This interview is part of a mini-series we’re doing on adoption. The decision to parent a child through adoption is a beautiful and loving way of building a family, but for many couples, the process can seem overwhelming and maybe even a little intimidating.
How do I know if adoption is right for our family? Where do I go to learn more? How will we come up with the money? What’s the difference between an open and closed adoption? How will we know if we’ve been matched with the right child for our family?
Today, we’ve asked Jessica Coe, adoptive mom of a little boy (now two years old!), to share about their family’s adoption journey and shed light on some common questions like these.
In this interview, Jessica opens up about the joys and challenges of adoption, how they navigated the process logistically, and what she would tell parents considering adoption. Every family is unique, and everyone’s story is different, but as Jessica wrote, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
EM: What led you to pursue adoption?
Like so many other couples out there, we experienced a long and difficult journey through infertility before we began the adoption process.
A lot of people along the way would tell us “why don’t you just adopt?” It was something we were open to, for sure, but there was a health component to our infertility that also needed to be addressed and as it was an immediate need that’s where we started.
Once we began working with a NaPro Technology doctor to treat the underlying issues, we became pretty invested in that. Infertility is all-consuming and completely draining mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially, so when someone is deep within its grip they are not necessarily in a good position to invest the mental, emotional and financial commitment to adoption, which is equally all-consuming.
In addition, we had a lot of grieving to do over the loss of biology. I think that’s something that isn’t fully understood or appreciated unless you’re affected. No one should bring unresolved grief into a parenting situation if they can help it—we needed time to process, grieve, and find peace in order to be the kinds of parents children deserve.
Once we reached that point, we felt recharged and ready to tackle all that adoption involves.
No one should bring unresolved grief into a parenting situation if they can help it—we needed time to process, grieve, and find peace in order to be the kinds of parents children deserve.
EM: How did you begin the adoption process?
One of the first things we did was complete a homestudy (which involves home visits, interviews, background checks, a review of personal documents, etc.) with a licensed agency here in Michigan. We didn’t have excessive funds to hire the agency to help us connect with an expectant mother, so we figured we would try to spread the word ourselves and see if we were led to someone that way while we saved money.
We also created an online profile and asked family and friends to share it on social media. It felt right to us to attempt connecting with someone via family and friends anyhow—more personal, more initial trust. We kind of “went live” in September of 2016 and over the next few months had a number of expectant moms reach out to talk with us who had come across our page.
Nothing manifested from these conversations for several months—a few were obvious scammers, and a few ended up feeling empowered to parent, which is absolutely wonderful.
Then one day we got a phone call from a family member saying she knew of an expectant mother who may be thinking about adoption. There are many parts of the story that I’m not at liberty to share, but what I can say is that God’s hand was clearly moving throughout everything to bring us all to each other and stitch back together the pieces of our broken stories.
Our son, Isaac, was born a little more than a year after we publicly expressed our desire to adopt. We were honored to be present with his birth mama at the hospital, and have maintained a close, open relationship with her since.
God’s hand was clearly moving throughout everything to bring us all to each other and stitch back together the pieces of our broken stories.
If you don’t use the services of an agency for the adoption, you have to hire attorneys to facilitate the legal part of the transfer of parental rights. Ethically, adoptive parents should have different representation than the expectant/birth mother & father if present. So we hired two separate attorneys.
Since our son was born out of state, we had about three weeks of waiting before the interstate paperwork gave us clearance to bring him home. After that, there was another six month waiting period until the adoption was finalized and we could give him a social security number and updated birth certificate. We now have two of these documents for him—one with his birth name and one with his given name, post-adoption.
These are the kind of things you don’t think or know about beforehand, that we had to figure out ourselves since we didn’t use an agency. It took a lot of time to get everything figured out—hours of phone calls and the like—but it was a beautiful day for our hearts and lives when we were officially able to share our family name with him.
EM: Did you have any worries or concerns before your son’s adoption took place, or did you always feel like it was “right” decision for your family?
Oh yes, of course we had concerns! When you pursue adoption you are essentially saying to someone you haven’t met yet: “I promise to love you unconditionally for your whole life and I have no idea who you are or where you’re coming from,” etc.
You do the same thing for a biological child, but with adoption you just send that promise out into the world not knowing where that child may be coming from and with no common genes or history to give you an automatic bond.
As a self-defense mechanism it’s in our nature to consider things that could go wrong, but I don’t think that means something isn’t right. Everything is a process and there are resources available to help counsel through the questions and concerns you might have. Adoption is complex and full of uncertainties; but life’s kind of like that, too.
Open adoption is something many people don’t understand from the outside, and something that gave us some worries before we went through our adoption education and learned what a positive, healthy thing it is for adoptees and birth families.
As a self-defense mechanism it’s in our nature to consider things that could go wrong, but I don’t think that means something isn’t right. Adoption is complex and full of uncertainties, but life’s kind of like that, too.
EM: The finances required to adopt can sometimes be an obstacle for some families. How did you overcome this?
We feel so blessed that our families were more than supportive—they have been with us through it all.
When we found out about our son, we had only about four weeks to finish coming up with finances and baby supplies before he came. But our families helped with that by throwing us a wonderful baby shower, and friends far and wide showed up with financial support—even anonymous donors who helped us cover the remaining costs of the adoption without going into debt.
