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adopt a family

We Went to Adopt a Baby and Ended Up Being Adopted Ourselves

I didn’t want an open adoption. We were no strangers to the adoption process having “survived” our first adoption and we were comfortable with the fact that our oldest boy Eli’s birth family would have nothing to do with how he was going to be raised.

adopt a family

My head was filled with the stories of birth parents coming back for their child. I thought about the unrelenting chaos from the extended family, and the thought that our boy would have some sort of confusion about who his parents are.

The Connection

Then, the unthinkable happened. In the process of adopting our second boy, we ended up being adopting by an entire family. Huh? See, when we met the parents of Ervin, our youngest boy, we were struck by the incredibly difficult decision they were about to make.

In front of us sat two young parents who loved their boy with all of their heart. I could tell from the first time I met them, that this was an excruciating tough decision for them and it had weighed heavily on them for quite some time. Still, after a few good conversations (plus a thorough background check, home study, letters of reference, etc.) they said, “Do you want to take him back to the hotel for the night?” Our first night in LA: Boom! Baby-time.

It was that moment I knew we would forever be connected to both of them. I could feel the weight on their hearts; they wanted what was best for their son; however, they didn’t want to lose him all the same.

I have always considered myself brave. I survived puberty, braces, dating, marriage, divorce, a teen-age daughter, a teen-age daughter, a teen-age daughter, (catching a theme yet?), marriage again, a significant career pivot in my 40’s, months of horrible mind-altering fertilization drugs, months of in-vitro treatments with my wife (she was the trooper, not me), and a first adoption with a few ‘disruptions’ (a kind way to say ‘birthparents changed their minds at the last moment.’ We called them failures). Whew! That was a mouthful!

I repeat: I thought I was brave until I watched theses two young parents make the most difficult decision they could ever make: the decision to give their child a life that might be on a different trajectory than the one they could provide.

I can still feel the bellowing hug of Ervin’s dad, a man much taller than me, as he held onto me like we were long lost brothers. I can still hear the pain in the voices of the extended family when they tried so desperately to change the course Ervin’s parents were on. I can still sense the inner turmoil everyone connected to our situation felt, both in LA and at home, where dozens of family and friends were praying for our return with Ervin.

I believe from a distance, many people think adoptions are sort of sterile. Birth mother has child, adopting parents sign papers, birth mother is discharged, and new parents leave with adopted baby. The only complaint I usually hear is how long the adoption process takes. The reality is they are all a bit messy.

Please don’t get me wrong; the mess is joyful, but honestly more joyful a few months after the adoption has happened. In hindsight, we were blessed for having been caught up in the midst of the ‘do I let my boy go’ or ‘do I raise him myself’ decision. Wow! Who wants to make that decision?

Let me think of all of the people who were upset with Ervin’s parents when they decided to do this? Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Brothers, Sisters, neighbors, Great-Grandparents, friends of the family, and even people who just wanted to be in the midst of a very painful situation: basically everyone.

A Definition of Courage

we were adopted as a family

Courage is defined as “strength in the face of pain or grief.”

When I think about the love Ervin’s parents have for him, to gift him to us under overwhelming amounts of stress and pressure, I am still amazed at their bravery.

When I began to write this article, I asked Noel, Ervin’s other mother, if she was okay with my sharing our collective experience and her immediate response was, “Yes. If another birth mother or family can benefit from our story, you bet.” You see? Courage.

I would love to say that everyone came around immediately; however, such a big event in any family is tough to get over. Today, every member of our beautifully expanded family is completely committed to making this the best adoption experience possible for both of our boys. They call both of my boys, ‘their cousins, grandsons, and great grandsons.’ I am called ‘son’ by Ervin’s great grandmother and I am honored.

Last year, we flew Ervin to LA to spend two weeks with his entire family. We heard from many camps about ‘how dangerous’ our decision was and ‘it would be confusing’ for Ervin; however, looking back on it, it was a great experience for all involved.

