Amelia, Mama, Mimi and Lala are a family created by an open adoption, which took place in Seattle five years ago and was recounted by Ms. Hauseman in a Modern Love essay that was published in The New York Times on Dec. 27, 2012.
In “Three Mothers, One Bond,” the first draft of which Ms. Hauseman wrote after a middle-of-the-night feeding of her infant daughter, she describes the path to motherhood for her and her partner (now her wife). It recounted the agony of a traditional adoption process — meaning no contact with the biological parents — halted when a mother changed her mind a few hours after delivering a baby boy.
Ms. Hauseman and Ms. Littleton metabolized the peculiar grief for a child who was theirs but then wasn’t. Then they resumed their quest for motherhood, this time through open adoption, which generally allows for and mandates a relationship of some degree between birthparents and adoptive parents.
A connection between three women that started with in-utero hiccups has strengthened, even across continents.
“Lauren is like the cool aunt to Amelia, they really adore each other,” Ms. Hauseman said.
Ms. Littleton said, “Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined it would feel just like family.”
“You know how you can have one shining moment when you do something defining?” said Lauren, the birth mother, who requested that her last name not be used. “I honestly think it’s the best decision I could have made, and that it’s one of the best decisions I have made in my life.”
Amelia’s birth father also believes he made the right decision. “Jen and Therese are wonderful parents to Amelia,” said Nate Patterson, 32, who works as both a longshoreman at the port of Seattle and as a produce handler for QFC, a grocery chain.
Mr. Patterson learned that his ex-girlfriend was pregnant and that she planned to give the baby to Ms. Hauseman and Ms. Littleton in an open adoption about a month before the baby was due. He wanted to try to find a way to keep the baby and raise her. “I went to Target to look at what you need for an infant. I looked into day care,” he said. “I wanted to take her, but I finally had to ask myself what was best for her.”
He never thought twice about giving his child to a gay couple. Mr. Patterson’s father left before he was born, and when Mr. Patterson was 7 years old, his mother enrolled him in a Big Brother program.
His “big brother,” Joe, is still a key figure in his life. So too is Joe’s partner of 35 years, Dennis.
“Joe and Dennis have taught me a lot about acceptance,” Mr. Patterson said.
When Amelia was little, Mr. Patterson visited her and her mothers every other week, sometimes more often.
Then Ms. Hauseman was offered a job that would require the family to move from Seattle to Geneva.
An international move is complicated for any family, but for one bound by open adoption it presents special challenges.
Ms. Hauseman and Ms. Littleton have put a lot of effort into maintaining the ties beyond the quarterly visits with birthparents mandated by their open adoption agreement. They have flown Lauren to Europe on three occasions, and Lauren and her mother will visit the family this spring as well. “It’s the spirit of what we had agreed to that is equally important to us,” Ms. Hauseman said.
Still, Mr. Patterson wishes for more. “When they come, we might see each other for two hours, one time. It is not quite what I imagined,” he said. “They are raising her beautifully. That’s most important. But having them move has been difficult, it was like losing her again.”
But when he and his wife got married in July, north of Seattle, Amelia was a flower girl. Dennis was the officiant, and Joe walked the mother of the bride down the aisle.
“She was very intense throwing the flowers in the ground — ‘Here are some for right here and here some for this spot,’” he said. “She was very professional about it. I started tearing up when I saw her, and I don’t show much emotion.”
At the wedding, Amelia bonded with a birth cousin and now they are pen pals. And she and her adoptive parents visit with Ms. Hauseman’s family in Pennsylvania and Ms. Littleton’s family in Texas as well.
Even with all the travel, Ms. Hauseman cannot imagine herself and her wife raising a child under better circumstances.
“Why wouldn’t you want your kid to have as much family as possible?” she said.
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