For many prospective adoptive parents, the wait for a match is tough.
Greg Dickinson and Jon Manser spent the year and a half before they were selected by a birth mother trying to maintain their normal routine — while getting ready for the arrival of their future child, who could come at any moment.
“We’re both planners so before it was in the books we had all the nursery furniture; what if we got the call saying, ‘Your baby is here at the hospital and you can bring her home’?” Dickinson said. “So we tried to get everything set up but also didn’t want to sit there waiting. We knew we had to keep living our lives.”
The couple, who lives in Blue Bell, met in 2008 and married four years later. They knew all along they eventually wanted kids and decided shortly after their wedding to go the route of adoption.
“As gay males we don’t have too many options but it was down to either surrogacy or adoption,” Dickinson, 34, said. “We knew people who tried to go through surrogacy and ended up spending quite a bit of money without having success.”
Neither he nor Manser, 38, was married to the idea of needing a genetic link to their child, making adoption a feasible plan.
The couple connected with Adoptions from the Heart, a private agency headquartered in Wynnewood, in the fall of 2013. They enrolled in the requisite classes offered by the agency and embarked on a background check that involved references, financial records, questionnaires and written autobiographies. Once they were accepted into the program, they were matched with a social worker, who conducts a home visit.
“The home visit freaks everyone out — I cleaned the very top of my fridge because I was just terrified of what she’d find,” Dickinson laughed, “but it really isn’t anything; they just want to make sure you’re in a position to take care of a child.”
Dickinson and Manser put together a packet of information on themselves, in which they detailed their personal backgrounds, relationship and goals for their future children, along with photos, to be shared with birth mothers looking for prospective adoptive parents. They filled out a “key,” through which they identified characteristics they were looking for in an adoptive child, including age range, ethnic background and the mother’s medical history, including any substance use or mental-health issues.
“You have some ability to basically say, ‘This is what I’m comfortable with, this is what I’m not,’” Dickinson said. “You have to have a lot of conversations as a couple about what you feel comfortable with and do a lot of background research.”
Birth mothers fill out their own key about their ideal adoptive parents and are then given the profiles of the applicants who are a match on both ends.
“They say it’s not a competition but it does kind of feel like a beauty pageant,” Dickinson said. “It can get disappointing if 50 mothers saw you and chose someone else. But they always tell you — and it’s the truth — there’s a mother out there for everyone. You just have to be yourself and wait for the right situation to come around. And it did.”
In the fall of 2015, the couple’s social worker notified them that a birth mother was interested in them. They drove to meet her when she was about eight months’ pregnant.
“We didn’t know at time but it was more of an interview because she hadn’t fully made up her mind — we thought she’d already chosen us — but I’m glad we didn’t know because we would have been even more nervous,” Dickinson said.
On Dec. 21, 2015, the birth mother called the couple from the hospital, where she was having a C-section.
“We went to visit her and then got to meet Maddie,” Dickinson recalled. “We got to spend the night in the hospital with her in our room and then were able to bring her home.”
As they settled in, Manser took some time off from his work as a high-school teacher while Dickinson transitioned out of lab research; Dickinson is now home with Maddie during the day and Manser in the evenings, while Dickinson teaches at a local community college.
“It’s challenging but we’re really lucky because a lot of people don’t have leave or have to exhaust their sick time and we’ve been able to transition without too many hiccups,” Dickinson said.
The couple also considers themselves lucky to have an open adoption. They’ve met with Maddie’s birth mother about five times in the last two years and hope she remains a part of their daughter’s life.
“She’s just wonderful. So much of the stuff Maddie does, [her biological grandmother] will say, ‘Her mom did the same thing!’ And the baby pictures are hilarious to see them at the same age,” Dickinson said. “It’s nice to be able to tell her about where she’s from and I love the idea of when she asks questions, there won’t be those unknowns. And if she has a question about her mom, we can just hand her the phone.”