead of having a last-minute placement. We’ve had contact with the twins’ birthfather all along. These are singular relationships with individuals and we are all learning to be family together. Caring for twins is not merely twice the work, but an exponential increase in energy and resources—the speed with which we go through diapers is staggering. In many ways it feels like we are doing this for the first time.

Some similarities between the adoptions remain. I want to include a couple of paragraphs from my reflections on Elijah’s adoption, updated for the girls. I think they are relevant to our experience this time around.

Having heard the stories of birthmothers who have placed their children for adoption, I know that it is not an easy choice. I also know the way our society views the participants in our situation discourages women who do not want to parent from placing their child with another family. Adoptive parents are often seen as heroes, rescuing innocent children from the jaws of poverty and neglect. A birthmother is viewed as immoral and unfit and clearly does not love the child growing in her womb because no good, loving mother would never abandon her baby. Birthfathers are talked about even less and are seen as deadbeats at best. Abortion thus becomes a more attractive option because it can be done with greater secrecy and seemingly with less societal shame. But the stereotypes of birthfamilies are not based on much reality. The fact is Bethany and Joy have been surrounded by love their entire lives from their birthfamily to their adoptive family. Their birthmother made sure they received prenatal care and prayed for them regularly. This is not to make adoption a pollyannaish process, but to say that though this situation was born out of difficulty, the people involved truly love Bethany and Joy and express it in unique ways.

Having gone through two adoptions, I can say there are many disincentives for adoptive parents along the way. Private adoption, either domestic or foreign, is expensive. We were subject to background checks, financial checks, fingerprinting, and home inspections. All of these are reasonable, but as we proceeded in the process, I kept thinking, birthparents never have to do any of this stuff. A pregnant couple’s custody of their child does not depend on correctly answering questions about their philosophy of discipline or making sure all their medicine is in a locked box. Adoption agencies in most states are non-profit corporations and ours certainly earned their fees, but I could not help thinking that while adoption was an excellent use of our money, a good portion of our fees could have started a college fund for my child. In our research of which adoption route to take we also looked into the public foster-adopt system, which is even more difficult to navigate. There are similar background checks and home studies. While it is less expensive, the bureaucratic maze is worse than the private option. There are mandatory classes held over several weeks, each offered only once a year, meaning it could take years for parents to be considered ready for adoption if their schedules do not line up with the local government’s. There are groups in America working hard to ensure abortions are available regardless of ability to pay. I wonder why there is not a similar cry for making adoption available regardless of ability to pay. How many incredible parents are out there who would gladly adopt a child who needs a home but cannot because they are unable to afford the high costs? Health insurance plans often cover infertility treatment, but offer little help with adoption. With the large amount of kids in foster care and the continuing high percentage of unintended pregnancies, why do we not support adoption and adoptive parents with more resources?

I am more exhausted than I have been in years. The incessant childcare can consume my thoughts and I run the risk of losing my appreciation of this season. Strangely, Elijah, in his sweetness and excitement toward Bethany and Joy, reminds me just how miraculous these girls are. Gratitude overcomes me those moments I can stop, breathe, and simply hold the girls. Such moments seem to be increasing as the girls’ schedule has stabilized. They have both just started to smile. They can focus their eyes more and we can gaze at one another. I can say I am grateful to God for making us a family together. I cannot believe Jesus allows us to know these amazing people when they are so young and fragile. I am awed the Holy Spirit has given us the gift of knowing these girls as they grow.

Tyler and Joy

Adopting the Twins, Part 4: Intermediate Nursery, Preemie Care, Monotonous Intensity, Family Visits, Homeward

Bethany and Joy’s birth aunt and birth grandmother visited them in the Intermediate Nursery (IMN). As we marveled at the little girls we all simultaneously realized none of us had eaten dinner. The adrenaline that pushed us through the last several hours had worn off. It was close to midnight and we were famished. I volunteered to pick up food at In-N-Out for everyone. After I returned and we all had eaten, Carey and I were left alone with the girls.

The time came to give the girls their first feeding. While it had been a few years since I fed a baby, I figured it would come back to me quickly. We did not, however, anticipate the specific needs of premature infants. Holding each baby proved to be a challenge as we negotiated the tangle of cables attached to their probes. While I fed Bethany, her lips turned blue, and the alarm on her monitor sounded because her oxygen saturation decreased to dangerous levels. One of the nurses quickly and gently stepped in, told me to dip the bottle down. She explained preemies’ brains are not developed enough to do more than one thing at a time. They cannot breathe and eat. Preemies will eat until they pass out, so it is the responsibility of the feeder to pace for them. The nurse taught me how to hold the bottle to the side so the formula didn’t fill the nipple entirely. She coached me on when to dip the bottle down in order for Bethany to take a few breaths.

