PAGE # 18

The Rest of the Day
(after meeting the biological mother)

Tom and I could find nothing unappealing about the birth mother or her husband.  In fact, we liked them.  We didn't want Kendra to give away her baby girl--even though we were hoping to adopt the very same baby! 

We each had a severe case of cognitive dissonance.  It hurt.  We probably should have done something fun for the rest of the day; instead, we treated the situation like a giant jigsaw puzzle.  If we could arrange all the pieces of information regarding this adoption into a coherent picture, then perhaps we would better understand our role in the grand scheme of it all:  Were we supposed to adopt this child (thank you Kendra!) or were we supposed to help Kendra keep her baby somehow?

Of course, putting the puzzle together was secondary to having the actual puzzle pieces.  We had some, lacked others, and a few didn't seem to fit into the picture at all.

  1. Kendra was pregnant with a baby girl.  This child was not her husband's baby.  The baby was conceived while Kendra and her husband were officially separated.
  2. The alleged birth father had been Kendra's boyfriend while she was separated from her husband.  They dated for several months.
  3. Kendra broke up with bio dad.  This happened after bio dad allegedly assaulted her.
  4. Kendra had a restraining order against bio dad and he had also been arrested for the alleged assault.
  1. Kendra was about to have this baby any day.  Why was she looking for a prospective adoptive family at the final hour?
  2. Was placing the baby for adoption a condition of Johnny (the husband) reconciling with his wife?
  3. Did bio dad have any interest in parenting this child?
  4. Had the baby been exposed to alcohol/drugs during the pregnancy (perhaps this was why Kendra didn't want to parent the child?)
  1. Kendra claimed that she was not choosing adoption at the final hour.  She had hoped to place the baby with a relative.  This plan collapsed, according to Kendra, because said relative could not afford the necessary legal fees to formally adopt the baby.  Also, Kendra had started to feel uneasy about the prospect of seeing the baby at family holidays and events.  It might be too weird.  
  2. Johnny claimed that he would raise the baby, alongside their other two children, if only they could afford to do so.  Since their income was dependent on Johnny's family business (Kendra's in-laws), it sounded as if there might be financial consequences if Johnny took back his wife and the baby.  At one point during the meeting, Kendra even stated that they would be placing this baby for adoption even if Johnny (the husband) was the father.  Even if there had been no break-up, no boyfriend, no other man involved in the baby's conception.
  3. Kendra was adamant that bio dad did not want this baby.  But then she revealed that bio dad was making suicidal threats on Facebook because of the adoption plan.  She claimed this was an act; that he was "all talk."  She added that bio dad had insisted on an abortion, and when she refused to terminate the pregnancy, he became abusive.  At first verbally, then physically.  But he wasn't scary!  He was just a spoiled brat who liked to party.  And he was often drunk.
  4. Kendra claimed she had stopped drinking alcohol and quit smoking when she realized she was pregnant (about 10 weeks).  She reassured us that her drinking was limited to "social drinking on the weekends only."
  1. The claim that the baby was being placed for financial reasons, and for financial reasons alone, seemed strange.  Kendra and Johnny said they'd still be choosing adoption, even if the baby had been Johnny's child.  This seemed highly unlikely.  Kendra and Johnny came from financially stable (even well off) backgrounds.  Tom and I worried that Kendra was being coerced by her in laws (if not directly, then through Johnny).
  2. Was bio dad really just a big immature goon?  If he had assaulted a pregnant woman, wasn't he pretty bad? 
  1. The biological father.  All we knew about him came from Kendra and the adoption attorney.  Johnny claimed he'd never met him; never even seen him.  What was bio dad's side of the story?  
The picture just didn't add up.  Ultimately, Tom and I could not understand why Kendra wanted to give away her baby girl.  We consulted our friends again--Tracey and Jim--the ones who had adopted (their son Ricky) only two years prior.

"You're never going to understand Kendra's decision," Jim told me.  "You're not in her situation and you don't even know all the details of her situation.  You only know what she's telling you and you'll never know how much of it is true, left out, or mere lies.  That's just how it is with adoption."

Tracey agreed with her husband.  "There is no perfect adoption," she said.  

I was uneasy until Tom reminded me of our rescheduled home study for the following day.  (In order for anyone to adopt in this country, they must be assessed and found competent by a licensed social worker.)

