OUR ADOPTION STORY
Mary, Mary, what can we say about our Mary! Here is the story of Bob, Teri, Jeremy and Mary and how our family was created through open adoption. Our story, although a wonderful one, doesn’t mean it is one without pain, disappointment, frustration or tears. It is also one of patience and faith, one of reaching out and one of giving, one of hope and love. Through it, we have received and given a gift beyond measure and feel more joy in our hearts than we thought was possible.
When Jeremy joined our family on April 13, 2003 just a short time after we had become active through Friends In Adoption, we were overcome with joy. We were so proud of him and as friends and family showered us with love, we savored every moment of our new family. We knew we wanted more children, and that it would not likely happen so fast for us the next time, so we began again with FIA and became active just after Jeremy turned one.
Once we got our new profile done, all the paperwork completed and were active again, we took a breath and just spent time enjoying our family. We did do some networking by posting our adoption postcards everywhere we went and giving them out to friends and family, but mostly we relaxed and waited. But after about 5 months with hardly a postcard we were a little discouraged. We kept in touch with FIA, participated in a group ad, attended the outreach support group in our area and talked about open adoption to anyone who would listen. When we had questions or just felt discouraged, we learned to pick up the phone and called FIA for encouragement. Having a TLC person (Thank you Lorrie!) helped us feel more comfortable calling, knowing a specific person was there for us and wanted us to reach out when we needed to.
Then in late October, we decided to do a huge mailing since it was almost time for Christmas cards. We created a card including our networking materials and requests and sent it to all of our friends, relatives, coworkers and acquaintances and didn’t leave anyone out. We jogged our memories and looked up addresses on the internet to send to friends we hadn’t seen in years. You never know who would be willing to help or who knows who so we were sure to just open up ourselves and ask everyone. We also didn’t hesitate to pass our information along to new acquaintances or people we do business with. For instance, when we sold our old van and we ended up having a friendly conversation with the woman, we shared our hopes with her and gave her our cards. Turned out her daughter was at college and knew several girls there that were pregnant and weren’t sure what to do. We were able to pass our and FIA’s information to them. Our goal was to keep focused on connecting anyone involved in an unplanned pregnancy with FIA to help them make the best decision for their family. We had faith that our baby would find its way if we just kept on believing and spreading the word.
“Our goal was not only to network, but to educate people about Open Adoption.”
By spring we wanted to do more than the group ads and we had become familiar with a local Freecycle group. Freecycle is a way people can give things they no longer need or want to people looking for just that! It is run through aYahoo Group on the internet. We decided to clean out the garage and have a Free Sale instead of a Garage Sale and advertise it on our Freecycle site, which has over 3000 members. We set up a table with adoption literature, FIA brochures, pens, and lots of our own networking cards. Our goal was not only to network, but to educate people about Open Adoption. It was amazing some of the stories people shared with us that day. Most everyone was willing to take some of our cards and was interested in knowing more about adoption. And several actually knew someone who was pregnant and unsure of what to do. We also set up a donation can for Bittersweet, because through our adoption journey, we have become passionate about birth parents and the journeys they are on.
At the same time, we were working on revising our profile as Jeremy was 2 yrs old now, a full- fledged toddler and all the pictures in our profile were when he was just a baby. It just wasn’t a true picture of who our family was now. We revised and revised over and over (took longer than the 1st one!), talked to many FIA staff members and a few close friends about it and finally printed the new ones in late June. Another thing happening in our minds during this time was the consideration of opening to different races. It seemed something was prompting us (mainly Teri at this point) in this direction to at least explore our thoughts about it and find out more.
When I brought up the possibility to Bob, he had reservations about it and seemed a little reluctant to talk too much about it. This surprised me, as Bob is probably the most accepting person I know. I had been thinking and praying for it for some time. I tried to give him space, but also prompt him to search his thoughts and feelings about it.
We talked at length about it at our home study update visit with our counselor, Kate. We brought up our questions and she gave us some new ones. At that point we thought we had to be open to all or nothing of a certain race but we learned that wasn’t the case at all. We were dealing with questions like, “Would we be the best parents to a child of another race? Would they always wish they were with a family more like their biological family? How would we would relate to the birth parents? Would our child feel too ‘different’ especially since we and Jeremy are full Caucasian and he or she will look different? How would the world treat us and more importantly our children? What additional struggles might we expect and did we want to accept them?” It made us think about all the other difficult situations and medical conditions that we were open to and was this so different? We knew our love for them would have no boundaries but what about the other ‘stuff ’? We decided to continue to think and pray about it and planned to attend the next Children of Color Workshop.
I had never really sat down and thought about my feelings about adopting a child of a race different than our own, so when Teri brought it up, I hesitated. When I really thought about it the questions that came to mind were always about society and being different, about how other people would treat us and our children. My thoughts took me back to growing up and I remembered friends with backgrounds different from my own and realized I never had considered them any differently. And there was no doubt in my mind that I could love and accept a child from another race but still I worried about the “world” and how it would treat us and our children. Another thought I had was would our child accept us and not wish he or she had parents of his or her race. I kept thinking, I need to know in my heart that if presented with a possible situation, I wouldn’t even think of the question, “How dark is she/he.” Then I would know I was sure.
