This is my story, at the time of writing it, there is not a happy ending. What there is, is a soul-crushing broken heart.
What there also is, is a fierce desire to advocate for change in the adoption industry laws as they are not in favor of the adoptive parent. If you have experienced a disruption, you know this. It is brutal, heart-breaking and can be financially and emotionally catastrophic.
My journey started ten years ago, when I struggled with infertility. This is an important piece of the story, as this is what leads most people down the adoption path. If you have struggled with this issue, you know it is brutal and heartbreaking and soul crushing. We will focus this story on what happened after the infertility.
During my adoption journey, I have had more missteps, frauds, heartbreaks and scams than one person could imagine. Truly.
What I can assure you is that this story is true, it is how I experienced it and unfortunately as I come out and share my story, I have heard many others that are not too dissimilar. This is wrong, and it needs to change, period.
I jokingly refer to myself as an expert not because I have any special credentials in this area, or a degree that pertains to this, but because I have experienced the heart-shattering experience of putting your heart and soul into something, and every penny you have, setting up a nursery, spending every last dime you have on baby items, and getting your hopes up that your dream of being a parent will actually be coming to light. I have four times now, sold the majority of “said” baby items on Craig’s List for pennies on the dollar and had to explain to perfect strangers in your home why you are selling an unopened Bug-A Boo for a fraction of the cost.
At the time of writing this article, I have invested (rather lost) approx. $77,000. All of which was paid because there was a promise of a baby and a happy ending. Promises from social workers and lawyers that “although there is no guarantee” this pretty much looks like a for sure thing. Naturally these same people immediately jump to “an adoption contract is not enforceable” the second there is a shift and it is clear you will not be bringing home a baby.
Now, if you are not familiar with adoption, you may want to judge some of these choices in this story. Thinking, why would someone engage in a situation with drugs, or a woman with a past criminal record? To this I ask the question, where do you think babies that people are giving up come from?
Of course not in all cases, but in many, the people that can not parent a child are in the situations I mention. In most every situation, I have used some of the best lawyers and adoption agencies. I am a smart woman, I do not meet these woman in chat rooms, on social media. I have gone through the proper channels, with contracts and agreements and still, disaster. The situations I have described are what most people I have ever met on this path are presented with.
After swallowing the hard pill that I would not be able to have my own children due to massive fibroid tumors, I decided to try adoption to start a family. At the time, I was 36 years old (now 47) and had just undergone multiple surgeries for the fibroids. After the last surgery, one day while trying to distract my mind during an MRI, I decided to count the times I had been to the Dr. that year. It was 45. Most of which you are poked, prodded or biopsied. I had exercised most options, even more radical treatments like a uterine embolization (SUPER PAINFUL, B.T.W.) At this stage, my tumors had grown to the size of a honeydew melon and I was told that my overall health was in danger and they needed to be removed. I had a major surgery at UCSF on Halloween night, that removed said tumors, and I saw them. They were the size of a honeydew melon.
I had also gone through IVF, giving myself shots every day for a month, egg harvesting, and was excited, after this surgery to try and get pregnant. Unfortunately, the egg harvesting was done weeks prior to this surgery, so the Dr. could only get to one ovary, because the tumors were in the way. After recovering from the surgeries, I tried for four months to get pregnant and eventually, two of the tumors returned so I was not able to use my eggs or get pregnant.
This is when I started my adoption journey. I wish I had words to explain the hum the buzz, the empty feeling inside of your soul that exists when you want a child but can’t have one. Some days, while out on a hike with friends, I would break down in tears as this was something I desperately wanted. It has been almost 11 years since the first time that happened, and the tears have not stopped.
Around this time, I had gone to volunteer in Haiti, after the earthquake. My heart was cracked wide open and I fell madly in love with this baby girl at the Faith and Love In Action Orphanage. she was 18-months old at the time and had been found wandering the streets of Haiti for approx. 21 days on her own. Her little body was eaten up by scrapes, bug bites and she was tiny and malnourished. Her smile on the other hand could light up an entire city. She was magnificent. I tried very hard to adopt her. Three different times, the most recent being 18 months ago. It was not possible due to the laws surrounding victims of disaster and reunification with the parents one day.
More hikes, more tears. One day I was whining to a friend and I literally said, “I wish I could just find a baby in a basket.” Soon after I was presented with an opportunity for a private adoption. It was a friend, of a friend, of a friend who knew a woman, whose sister in Texas worked with a woman on a school lunch program……if you have ever been down the adoption path, you know this story is not too uncommon.
The birth mom was on drugs and was being sent to jail upon the birth. I researched exposure, talked to dozens of people, interviewed neonatal specialists and talked with parents that had been in this position. I decided to move forward. The details were unclear about what drugs and as the due date approached it seemed that more than I was initially told were involved. When I was told 72-hours prior to birth that she thought she was going into labor, but it turned out it was a cocaine overdose and was sent home, this was my “line”. Sadly, I opted out and more and more tears.
It took me a year or two to get over these situations. At this time, I decided to move to New York to follow my dreams, one of the most important, to become a mom. After much research, I decided that since I was getting a bit older, perhaps a newborn was not the best idea, that an International Adoption was the best solution. I contracted with European Adoption Consultants: https://www.bbb.org/us/oh/strongsville/profile/adoption-agencies/european-adoption-consultants-inc-0312-11001631#overview
I went through the entire process, paid the $7,500 deposit and spent about a year in the treacherous home study process (I get to call it that, as I have now done it four times). If you have done this, you may agree, in my opinion, this is one of the most invasive, demeaning things you can subject yourself to. Aside from all of the Dr. visits, having to visit a therapist, blood tests, drug tests, urine tests and a deep dive into your family history. Then, they send someone to your home, to question you about basically everything. They look through your drawers, medicine cabinet, under your sink (to ensure you have a fire extinguisher) and then question your ability to be a parent. In addition, there are about 85 pieces of paperwork, FBI fingerprints, and letters required from 5 of your friends stating why you will be a good parent. Nothing is transferable from agency to agency, so you start from scratch if you have a disruption or the agency goes out of business. You also make a photo book, that in my opinion was also completely demeaning (but necessary) where you need to show very specific photos of your life, sprinkled with just the right amount of different races, and children.
The adoption industry is brutal. Period. I am now on my 5th epic fail. 7th if you count the first two. I have experienced pretty much every horrific experience you could imagine. There is a dark underbelly to this industry. The laws are not in favor of the adoptive parent. I have been handed babies that I watched be born, I have waited at hospitals for five hours, then told the baby had no heartbeat, all of which were frauds, and the moms get away with the money and keeping the baby.
During the last social worker visit to my New York home, I was told “in confidence” by the social worker that she did not believe that EAC Agency was being honest with me, telling me that I would get my child in a year or two. She said there were cases of “married” couples (I share this fact, as it is increasingly more difficult when you are single to adopt) that had been waiting 4–5 years for a baby from Honduras and she felt they were giving me false information. I naturally did not want to get the social worker in trouble but immediately went back to the agency, asked about this claim. Determined it was true. Asked for the $7,500 back. That request was declined. They were shut down by Homeland Security months later for fraudulent adoption issues.
I was devastated. I was struggling financially to try and start a business. This was every penny I had, plus whatever VISA and Master Card would sponsor 😉
It took a while to get through this, you guessed it more tears. More money, more home studies. I then decided to go with IAC-Independent Adoption Center. I scraped together every cent I had, and by scraped, I mean learned that rent was not “technically” due until the 10th of each month, without penalty, maxed every credit card I could get, and went without new clothes, shoes, make up and most non-essential items for years.
Things were looking good. I had paid my $16,500, had re-done the photo book, asked my friends and family for more letters of recommendation, and did the 85 pages of paperwork and was told my “match” would happen any day. I had my Kate Spade diaper bag packed and ready to go in the closet, the nursery set up, for the second time, and my heart filled with hope and joy….bursting with anticipation.
At this time, I was working directing a film called Influencer and was in California for three weeks. Upon returning in mid-Feb. 2017, I was greeted by a massive stack of mail. In going through it, at 1:45 am, I came across a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy notice. It was like one of those cartoons where you rub your eyes, and there is a squeak, or windshield wipers.
I read it over and over and over and over. Being the optimist, I am, I picked up the phone, called my adoption consultant to see what this meant. No answer. Sent an email. To sum it up, not only did they close the doors, take 3,300+ people’s money (I personally gave them $16,500), they abandoned the offices, medical records and every single piece of paperwork you had to do, with deep and personal family information in the records. To top it off I was one of 786 (you may need to fact check that number, but it is close) that due to a computer “glitch” was not notified by email about this closure. You can read more here: https://www.insideedition.com/headlines/21489-heartbroken-families-demand-answers-after-adoption-agency-abruptly-closes-im-never-going-to-have-a
I was not suicidal, but I def. did not want to go on. It took me two weeks to function normally. I could get out of bed, walk my dog, brush my teeth, sometimes eat, and that was it. I have never (up until then) felt a pain so immense. It was crippling. I suffered, my friends suffered, my family suffered, my work suffered, my finances suffered. Two weeks later, one of my best friends of 26 years had her fiancé drop dead suddenly, at 40, with no previous medical conditions. I had to get up, I had to shower, she needed me, and I threw myself into being the best possible friend and support you could be for the coming months.
It took me two years to “try again” the pain was so deep that even to say the word adopt made my entire body sting. I declared to myself, on New Year’s going into 2019, while making my vision board for the coming year, that I was not going to let these terrible experiences dictate my future and that I was brave enough to try again.
I put together a plan and decided I would interview two agencies and one lawyer and make the best decision. I had no money to do this, with the past failures. I called the first agency and literally wanted to vomit. The “social worker” speak enraged me. Don’t get me wrong, these are in most cases fantastic people, but when they say things like “you must be having some feelings about this” it sickens me, given what I have been through. Keep in mind, at this stage, I had been wronged and extorted by two adoption agencies. I found a lawyer, made a call, she apologized for taking a day to get back to me, as she explained, she had “five adoptions the previous day”. BAM! This was my path.
I was matched to a birth mom who lived in Georgia and she was due in five months.
This adoption disrupted. If you do not know what that term means, it is not good. In my particular case, after supporting this birth mom for five months, caring for her other three children, flying interstate and attending 11 doctor appointments (driving three hours each time), being present at the birth, standing by at three nurses resuscitated what I thought was my daughter, for 12-minutes, as she was having trouble breathing, and then cared for the baby for a day and a half in the hospital, was basically ripped from my arms, as I was asked to leave the hospital as the birth mom accused me of doing, to this day god knows what, and then simply said she decided to parent this child. To be clear, she was not physically ripped, more metaphorically, as I was kindly asked to put her down, then leave. $12,800 in legal fees, $10,000 in additional travel, support, meals, gas, etc. What was equal to billions of what was stolen from my soul and my dreams.
In this photo, the happiest day of my life (I thought), April 16, 2019, with the birth of what I thought would be my daughter, Olive Phoenix. 36 hours later, I was asked to leave the hospital and never saw her again.
I don’t have words to describe the next four months. Numb, depressed, shocked, none of them even come close. I could barely work, my company suffered massively. I was broken. Of the condolences I received, I think the text from my stepmom sums it up “there are no words.” That was it, a simple text that encompassed the enormity of this situation.
About three to four months later, I was contacted again by a birth mom coordinator who knew of my previous disruption.
She said she had a “match” for me. As the story goes, the birth mom was in prison for food stamp fraud and was four months pregnant.
What I will tell you now, from the moment this woman reached out to me, I knew in my soul this situation was not legitimate. In fact the sirens were so loud, I had to consult a professional counselor from the industry and seek guidance as my inner siren was screaming NOT to do this. Their advice was that given all of the previous traumas I had experienced; it was natural for me to feel this way. Reluctantly I was “matched” with a birth mom in Louisiana. Twice I composed an e-mail to back out, even after receiving the sonograms, but did not listen to my gut and deleted them.
A bit of background on me, I am a highly trained and skilled coach, NLP Certified and have 10 certifications in life coaching, various therapies, NLP, hypnotherapy. I went through Columbia University’s Executive Coaching Program. I have won best Life and executive coach in New York City, multiple years and coached thousands of people all over the world. I only share this to impress upon you that I know human behavior. Every single interaction in this match seemed coached. I was dealing with a birth mom that had very little education and the things that were said and done were not indicative of this level of education. Interestingly, I had experienced almost word for word and action for action, the same situation with the previous birth mom, that disrupted, two-days post birth.
This consultant told me she had a lawyer that she had worked with for 26-years and she sent me the agreements, and I sent her my money.
The story of the birth mom that I was matched me to goes on an on, and these are the important points. The alleged birth date is still a week away, at the time of writing this post (Nov. 25th-Dec 4th) and the outcome remains to be seen if there is an actual baby, or person.
I feel this case was mismanaged from the beginning and at the time of writing this, have not seen any actual medical records, despite asking for them months ago, on 9/26/19 as the first request, and five additional requests. I have two sonograms, but zero ability to confirm if they are real.
Here are a couple of facts from this on-going situation, that are so disturbing, I have asked for my money to be refunded and if a baby does show up in the next week or two want nothing to do with this, as there is a chance the birth parents are relatives, due to some information uncovered on a background check. To be clear, I did not terminate the agreement.
- In the initial conversation with the birth mother, I was told by her “I do not have the option of keeping this baby”
- I was told by the birth mom coordinator, repeatedly that she did not see any way this would change her mind.
- This birth mom was advertised to while in prison, according to the birth mom coordinator, she told me, in her words “the inmates get a flyer with a list of names, and they always pick me”. Now I am not sure if there was intentional fraud, until this case is investigated. What I do know is that in my opinion, this person exercises extreme negligence in her actions, and how she conducts her business, who she works with, causing financial and emotional hardship to people she works with, in my opinion.
- When I had the initial conversation with the birth mom, in my professional opinion as a trained NLP practioner, she was highly coached on what to say.
- When the 20-week ultra sound time came, I was told the mom did not want to know the sex of the baby, but that the birth mom coordinator knew and could tell me. This seemed clearly coached, and very strange. I get wanting to remain detached 100% but this was different.
- I was then told by the birth mom “I hope it is what you want (it was a boy). This seemed concocted, in my opinion. I was then told by the birth mom “I am just so happy to be able to do this for someone and their family. Also, a very strange thing to say.
- On the next ultrasound, I was told the birth mom wanted to make sure I was sent the images. Also seems strange. So much investment in a baby she wanted nothing to do with, and a person she had never met.
- I was told that on Nov. 1, when this birth mom collected what would be her final payment pre birth, if the baby came before Dec .1 (yes, you pay all of the living expenses for a birth mom in an adoption) that she asked “If Bonnie can’t make it in time for the delivery (as I live out of state) can someone take it as I don’t want to take the baby home.
- I asked the birth mom coordinator if I could attend a Dr. appointment, after November 25th. No response.
- The week after I made this request, I was told by the birth mom coordinator that she would not be able to attend the birth moms next appointment as she was “traveling for business”. Incidentally, requests for documentation were not available.
- Immediately after this “appointment” that the birth mom coordinator could not make, with the birth mom has mysteriously “gone missing”.
- Don’t worry, if you are reading this, she is not “actually missing” she is at home, as I had a private investigator following this, weeks before it unraveled. We have confirmation of this.
- The birth mom declines my calls, texts, and according to the birth mom coordinator, also hers.
- Immediately when I knew there was a problem, and started questioning things, the coordinator in a text, jumped to “the adoption contract is not enforceable”. Naturally I have all of this in writing and well documented.
- The lawyer on this case, offered to drive to her house an hour away, to check on her. Very odd, and a great opportunity for her to say that she has changed her mind and decided to parent, in my opinion.
- This coordinator has shown absolute irresponsibility, in my opinion, during this entire case. Including (and keep in mind I have never met this woman, she is not my friend and does not know me, besides me being her client): Sending me a text at a Dr. appointment with the birth mom, complaining about the birth moms three year old (who incidentally I have on the birth intake form did not live with the mother, rather with a grandparent in Chicago-just the first of many discrepancies) and that she wanted to “spank this child. I also received a text from a Dr. appointment from this coordinator, joking about also giving me this woman’s 3-year old. Um, I am sorry, this process is not a joke. This is my life, and this is serious.
There is much, much, more to this story, with written documentation, bad judgement and more. As I said in the beginning, the lawyers and the authorities can handle this, as I have filed a claim with the DA and the authorities for major fraud.
So, to sum it up. I am not getting this baby. If there was a baby and a birth mom, and an actual situation remains to be seen. Something was wrong here. Like really, really, really wrong, and what I know for sure, this is NOT the end of this story.
Now this last attempt I have to say, takes the cake. Even though it happened to me, I still can not believe it.
Just days after the above situation fell apart, one of the referral agencies I work with sent out an “opportunity” for a “Stork Drop”. If you do not know what this is in adoption terms, it is about the equivalent to seeing a live Unicorn. Well, pretty close, anyways. It is where there is a baby available that is either born, or will be within hours. This means you do not have to go through all of the hoops, and supporting the mom through the pregnancy, etc. I was elated. I submitted my profile and within hours was called and told I was matched. The circumstances were that the woman was 3 cm. dilated and would most likely give birth in the next 48-hours. She was 29 and this was her 8th baby. One of which she placed for adoption previously.
I had to drop everything, scramble to get more money together and go and meet her. I drove to Riverdale, about 45 minutes away. Now in meeting her, I could tell she was pretty much full of shit. She would not make direct eye contact. She had the same BS story, as I have heard before back in April. She was white, her African American boyfriend, had become abusive and she was giving up the baby as she was going to be evicted on the 25th (it was now Nov. 21st) and so she got her check, we discussed the birth plan. I would be at the hospital with her for the birth. 48-hours came and went, then 72, then a week. No baby. She had her next appointment on the 27th, and there still seemed to not be any progress.
Put yourself in my shoes for a minute, on pins and needles, now cancelling plans to go home for Thanksgiving, missing a family vacation to the Virgin Islands, anxiously awaiting the birth of this baby.
More days ticked by and then another Dr. appointment. Because this woman is on welfare, they do not induce until 41 weeks. The Dr. said she would be induced on Dec. 6th at 8:00 am. Finally, I can take a deep breath, we have a date. But only half a breath, as there is still the four-day revocation process, where she could change her mind. The “plan” was, she was going to go to the hospital, and then once she was checked in and settled, call me and I would come up. We texted back and forth all morning. I asked if there was anything she needed, if she wanted me to bring her breakfast, she told me she could not eat until after.
All makes sense, right? More time goes by, I now have driven to the hospital parking lot, so I am close by for when she texts. Now the adoption coordinator is calling me, in a panic, asking if I am with her the birth mom and saying she has a terrible feeling. More calls, back and forth, now the mom is not responding to me. The adoption coordinator asks me to go to the hospital, to see if she is there. I am shaking, so I go to the ER, nobody there by that name. I go to admissions, nobody there by that name. Meanwhile the agency gets a text from the birth mom’s “friend” on her phone saying that “the baby has no heartbeat and the mom is bleeding badly and they are moving her to another hospital.” This is now the 5-hour mark that I have been at this hospital. Finally I ask, if they deliver babies there. The answer. No.
Not only did this woman scam me for the money to not get evicted. She let me sit at a hospital, for 5.5 hours, texting back and forth all day, with “real time” updates, she then pretended the baby died. Her “friend” said the mother of the birth mom would contact me. She never did. No return communication. Sick and twisted.
Apparently this is a “thing” where they tell the adoptive parent the baby died. If it were true this baby died, or she is happily at home with her 8th little bundle of joy, the baby is dead, to me. I expected once again to be walking out of the hospital that day with a baby. My third loss of a baby this year.
I am sure there are many happy endings. I am not one of them.
Many of my friends, strangers, people I meet that hear my story, share similar accounts, in one way shape or form. The industry is broken, there is a dark underbelly and a lot of corruption. It needs to change. If you are one of these people, or know one of these people, we want to hear your story. Please post in the comments.
What is the answer? I do not know. I do know it should not be legal for these birth moms to take money prior to the birth. These laws create an environment to support these frauds. Other countries that do not have such laws do not have these issues.
What I do know is that I will become a fierce advocate for reform in this industry so others do not have to experience the sheer terror that I have.
Will I try again? Mostly likely, no.
Will I become a Fierce Advocate for adoption law reform and change in this industry? You bet.
Please share your stories in the comments if you have had experiences with disruptions.