"Perhaps we'll feel better after we get a chance to process this with a mental health professional," Tom suggested.

I hoped so.  I was actually looking forward to the social worker's involvement, especially as I was once a clinical social worker myself.  I figured she might be the one trustworthy professional in this adoption business.



PAGE # 17

11:30 am

Tom and I were enjoying ourselves.  Our meeting was going well.  Kendra was pregnant with our future adoptive child and we liked her!  Her husband, Johnny, was not the bio dad, but he was great too.  I kind of wished it was his baby, but then, we wouldn't be in this situation, about to adopt a baby and all.  Or would we be?

Two married couples, a mystery baby girl in belly, no dying dog, and one adoption attorney:  We all occupied the same space, at the same time, brought together by specific, albeit unusual circumstances, and it started to feel, well, kind of familiar.  Not that I ever placed a biological child of my own for adoption.  Not that Tom and I ever suffered through multiple separations.  And certainly not that I had ever been pregnant with another man's baby.  But on that day, and under the conditions we were in, we started to view Kendra and Johnny as younger versions of ourselves.  As if they were just like we had once been; only we took a luckier path, and they, through poor luck or other misfortune, ended up in a bit of a mess.

I think it was Tom who asked the next question, and he directed it toward Johnny, who'd been silent thus far:

"So, what kind of work do you do?"

Johnny sat up taller.  He liked this topic.

"I work in my family's business.  Since I was a kid," he replied.  He gave a detailed description of his responsibilities and latest accomplishments.  

"Tom works in his family's business too!" I interjected.

And with that, the two husbands began an engaging conversation.  I heard mention of 'career goals' and 'entrepreneurship,' but Kendra and I were focused on our own exchange by that point.  

"Was it hard for you to find other friends?" she asked me.  "I mean, other young mom friends?"  She was referring to the fact that Tom and I had also been very young parents (once upon a time).

I laughed, remembering how other moms often mistook me for TJ's nanny or babysitter.

"Yeah, it kind of was," I said.  "Not that many people have kids in their early 20s nowadays. I was always the youngest mom everywhere I went."

Kendra was nodding her head.  "Yeah, I don't even know how to talk to the other moms!  I feel like they're looking down at me."

I was encouraging:

"Kendra," I said, "if there's one thing I've learned in life, it's that everyone is feeling like she is the odd woman out.  I know plenty of moms in their late 30s who complain about Mommy & Me classes feeling like the social equivalent of high school all over again.  You just have to be friendly and put yourself out there."

Kendra was listening closely.

"Look," I continued.  "Tom and I have friends of all ages.  Of course, we have friends our own age, and some are even younger now.  But when we were young like you guys, raising a kid, we had no friends our age with kids.  But we made it our business to make friends with other parents.  We're still friends with those people.  We were going to 40th birthday parties in our early 20s, but those were the people we had the most in common with.  You don't ditch your other friends, you just wait for them to catch up.  And they will.  I promise."

Kendra glanced over at her husband, who was saying something to my husband.

"Sometimes I just feel like I missed out on stuff, you know?" she said.

I nodded.

"I see my friends going out, and..." 

"They're just out looking for what you already have," I assured her.  "In less than ten years from now, it's going to be totally different.  It's worth it.  Growing up before everyone else.  You'll see."

Tom and I looked over at each other.  After 16 1/2 years of marriage, I could tell we were both thinking the same thing:  Had the universe selected us to help this couple?  Were we supposed to help them decide to keep the baby?  

We discussed this shared rescue fantasy later, during our car ride home from the attorney's office.  Not only was I correct in reading Tom's mind, but by the time we arrived home, we each had the other convinced that our role was to help this couple keep the baby.  Of course, we wanted the baby if no one else did.  But in all honesty, at that time and in hindsight too, we always had some hope that Kendra would choose to keep her baby girl.

"We could stay in touch with them!" Tom suggested.  "Be like extra grandparents for the baby!"

"We're not that old!" I argued.  "Maybe we could be the baby's Godparents or something like that."

"You think they really liked us, right?" Tom asked.  

"Yes," I said.  "I definitely felt a connection."

to be continued...