Given my exhausted state I found her instruction hard to grasp. Despite my efforts, Bethany’s lips still turned blue a few times. Nothing could reinforce a sense of ineptitude like a blaring alarm telling me my baby is close to asphyxiation. I grew impatient both with myself and the nurse. I thought I was failing as a father in the first hours’ of my daughters’ lives—I couldn’t even feed them without harming them. The nurse gave us a lot of attention, but in my tired state I took her watchfulness as hovering and I don’t respond well to that. I wanted to throw the bottle across the room in frustration or snap at the nurse. I believe the Holy Spirit gave me a moment of pause and reminded me I was tired and learning. The girls would be fine. I would soon know how to care for them adequately.

The hospital gave us a room on the postpartum ward. This step was just one of the first dramatic differences we had in our experiences between Elijah’s and the twins’ adoptions. The hospital where Elijah was born didn’t know what to do with us—it was as if they had no concept of adoption. Initially they shoved us into the nurse’s lounge before giving us a delivery room. The Kaiser Santa Rosa staff, however, treated us as full patients with medical staff checking in on us and bringing us food. Carey went to rest in our room while I sat with the girls. I held Joy on my chest and we both fell asleep. In the early hours of the morning the staff brought the birthmother into the IMN to see the twins. We shared a groggy greeting. I went to our room on the postpartum ward where Carey slept on the bed. I spread a sheet on the pullout couch and crashed.


The next day combined monotony with intense focus. Our lives centered on the babies’ routine of eat, poop, sleep, which coincidentally was the the working title of Eat, Pray, Love. To visit the twins in the IMN we went through a security checkpoint. The guards were of varying help and kindness. We continued to learn how to care for preemies, growing more competent in feeding the girls. We reported every milliliter of formula they drank as well as the contents of their soiled diapers. I’ll spare you those details. Alarms still went off and nurses would silence them. Holding babies attached to wires became second nature. We picked up the art of swaddling again. On Friday morning Carey wheeled the girls’ birthmother into the IMN and we sat together in awe of the twins together. During the long hours we tried to read on our phones. Carey or I would peel away for a few minutes to eat food in the hospital cafeteria or take a shower. The new parent haze surrounded us.

The neonatal staff initially recorded the girls as “Baby A” and “Baby B” and their names remained that way in their chart, meaning the staff called them by those aliases. Each time they talked about “Baby A” (Bethany), I could only think of Radiohead’s song “Kid A” from the album of the same name.

Thankfully, the girls’ weight was the only real health matter that concerned us. Because of the girls’ small size and the fact that nearly every infant loses a few ounces after birth, we would probably stay in the hospital for several days. The pediatricians gave them higher calorie diets and a rigid feeding schedule in the hopes they would gain mass and we could go home.

Bethany responded well to the new diet and transitioned out of the IMN Friday night. The staff moved us into a room on the pediatric ward. New nurses checked her vital signs. We were finally sleeping in the same room as our child. During the next day, we would cart Bethany over to the IMN to be in the same room as Joy. One time Carey rolled Bethany back to our room on the same floor without a nurse escort. The security guard at the door nearly called a Code Pink—a stolen baby—and came from behind his desk to stop Carey. He then chewed her out despite the fact the IMN staff had approved Carey’s actions. He would give Carey grief just about every time she went back into the IMN.


Unfortunately, Joy kept losing weight. Never enough to require further intervention, but nearly every conversation we had with a pediatrician at rounds included a discussion of possibly feeding her through a tube. She was so small and eating taxed her body to the point of exhaustion. She would fall asleep after drinking only a few milliliters of formula. One the one hand, the feeding tube could help her receive the calories she needed. On the other hand, she needed to learn and develop the stamina to eat and the tube would only delay this goal, keeping us in the hospital longer.

The girls’ birthmother stayed in the hospital a few rooms down the hall from us as she healed from surgery. She came to hold the babies a couple of times a day. She healed quickly from the surgery and the hospital staff discharged her Saturday. She and her family visited several times after she went home. We were grateful to participate in their bonding with the girls.

