College senior, Army contract, cheerleader, psychology major...all that stood between me and the “real world” was the rest of the basketball season, classes, commissioning, and graduation. Senior recognition night was my last hoorah on home court to perform in front of the entire student body and be acknowledged for all the hard work the cheerleaders had put in the past few years.
My mother made the trek from Georgia with our friend Stephen, both of whom escorted me out to half court for the ceremony at half-time. Halfway through the third quarter, I turned to my coach and asked to sit out because I wasn’t feeling well. My mom says that’s the moment she knew.
After the game, she and I stopped in at a CVS to buy the test before heading back to our friend’s house on Isle of Palms for the evening. Five minutes from the time I walked in the door, my mother’s instincts were confirmed;
I was pregnant.
Words can hardly describe the wave of emotions that passed over me at that moment. I knew from the moment I looked at those two small lines that indicate a positive result that there was no way I could handle being a single mother right out of college.
That’s when I thought “open adoption."
I knew I couldn’t carry a child for nine months and never see him/her again or have any idea where they ended up. Over the next few weeks, my mom and I gathered as much information as we could about different agencies and ways to go about the adoption process. Through my research, I found the agency I went with.
This agency focused solely on open adoptions and had wonderful online resources for both birth mothers and adoptive parents. My mom and I set up a meeting with an adoption counselor and began the process of finding a family for my child.
The whole process was almost like online dating. I logged on to the website, created a profile, and began searching through couples’ profiles that told me everything about them. I met with different couples for dinner, but none of them stood out to me.
As soon as I found Emma and Craig’s profile, I knew they were the perfect couple. I reached out and set up a time to meet over FaceTime. We spent hours talking about their story, my story, and just about anything our minds thought of. The connection was instant and I knew I’d found the parents I was looking for.
I officially matched with Emma and Craig about a week later and Facetimed them to share the good news. We began planning a trip for them to come visit me in Charleston. A month later I picked them up from the airport and it was like we had known each other our entire lives. After an amazing weekend showing them my school and town that I had grown to call home, I was sad to see them leave, but I knew I would see them again soon.
For the next couple of months, I did my best to just keep my head down and get to graduation. It was difficult to get through morning PT sessions, classes, Army lab, and all the other demands that take up a cadet’s time. Having the support of my family and close friends helped get me through the tough days and before I knew it, May rolled around and it was time to walk across that stage and turn my ring to face the numbers out which showed the world that I was a Citadel graduate.
I moved back home to my little small town in Georgia and settled into my new job working for my mom’s company. My belly got bigger and bigger and it was finally time for my next ultrasound, the big gender reveal. I knew I wanted Craig and Emma to be with me when I discovered the gender, so I had the nurse just tell my mom the gender at our appointment. Emma and Craig flew down from New Jersey to Atlanta and we met with the adoption agency for our official match meeting. Once we got through the initial meeting, we sat and discussed our adoption plan. We covered everything from how many visits per year I would get, to how we would share pictures, to who would be in the room when I went into labor. With every new step in this process, I knew I had picked the right couple. Craig and Emma were quickly becoming family and we still had another few months to go.
After our meeting with the agency, Craig, Emma, and I went back home and started to get ready for the gender reveal party that evening. I was so nervous to finally find out the gender of the baby and have one more question answered about this whole thing. After an anxious wait, the three of us walked into the dinner party space, which was entirely decorated in pink. IT’S A GIRL. We all cried and hugged and shared the wonderful moment with all my family friends that were at the party to also finally meet Emma and Craig.
That weekend we spent Craig’s unofficial first Father’s Day together and before they had even gotten back to New Jersey, we were already planning a trip for me to come visit them.
A few months later, at the end of August, I hopped a plane to New Jersey and spent the weekend exploring the city with Craig and Emma. I never felt awkward or out of place, being with them always felt like family. We shared plenty of laughter and food and grew even closer to each other. I knew when I boarded my flight home that the next time I saw them; it would be time to head to the hospital to meet our little girl.
Finally, October arrived, and with it came the mounting anticipation of both the adoptive parents and myself. Craig and Emma drove all the way down to Georgia and got here on a Sunday evening, just in time for a big family dinner. Monday morning the three of us went to my final doctor’s appointment when my doctor told me he wanted me admitted to the hospital that evening to begin the whole process.
That night my mom and I checked into the hospital and settled into our room. Craig and Emma spent the evening with us until we told them to go get a good night’s sleep, it was going to be the last full night they’d get for quite some time.
I woke up the next morning thinking about how long the day was about to be and I just kept telling myself I would get through it.
I spent the day with nurses in and out to check on me, but for the most part, I was surrounded by family and friends. By the afternoon, I was ready to start pushing and at 2:53pm on October 11, 2016, I finally met my little girl. Zoey Grace was born weighing 7 pounds 3 ounces and measuring at 19.5 inches long. Craig did the honors of cutting the umbilical cord and the nurses immediately brought her to Emma for skin-to-skin contact. The whole experience was absolutely beautiful and amazing to be a part of.
I spent the night in my room with my mother, and Craig and Emma got their own room in the hospital to share with Zoey. The next day consisted of more visits from friends and constant check-ups with the nurses, but my doctor finally cleared me to go home that afternoon, 24 hours after giving birth. The physical healing process proved to be more painful than the birth itself. Craig and Emma came home with my mom and I for the next few days. In those following days, I saw exactly why I had chosen this wonderful couple to be the parents to my little girl. Emma and her lawyerly approach to life had read every book and article about what to do with a newborn, while Craig took the more laid back approach.
Watching the two of them tackle every cry or fuss from Zoey with such diligence and care was confirmation enough that I made the right choice.
I wanted to write this story to share my journey through this entire process and show a side of adoption that many people don’t get to see. As I write this, my 10-day period of time where I can change my mind and keep Zoey comes to an end.
I have officially given my child to Craig and Emma and I couldn’t be happier.
Saying goodbye was not easy, but knowing that Zoey is with the most amazing couple I could ever have the pleasure of knowing brings me such peace. They have become like a brother and sister to me, and I know that they’re going to do an incredible job raising Zoey to be a beautiful and kind young woman.