Many couples take out loans or extra lines of credit to fund their adoptions, but we feel very grateful to be able to fund it mostly ourselves and with the help of an extremely gracious, generous, and supportive community.
There was never a person in our life we encountered who didn’t love our son and his birth mother as our own family from the very beginning. When he was born, my family sent his birth mother a card that read, ‘You are our family now forever.’
As the first grandchild in my family, that was so special and meant everything to us—you can’t love Isaac and not love the one from whom he came.
EM: What is one thing you wish you’d known before adopting that would have been helpful or encouraging?
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
I felt very overwhelmed by the numerous moving parts of the adoption process before beginning, and when I get overwhelmed I shut down. But by taking things one day, one step, one task at a time, it is definitely manageable and of course every single thing is worth it in the end.
Also, don’t be afraid of open adoption! I think many people are because our exposure to what adoption means generally comes from Lifetime movies, hahaha (which really isn’t an accurate depiction!). Open adoptions are healthy and beautiful for all parties involved as long as there is equal love and respect for boundaries.
And when you look into the eyes of the woman who sacrificed everything to place that baby in your arms, you will actually WANT her to be in your life. It’s not a competition, it’s not joint parenting, but she is family and always will be.
EM: What has been the greatest challenge you’ve faced as an adoptive parent?
Adoption has challenged my two greatest personality flaws: a tendency toward selfishness and an urge to control. As all-consuming as infertility is, it is definitely something that fed self-involvement and desire to control because the source of our infertility was within me. It became about me—I was the one that couldn’t conceive, I was the one who needed the surgeries and the shots and the ultrasounds and the tests.
I became obsessed with my diet and lifestyle wanting to control everything, believing it was within my power to fix things by eating right, exercising, taking supplements, etc.
But there really is no space for that kind of ego in adoption.
Yes, it was still about family building for us, but I had to embrace the idea that I am not in control and devote my heart to being open to receiving. It really shifted the focus away from what I want to being willing to receive whatever God wanted to provide through another mother’s gift. Of course, of course, what God wanted to provide was far more than I ever could have imagined anyhow! But letting go of control was hard for me, and still is.
I had to embrace the idea that I am not in control and devote my heart to being open to receiving.
I also often reflect on how much I desired to be a mother, and when that blessing came to me, it was something I had to share with another mother. Isaac’s birth mom will always be his mother, and I will always be his mother as well.
Again, in this sense, God in His most beautiful way was edifying my heart—because adoption was not about my becoming a mother—it really wasn’t and isn’t about me at all. It’s about the beautiful child who is loved by so many and has been from the moment his existence was known.
Ultimately, when you are an adoptive mother, you have to embrace the fact that adoption is not about your feelings and insecurities, it’s primarily about how the child feels and doing what is best for the child.
This also holds true in terms of how you navigate the ethics—how you treat his first mother, how you hold up to your promises. Our son is very young, but we’ve already started to talk to him about his story—saying that his birth mother, whom he knows as “bma,” grew him in her belly and when he was born, she asked us to be his mommy and daddy and we were so happy to adopt him.
Adoption was not about my becoming a mother—it really wasn’t and isn’t about me at all. It’s about the beautiful child who is loved by so many and has been from the moment his existence was known.
There is a part of me that feels sad that I wasn’t the one who grew him and loved him from the very beginning, but at the same time, I am overcome with gratitude to be his mother. I often reflect on what a wonderful gift it is to finally be a mother, and that is what matters more to me than anything else.
EM: Do you have any advice that you would give to someone who might be considering adoption but a little unsure about how to discern if it’s the right path for their family?
Discernment is so hard. Our prayer was that if it were God’s desire for us that the path would become apparent and unfold naturally—and that is exactly what happened.
Adoption can be a beautiful thing, but it is okay to know in advance what you feel equipped to handle. For instance, if you don’t feel equipped to handle special needs or severe trauma, multiples, etc, there is no shame in recognizing your limits and focusing on the possibilities of what you do feel prepared to receive. Prayer is the best place to start.
From there, figure out what the laws are in your state—make phone calls, search for local agencies that have informational meetings, etc. We considered adopting an older child from within our state, but ultimately because of how raw infertility made us, we weren’t ready to foster first, and we learned through calling the state that is the standard process for the adoption of older children. So it really was a process of exploration and elimination that led us down the path to self-matching.
There is no shame in recognizing your limits and focusing on the possibilities of what you do feel prepared to receive. Prayer is the best place to start.
One final piece of advice: Keep your heart open. Be willing to entertain and pray about things that defy your hopes and expectations.
EM: Motherhood was a dream for you for a long time. When it finally became a reality, how did you feel?
It has been so much more than I could have ever hoped.
I wrote a little love letter in honor of my son’s second birthday, in which I tried to capture what it did to my heart to actually hear him call me mama—something that is almost mystical in light of the years of infertility we suffered, in light of the fact that a different mother grew him and gave him to me. In light of a hundred little things I feel but can’t put into words.
I don’t know that I could ever fully put it into words, but I tried, in a piece I’ve written, called: You Call Me “Mama”
“Not by months of carrying you within me; but by the stroke of a pen your first mother made me. Yours. Every dream that I had planted, and a thousand more that had planted themselves, came alive.” —excerpt from “You Call Me ‘Mama”
To find out more about Jessica and their adoption journey, you can follow her on Instagram @the.unexpected.life.