Working with the hospital social workers marked another dramatic difference between our adoptions. With our first adoption, the social workers displayed both an ignorance of how an adoption works as well as a reluctance to figure it out. We even had one social worker try to dissuade us from open adoption. This time around the social worker admitted helping with an open adoption was new to her, but she leaned into the experience. She wanted to learn. As we sat around a table signing papers she said, “I love this. We’re bringing two families together.” She took the extra steps, calling our agency, Independent Adoption Center, herself when she needed help, and made sure we could focus on childcare.

Along with the helpful social worker, the nurses and pediatricians all gave us excellent care. I cannot sing their praises enough. They showed wonderful concern for the girls and paid attention to Carey and my needs as well. One of our pediatricians had four adopted kids of his own, so he could relate to our experience and helped us attain some paperwork necessary for the process. We enjoyed sharing stories of our adoptions. This was a gift.

On Saturday Carey’s dad and Elijah drove from Pleasant Hill. Elijah met Bethany in our hospital room, but he seemed more interested in playing with the buttons on the bed. For that reason we elected to not take him to the IMN to meet Joy. We did not mind him playing with the angle of the mattress—pushing the wrong the button attached to a premature infant in the IMN, however, could have grave consequences.

The pediatricians discharged Joy from the IMN Saturday night. California law requires every patient to have their own bed. Since the girls were each a patient and the pediatric ward at the hospital had one bed per room, that meant the hospital gave us another room. We kept the girls together and used the second room for Carey or I to sleep and shower. We took shifts during the night with one of us feeding and staying with the girls while the other slept in the empty room. This system worked rather well for us.

The pediatricians shared our commitment to get us out of the hospital as soon as possible. All hinged on the twins gaining weight. At each set of rounds, twice a day, we were told we would have to wait and see. The girls slowly increased or steadied their food intake, but it was not yet enough. We set volume goals for each feeding. The uncertainty prevented us from planning our return home. On Saturday they told us it might be Sunday night. Then on Sunday the doctors bumped that back to Monday, perhaps. On Monday, our departure was again delayed.

On Sunday the girls went through a car seat test to make sure they could breathe freely. We brought the car seats and the girls back into the IMN. The nurses situated them, hooked up the appropriate monitors, and then we waited. The test took 90 minutes, which was also the amount of time it would take us to drive home. One nurse told us to get out of the hospital during the test. She volunteered to watch the girls once they were finished. She also recommended a frozen yogurt shop. We relished the freedom to be outside and have a treat, but of course the minute we sat down with our desserts, we wanted to return to the hospital as quickly as possible.

The girls passed the test. We were blessed that the car seats we owned were one of the only models on the market approved to carry infants as small as the twins. So now I was thankful I returned that car seat I bought in April.

We grew more anxious to go home. For the first few days of the girls’ lives we were so exhausted and stressed we did not care much about comforts. The hospital brought me a hamburger for dinner on Saturday night. I took one bite and said to myself, “This is the worst hamburger I have ever had and I’m going to eat all of it.” By Sunday eating hospital food, wearing the same few shirts and shorts, and being cooped up in a sterile room grew old. Earlier the thought of caring for two infants at home without a nursing staff helping worried me greatly. Now I wanted to be home with my family, finding a routine for our new lives. I wanted to be with Elijah, hear his stories, play with him in the backyard.

Monday morning our good friends the Seos visited. They lived nearby in Petaluma. Carey and Monica have been friends since junior high. We loved being able to celebrate Bethany and Joy with these dear people. They also brought us some fresh fruit and snacks, which were a godsend.

When we learned we would not head home Monday, Carey’s parents drove Elijah to the hospital again. He finally saw Joy in person. Carey’s mother met her granddaughters for the first time. The birthfamily also arrived and Elijah played with the birthmother’s daughter. Carey’s parents told us as they left the hospital and drove home Elijah had a meltdown. Because we did not know exactly when we would come home, we could not prepare him for how long we would be apart. Separation anxiety set in and stayed even after we returned to Pleasant Hill. For over a week he had difficulty going to bed and would ask us several times if we would be home when he awoke. He heard my car leaving the driveway when I went grocery shopping one night and he broke down in tears. In all our work preparing Elijah for two new babies at home, we had not considered preparing him for our hospital stay.


On Monday night we began to see some hopeful signs. Bethany began to gain weight and it looked like Joy’s loss was slowing to the point of bottoming out. At the Tuesday weigh-in Joy not only had stopped losing weight, she had put on five grams. Technically she still weighed less than the medical staff wanted in order to discharge her, but because she was gaining, they said we could go home that night. We would monitor her weight closely and they made a pediatrician appointment for us the next week.

