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Bittersweet: The Process of Adopting My Son

In the fall of 2012, our daughter told us of her dream. When asked to share specifics, she said, “I dreamed that you and Daddy went to the brown house and picked out four babies.” She even had each baby named. Then our precocious 5-year old asked a question that still haunts me, “Mommy, who will take those babies if we don’t?”

Since our marriage nearly 15 years ago, my husband and I considered adoption as an option for growing our family. At the time of her dream, we had not said a word to anyone about adopting, though we had been talking behind closed doors for a while. Our recent prayers and private conversations weaved so perfectly with our daughter’s dream that we decided to pursue this possibility.

That winter we began the journey to adopt a baby with Down syndrome. As we read and studied statistics and personal stories, we learned that many women choose to terminate when they discover that their unborn child has Ds. Research indicates that their decision may be due to misinformation from doctors and geneticists who often paint a very dark picture for these families. In their efforts to educate, medical professionals may provide a limited perspective on Down syndrome. They fail to share or simply do not recognize the beauty that can bloom, even in the midst of an overwhelming diagnosis. We wanted to bring hope and offer an alternative to these struggling birth families and their babies.

After choosing an adoption agency and taking the required legal steps, we were eventually home study approved in May of 2013. We then registered with the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network (NDSAN, a matching agency specific to Ds), continued to raise funds, and devoured every book we could on adoption and Down syndrome.

About a year later, we got that unforgettable phone call. Stephanie Thompson, the Director of the NDSAN, shared of a baby boy due in August. I stifled a sob. I knew in my spirit that this baby was meant to be ours.

In August 2014, we drove out of state to meet our son’s birth family at a park near their home. A tired woman tentatively approached me at our picnic table. I rose to greet this lovely soul, who was now more than an email, a voice on the phone. We welcomed each other with a strong hug and broad smiles, her beautiful, swollen belly pressed against mine. I felt privileged to hear her story in person, to learn of her brave decision to release her baby to another family, knowing that his needs would exceed her abilities and resources. She modeled a sacrificial love that I struggled to comprehend.

On the day of our son’s birth, we were invited to join his birthparents before the intense labor began. After assuring them of our support, we left the hospital to savor some quiet time as a couple. An hour later, our cell phone rang. In a happy tone, the doctor said, “Hello, Mrs. Carper! Your son is here.” My son.

We returned to the hospital to connect with our son’s birth family before walking to the NICU to meet him. As I entered their room, I was greeted by Sam’s birth father, a kind and gentle soul, quick to smile and offer a hug, even in his grief. Thick, black braids framed his dark face, now glistening with tears.

Then I met her eyes. Deep, hazel pools of both sadness and relief, puffy from exhaustion, weary from the act of giving birth, of giving over the one she bravely carried for nine months. Trying desperately to conceal my emotions, to be stronger than I felt, I moved my hand to my mouth. I was afraid of the tears, afraid they’d never stop if they started to fall, afraid to appear weak and incapable of parenting this child whom she had entrusted me. She saw my struggle and quietly, almost timidly asked, “Are you okay?” I could no longer maintain my façade of control. I answered through quiet sobs, “It’s bittersweet. Our great joy has come through your great loss.”

We wept together, unashamed of our tears, as we welcomed both the joy and the pain of our story. We were two desperate mothers clinging to each other, two weary travelers on two very different roads but somehow joined in our dreams of life for this sweet boy.

An hour later, we followed the hospital’s social worker to the NICU.

Then, I saw him. Our son was lying on his back, tubes in his tiny mouth, covered with an oxygen mask, all connected to a machine beeping intermittently. I stood over the clear plastic bin that held our newborn babe and through blurry eyes, marveled at his features. His hair was jet black and straight, his nose the cutest button. His almond-shaped eyes were closed, as if he dreamt of a brighter world beyond these gray walls. His white diaper only deepened the tone of his mocha-colored skin. His sweet wrinkled feet had the wide gap between his first and second toes.

I wondered if our boy knew how deeply I loved him. Did he feel the loss that brought us together? Did he know the pain his first mama suffered down the hall? Did he sense the guilt his second mama carried? Did he feel the weight of this day? Did he know how fervently I had prayed for him?

I breathed a shaky, tearful prayer of thanks to the One who had led us to this moment.  Our son was here. Our Samuel Creed, whose name reminds me to believe that God answers prayer, had finally arrived.

At times, this tumultuous journey made it nearly impossible for me to believe that we would ever adopt. Faithfully trusting an unseen Hope and remaining open to the hard lessons and risks along the way helped to prepare us for the perfect birth family at the perfect time. The indefinite wait, the possibilities that became closed doors, and the medical unknowns were all good reasons to say “farewell.” If we had chosen the easier route when the road to adopt felt discouraging and wearisome, we would have missed our Sam. He is such a delightful character in our lives and we’re so grateful to call him our own.

Maybe you’re weary of waiting, discouraged by impossible obstacles, tempted to abandon the strenuous journey you were more certain of when you first started. Turning back toward the smoother road feels more comfortable, more responsible, and certainly less stressful. Perhaps now is the time for you to keep walking, to keep moving forward, believing that the uncertainties, delays, and perceived dead ends are opportunities to more deeply trust the Hope who guides you. To give up when all you taste is bitter might lead you to miss the sweetness just around the bend.


Katie Carper is a recovering people-pleaser with a strong sense of justice and a deep desire to include the excluded. She’s grateful for coffee, laughter, and this adventurous life with her husband and 4 kiddos. You can find her at katiecarper.com where she blogs about community, faith, adoption, and special needs with hope, humor, and a good dose of snark. She also shares snippets of her life on Instagram. 


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