Now that Cruze is 6 weeks old, I figure I better get around to updating this ol’ blog of mine. Cruze has been the perfect addition to our family, and as many of our friends and family know–we’ve been waiting a very long time for him!
I’d like to share our story and the beautiful adoption experience we had with this precious child and his brave, wonderful birth mother. It’s going to be long, but it’s “our story” from the beginning, so I can’t stand to leave anything out! (*names have been changed)
Cameron, Courtney and Cruze Michael Lewis: Our Story
Cam and I were married in the summer of 2009 in Dallas, Texas. We had been married about a year and a half when we decided we were ready to start growing our family. Months of trying led to a year of failed efforts and saddened hearts, then we finally saw a fertility specialist at the end of 2012 who confirmed our worst fear—I had a condition known as diminished ovarian reserve and the doctor put a miniscule chance of us being able to conceive without assisted reproductive technology, plus even in the best of circumstances, we had an estimated 1-3 year window before my egg supply totally depleted. Yikes!
To make a long story short, from that disheartening diagnosis in 2012 came a series of events, including several rounds of Clomid, the decision to begin our adoption journey, one failed adoption, one failed IVF attempt, another failed adoption and a pregnancy that miscarried at 10 weeks.
Looking back, it’s kind of amazing to think that all of that happened in a 2 year window, between 2012-2014. It’s also amazing to see how many integral people were involved in our life during each of those specific events; people who could relate to us and our situation. We received an outpouring of love, moral support, prayers and advice from friends, family and even complete strangers who just happened to say the right thing at the right time.
Even with wonderful people surrounding us, these particular events were still trials in our life. The failed adoptions were very different scenarios, one involved a birth mom who had selected us telling us at one week before her due date that she had been in a car accident and the baby had died. We will never know if that was the case really, or if she just was scared to place, but either way, it didn’t work out and we mourned the loss of a child we imagined would be our first baby. The second failed adoption didn’t work out because of our own inspiration and feelings toward the situation. In that scenario, the birth mom made it clear she would place with us so long as we supported her family financially for the next 7 months (all living expenses for her family of five). We were willing to do that financially, but then when we went to visit her and meet face to face, we just didn’t feel good about the situation and after much prayer, came to the conclusion that God didn’t want us to pursue that scenario.
In between those two failed adoptions, we were contacted by phone or by e-mail by no less than two dozen birth moms and adoption agencies. It became cumbersome to sift through all the e-mails to find those with real intent and love for their child.
Because we wanted to go a private adoption route (meaning we uploaded profiles to several adoption websites so a birth mom could find us directly, and not be connected to us through an agency), we opened ourselves up to lots of greedy scammers who saw us as prey. We were desperate for a child, so we were contacted by agencies who charged upwards of $40,000, and by birth moms in other countries who had a list of questionable steps we needed to follow to adopt their son, who’s adorable picture was attached to the e-mail. Then we were contacted by birth moms in rehab who were required to place their baby for adoption. It just became a very heart-wrenching process that exhausted us both.
After a year, our home study expired and I was in no rush to renew it. In fact, I was so disappointed with our experience that I pulled our profiles off of every adoption website, except for one. We determined that we would only adopt if the perfect scenario came up. We were looking for a birth mom of our faith, who wanted her child raised in the faith, who wasn’t on any type of drugs or addictive substances, and who was making the decision to place her baby for one reason—love. Even though our home study had expired, meaning we were not legally prepared to adopt, our profile remained on the LDS family services adoption website just in case the perfect scenario arose.
And that’s where our birth mom, I’ll call her “Janie”, found us.
Janie is one of the sweetest young women I have ever met, and definitely the bravest. She is a Latter-day Saint from Mexico and came to visit her older siblings who were living in Utah attending college. While she and her mom came to visit for Christmas 2014, the idea of adoption was proposed and her family was supportive of Janie’s decision to begin the adoption process as a birth mom.
Janie met Marianne, a counselor at LDS family services, who introduced her to the LDS family services adoption website where thousands of profiles are listed. From that website, Janie read through many profiles and eventually decided on two families she wanted to get to know better.
We were one of them!
Marianne called us during the last few days of the year 2014 to tell us this exciting news. She told us about Janie, explaining all of the above information and that she was approximately 6 months pregnant and that she wanted to skype with us to get to know us better, if we were interested.
We didn’t take long to decide this was definitely worth pursuing. We prayed about it and felt that the Lord wanted us to move forward with faith.
We skyped with Janie and her family a few days later and the conversation went very well! She even asked us in that initial call why she felt so good about us! We had to answer that we didn’t know, but felt similarly good about her, when we’ve been so hesitant about adoption over the last year or two.
We asked Janie what was the most important thing to her for her baby (which, we found out during this conversation was a boy) and she said the most important thing was that her son was raised in a gospel-centered home. Apparently the birth father wasn’t ready to be a dad and Janie wanted this boy to have a mother and father who would love him and raise him to have a testimony of the Savior.
