Mamas transform into their role in incredibly different ways. Where some carry and deliver their child, others have a more intense journey that involves other obstacles. This was the case for Ondrea and Dan Stachel. The couple, who live in Minnetonka, MN, were married in 2012. Ondrea told me that she feels unique in that she’s never had an internal desire to carry a baby and give birth, although she was open to it. She had, however, always wanted to adopt. The couple settled on a plan: to first try for a child naturally and then adopt a child. However, as many Mamas know, it doesn’t always work out the way you plan. The two tried for a couple years and after being unsuccessful, determined it was time to begin the adoption process.
They began their research in late 2015 to determine what adoption entails. They compiled a list of adoption agencies in the Twin Cities. Their list came from Google searches and recommendations from friends who had gone through the process. Next, they met with a few different agencies. Ondrea commented, “Each agency has a slightly different approach to how they operate. In the end, it came down to a numbers game. One agency we met with typically does 3-5 placements per year and the agency we chose does upwards of 60. Another important factor to consider is the relationship with the staff at the agency as you end up spending a ton of time with them. They are your trusted guide through the process. We made our decision: Wellspring Adoption Agency (aka Adoption Minnesota).”
Ondrea shared that once you’ve selected the agency you’re going to work with, the paperwork begins and the initial check is written. In addition to page after page of paperwork, you also sign up to take classes at the agency, schedule the home study, visit the government center to get fingerprinted, and create a profile to showcase yourself. An adoptive parent counselor is assigned to you and acts as your representation throughout the process. Your counselor is also the person who’s designated with the task of questioning: your financial health, relationship status with your spouse, family, and friends, what type of preparation you’ve done to become a parent, what are you looking for in a child, what types of things (i.e. mental illness, boy vs girl, age, race, etc.) you are or aren’t willing to accept both for child and the birth parent, the list goes on and on. She expressed, “Although this was grueling, we were excited and optimistic about building our family through adoption. We learned that our attitude towards adoption was unique. Through stories shared in classes we learned most other couples had experienced some type of loss which is what brought them to this decision. This was a very bittersweet process for them.”
“From the day we chose the agency to the time we had dotted our I’s and crossed our T’s and were approved to be “in the book” was six months.” Each profile goes into a three ring binder. This book is sorted in chronological order from oldest to newest. Additionally, your profile goes on their website in the same order, top to bottom. Birth moms can find families via the website or within the book when they visit the office.
Once approval is granted to be in the book, life transitions back to some state of normalcy and the waiting game begins. “You know how great the two of you are, which naturally means everyone else does too and you won’t be waiting long for a call about a potential baby. But then days go by. Weeks go by. Months go by– until one day you get your first call and any feeling of doubt that may have surfaced, disappears. This is your chance to shine and prove to the birth mother why YOU are the best parents they could choose for their baby.” Ondrea and Dan experienced this type of call five times. “After the first couple didn’t pan out, our attitude toward the calls shifted into that of a business transaction: here are the facts and we will get excited if, and only if, it becomes a reality. Actively removing our emotion from that step numbed any pain we might experience due to rejection or letdown.”
The fourth call the couple received was the Wednesday before Christmas. The baby was born and Ondrea and Dan were asked to get ready to drive to Bemidji, MN (about a 5-hour drive from where they live). The birth mother had screened 3 different families. She had gone to the hospital after birthing the baby in her bathtub at home as she had not known she was pregnant! The couple thought this was their light, and what perfect timing because this news was in the wake of two of their close friends passing away too young. Sadly, for them, they got a text later that night… the mother had chosen another couple. This devastation was hard on them, but in the end they knew that particular baby was meant for another couple. “As hard as it is to not be the chosen couple, you are happy for the other family because they have been waiting like you have. This is their time.”
More time passed and their profile was up for renewal. They felt like, “If we don’t get picked, in the end, we will be ok.” The couple had made their decision not to renew their profile. However, shortly after, they received a blessed call: a couple who was making the choice to put their child up for adoption had looked through every [single] profile and Ondrea and Dan were the only couple they were interested in talking to. They wanted to talk immediately so they had a phone conversation the same day they found out about them and decided to meet for dinner a couple days later. Ondrea and Dan prepared for, as Ondrea put it, “…sort of like a first date!” She teared up as she described the birth mother as… incredible, selfless, and knew that she wouldn’t be able to give her son the life he deserved.
By the end of dinner, the couple asked Ondrea and Dan if they wanted to have their baby. This is unique in that it almost never happens this way; typically, the birth mother will go back to the counselor and they will relay the news. The stars had aligned for the couple who had waited so long. Ondrea shared that, “Our counselor called and said, I have some good news! They chose you!” Ondrea beamed, “We already knew, they told us at dinner!”
Once you’re chosen, a new round of paperwork and planning begins. You work through details such as: who names the baby, who’s allowed at the hospital, when you pick up the baby, will there be future contact between the birth parents and the child, everything you can imagine. Lawyers are hired and you start preparing your home and your life for the new addition.
In the few months leading up to the birth, the birth mom provided Dan and Ondrea with updates. One of those updates was that she was being induced on Thursday, August 9. On August 12, 2018 after what Ondrea described as the longest weekend of their lives, their son, Owen Neil Stachel was born. Healthy, safe, and ready to meet his new parents. Their first interaction with their son was via Facetime and, “it was a beautiful moment we’ll remember forever.” Dan and Ondrea got to pick up their son from North Memorial in Robbinsdale, MN upon discharge to take him to his new home.
The new parents could see the finality of their adoption journey in sight. They were able to, as any adoptive parent, take the baby from the hospital on a temporary custody order. The next step is for the birth mother to sign her rights away. This is a) not something that can be done within 72 hours of the birth and b) must be done at the adoption agency with the counselor, lawyer, notary, and witnesses present. Once she signs her rights away, the state of MN gives her an additional 10 days to change her mind. Beyond that, there is a home visit for the new parents and a court date to finalize the adoption. They were ready to be the deserving parents they had waited so long to be.
On December 13, 2019 Dan, Ondrea, and Owen, along with family and friends, attended the adoption finalization hearing where Owen was pronounced their child. A new birth certificate was issued listing them as the parents, and the original put into a protected file.
Ondrea had this to share about her experience, This experience – our experience – was incredible. We feel so blessed–Everyday. We often ask, How are we so lucky? Not only is he adorable, but he is ours. He was, without question, born for us! I honestly believe that everything happens for a reason. Everything we do and experience makes us better people and having all those calls before him made us stronger and better prepared to be the BEST parents we can be for him.
It’s often hard to wrap our heads around What’s mean to be, will be, but Ondrea & Dan’s story proves just that. Sometimes as Mamas, we try and control so much of what’s in front of us. I was reminded, from this amazing couple’s journey, that sometimes it’s ok to sit back and be patient. I just might learn something while I wait 🙂
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