Keith Sharon & Families story on Adoption -
For a second, I'm frozen. I finish the cell phone call with the attorney's office, and my first thought is How am I going to tell Nancy? What are the words you use to convey something like this to your wife? The sentences won't form in my head.
Then, suddenly, I'm crying. I can't catch my breath. It's Monday, Oct. 31, 2011. Halloween afternoon. I'm a 49-year-old Dad/sports editor sitting in my Ford Expedition in the Orange County Register parking structure with tears pouring down my face. Wet spots on my shirt. Chest heaving.
It goes on for minutes, but it seems longer. I can't do anything. I can't drive. I can't dial the phone to tell Nancy.
I just sit there, shuddering. My thoughts shift to my son, Trey. What beautiful words: My son, Trey. My mind races through almost two years of dread and joy, fear and laughter, frustration and hope. We got custody of Trey in a little town in the South in 2010. We have been his unofficial parents for every breath of his life.
And we have been waiting on this phone call to tell us that he is officially, 100 percent ours, or, he is not.
Finally, my shaky finger touches Nancy's name on my phone. “It’s over," is, at first, all I can say to her.
Trey was born in the mind of my teenage daughter, Alison, whose genuine sweetness turned a tragedy from the other side of the world into a baby brother.
On Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010, an earthquake hit Haiti leaving more than 300,000 people dead, 300,000 injured and one million homeless. For days, our television was fixed on CNN as the network chronicled the devastating stories of families torn apart. Parents dead or missing. Children left alone.
At some point, in those first few days after the quake, Alison suggested to Nancy (Dad wasn't involved at this point) that she knew how we could help.
Adopt one of those Haitian children.
Nancy said, I was told later, she would love to adopt, but we couldn't. The reason: Dad would never do it.
Here's why Nancy said that. Our lives were comfortable. We have a nice house, nice old golden retriever, nice routine. He have teenage twins, Alison and Dylan, in high school. We travel. We eat at restaurants. We work out. We go to places where a baby doesn't fit. Our kids will be in college in a couple of years. Our child-raising years are almost behind us.
It was reasonable to assume that I would choose not to adopt. But Alison didn't let Nancy's answer stop her. I will always be proud of her for that.
On Friday, Jan. 22, 2010, our family sat down to watch a televised concert "Hope for Haiti Now." Bruce Springsteen was the attraction for me. If the Boss is in, I'm in.
He gave a goose-bumpy, lump-in-my-throat performance of "We Shall Overcome." I was moved. I remember getting up to go get something to drink just after Springsteen performed. When I closed the refrigerator, Alison was standing there.
"We should adopt," she said simply.
"We should," I agreed.
"Wait, you would do it? Mom said you wouldn't," she said.
"I would do it in a second," I said.
That little spark is all it took.
On the night of the concert, I went on the Internet and searched "Haitian adoption." I found a pastor who had helped some parents adopt. However, he didn't have good news. He said as a result of the quake and the massive numbers of people who wanted to adopt, the Haitian government was being more strict with its adoption laws.
Were we, he asked, ready to wait two years to start the process?
So we had a family meeting. I thanked my kids for being who they are. Without our great experience raising them, adopting wouldn't be an option. I told them about how they would become less a focus in our lives, about how difficult it is to raise a baby, about crying nights and spreading illness and poop.
I gave the options: Wait two years for a Haitian baby, or try to help a baby in the United States now. We chose now.
Through a relative, we got the number of an adoption attorney. Let me stress: We had no idea what we were doing. Who knows how to adopt?
We explained to the attorney how little we knew about the process. He emailed us a questionnaire.
One of the first questions turned out to be the most important. What kind of child did we want?
There were several options. White, African-American, Asian etc. We didn't care about race or ethnicity.
We chose "Any."
We didn't know it at the time, but our answer was unusual. Most adoptive parents, we're told, want their child to match them. White people want white babies. African-American people want African-American babies.
In early February of 2010, the attorney called back to clarify. By "any" did we mean we would take a mixed-race baby? Specifically, would we take a baby who was half African-American and half white?
No problem, I said.
Then he dropped a bombshell. There was a pregnant, single woman who had agreed to give up her child for adoption. But the adoptive parents had backed out of the deal when she was in her second trimester. The birth mother did not have the means to take care of her baby.
Would we be able to take this baby, who was due in May?
May, as in three months away. I called Nancy, who said May was no problem. Of course, she thought I was talking about May of 2011.
No, I explained, May of 2010. 90 days away.
We said yes.
The process of adoption isn't uplifting. There is no swell of background music. There is no joy, even when you're the parents doing the adopting.
It is a cold slog through mountains of paperwork, background checks and worry that you're going to mess up somehow and become unqualified to adopt. That fear is real. If you miss deadlines or don't comply precisely with the process, your chances of getting a child shrink.
The process of adoption is a months-long ordeal of preparing for the worst case scenario, which is such a downer at a time when it feels like your enthusiasm should be so high.
