November was National Adoption Awareness Month. How many of you have been touched by adoption? Have you known a co-worker or a friend from church that has adopted a child? Often, we hear of a “step-parent” that may have adopted the child of their new spouse. We also hear of couples who chose International adoptions and adopt infants from orphanages in countries such as Ethiopia, Russia, Guatemala, China, and Haiti among others. We may know of families who chose to look at foster care. Foster care involves caring for children whose parents are unable to care for them. This may lead to permanent adoption later. Foster parents may take in siblings all at the same time to try to keep brothers and sisters together. Jamie Lee Curtis wrote a book entitled, “Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born.” This is a picture book about adoption for young children.
Today, I am going to share my family’s journey of adoption with you.
My husband and I were unable to have children of our own. We investigated advanced fertility treatments and decided that we did not want to do that. So, we began to investigate (well, mainly me. My husband did not know if was all about the adoption process or not) different adoption agencies. This was about 18 years ago…. The internet was still kind of a new concept…. I purchased several books about adoption. I began to research. I kept a notebook with all of my notes about each agency including the cost, what requirements the agency had, did they have an affiliation with any particular religion, where they were located, how quickly I could get a baby through them (or if I could even get an infant or would it be a toddler?) and what kind of adoptions they did such as open vs closed. I sent many emails, made many phone calls, researched online and in books. I spent hours and hours and hours looking at different agencies.
Most of the agencies required you to fill out a small two or three page pre-application and send it to them. After narrowing it down to several agencies in our region, we filled out a few pre-applications. I remember having an interview with an agency that was in Norfolk, Nebraska where we resided at the time. Throughout the interview, we were encouraged about using them until they began to share a story about a young birthmother and father that were high school sweethearts that became pregnant and chose to place their child for adoption. The adoptive parents were a little bit older and became like a big brother and sister to the birthparents. For my husband and I, that was just too close of a relationship for us. We did not feel comfortable having that kind of a relationship with the birthparents. We had seen too many made-for-TV movies about the crazy birthparents who came back to kidnap the child after the fact. So we chose not to use that adoption agency.
We looked at another agency based out of Kansas City. They required you to attend an educational seminar, but it was going to be many months until their next one was available. It was pretty much like we were on a waiting list. This was very frustrating; so I kept looking.
I then found Colorado Christian Services in Denver, Colorado. It was quite far from where we lived. It was about nine hours away. But I decided to call anyway. They also required you to attend an educational seminar, but they had one coming up soon. We enrolled and made the arrangements to go. We were also able to stay for a few days with some friends that lived in the area.
Rick and I went to the seminar, and it was the most wonderful experience. We learned about the process of adoption. We met social workers and counselors. We visited with birthparents. We were told no matter what, DO NOT watch made-for-TV movies or shows about adoption because they have sensationalized the very few bad stories or outcomes that happen. We learned that these stories just really don’t happen. We met adopted children that were now adults and could hear their stories. We decided that this was the place that God had chosen to bring us a child. It was the perfect fit for us!
We took home a 3-inch three ring binder of paperwork to start this process. Many times, over the next few months as I began working on this, I felt angry and frustrated that WE were having to do all of this just to get put “on the list” for a baby! We had to have criminal background checks with both state and federal agencies including the FBI with fingerprint checks; we had to show financial records for several years proving we could afford a child; we had to show that we had $20,000 in the bank. We had to have medical physicals. We had to have letters of references from elders, ministers, bosses, and friends. We had to put together a portfolio of ourselves so that we could be “chosen” by the birthparents. We had to provide all our social, medical, and family histories to the birthparents to see if we were acceptable to them.
As I would go to my work as a pediatric physician assistant, I would see young moms bring in their children. I could see the ones that were not happy to have a young child in tow that was sick again. I could see the moms that cared more about their hair and nails than they did their little girl who was hurting from yet another ear infection. I could see the young mom who thought it was fun to dress their little boy up in the cool clothes from Dillard’s and thought of him more as her little toy than as a gift from God. These scenes would make me frustrated and angry that I was having to make a “brochure” about my husband and I to be picked to adopt a baby. That I had to have my fingerprints checked by the FBI. That I had to get a 2ndmortgage on my house to have money in the bank to do this when others could just get pregnant, pop out a kid, be on Medicaid and go right on down the road….
We attended the educational seminar in about March of 2001. We finally were able to get all our documents in order, our biographies written, our finances in order, and our portfolios done and make it on the list in September. We had been told that once we made it on the list, it might take 12-24 months before we would be matched with a birth family. So, now, we were ready to hurry up and wait….
On October 2, 2001, while I was a work, I received a phone call from our social worker at Colorado Christian Services, saying that we had been chosen by a birth mother and father! I couldn’t believe it! Could this really be happening? The social worker was going to send us their information to see if would agree to the match. Everyone at my office was so happy for us! I had to call my husband! He was in shock and awe as well!
We found out that the birthmother was 22 years old and was in good health. She had not had any pre-natal care, but she did not smoke, drink or use drugs. The birthfather was 32 and in good health as well. They were not married to each other and just did not feel that they could keep a baby at this time. They had chosen adoption over abortion and had gone to CCS. They had chosen us because of our education levels, our love of traveling, and our similar physical characteristics to themselves.
The birth mom went for her prenatal visit. She had an ultrasound. IT WAS A BABY GIRL! She was in good health and was due about the middle of November! Oh, my! That was only a few short weeks! WE had NOTHING! We had to do some quick shopping for all the essentials including car seat, stroller, baby bed, pack-n-play, diaper, clothes, etc. CRAZY! (Amazon Prime click-and-ship was not a thing yet!)