More from Teri:
After our meeting with Kate, I tried my best (although it wasn’t easy!) to let Bob work it out on his own. I knew in order for it to be right for our family, it had to be right for both of us and if I “bugged” him about it, it could move us further away. But I also knew that no one else would prompt him to think about it, so I couldn’t resist mentioning little gentle thoughts about it over the next few days. Luckily Bob didn’t pull away. I really still felt the need to talk about it for myself, so I shared it with a trusted friend that I knew wouldn’t “judge” Bob and would help me be accountable to not “bugging” him with it as well as pray with me about it. I also called FIA and shared my thoughts with a few staff members. After that, I felt more at peace about it and just continued to pray for Bob to not put it on the back burner and that somehow our baby would find us soon.
Just a few weeks later, everything was put into perspective. In Bob’s words, “Ba Bam, it’s show time!”. It was July 23rd, an ordinary Saturday afternoon. We had just put Jeremy down for his nap and Teri was resting, nursing a headache and lack of sleep the night before (turns out while Mary was being born she couldn’t sleep!). Bob burst into the room with the news that FIA was on the phone and they wanted to know if we wanted to be considered to be the parents of a healthy baby girl born earlier that day. So much for my nap! Dawn told us more about her birth family and the baby’s heritage. Her birth mom is half Hispanic and half Caucasian and her birth father is African American. We talked and prayed together. Although I (Teri) knew I wanted this little baby girl more than anything, I also knew I had to be sure Bob felt free to say he wasn’t ready for this and I had to be ok with that. I forced myself to see the bigger picture instead of just the desires of my heart and look at our family as a whole. I reassured Bob that we were together on this no matter what and we agreed to spend a little time by ourselves to search our souls. When we came back together and looked into each other’s eyes, we just knew that we had found our baby girl. Incredibly enough, within a few hours we were at the hospital with Mary from FIA meeting the birth family and then baby Mary! We will be honest the experience at the hospital with Mary’s birth mom and her parents was extremely difficult and very emotional. It was something no one could have prepared us for. But when the moment arrived, the right words came and we just opened ourselves to them. There were lots of tears, but no amount of pain could even come close to the joy we felt when we met Mary, held her and told her we loved her. When I (Bob) saw Mary for the first time I thought to myself, “Why did I have such a hard time with this decision?” I am so glad that I was able to get over my own insecurities and realize what is important. It is about life and being a family, not about what you look like or where you came from. The hospital gave us a room right there on the maternity floor and we spent the next 2 days with Mary, gazing at her and at times not believing she was real or that we weren’t just dreaming. We were so excited to realize that Mary’s birth family wanted the kind of open relationship that we had hoped for. We have grown to have such a passion for all birth parents and will do whatever it takes to be sure they are honored and respected as part of who our children are. It means so much that Mary’s birth mom chose her middle name Renee.
Waiting the 30 day period was difficult but our faith helped us know that no matter what, baby Mary would be where God meant her to be. On Day 29, we received a call from Mary’s birth family reassuring us of the confidence of Mary’s adoption plan. They were worried about us and the stress we must be feeling as Day 30 approached. It was so amazing to feel them reaching out to us at what must have been such a difficult time for them. We are so thankful and it made us realize even more how powerful and remarkable open adoption can be. We named Day 31, (August 24th), Yeah Day! but ended up celebrating on Day 29 after that call. Yeah Day! Jeremy is a big brother now to his new baby sister, Mary Renee!
Mary is beautiful and healthy in every way. (Mary at FIA described her as “breathtaking”!) Jeremy has been the model big brother so far and our family is far bigger than the 4 individuals we are. Together we are so much more. We have shared the news of Mary with everyone! She has been introduced to almost all of her cousins and aunts and uncles and we have tons of pictures of her being held and loved and welcomed by them all! Two very special people in her life are her Aunt Mary and her cousin Bonnie. Mary is Teri’s sister and Bonnie is her daughter, brought to their family through adoption through FIA 13 years ago. Bonnie and baby Mary have a special relationship already and Bonnie holds and cares for her every moment she can.
Mary is 8 weeks old as we write this and already we can’t remember when she wasn’t part of our family. Even the pain and frustration of waiting and hoping for our children seems a distant thought and perhaps seems to make it all the more sweeter and meaningful. And just as everyone told us, Mary came to us at just the perfect time and she and her birth family are a perfect fit for our family. This is one time when we don’t mind hearing the words, “I told you so!”.
We want to thank Mary at FIA for really being there for us at the hospital and for having just the right words at the right moment. No matter how tense that moment was, Mary was there with something to make it better. At one point when we were talking with baby Mary’s birth family, we got to a point when the birth grandmother and I looked at each other in a silent moment and said, “We need Mary!”. That helped us all laugh at an awkward moment and then in walked Mary at just the right time! She also took whatever time it took to do whatever needed to be done. It gave us great peace of mind to know that she was taking care of things and that we could enjoy our first day with baby Mary and leave those worries to her. Thank you Mary!
Another special “Thank You” goes to Holly, who is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. Holly, you have been an inspiration to us and I love to watch what God is doing in your life! Thank you for reaching out to all birth parents out there (especially Mary’s birth family of course!) and for the love you have for us adoptive parents too! Thank you for all the times you listened to me on the phone and for all your encouraging words. You truly are a special person!
To everyone at FIA, we are forever grateful to you and are so glad we shared our adoption journey with incredible people like you. Creating our family through adoption had fewer rocky spots and more cool springs to refresh us because of who you are. Thank you!
Teri, Bob, Jeremy and Mary