PAGE # 16

11:00 am

Shelley, the adoption attorney, welcomed us into her office.  Tom and I sat down and waited.  I looked for the dog, but didn't see him anywhere, so I browsed through the saved photos on my iPhone.  I was trying to find some good pictures of our family.  Shelley had recommended bringing in some photo albums, but I didn't want to reveal any identifying information (all of my photo albums have captions, etc.).  I had already provided the hastily made Shutterfly photo book--that and some cell phone pics would have to suffice.

"She's bringing her husband," Shelley stated.  "Kendra phoned a little while ago to say he'd be joining us."

I was surprised.  I couldn't imagine being him, and meeting us, while his wife discussed the adoption plan for another man's baby.

When Kendra and her husband arrived, Shelley went to greet them in the waiting area and quickly escorted them into the office.

Kendra was adorable.  She wore a simple black maternity dress and was all belly.  She was not exactly my younger twin, as Shelley had sworn, but we did share the same overall coloring:  dark hair, dark eyes, fair skin.  She had some freckles too, very slight, that painted an aura of sweetness.  She looked like a maternity model, but not the flashy, 'pregnant in heels' type.  She looked like she fell out of a Laura Ashley catalog.

Tom and I stood up to greet her and shake hands.  I think I hugged her, but I'm not sure if I was that bold.  Maybe the hug was only at the goodbye part.

Kendra's husband, Johnny, was just behind her.  He gave a warm nod, shook our hands, and sat down beside his pregnant wife.  He was dressed casually:  khakis and a polo shirt, a pair of flip flops.  He looked like a kid to me.  Johnny was quiet for at least the first half of the meeting.  He sat with his hands clutched between his knees, gaze aimed downward, one foot tapping the floor.  He looked like any waiting husband does--as if  he were sitting in a department store while his wife tried on clothes.  

I had a lot of questions, but the attorney was talking; I assume she felt the need to navigate both couples through any potential awkwardness:

"I've done this over 2,000 times!" she reminded us.  

I resented the lawyer's presence and wanted to go ahead with my own agenda (like make sure that Kendra wasn't being coerced by anyone, had received crisis counseling, etc.).  I was worried for her.  

But we didn't get to the serious topics just yet.  Kendra had brought a large photo album from her own childhood, complete with images from the newborn stage through her adolescence.  She narrated some family history as Tom and I turned the album's pages.

Of everything she shared about her family's background, the most interesting detail was that Kendra's mom had been adopted (that is, Kendra's mother was raised in an adoptive home).  I found this bit of information reassuring.  Since Kendra already had a frame of reference for adoption, it seemed to make more sense that she might choose adoption for her own, unplanned child.  I didn't think it would make giving her baby away any easier, but maybe the choice was available to her, more so than it might be to someone else, simply because her own mother was the product of an adoption placement?

After viewing pictures of Kendra's childhood, she presented us with professional portraits of her two boys:  Alex (age 5) and Logan (18 months). 

"They're so cute!" I exclaimed.

Kendra started to cry a little.

"Don't worry.  It's not me.  I'm not worried about me," she wiped tears from her face.  "I'm just really worried about Alex.  He doesn't understand why we can't keep his baby sister."

I was with Alex.  I really didn't understand it either. 

Kendra pulled herself together quickly.  "Do you guys celebrate Christmas?" she asked.  "I want the baby to celebrate Christmas."

I pulled out my phone.  I had a picture of last year's Christmas tree surrounded by tons of presents.

Kendra smiled.  "That looks like your mom's tree!" she exclaimed, referring to her mother-in-law.  She showed the picture to her husband.

I was feeling very sad for her.  And for her two little boys who wouldn't get to grow up with their sister.

Kendra gave me back my phone.  I showed her some pictures of our two kids:  TJ and Sara.  I felt like I needed to share something of ourselves.  How could she just give her baby to us without even seeing the baby's future siblings?

We chatted a bit more about the holidays.  About all our kids.  For a little while, it felt like we were making new friends, not planning the exchange of a life.  I even forgot that the attorney was still sitting there.  

It turned out, Kendra and Johnny had a lot in common with us.  At least it seemed that way at the time.     



