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Finding the missing piece

“I was so anxious to meet him,” Angie says. “It was so hard not being there, not holding him, wanting to be there as soon as possible.”

Angie (left) and Erin with son, Jackson.
Angie (left) and Erin with son, Jackson.Read moreMeg Fasy

THE PARENTS: Angie Horn, 39, and Erin Davis, 48, of Springfield, Pa.

THE CHILD: Jackson Quinn, 7 months, adopted Dec. 9, 2021

THE FINALIZATION: “It’s a formality,” Angie says. “A huge relief, but it already feels final to me. He’s our baby.”

They were in line with a friend outside a vegan bakery in Manayunk when Angie’s phone rang with an unfamiliar number. Then she listened to the message. “It’s A Baby Step Adoption,” she told Erin. “It’s our caseworker.”

“So I call her back, and I’m hearing her, but not really hearing her,” Erin recalls. “I’m having total brain-freeze. She said, ‘She chose you,’ and I’m standing in the street, crying.”

Meanwhile, their friend ducked into the bakery. “Give me one of everything,” she blurted, then emerged with three full boxes.

The way Erin tells it, they’d been waiting just four months since submitting their profile book to the agency and starting to respond to birth mothers’ profiles.

Angie says she’d been waiting for years. “I knew for all of my adult life that I wanted to be a mom,” she says. “That has been a calling for me. I knew without a doubt that I would make it happen one day.”

Erin had thought about parenthood, too, but didn’t feel strongly enough to pursue it as a single person. Instead, she funneled energy toward her career as a nurse practitioner. “I thought that maybe life had a different path for me.”

Then she met Angie in the summer of 2018; the two had joined the Schuylkill Dragons, a women’s dragon-boat team, and happened to sit next to each other on the first day of practice.

“I had no idea that Erin had an interest in me,” Angie says. “It wasn’t until we did a few workouts together and started talking more regularly that I felt a spark and realized it was mutual.”

For their first date, Erin invited Angie over for dinner — then panicked, because she wasn’t sure what to cook for someone who was vegan. She settled on salad and wine, followed by a screening of The Grinch.

“I was drawn to Erin’s sense of humor,” Angie says. “I felt at ease with her.” For Erin, Angie’s kind and quiet manner was a foil to her own extroverted nature. “She assumes the best of people, all the time,” she says.

After dating for just a few months, Angie began having dizzy spells. Was it vertigo? Both women were stunned by the diagnosis: thyroid cancer. Erin channeled her worry into actionable tasks: arranging doctors’ appointments, helping to translate medical terminology.

“She was able to keep me level and talk me down from my anxiety about everything,” Angie says. The crisis spurred them to marry sooner rather than later — a small ceremony in their living room in July 2019, with their families as witnesses.

At one point, their officiant asked everyone to take turns holding the women’s rings — simple silicone bands, pink-gold for Erin and forest green for Angie — and offer a brief thought or blessing.

Later, they rekindled the parenthood conversation. Both women felt too old to try conceiving, and assisted reproduction didn’t appeal to them. “We knew there are children out there who need a family and a home, and why not start where we know there’s a need?” Erin says.

Erin came to their first informational meeting at A Baby Step with a bundle of questions: How would they learn about the baby’s health? What were open and closed adoptions? How would they interact with a birth mother, not just now but in the future?

In the profile book the women prepared, they highlighted their dogs — two Chihuahua mixes, Tito and Happy — and their love for the outdoors. They also wrote about what they would teach a child: inclusivity, acceptance, kindness, honesty.

Their initial meeting with caseworkers happened in early 2020. Then the pandemic put adoption plans on hold until the fall.

That crystalline March day, outside the bakery in Manayunk, the caseworker didn’t say much: Just that a birth mother had chosen them and that she was due in May. “There was a lot we didn’t know about the situation. Every day felt like the longest day ever,” Angie says. “We’d take walks, looking at our emails and our phones: When’s the baby coming?”

On a Thursday night, they learned the birth mother was in labor at Lancaster Women & Babies Hospital. Because of COVID-19 protocols, they weren’t permitted inside until it was time to pick up the baby. But they got pictures, texted by the caseworker, as soon as he was born.

“I was so anxious to meet him,” Angie says. “It was so hard not being there, not holding him, wanting to be there as soon as possible.”

They arrived in Lancaster two hours early, enough time to wander through Target and buy one more infant outfit. “We looked like a commercial for first-time parents,” Erin laughs. “A car seat and a duffel bag of anything you could possibly want.”

Hospital staff told the women that the birth mother, who initially wanted a closed adoption, had decided to meet them after all. But first, they met their son. “It was amazing to hold him for the first time, to see his little, sweet face,” Angie says.

Then the birth mother came into the room and immediately hugged them both. She explained why she’d chosen them — partly because of her sister, who was in a same-sex relationship, and partly because of the dogs.

“I have no recollection of what I said,” Erin recalls. “I remember crying.”

At home, as they got out of the car, the 4-year-old from next door came running over. “Who had him in their belly?” she wanted to know.

Angie and Erin say they’ll always tell Jackson the truth: that family is bigger than biology. “We don’t want adoption to be a secret or a mystery.”

Parenthood shifted the center of Erin’s workaholic world; now she asks herself, “What are you doing? Are you happy? Are you making a good example?” Angie calls their son “my little buddy.”

“Jackson filled the missing piece in my heart,” she says.