The following update is from Nicole and her family. She was gracious enough to provide their story, experiences, and update as they celebrate 5 years since adopting Porter:
Five years ago, I was in shock. True and total shock. Like the women in the reality TLC show “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant”, I would wake up one morning without a baby and go home that night with a newborn in my arms. The difference, however, was that I was not pregnant and did not deliver an infant that day. Instead, I got a phone call from our adoption agency saying that there was a baby placed into Safe Haven and for reasons I’ll never know, we were the lucky ones selected by our adoption agency as his forever family.
Our lives changed with that phone call. Our dream of adopting a baby was now a reality…but not in the way we had expected. We had thought that we would work with a birth mother, as most adoptive parents do. We imagined that it would be like a typical Hollywood scene—getting to know the birth mom for a few months and maybe even going with the birth mom to the hospital for labor and delivery. For us, however, that never happened. Our baby was a mystery. No one knew much information about him and absolutely no information about his parents was given. You see, when you get a call about a Safe Haven baby, it sounds something like this, “We have a baby that was placed into Safe Haven. We don’t know when or where he was born. We’re not even sure of his race. We don’t know details of his parents or medical history. If you’re still interested, let us know.” No one could tell us for certain any details about him. But for us, that didn’t matter; we were certain from day one that this little boy was meant to be with us.
A few days after our son was placed with us, I remember crying uncontrollably. It was a weird emotional release of happiness and sadness, relief and worry, gratefulness and sorrow. Perhaps because I have both biological and adopted children, and I’m adopted myself, I understand so many angles of adoption. I was so thrilled that our family was placed with an amazing baby and yet, I was hurting for the birth mother. I felt that there wasn’t closure and I wanted so badly to reach out to her. I wanted to comfort her and let her know that her little boy was okay. I wanted to thank her for making a positive choice and let her know how long I’ve wanted to adopt a baby. I wanted to tell her that I thought she was the bravest woman that I ever knew and I would always talk positively about her. I wanted to connect with her in a way that perhaps, only mothers can do. I knew, however, that I would never get that chance. But I found some peace in knowing that most likely she chose the Safe Baby Haven for those exact reasons. My comfort came in her decision to choose Safe Baby Haven.
I had heard of the Safe Haven program prior to our son being placed into it. I knew that Safe Baby Haven is a completely anonymous law that allows birth mothers to relinquish their baby, allowing their child to be adopted, without fear of criminal prosecution. Unfortunately, I would quickly learn that many people don’t know of the law or have their facts confused. I’ve even had nurses and other professionals ask me what Safe Haven is.
Due to that, my family wanted to get involved with the Safe Haven Foundation. In meeting with people and doing interviews regarding Safe Haven these past few years, I have always had three goals: 1) to educate and inform the public about the Safe Haven laws in Arizona. 2) that the word “abandon” would never be used. (To me, abandonment is what happens when a baby is found in a dumpster or public toilet. Instead, I use the word “placed” because Safe Haven babies are intentionally placed into a program that will help them find forever families. They are loved every step of the process and the placement into Safe Haven gives them a life that abandonment wouldn’t have.) 3) to ensure that the birth mothers who choose Safe Haven are seen in a light of hero and not villain.
One time, after a newborn baby was found thrown out of a window in Mesa, I was interviewed by the local media. The media wanted to use our story to show that the Safe Baby Haven program works and to remind woman that they have other choices available to them. In that interview I thanked all of the “birth mothers heroes” who choose to place their babies into adoption or programs like Safe Haven, instead of abandoning them.
I didn’t think much of it at the time, but the response I received from that was amazing. Woman after woman came and thanked me for the interview. In grocery stores, parking lots and even at my work, women who had never been thanked for being a birth mother were telling me their stories. I was shocked at the range of women—young to old, low to upper class, so many ladies (EVERY one of them crying as they did so) came and told me their personal histories, but two of these women I’ll never forget. One was a grandmother-aged woman at my church. She had become pregnant as a teenager in the 1960’s and her parents gave the baby to the church to adopt out. She never held her baby and certainly had never heard that she was a hero. She had lived in shame for decades. Another woman was much younger, very professional looking lady. She had become pregnant in college. She didn’t tell anyone, except for her boyfriend who didn’t’ want anything to do with her or the baby after getting the news. She originally had wanted to work with an adoption agency but they couldn’t keep her information anonymous. She also found the adoption process intimidating and was scared to meet with potential adoptive parents. In the end, she placed the baby into a Safe Haven program in another state. She also told me, tears streaming down her face, that no one had ever said thank you to her. In fact, she had suffered in silence, never sharing her story to anyone, even her current husband.
I couldn’t believe how one news story had helped so many people. I realized the importance of telling our story—it didn’t just help the babies, but also the birth mothers. After that, I have rarely said no to a chance to do a story or to talk to someone about Safe Haven.
In the five years that have now passed since our mystery baby arrived in our lives, I have gotten hundreds of questions about Safe Baby Haven. Probably the most common are from the two extremes—people who are shocked and distraught that the program even exists (to which I have to tell them that this program saves lives—both the baby and the birth parents) to people who have such compassion that they want to know how they, too, can adopt a Safe Haven baby (to which I say you need to contact a local adoption agency). The strangest question I’ve received (from dozens of people) is “Was your child dropped off at a QT gas station?” ( QT is a Safe Place location, a program for runaway and homeless teens. QT is not a Safe Haven location).
In the blink of an eye, our son is going to be starting kindergarten. And recently, the questions from him have begun. He is now asking us about where he came from, why people adopt, etc. He’s trying to figure out his own personal history, of which I honestly don’t have many answers for. I can, however, tell him what I do know–his brave birth mother wanted a better life for him, so she placed him into Safe Baby Haven, where she knew that we had been praying and waiting for him. I hope he’ll understand someday the tremendous choice that must have been for her and the incredible love she must have had for him. And I also hope he knows the precious gift he’s been for us, completing our family and making us proud each day. In the Jungle Book movie, Moogly confidently says, “I never knew where I came from, but I always knew where I was meant to be.” It’s our dream that our son knows that although he was suddenly placed into our home a few years ago, he was always placed in our hearts. We made a wish, and he came true. And thanks to the Safe Haven laws across the country, hundreds of families can also say that.