Nothing in a hospital moves as fast as I would like. We packed our belongings. Nurses came in to say goodbye. We prepared the car seats. The hospital staff brought in a Radio Flyer wagon so we could cart our stuff out to the car. I went down to the parking lot, packed the car, and returned. And we waited. I felt almost as anxious as I did when I sat in the waiting room during the twins’ birth.

Finally a nurse came in with the last bits of paperwork we needed. We strapped the girls in their car seats, placed the seats on the wagon, and bolted for the elevator. As Carey waited with the twins by the curb we caught a glimpse of our new life. Most of the hospital offices had closed and the parking lot stood still. From out of nowhere three women who must have sensed a tremor in the Force appeared and began to fawn over the girls. We knew from our experience with Elijah that babies have a magnetic pull. With twins that power seemed exponentially stronger. I imagine if you held a compass near the twins, you could not find true north.

We packed the twins into the car and began the hour and half drive home. I remember when we took Elijah home from the hospital, I drove incredibly slowly and carefully. The distance between the Kaiser Walnut Creek facility and our home is only 5.6 miles. Now we had 67.8 miles of road to contend with, including freeways and unlit country roads. Still, the terror of driving with newborns was preferable to another taxing yet mind-numbing day in the hospital. I pulled the car out of the parking lot and we drove to our new reality, grateful to God for the girls’ health and their birthfamily’s generous love.


Adopting the Twins, Part 3: The 34-week Threshold, Family Language, Misunderstandings with the Ultrasound Technician, and Birth

Though waiting for the twins’ birth allowed us space to worry the birthfamily might change their minds about the adoption, in reality, the longer we waited, the better. Remember, the birthmother had a bout of preterm labor at 31 weeks. Every day she remained pregnant increased the twins’ health and reduced the chances we would have a lengthy stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Most twins stay in the NICU for at least a few days. The birthmother’s obstetrician gave her a due date of August 24, though twins are usually delivered at least two weeks early. August 10 would have been 38 weeks. We hoped she would reach at least the magic number of 34 weeks.

34 weeks was such an important milestone because babies born before that date require a great amount of specialized intensive care. These babies have more health risks and require more medications and longer stays in the NICU. Babies born after 34 weeks fare much better and go home sooner. Further, the Kaiser Permanente hospital in Santa Rosa where the birthmother would deliver did not have a NICU that could care for babies younger than 34 weeks. If the birthmother went into labor before 34 weeks, the medical staff would transport her to Kaiser San Francisco, the closest hospital with a sufficient NICU. If we were looking at a long NICU stay, it would be a logistical challenge for our family to cross the Bay to San Francisco daily to visit the twins.

So we prayed and watched the calendar, finding greater relief with each passing week. Having twins also increased the birthmother’s prenatal appointments. She did an amazing job going to lengthy doctor’s visits multiple times a week. After each appointment she would update us on her health and the twins’ measurements.

We crossed the 34-week threshold, which eased our anxiety. At the end of 35 weeks, the birthmother went to the hospital again with preterm labor. This was her third such trip—twins increase the pressure on the uterus, making preterm labor more common with multiples. She was convinced she would give birth. But again, the doctors sent her home, this time with an induction date of August 12. Now we had a line in the sand.

During this period we quietly and slowly nested. Carey informed her work she would soon take family leave. We purchased another car seat, finally resolving that saga. We did not, however, have baby showers because of the provisional nature of the adoption. Nothing would be set in stone until the babies were home from the hospital and the birthparents relinquished their rights. We privately told a tight circle of friends and family we matched and asked them to keep the news mum.

Our adoption coordinator encouraged us to avoid familial language with Elijah concerning the twins. We told him we would take care of the girls growing in the birthmother’s belly while she decided if we would be the twins’ forever family. We did not say he would be their big brother or they would be his sisters. If the birthparents changed their minds before relinquishing their rights, the girls would leave our home. Such an event would confuse Elijah, especially as an adoptee himself. He might think, If my sisters went back to their birthmother, would my parents eventually send me back to my birthmother? We had a hard time not using familial language with him. We wanted him to form bonds with the twins as much as possible. We also wanted to bond with them, but our restraint only increased our own uncertainty and my instinct was to keep myself emotionally detached.

