Adopting During A Pandemic
This week, we had the incredible opportunity to interview Carlo Stuart and Kevin Autrey. Originally from Colorado, they successfully completed the adoption process with Adoption Choices of Oklahoma in May and are now home with their new daughter, Olivia. We are so thankful for their willingness to share their adoption process with us, and to answer a few questions we had about their experiences adopting during a pandemic.
HC: How did you both know you wanted to adopt?
CS: Adoption is in our blood. Both myself and Kevin were adopted by the most amazing fathers ever. Both of our mothers are biological. My mother was adopted from right out of the hospital. It goes back and is very multi-generational for both of us. The love that we experienced from someone who chose us is something that we carry with us each and every day. To be able to give it back to someone else feels very natural for us.
KA: The word adoption isn’t just a word. It’s something that is very natural. It’s clear to me that the relationship with my stepdad was the first relationship I ever had where I chose him. You know to most people, the word adoption is a word that just means a father and a mother. But to us, it doesn’t matter if your father is your adoptive father or your birth father. They love you the same even if they aren’t your blood. Adoption is just something that Carlo and I understood and connected with. There is no difference between an adoptive father or a birth father.
HC: What differences did you see in the adoption process during the pandemic?
KA: There are the obvious things like social distancing and figuring out the protocols in the hospital. In the scenario that we are in, we realized that everything had to take more time. We had to bring everything we had into the hospital. If we went to our car, we couldn’t get back into the hospital that night. The biggest decision, though, was to drive instead of fly. Logistically, that first plane ride back home I was horrified for. Even not during a pandemic, bringing a newborn baby home on a plane is always scary, because you don’t know how they’ll react. Even though it was a long drive, though, we both drove straight through the night. On the one hand, it was a long journey, but obviously you have everything you needed there in front of you.
As far as the process, I felt that with Adoption Choices of Oklahoma, things were expedited. Normally, it would take 2-3 weeks, but we were in and out in 10 days. When we were waiting for the ICPC to clear, it felt so great to have uninterrupted bonding times between us and the baby in the hotel.
HC: What was the highlight of your experience?
CS: Definitely our daughter, Olivia. At the end of the day, you go through the journey. Again, Adoption Choices of Oklahoma made it as easy and as thorough as possible. In recalling the journey, every paperwork, class, PDF, background check — the whole journey — is challenging. But, it is worth it for her. It’s almost just a sense of completeness. It’s special when you’re able to finally meet and hold each other for the first time.
HC: What aspect has been the most challenging?
KA: Challenging obviously was the first time around. The challenge was not the match itself, but the call that it was not the right match for us. The failed adoption and then the wait afterwards for another match was a long one. Our wait for the first time was only 30 days. The adoption failed in December, and then we were waiting basically from January to May to get matched again. The anticipation and the fear that comes with waiting to get a match is a lot. I would definitely say that the emotional part is definitely the hardest.
CS: It’s everything Kevin said and more. Also, questions like: is the baby going to be okay? Is he or she going to be healthy? Those questions are challenging, because you don’t have the physical control over those circumstances since you aren’t the one physically giving birth to the baby.
HC: How did Adoption Choices of Oklahoma help you throughout the adoption process?
KA: They walked us through everything! I don’t think we would’ve gotten through this without their timeline, walking us through the parenting classes, and continuously engaging with us. Even when our adoption failed the first time, they still communicated with us and asked how we were doing. They really do a thorough job of walking through any possible scenario that could happen. There wasn’t a moment where we felt unprepared for what was going to happen. They were also very transparent about the whole process as well. I definitely think doing this without an agency would be very difficult. Communication was always urgent and we always got a fast answer from them. I don’t think we ever really even left a voicemail for them. They were always there and accessible around the clock.
CS: The resources, the engagement, all helped so much. The constant outreach, the engagement, the knowledge, the expertise they all have. I could not have imagined traveling down that road without all that help and all the resources they had.
HC: What safety measures did you notice were put in place to help with adopting during a pandemic?
CS: As a matter of fact, it was a lot of little things. Our specific room was the furthest corner room to the point where we didn’t even have to leave the room. No different than birth mothers, they brought meals to us like we were the patients in the hospital. For COVID, they had standard protocols in place. We were able to have our masks off in the room; but, as soon as you stepped outside the doors of your hospital room, you had to have a mask on. The diligence that everybody had in order to make sure that all of us remained safe was extraordinary.
HC: What advice do you have for other families looking to adopt?
KA: You have to obviously be patient. The adoption journey in the way you think is probably not the way it is going to end up. What I will say is your baby picks you. You hear it along the way and don’t realize it’s true until the end. Just be patient with the journey and it will happen. Our journey had some bumps, but it was for us to learn.
I would just tell any adoptive parents to be patient, be open, listen to what the agency has to say. You’ll probably only retain 30% of the information you receive at first, but keep listening and taking in information. If there are couples adopting together, rely on each other through the time and just talk and communicate. If you ever have questions, don’t hesitate to contact the agency. Just be patient though, it’ll happen not necessarily when you want it to, but when it is supposed to.
CS: Yeah we’re literally on the same page I wrote down the journey is worth it. Even if things work out picture perfect, the timeline of it can be arduous. Kevin is right, though – be patient because it is worth it. Especially when you have a failed attempt, you learn that you have to hold true to what’s in your heart. Be yourself. Do not be what you think the birth parents want you to be.
Also, be present. Not only in asking the questions, but also be present in your own life, especially prior to starting the adoption process. Something common we hear a lot in the process is, “what you think will happen may not, and what you don’t think will happen may. Keep going.” That is the simplest advice I can give. Just keep going, because it’ll be worth it at the end.
Adoption Choices of Oklahoma is a private adoption agency, licensed by the state of Oklahoma and leader in the adoption community. We have been assisting birth parents, children, and adoptive families in Oklahoma for over 19 years. Our staff members are committed to providing an ethical, empowering, and personalized adoption experience to all involved in the adoption process. If you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact us.
Meet the Author: Hannah Carlsward is an aspiring journalist and photographer. She is currently a senior at Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL., where she studies journalism with minors in American Sign Language and Media Studies. Hannah loves connecting the world through her photography and stories, and loves showing people a new perspective on the world around them.
She aspires to continue in both writing and photography in the future, hopefully combining the two with the work she does. When she is not taking photos, she can always be found on some kind of adventure. She loves exploring the world and sharing it with others. You can see more of her work on her Instagram and her website.