When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, it felt like the world had been turned upside down. Hospitals were overwhelmed with patients and a virus that was hard to control. People were – and still are – overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety and fear of getting (or getting others) sick. Many people have put their lives on hold to stay home and stay safe. Most of us have adjusted our habits and routines, per the CDC’s guidelines, to keep our loved ones safe.
However, as the coronavirus pandemic continues, so does life. Babies are still being born every day. As a result, adoptions are still happening. Adoption agencies are still working. If you are a prospective adoptive family, know that adoption is still possible for you right now.
Of course, the adoption process looks a little different during a pandemic. Hospital policies have changed, travel restrictions have been put in place, and as a result, families have been facing new challenges posed by the virus.
Adoptions With Love spoke with two families who recently adopted a baby through our agency. Both families travelled down to Florida to meet and pick up their newborn baby, despite the looming obstacle of coronavirus. You will find that, in their stories, there is a common theme – both are very happy they made that journey. These families had amazing adoption experiences amid the pandemic, and wish to share their experience – and advice – with you.
Here is Doug and Kate’s adoption story.
Doug and Kate’s Adoption Story
Doug and Kate are not new to the adoption process. They have three beautiful daughters – Clara, Luna, and now their youngest, Maggie* – who were all adopted as newborn babies. Every adoption experience they had was unique in its own way, but Maggie’s adoption looked a little bit different, due to COVID-19. Kate explains, “The initial adoption paperwork was pre-COVID, so it was very normal – just like the other two. However, once the pandemic hit, there was a whole added stress level. There was this unknown of when the adoption would happen – would it happen, and would it happen at a good time or not?” The couple wondered if they would have to travel, and how they would handle it if so.
With their first two adoptions, they were prepared to travel. Clara, their first, was adopted in Indiana. Doug and Kate received the call (“There’s someone interested in you”) just days before the baby’s arrival, though there was not a set due date at the time. Four days later, they got the second call – “You have a baby girl!” The couple drove from Massachusetts to Indiana, where they picked Clara up from the hospital.
Their second daughter, Luna, was even shorter notice – but they were also prepared. They received the call that there was a two-week-old girl in Massachusetts who needed to be adopted. They drove right over to AWL to pick her up the next day. Doug laughs, “We got on the list again thinking it was going to take a year [to get a match], then it happened really fast, which was fun.”
For every adoption, they have learned to always be prepared. “For each of the kids, we’ve had our bags packed and ready to go at any notice,” says Kate.
With Maggie, they had been matched earlier, before the baby was born. Maggie’s birth mother, Kayla*, chose the couple about two months ahead of her birth. She lived in Florida, so when the pandemic hit, Doug and Kate could not help but wonder, “Is she being safe?” “How can we make this work?” and “What if the adoption doesn’t go through?”
They explained, “[Kayla] was in Florida, which was a high-risk state (at least more so than here). The closer it got to the due date, the hotter Florida got in terms of being a hot-spot for COVID-19. So, we wondered, if she does end up picking us, how are we going to prepare ourselves to get down there and be as safe as possible?”
COVID-19 Challenges & The Hospital Experience
Two to three weeks before Maggie was born, Kayla tested positive for COVID-19. She was not displaying any symptoms, but a precautionary test at the hospital gave her a positive result. This was an added concern for Doug and Kate, but they tried not to worry. At this point, there is little to no research about the effects of COVID-19 on babies. So, they focused on ensuring Kayla and the baby stay healthy and safe. Two weeks later, right before the delivery date, Kayla tested negative for the virus and the family was put at ease.
Maggie was delivered in early August 2020. Doug and Kate were notified right away, and ultimately decided to jump in the car and make the drive. “We knew we weren’t going to fly,” Kate said, with the potential risk of contracting the virus. They drove 24 hours down south – taking turns behind the wheel – to pick up the baby from the Florida hospital.
Their adoption social worker let the hospital know that the couple was on their way. However, there were still some obstacles getting into the hospital, due to COVID-19 protocols. Visitation was limited, and the couple was stopped in their tracks upon their arrival. Eventually, the social worker called and cleared them to go upstairs. They filled out the necessary paperwork with the Florida adoption agency, and finally got to meet their baby girl for the first time.
Besides the initial entry and the long-winded paperwork, the hospital was wonderful, Kate says. “They were so welcoming and kind. And the unit, being the maternity unit, was just very safe. Everyone was tested for COVID-19 and cleared. Similar to around here, everyone wore a mask. I felt very safe in there and walking through those doors.”
