When did you realize you were adopted?

On a gray afternoon in November, Anja Hoffmann is sitting in front of her penultimate patient in her practice and can hardly concentrate on him. The occupational therapist is doing better than it has been for many years. Because soon she will be a mother. Yesterday she had the first girl in her arms, whom she believes she will soon be able to adopt. An incredible moment that cannot be put into words. "This is my daughter," she thought. And that it has to feel like this: being a mother.

In a few days she will be able to take the little one home with her. She has been hoping since Ms. Wagner from the youth welfare office told her six weeks ago that there would be this baby, whose birth mother has insisted that she wants to give it up since the beginning of the pregnancy. This baby could become the Hoffmanns' baby, Frau Wagner had said.

Motherhood had only just started. And now it's over again

Anja Hoffmann, who has patiently waited for a child for so many years, cannot go fast enough today. She usually writes the documentation for each patient conscientiously at home in the evening, but on that day she notes everything down during the sessions. She has already turned off the heating and lowered the blinds so that after the last patient she can go straight to the foster parents with whom the girl is currently staying.

The phone rings. It's her husband's turn, his voice is trembling. The woman from the youth welfare office tried to reach him. Could she call back? Anja Hoffmann got a hunch. And so she finally hears Ms. Wagner on the other side of the phone saying: "The birth parents want to keep the child." Anja Hoffmann collapses. Motherhood had only just started. And now it's over again.

Anja Hoffmann, whose real name is different like everyone else in this text, spoke to her husband Andreas at an early age about the possibility of taking in foster children or adopting a child. Not only does she have four siblings, her parents also had two children to look after. When the couple wanted their own child shortly after the wedding, it didn't work out. The two stay relaxed, Anja Hoffmann is still young. When she is in her late twenties and more and more babies are out with friends, the desire becomes more pressing. In their newly built single-family home in a small town in southern Germany, they are planning space for two children's rooms, and they are wallpapering the wall next to the front door with pictures of babies from friends and family. The Hoffmanns visit a fertility center, but then decide against artificial insemination for ethical reasons.

Finally, they turn to the youth welfare office to be able to adopt a child. The couple write life reports, fill out questionnaires, attend parenting training and a series of seminars lasting several weeks for prospective adoptive parents. The Hoffmanns learn that biological parents who want to give their baby up for adoption have up to eight weeks after the birth to decide in favor of the child. While the couple is still attending the course, two couples are given a child in quick succession. "Andreas and I really went crazy," says Anja Hoffmann and laughs. The two are so excited that they check the answering machine first when they get home. Has the youth welfare office contacted you? Is there a child for us too?

Then, one afternoon in October, the phone rings. Anja Hoffmann is on the go, she has to visit her house and is already wearing her coat. Ms. Wagner from the youth welfare office still needs a detailed description of the Hoffmanns, which she can give to the birth parents. It turns out: a pregnant woman, 28 years old, with a husband and a job, due at the end of November, wants to give up her child.

After the interview, Anja Hoffmann thinks: a child in six weeks? What if not? Why does the woman want to give up her child? What do we have to consider? She is surprised how little joy there is suddenly.

The Hoffmanns' attic contains the nephew's cradle and baby clothes, which have been packed in boxes for years. You are not taking anything down yet, the fear of having to put everything back when it has not been used is too great. But a week after the news from Mrs. Wagner they buy a baby seat for the car. It feels good to finally be able to do something. Anja Hoffmann takes a picture of her husband and the bowl. A kind of evidence photo.

It will be a girl. And soon they grew fond of it, even though it was not yet born

They soon find out: It's going to be a girl. You will be informed of the exact due date and the procedure: After the delivery, the child should initially be placed in a foster family for a week. To take the pressure off the birth mother. They know from Mrs. Wagner that the mother still wants to give the baby away because she believes that she cannot give him what it needs. But at the same time is very afraid of missing it when she comes home.

Torn between two feelings - "It is our child" and "It is not our child" - count the days until the due date. You have already grown fond of the girl who is not yet born. In her diary, Anja Hoffmann writes: "I want her to be able to grow up with us. But she should have parents who are right for her. It may be that we are not."

Then the due date is there - and nothing happens. No call, no message from the youth welfare office. One week after the calculated date, Ms. Wagner reports, the child is born. Has she changed her mind? Anja Hoffmann calls into the phone. No, reassures Mrs. Wagner, and gives her the phone number of the foster family. When can we see her, now, today, tomorrow?

"Not yet," replies the foster mother firmly. "The child has to get here first." Anja Hoffmann feels as if someone has hit her in the face. To distract herself, she does what she actually only wanted to do when the child arrives: she fetches the baby things from the attic. Washes them. Hang them on the line to dry. Wait Two days later the time has come: The Hoffmanns hold the girl in their arms for the first time. You girls. When they have to leave the foster family's home, she cries uncontrollably. The couple cannot sleep because of the excitement.

And finally the message: "The parents want to keep the child." The world is collapsing for the Hoffmanns. Until the phone rings again after three months and three days. Ms. Wagner says the girl's birth parents wouldn't make it after all. The decision is now final. Could you imagine still taking in the child? And would you have time tomorrow to pick it up from the youth welfare office?

In the evening, the couple fetches the clothes, the cradle and the baby seat from the attic. You phone half the night to be able to organize the bare minimum.

The biological father is there, he wants to get to know the couple. But what can you say now?

The next day in the youth welfare office, Ms. Wagner asked her to go into an adjoining room, saying that her biological father was there and wanted to get to know her. The couple feels taken by surprise, they didn't expect that. In the room the little girl lies in a baby seat and sleeps. Next to it is a man in a hoodie and baseball cap. The Hoffmanns don't know what to say, stand next to each other tense. The man, on the other hand, talks and talks. What cream she needs when she has a sore bottom. What milk she has had so far. Which toy she likes. "Take good care of her," he says finally. When he says goodbye to the girl, he cries. The next day, the birth parents seal their waiver of custody with the notary.

Today, a year later, Anja Hoffmann is sitting on the turquoise sofa in the living room of her house, next to her is the baby monitor. There is a playpen under the window with building blocks, a marble run, picture books and cuddly toys inside. Photos of your child are now hanging on the walls. Anja Hoffmann is currently on parental leave, and her voice trembles when she talks about her biological father. "I had the feeling he had to tear it off his heart," she says. "But I admire the two of them for their courage. They noticed that they couldn't do it and decided to give their child away." It was a decision made out of love. The child should simply have it better elsewhere.

Then Anja Hoffmann opens a photo album that she and her husband have put together for their daughter. In it are pictures of all the people who have taken the child to their hearts. On the first page you can see Anja and Andreas Hoffmann. On the second page: a woman with half-length brown hair and a man with a baseball cap.