PAGE # 15

9:15 am

When Tom answered the adoption attorney's phone call that morning, I was certain of two things:
  1. I hated the attorney.  She was Satan with a bad, blond makeover.
  2. I was afraid of the birth father.  He was Satan too.  He killed animals and posted their bloody corpses online as his profile picture.
While different world religions have argued for and against monotheism (the belief in one and only one God), I've always worried more about the ontology of evil.  Is there just one Satan?  Or many?  

Clearly, I had uncovered the existence of two (at least two!) Satans.  

Therefore, how can any reasonable person explain what happened next?  

Tom and I not only reversed our decision to back away from this adoption, but by 11:00 am, that very same morning, we were face-to-face with a pregnant woman!  It just doesn't make sense.  It's unfathomable.  

Even as I write this, I am sure I suffered some serious insult to my brain that, in turn, also impacted my autobiographical memory.  I have retrograde amnesia.  I cannot claim to recall, for sure, how we traveled from a definite "NO WAY!" to a meeting with Kendra, the biological mother, in a mere few hours.  

But, I do have some theories:
  1. There was a wormhole in my house that day.  We got sucked in and it dumped us out at the attorney's office.
  2. Tom and I were suffering from a severe form of insanity that targeted us both.  Simultaneously.  
  3. Perhaps a third Satan (a lurking variable of unknown identity!) brought us there.
But the truth, at least the murky pieces I'm able to remember, is not so sensational.  It was really very simple.  We ignored our gut instincts; we stopped thinking rationally.  We succumbed to temptation when Shelley, the attorney, said:

"Just come meet the birth mother.  You don't have to decide anything yet.  But this is a once in a lifetime opportunity if you are really hoping to adopt.  You guys are new to the adoption process and you don't know it this moment, but two or three years from now, you are going to regret it, if you just walk away, without even meeting Kendra first.  Just come meet her.  Then make your decision."

We stopped thinking about our (more my) personal distaste for the attorney.  We exorcised all images of scary bio dad from our heads.  We opted for hope instead.  We chose life.  We settled on a baby!  We decided to get a little adventurous.

After all, isn't every adoption bound to be filled with drama and uncertainty?  Babies aren't given away to complete strangers because things are, well, to put it bluntly, happening under normal circumstances. 

We dressed quickly (no time to ponder a wardrobe change!) and set out to meet our Baby Mama!



This is not a picture of my actual mother.  She'd probably like you to know that.
PAGE # 14

Rise and Shine!

Tom nudged me.  "Wake up!"

"What is it?  Sara?"  I looked at the baby monitor, but our toddler was sleeping.

"It's Shelley," Tom explained.  "She sent us an email late last night."  

This adoption attorney was persistent.  

"I don't think you should read it," Tom suggested.  "We've made up our mind."

I sat up and turned to face my husband.

"Then why did you bother to wake me?"  I asked him.  "Did you read it?" 

"Yes, but..."

"Hand over the email!"  I reached out for his iPad. 

The attorney sent it at 12:53 am.  It read as follows:

I am so sorry you have come to this conclusion without meeting Kendra or knowing if the birthfather will cooperate or not.  Perhaps in explaining the worst case scenario I scared you.  I think him even challenging is highly unlikely, and him being successful, next to impossible.  I would think I would have also heard something immediately if he were going to try to block the adoption.  My name and phone number was right on the papers he was served Saturday.
Anyway, I would suggest that you meet Kendra before you make your final decision whether or not to take the next step.  You may feel more comfortable that this adoption will happen after talking to her.  I will also limit your financial investment to the bare minimum until the 30 days runs out.  [The law gives a biological father 30 days to contest an adoption plan, starting from the date he is served legal papers informing him of that adoption plan].
 Anyway, I hope to hear from you in the morning.  I would hate for you to miss this wonderful opportunity and for this child to miss the wonderful opportunity to become a part of your family.

I read the letter over a few times.  There was a problem with the first paragraph, in the form of a giant revision of the truth:

The attorney never described any 'worst case scenario' to us.  As I recalled, I probed her to divulge any potential 'worst case scenarios' and she had been dismissive of my concerns. Even nasty.

I didn't mention it to Tom.  We were resolved in our decision.  

"Are you going to write her back?" I asked him.

"Nah.  Why get into it?"  Tom said.  "Plus, these lawyers charge money for emails and text messages."

"Oh forget it!"