In the hospital, Doug and Kate also got to meet Maggie’s birth mother. Kayla chose to stay an extra day in the hospital with the baby until the couple arrived. Originally, there were plans for the baby to be held in a foster care situation, until Doug and Kate could get there. However, Kayla did not want that for the baby and neither did the couple. They wanted the smoothest transition possible, one less contact for Maggie during all this “Florida craziness.” Kate says, “We knew we were safe, Kayla was safe, and everyone was COVID-negative in our little circle, so we didn’t want to expose the baby to anyone extra. I think that’s the way Kayla felt too.”
Opening the Adoption
Initially, Doug and Kate anticipated a semi-open adoption plan for Maggie. While they chatted with Kayla once before birth, and got to meet her in the hospital, Kayla only wanted minimal contact with them originally. She wanted to hear about the “big moments” in Maggie’s life, but also maintain some distance.
When Maggie was born, Kayla’s wishes changed, and she desired more contact – a more open adoption – with the couple. Doug and Kate were all for it. “We’re completely open to whatever she’s comfortable with at this point in time.” The couple now texts the birth mother with occasional photo updates, and even have a shared Shutterfly account so that Kayla can watch how Maggie is growing over time.
Doug says, to any prospective adoptive families out there, do not be afraid of open adoption. It can be a wonderful thing for adoptive families, birth mothers, and children alike.
“I know a lot of people may be scared off by the ‘openness’ of adoption. I think how we’ve thought about it, with each of the three different birth moms, is that we want them to be comfortable. We let them know that right off the bat that, whatever contact you want, less or more, whatever it is, we’re going to go by your lead.”
Luna’s birth mother, he continued to share, lives in Massachusetts. They are very close. Even when Doug’s parents ask pressing questions like, “Is that okay?” and “Are they going to take her back?”, Doug and Kate are at ease. “We are so comfortable with the birth parents it’s like seeing extended family when we hang out with them. It’s not as weird as people think.”
“With Clara’s the adoption is more closed, and with Maggie, I think we’re definitely going to be in contact with Kayla – especially when we’re down in Florida visiting Kate’s dad. Our biggest thing is making sure that the birth mom is comfortable.”
Tips for Couples Adopting During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Doug and Kate tell couples not to be intimidated by the idea of a “right” or “wrong” time. Just listen to your heart and if it feels right, go for it. Also, plan ahead if you can!
“I think when COVID first hit, we were all so scared of going into the hospitals and pretty much leaving our house. Now that everyone is wearing their masks, it’s a lot safer. And I think for us, driving was HUGE. We didn’t want to get on a plane – so if you can drive, do it. I know it’s kind of a long haul but it’s kind of an adventure too.
“Also, have as much ready as you can possibly HERE. Get the diapers in, find out what kind of formula the baby is on if you can, and get ready. You’re going to be more comfortable getting all that stuff here than you would be in a place you’re unfamiliar with. So if you can grab that can of formula and bring it with you, do it. Sometimes the hospital doesn’t give you that much stuff.
“And I would just say, even in this crazy time where I’m thinking ‘I shouldn’t do it, this isn’t the right time’ — There’s never a right time. There’s never going to be a time where they call and you’re going to be like, ‘Wow we have nothing to do, let’s do it.’ You just have to go for it. It’s all worth it in the end, all that stress. Once you see that little baby, and it’s yours, you’ll say, ‘What was I even stressing about? Why did I even care that we were going down to Florida? She’s perfect.’
“Even though it seems like it’s not the right time, it is. The one that is out there is going to be for you, and you’re going to get her at the perfect time – whether it’s in a pandemic or not in a pandemic. And you’ll know it. You’ll bring her home, or him home, and you’ll know this was meant to be. We’ve always had that thought process – we’re going to end up with a baby that’s meant for us.”
Before Kate and Doug were matched with the birth mother Kayla, they got a call for another potential adoption. It was in the beginning of the pandemic. At the time, however, Kate was immunosuppressed and could not be going into a hospital. They decided to hold off on adopting. “When I think about it,” Kate recalls, “Even though we said ‘no’ to that possible baby, it probably wasn’t meant to be. Because now I look at Maggie and I know she was meant to be here. The timing will be perfect no matter what time it is.”
*Some names have been changed for anonymity.