Different backgrounds. Different personalities. One dream. Petrovnia and Chris McIntosh share their story of two-parent adoption.
When we arrived at the hospital in Macon, Georgia, it was the first time we would actually meet Jackson’s birthmother. Hours before, she called us and told us he’s here and he’s waiting to see his new parents. We were quite nervous meeting her. We were also nervous about the hospitality we might receive in Georgia, a state not favorable toward same-sex adoptive parents. To make matters more complicated, the social worker in Georgia informed us that the birthmother gave birth at a hospital that is not supportive of the adoptive process at all. “They’ll be friendly,” she said. “Just not helpful.” That added more anxiety to an already anxiety-filled 15-hour drive to Georgia. After the cordial hospital workers left the room, we had several hours to get to know Jackson’s birthmother. We held Jackson, fed him, and shared stories about us and our lives in Madison with her and she with her life in Macon and in Georgia in general. We had only talked with Joyce* twice: on the phone two days before and by e-mail just two weeks prior. The last e-mail before his birth, she wrote to us, “CONGRATULATIONS” and “HAPPY PARENTS’ DAY!”
I was the first to hold Jackson when he was 27 hours and 20 minutes old. From a very early age, I knew that I wanted to be a mother. As I got older, I became more and more interested in adoption, as well as wanting to be able to experience pregnancy and childbirth. It was important for me to find a partner who was as excited as I was to be a parent and raise a family. It was also important for me to find someone who would be open to building a family in different ways. As I said, my feelings for wanting a family were very strong from a very young age. I knew that raising a family somehow had to be in my future. While going to high school in Queens, New York, and after moving here to Madison in 1995, my work always involved working with children, whether it was children with autism, children with emotional/behavior disorders, or children who were “developmentally appropriate.” I enjoyed being with children, and I love watching their excitement as they explore and learn all about their environment!
I really started to think about adoption about 10 or so years ago. I worked in the Madison Metropolitan School District for several years. Working with such a diverse group of children taught me that there were also many children in our community who needed our help—my help—so that our community could be stronger. However, my biological clock was ticking loudly, and I felt very strongly about wanting to experience pregnancy and childbirth personally. After a lot of soul searching, I finally came to the conclusion that there was no reason for me to choose one or the other. I decided I would pursue both options.
It wasn’t as easy as I expected to find a partner who shared my desire and dreams of building a family. I heard a lot of “Why would you want to do that?” [about childbirth] “There are too many abused and neglected children,” “Our world is over populated anyway,” “Kids are okay to play with for a while, but you won’t be able to return yours to anyone.” I was surprised, but it was difficult for me to find others who shared my excitement. I contemplated building my family as a single mother. The more I thought of this, the more I began to realize just how important it was for me to have a partner to help with raising our future generation. This would not be a feat I felt that I could successfully manage by myself. As the years kept going by, I started to think that my childhood dream would remain just that. Then, I met Chris, who not only had the same dreams as I had, but also a family that was openly excited about expanding their family.
I met Petrovnia in 2005 when she was not looking for a relationship. She had made up her mind to focus her master’s degree at the UW. We took things slowly and had good conversations about our hopes and dreams. We had one particular dream in common, that of motherhood.
Recently a woman shared with me her adoption story. Our conversation reminded me of why I started considering adoption as an option to my dreams of motherhood. Growing up in a close-knit farm family that truly valued instilling a positive self worth, I knew I had what it took to provide a nurturing home for a child. It was also important for me to be with someone who wanted to be a parent as much as I did.
I’m an introverted, shy person, so the idea of having a social worker come to my home asking all kinds of personal information and asking for references did not appeal to me at all. But watching a close relative who was having a difficult time parenting her first child made me face those fears head on. Adoption was an option and we started our journey in February of 2009. At that time we were set on adopting a newborn.
We’d been trying to conceive through insemination for a while by this time. The last try was so devastating to me. I needed to be left alone, to grieve and then move on. I shut Petrovnia out and cried for hours. We never achieved pregnancy but the last failed attempt really felt like I’d lost my child. The other attempts never had this much affect on me and we decided we needed to take a break from trying to start a family.
We wed in 2008. At the time, we lived in Sauk City. We held our ceremony in our backyard and celebrated in the park next to the assisted living center. I’m not sure, but I would bet we were the first same-sex couple to celebrate their wedding day in Junge Park. Many of my extended family, Petrovnia’s cousins who came from great distances, and many of our friends from Madison and beyond were there. We didn’t expect her parents to be there, and that was true. Oddly though, her mom seems to accept the fact that we are a couple, but be it the Haitian culture or her personality, she doesn’t show a lot of feelings, and that is exceptionally hard for Petrovnia. She grew up with parents that didn’t communicate with her or each other. Never knowing if she has acceptance or disapproval from her parents is a struggle that she continues to deal with in her adult life.
We struggled with how we would tell her mom that she is a grandmother; after all, they did not respond as to whether or not they would be at our ceremony. And they had no idea that we wanted to raise children. We ultimately decided to send her pictures and a card congratulating her. I wrote it. Would they accept him, being adopted? A few days later, her mom called. It was the acceptance Petrovnia deserved to hear and a sigh and a heavy weight of silence lifted, at least for a little while.
Chris and Petrovnia
The day we arrived in Georgia, we got placement of Jackson, which meant we were able to care for him during the waiting period. In Georgia, once the birthparent(s) sign relinquishment papers, they have 10 days to revoke their decision. It was going to be the 10 longest days of our lives. We stayed in hotels bonding with a child whom we may or may not parent. We were glorified babysitters during this period, yet we already fell in love with him and couldn’t imagine ever being separated.
The last day was excruciating. It was Jackson’s follow-up appointment, and we had made prior arrangements with Joyce to be there with us and to have breakfast afterward. While we were in the car driving to breakfast, the social worker called us and informed us that Joyce was having a change of heart. Breakfast was difficult for everyone. Tears were shed.
Chris held on to Jackson as if to let go meant letting go of him forever. Joyce needed more time to think and would call us later. It was very difficult for all of us. She knew in her heart that we would be wonderful parents and would provide everything for Jackson.
The time seemed to go backwards while we waited for her call. She called us a few hours later saying she made the right decision, but we were on edge till the very end. We believe that her seeing us so bonded with Jackson and Jackson so attached to us gave her the confidence that we will do everything for our family… not just Jackson, but his birthmother too, because we are all now connected as family!
Later, Chris woke up saying, “Good morning, Mama.” We did it. Jackson was really coming home with us.
We feel blessed to have each other and we are so excited to have Jackson in our lives! We also feel so lucky to have found a community that has so many options for same-sex couples who want to raise a family. It has been absolutely wonderful to have so many people who are supportive of our efforts to build a family. Even though we are new moms, motherhood is the most amazing and precious experience we have ever encountered!
Back in Madison, we still talk with Joyce every few days and send pictures of how much Jackson is growing and changing! We are so happy our adoption journey led us to Jackson!!