Hi all, welcome back! As I previously mentioned, November is National Adoption Month and I’m spotlighting woman involved in adoption. I wanted to give you different perspectives of the adoption journey-the professional and the adoptive parent.
I began The Adoption Series with last week’s interview with Jill Thomley, an adoption professional and adoptive parent. (If you missed it, go check it out! She did such a great job and was so informative).
This week, I want to share another story and another perspective-the perspective of the adoptive parent. I want to share Anna and her story with you. Anna’s journey into adoption is one I will never forget hearing about. Her words moved me the first time I heard them and continue to do so. Her message, her heart and her generosity to share it all so openly are nothing short of beautiful. Have you ever heard what true love sounds like? Today you will.
Anna knows love. She knew it quickly after meeting her husband. She knew it immediately when she met her son for the first time, a love like she’d never felt. A mother’s love is one of the most powerful loves that exists. She knows love in how she has loved and honored her son’s birth mother, Anna has made room in her life and heart for her. Anna is a mother to inspire. She has inspired me and by the end of this article I feel confident you will also feel this way as well.
Join me now as I talk to Anna about her road to parenthood, the importance of the adoption triad and motherhood:
(Anna’s beautiful family above)
Tell me about yourself and your family:
“Garrett and I will be married 5 years this November. We met at college in Louisville Kentucky. I was the 3rd person Garrett met on campus during his orientation. I was a senior in my final semester and Garrett was a new transfer student. Six months later we were dating and five months after our first date we were married. We both knew we would marry each other after our first day and didn’t want to wait!
Looking back we wouldn’t change a thing. We both grew up in bigger families and I had always desired to be a mom. We talked about our mutual desire to adopt on our first date. We didn’t expect the challenges to become pregnant in our first years of marriage and as we struggled our desire to be parents only grew. Through infertility we realize that adoption would be the primary way we would grow our family. We have one child that we adopted at birth, our son Malachi James, born 2/17/18.”
Did you do any research before choosing adoption? Did you talk to other adoptive parents?
“Yes, we have a lot of friends in our church and from college that had adopted before us. Most of our friends adopted through international adoption, adopting older kids and sibling groups. A year or two prior to starting the process we watched our good friends go through the domestic infant adoption process adopting their son and that confirmed to us that we wanted to pursue domestic infant adoption. As first time parents we desired an infant.”
How much research did you do before choosing your adoption professional? Why were they the right one?
“We had good friends go through the domestic infant adoption process a year or two before we decided to pursue adoption. Choosing an ethical adoption agency was very important to them and they chose an agency they found in Arkansas. Their matching process took almost 2 years since they were using only one agency. I knew two things starting the process, we also wanted an ethical agency/process, but we didn’t want a two year wait. That friend suggested looking into Faithful Adoption Consultants (FAC). After having an initial phone consult with FAC we knew that we wanted to use them for a few reasons. First, being consultants they work with many different agencies and attorneys and this cuts down on the long wait times. Secondly, after the initial phone call we learned that they also “hold your hand” through the entire process. This was very important to us since we knew nothing about the process of adoption. Finally, FAC doesn’t only care for adoptive families but they are fully invested and desire to only work with ethical adoption agencies and also seek to care for the birthmothers before, during, and after the process of making an adoption plan for their child.”
How is your relationship with your adoption agency? Did you talk often during this process? We’re they present at the birth or when you were given your baby?
“Our experience with Faithful Adoption Consultants was amazing and we would 100% suggest them to anyone. We hope to use them again! We were matched with an agency in Arizona that worked in Florida (Mother Goose Adoptions) and our experience with them was good as well. The case worker that was working with Malachi’s birth mom was great and she loved and served her so well. It just so happened she was on vacation the weekend of his birth. So we were in the hospital alone, which was hard but everything worked out in the end! We spent the whole entire time in the hospital with Malachi and his birth mom. They had an extra room for us to sleep in but we spent most of the time in the room with Malachi’s birth mom and family.”
Is it hard to decide on an open or closed adoption? What was your ultimate choice and why?
“Once we started learning about domestic adoption in the US a lot of our preconceived notions about adoption were changed. I think it is natural in the beginning to be fearful of the “what if’s” in an open adoption since there are not a lot of good models for it. Mainstream media and stories usually only portray closed adoptions-meaning the adoptee and the birth family don’t have any contact, or sometimes even knowledge of the adoption.
