The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives forever. Today, we are all working together to stay safe and keep our loved ones close. We have changed our habits, our routines (per the CDC guidelines), and – in many ways – have put our lives on hold.
If you are a hopeful adoptive family, you may be wondering if you will have to put your dreams on hold during this pandemic. Should you keep going in the adoption process, or should you wait for a “better” time? This is a deeply personal choice. However, know that adoption agencies are still working hard every day. Babies are still being born every day. If you are ready to grow your family, adoption is still an option for you – even during a pandemic.
Of course, the adoption process looks a bit different during this challenging time. Hospital policies have changed to protect patients and staff, travel restrictions have been put in place, and as a result, families trying to adopt are facing new challenges.
Adoptions With Love spoke with two families who recently adopted a baby through our agency. Both families traveled to Florida to meet and bring home their newborn baby, despite the looming fear of COVID-19. You may notice that, in both stories, there is a common thread: The journey was well worth it. Both families had amazing adoption experiences despite the pandemic and would like to share their stories – and advice – with you.
Here is Danielle and Andy’s adoption story.
Travelling During COVID-19
When Danielle and Andy got news that their baby was on the way, it was right at the start of the nation’s shutdown. Due to COVID-19, travel restrictions were being put in place, and Florida was considered a hot-spot for the virus. Worries about traveling, and the risks it posed, were also up against them.
However, Danielle and Andy were prepared to travel to meet their baby at a moment’s notice – and a moment’s notice it was. The birth mother of their baby went into labor early and unexpectedly. She was not able to make it to Tampa General, where she originally planned to give birth, but instead delivered the baby boy at a small clinic 45 minutes outside Tampa.
Under normal circumstances, they would have flown to Florida. But given the pandemic and the risks of flying, Danielle and Andy opted to drive down south instead. “It actually made the trip more fun!” Danielle exclaimed.
The couple had prepared for their trip in advance, and they made sure to pack plenty of items they would need along the way. “We made a list of food/drink, medical, cleaning supplies and we packed two crates full of rations. Our supplies were to last for one month in terms of meals both on the road and in our Airbnb. We actually were able to order grocery delivery to the first Airbnb and it worked out great!”
Of course, the trip did bring up feelings of anxiety beforehand. “The reason for this was because there were roadblocks being put in place in and around New York City, Washington DC, and Jacksonville, FL,” they explained.
Adoptions With Love provided them with the support they needed to make it to their destination in Florida. “We requested and received a letter from AWL providing the right of passage just in case we were stopped.”
There were additional bumps in the road that the pandemic posed for the couple, too. Just a couple days before their departure, the governor of Florida announced that all Airbnbs were to cancel any reservations deemed “unnecessary travel,” so that healthcare workers and government officials would have a place to stay during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Our reservations were cancelled immediately so I started to freak out a bit,” Danielle remembers. “I was able to get on the phone with the Airbnb owners immediately and we were able to work it out that we were deemed necessary travelers, providing our letter from AWL.”
The Hospital Experience
COVID-19 has brought about new policies in hospitals around the country. For example, only a limited number of family members and patient visitors are allowed in many facilities, to reduce potential exposure to the virus. When Danielle and Andy arrived, they were told only one adoptive parent was allowed into the clinic. Danielle went first – she was allowed in the maternity unit after a temperature check and some paperwork. Then, when the birth mother was discharged (12 hours later), Andy was allowed to join his family and meet his son, Benjamin*, for the first time.
Benjamin faced some health challenges after birth, which were complicated by the pandemic. Danielle explains, “Our baby was born preterm and the hospital was discussing the possibility of transferring him to a larger, more capable hospital due to low sugar levels. But we wouldn’t be able to go with him… and that was something we were not comfortable with. Luckily, his levels returned to normal and he didn’t need to be transferred.”
Meeting the Birth Mother
Danielle met the birth mother in-person, at the hospital. She even met the birth mother’s mother while there. “It was a wonderful experience!” Danielle describes.
“We were lucky enough to have built a relationship during the month of March, where we would talk on the phone for one hour a week,” she recalls. Danielle and the birth mother would also text message one another on a regular basis.
While it was a wonderful experience meeting Benjamin’s birth mother, Danielle recognizes that the day was not easy by any means. Signing over parental rights was uncomfortable, she admits. “It is the BEST day for us adoptive parents and the WORST day for the birth parent(s). Honestly, it was a very emotional day for me, really for all of us.
“At times I was the happiest I’ve ever been and at times I was sad. This was because I was sensitive to how the birth mother and her mother were feeling, and it was hard to see them go through something so hard.”
Tips for Couples Adopting During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Danielle and Andy’s first piece of advice to future parents who are adopting during the pandemic is to plan ahead.
“Make lists and think about all the items you’ll need for travel so you don’t need to stop for anything other than gas for your car.”
“Also, if you have pets, you’ll want to line up a caretaker in advance and pet food, etc.”
“I wish someone would have told me to bring 1-2 preemie outfits.”
Supplies offered at the hospital or birthing facility can be different during the pandemic, too. “Definitely don’t rely on the hospital to give you lots of diapers and wipes. My friends had told me they would but, because of COVID, they aren’t giving anything up.”
“Also be sure to find a pediatrician in the area and make an appointment for a routine visit for baby. The baby will need a checkup within 3-4 days after being discharged from the hospital.”
“You’ll also need to locate a FedEx or UPS and a notary to finalize your paperwork before sending back to AWL.”
Their most important piece of advice for hopeful adoptive parents during the pandemic: “Make sure you get a copy of the discharge paperwork from the hospital. For some reason we did not receive this.”
Danielle and Andy are certainly happy they adopted little Benjamin when they did. Not even a pandemic could have stopped them, and it has changed their lives forever.
“It is the most amazing experience being parents! You learn and grow so much as a family. We have been so very fortunate to have been able to have a relationship that is extremely comfortable for all parties involved.”
“I will say you need to be strong, compassionate, and bold for you are the beholder of this little life that has been put in your hands…”
“Live in the present and experience every moment, every memory, and hold on tight for a wildly fun ride.”
*Some names have been changed for anonymity.