She had a couple of other questions though that had us wondering if we she would even think twice about us. She asked us how open we wanted to be and also how we would keep Latin culture alive in her son’s life. Unfortunately, our answers weren’t ideal, as the idea of open adoption was a scary thought at the time and Cam and I are as white as copy paper. So, we were honest and told her our feelings about openness and that we would love to have a semi-open relationship with pictures and some skype conversations, but visits scared us. And when it came to Latin culture, well, Cam speaks a tiny bit of Spanish and I teach Zumba, but that’s about it.
Despite the fact that those two questions about our willingness to be open and our ability to keep Latin culture alive kind of caught us off-guard, we felt the conversation with Janie couldn’t have gone better, and the next night, she skyped to us to tell us she had chosen us!
Now the work was to begin. She was due in 10 weeks and Cam and I needed to get our home study updated plus begin working with either an attorney or agency in Utah to facilitate the adoption in Utah. Marianne from LDS family services recommended one attorney and one agency to me and told me both could be of assistance. I called both referrals and got what I considered reasonable quotes from both (they came out to be within just a couple hundred dollars of each other), but ultimately Cam and I decided to go forward with the agency because they offered the best post-placement services to Janie, who we were beginning to deeply care about and want the best for.
Forever Bound was the name of the agency we were referred to, and I can’t even describe what a blessing and privilege it was to work with them. Steve Sunday, the founder, is the most honest businessman I have ever dealt with. And I hesitate to say even say businessman because he doesn’t treat his job like his career, but more like his calling in life. Cam and I felt like we were in safe hands that cared about us and Janie the whole time.
So Steve and his team at Forever Bound (consisting of a counselor for Janie named Shannon and a counselor for us named Natalie) began preparing for the adoption in Utah and we were undergoing the home study update process in NM while simultaneously preparing a nursery and trying to keep our excited lips shut because we didn’t want to prematurely announce this miracle and jinx it!
We also continued to skype every Sunday night and enjoyed our weekly conversations with our ideal birth mom. In late January, she invited us to come visit her in Utah, so we came up for a weekend and had the opportunity to go out to lunch and spend some time together face-to-face.
It was actually funny, when we came to Salt Lake to pick her up for our lunch date, we knocked on the door at the exact time we said we’d be there, but no one answered. We rang the bell. We stood outside for what felt like forever and felt our shoulders lowering along with our spirits. Had she changed her mind about everything?
We left and began to drive away, then I decided to text her siblings and one of her roommates who I’d talked with once before. We were at the wrong apartment! We quickly turned around, made it to the right apartment door and began our lunch date with Janie and her brother. After lunch, we met up with Marianne from LDS family services and had a discussion about a few topics, including what the baby’s name would be, what the delivery day would look like and what our future openness plan would be.
All three of those topics were awkward to talk about, not going to lie. Marianne was funny, claiming that she loves the awkward conversations because the whole adoption scenario can be awkward and will be full of uncomfortable conversations in the future so may as well get them started now!
Thankfully after that day, Forever Bound stepped in and acted as a wonderful intermediary between us and Janie so we didn’t feel awkward any more. Perhaps Marianne is right and there still may be awkward conversations to come, but Forever Bound’s counselors had a way of getting Janie to open up and explain what she really wanted without having what “most birth moms prefer” spoken as her opinion.
Natalie Roe-Johnson was our advocate, but because she is also trained in representing birth moms, she was sensitive to Janie’s needs. We really appreciated the way she would explain things to us for our benefit and occasionally from Janie’s point of view so we could see a broader picture.
Skyping every Sunday became something we looked forward to all week. That’s something I never thought I would say, because remember, open adoptions scared me, but we grew to love Janie. We would talk about what we did that week to prepare for the baby, what her favorite shows are, just about anything and everything. It was perfect.
Our home study update (complete with our criminal background checks) was finally completed in mid-February. Which was a huge blessing because on Thursday, Feb. 26, I got a text from Janie’s brother who told me Janie was going into labor! What?! 15 days early?!
We began racing to hospital and I contacted Natalie to let her know the exciting news. We were on the road for 14 hours because we got caught in a snow storm that slowed us down. And funny side note, we got pulled over at 1 a.m. Friday in Moab, Utah, for speeding (74 in a 65 mph zone), but when I told the officer we were adopting our first baby and trying to rush to the LDS hospital in Salt Lake he just said, “Well, I’m not going to be the one to slow you down. Get going but just be careful!” and turned and let us go on our merry way.
That story makes me tear up every time I think about it, I wish I’d gotten that officer’s name.
As we were driving, Janie delivered our beautiful baby boy. He was 5 lbs, 14.5 oz, born at 7:51 p.m. to the most humble, kind, selfless, beautiful birth mom who delivered him totally naturally with no drugs whatsoever (can you say wonder woman?). Her brother texted me pictures of the newborn babe and I would flash them at Cam as he drove then continue to stare at them for hours myself in the passenger seat.