I have mentioned our concerns of the birthfamily changing their minds. I do not intend to communicate they gave us the impression they were fickle or unsure about making the adoption happen. The opposite was actually true. The birthfamily, particularly the birthmother, engaged in healthy behaviors that exhibited their sincerity. Nor do I want to imply Carey and I were paranoid. Rather, we tried to deal with the reality of the situation. Few choices of greater weight exist than deciding to forgo parenting and placing a child with another family. Some birthfamilies show strong commitment to an adoption, only to change their minds well into the process. Sometimes they back out and choose to parent in the delivery room after they meet the child. While rare, these situations have happened to families we know. We had no hesitation moving forward in the process with the birthfamily, but we also wanted to prepare ourselves emotionally if it did not work out as we hoped.

The twins’ birthmother invited Carey to an ultrasound appointment on July 30. Carey drove to Santa Rosa and she felt honored by this wonderful gesture of trust on the birthmother’s part. The ultrasound technician estimated the twins’ weight to be close to six pounds each. This news encouraged all of us, but Carey had her doubts. As she watched the ultrasound, she thought the technician made overly generous measurements. Carey and the birthmother also had a humorous encounter with the technician who thought they were a lesbian couple. The birthmother informed her Carey was going to adopt the twins. This news didn’t compute. The technician then thought the birthmother was our surrogate. Again, the birthmother corrected her and the technician sat in silent confusion. Adoption simply was not on her radar.

Carey and the birthmother drove to their respective homes to take a nap. As Carey slept, I received a phone call from the birthmother. Her obstetrician had reviewed the ultrasound and came to a different conclusion than the technician. The babies were in fact much smaller than six pounds each. Worse, it appeared they had stopped growing, particularly the smallest baby. The doctor wanted the birthmother to come in that day for delivery. I woke Carey and we spoke with the birthmother together. She would return to the hospital and would call us when she knew the physician’s plan. At this point the twins had a gestational age of 36 weeks 3 days.

We put our own birth plan into action. We packed our go bags and the two car seats into our car. We called Carey’s dad so he could drive from Burbank and stay with Elijah. We contacted friends, neighbors, and our babysitter to create a chain of care for Elijah until Carey’s dad arrived. Then we waited. It took a surprisingly long time for the hospital staff to admit the birthmother. In the meantime Carey painted with Elijah. Around 4:30pm the birthmother called and said the doctor wanted to do a C-section as soon as possible and they would wait for our arrival. We told her we could get to Santa Rosa within a couple of hours. Our neighbors arrived to watch Elijah, we said our goodbyes, and drove north.

A billboard on the road to the hospital. It gave us fodder for many jokes.

A billboard on the road to the hospital. It gave us fodder for many jokes.

On the road, the birthmother’s mom texted us that the C-section was scheduled for 7:00pm. We thought we could make it, but would cut it close. As part of the birthmother’s birth plan, she wanted her sister and Carey in the delivery. Again, the birthmother’s generosity in including us in all these important events humbled us.

We pulled into the parking lot, walked into the hospital, and headed for the birthing ward. The birthmother’s mom met us in the hallway and brought us back to the room. The birthmother lay in bed in her hospital gown, ready for the C-section. Her sister wore scrubs. I pulled out my camera and started taking pictures. Both Carey and I wished we were present for Elijah’s birth. Even though we met him when he was only four days old, we still feel sad we didn’t greet him right away. That we would be with the twins from their first breaths was a wonderful grace. Carey knew from experience though the doctors wanted to start the C-section at 7:00pm, the likelihood of delay was great. This gave us an opportunity to talk.

Our friends who also adopted their kids gave their children two middle names—one they chose and one the birthmothers chose. We liked this idea and asked the birthmother to give the girls a middle name each. About a week earlier we told the birthmother the names we chose for the girls. As we waited for surgery, she told us the names she picked. This act of naming the girls together honors both their birth and forever families. We believe the act shows our commitment to an open adoption in which the girls will always know their birthfamily loves them. In an open adoption, we do not only adopt the child, we also bring together whole families. We welcome new grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. By naming the girls together, we honored this joining of our families.

The nurses came in with a set of scrubs for Carey. After she dressed I prayed for the birthmother. Hospital staff then wheeled the birthmother to surgery at around 8:30pm. Carey and the birthmother’s sister followed the bed. I and the birthmother’s mom went to the waiting room where we ate crackers and read old magazines.

When Carey attended the birth, she stood on the side of the C-section where she could see the incision and delivery of the babies. Well meaning nurses asked if she would be more comfortable standing where she wouldn’t be able to witness the cutting and blood. Carey gently informed the nurse that she was an obstetrician who has performed many C-sections. Later another nurse offered her the opportunity to cut the umbilical cords. Carey’s quick and certain movements shocked the nurse who also did not know Carey’s profession.

