This is what adoption feels like

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.

I recently found an old diary from my teenage years, where I
blithely wrote about my future, figuring I would get married at around 28 and have children soon after. By the time I met the man of my dreams, however, I was 34 and had almost given up on the idea
of a family; I’d convinced myself I could live a perfectly fulfilled life without children. But being with Evan soon convinced me otherwise — I knew we were meant to raise a family together.

Again, life had other plans. I was 36 when we married, and instead of getting pregnant, I got breast cancer. OnceI came safely (more or less) out on the other side of the treatment merry-go-round,
I was nearing 40 and had little hope of becoming pregnant.

So we chose adoption. We went through three “failed matches” — adoptions that fell through at the last minute — and there were days when I literally curled up on the floor, threw things
at the wall, and sobbed in despair, believing we’d never have a baby.

But then a beautiful young woman named Kim chose us to be the parents of her daughter. I’ll never forget the warm night when we watched Annika Rose take her first breath. As Evan and I looked into
her wide, alert blue eyes, we knew why we went through everything we did. And for Annika, we’d do it all again.

There are about 135,000 adoptions in the United States every year, and each one is unique. My friend Michele chose adoption because she felt drawn to build her family that way; she and her husband
now have a biological daughter, plus a beautiful son from Ethiopia. My friend Viki and her husband had two pregnancies end tragically in their quest for a third child. Then they adopted a son, now
in elementary school, who is still close with his birth family. Our neighbor adopted from the former Soviet Union in her 40s, after coming to realize that not having a husband didn’t mean she
couldn’t be a mother.

No one I know who has adopted would say that the journey came without heartache. And we all recognize that a lot of heartache is also experienced by the birth parents, and understand that just
because they weren’t able to raise their kids doesn’t mean that they don’t love them deeply. But even though growing our family has been a lot harder than I ever imagined when I made that simple
life plan back in high school, I wouldn’t change a single step on our path to parenthood — because each one led us to our daughter.