Guest Blogger | Betsy Hemesath
“Three and a half years later, none of those fears are part of our reality. Instead, we have embraced our modern family. A family crossing multiple cultures and races, sharing recipes and traditions. A family that texts, Facetimes, and travels across the country to visit each other. A family that cheers each other on through the ups and downs of life. A family that I now wish lived right down the road. A family where my son will always know the love of two mothers.”Betsy Hemesath
My husband, Marcus, and I just celebrated our seven year anniversary. While sitting down to watch our wedding video, I was flooded with memories of that time in our lives. Within two months, we got married, graduated, and moved to St. Louis from Iowa for my husband to begin his four year residency as an OB/GYN. We were so excited to begin our lives together as a married couple, and I could only see a bright hope for our future.
How little did I know that seven years of marriage could hold so much love, pain, and growth.
My husband’s residency was a challenge for us as a newly married couple. He worked endlessly, while I sat home by myself. As an introvert, I spent most of my time alone, making little to no attempt at building friendships. Even during the day, I worked as a nanny, so I didn’t have coworkers to spend time.
At the time, I didn’t mind. With a degree in child development, I was excited to use everything I had learned in my most anticipated job title: Mom.
We quickly decided to start building our family. After all, first comes marriage, then comes…infertility. It was a challenge we never saw coming.
We jumped right in with medications, but were hit even harder when we found out that both of our bodies were part of the issue. From that moment on, we walked the road alone, quietly keeping the struggle to ourselves as it took its toll on every part of our being. Yet, even in the pain, we decided to hold more tightly to one other and move forward together.
One night, after two years of unsuccessfully trying to build our family, I had a very vivid dream. We were adopting our first child. I woke my husband to tell him that I was confident it was time to start researching adoption. Both of our families have individuals that are part of the adoption triad, so adoption was already something that we had talked about for years.
We both agreed and jumped immediately into research, getting our home study, building our profile, and all the other things you’d never imagine unless you’ve been there.
In August 2016, we went active as a waiting family. While I thought infertility had taught me patience, nothing could have prepared me for the wait between going active and finally hearing from an expectant mother who was considering us to parent her child.
I kept my phone near me and on loud all day, every day. Every unknown number increased my heart rate, only to be let down when the voice on the other end had nothing to do with our process.
My husband and I decided we needed to enjoy this time without children as much as we could, as we knew our world could change in a matter of hours. We ate out, miniature golfed, went to concerts, and hosted parties.
After just two months of waiting, we got a phone call about a mother expecting a child a few weeks later. Our world was quickly flipped when she went into labor just a few days later. Our minds swirled and our hearts raced. We hadn’t even had a chance to talk to her yet. No time to get to know her and show her the support she deserved during this time. We grieved the lost opportunity, but packed our bags and waited for the “okay” to drive across country and meet her and her baby.
That “okay” never came. All communication was cut off, and we never heard another word.
We never met her. Never met the baby. We don’t even know if it was a boy or girl.
Selfishly, I struggled with the idea that we would need to start all over again. That the dream of being a mother was still so far from my reach. But I also felt a deep pain and worry for this new mother and baby. Did she have any support? Was she making these big decisions alone? Was she okay? I found that in my time of selfish grief, I still wanted nothing more than to hug her and give her the support she needed.
We went back on the waiting family list. We bought last minute tickets to a Dierks Bentley concert. I walked away with a selfie of me and Dierks that night, but the best memory I have is holding Marcus’s hand tightly while Dierks sang “I Hold On”. In that moment, I oddly felt a sense of peace that we were exactly where we were supposed to be. [Leave it to Dierks to be the sign I needed in that whirlwind of a week. ]
Exactly one week later, we got another call. Another expectant mother was considering us to parent her child.
A boy. We instantly had more information than we had with the previous mother. We spent the next few weeks exchanging emails, pictures, and texts. As I got to know this woman more, I felt torn between excitement for us and worry for her. Then one Friday evening, we got the “okay” to pack our bags and drive across the country to meet this woman who was in labor and asking for us to come.
After a 13 hour drive, this mama graciously welcomed us into her hospital room to come and meet her son. I have never been more nervous than I was walking into that room. That space. Her space.