And so we did.  At least for a little while, until my mother called within the hour:

"What is going on there?  I get this text message from you that you're not adopting the baby anymore!  Not even a phone call!  And I texted you back last night and..."

I looked at my phone.  Sure enough, my mother had sent me several messages the preceding evening:

What the f?


U there


What's going on?

"You there?" my mom asked.

"Yeah, look, it's complicated," I explained.

"I was up crying all night!" my mom said.  "Nobody wants this poor baby!  I just feel so bad for this poor baby."

"I know, mom, I know," I replied.  "But the whole birth father thing.  It's just too much anxiety for me.  I can't handle it."

My mom continued:

"That poor baby!  Even her own mother doesn't want her!"

"I know mom," I said.  "But maybe she'll change her mind and keep the baby in the end."

I explained a little more about the birth father.  I described my fears.  Spun terrible 'what if' tales to help illustrate my anxiety.  My mom remained despondent.

"Then why don't you adopt the baby if you feel so bad?" I challenged her.  

That worked.  

We moved on to other topics.  

Then the house phone started ringing.  

"Don't answer it!"  Tom shouted from another room.  "It's the attorney!  She'll try to persuade us!"

We ignored her call.  

But then, she called Tom's cell.  

Then mine.  

Then the house phone again.

"Mom," I said, "Let me call you back.  I think Tom just answered the attorney's call."



PAGE # 13

Just Before Bed

My husband did not like the Facebook connection between me and bio dad either. 

"Wait, there's more," I said.  "You have to see the pictures I found.  All with knives and guns and..."

Tom shook his head.  "No, I don't want to see it.  Don't show me."

"Don't you care?"

"I don't want to see him.  I don't need to know what he looks like," Tom explained.

"But he looks scary!" I cried.  "I need to show you."

Tom still refused to look.  So I started talking.  A lot.

"He won't sign off on the adoption paperwork!  It says in this packet, right here," I pointed at the exact page, "that he is aware of the pregnancy and that he does not support the adoption plan."

"But the attorney already told us that he has no rights to this baby because he's not the legal spouse," Tom argued.

"Honey," I pleaded.  "I don't care about the law.  Because how do I know if he cares about the law?  We could take this baby home and be looking over our shoulders for the rest of our lives.  We can't do that!  We can't do that to Sara and TJ!  I'm going to be stressed out about our safety forever!  If this guy is against the adoption and wants this baby..."

"You're right," Tom finally agreed.

"And we already know that he punched the birth mother in the stomach during her pregnancy!  He is being prosecuted for beating her up!  There are multiple restraining orders against him!" I continued.

"You're right," Tom repeated.

"And you should see his Facebook pictures!  All guns and knives and..."

"Babe, I already agreed with you.  Calm down."

I let go of the adoption papers.  They fell to the floor.

"It's just too much anxiety for me to handle," I continued.  "This guy lives close by.  If birth mom is so afraid of him, then maybe we should be too."

"You're totally right," Tom said.  "I'm not going to put the family I already have at risk.  This is obviously a bad guy.  I feel bad for the baby and the birth mom, but this is not our problem.  We want to grow our family, of course we do, but not like this."

I took a deep breath.  I was already thinking about trying to reinstate our Disney reservations.  I had cancelled our vacation, but now that we were opting out of this adoption thing, I was ready to move on with our original holiday plans.  Then I remembered that we had an appointment with the attorney and Kendra, the birth mother, at 11 am the following morning.

"We need to cancel with the lawyer," I told Tom.  "But it's too late to call."

"Send her an email," he instructed.  "Do it right now, so she gets it first thing in the morning.  And I need to cancel the appointment we made with the social worker.  For the home study tomorrow afternoon."

I quickly wrote the email to the attorney while Tom wrote to the social worker.

I sent the email to the attorney at precisely 10:53 that night.  The email read as follows:


Tom and I have taken the last several hours to discuss this adoption opportunity.  While we are so excited about the prospect of adopting this baby girl, we explored our sincere feelings regarding the circumstances of the birth father.  While we are fully confident that you would overcome the obstacle of the birth father, we had to admit that the ambiguity was simply too anxiety provoking for us.  We were so focused on the concrete tasks at hand, given the urgency of the adoption; truly, we apologize to you and Kendra.  
Please send us the invoice and we will send payment for your consultation.  It was lovely meeting you and we pray that this baby finds the perfect home.

