Dad Talk: Our LGBTQIA Adoption Story
Written by Yuri Kagan
Photography by Photography courtesy of Rich Sherman
Father’s Day is coming up on June 21, so today we are turning our weekly Mom Talk over to two loving dads, who are just a couple months into fatherhood after a long and winding journey. Yuri Kagan and Rich Sherman always knew they wanted to be parents, but as a gay male couple, they knew the road there was bound to be complicated. Below, Yuri shares what the experience was like for them, and how they ultimately ended up with their beautiful daughter Sonia.
It was a week before Christmas when Rich took me for coffee and surprised me with an orientation at a local adoption agency. We had been together for four years. He knew a child was a part of my future family plan. We at least were going to try. When we arrived for “Open Adoption Orientation” we had no idea what to expect. We just knew we had a lot of questions. The next two hours were intriguing and frightening all at once. They went over the different types of adoptions, costs, outcomes, documents, how agencies work, etc. We entered window shoppers, left intrigued, but unsure of how or where we would start. Was an agency right for us or did we want a private laywer? Did we have what it would take? Would it be an open adoption? A closed one? Trans-racial? What drugs did we consider “okay?” What would that look like? We left wondering “why do we have to disclose all this information to be a parent when those that can have a child under normal circumstances just get pregnant no questions asked?” We had a lot to consider.
Two months later, we were received a random call. My cousin knew someone that was pregnant and looking for a gay couple specifically. She was due in 2 weeks! Having not signed on with an agency or lawyer yet, we walked right past several red flags with anticipation. After our call we immediately contacted the agency we did our orientation with who put us in touch with an adoption facilitator and a lawyer they worked with. They suggested a facilitator reach out to her. Despite numerous red flags, the facilitator still went ahead and made calls and sent out documents. The birthmother continued to say she was moving forward, even when she went into labor. It wasn’t until the following evening that we saw a picture of the child posted on Instagram. It turned out we were pawns to make her ex-boyfriend jealous. We were heart broken. Shattered really. We decided to move on but kept the facilitator. This was our first adoption experience. Welcome to the rollercoaster.
The next couple of months were filled with research. Questions, paperwork, and constant debates over what was a scam versus a legit ways to spend a lot of time and money. We decided to go with our lawyers adoption company, making her essentially our match-maker, instead of working with a large agency that represented hundreds of looking couples. We didn’t want to be a number in their rolodex of families, and our lawyer only represented 14 families at any given time. She was also a birthmother herself and we appreciated how she related to adoption plans and potential birthmothers looking for the perfect match. It felt like a more curated approach.
Legally when you adopt you must participate in a home study. We went to several classes, answered hundreds of questions about our personal lives, relationship, submitted our fingerprints to the FBI and had our finances examined with a fine-tooth comb. Through this part of the process we continued to meet couples who had been a part of this process for years without a match. Others who had horror stories. Us, we just went on with our lives and tried to stay optimistic that our turn would come when it was meant to be.
Each month we would get an update. “I was able to share your information with X number of women.” As the months rolled on and summer turned to winter turned to spring, we began to think this wasn’t going to happen for us. We did get possible matches along the way. This meant we had been picked by women that were pregnant but there were some red flags and we couldn’t get our hopes up. Talk about an emotional rollercoaster—we were just sitting around waiting to see if becoming parents would become our reality. In the end they were “failed” matches.
In September of 2019 we moved to Seattle. Hoping to reinvigorate our adoption journey we moved into a two-bedroom apartment downtown. We now had the space we needed for a child to come into our lives. Our careers were taking off and we were more prepared to welcome a child into our lives. If you build it, they will come, right? We spent our first few months learning our way around the city. We had fallen in love with a neighborhood in West Seattle and decided to look at some houses. They had great school districts, neighborhood and were diverse in people. Two weeks into looking we found a house we had to have. It was too good to be true. 48 hours later we got the call that we were starting escrow. That’s also the night we got THE call from our lawyer.
We laughed. The birthmother was due the day after we were scheduled to close. Our lawyer said this is how it happens. You prepare for the baby and he or she comes. She said the birthmother was excited to receive our adoption brochure and wanted to chat with us the next evening. We spent the rest of that night in silence at the prospect of a new home and a possible child. On our first call, she said she was convinced we were the ones. There were lots of tears on both sides. My husband, being the practical one, was asking all the red-flag questions. She said she wanted us in the delivery room, wanted us to have the full skin-to-skin experience right after birth, she felt supported in her decision, and her family knew. We were shocked. The following day we moved our house’s closing date up, hired movers, and told our closest family.
