Adoption after cancer
We knew we would adopt, so we felt no rush to go active with our adoption agency. Unlike many infertile couples who try and try to get pregnant, we were in a different boat.
From the day we said our “I dos,” we knew we could not conceive a baby naturally because of my colon cancer at age 17.
After four years into married life, we started to think about building a family.
The Adoption Path for Us
Although we’d planned to adopt all along, we were surprised by all of the adoption options. There was international, domestic, foster-to-adopt and private. It was all a foreign language to us, but something about international adoption gripped my heart.
We began researching agencies and talking to friends. I soon learned about country restrictions on international adoptions for cancer survivors. But, I landed on Ethiopia, and they didn’t appear to have a cancer survivor restriction. Soon, my heart was determined one day we’d adopt from there - I envisioned us as a multicultural family raising a beautiful dark-skinned baby.
Unfortunately, a surprising stage I colon cancer diagnosis came my way later that year after a routine, follow-up colonoscopy. (I didn’t have any signs or symptoms.) Because I’d just technically been diagnosed with cancer again, things changed.
Many adoption agencies want the adoptive parents to be at least 5-years “cancer free.” Our plans were interrupted, to say the least.
Healing and Trying Again
After the second diagnosis of cancer, I was angry at God and frustrated not only to be facing cancer again but to have our adoption plans put on hold. I couldn’t understand why the gut punch.
But they say time heals all wounds, and while the scars weren’t invisible, the pain did ease as months went on. One day, I realized maybe we should consider something else. With Ethiopia out of the picture, I began looking into domestic adoptions.
I found a domestic adoption agency without a “cancer clause” - as long as I was one year cancer free and my doctor wrote a note saying I had a clean bill of health - they were willing to work with us. They were a large adoption agency, but they happened to be headquartered near Kansas City. It felt meant to be.
We took the paperwork and began praying about it. I soon had a sense that Mike would know when it was time to begin. For months, he didn’t say anything.
But one September afternoon as we were driving to visit our newly-born niece, I brought up adoption and shared I sensed God saying he would know when to begin the process.
“September,” Mike said. A few weeks prior during a quiet time, Mike had felt God whisper “September” to him when asking about adoption.
With wide eyes, realizing we were already two weeks into the month, we returned home after that weekend and got the ball rolling.
The Paperwork Process
Friends who mentored us in all things adoption made sure we prepared for the paperwork process. We bought a file folder and began chipping away at each form.
Being organized and dealing with a flood of medical bills prepared me for the abundance of paperwork. All throughout the fall, we took small steps.
When asking for our preferences, I indicated I preferred a child who wasn’t our race because Ethiopia prepared my heart for a multiracial family. Plus, there was a sad, but realistic, need for U.S.-based families open to adopting “non-white” children. We were all in.
As we filled out paperwork, we applied for grants and scholarships. We received a family building grant from the Samfund to cover the cost of our home study. Once we announced our news on my blog in November, many friends and family blessed us with donations toward our adoption.
“God funds adoption when he calls you to adopt,” our friends’ advice echoed in our minds. They were proving to be right, and the generosity of so many blew us away and helped us get ready.
Christmas Gifts for Baby B
According to the estimated timetables our adoption agency gave us, the soonest we would have a child was May. We were excited to enter a new chapter of life, but we were also very comfortable and in no rush. May sounded great.
Although Mike and I were getting used to the idea of going from a family of two to three, our parents were eager and excited about our news. Soon, our spare bedroom had a crib and dresser in it. During Christmas, the future “Baby Burgess” received bottles and baby toys.
We tucked it all away in a corner expecting to use it later down the line.
We didn’t think we would be opening the bottle or getting the bed ready just a few weeks later.
The January text that kickstarted our adoption
It was a dark, cold January night. We ventured out to the hospital to visit our friends from life group who’d just had a baby. We arrived at the perfect timing - feeding time.
We waited in the birthing center’s waiting room until they were ready. As I sat there looking around at baby posters and flyers, something didn’t feel right.
I knew our paperwork process was almost over, and we were going “active” with our agency any day - pregnant birth mothers were about to see our profile and consider us as future parents. I was mentally preparing myself to sit in another waiting room when our child was born, but I couldn’t fathom it.
“I can’t picture us doing this - sitting here and it’s our baby back there,” I told Mike as we waited. He agreed - something felt off.
Our friend’s “new dad” smile broke our pondering as he waved at us down the hallway. We headed to their room and soon our arms became full with their new bundle of joy. I heard my phone vibrating in my coat pocket, it was across the room, but I ignored it until we left.
While walking back into the cold and toward the car, I checked my phone and read a life-changing text message. Good friends were asking us to meet before church the next day… there was a baby who needed a home.
The 3-Week Whirlwind
We met with our friends and learned the story - their friend was taking care of his niece. She was three months old and lived in our city. Her birth mom intended to raise her but needed help. Her brother, the baby’s uncle, had peace from God about finding a family to adopt her.
We’d immediately come to mind.
Our friends were nervous to share this with us, knowing the opportunity was not at all what we’d prepared for. The baby was local. She was already 3 months old. There were personal connections and friends involved.
Yet it felt so right.
The eerie feeling in the hospital waiting room. The happenstance of having just completed our paperwork. And, the news that the little girl was biracial. It all added up.
We gave an initial “yes” that morning - we would be open to exploring the process. We didn’t want to get our hopes up, so we took the next steps with caution.
The next few weeks, we rode the adoption story roller coaster. We faced the same questions that come up in most adoptions: Did the birth mom choose us? Is this going to fall through? Is this really happening? Are we ready?
But as each bend and twisty turn of events came, the details managed to work out and plans locked into place.
The day we received final confirmation - we were adopting this 3-month old little girl - our profile went active with our adoption agency. We immediately called them to take it down and let them know: we’d found our baby.
Fortunately, the agency was all lined up and they reclassified our case to a “private” adoption. They lined up the social workers, lawyers and appointments both we, and the birth mom, needed to see the adoption through.
From the January night we received the text, to the day we brought our daughter home, it was three weeks - the last day in January. Much, much sooner than when we were expecting.
As we cuddled our baby and held her tight for many weeks that followed, I shook my head at God’s amazing plan. Our beautiful bundle of joy had been born in September.
I dream of something like this happening to me.
Our adoption story is one of many reasons my faith has survived hard things. I write to encourage you that the same can be true for your life.
Each week, I share stories to show why faith is way better than doubt. Can I email you on Monday?