Warm regards,
Jennifer & Tom

We were exhausted and already in bed, but we waited up, just for another 20 minutes or so, to see if the attorney would confirm receipt of our cancellation.  

"You know what else I don't get," Tom rolled toward me.  "I don't get why Kendra's husband is making her give away this baby.  I mean, if he's trying to reconcile with her, how can he make her give up her own baby?  They weren't even together when she got pregnant."

"I guess he doesn't want to raise some other guy's kid?" I speculated.

"Then he's a jerk too.  I would never make you give away your own baby.  If he really loved her, he'd raise the baby as his own."

I had a new (and terrible) thought:

"Oh my God!  Maybe she was raped!"

"What are you talking about?" Tom asked.

"I'm thinking that maybe this baby is a product of rape.  We know that her and her husband already have two kids.  And that they are still together.  And that bio dad is being criminally prosecuted.  I'm just saying, it is possible she was raped.  And that's why they're not keeping the baby.  The attorney did make a point of saying that Kendra is totally against abortion.  It would explain a lot.  Poor Kendra."

Tom was thinking.  

"Well, what does it matter anyhow?" he asked.  "We wouldn't want to get involved with a rape case either.  You'd be even more terrified."

"Yeah, true."

"Let's go to sleep, babe."

"Okay, just one sec."  

It was too late to phone my mother, so I sent her a text message to let her know we were calling off the adoption.  We would tell the kids in the morning.  Sara was too little to understand and TJ already thought we were nuts.  What was one more swing of the pendulum?    

I kissed Tom goodnight.  "Sweet dreams babe."

Then, I checked my email for the last time before hitting the pillow.  There was no reply from the attorney.  Not yet anyhow.  By the time the lawyer wrote back, we were long asleep.



PAGE # 12

5:22 pm

I read through the document entitled Background Information on Prospective Adoptive Child.

The forms were completed by the birth mother, as indicated by her signature on the last page.  The majority of information included the known medical history on both sides of the baby's biological family, and thankfully, there was nothing significant.  Everyone from grandparents to cousins sounded healthy enough.

Of greater interest, at least to myself, included the following details (caveats?):

  1. The birth mother, the birth father, and each of their respective extended families reside within a half hour of us.  That seemed a little too close for comfort.
  2. The birth mother's dad (i.e. the maternal grandfather) is a private investigator.  I figured he already knew all about us.  From our credit rating to our SAT scores.
  3. The birth dad did not look too good on paper (heavy drinker, dishonorable discharge from the marines, suspended driver's license, allegedly punched birth mom in stomach during pregnancy, etc.).  I wasn't sure what to fear more:  the man himself or his genetic code.  I considered all the craziness branching across my family tree, decided I turned out alright despite the DNA, and felt somewhat relieved.  I was, however, still a tad apprehensive about bio dad--the man himself--especially given the geographical proximity of our homes.
I tried to alleviate any paranoia by conducting a thorough investigation of my own; indeed, my Google search skills are quite impressive.  Although the last names of everybody noted in the paperwork were crossed out in heavy black ink, I was able to uncover bio dad's surname in a matter of minutes.  I will not bore the reader with the details of this process, but will reveal that Facebook made much of my sleuthing possible.  In fact, I even learned that bio dad's sister and I share a mutual friend on Facebook!

If the reader happens to know this author's identity, and moreover is a Facebook friend, then yes, it is possible that the mutual friend is YOU.  It's approximately a 1 in 375 chance.  Not great odds, but better than most.  Before you click back over to Facebook, ready to scroll down your friend list in a fit of curiosity, allow me to wrap up this post:

I found bio dad on Facebook and some other social networking sites.  Many of his pictures were open to the public.  In almost all of them, he was seen holding either a rifle or a hunting knife (a.k.a. before and after the slaughter pics).  I am aware that this is sport for a great lot of the American people.  But...

I ran to Tom.  I would definitely not say anything in front of the kids--no sense getting them nervous about what was probably just my tendency to overreact--But...

I told him, and not too quietly, "We need to talk.  Argue.  Whatever.  AGAIN!"