In my first phone call (I was so green), I asked a social worker if we could have a protective fence built around our pool during the month after we brought home our newborn (because he wouldn't be able to crawl and didn't seem to be in danger of getting into the backyard). Or would we need to build it before the child was born?
She said, "Only a person who's never had a child drown would ask a question like that."
Welcome to the adoption process.
We were required to read several books about raising a bi-racial child. Those books prepared us to be rejected by the child, rejected by our extended family, rejected by society at large. The books let us know how lacking we are in cultural awareness.
The classes taught us to be ready when the birth mother changes her mind about adoption, and to be prepared to be crushed. Another class taught us to be ready when the hospital staff (where the baby is born) treats us with disdain because, technically, we aren't yet the parents. In yet another class, we were told to prepare for people connected with the birth mother to resent us, to contest the adoption, to take us to court to try to take the baby away.
The only pleasant part of the process was the discussions we had with our home study coordinator, Anita, who smiled, laughed and made us feel good about what we were doing when no one else did.
We traveled to a tiny Southern town of brick and wrought iron. Quaint, antebellum homes line the streets. A narrow river trickles through the center of town.
We arrived on May 2, 2010, two days before Trey's birth would be induced. Alison and Dylan stayed in Orange County with their Aunt Susan and my mother.
Trey's birth mother did not live in the picturesque part of town.
She lived on the outskirts, behind a trailer park, off an unmarked dirt road. Her rusted trailer looked as if you could topple it with one push.
There was a moment, when our car was bumping along that dirt road, that Nancy and I knew we were doing the right thing. The joyless preparations were worth it. We would be giving this baby a chance.
Trey was born on May 4, 2010. He's a Star Wars baby. "May the fourth" be with you.
Trey's birth mother told us that she was scared we were going to back out of the adoption. She told us there was no way for her to raise this boy. She told the hospital staff we were the parents, and they treated us that way. Nancy cut the umbilical cord. Trey was 7 pounds, 10 ounces.
Nancy and I hugged so many times that day. Trey felt like ours.
We hoped that feeling would continue.
We couldn't come home with Trey until a court approved the adoption.
So we hunkered down with Trey in a hotel, waiting for a phone call to tell us we could go home. We were there one week. Two weeks.
We traded feeding shifts. We changed diapers. We washed bottles. We went to Walmart for more supplies. We watched endless hours of Law & Order.
There was a point where we were so tired, we didn't know what day it was, or what time of day it was.
WE HAD A NEW BABY! We were walking around the hotel lobby showing him off. The hospitality staff left chocolate in our room. Everyone was so nice ... unlike what we had prepared for.
When the phone call came saying we could leave, we whisked Trey to the airport and flew him home to meet his brother and sister and his grandparents. It's hard to describe the elation that showed in my older kids' faces when they saw their new brother. They were quickly rolling with him on the floor.
Then, the phone call that brought us down to earth. There was always something.
Our paperwork hadn't been delivered to the right person. I saw Nancy on the phone, terror in her eyes. We weren't supposed to take Trey out of the state.
With a few frantic phone calls, the paperwork problem was figured out. It was sitting on the desk of the proper person. Trey was fine in California.
But that's how we began to live, with the constant fear that something would go wrong and Trey would be taken away from us.
Trey is a great kid. He's walking now (running, I should say). He's talking non-stop. His first word was "ball," which is good. We have an athletic family. He's been to enough baseball, softball and basketball games to watch his older siblings for a lifetime.
We are "Mommy" and "Daddy" again.
We've had some awkward situations: Once, an old friend saw us walking with Trey and asked if Alison, our 15-year-old was a new mother. Another time, someone asked me how old my beautiful grandson was.
His different skin color has never been an issue.
Trey loves cars and pumpkins and books and Christmas lights. We took him to New York City in August, and I'll never forget him drumming like a maniac on the table at the Hard Rock Café.
And we worried about him every day. I wonder how much other adoptive parents feel this. Something was going to happen. There would be some glitch in the paperwork. Some person would come forward to challenge us. Alison said she had a nightmare that someone stole Trey from us.
I had the same nightmare.
All we needed to stop the worry was a decree from a judge that Trey's adoption was final. But first, there was another round of background checks, a re-evaluating of paperwork.
Then, on the afternoon of Oct. 31, I got the phone call as I sat in my Ford in the Register parking structure. The decree was signed by a judge. It was over.
When I was able to call Nancy, we talked about all we had been through and the incredible sense of relief. Halloween will always have a special meaning to us.
People ask us sometimes what we're going to get Trey for Christmas. He's almost 2 now, and he's beginning to appreciate things.
I prefer to think about what Trey will give us.
We're a couple who has been married 23 years, and our beautiful boy has given us Santa Claus again. He will give us parent-teacher conferences and arts and crafts projects and math homework. He will give us T-ball and the pleasure of making him pancakes on Saturday mornings.
He will give us joy.
See more on their story and photo's at: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/trey-332630-baby-nancy.html