I placed my daughter (Zoe) for adoption 11 years ago. I was 17 at the time and ready for my senior year in high school, and Zoe’s birth dad was 23. I decided I wanted to place her for adoption as I knew I wasn’t able to provide for her the way a parent needs to.
I knew we would be faced with many hardships as I grew up in a single parent home. After she was born, she was placed in foster care for 6 weeks. It was supposed to be 2 weeks, however her birth dad brought me to court for custody. Therefore, I took Zoe from the foster home to my home. Can you imagine?? Going through the grief and loss at the hospital and now here I was with my daughter, with no clue how to be a parent!
While I had her, we went to an audiologist since she didn’t pass her hearing test initially. We found out she had moderate-severe hearing loss in one ear and severe hearing loss in the other. The hearing loss was a result of a virus I contracted while I was pregnant (Cytomegalovirus).
Zoe’s birth father did eventually sign off his rights after 7 amazing and emotional weeks with her. When I had her, I knew I couldn’t let myself get attached- but how could I not?! She was gorgeous, happy and my baby girl. Having her as a single parent for 7 weeks also reinforced my decision that adoption was still the answer. I was impatient with her, I didn’t know what I was doing, and I didn’t want her shuffled between myself and her birth dad like I was between my parents. She deserved more than I could give her. A hard reality to face, but I knew I wasn’t capable.
"Therefore, I decided to sign off my rights a second time. This time it was so much harder to let her go. I did bond with her and it was a deep grief that I had never known."
She went to the home of a family I had chosen for her and they gave me weekly updates, which turned into monthly updates. After a few months, my social worker informed me that Zoe had become permanently deaf and the family felt they could no longer take care of her. They knew nothing of the Deaf world and didn’t have the tools to help her. So, Zoe went back to foster care. I was in college at this point.
I had another decision to make – is this my sign from God that I should take my baby girl home for good? Do I drop out of college? My social worker then provided me with deaf family profiles. I had 3 or 4 to choose from. I chose a family who has 3 hearing sons. The mom (Brandi) lost her hearing to spinal meningitis when she was 6, and the Dad (Tim) was born deaf. Zoe could have the best of both worlds – hear with a cochlear implant (if she chooses) or embrace the Deaf culture. She chose to embrace the Deaf culture, and I couldn’t be more proud.
Brandi has written an autobiography about her life growing up deaf in the hearing world, and how she was being groomed to become Zoe’s Mom. The first half of the book is about Brandi, the second half of the book is mine and Zoe’s adoption story. It is called Finding Zoe: A Deaf Woman’s Journey of Identity, Love and Adoption. It can be purchased at www.brandirarus.com or on Amazon.
In honor of Thanksgiving, we are asking the question - What have you been most grateful for throughout your adoption journey?
"I am grateful that I was given the gift of enduring heartache. I know it sounds funny saying heartache is a gift, but it taught me to become resilient, to be kind to others, and to always trust in the Lord. Who knew 12 years ago that my story would be in a book and touch so many lives!" - Jessica
Left photo: Brandi, myself, Adalynn (my 2nd daughter who will be 2 in January), and Zoe | Middle photo: Me and Zoe on my wedding day - she was my junior bridesmaid | Right photo: Myself, Adalynn and Zoe