PAGE # 11

4:45 pm

Tom and I were home from our meeting with the adoption attorney.  We needed to go inside and pay the babysitter, but we were stuck in the car, trapped in a philosophical debate over whether the lawyer was mostly good (Tom's stance) or a mad demon (my position).  It's a timeless theme--the good vs. evil one--and to our credit, at least we weren't battling over something more mundane, say credit card bills.  

"You are such a pessimist!"  Tom shook his head at me.  "I think we should go for this."

"But I don't trust her.  Every time I tried to ask about the birth father, she'd pull a new trick out of her hat to dismiss me."

Tom was more sympathetic.  "Oh, come on.  At the end of the day, she's trying to get her job done.  I'm sure she just wants the best family for this baby.  She's gotta be  somewhat of a salesperson to get the process rolling."

"A salesperson?" I disagreed.  "She's more like a maniacal magician!"  I was talking with my hands and the left one accidentally knocked Tom's jaw.

"Ouch!" he cried.

"You?  Your scruff practically peeled the skin off my hand!"

We rested for a moment.  

I was thinking I was a much better judge of character.  I often remind Tom that he is lucky I stalked him early in life; otherwise, he probably would've ended up marrying a serious problem.  

"What about Ricky?"  Tom pointed out.  "Tracey and Jim have Ricky because of that attorney.  Where would Ricky be now?  If not for her?"

"That may be true," I conceded.  "But their situation was totally different.  Their birth father signed off on the adoption and they were not under the same kind of time pressure we are.  And that's another thing!  Why is this baby being put up for adoption at the final hour?  I just don't get it."

"That is strange," Tom agreed.  "We need to ask the birth mother about that tomorrow."  

"But what about the attorney?"

"Forget it!  She can't be all bad.  She adopted a special needs kid and ..."

"And the dog!" I exclaimed.  "Even the devil needs props!"

Tom's eyes grew wide.  "That's a bit cynical.  Even for you."

"Perhaps, but she might be a sociopath for all we know!  She takes in a sick dog and a sick kid and fronts them in her office!  She uses them to create a benevolent image of herself!"  

Unfortunately, I wasn't even kidding.  I had recently read that sociopaths account for 4 % of the population.  (See here:  http://www.amazon.com/Sociopath-Next-Door-Martha-Stout/dp/076791581X )

Tom sighed.  

I started looking through the folder we had received.  There was a stapled packet entitled, Background Information on Prospective Adoptive Child. 

"I'm done arguing," I said.

"Good, because we need to go take care of the two kids we already have."

"Yes," I agreed.  But really, I couldn't wait to read more about the biological parents.  Especially the pages that described the alleged birth father.


# 10: I HATE HER!

PAGE # 10

3:30 pm

Shelley, the adoption attorney, tried to move past the issue of the birth father:  

"We have a lot to accomplish in the next few days.  If this adoption is going to happen, you guys need fingerprints, criminal background checks, a home-study, and..."

"Hold on.  Hold on," I interrupted.  "I'm still not clear on the birth father part."  

"Does he want to father this baby?"  Tom asked.

Shelley rolled her eyes.  "Now, why would he want this baby?  According to the birth mom, he doesn't even have a job.  Why would he want to be saddled with child support payments?"

"Well, if it's his baby," I pondered, "maybe he'd want his own baby?"

"He'll never get this baby!"  Shelley practically scolded me.  "Under the law, he has no rights.  Pay attention, Jennifer!  I've already explained that."

Shelley tried to rein herself in.  She slowed down, smiled at my husband, and said, "Oh, your wife is getting so excited.  She's having a hard time keeping track of things."

Tom didn't reply.  His face was blank.  There was no evidence that he shared my impulse to get up, jump over the dying dog, and run for the exit.  

But Shelley tried a new strategy:

"Look, I'm not in this for the money.  This is a labor of love for me.  You have to meet my own adopted daughter.  My special needs daughter."

Shelley called out for a young woman.  I already knew the back-story; I had Googled this attorney prior to our meeting.  Shelley had adopted her daughter over twenty years ago, when no one else would.  Her daughter was born with fetal alcohol syndrome.  

"This is my daughter," Shelley introduced us.  "She works here in the office.  Today's her birthday."

"Happy Birthday," I said.  

"Nice to meet you," Tom added.