We finally arrived in Spanish Fork to spend the night with Cam’s parents at 4:15 a.m. Friday.
We slept in that next morning then were invited to go visit Janie and our baby at the hospital Friday afternoon. We brought her a goodie bag with all of her favorite snack foods and had the opportunity to hear about the delivery in person and hold our baby for the first time.
While we were there, my sister Carley came down from Logan, Utah, to surprise us in the hospital. Carley didn’t know this, but having adoptive couple’s family visit the hospital is “generally” not a good idea, because those first 48 hours with the baby are supposed to be all about the birth mom, not about the adoptive couple. So when Carley came up to the room (which she wasn’t planning on doing, but she barely missed us in the lobby and when she came up to the delivery floor the nurse ushered her into Janie’s room), I just looked at her and said (as tears welled up in my eyes because I was so happy to see her, but I knew it wasn’t the right moment) “you CAN’T be here!” Poor Carley faked a smile and said “okay” as she slowly backed away with her balloon and flowers in hand.
When we left Janie’s room, the nurse caught us on the way out and said, “your sister brought these flowers for Janie.” So we turned around and brought the vase of flowers back to Janie from Carley, and she seemed very grateful, but we were apologetic the whole time for what we considered an uncomfortable situation. Janie assured us it was just fine, but of course, Cam and I were worried.
The next day was placement day! Words can’t express our anxiety, but Natalie called us that morning to go over some details, then we met up at the hospital later that night to sign the paperwork.
As we met, I was surprised to see Steve show up at our placement! We were so touched to have him there. Between Steve and Natalie, they kept Cam and I calm and feeling confident that everything would go well.
Then Shannon, Janie’s counselor, and Marianne, Janie’s original counselor from LDS family services, came in and saw us all meeting . Marianne put my heart at ease about the previous day’s visit because she walked right up to us and said, “I met with Janie yesterday and the first thing she told me was that your sister surprised you and she loved it!” I was shocked to hear that my sister’s visit made Janie happy, so I asked Marianne to explain more. “Janie said you were so caught off guard by it, and she could tell you were happy but also frustrated, it reminded her of her own relationship with her sister. Plus, she loved the flowers your sister brought her and was showing them off to me. Courtney, your sister visiting is the best thing that could have happened.”
I felt instantly better about the previous day and any damage I thought might have been done and I’m grateful my sister was inspired to come to the hospital. I just hope my shewing her away didn’t cause too much damage on her psyche.
Shannon and Marianne went their way to visit with Janie, and Steve and Natalie took us to a private room to read us the fine print of the adoption paperwork.
They took this responsibility very seriously and did an excellent job explaining to us the specifics and also the broad picture of how the next hour would look during placement, the next 6 months before finalization, and also a glimpse into the rest of our future with our soon-to-be son. It was surreal sitting in that room, anxiously awaiting a text from Shannon that Janie had signed the relinquishment papers.
Then the text came. She signed the papers! We were invited into room 404 where we would be handed our baby.
We made the walk down the hall, and Natalie took my phone so she could photograph the series of events that would follow. Steve made a command decision to wait in the hall because Janie hadn’t met with him personally and he didn’t want to intrude (although we would have loved for him to be there in the room with us because he was integral in this whole process, Janie just didn’t know that). We knocked on the door, and entered the room where Janie was standing in the front of the room, glowing. She was holding the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen. Cam and I walked up to her and she just said, with glistening eyes, “So, Cam and Courtney, are you ready for your son?”
I instantly started crying and Cam and I both said in unison, “of course!” She handed perfect baby Cruze to me and the tears fell for all in the room.
It was a surreal moment. I don’t think either of us had expected it to be so emotional or so spiritual. We all said a few words and perhaps the comments that stick out the most to me were Janie’s sister’s comment that, “Janie only could do this because in the hard moments, she would just think about you. She called you her perfect couple. She couldn’t have done this for anyone else.” And then Cam reminded everyone of a comment Janie’s brother had said when we came to visit earlier that month. “Perhaps we all knew each other in the pre-earth life, and we made a deal that we would all work together to do this very thing when we came to earth.”
We whole-heartedly believe there was some heavenly arrangement we all made before any of us came to earth. Janie was meant to be a birth mom for our son, Cruze Michael Lewis. She is quite simply an angel who has given us the most perfect gift that has ever been given. And Forever Bound adoption and the counselors therein are our miracle workers who made everything possible. I used to think adoption was too messy of a process, a process that required too much of my heart, a process that hurt too badly when it didn’t work. But that was when Cam and I were trying to go it alone. What we didn’t realize is that if you go about it the right way, with your own advocates, working with people who treat their job to assist you like it’s their personal duty, adoption isn’t messy at all. It’s just beautiful.