Around 8:55pm a nurse came into the waiting room where I sat and asked, “Do you want to meet your daughters?” I hurriedly gathered our belongings and followed her through security doors into the Intermediate Nursery. The nurse had me wash my hands and led me into a room with several infant warmers. I heard the tiny cries of infants, nurses moving quickly from place to place. What looked like chaos was in fact the economic and ordered movements of people proficient at their work. In the midst of the bustle I saw Carey in her scrubs, standing over a warmer. She motioned me over and said, “Say hello to Bethany.”



Then she pointed at the warmer behind her and said, “Say hello to your daughter, Joy.”



The twins were covered in white vernix. Their small size and bright red skin shocked me. Bethany weighed 4lbs 10oz and Joy weighed 3lbs 15oz. Joy breathed quick, shallow gasps. Bethany cried loudly. We held the girls’ hands as nurses cleaned them. They attached several probes to the twins, monitoring their pulse, breathing rate, and oxygen saturation. This being a nursery, the probes had pictures of animals on the pads. I do not know how a cartoon whale will make a probe more acceptable to an infant who has just seen light for the first time, but they were kind of cute. We took photographs, texted family and friends, and enjoyed bonding with our daughters in the flesh.

Once the girls were clean and their vital signs checked, the staff invited us to hold them. They were so slight and fragile. Joy especially looked like someone had draped skin over her. Their combined weight was less than Elijah’s at birth. But to witness such tiny people fully formed and alive was miraculous. The crush of action swarmed around us. Alarms went off. Nurses spoke to one another in shorthand. Doors opened and closed. Yet around those two infant warmers, our world remained still. As I try to remember those early moments, the details drift in a fog. I can better recall the emotions, the sense of it all. Relief. Gratitude. Exhaustion. Pride. Awe.

Adopting the Twins, Part 2: Introductions, Picnics and Dinners, Matching

After our friends went home, Carey and I pulled out my laptop. We pored over the birthmother’s e-mail, prayed, and decided to call her. When she answered the phone we began the weird dance. How do strangers decide together to enter into an adoptive relationship? How could she know us well enough to place her children in our family? How could we be confident these twin girls were the children we were meant to adopt? We began taking those tentative steps, asking and answering basic personal questions, discerning whether we would be a good fit for one another. The matching process is similar to dating in many ways. We agreed to meet the next day in Petaluma at a neutral site. The birthmother would bring her mother and daughter. We would bring Elijah.

Before I write more, let me be clear I intend to keep most of the birthfamily’s story confidential. Their story is not mine to tell. Further, there are details about the adoption that we want the girls to know first. If it seems I am withholding certain pieces of information, that is intentional. If you have a question, please ask, but know I might decline to answer it.

The next morning we gathered photo albums, bought scones and muffins, packed the family in the car, and drove to the Lucchesi Park in Petaluma. I wore the same shirt I had on when we agreed to adopt Elijah. I called it my “adoption shirt.” Don’t judge. We arrived and Elijah immediately began exploring the playground. The minutes of waiting for the birthfamily to arrive seemed endless. I tried to look calm, but each time a car entered the parking lot, I stared at it, wondering if the birthmother sat inside. A silver SUV pulled into a parking space and out stepped the birthmother with her mother and young daughter. Though she was obviously pregnant, both Carey and I were surprised at how small her belly was.

We made our introductions and the kids ran off to play with each other. The birthmother’s mom quickly put aside the small talk and asked, “Why did you choose open adoption?” This began a couple of hours’ worth of questions for one another. We shared with them the story of Elijah’s adoption and our process this time around. We described to them our two main motivations in adoption. First, we believe our Christian faith invites us to open our family to others through adoption. Second, both our families have been shaped greatly by adoption, going back generations.

The birthmother explained her reasons for pursuing adoption, a choice she solidified a couple of weeks prior. The weekend before she e-mailed us she went to the hospital with preterm labor. I think that experience lit a fire under her to secure an adoption plan.

I found it strange to have such personal conversations with people we barely knew. As the kids played on the slides, by the pond, and around the goose poop, the adults shared our hopes and fears, all the while wondering if we wanted to enter into a familial relationship with each other. As the morning progressed, everyone seemed more at ease. Certainly the kids enjoyed each other’s company. When we gave our goodbyes, we said we thought we really connected with the birthmother, but didn’t want to force any kind of decision at that moment. She informed us she contacted a few other families as well. We encouraged her to follow up with them. We all agreed to return to our homes and pray.

