North Dakota couple chosen to adopt twins return home empty-handed
Andrew Young and Jeremy Young had a rare opportunity to adopt twin babies, but it fell through due to a collection of circumstances.
FARGO — Andrew Young and Jeremy Young, together for 10 years and married for five, have been wanting to add a child to their family for some time.
What seemed to be a golden opportunity for the Fargo couple came their way in June.
A young, single mother in Florida, pregnant with twins, chose the couple to adopt her babies after their birth in late summer, early fall.
She already had five children ages 7 and under at home, including a set of 1-year-old twins.
Faced with the prospect of two more little ones to care for, she made an early and difficult decision to give them up for adoption.
“She wanted them to have the best life they could have … she just knew it wasn't with her,” Andrew said.
Over the next few months, Andrew, 32, and Jeremy, 31, began preparing themselves and their downtown Fargo apartment to welcome the babies.
They tried to find infant formula, not easy given the ongoing formula shortage, bought two car seats for each of their vehicles and stocked up on other necessities.
“Two travel bassinets … a bunch of clothes, a lot of diapers, a lot of wipes,” Jeremy said.
They also got to know the birth mother through phone and video calls.
When they got the word in late August that the babies would be coming soon, they quickly made arrangements to travel to Orlando, as she wanted them present during labor and delivery.
“We wanted that opportunity, and we wanted to experience that with her,” Andrew said.
But through a series of circumstances, some fateful and one with seemingly cruel intentions, Andrew and Jeremy would return to Fargo on Sept. 4, empty-handed.
Birth mom found her match
The couple first began the adoption process about a year-and-a-half ago by hiring an agency called American Adoptions. They chose an interstate, or across state lines, adoption, giving them a larger pool of potential candidates.
In that scenario, a connection with a local agency is also required. The Village Family Service Center in Fargo was tasked to perform their home study and after-placement visits.
Amber Herbranson, an adoption services social worker, said once a child is placed in the pre-adoptive home in North Dakota, they must be there for six months, with successful results, before the adoption is finalized.
On June 4, about three months after the Youngs officially became “active,” where people could see their profile, the couple got a call that a birth mother in Florida was considering selecting them.
Andrew said they were the first of three couples to be interviewed, and after just 30 minutes, the mom said she didn't need to go further because she had her match.
It was then they found out she was pregnant with twins and they’d be dads to a boy and a girl.
Through subsequent conversations, Andrew and Jeremy learned the birth mom had already been widowed; her husband and father of their three oldest children died in 2020.
She met and started dating another man with whom she had her first set of twins.
That relationship ultimately ended, they were told, because the biological father was abusing her. During one video call, Andrew and Jeremy noticed she was missing some teeth.
Soon after the breakup, she learned she was expecting twins, again.
The biological dad wanted her to have an abortion, but that “wasn't in her moral compass,” Andrew said, so an adoption plan was put into motion.
From 2 babies to none
Andrew and Jeremy typically travel a lot during the summer but stayed “locked down” in case they got the call.
“We were on standby at any moment in time to fly,” Andrew said.
On Aug. 25, the call came that the babies were coming soon.
They both made it to Orlando with a couple of days to spare, at first staying across from the hospital where the birth mom planned to deliver.
Because she’d had little prenatal care and no designated obstetrician throughout her pregnancy, no medical facility was willing to induce her, Andrew said.
When her water broke the morning of Sept. 1, labor progressed too quickly and she had to switch to a hospital closer to her home.
The couple grabbed an Uber ride to the facility in Celebration, Florida, which matched how they were feeling, Andrew said.
Upon arrival, as the birth mom was being prepared for a cesarean section, a doctor told them one twin had died in the womb and that only one baby would be delivered.
Their hearts dropped, but they had to stay in "go mode,” Andrew said.
Both couldn’t be in the operating room, so they decided Jeremy would have the honor of cutting the umbilical cord.
The birth mother had decided earlier not to see or hold the baby, so the little boy was handed to Andrew and Jeremy, who were given their own room to feed him and provide vital skin-to-skin contact.
They named him Milo Jo, with Jo being the middle name of Andrew’s sister Alexa, who died in 2019. The baby weighed just over 8 pounds and was 20 inches long, not “fragile” at all, like they were expecting.
But after those two “amazing” days came an abrupt turn.
The biological father, who hadn't been in contact with the mother for months, filed papers to claim paternity rights and obstruct the adoption — something he had the right to do within 48 hours of the baby's birth, Andrew said.
Against everyone’s wishes, they were forced to give Milo up and the baby was brought to the mom's room.
Before leaving the hospital, they visited her and she repeatedly told them, “I can't do this.”
“It just kind of punched us in the face … to be walking out of a hospital, to be wanting to love on this child,” Andrew said.
The birth mom took the baby home, as she knew that in spite of his paternity claim, the biological father had no interest in raising him.
He's still Milo Jo
Herbranson said “reclaim” rates, where a birth family changes their mind or the adoption falls through, happens one in every 20 planned adoptions.
At The Village, their rate is better, she said, at around one out of 30.
Herbranson said they try to prepare and be excited with the adoptive family, while making sure they're aware of the potential risks.
“It’s one of the reasons why adoption is so complicated and why it's frustrating when people who aren’t familiar with the process look at it as an easy solution to an unintended pregnancy,” Herbranson said.
American Adoptions told Andrew and Jeremy that the door hasn’t necessarily slammed shut.
If the biological father doesn’t finish the legal paperwork, or doesn’t pay child support, which he hasn’t done previously, the mom could seek to have his paternity rights dissolved and file another adoption plan, if she desired.
The birth mom told the Youngs that if she could do it over, she would have lied about the identity of the biological father.
Andrew and Jeremy said they wholeheartedly support that approach, because it makes it easier to keep someone who's not a good parent out of the picture.
If a woman aiming to give a child up for adoption objectively believes the biological father would not provide a safe home and would not love and support that child, it's OK to say they don't know who the father is, Andrew said.
Returning to their Fargo apartment from Florida was much different than the Youngs thought it would be.
They’re packing away all of the baby gear for now, but are relisted again as “active” for an adoption.
“Hopefully, we’ll get to use it again soon,” Jeremy said.
He also had the tough job of telling his students, who were pretty excited, that he and Andrew would not yet be adoptive dads, after all.
One thing that’s buoyed their spirits is that the birth mother chose to keep the name Milo Jo, the name they gave him.
She’s told them she’s thankful they came into her life.
“She felt like we met for a reason. It really was meant to be,” Jeremy said.