In Chattanooga, Tennessee on a Friday night, the phone rang. Sarah and Ryan Russell locked eyes and held their breath. They asked the social worker on the other end to repeat the information several times. It was the news they had been waiting for. A birth family had chosen them and wanted to meet.
The Russells had been through quite an ordeal emotionally. With any adoption there are ups and down. They had been trying to get connected with a child for two and a half years. The couple had always been passionate about adoption and knew it would be part of their future. After having a biological child, Emily, they decided to proceed with the adoption process.
The journey felt like a roller coaster ride. There were seemingly endless interviews and home visits. It would be worth it if the void in their lives was filled. There were times of great disappointment. Any time they were passed over for another couple it felt as though they had been punched in the gut. Once they were almost on their way to pick up a child when the biological parents had a change of heart. Each failed opportunity ended with questions. What is wrong with us? Did we do something to upset them? Is our profile up to par? The questions played over and over again, being picked apart and analyzed. It felt like the ultimate sense of rejection. Family and friends tried to listen and reassure, but they couldn’t really understand. Any time Emily would mention the idea of a brother or sister, a weight pushed on their shoulders and the air became thick around them.
Sarah and Ryan felt they had been blessed in life and wanted to extend that to a child in need. Both were raised in two-parent homes and never had to do without. They wanted to pay that childhood experience forward. The couple always had a strong sense of empathy and respect for birth families.
Finally though, the call had come. Saturday morning, the Russells went to meet the baby’s family. It was a quiet and awkward meeting, but after several minutes everyone was crying. It was clear they all wanted what was best for the boy, Andrew. A profound sensitivity was felt for what the birth family must have been going through.
After the meeting, the adoption agency required a 24-hour window for all involved to be sure of their decisions. Then after the biological parents surrendered their rights, they had 72 hours to change their minds. Once that was over, the Russells were able to take the child home for a six month probationary period. In April, they were granted legal guardianship of Andrew and legally gave him their last name. Emily is thrilled to have a brother and is very protective of him.
Right now the future of the relationship between the birth and adoptive families is undecided. Currently, Sarah and Ryan are sending monthly photos to show he is doing well. It is important to them to honor the wishes of the birth family going forward. They will have continued contact in whatever capacity the first family is comfortable with.
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