Shelley dismissed her daughter.

"That's why I was late for this meeting," Shelley explained.  "We were having birthday cake when you guys arrived."  

But she couldn't distract me:  

"I'm still trying to sort out the birth father thing.  What if you're wrong and he does want the baby?  You're saying he has no rights, but you also said that he could contest the adoption.  If he wants his baby..."

Shelley didn't let me finish.  Instead of talking this time, she handed me a piece of paper.

"That's the mug shot," Shelley said.  "Bio dad was arrested for beating up Kendra, the birth mother.  There were witnesses and everything.  She's pressing charges."

I studied the picture.  I saw the birth father's name.

"Am I supposed to see his name?" I asked.

"You're not going to tell anybody you saw that," Shelley instructed.

I tried to commit his name to memory, so I could Google him later, but I was too troubled by the attorney's unethical manner.  

If this attorney was untrustworthy, I did not want to work with her.  I waited patiently for the meeting to end, barely hearing the long list of tasks we'd have to complete in order to move forward.  Tom, on the other hand, was on top of everything; he made a list and kept track of all documents and paperwork.  An appointment was made for a social worker to come do our home-study the next morning.  We would meet the birth mother the following afternoon.  

I must have been having an outer body experience when all this appointment making occurred; truly, I cannot even recall leaving the attorney's building.  I've tried but my memory always skips ahead to the drive home.  

"I hate her.  Let's forget it," I told Tom.

"Oh come on babe.  She's a lawyer," he argued.  "We can't reject an innocent baby because of the lawyer."



PAGE # 9

3:00 pm

The attorney was running late.  Tom and I waited in a cozy room filled with toys and baby pictures.  There was a wooden rocking horse, some dolls, a collection of old-fashioned looking playthings.  I noticed a picture of our friends' adopted son, Ricky, hanging in a few spots.

When Shelley finally appeared, she looked me in the eye, and said, "Oh my God.  You look just like her.  You really are the perfect family for this baby."

We sat down and waited for Shelley to give us more details about the adoption plan.  The birth mother. Anything.

A small dog rested on the rug beside Shelley's desk.  His breathing was labored.

"Is your dog alright?"  Tom asked.  "He doesn't sound very good."

Shelley nodded.  "He'll be fine.  Just his asthma again.  He's my rescue dog."

The dog looked nearly dead.  Shelley must have seen the confusion dart across my face:

"He's my adopted dog.  I rescued him," she clarified.

I tried to find a polite way to move the conversation onto the adoption.  Poor dog and all, but the attorney was charging $500 an hour.

"Did you ask Kendra if she's willing to meet us?"

"Yes, actually, yes, she is.  We can set that up for tomorrow."

The dog rolled over.  I could see saliva drooling off his jaw.

"You two must have done some real good in your lives," Shelley suggested.  "Because this is a rare opportunity.  The best sort of adoption situation."  She paused.  "But, I do need to mention the issue of the birth father."

Tom and I waited.

"Kendra is married, but not to the father of this baby.  Her and Johnny, the husband, were separated for some time.  She had a boyfriend, Bobby, and she's pretty certain this baby is his."

"Pretty certain?" Tom asked.

"Well, there's a slight chance the father is an Asian man.  But she only slept with him once and it doesn't quite add up with her due date."

"Are you saying that we need to do paternity testing?" I asked.

"No," Shelley almost shouted.  "Absolutely not.  The letter of the law states that no one can challenge the paternity of a baby conceived in wedlock."

I wasn't following.  The dog was breathing loudly and Shelley was talking rather fast.

"I don't understand."

"Look," Shelley explained.  "The birth father doesn't matter.  The state does not acknowledge any man as a father if he is not the lawful husband."

This was news to me.

"You mean, I could sleep with my neighbor, bear his kids, and Tom could claim them as his own?  Even if the neighbor tried to get custody?"  

"Exactly," Shelley stated.  "The biological father, in this situation, has no rights.  We don't even need his consent.  But, the law is a little gray in some respects, and just to be careful, I served the alleged biological father the adoption plan.  He has thirty days to contest it."

I struggled to make sense of this.  If the birth father had no rights, why would an attorney serve him papers?  If he could contest the adoption within a thirty day period, and if he did, wouldn't that be exercising his rights?