“I didn’t know a lot about adoption. It seemed to me something where, after you have your baby, you send it off into the abyss, and then you never know what happens to it,” she says. “But when I found out I can be a part of my baby’s life, that I can see pictures of him or talk to him on the phone, it became one of those things where I can have my cake and eat it too.”
She started with a hundred or so online profiles of families looking to adopt. She did a quick narrowing process, picking 30 favorites based solely on the aesthetic of the profiles’ webpages. Those she read carefully.
“Apparently, everybody loves to bake chocolate-chip cookies. Everybody loves their famous chocolate-chip cookies,” she says. “But rarely did they have pictures of them baking chocolate-chip cookies. It seemed like they were following some formulaic American dream, like they were trying too hard.”
But then Tai found the Quinns, a San Diego family whose profile included photos of the family traveling around the world and, yes, baking chocolate-chip cookies.
“They also had a picture where they were doing a christening for one of the other babies in the family, and they said that he was wearing a christening gown that was, like, 20 generations old. It was familial, and that was important,” she says. “I felt like the life my son was going to have would be similar to the one I had growing up.”
For the first meeting, the Quinns drove up to Valencia, in Los Angeles County, where Tai lived with her family. They talked and got to know each other, skirting the issue of adoption.
“Toward the end of the evening, we began to talk about the logistics of adoption and all these really random things, like, if it was a boy, would I want him circumcised, and who would name the baby,” Tai says. “It was really nerve-racking, but when they left it was exciting to know we had made this next step and that everything was going the way we had hoped it would go.”
Up until that point — three or four months into her pregnancy — although Tai had warmed to the idea of adoption, she still secretly reserved the right to change her mind. Meeting the Quinns solidified her commitment. During their visit, she learned that they had been matched with several other birth mothers, but each time someone had pulled out at the last minute. If this attempt didn’t work out, they planned to discontinue their search for a baby.
“I knew I couldn’t change my mind anymore,” Tai says. “This wasn’t just going to affect me and my baby. It was going to affect this whole family’s lives if I changed my mind.”
Tai continued to go to high school through her pregnancy. But it became apparent to her that the pregnancy and adoption were causing her to mature faster than her peers. Even the baby’s father got on her nerves. On a trip to the hospital for a tour, she asked him to hold her purse, and when she asked for it back, he said no and ran down the hall.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, I cannot be with this guy any longer,’” she says.
Soon after, they broke up, though they would remain friends for a year or two after the baby’s birth.
Knowing she would give her baby to another family to raise did not keep Tai from bonding with him during her pregnancy. When he began to kick, she felt a connection to him, and she played with his limbs inside her belly.
“I think I always knew that he’s not my baby but he’s still my family,” she recalls.
Tai went to her doctor when the baby was overdue. The doctor examined her, and when he found that her cervix hadn’t ripened, he suggested a C-section birth. But Tai knew that mothers recovered from C-sections in the postoperative ward, and she was uncomfortable with that.
“When you have a C-section, you recover in a different area from the baby,” she says, “and I wanted to spend that time with him. I wanted to be near him.”
Fortunately for Tai, both her mother and grandmother were labor and delivery nurses. Her mother suggested Cervidil to ripen her cervix and Pitocin to get the contractions moving along. The doctor agreed, gave her the drugs, and then broke her water the next morning.
“Everything moved smoothly from there. I think I was only in active labor for two to four hours,” Tai recalls. “People don’t appreciate me saying this, but I found the whole thing to be relatively easy.”
Tai’s parents and grandparents and the baby’s father were present. The Quinns were at the hospital but not in the room while she gave birth.
“There were a lot of people looking at my ‘down there’ around that time,” Tai says. “But Ted Quinn is a man who is not a doctor, and I would have been uncomfortable with him in the room. So I asked if they would wait outside.”
Tai’s mother was the first to hold the baby. When she handed him to Tai, who tried to feed him, he would not eat. The frustration she felt at his refusal to eat confirmed the decision she’d made to place him for adoption.
“I kept thinking, ‘I was going to take this baby home and try to get him to eat and wake up in the middle of the night and not do any fun teenager things,’” Tai tells me. “I thought, ‘I’m so glad I’m not doing this. I’m not strong enough for this right now. Thank God I can leave this hospital and be a teenager again.’”
Her sense of relief did not diminish her pain. On the day after John Quinn was born, Tai requested one day alone with him. She told her mother to let the Quinns know that she wasn’t changing her mind, but since they would get John to themselves for the rest of his life, she wanted him to herself for this one day.