Rose and Pete Newton* had always wanted a family, so when it didn’t happen naturally they didn’t hang around…
I always thought I’d adopt one child and give birth to another. Unfortunately, Pete and I were unable to have a child biologically and after two failed cycles of IVF we’d had enough.
In 1999 we’d just moved to the USA, where I’m from, and were considering doing another cycle when something clicked inside me. I thought, it isn’t pregnancy I want, it’s a child. There are children out there who need a family so why don’t we just adopt one of those. Pete agreed with me, so we looked through the Yellow Pages, chose a local agency and made contact with a lovely woman, Madeleine, who became our adoption counsellor. That was the beginning.
The cost of adoptionWe’d been together about eight years, married for six and felt more than ready to start a family. However, we’re not wealthy – I work in catering and Pete is a writer – and so our first question was, how much is this going to cost?
In order to adopt a child from our state of New Hampshire, the fee was $10,000. We could have speeded up the process by going further afield, to Texas for example, where there were a lot of children waiting for adoption, but we couldn’t afford it.
It took six months for us to be approved as adoptive parents. The process involved FBI testing, fingerprints and several interviews – together and separately – about our marriage and our lives. We each had to also provide two referees, who wrote lovely letters in support of us.
Madeleine counselled that as first-timers, we should probably adopt a baby rather than an older child because it would be less likely to have any complex behavioural issues. Secretly, I was thrilled by that.
Waiting for a babyOnce we’d been approved it was out of our hands: all we could do was wait for a prospective birth mother to choose us from the adoption agency’s long list of would-be parents. We’d sit at home and worry about what they might think of us: we’d written a letter to explain why we wanted to adopt their child and created a photo-collage to depict our lifestyle. It was all really moving, even before we’d set eyes on a baby.
On Valentine’s day 2002, two-and-a-half years after we’d started the adoption process, Madeleine rang to say we’d been chosen by a couple and they wanted to meet us.
That evening, we celebrated by going for a walk by the river. It was freezing cold and two big tree branches had grown out of the water and frozen solid into a shape that formed an archway. The sun set as we walked through the archway and we had the sense that our lives were changing for ever.
Meeting the birth parentsThe birth mother, Jenna, was petite and heavily pregnant; her boyfriend, Fred, was very tall. He was holding her hand and he was crying.
They asked us about our lives, whether we wanted a boy or a girl (we didn’t mind) and whether we’d chosen a name for the baby. What really struck them about our application was a photo of Pete making a snow angel. They loved his playfulness.
The couple were very young – 17 and 18 – and they were giving the baby up because they wanted to go to college and pursue their dreams. It was terribly sad and before long everyone in the room was crying. Except for me. I could see how much they loved their unborn child and couldn’t imagine them ever giving it up so I hardened my heart. I was sad for them but I felt we were back to square one.
A month to goWe tried to forget about it and get on with our lives. Then one morning, Madeleine rang me at work: "Grace was born yesterday at 5am. She’s going to a foster home and provided her birth parents don’t change their minds, in a month’s time you can come and get her."
During that month, we visited Pete’s family in England and told them the news. It was mothers’ day in the UK and they were saying, "You’re a mother too now." "Not yet," we said. "Not yet."
Although we could have taken the baby when she was born, we couldn’t face the prospect of giving her back if the birth parents changed their minds within the first month. I saw their tears: their hearts were wrenched by the idea of giving up their baby.
We didn’t make any preparations until a week before we were due to go and get the baby. My mum wanted to buy baby clothes but we were far too superstitious. Somebody gave us a crib and my best friend brought over a bag of clothes for a three-month-old, which seemed tiny to me. I knew lots of babies, but I’d forgotten how tiny newborns are. We bought the bare minimum: nappies, a sling and a couple of little outfits.
Hello babyThe last day of the waiting period was a Sunday. We had to be at the adoption agency’s office – a two-hour drive away – to pick up the baby at 9am the next morning, so we had no way of knowing whether the couple had changed their minds at the last minute. It was agony.
As we drove there I was a wreck. We parked the car and knocked on the door. It opened and Madeleine was standing there with a huge smile on her face. "Are you here to pick up your baby?" she said. I burst into tears.
As soon as I set eyes on our baby I realised she looked exactly like her father; in fact I found it quite unsettling. I kept saying, "She looks like Fred." Then Madeleine said firmly: "She looks like herself."
Once the paperwork was completed, we were allowed to go. It was bizarre: we put her in the sling and started walking around the town, saying to each other: "We’re parents!" One shop owner asked how old our baby was and on hearing that she was only one month, she said to me: "You look great!"
Now we are threeSo we brought her home and things have gone smoothly ever since. Most people assume she’s our birth child. Our hair is the same colour and her face is a similar shape to Pete’s family so she has elements of both of us. I think that’s one of the reasons her birth parents chose us.
We named her Lily: it isn’t the name they gave her but they knew we were going to change it. I know some women manage to breastfeed when they adopt, so I tried it to see if I’d start lactating. Lily tried to suck my nipple and then she started crying, so I gave her a bottle and we didn’t look back.
We loved being a family of three, but we'd always wanted more than one child and we hoped that by the time Lily was two or three, she would have a baby brother or sister.
*Names and identifying details have been changed.