For any woman who has just given birth, that space holds one of the biggest moments of your life. And she was letting us, complete strangers, walk in. But if I had learned anything from the previous expectant mother we were matched with, it was that I wanted to support her anyway I could as she made life changing decisions.
Two days later, we welcomed her and her son both into our hotel room and our lives forever. In the shift of a moment, he was now our son, too. And his mama, she was instantly a part of our family, as well.
We spent the next ten days in a hotel waiting for ICPC paperwork to be approved. I will never forget that intimate time living in our little bubble, celebrating our first Thanksgiving as a family of three, meeting grandparents for the first time, quickly learning the ins and outs of caring for a newborn, and spending time with our son’s birth mom before we left the state.
But soon that time was over, and we got approval to head home.
As we crossed state lines, I selfishly felt relief rush through me, as we put physical space between his birth family and us. In all honesty, I didn’t know what an open adoption was supposed to look like, and I’ve learned over time that every adoption looks different. As much as I had already grown to love her, I still had a pit of worry. I feared she would want to tell us how to parent. I feared she would learn more about us and regret choosing us to parent him.
Three and a half years later, none of those fears are part of our reality. Instead, we have embraced our modern family. A family crossing multiple cultures and races, sharing recipes and traditions. A family that texts, Facetimes, and travels across the country to visit each other. A family that cheers each other on through the ups and downs of life. A family that I now wish lived right down the road. A family where my son will always know the love of two mothers.
I couldn’t have fathomed it.
Today, my son’s birth mom is one of the first people I text with the exciting and even mundane updates of our family life. Even as we went through IVF and got pregnant with our second child, or now that we prepare to welcome home a third, she is the one who celebrates these big moments with us.
We also very quickly found that our son’s birth family never wanted to make parenting decisions for us. They never wanted anything more than to remain part of his life. I wish I would have known then how to silence the fears. I wish I would have known how beautiful it was going to be. I wish I wouldn’t have wasted a second worrying. But I’m grateful. Forever grateful that my son will always have a connection to such a sacred piece of his identity.
No amount of research could have prepared me for the bond I would feel with my son’s birth mom. And even as I hear other people talk about it – many in the place of worry that I once was – I know they’ll never truly understand until they experience it themselves.
There is no love like a mother’s, and there’s nothing like sharing that love with another woman. While we each share a unique attachment with our son, there is no competition, just a deeper respect and love for one another.
We, together, are his mothers, and I’m honored to walk this path with his birth mom.
I want to end with this. My son’s birth mom and I recently had the opportunity to attend a retreat together for all sides of the triad. Everyone was asked to share their story with the others, but we found that our story was so intertwined that we could only share it together.
Without the other, our story and our journey with adoption does not give the complete picture. And, someday, our son will have his own side of the story to add.
To me, the best thing we can do to prepare him for this is to walk in an open adoption where he knows it all. To give him every opportunity to know all of himself.
He will know his birth family. He will know how his story began. He will know people that look like him. He will know the love of two mothers.
There is and will always be grief and trauma tied to my son’s story. Nothing about our family is perfect or easy. As any family, it takes love, patience, and intention. And we know that, at times, open adoption will only add the messiness. But we want our son to know his birth family. We want him to know where he gets his dimpled cheek and curly hair. We want him to be able to have questions answered by not only us, but his birth family. We want him to know the love they have for him.
As I walked down the aisle to Marcus seven years ago, I never could have predicted what our journey to build our family would look like. Open adoption. IVF. Surprise pregnancy.
While I will always hold some of the grief and trauma from infertility, I thank God every day for how our story has unfolded in seven short years and the relationships we’ve built because of it. And I pray, oh how I pray, that I may learn from my own pain and grief from infertility to hold my son’s story with care, continue to educate myself, and walk this road as well as I can with both him and his birth family.
Betsy is a stay at home mom to two handsome, energetic boys, and her family is adding a little girl to their beautiful chaos in August. Most days are spent chasing after little boys, reading books, and playing superheroes, but she loves spending any extra time she can painting, cooking, writing, listening to music, or being outside. After years of infertility and now as an adoptive mom, Betsy loves connecting with, supporting, and advocating for those on their own personal journey with infertility or adoption. Follow her family’s story and connect with her on Instagram @betsydearnoone.