The Kids

Adopting My Daughter Changed Everything

by Leah Campbell

I was 26 years old when my world turned upside down. Still young and single, my doctor had just diagnosed me with Stage IV endometriosis, explaining that if I hoped to have biological children, I should pursue IVF right away. It was a devastating blow. I’d been under the impression that I had all the time in the world. Instead, it seemed I didn’t have any time at all.

I ended up deciding that being a single mom scared me a whole lot less than never being a mom at all, so I went through two rounds of IVF—both failed. At 27 years old, I had every reason to believe that my dream of motherhood would never come true. I was at the stage in my life when I should have been building a career and finding someone to spend the rest of my life with. Instead, I was attempting to reimagine what that life might look like without this piece of the puzzle I’d always believed I would have.

At that point, I was completely closed off to the idea of adoption—mostly because everyone seemed to offer it up as such a simple solution. “You can always just adopt” became my five least favorite words. It was easy for all of them to say, as they conceived without issue. But I wanted it all. I wanted to carry and protect my baby from conception. I wanted the bragging rights of giving birth. I wanted to breastfeed. And I wanted to see myself in my child’s eyes.

Adoption was not going to give me any of that.

Just before my 30th birthday, though, my heart began to change. I can’t say why, exactly, other than I had maybe just finally processed the reality of never being pregnant. And once I accepted that, I decided I would be a really amazing foster mom. I started a passionate pursuit toward getting licensed, with the goal of working with tween and teen girls. “There’s a real need for single women willing to take some of these girls in,” the social worker told me. “For those with trauma histories involving men, you could be providing the perfect home.”

I was sold—and sure this was the path I was meant to be on. Then, life threw me a curveball.

Just a week before I was supposed to complete my foster care certification classes, a co-worker randomly asked a group of us if we knew anyone looking to adopt. “Actually,” I said, “I’m in foster care classes with several couples who are hoping to ultimately bring home a baby. Why?”

It turned out she had a friend who was due to give birth in just a week. She was a young widow who already had three kids at home. This baby was unplanned and she didn't believe she could care for four children on her own. She was planning on placing her child for adoption, but something had happened that day with the couple she’d originally selected. She no longer felt they were the right choice and was now desperate to find someone to take her unborn baby.

“Have her call me,” I said. “Maybe I can help.”

Fifteen minutes later, I was on the phone with the woman. As I told her about the couples I knew who were looking to adopt, she stopped me. “What about you?” she asked. “Do you not want a baby?”

As I told her about the couples I knew who were looking to adopt, she stopped me. 'What about you?' she asked. 'Do you not want a baby?'

I laughed and explained that everyone wants babies. “I’m a single woman. No one is going to select me for an infant adoption. And that’s OK. I really do think I have something to offer older kids in care.”

Not seeming to hear me, she said, “Would you take this baby?”

I was stunned. I’d spent so many months convincing myself to be OK with never having a baby, I had no idea how to respond to this. Stumbling over my words, I said, “Oh, I’m sure we could find a couple who will be interested!” But before I could say anything else, she explained she was walking into an adoption agency to look at hopeful adoptive parent profiles. “But can I call you back after?” she asked.

I nodded, only to realize seconds later that she couldn’t hear that. “Yeah, ummm … sure,” I stammered.

I spent the next two hours kicking myself. For the previous four years, I had been desperately yearning for a baby. And now this woman was offering me that chance. Why hadn’t I immediately told her yes? I wasn’t sure I’d ever hear from her again. And even if I did, she’d been walking into an agency to look at adoptive parent profiles—she wouldn’t be calling to say she wanted me. She didn’t even know me.

But then, the phone rang. And the first words out of her mouth were, “I don’t know if you believe in God, but I do. And I just looked at all these profiles and couldn’t stop thinking about you. I think God wants me to give my baby to you.”

We had lunch two days later, and we talked like old friends. And that was when I knew this was real.

My friends started inundating me with hand-me-downs. They took control when I was spinning out in panic. What had I done?!? I was a single woman who had just agreed to take a baby with only a week to prepare. This was insane!

But exactly one week after I had first spoken to that woman, she called me at midnight to say she was in labor. That's when I drove to the hospital. And even though she’d initially expressed a desire to labor alone, 30 minutes before our daughter was born a nurse came out to say she was asking for me. “I realized that if it were my first child being born,” she told me, “I’d want to be there.”

And so I was. When our daughter came into the world, I was right there to catch her. And we cried. All three of us cried.

We stayed in the same room for most of that day. My daughter’s other mother breastfed her on and off for those first few hours. She also came to visit us just a few days after we’d all left the hospital. But from the moment she was born, that little girl was mine.

Her other mama never changed her mind. Four months later, the adoption was final and my little girl had my last name. Only then did those around me confess to being terrified that this was all going to somehow fall through.

Adoption stories don’t happen like mine did. There was no agency involvement, no years spent on a waiting list, no tens of thousands of dollars exchanging hands. I hadn’t been looking to pursue this path. I was simply in the right place at the right time to have the option presented to me.

Of course, if you ask my daughter’s other mother (who we keep a very open relationship with), she’d still tell you it was God. And I wouldn’t be able to argue with her. Because this little girl? She made everything else make sense. All the heartache and grief over infertility. All the money wasted on failed IVF cycles. All the nights I’d cried myself to sleep wondering why God would put this desire in my heart to be a mother, only to make the path to getting there so difficult.

I suddenly got it. I was always supposed to be this little girl’s mom. I needed to find her. And everything else was just about getting to that place.

Image via Leslie Meadow Photography

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