On Thursday, November 8th, I was scheduled to work the evening shift at our local Urgent Care. My husband was also at work. I got a phone call in the late afternoon telling me that the birthmother had gone for her OB appointment. The doctor had advised her that she was in labor and that she should go home and pack a bag and head to the hospital. So, the caseworker was calling me to let me know that the baby was on its way! Could this really, really be happening NOW? After all this time?
Rick and I both rushed home to get the red S10 Blazer packed and head to Denver (remember we had a 9-hour drive to get there.) We had to plan to stay in Denver for about two weeks. (We had to be there long enough for all the adoption paperwork to be filled out and signed and then go through the state of Colorado and State of Nebraska prior to getting permission to leave with the baby.) We were packed to the brim and were speeding down the interstate headed to Colorado.
We were on the interstate going around 75 or 80 MPH right outside of Kearney, Nebraska. A deer ran right in front of our Blazer and we hit it head on! Rick did not have time to swerve and try to miss it. And even if he did, I am not sure that he could have because we were surrounded by semis. I immediately started to cry. “We are not going to make it!” Our car was not drivable. The whole front end was smashed! Our radiator was busted! What in the world were we going to do now?
A tow truck took us into Kearney. The town was small enough that there were no rental car places open that late at night. So now what? We went to a local restaurant to try to figure out what to do next. Rick’s parents lived about an hour away. We tried to get ahold of them to see if we could borrow a car from them. Their phone was busy! They did not have call waiting and they did not have a cell phone (remember this was in 2001)! So, we did the next best thing. We called a friend and asked them to go over to Rick’s parents house to knock on their door and ask them to get off the phone so that we could call them and let them know our situation!
Later we found out that it was a miracle that we did not flip the Blazer when we hit the deer going 80MPH. The deer went up under the front end of our vehicle and out the back and was demolished by the semi-trucks. All in all, we lost three hours of time with the accident and waiting on the mini-van that we borrowed from his parents and then transferring everything over from the now crashed Blazer.
Finally, on the road again! The birthmother was still in labor. She had actually said that we could be in the delivery room with her while our baby was being born. I did not know quite what I thought about this. I, after all, had not actually ever met her. I had talked with her on the phone. I had read her social and medical history and that of the birth father. I had seen pictures of her, the birth father, and their other children. But I had not ever met either one. I did not know how comfortable I felt experiencing this moment with her. How would she feel about this strange woman coming into her delivery room and snatching the baby she had just birthed out of her arms? I know that she told me that she was a surrogate mom and carrying this baby for someone else. I still didn’t feel quite right about being in the same room.
We arrived at the hospital about 2:30 am CST on Friday morning. We called our social worker on the phone. She had just tried to reach the birth mother by phone but did not have any luck. We then parked our borrowed, packed to the brim mini-van and made our way to the labor and delivery floor of St. Anthony’s hospital in Denver, Colorado. As we were sitting in the chairs waiting, we saw a nurse go hurriedly by with a newborn baby. We would later realize that this tiny baby girl was our precious little one. We had arrived at the hospital right as our baby was being born! She was all cleaned up and wrapped and in our arms when she was about 10 minutes old. My heart was about to burst! Even though my husband had first thought he could not love a child that was not biologically “ours,” that all changed the moment that small precious bundle was placed in our arms. We had no doubt in our minds that she belonged with us. God had made these plans for us. This may not have been what we had in mind when we started our lives together with a hope and dream of becoming parents. This may not have been the journey that we would have chosen to travel if we had been allowed to “choose the road.” But God was in control.
God is always in control of the situation. We must let Him. If we would not have allowed Him to take the lead, we would not have adopted Alexis. Or her younger sister, Mikaela. We would not have been able to minister to other couples through infertility, pregnancy loss, and adoption. We would not have grown to understand about Scriptures such as Ephesians 1: 3-6:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us[b]for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
We are the adopted sons and daughters of The King! That is HUGE! We are heirs of the Father, we are joint heirs with the Son. We are Family with God the Father and Jesus the Son. The wonderful avenue of adoption is truly a gift to many families. It is an opportunity for birth families to choose a better home for their child. It allows them the choice of new opportunities and better situations. It gives them the option to choose life. This process also gives adoptive parents an opportunity to make their families complete by adding a child that they can love, nurture, care for, provide for and bless as their own.
Our story is not yet complete. We have had many trials and ups and downs throughout our journey. We had snafus with paperwork with the state of Colorado and Nebraska. We had difficulties locating all the parties to sign paperwork. We had visits with social workers in our home after a toilet backed up and calling Poison Control after the baby got into some chemicals she shouldn’t have. We finally paid off the second mortgage and unsecured loans to finance the adoption after 10+ years. We have dealt with ear infections and ear surgeries and ADHD and other mental health concerns. We have dealt with school issues. Life is not perfect. But even if these beautiful girls were “biologically” ours, who’s to say we would not have had similar or worse difficulties.
Bottom line. They are ours. They may not be our flesh and blood. But Alexis and Mikaela are the daughters of Rick and Charity Goben.
Not flesh of my flesh, nor bone of my bone, but still miraculously my own. Never forget for a single minute, you didn’t grow under my heart but in it.
Fleur Conkling Heyliger
By Charity Goben
Charity has been married to her husband, Rick, for 21 years. They worship at the Garriott Rd. church of Christ in Enid, OK where Rick serves as a deacon and Charity is actively involved in teaching Bible classes for women and children. Rick and Charity have been blessed with two teenage daughters through adoption. Charity has been a Physician Assistant for 20 years.