A few weeks ago, my boys and I flew from Omaha, NE (our home) to Los Angeles to spend the entire weekend living in Ervin’s grandmother’s home, driving her car, and visiting with family members from everywhere in the LA area. Ervin calls his mother by nature, “Noel.” His grandma, “Emme.” Grandpa will always be “Pappa” and all of them we call “family.” We aren’t sure what Ervin will call Noel as he gains a better understanding of the adoption process; however, if he ends up calling her mom too, we’re okay with that.

5 Important Lessons Learned

So, looking back now, almost three years later, what have we learned?

  1. We Are Adopting the Entire Family
  2. We consider all of Ervin’s extended family, our family. We call them on holidays; we ‘tag’ them in Facebook pictures; we celebrate their birthdays; we text them almost daily; we ask them about their weeks; and we visit them when we can.

  3. The Importance of Sticking it Out
  4. It takes patience, trust, and faith in each other in dozens of ways. When tough words are exchanged in the beginning, let them go. There will be some harsh times while you are forging your path along this journey; persevere. In our situation, everyone wants the best for Ervin and that is truly a blessing.

  5. Don’t Let Fear Get in the Way
  6. I am asked about our adoptions almost weekly. Anyone who is new to our situation tends to ask questions like, “Aren’t you afraid of Ervin’s parents ‘taking’ him from you?” or “Why do you keep ‘in touch’ with his family so often?” When we explain how this is working out for everyone, people are usually a little bit stunned. Our advice? The more open, the better.

  7. Just Run With It!
  8. If you believe everything should be a ‘certain’ way, you probably don’t have kids yet. Families are so diverse today, it is important that you embrace the situation you are given. My wife says, “An open adoption is a state of mind. Just run with it, as it is a gift from God. If you are not so inclined to believe in God, just run with it….period.”

  9. Everyone Comes to Peace at Different Speeds
  10. Everyone comes to peace at different speeds. In this case, openness speeds that up.

    When I think of my first son’s family, they must wonder what is going on in his life. Is he doing well in school? How tall is he? Is he playing soccer? Basketball? Dancing? All of these questions are answered for Ervin’s extended family. I am never surprised when they know about something the boys are doing before I do, because my wife talks to them so often.

    I know every adoption situation is different and I am not an expert; however, for parents who are considering an adoption, lean into whatever situation comes your way. Be open. I would have never believed I would be sitting here three years later wishing both of my boy’s adoptions were open.

To this day, I am in love with our beautifully diverse family and we owe all of it to two young people who had to courage to create a new destiny for their child.

Julian Caldwell

Julian Caldwell

Julian Caldwell leads a team of fathers from around the world who are developing weekly content focusing on “52 Traits We Want In Our Children.” Julian is the father of three children, one adult daughter and two adopted boys. He spends his free time researching and writing on fatherhood, specifically how to encourage deeper connections with our kids. He and his wife Laurie, live in Council Bluffs, IA on a small acreage.
Feel free to follow him on:
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  • Beautifully written. Thanks so much for sharing your story! I think that there are so many people that can benefit from a post like this. Not everyone is exposed to adoption in their family, but many, many families have step or half, siblings, parents, extended family. The principles of communication and connection that you talk about in adoption could easily be used in those family situations as well!

  • Hi Julian, My family & I had the pleasure of meeting you on one of your trips to LA. Your wife was unable to make it that trip do to your other son was sick at home. Although I know both of the birth parents, I have been around Noel the most. In the beginning I to asked her a million questions on how she could give up her son to people that she didn’t really know ? Or how can she be sure that you & your wife would keep your word in continuing to let her be apart of his life? Noel was very confident on her choice knowing she was making the right decision after many coversations & meetings with you & your wife. She was very comfortable knowing you would be able to provide a great home for her baby. To be honest with you in the beginning I had my doubts as well, you hear off all the nightmares of families on both sides of adoption go through many heartaches through this process. After meeting you @ Ervin’s (EZ) first birthday party, I am confident that they made the right choice on choosing you & your wife to be his parents. When I see pictures on FB he looks like he is a very happy 3 yr old & that he has a great life. I am also glad you chose to continue to let Noel still be a part of his life as well. Hopefully this will encourage other families to consider adoption, there are a lot of children that need families & a lot of families that need children!!! Diane

    • OMG Diane, I am humbled by your response and feel fortunate that we have all rallied around a little man who will have MORE love in his life that he will be able to take! 🙂 Laurie and I look forward to seeing you all again very soon.

