I picked a book off of my shelf this afternoon – Secrets to your Successful Domestic Adoption: Insider Advice to Create your Forever Family Faster by Jennifer Joyce Pedley. You see, our first (and currently, only) daughter is adopted. For months before she joined our family, adoption was my every other thought. I remember ripping this same book out of a mailer from our adoption attorney in November of 2011, hungrily skimming its pages and dreaming of what our adoption story would look like.
At this point in our adoption journey, we had been matched with our second potential birthmom. (Our first potential birth mom decided to parent, but that is a story for another day.) While our first potential birthmom was flighty and unreliable, changing her mind about the adoption every day, our second potential birthmom (we’ll call her “N”) was solid as a rock and was quickly becoming a dear friend.
Early on in our journey, weeks before I received this book and while N was still making her decision, N said that she wanted the adoption to be closed after birth. She thought it would be better for the baby to only know us as her parents. We were open to a closed adoption, if that was what she wanted, but were still hoping for an open adoption and praying for what would be best for the baby. After getting to know each other for almost a month, N called us and said that she had made up her mind and that she wanted to give us her baby. (This is where the tears commenced and continue to commence every time I talk or type about it.) I didn’t think I could be more overjoyed. However, she went on to say that if we were open to it, she wanted to keep the adoption open, not because she wanted to be part of the baby’s every day life, but because she wanted to maintain our friendship. As a quick note, I don’t want you to think she was heartless in saying she didn’t want to be part of the baby’s life. In fact, she was happy to still get to see the baby, but did not want to interfere with our parenting and wanted us to know that she would not see herself as the baby’s mom. Her main reason for changing her mind was our friendship. She said she had never had friends like us, whom she clicked with, who shared her faith, and who pointed her to Christ. I was even more overjoyed!!! I, too, did not want to say goodbye to this sweet friendship.
Shortly after this conversation, I received this book in the mail. I was confident that N and this pending adoption were a gift from God and that everything would go smoothly. I trusted N and I trusted God, but I had no idea what the future held and what our open adoption would look like. I had heard stories of open adoptions across the spectrum – amazing, healthy relationships between the biological and adoptive parents, as well as surface-level relationships, that involved annual visits or just annual letters. I had also envisioned horrid open adoptions, where the birth parents lied to the kids, telling them they were stolen and exposed them to awful things. (Please note: I had never heard of this, I was just scared and my imagination was overactive. Also, for potential adoptive parents reading this, if this or anything else in an open adoption ever were to happen, visits could be canceled in the best interest of the child.) My husband and I had gone to conferences, read many books, and seen the statistics. We believed that open adoption was the best option for the child in most adoption situations, but I still had no idea what our open adoption would look like! Little did I know what God had in store!
One of the first adoption stories in the book really struck a cord with me. I’ll share it with you now:
It was a beautiful autumn Wisconsin day, cool enough to need a wrap but warm enough to leave my coat in the car. I gripped by husband’s arm tightly and stepped deliberately in my heels, careful to land squarely in the middle of the slate patio pavers, kitty-whompus from years of frost and thaw. There wasn’t exactly an aisle, but we sat down in the chairs on the left anyway, the side traditionally filled by guests of the bride. Even though it was nearly sixteen years since my own wedding, I am not ashamed to admit that, like most chicks, I still get butterflies in my stomach just before any bride appears on her own big day. In the case of this particular bride, I was weepy before we even sat down in the fairy-tale courtyard. All weddings are significant, but this wedding was especially sweet to me because the bride was my dear friend Rikki, a birthmother who I first met only weeks after she had given birth to her daughter, Lena, and had gently placed her into the arms of her new adoptive family.
In an odd sort of way, I felt a surge of pride, as if I, the mother hen, was watching one of my baby chicks leave the nest. I had watched Rikki “grow up” in the last seven years (probably more than she had in the previous twenty!). She was a part of the first group of birthmothers to whom I’d become an unofficial mentor, adviser, and cheerleader through years of their open adoption journeys. Many others in that very group of remarkable women were sitting around me as well; I could almost feel them absorbing the hope that they too would find happiness in their own lives. Certainly, a wedding is a big step from anyone, but for a birthmother who wonders every day how her life will play out differently because of that crossroad decision, it is a giant leap!
Lena, now seven years old, emerged from behind the ancient stone columns and began to make her way toward the front, her fancy princess dress swishing with each step. As she tossed pink rose petals from a dainty basket, I wished that I could somehow bottle this moment to replay for every apprehensive pre-adoptive couple I’d ever tried to convince of the benefits of open adoption. It’s one thing to read about it in a book or to hear about it from an “expert” at an adoption conference, but completely another to see it being lived out with Technicolor emotions.”
Next down the aisle were Rikki’s two sisters, followed by the third and final member of the wedding party, the matron of honor. Nothing unusual there, except that Rikki’s matron of honor, N, is also Lena’s adoptive mother. If you knew Rikki and N, you wouldn’t be surprised. After all, they’ve been family since the day Lena was born. I’m still not sure what is more wonderful: that Rikki had the honor of having her daughter be a part of that monumental day or the fact that Lena had absolutely no idea what a remarkable thing it was for her, her mom, and her birthmom to all be standing there. After all, this was just normal life for her – nothing unusual to be surrounded by all the people who love her. (Pedley, Jennifer Joyce, Secrets to your Successful Domestic Adoption, 9-10)
I remember sitting there, pondering this story, and thinking, “I wonder if our story will be like this.” Many people might be scared of a story like this, but I was intrigued by it, and thought that, with the Lord, a story like this could be amazing, for the child and for the parents. Being one who typically doesn’t like to get my hopes up, I told myself, this probably won’t happen. I was confident we would remain friends, but didn’t think we would ever be that close.
Fast forward a little over a year and a half. N is no where near being married, and I have no idea if I will be in her wedding, but I can confidently say that she is one of my best friends and vice versa. She is like the sister that I never had. I thank God for our relationship every day and know that it is a story only he could have written.
Just to give you an idea of our relationship, I thought I’d share a few things. Before Abby (our precious daughter) was born, N ended up staying with us for a few weeks. We did almost everything together: baking (it was Christmas time), shopping, watching movies, having friends over. Even though she was living with us, we still stayed up late into the night talking almost every night. It was almost like a sleep-over!
For Christmas, her parents drove to our place in California. My husband worked at a university and we had a tiny two-bedroom apartment. While we didn’t have room for her family of seven to stay, the university was gracious enough to let us use an empty four bedroom apartment over the holidays in addition to our own place. It was perfect. We celebrated Christmas and New Years together, waiting for our little one to join us. It was one of the sweetest holidays ever. It felt (and still feels) as if our family grew by eight, instead of by one. One of our first family-of-three vacations was to visit N’s parents in Colorado. Little did we know that a year later, God would move us to Colorado, where we live an hour from N’s parents and half an hour from N (she made completely separate plans to move, but ended up moving the same week as us and we caravanned)! We couldn’t be more thrilled to have our family close by!
Over the year and a half since Abby was born, N has visited at least once a month. While working at a Christian camp, she would often drive down on her breaks and spend the weekend with us. Some months, it was every weekend and every time she visited, she was a welcome guest and I couldn’t wait for her to arrive! When we moved to Colorado, she was my first friend to see our new house and spent many weekends helping us with new homeowner projects. She is also one of our go-to babysitters (and for those of you concerned, has never once interfered with our parenting and says that it has never been difficult to see us with Abby or to see Abby – in her words, “Abby is our kid”)! She has become a confidant, a friend, and a sister.
This is a story that only God could have written. I look forward to the future chapters, to seeing my dear friend and sister find the love of her life, get married and have a family of her own. I can only hope and pray that our friendship will stay strong through it all.
I am not saying that this will be the story for every family (in fact, it probably won’t be), but God saw the desire of my heart and knew what would be best for all of us involved – Abby, Jonathan, me, N, and N’s family. We serve a God who gives immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine and I praise Him for His perfect plan. (Ephesians 3:20)
Just the other day, I was talking to a friend and saying that we would never have another adoption like Abby’s! A few days later, God shared with me a story that could be much like Abby’s story. I don’t know when our future children will come or how, but God reminded me that He knows the desires of our hearts and is able to do more than we could ask or imagine. He then prompted me to pick up this book and I remembered what He had done for us and was reminded of what He could do in the future. You never know, we could end up with another amazing adoption story, written by Him. In fact, I’m sure we will! It may not be the same, and probably won’t be, but I have no doubt if we (and you) give him control over your lives, His story for our lives will be incredible!!
 The way she joined our family is truly an amazing story. You’ll see pieces of it throughout this blog and, hopefully, it will all be written down soon.