Almost despairing

She’s a natural. No, really.

For a couple years, our Saturday mornings were all about hip hop dance. Ron and I would take turns (depending on whatever else was going on) taking the kids to classes at Supreme Dance Studio, where I looked forward to seeing my kids enjoy a serious workout while gaining some great skills and a bit of finesse. I also looked forward to chatting with other grown-ups, especially another mom of a transracial adoptee. This mom had gone with an international adoption, she confided, because she needed more certainty in the process: there were set forms and fees, a certain amount of time before getting approval and filling out more forms, etc. She needed to know, in short, how long she’d be waiting.

I could understand. The uncertainty of domestic adoption is not for everyone. In fact, I’m kind of surprised any of us make it through the process unscarred. From the time that we completed our trainings, evaluations, forms, payments, etc., until we held Dawn in our arms was actually only four or five months. It felt like decades.

Initially, it was an emotional rollercoaster of epic proportions. To say that I cried every day is maybe an exaggeration, but only a slight one. Before our portfolio was shown to a prospective birthparent, we were told some basic facts about the situation and asked whether we wanted to be considered. We said yes every time – only to be told no, they had gone with someone else or decided to leave the program altogether.

As any new parent knows, I was an idiot. I should’ve been out living it up, packing in late-night concerts and shows, exploring the jazz clubs and all-night diners, in every corner of the city. Instead, after a dizzying rush to finish and defend my dissertation, I found myself in a kind of existential freefall. I applied for jobs but didn’t get interviews. I couldn’t even get volunteer organizations to call me back. I had too much time on my hands and no direction, which is a very weird place to be weeks before graduating with a doctorate. And as a result, all I could think about was the baby we couldn’t plan for.

It became harder and harder to get out of bed, to make a shopping list, to pay bills. Uncertainty and vagueness swallowed up my days, and crying was almost the only thing that helped. Ron’s unfailing optimism didn’t comprehend what I was experiencing, but he was patient and pulled us through to that amazing moment when our adoption counselor said, “She wants to meet you.”

A six-hour drive for a maybe? You bet!


Ron very much wanted more kids and so, shortly after Dawn’s second birthday, we opened our search again. This was in 2010, and the adoption landscape had begun its radical transformation. There weren’t many birthparents choosing adoption, at least not through our agency. Our new counselor encouraged us to put up an online portfolio, but we were uncomfortable with the whole idea. This time, it was Ron who started to feel the despair. While my friends sent me encouraging articles about raising an only child, Ron became somewhat despondent, unwilling to concede his dream of a big, boisterous family but also feeling increasingly unable to make it happen. This sense worsened when, after meeting with a birthmom whose expected mixed-race baby seemed a perfect sister for our Dawn, she decided against us.

And then, on the Winter Solstice of 2010, a single phone call changed everything.

Published by Danelle Henden & Stephanie Lundeen

Danelle: I am an HR professional with a keen interest in psychology and in adoption activiwsm. I work with a nonprofit that supports adoption, On Your Feet Foundation. Stephanie: I am a writer and editor with a background in education (I have taught English as a Second Language, college writing, and college literature courses).

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