Learning how detrimental that is in the future to both the adoptee and the birth family we really desired an open adoption. Every open adoption looks different. It could be anything from letters and pictures through the agency, visits yearly, exchanging phone numbers, or only communicating through the agency/caseworker. We knew that we desired a level of openness for our future child because we knew they would know about being adopted from the very beginning.”
Did you meet the birth parents? How many times? Is there a relationship between you? Did you discuss medical history and family background?
“Yes! We were chosen by Malachi’s birth mom, 10 days after being “active” through FAC. She chose us in November and we had a phone call with her and the caseworker. After the initial phone call she expressed a desire to meet us in person so we set a time to meet and drove to Florida to meet her for lunch. We drove to Florida once more before Malachi’s birth for a special ultrasound. That was the foundation of our relationship and we exchanged phone numbers a week before his birth. Now, almost 8 months later we text and exchange pictures and updates almost weekly. We have a strong friendship and regularly talk about things other than just Malachi.
I feel comfortable asking her anything about family history, medical records, or information about Malachi’s birth father. We have not met or have had any contact with him, but we hope our son will get the opportunity in the future to meet his birth father.”
Is there any advice you would give to other parents starting the adoption process?
“Expect the unexpected. You can plan all you want, be diligent with your paperwork, and research everything about the process but there will still be things that come up that you are not prepared for and that’s OK! Be open to learning as you go because experience is the best teacher!”
What is like to get the phone that you’ve been selected? What is it like to get the phone call that your child has been born?
“We were at Garrett’s parents home for dinner the night our consultant called and asked “Anna are you ready to be a mommy?” I lost it. All those feelings I kept in for so long became real when we were matched, I immediately felt connected to Malachi’s birth mom and him.
The day Malachi was born I started my day and later that morning his birth mom texted. Throughout the morning it became clear from our communications that our son would be born that day! From the first text at 10:30 that morning (and every day after that) has been nonstop.”
Was there concern that the birth parents would change their minds?
“Malachi’s birth mom never gave us any reason to believe that she would change her mind but I always had in the back of my mind “What if she changes her mind?”. I think that this was just a personal defense mechanism for me to not get my hopes set on being a mom in February 2018. I really tried not to go into our match with Malachi’s birth mom with open hands. I was excited but I didn’t want to hold on tight to it because I knew that he wasn’t our baby until she signed those papers 48 hours after birth. Through the whole process she was so gracious, letting us come to an ultrasound, buying us baby clothes and special items for him, and even helping us pick out his name! She was so excited for us to become his parents.”
Do you plan to adopt other children? How do think you’ll know when you’re ready to begin the process again? Will you have to start all over with paperwork, home visits etc?
“Yes, we are so excited to continue to grow our family through adoption. We know we would like to have our children grow up close together but we don’t really know what “close” will look like to us. Malakai will be 8 months in November and both Garrett and I have expressed wanting to start the process again, but are unsure of what exactly it will look like the second time around. I am under the impression that we will need to do all the paperwork, background checks, fingerprints, and homestudy visits over again. We have moved homes since our last homestudy visit so we will have to do those again. We also have talked about pursuing foster care and/or fostering to adoption in the future.”
Describe the moment you first met and held your child:
“We missed Malachi’s birth by about two hours. His birth mom wanted us in the room but since we had to drive about 6 hours to get there we didn’t make it. The first time I met and held my son was so surreal to me. Almost 4 years of trying to become parents went into that moment and I was very emotional. Malachi’s birth mom held my arm as I held him for the first time and her mother snapped a picture of us, and that moment and photo are so special to me, and I know they will be also be very special some day to Malachi. I felt an overwhelming urge of love for him that day that has only continued to grow every day since.”
What is like to thank another person for this gift? Do you write a letter, give a present, tell them in person? All of the above?
“That’s a very good question. I really didn’t know where to start with this when we were matched with Malachi’s birth mom. I gave her a journal and wrote her a letter in it, along with a birthstone necklace when we said goodbye in the hospital. But I really think that the continuing relationship with her means more to her than anything I could say or do during/after his birth. I can tell that each picture or video I send makes her day and means so much to her. In the long run, I really hope that we can be in each other’s lives forever.”
Is there anything you’d hope the birth parents were able to know about how you will raise this child? Did they tell you why they chose you to adopt their child?
“I really hope that Malachi’s birth mom actively sees him grow up, and I think I would want her to know that I WANT her there, she is welcome and always has a place in our life, forever.
She told us that the letter we wrote in our book to perspective mamas had a great impact on her and when she was done reading the letter she knew we were his parents. She actually had another family picked and changed her mind to pick us!”
What has surprised you about parenthood? What gives you the most joy and the most challenge?
