THE PARENT: Kelly Miller, 34, of Springfield, Delaware County
THE CHILD: Colette Cameron, 2 months, adopted Oct. 6, 2020
HER MIDDLE NAME: Cameron is the baby’s birth mom. “I always wanted a part of her to be in Colette’s story — that special name in honor of her first mom,” Kelly says.
In Kelly’s mind, 34 was the magic age — the year when, if she wasn’t yet married or in a serious relationship, she would pursue parenthood on her own. But just before her 33rd birthday, on a mother/daughter trip to Florida, her mom offered a verbal nudge.
“We were out to dinner one night, and she said, ‘You know you want to have kids. When you know what your heart wants, why wait any longer?’ ” Kelly recalls. “After we got back from that trip, I started to do research on [adoption] agencies.”
She’d always wanted children. She was the girl who babysat at age 10, studied elementary education in college, and taught fifth graders in Upper Darby. “I loved being around kids every day, establishing those relationships. … Some people dream about their weddings; I dreamed about having kids.”
She thought briefly about becoming pregnant through donor insemination, but a 20/20 episode featuring a doctor who had inseminated patients with his own sperm, leading to offspring with dozens of half-siblings, scared her away from that option.
An informational meeting at A Baby Step Adoption helped ease her anxieties. “They were warm and welcoming. They seemed so knowledgeable. I wanted an agency that respected the birth parents. As soon as I left [that meeting], it felt right for me.”
In the meantime, Kelly had transitioned from teaching to a career in accounting — her father had started his own company and needed a bookkeeper — and received a $5,000 grant from HelpUsAdopt.org, a national nonprofit that assists with adoption costs.
She checked the boxes: letters of recommendation from relatives and friends; child-abuse and criminal background checks; a profile book that included anecdotes about her Sunday dinners with her parents, her love of Christmas, and the Jersey Shore.
“I entered the whole thing with an open mind and open heart. I thought the baby that was meant for me would find me,” she says.
First, though, there were two false starts: expectant-mother emails to which Kelly submitted her profile, only to have the agency flag the birth mothers' expense lists — $300 a month for gas, in one of them — as signs of a possible scam.
In March, she read a description of a birth mother in Kansas, 15 weeks pregnant, whose interests — the beach, being athletic — chimed with her own. The only problem: The woman said she preferred a “married couple of the Christian faith” to raise her child.
Kelly was Catholic, albeit of the Christmas-and-Easter-at-church variety, but she’d gone to parochial schools from kindergarten to 12th grade. She definitely wasn’t married, though. She submitted her profile anyway. Her caseworker called the next day, and the day after that, she was on a conference call with the birth mother.
“I talked about why I wanted to adopt as a single person. I said, ‘I can get married when I’m 70, but I’m ready to have kids. Life is short. Why wait?’ I said I was shocked that she’d picked me. But she was raised by a single mother and said she knew how much love they have to give.”
Throughout the pregnancy, Kelly and Cameron, the birth mother, texted every few days. Kelly wanted to sustain that openness after the baby was born, but Cameron wasn’t sure. Kelly bought a few necessities — a car seat, a bassinet — but held off on decorating a nursery. “I respected Cameron’s option to change her mind. In my head, she wasn’t my child yet.”
On April 1, as a joke, Cameron sent a phony ultrasound photo showing three fetuses. In fact, there was just one baby, a girl, and when Kelly suggested “Colette,” a name she’d always loved, Cameron said she loved it, too.
Meantime, the COVID-19 pandemic raised new worries. Would Kelly be able to get on a plane when Cameron gave birth? What if she got sick and hospital officials wouldn’t let her inside the building? Would a doctor wheel the infant outside in a bassinet?
“My joke was: I’m going to come out of quarantine with a kid,” she says.
Cameron was scheduled for a C-section; Kelly and her mother flew to Kansas City, then drove to Wichita in a rental car. And in the hospital, where Kelly and her mother had their own room, a nurse wheeled in a clear-sided bassinet just five minutes after the birth.
“I was able to do skin-to-skin and give her her first bottle,” Kelly says. “It was love at first sight.”
Cameron changed her mind about open adoption; she wanted to see the baby and spend time with Kelly. “Her sister was there; her mom came up. We spent two days in the hospital together. We all hung out,” Kelly says. “We got to bond.”
The goodbye was bittersweet. Cameron, she says, held steady, but Kelly wept. They exchanged gifts: an “adoption triad” necklace for Cameron; a half-dozen handmade headbands for Colette.
“I said, ‘Let me know if you need space,’ and she said, ‘No, text me whenever. I’m totally at peace with my decision. I always want to hear from you.’ Leaving the hospital was hard. I broke down. She was giving me the greatest gift of my life.”
Once home, the roughest part was the long, sleepless nights — and trying to wash baby clothes and assemble a swing while caring for an infant. Kelly’s parents, who live just five blocks away, helped, and the whole family — her sister, her brother, and their 91-year-old grandmother — celebrated Colette’s homecoming.
The days flash by. “Every night, I think, ‘I can’t believe it’s 6 o’clock already.’ ” Kelly tries to cling to each moment: dancing with Colette to country music, feeling small arms reach out in a baby hug. “Every night, when I’m rocking her to sleep, I say, ‘Thank you, God.’ I feel like I’ve been waiting for this my whole life.”