A Tennessee Adoption Story: The Perfect Family by: Jenni Varhol

       It was a little bit over a year ago that my life changed. Adoption was something I had dreamed about, but it was not something I was actively pursuing. I thought, “WHO in their right mind would give ME a kid?” I am far from perfect. I am a single woman, a public-school teacher – with a salary on the low end of “average teacher salary,” and my credit score is not what one would call “ideal.”

But I’ve always wanted to be a mom. I was married briefly, but when it looked like I was going to have fertility issues, the union ended. I had tried to conceive for over a year, and no baby to show for my efforts. I planned to keep trying to conceive, and had started looking into artificial insemination as an option. In the meantime, I pacified this maternal urge by being a “momma” to my students, and by filling the void with the numerous orphaned baby animals my students would bring me. Be it a squirrel or a kitten, I can bottle feed it. But, yeah, adoption was the unachievable dream. Something only wealthy people could manage.  Besides, WHO would give ME a kid?

        We were wrapping up the school year, and I was in the media center helping the librarian collect materials from students. In my pocket, my cellphone vibrated. A missed call. Probably a solicitor. Two minutes later, another vibration, and another missed call. Another moment later, and a third vibration, and a third missed call. I snuck a peek (ironic, because I had just told a student to lose their cellphone). It was my cousin was trying to call me.     

      My cousin never calls me. Never. She lives in Tennessee with her family, and I live in Florida, and we see each other on social media and at holidays. Someone was dead. Someone was hurt. Someone was experiencing some type of tragedy. That was the only reason why she would be calling me- three times in a row- during the day, during the week. I excused myself, and stepped outside to get briefed on what I assumed was a family emergency.

“Hey, cuz, what’s up? What’s wrong? Is everyone ok?”

“Yeah, everyone’s fine. Why do you ask? You sound panicked.”

“You just called me. Three times. In three minutes.”

“Oh. Yeah. Well, we wanted to talk to you about something. My daughter is here with me…”

Her next words came out in a stream, all in one breath, and they are words that I will never forget. “My daughter’s pregnant, and she wants you to adopt the child.”

“Wait, what?” I think I heard “pregnant” and “adopt,” but my own heart was roaring in my ears, and surely I imagined her words.

My cousin’s adult daughter was pregnant, and she wanted me to adopt!”

“Yes, of course.” Seriously? Is there any other answer? YES, PLEASE!!!!

       The rest of the conversation was a blur. Due date unknown. Father unknown. Thought she had miscarried. No prenatal care. She does smoke cigarettes, and did smoke marijuana a few times. She said she has not done any other drugs during this pregnancy. My answer was still “yes.” I was absolutely thrilled with this unforeseen blessing!

When my daughter was born, my mom drove with me to Tennessee.  The baby was in the NICU for several weeks. When they released her, she was just over 3 pounds.  I fell in love immediately. We went to court in Wilson County, which was near where the birth mother lives.  She surrendered her parental rights to the baby, and the Judge granted me guardianship. Once ICPC approved us to travel, we were on our way home!  We came back to Lebanon to finalize the adoption six months later!

       I am not perfect. My daughter’s birth mother is not perfect. But our story is perfect.

My adoption story is not like your adoption story. All adoption stories are different, but they are all perfect. Because there is no such thing as the perfect family, we are all perfect families, because we are FAMILY, and FAMILY IS PERFECT.

If you have questions about adoption or the ICPC process, call the Adoption Law Center of Middle Tennessee, PLLC.  We would love to help you too! 615-543-8640

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