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This is what adoption feels like

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It seems so simple, and in a very basic way, it is: There are children out there who need a warm and loving home, and there are families yearning to provide all that and more. But making it all come together -- well, that part can get complex. Here's how five families found their way along that unforgettable journey, and how one woman made the wrenching decision to give up her child -- plus, everything you'll need to know if you decide to make adoption a part of your family story.
Courtesy of Lydia and Mike Kirkham/Photo illustration by Clifford AlejandroLydia Kirkham, 34, and her husband, Mike, 38, both legal professionals, live just outside Kansas City, MO. Their 2-year-old daughter, Addison, who loves to "play soccer," go on hikes, and feed her cat, was adopted at birth in a semi-open domestic adoption.

"Mike and I spent nearly five years trying to get pregnant — first on our own, then with a total of nine intrauterine insemination and in vitro fertilization cycles. It took a toll on me and my body, and it was so discouraging. It was the biggest relief when we decided to adopt.

"We signed up with a big national agency around Christmas of 2004. In April, we got the thrilling news that we'd been matched with an expectant mother, but a few weeks later, we found out she'd never been planning to place the baby and instead was scamming to get support money from us; she'd even registered for shower gifts. This happened the day before Mother's Day. I'd had some sad Mother's Days in the past, but that one was the worst — I've never felt so angry and frustrated.

"We got the next call from the agency on July 19. The birth parents were a married couple in South Dakota who had two children and knew they couldn't provide for another baby, at least not the way they wanted to. We visited them three weeks before the due date, and when they gave us the baby's sonogram pictures, we knew that this was it. After being burned once before, we were cautious, but we really felt like we could trust them.

"Addison's birth mom really wanted Mike and me to be there when the baby was born, and her doctor planned to induce her on a Friday. We went the day before, and in the middle of the night, the birth father called us and said she was going into labor. Addison was born at 9:28 the next morning. Her birth mom kept saying, 'She was just waiting for you guys to get here.'

"We were all in the room together when she was born. Both Mike and the birth father cut the cord. The whole experience was just surreal. Mike and I stared at this beautiful baby with tears streaming down our faces, thinking, This is the most incredible, selfless decision these people can make, to let us be included in her birth.

"We have a semi-open adoption. Addison's birth parents called us last Christmas, and I send them pictures regularly — they usually call us right after getting the pictures, and we talk about all the new things that Addison is doing. We have a whole album for her that includes her birth parents before she was born, and we talk about who they are.

"Someday we'll have visits. It wouldn't be right to discourage Addison from knowing these people. We've always told her that she's loved by more people than she could ever know."

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