Our adoption agency, the IAC, gives their families who have been waiting to adopt for at least one year the option of joining what they call the “Last Minute Hospital List.” Basically, this means that an expectant mother is at the hospital and is just about to (or has just) given birth and has decided to make an adoption plan. She is presented with profiles from our agency, but only those who fit some specific criteria: they have to be within a 4-hour drive and they must be on the Last Minute Hospital List. If we are selected, the adoption counselor she’s working with will then contact us. At that point, we have a half hour to decide if we want to move forward or not.
If we move forward, we (generally speaking, though the situation might vary) will book it as fast as we can to the hospital, where we meet the expectant mom (who might or might not have already given birth, at that point) and, possibly, her family, which might or might not include the expectant / birth dad. From there, the situation is similar to what it is in any other adoption situation – more on that in a minute.
During our Adoption Information Weekend wherein we officially signed the paperwork to work with the IAC, they told us about this list. We both figured that in the slim, outside chance (HA!) that we ended up waiting a whole year, we’d add our names to the list. Simple as that.
In August of this year, when we were preparing for our home study update visit, we had a number of conference calls with our adoption coordinator about where we are in the adoption process. One of us brought up the Last Minute Hospital List. Now that it was a real possibility, we had all sorts of (mostly rational) questions for which we needed answers before we made a real decision:
- Would we have to jump on a place and fly across the country, with only a half hour to decide?
- What if *A* couldn’t be reached by phone because she was with a client at work?
- What if I couldn’t be reached because cell phone reception isn’t so great where I work?
- What if we got to the hospital as fast as we could, met the birth mom and baby, and after x amount of time, she decided to parent?
- What about all those decisions and more decisions we so carefully made about what situations we might be open to?
- What on earth would we do with Tucker with a half hour’s notice?
After emailing us the paperwork for us to consider signing, our adoption coordinator calmly talked us through all of these questions and about various possible scenarios that might arise from our being selected from this list. One of the things that our agency stresses in non-last-minute situations is the helpfulness of counseling for the expectant parent(s). Counseling can really help an expectant mother know what to expect in real terms: what the hospital might be like, whether or not she will want the adoptive parents present at the birth (or at the hospital at all), how relinquishment will or might work, what emotions she might experience, what might happen if she decides to parent her child after all – that sort of stuff that’s really important to consider. With a last-minute situation, there’s generally not time for this on the part of our agency. That’s not to say that the expectant parent(s) have not already worked through it all themselves before reaching the decision to make an adoption plan. Some expectant moms who go through counseling and are still firmly resolved to make an adoption plan can still change their minds.
Stories of last-minute adoption situations are not all that rare, and according to our agency, the majority of them work out just fine. It’s something like 2% that end in the birth parent deciding to parent. It’s one of those stories that worked out just fine that I want to link to here – this is a beautiful example of a last-minute hospital list adoption, written by an adoptive mom who also worked with our agency. I hope you’ll take a moment to read it. It’s got a tremendously happy ending. I just found it a few days ago. What this mom articulates about half-way through the post about where she was after waiting a year – that resonates so strongly with us right now.
Now, we were already aware that this list isn’t a put-your-name-on-it-and-slowly-rise-to-the-top sort of waiting list. That’s not how open adoption works – there’s no “these people have been on the list the longest, so they’re next in line.” That’s not how open adoption works. (If you’re curious how it does work, and why we think it’s the right choice for us, click here to read about it.) The paperwork our agency gave us did illuminate some risks that being on the Last Minute List intensifies, primarily because everything is condensed into a super-short time span, but, panic aside, any adoption situation might include any number of those same risks, last minute or otherwise. The adoption process can be a risky thing. High stakes. And like any hopeful adoptive parents, we’re wearing our hearts on our sleeves, that’s for sure. For us, it’s the risks that we’ve already taken to become parents through adoption that made this decision to add our names to this list a little easier – with a good bit more information about what it might mean to do so.
As for the time element of the whole “last minute” thing – that’s the one aspect we have no trouble wrapping our minds around. Combining the infertility struggles and the wait to adopt into one long parenting journey, we started down this path almost four years ago. We were ready to go whatever four years minus nine months equals. We’re ready.
In celebration of (not sure if celebration is really the right word – maybe more like preparation for) joining the Last Minute Hospital List (and because it was one I’d researched to the nth degree, we’d driven to Babies-backwards-R-Us to try it out in our actual car, and it happened to be on sale at the time), we bought something that would make the last minute, if that’s how it rolls out for us, a mite easier. A few days before our names went on the list, it arrived:
Also on our agenda is figuring out a to-do list of things that will need to happen in a last-minute situation. Pack the stuff we have for the baby’s first weeks, pack stuff for ourselves, pack up Tucker and/or his stuff for doggy day care (or bring him with us? – not optimal) – you know, all those things that will need to be done and we’ll be too nervous, excited, worried, etc. to think about.
We might indeed find our way to parenthood via this Last-Minute Hopsital List, but then again, it might not happen this way at all. We might match with an expectant mom and get to know her and maybe her family over several months. That’s the thing about adoption, I guess. You just never know. There’s no road map for this, no “standard procedures,” no guarantees that one way will work, that one agency is better than another, no absolute promise that the wait will be shorter if you do (fill in the blank task). It’s different for every family. We’re all just waiting for that phone call / that email / that contact through Facebook / that poke in the ribs that says, “Hey, congratulations, I picked you!”