November is National Adoption Month! In celebration of the wonderful adoptive families in America, we asked one mom, Cynthia Gismegian, to share her adoption story.
Tell us a little bit about your child! How old are they and where are they from?
My daughter, Lindsay, will be two years old in December. She is sweet, kind, smart, loving and not afraid of anything (I could take a little less of her adventurous side). She was born in the Portland, Ore. area and I was there for her birth.
The birth mother asked me to be with her during labor and I did the first skin to skin, first feeding and bath. We co-parented for the first 24 hours, before Lindsay was placed in my care and I took her home (our hotel) from the hospital. She has been with me ever since.
When and why did you start your adoption process?
If you ask anyone what I wanted to be when I grew up, they would all agree my answer was “a mom.” Right before my father became sick and ultimately passed away, he asked me why I wasn’t a mom yet, saying, “You will make a great mom, don’t let anything stop you.” It was those final words that gave me encouragement to start my family.
I had always planned to both have biological children and adopt—let’s just say I always had two plan A’s. I perused biological first as I felt it would be easier, but that was not my path.
Could you talk a little bit about your adoption process? What was the hardest part? The easiest part?
I’ll start with the easiest part—saying yes to the match. I received a call from the adoption agency and within seconds I knew that the baby girl they were talking about was going to be my girl. This was Nov. 17, she was born Dec. 8 (those three weeks flew by).
The hardest part for me was finding an adoption agency that would accept me. I am single, over 40 and was looking for a newborn. Everywhere I turned I was told it was not possible to have a newborn. I knew this was most likely going to be my only child, and I wanted the opportunity to parent from the beginning. I felt defeated until I made one last phone call and after a very short application process, I found an organization that I knew would help me become a parent.
Then came the hard work: home studies, paperwork, more paperwork, making a profile (something that helps the birth parents learn about you) and a video. From going active with the agency to being matched took 11 months and nine of those months were just spent completing all of the paperwork. Finalizing the adoption itself took another eight or so months. That also had its ups and downs, but I knew deep down it would all work out.
Was there anything that surprised you about the adoption process?
I went with an open adoption (which means you have contact with the birth family). I knew I wanted to know the birth parents and figured I would just send photos, letters, etc., but I am surprised at how much Lindsay’s birth mother and I are in touch—she is an extension of our family.
I have to say what surprises everyone the most is when they learn Lindsay is adopted, she looks and acts a lot like me.
How would you counsel someone who is considering whether or not adoption is for them?
I actually have the privilege of counseling other perspective families who are considering adopting with the agency I used.
When talking with families, I’ve found that their biggest concern, as was mine, is if the birth family changes their mind. It almost happened to me, but you have to have faith in the process and your child is out there. The path may be long and emotional, but it’s your path.
Finances are another large concern—there is no way to predict how much it will cost in the end. Every state has different laws. The most important thing families can do to mitigate the cost is to ask questions of the agency and interview attorneys that make it a priority to keep cost down when possible.
Lastly, I try to set expectations. If you are looking specifically for a blond, blue-eyed boy with fair skin that favors your family, you need to know that is not realistic. You need to be open-minded. There are so many children that need a forever home. Look in your heart and decide what that means to you.
What is your favorite part about being a parent?
Saying prayers every night with Lindsay and hearing her try to repeat everything I say and then right before tucking her into bed, saying I love you, only to hear, “I love you too.”
Looking for more adoption stories? Read about National PTA Executive Director Nathan Monell’s experience.