  • WOW! WOW! WOW! What a connection. I felt it as I read it. God will richly bless you as you inspire others and touch very special lives.

  • I am a birth mother to two beautiful daughters who are living with two wonderful adoptive families. I am happy to see so many people embrace adoption, I have been asked so many times why I do not fight to get my daughters back. That thought has never crossed my mind. My daughters are both happy and healthy, and have everything their hearts desire. Thank you for your sharing your adoption experiences.

  • So beautiful. I was actually adopted as a baby and it’s never been a point of insecurity for me. I’ve always felt like I belonged in my family. Adopting is a beautiful thing.

  • I think adoption is such a great thing to do, but a sensitive issue as well & you need to handle it with care to make sure all is well. I think you are doing a wonderful job here & thank you so much for sharing your great experiences with us.

  • Amazing experience! The more I learn about adopting the more aware and open I get about this! It is less a taboo or something.. I dont know.. Im just happy about how happy you are

    • That is just beautiful! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. When I write something, I hope it touches someone and hearing it has, makes my day! All the best Julian

    • Doran, if you would like to talk about Adoption, please reach out to us anytime. We understand where you are and are praying for the procedures to be successful! If you need a perspective, give me five minutes! 🙂 I will convince you that Adoption can be an AWESOME experience.

  • Wow, you are such amazing people! You have big hearts and courage to go on to this journey. Lucky all of you to find each other!

  • You’ve got a really inspiring story there. Hoping that there are many people like you who have big hearts for other people!

  • That’s such a sweet story. You guys are doing an amazing thing. I think adoption is beautiful too. Very nice to see that you still keep a connection with them too.

  • Wow this story almost or did bring tears to my eyes. These people are such amazing parents who love their child enough to let someone else do what they know they can’t do. You are both amazing to feel the pain of the parents and understand why they had to let him go. It is such a honorable thing to let them still have a connection to their lil one. This is indeed something everyone should read.

  • This is one of the sweetest things I’ve read lately. Number three can’t be more true, since this is what usually pulls people back whenever the thought of being taken away arises. I hope you guys will be more blessed in the future as well as the extended family members.

  • I am so glad everything is working out for you. I think I would be worried about the same thing, parents taking the child away, so it is great you can still interact with them and feel comfortable 🙂

  • this post really touched my heart. when i find my future husband it is my intention to adopt and this was just such a encouragement for me. what a beautiful story

  • Every story is different and special on their own way. I am glad that you have such a huge heart to give all these people the love that they so much needed. What a lovely read, but quite emotional too. I wish happiness for all of you.

    • I am glad this article is touching people in a great way. Laurie and I are blessed and have grown our family in a very fun way. I spoke to Noel yesterday and she again only hoped that this message reaches adopting parents and mothers who are thinking about the tough decision to choose adoption. We are now trying to engage other fathers and mothers to think differently about parenthood through our work at GetConnectDad.

      I appreciate you taking the time to make a comment. All the best to you and yours Julian

About Author

Julian Caldwell

Julian Caldwell

Julian Caldwell leads a team of fathers from around the world who are developing weekly content focusing on “52 Traits We Want In Our Children.” Julian is the father of three children, one adult daughter and two adopted boys. He spends his free time researching and writing on fatherhood, specifically how to encourage deeper connections with our kids. He and his wife Laurie, live in Council Bluffs, IA on a small acreage.
Feel free to follow him on:
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram