Tackling Infertility: An Adoption Story

For this LifeStages installment, we wanted to explore how local Lehigh Valley couples were dealing with infertility. We had originally planned to write these as straightforward articles full of advice and experiences. But upon speaking with Christie Egbert, a local adoptive parent who, with her husband Derek, adopted two boys in the past few years, that planned changed. Her story, and others as you’ll read in future installments, are much better told, in their own words:

Ever since my husband and I got married, we knew that we were infertile.

It was kind of nice because a lot of people deal with fertility treatments and it’s really hard on your body and emotionally and the ‘Am I going to get pregnant this month?” questions and it’s expensive. So we feel kind of fortunate that we didn’t have to go through that. It wasn’t even an option for us. So our next option was adoption and both of us felt really good about it.

We looked around for an agency and our church actually recommended Bethany Christian, so we chose that agency. It took us almost a year to get approved. It was a lengthy process. We had to do interviews, we had to do training, which is fine. Once we were approved, we got a call within three months, saying we were chosen, so that was awesome.

The way you get chosen is for most agencies you put together a scrapbook, basically things you like to do, your family and friends, basically anything you want to put in to show the birth parents. They look at scrapbooks and they choose who they want.

So we got our son Owen, he’s now four. We got him when he was three weeks old.

When we got the call that we were chosen, they told us that the birth mother wanted to meet us. That’s very normal to have like an interview with birth parents. We went to meet her, she was married but living with her boyfriend at the time in Bloomsburg. So we drove up to Bloomsburg and we met Anna and she was like ‘I love you guys.” The baby went home with an interim family, they’re like grandparents who take care of the baby until the family is chosen. They lived in York, so we drove down there, and the minute we saw him we were like, ‘This is the one. This is meant to be.’ We got to meet him, we got to name him.

They thought the boyfriend was the father, but it turns out he wasn’t the father. Owen stayed with his interim family for a week, we went and visited him everyday and then we were going to have a placement ceremony where we could take him home.

On our way to the placement ceremony we got a call from the agency saying, ‘We got the genetic testing back. The boyfriend is not the biological father, it’s  the husband and he just found out he’s the father and he wants the baby.’ We were heartbroken. So we were going to bring home Owen knowing that he might not be ours forever, he might go to the birth father.

It was horrible. I was balling. We say ‘yes, we’re going to bring him home.” About a week later we got a call from the agency that the birth father wanted to meet us so we did. We talked about our plans and his plans. He wasn’t stable. He was living with his in-laws, he was separated from their daughter and he had other children and the grandparents were taking care of them. It seemed like he wanted to do his duty and take care of his child, it didn’t seem malicious. He left the meeting saying he needed to go home and pray and think about what he was going to do. I literally had my hands over my face the whole time balling. I was mad at him but I could understand, he was the biological dad.

We waited and we didn’t hear anything for weeks. That whole time on any day we could get a call saying he wants him. But we never heard from him. In the state of PA there’s an abandonment period if you do not hear from the birth father and he does not show support or interest and four months go by, the judge can legally terminate his rights. In the end, Owen’s birth father never signed his adoption papers. Four months is a long time to wait and wonder though. In some states it’s 24 hours.

Also in the state of PA there’s a period of time when biological parents who sign the paperwork [to give their right away] can change their mind. I can’t imagine how traumatic that must be for adoptive parents. If you have a baby who was yours and is now taken away, he’s with someone else and you know you could have provided a better environment, it’s not usually a loving stable environment they’re going to.

Almost a whole year later we were able to go to the court and make everything official. Owen was a year old. Until you go to court, you always have that fear that this baby that I love more than myself can be taken away from me. It’s hard to describe those emotions.

So after that, there’s no way that either of his birth parents could ever come back and say they wanted him.

We moved to Stroudsburg and were ready to start again. We went with Adoptions from the Heart, we go through the training, create a new scrapbook and we just wait to be chosen. The home study is a long process. There’s interviews to attend, a biography to write, references to get, it’s just a big, long process. That took a year with the other agency, but with Adoptions from the Heart it only took four months.

We waited for over a year for our next child. It’s hard, because you’re like, ‘When are we going to get the call, we’re ready.’ We always knew we wanted to have two children, so we just sucked it up that it might be emotionally traumatic again, but we’re ready.

A year goes by and we got a call that a family was trying to choose between us and another couple. We did a lot of praying and we got another call that they chose us, they liked that we had previously adopted. The baby, another boy, we named Mason, was in Philly. They said we could go see him right now. We were only able to be with him for a couple of hours. Again right when we got to the door of his room, I knew it. This was our baby. My life’s goal and passion was to be a mom.

We go into the room, we meet Mason. He’s perfect. His mother was on drugs, so he had to be in the hospital to detox. And for most babies, takes a month. We go back so Owen can meet his new brother. Adoptions from the Heart is all about open adoptions and both the birth mother and father wanted to meet with us. Most adoptions these days are open. In Pennsylvania you can have a legally binding contract that says adoptive parents, you need to give us updates, we need to talk on the phone with the birth parents, all different kinds of arrangements.

So we were planning to go to lunch with the birth parents. We get a call while we’re in the hospital and I knew right away it was bad news. It was our case worker telling us ‘Birth father has changed his mind, he wants to bring Mason home. You need to leave the hospital immediately.’ It was the worst day of my life. I’m a crying mess. The nurses were so nice, they told me, ‘The biological dad is going to have to come and see the baby, spend the night, he’s going to see how hard it is to take care of him.’ Because Mason was going through withdrawal still which makes babies extra fussy.  

As we were leaving, Owen looked at us and said ‘Don’t worry, mom, I’ll never let you down,’ and we felt so blessed that we had this one amazing child. In the back of my head, I just felt like Mason was going to be ours too.

A month goes by and we knew Mason was going to be discharged soon. I was at the park one day with Owen and got a call, it’s the agency saying ‘Things have changed, birth father is no longer able to take care of Mason. He tested positive for drugs.’ And the birth mother lost all four of her other children, they were placed in foster care. Derek and I spent the night with him and they were ready to discharge him and we wanted to bring him home. The agency said this rarely happens that there’s a disruption like this and the original adoptive family ends up with the baby. We were told the birth father was spiteful to the mother and didn’t like that she chose adoption. We drove right down to Philly, spent the night with him, we went through a lot of training and we brought him home and eight months later we were able to finalize. Both parents signed the paperwork so we didn’t have to wait the four months. That was kind of nice. We have not heard a word from them since, which is fine with us because they were in such a messy situation.

We’re actually really good friends with Owen’s birth mother. We went to her wedding, we’ve had them over for Christmas, we text quite a bit and Facebook, that’s been really great. Some people I’ve heard go on vacation together. I think it’s nice for the child to know ‘this is where I came from,’ kinda like ‘I have two families.’ Owen knows that Anna is his birth mother.

It is such a miracle. With Mason, we saved him a lifetime of uncertainty but on the flipside, we are so darn lucky — they are our miracles.

We love and respect the birth parents because they are our miracles too. They provided us with our miracles. They made a very selfless decision. I can’t imagine how heartbreaking that must have been to say ‘someone else can do this better than me,’ and that’s such an un-prideful, unselfish thing to do. There are so many prospective adoptive couples waiting. The longest I’ve heard was three years. Anna said to me, ‘He’s going to hate me because I gave him up and I didn’t give his brothers up.’ I told her, ‘We say nothing but amazing things about you because you are next to God for us because you gave us a child.’ We hold them and Mason’s birth parents in the highest regard and we will never say anything but amazing things about them. It’s like when you meet an organ donor, meeting that person that gave you life, children are our life and these people gave us that life.