The next day was Father’s Day, and as we drove home from church, the birthmother called to say she wanted us to adopt her twin girls. Gratitude overwhelmed us. Her family invited us to dinner at their home the following weekend. We then headed out of town for vacation. Originally we were to attend family camp at Calvin Crest, but the Sky Fire made that an impossibility. We went to Pismo Beach after seeing some family and friends in Fresno.

We thought the birthmother would choose us, but we did not expect her to make up her mind so quickly. Later we learned when she first considered adoption she went to our agency’s website and came across our profile. She sensed we would be the family to adopt the twins. Then she contacted IAC, told them what she wanted in an adoptive family, and they sent her a number of Dear Birthmother letters. Our letter sat on top, though she did not request it, which encouraged her and the intuition that we were the right family grew stronger. After our first phone conversation her desire to place with us increased. Our meeting in the park settled the matter. She did not want to follow through with the other families she contacted because the connection we made with her was so strong. IAC tells us birthmothers often know immediately which family they will choose when they see the Dear Birthmother letter.

While in Pismo Beach we had a flurry of communication with our social worker. We agreed to be considered matched even though we had not signed any paperwork—being matched meant we would take ourselves out of circulation to avoid making adoption arrangements with more than one birthmother at a time. This move came with some risk because the birthmother could back out and we would have lost time wherein we could have matched with another family. While Elijah and Carey found crabs and sea anemones in the tide pools below the cliffs of Shell Beach, I arranged the match meeting with our social worker. There we would formalize our intent to adopt and set up agreements for ongoing contact. The social worker was in communication with the twins’ birthfather, inviting him to the meeting.

The following weekend we drove to the birthmother’s parents’ home in Sonoma County for a fried chicken dinner. Elijah and the birthmother’s daughter played in the backyard, barely stopping for quick gulps of water or the occasional bite of a cracker. We met the birthmother’s father, who was warm and inviting. But this dinner was strange because our relationship ran backwards. In our first meeting, we discussed intensely personal matters and only now, with the big question of whether we would adopt the twins answered, did we engage in small talk.

On June 29 Carey and I arrived at IAC’s office in Concord with the birthmother, her mother, and the birthfather for a match meeting. It was our first opportunity to speak with the birthfather. We were grateful for the chance. Earlier that summer Elijah met his birthfather for the first time. We strongly desire for our family to know our children’s birthparents. We believe open adoption with its transparency and ongoing contact is healthiest for everyone involved, especially the adopted children. That we were meeting the twins’ birthfather before they were even born seemed like an extra blessing.

Our social worker guided us through a series of personal questions designed to help us know each other and understand what everyone thought about the adoption. Adoption, while beautiful, is incredibly complex. Carey and I celebrated we were about to grow our family. It is common, however, for birthparents to experience a profound sense of loss as they make a selfless sacrifice. We formally matched with the birthmother. Though the agreement was not legally binding and everyone could still change their minds, a formal match fosters trust and helps ensure the adoption will happen. We then formulated a birth plan and contact agreement with the birthmother. The contact agreement is very detailed and covers everything from the amount of visits in a year to boundaries for posting pictures on social media. Together we define the minimum amount of contact and can always choose to have more. This meeting was one of the first thorough introductions to the adoption process for the birthfather. It was like drinking from a firehose for him as he received vast amounts of information about open adoption and his rights.

We left the match meeting exhausted and grateful. That next weekend we hosted the birthmother and her family for dinner at our home. These informal meals helped everyone relax and build trust. We also ate a picnic dinner with the birthfather in Pleasant Hill Park. We introduced him to Elijah. The birthfather observed us sharing a meal and playing with our son. He said seeing us parent helped him trust us to be a good family who could raise the twins.

Though the adoption was progressing, we never felt settled given the provisional nature of our agreement. The weeks of waiting for the birth allowed the birthfamily more time to change their minds. We could reconsider too, so I am sure the birthfamily shared similar worries. With Elijah’s adoption, we met him after he was born and his birthmother made a fast and clear cut decision. Once we agreed to enter adoption together, there was little time for any party to withdraw. We would get to know his birthfamily and build trust with them after the fact. By matching weeks before the girls were born, we fostered a trusting relationship first, which proved helpful. All signs pointed to everyone being committed to making this adoption happen, still we could not shake the fear it might fall through.

