In March of 2015 my husband and I were chosen by an expectant mother to be the parents of her little girl who was to be born later that year. Of course we were very excited, but we also knew that we needed to be careful. Even though we had been chosen, nothing would be official until adoption papers had been signed after the baby’s birth. She wasn’t due until the end of August, and this meant that we had five months to develop a relationship with this amazing woman who was expecting a baby.

Because we knew that things could change in an instant, we chose to make those five months all about our relationship with her, and to mostly leave the baby out of things. We never, ever, wanted her to feel any kind of pressure from us to go through with the adoption if she changed her mind.

Of course we talked about the baby. Together we chose a name, and she gave us updates on her doctor’s appointments, sent us pictures of the ultrasounds, and told us funny stories about the way Baby Girl would wiggle inside of her. Don’t get me wrong, we fell madly in love with Baby Girl, but we also deeply loved her mommy. We always made it very clear that she was the baby’s mother, and that until an adoption officially took place, we were there to be her friends and part of her support system.

Early on, I found a quote that resonated with me, and my husband and I made it our mantra for our approach to the relationship we were developing with our new friend:

“When we give from a place of love, rather than a place of expectation, more usually comes back to us than we could have ever imagined.” – Susan Jeffers

We decided that our job was to simply love her. She needed love more than anything during that difficult time in her life, and if she decided to parent this baby instead of place her with us, we would be okay. We chose to give from a place of love, rather than giving out of an expectation that she would place her baby with us when it was all said and done, and we never regretted it.

Over those five months, we developed an incredible bond with her. She came and visited us, we went and visited her. We talked multiple times throughout the day. We laughed together and we cried together. She became part of our family and we planned on having a beautiful, open adoption that included not only her, but her extended family as well. Until one day, complications arose with the baby’s father. Per state law, he was required to consent to the adoption, and he made it very clear that he would not consent.

We believe in father’s rights, and chose not to fight him. Instead, we all continued to pray that somehow he would change his mind. Unfortunately, he never did.

August came, and it was time for Baby Girl to arrive. Because we had become so close over the months, I was invited to fly out and attend the baby’s birth. It was such an honor to be in that delivery room, and to see the face of the little girl who had captured our hearts. She was named the name we had chosen together back in April, and I spent two days loving on her and her mommy before I had to return home to my family.

I cried. I cried a lot for what could have been. But, just as we told ourselves we would be, my husband and I were okay. We hadn’t ever let ourselves “expect” that we would be bringing Baby Girl home. We hoped it would work out, but in adoption, it’s never a guarantee. Because of the approach we had taken to just love and support the expectant mom, our relationship did not end when the adoption fell apart. Instead, we have remained close. We still talk almost daily. We FaceTime and send pictures. We were excited when she even brought Baby Girl out and stayed with us for a week in the Fall. We soaked up every opportunity to snuggle the baby and spoil both her and her mama.

We may not be Baby Girl’s parents, but we have still become family. We gained more than we thought possible: valuable life lessons born from heartache, inner strength we didn’t know we had, the ability to expand our hearts in a way we never expected, and, of course we still added to our family. Just in a different way.