” I think what has been most surprising for me is the “mother’s intuition” that comes when you become a mom. I was very insecure about being a mom in the beginning. We went through a lot of challenges in the beginning and the doctors were sure it was “just reflux or colic” but I knew there was something bigger. With a lot of time and investigating I figured out that he had a major tongue and lip tie making it very hard for him to eat. Getting a second opinion from a specialist confirmed this and she got us in the next day because she didn’t know how he was eating with ties that bad. Overall that challenge confirmed to me as an adoptive mom, I am a “real” mom with real intuition and desire to see her child happy. My whole parenting experience changed after that.
The little things give me the most joy, whether it is Malachi finding me in a room of people, reserving his biggest smiles and laughs for Garrett and I, or even those quiet moments in the middle of the night when we have had a rough time with teething. Getting the title of Malachi’s mom has brought me some of the greatest joys.
(Gorgeous Malachi pictured above)
Parenthood has grown me as a person as well. I really didn’t realize how much I valued my time and doing whatever I wanted. Though valuing time isn’t wrong, I found myself getting irritated when Malachi wasn’t doing what I wanted him to do, like take a nap when it was convenient for me or hating his car seat which kept me homebound for months. Through parenthood I have really been able to see that as a mother my time is not my own and it is more rewarding to serve others than myself. It’s also taught me not to take myself so seriously and to be gracious with others. It’s OK to have a crying baby while walking the aisles of the grocery store and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
What has been your favorite milestone so far of your child’s growth?
The first months were really hard for us because of feeding issues caused by tongue and lip ties. Not eating well resulted in not sleeping well for Malachi (and all of us). But once the ties were revised around 3 1/2 months and around that time he started smiling at us and interacting with us everything changed! We loved that this little person we had been so diligently taking care of around the clock could now smile, laugh, and interact with us.
But every milestone since then (sleeping through the night, rolling over, sitting up, babbling, eating food) has been a joy. Each month Garrett and I look at each other and say “This is our most favorite month”.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
“I think an important thing to note is the importance of the adoption triad: adoptee, birth family, and adoptive family. It is important that in an adoption each side of the triad is present. Obviously not every adoption is open, or every birth parent wants to be involved. But I think it’s imperative as adoptive parents that you seek to teach your child about adoption, not alienate the mother that chose an adoption plan and chose you to be the parents to her child, and always protect your child. How you talk about your child’s adoption, their birth family, and experience matters. Be mindful that this is your child’s story, not yours. You might feel obligated to tell interested people all of the details of your relationship with the birth mom, the things your child experienced in utero, or any other details but honestly they are not yours to tell. There is a fine line and I have some regrets about conversations that I wish I had said less and not more. But we are all learning as we go and I am not perfect. Protecting our son’s story is something that I am learning and want to be better at and I wish I had thought more about this concept before we went through the process.”
What are your hopes and dreams for your child?
“I hope that Malachi always feels loved and that he knows he has people in his corner. I desire that our home is always a safe place from the heartaches and confusion that living life can bring and that he can always come to us for comfort, help, and relief. I hope that he gets to have big dreams and accomplishes them, that he grows up to be a kind and considerate person, and most of all that he treasures Christ as his Savior.”
One last thought from Anna:
“We are so happy that we adopted and we wish we did it sooner. A lot of the reason that we didn’t do it right away was out of fear. What if we can’t raise the money? What if no one chooses us? What if we have to travel halfway across the country? What if the birthparents regret their decision? What if our child resents us in the future for the adoption? Irrational fears kept us from being so much and almost a year into our adoption journey we both agree that we shouldn’t have let fear stop us. So don’t let fear stop you!”
I believe one of the reasons Anna shared this story to reach others who may be dealing with their own fears about adoption. When she says that irrational fears keep us from being so much, she couldn’t be more right. Big leaps often come with big fears but we can’t let them stop us! This piece of advice translates into all facets of life.
I want to thank Anna for sharing her thoughts and experiences with me. I want to thank her even more for sharing her full heart. I have learned so much about the adoptive journey from the perspectives of both Anna and Jill.
I also want to finish this series by thanking a beautiful soul for her inspiration. A friend of our family, Jessica, has recently made the heartfelt choice to put her baby up for adoption. She has shared every step of this journey openly with all who care about her. I think she wanted to bring light this subject of adoption and to educate others on the beauty that this choice can be under the proper circumstances. This was right for Jessica and her baby and she has bravely showed this. Jessica, you are a strong, loving, caring mother and we are so proud to know you. Janet