Adopting the Twins, Part 1: Circulation, False Alarm, Silence, First Contact, the Car Seat Saga

In 2014 Carey and I decided through much prayer and deliberation to adopt another child. Adopting our son Elijah was one of the greatest experiences of our lives. We knew we wanted to grow our family and after being unable to conceive, we returned to adoption rather than pursue medical treatments. We chose Independent Adoption Center (IAC) again because we had a wonderful experience with them last time, and I am not referring to the fact we waited an outrageously short five weeks to adopt Elijah. Rather, the more we worked with the staff of IAC, the more impressed we became with their thoughtful services and professionalism. Also, because we adopted through IAC before, we would not have to jump through so many hoops this time.

Make no mistake, there were still plenty of hoops—reams of paperwork and interviews and home visits from social workers. We created a new Dear Birthmother letter, which would introduce our family to pregnant women considering adoption. Making our new letter took longer than last time and that frustrated us. We were anxious to go into circulation, which was IAC’s way of saying we completed all the requirements and were ready to adopt. Our adoption coordinator told us the average wait for families in circulation was fourteen months. She said in her experience families who already had children, like ours, waited longer.

Though a prototypical adoption does not exist, we knew because of our extraordinarily short wait last time, we did not share many of the experiences common to other adoptive families. We did not know the euphoria of matching with a birthmother before the birth, seeing ultrasounds, taking our time picking a name, or nesting. Nor did we know the frustrations of months of silence, scam phone calls, and matches with birthmothers that fell through. We had internal work to do to prepare ourselves. For Carey, she had to convince herself that we would have a long wait. It was easier for me with my natural pessimism to expect this adoption would take over a year. But because of our previous experience, I had to prepare myself for the chance that we might adopt another child at any minute.

We completed our iheartadoption profile and made a Facebook page. IAC possessed copies of our Dear Birthmother letter waiting to go to pregnant women. Our toll-free number stood ready to receive calls. We had a new adoption-specific e-mail address. On February 10, 2015 we publicly announced we were available to adopt. Friends and family spread the word. A wave of encouragement washed over us. Dozens of likes and shares on Facebook. People promised to pray for us. After about a week, the excitement subsided. We settled into the wait.

One March afternoon, four weeks after going into circulation, we received a call from IAC about a last-minute placement. The setting of the phone call struck us as odd—Carey was home for lunch, which almost never happened. We wondered if God was up to something and we were about to break our five-week record. The birthmother, however, chose another family. The experience revealed we were not entirely prepared for a last-minute placement since we did own a car seat. I promptly went out that afternoon and bought one at a discount—it was a floor model.

Then we entered the silence. Over the next few months our phone never rang. Our e-mail inbox sat empty. IAC told us they sent out several copies of our letters to birthmothers each month, but we didn’t see anything come of it. In attempts to lighten the mood, we quoted Homer Simpson’s line about the waiting game over and over.

We wanted to do something more proactive. We posted videos of our family online. Carey drafted a letter to her ob/gyn colleagues in other practices and to my pastor friends, asking them to direct women considering adoption to our agency.

The silence brought about two extreme reactions in me. Some days I could think only about the new child. Who would she be? What ethnicity? Where would he be born? The adoption consumed me. Other days the adoption didn’t seem like a reality at all and I had to consciously remind myself our family of three would actually expand.

In April our friends gave us their car seat they would no longer need. We decided to return the one I bought, but I procrastinated and it sat in our garage. On the afternoon of June 19 I finally got around to returning the car seat we purchased all those months ago. Refund in hand, I went home to prepare dinner for my family and friends.

As we ate dinner I looked down at my phone—usually a taboo at our table—when an alert notified me an e-mail came to our adoption address. I read a message from a birthmother who was 31 weeks pregnant with twin girls. She liked our profile. She wanted to place the girls in a stable Christian home to parents committed to an open adoption. The birthmother thought we could provide these things and invited us to call her. My heart leapt into my throat, but I turned off my phone and didn’t say a word.

After clearing our plates, we went on a sunset walk with our friends in the park behind our home. I handed Carey my phone and said, “You’ll want to read this.” She read the e-mail, shocked both at the message and that I could sit on it throughout the dinner. We told our friends the crazy news. They were like us, excited and nonplussed.

My mind turned to logistics. We did not own a vehicle that could seat a family of five. I thought, twins means an immediate minivan. And remember, I just returned a car seat that afternoon because we thought it was superfluous. Now we were one car seat short and had to purchase another one with no guarantee that we would get a similar discount. But I was getting ahead of myself. We still had not spoken with this birthmother, let alone matched for an adoption, so I told my brain to shut up. Shut up and pray God would make it clear if this was an adoption we should pursue.