Their story went viral after new dad Dustin Moore tweeted about his daughter’s in-flight baby shower aboard Southwest Airlines. Now Moore is sharing the details of his family’s adoption story with Raise Magazine.
Moore offers an honest look at his wife’s struggle to embrace adoption after years of infertility, the importance of building a relationship with an expectant mother, and his #1 piece of advice for potential adoptive dads.
ON EMBRACING ADOPTION AFTER INFERTILITY
My wife was the hard one to sell on adoption. The first time I brought it up, I slept on the couch. I was in that much trouble. It was about three years into our marriage.
My wife came from a split family. Her parents divorced when she was young, and she grew up in a loving home with her mother, stepfather, and siblings, but she never shed the insecurity of feeling like an outlier. On top of wanting to have kids that looked like us, she feared they would be treated differently, and it was so hard for her to overcome that. But step by step, she did. She had to realize she could love a child that she didn’t give birth to.
Do not look at adoption as a fix to your wife’s grief.
Something that is incredibly important to me and that I’m sincerely vocal about is this advice for potential dads who are looking to adopt after infertility: Do not look at adoption as a fix to your wife’s grief.
If your wife is upset that she is unable to have children of her own, and you tell yourself that all of her grief is going to be resolved by adopting a baby, you’re missing the point. The point is not the baby. The point, for my wife, was feeling incomplete and broken as a woman.
Having our daughter definitely healed her in many respects, but there were a lot of other things she had to work through and resolve. She had to grieve what felt like a piece of her identity being lost.
The most annoying thing people would tell us along the way was, “Oh, stop trying so hard. You’ve just got to relax and then you’ll get pregnant.”
Through all the fertility struggles and all the pregnancies that we lost over the years, we learned to be open and communicate with each other, and to share the fears that we had.
There were specific instances I can remember where I saw something change in my wife. Where I saw the preconceptions that she had just melt away. The first one was when we were over at a friend’s house. They have three children, all of whom were under the age of six at the time. The youngest one was about three and half, and she just adored my wife. She was her little shadow. We had had dinner and the kids were goofing around, and there was a movie playing, and the little girl snuggled up to my wife and fell asleep in her arms, and I saw in my wife’s face something I couldn’t quite pinpoint. When we left, I asked her, “What was that? What happened” And she said, “I can love a child I don’t give birth to. I realized that while I was holding her.”
The other thing that happened is we met a family that had both biological and adopted children. At one point, one of them said, “If there is any distinction in how I feel about our children, I don’t know what it is. Everything that I feel for the ones I birthed is exactly what I feel for the ones we adopted. Our kids are unique, they each have their own needs and interests, but our love for them is entirely the same.” That was a big testimonial for my wife.
And there was a part of our faith that played into it. We focused on the fact we couldn’t control it. That it was out of our hands. However painful adoption could potentially be, I can’t imagine it being more painful than having already lost all of the pregnancies that we did. And we thought, what’s the alternative? We’re determined to be parents. We’re determined to build our little family. And whatever hiccups come along the road, we’re going to make it work.
ON WHERE TO START IF YOU’RE CONSIDERING ADOPTION
The first thing I did was go to parents who had adopted. They were easy to find through our church organization. We wanted to hear experiences from people we knew who had done it. We asked them their feelings on the subject and why they had adopted, and then we got into the more technical aspects of it. We had some referrals, and then, for lack of a better term, we shopped around.
We learned how agencies were different from each other — some of them are a whole package deal where they certify you, match you with a family, and finalized everything, for a pretty hefty sum of money. Then you have ones that do international adoption, ones that do domestic adoption. We also read about people’s experiences and researched the best practices related to adoption.
What I was not prepared for was how I felt after our certification was complete. We felt hope again. Nobody warned me about that, and it was awesome — to again feel hope at the prospect of having kids. For my wife and I, that dream had been crushed to pieces a long time ago. It was so sad, even during the last two rounds of in vitro, when we found out we were pregnant, the sense of excitement was overshadowed by the uncertainty of the pregnancy lasting. But this was an entirely different animal because we knew that the unknown factor that had always stopped us, which was our inability to maintain a pregnancy, was off the table. We were just excited at the prospect of having a kid now.
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF BUILDING A RELATIONSHIP WITH AN EXPECTANT MOTHER
The relationship you have with the expectant mother is so important. During her pregnancy, our daughter’s birth mother was unsure of her resolution, and she was not shy about telling us that. Initially, my wife and I thought, “Can’t she give us a bit more assurance about what she plans on doing?” But then we met with her therapist, who absolutely just solidified me on the importance of having respect for the expectant mom. Respect for her authority in making the decision of whether or not to place her child with us, and making sure she feels comfortable and knows that this decision is hers, with no measure of force or coercion. She needs to know that potential parents care for her and her well being. That they’re not just in it to get a baby and then dispose of her.
We kept in close communication with her throughout. We were open and vulnerable, and if we were upset about something she said, we would bring it up. It was the same on the reverse for us. She contacted us on one occasion and said, “I was uncomfortable with this suggestion that you guys made,” and we thought about it and said, “You know what, you’re right. You don’t need to do that. It’s not necessary.” Quite frankly, if we hadn’t had that communication, I don’t know if the adoption would have happened the way it did.
It’s been less than four months since our daughter was born, but we’re still consistent with sending pictures by phone and texting.
ON BONDING WITH YOUR BABY AFTER YEARS OF INFERTILITY
From the moment I heard our daughter cry, I was swept away. It felt like I met somebody that I really loved, who I hadn’t seen in a long, long time. Like a reunification.
But my wife didn’t bond with her immediately. She was incredibly touched, and she loved our daughter and felt happy that she was here, but it wasn’t until three days later, after we were home. She was reading our daughter a story, and it was like I physically saw her turn the tables permanently. She just started crying. She tried to keep reading, but she just dropped the book and held our daughter close to her forehead and kept whispering how much she loved her. In that moment, any reservation either of us had ever had completely disappeared.
ON ADOPTING AGAIN
Wholeheartedly, without reservations, it’s what we plan on. This process has made us so completely in the camp of adoption and opened our eyes to the value and magic of it. To the people who are not able to have children on their own: Do not feel inferior or like this path is somehow less than. Add to your joy and bring a child into your family. Parenthood is not just about creating biological children, it’s about creating people, and raising good people. Adopt a child if you have the means to. You’ll never regret it.
Jessica Butler is the co-founder of Raise, stepmother of two, and adoptive mother of one. Prior to Raise, she was a writer on USA’s "In Plain Sight" and TNT’s "The Last Ship." She and her husband, writer/producer Warren Bell, co-created the Nick at Nite series "Instant Mom," based on her life as a stepmother. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and six-year-old son, Levon.