Over the next month we chatted regularly with her, traded pictures and texts, and grew increasingly fond of one other. We let our employers know the great news and made plans for time away. The birthmother lived in another state so we’d be working remotely, not knowing officially when the baby would arrive, but knowing we needed to be in the same city; and also knowing we wouldn’t be able to return with the baby until all the paperwork was signed. This was also the time we had to remember: she can change her mind. Don’t buy anything you don’t want to come home to without a baby. These are the things they remind you of during this journey.
When we arrived in the new city, we got to know our birthmother. Pulling up to her house that first night and that during first hug, we knew: This was a perfect match. We immediately loved her. We went on walks together, went out to dinner and shared stories of our family, friends, and things we enjoyed. We wanted her to know us as a couple. We wanted her to feel confident in who she was placing her baby with. We wanted to understand the parameters of our adoption plan and what she was comfortable with. We talked in detail about what would happen post-birth while constantly focusing on everyone’s wellbeing. This was after all one of the biggest and most difficult decisions any woman could make. She too was becoming a part of our family. We did our best to let our guard down. Ignore worries and trust this was the match we hoped for.
As the due date approached and the baby still had not arrived, we all headed off for a check-up to determine if we needed to wait longer or if induction would be an option. As it turned out the baby appeared to be ready. To our surprise they wanted us to return that night at midnight to start the induction processes. Suddenly here we were. The day before we met our child. It could be any minute to the next 24 hours. Now it set in, we have nothing but a car seat. The birthmother wanted to go shopping with us to pick out a few items for the baby so we headed out to purchase a few essentials before taking her home to get situated for the big night ahead. We agreed we would meet for dinner before heading off to the hospital together.
Queue midnight. We are checked in. We meet the nurses that would get us through the night. Everyone is overjoyed for our adoption plan and extra excited because we yet didn’t know the gender, and that is rare these days. It was going to be a true surprise for everyone. The nurses insisted this would be our last night of sleep for a while, so we should really try to rest. That next morning the contractions started to pick up. She was starting to get uncomfortable but she wanted to do this completely drug free, no epidural, nothing. We sat and held her hand and breathed with her, took her for walks around the labor delivery floor and did whatever we could to make her comfortable while the contractions increased. It was now hour 13 and we were reaching the point of “any time now.”
After many tears, screams of pain, and anticipation the baby arrived! A perfect little girl. Everyone was crying, even the nurses. The birthmother is asked to name the baby. She insisted her name was Sonia, as that was what we intended to call her. After she held her for a moment, Rich cut the cord and she was immediately transferred to me while Rich helped her through the final parts of the delivery. It was important to us that she know our focus was still on her wellbeing and we were still there with her, too.
A few hours later we were taken to a room where we would all spend the night together. We had the option to have separate rooms but opted to all be together. We took turns holding Sonia, and feeding her, but she insisted this was our baby to have this experience with. The first night was pretty easy. As a newborn she just slept. We were up more with nurses through the night than we were with her. The next morning we knew would be a big day. This was the day the lawyers and social workers came to the hospital. They were there to represent the birthmother and make sure her wishes were being honored and make sure she understood her rights. We left the room while she held the baby and they all talked through the paperwork.
As we stood in the hallway, worry set in. Is she going to change her mind? She never gave us any reason to think such thoughts, but of course your mind takes you to those places. We waited and waited. Then one of the social workers walked out. She said, “We will get you a room for the night with Sonia and they’ll be releasing the birthmother in a few hours.” She was proceeding. Queue the flood of tears. It was real. She had signed the papers releasing Sonia to us. When we walked in the room she gave us a big hug and thanked us. Thanked us! Here we were, the ones beyond thankful, and she was thanking us.
Fast forward, we were released from the hospital. Sonia had gained weight and was doing great. We moved back into our hotel where we would need to stay until the powers that be would allow us to leave the state. Over the next week we spent several evenings with the birth mother, as well. She came over with her sister and mom and we shared stories, ordered dinner in, and talked further on future contact. When the final night had arrived, she came over to spend time with us. We agreed that the next morning on our way out of town we would come by her place to say a final farewell. We gave her a custom made key pendant necklace as a gift. A reminder that she was the key to unlocking our new family. This adoption plan included her always.
It has now been two months since we returned to our new home in Seattle. COVID interrupted anyone getting to meet Sonia but what it hasn’t stopped is our close contact with the birthmother. We talk by phone, and exchange texts and pictures. It was quite the journey to get where we are today. Our lawyer was right. Birthmothers just know when they choose a family. We feel blessed to have been picked by the most beautiful, caring, and wonderful birthmother. Sonia will always know her and her bravery, and love she has for her. We know not every story has this wonderful ending. Sonia is thriving. She is actually a super easy baby and sleeps through the night, rarely crying, and full of smiles. Her birthmother is doing amazing, is back to work, and still to this day reminds us how thankful she is to us. We are all thankful.
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