Everyone’s journey to parenthood is different, with different struggles, decisions and stories built along the way. From natural conception, to infertility treatments to foster care and adoption, hopeful parents have options when it comes to building their families.
Here, two local couples share their stories about building their families through adoption, a process not without challenges, but one that both couples agree is ultimately positive and enriching.
Bringing Charley Home
Amanda and Bruce Johnson of Williston have always been open to the idea of adoption. After trying unsuccessfully for two years to have children naturally, they decided to examine their options.
“We went the medical route some,” states Amanda. “We didn’t get too deep or aggressive, but we did talk to a doctor and have some tests run.”
Their doctor talked with them about what modern medicine may be able to do for them, the steps involved and what it could cost. They also came to understand that it was not a guarantee. The usual first step, however, is an oral medication to increase fertility.
“We went home from the doctor’s with a prescription, but we just held onto it. We were not sure how much we were willing to do or if we even wanted to go down this road,” Amanda shared.
They had also been looking at adoption. Through an Internet search, Bruce and Amanda discovered Lifetime Adoption, a domestic facilitation organization that assists birth parents by matching them with qualified adoptive parents.
“After looking into Lifetime, we found out that another local couple had used them for their adoption, so we reached out to them,” states Amanda.
When they heard about their experience, that it was positive and successful, Bruce and Amanda decided to give Lifetime Adoption a try, in addition to their medical consultation. With a prescription in one hand, and Lifetime Adoption in the other, they found themselves in a bit of a holding pattern. Finally, after about weeks, Bruce and Amanda took their prescription to the pharmacy. That same day, they got a call from Lifetime Adoption.
“When Lifetime called us that day, we both felt like it was a sign,” states Amanda. “We started this out feeling like whatever was meant to happen would happen. Getting that phone call was reassurance that we were on the right path.”
They started the adoption process in the fall of 2014 and it took them around a year, and a few bumps, to complete the home study. But they got through it. Six months later, around Easter of 2016, they were matched with their daughter Charley’s birth mother. She was born in Florida in mid-August.
The couple flew to Florida to meet Charley and were able to stay at the hospital system’s Ronald McDonald house while they completed paperwork to take her home. Amanda feels that that time also gave her, Bruce, and Charley the chance to be a family, without the day-to-day interruptions that were waiting for them back home.
“There is no perfect adoption scenario and every story is different,” states Amanda, “but for us Lifetime seemed like they went above and beyond and we felt incredibly blessed with the way things turned out. “
Building the Hooper Family
Another couple, Matt and Clarissa Hooper, formerly of California but now living in Watford City, also had difficulty starting a family naturally. Clarissa knew when she was 16 that having children of her own was going to be difficult for her because of her health. So when they realized trying naturally was not working, the couple decided on adoption through the foster care system.
“Adopting through the foster care system can be a little different,” Clarissa explains. “Our friends and family were incredibly supportive of us adopting through the foster care system, but sometimes they did not know how to react to the process.”
Cannon, Matt and Clarissa’s oldest son, was actually their first foster care placement after they were approved to be foster parents.
“When we decided to pursue adoption with Cannon, it did not happen right away,” states Clarissa, “and it was not guaranteed to happen.”
So for the time in between, Clarissa says her family and friends did not always know how to refer to Cannon. Then, when the adoption was finalized, he was their son, but he had already been living in their home.
“Here we were, we had our first child, but no one threw us a baby shower,” states Clarissa. “We knew it was not intentional, but it hurt a little.”
After Cannon’s adoption was finalized, Matt and Clarissa continued as foster parents. Then around a year after adopting Cannon, Matt and Clarissa learned that his birth mother had had another son, Hunter. They were asked if they wanted to adopt him as well.
There were many factors that went into the ‘yes’ they gave, one of which was the fact that Matt was trying to get a job in North Dakota.
“When we decided to pursue adoption with Hunter as well, I had to say in California until his adoption was completed, while Matt came out here to work,” states Clarissa.
It took much longer than they anticipated, forcing Matt to move back to California until Hunter’s adoption was finalized, but once the state said he was officially part of their family, Matt, Clarissa, Cannon and Hunter were able to move to North Dakota as a family.
Clarissa admits that not having a child of her own was a difficult thing to accept, even though she was always okay with adopting. But once they made the decision, they felt a sort of peace. The funny thing is that through giving up the idea of having kids that look like them, they wound up adopting two children who do, in fact, look like them.
Though neither couple reports having a perfect experience with adoption, they cannot imagine having done anything differently. But it is not a decision either couple recommends taking lightly.
“I talked with our doctor and read on chat rooms and blogs, and sat down with some of the people that I know that have adopted and asked them anything I could think of,” states Amanda. “Then when we found Lifetime Adoption, I was lucky enough to know someone else who used them and I talked with them about their experience.”
Make Hard Decisions
There are a lot of factors that enter into the decision of whether to adopt or seek medical treatment, or even adopting through an agency or through the foster care system. Once a couple has done research, both Clarissa and Amanda say it is best to know what you are willing and unwilling to accept.
“You don’t want it to, but money plays into your decision a little,” states Clarissa. “The medical options are expensive and not covered by insurance, but adopting costs money too.”
Also, neither is a guarantee. So a couple needs to be decided on how much money they are willing or able to spend to build their family. Additionally, Clarissa and Amanda both share that couples who pursue adoption need to be prepared to encounter children and babies that were exposed to drugs, cigarettes and/or alcohol before they were born.
“Babies are very resilient, so just because something bad was going on does not mean it will affect the baby forever,” states Amanda. “Couples need to educate themselves and decide what they are okay with and what they are not okay with.”
Finally, adoption is an emotional and difficult process. When making the decision to adopt, a couple should communicate with their family and friends and make sure that they have a network of people