Randi is 20 years old. She lives in a small Nebraska town. She’s been saving money since she graduated high school so that she can pursue education or a career and makes ends meet by cleaning houses. She is grounded in the support of family and friends.
And she is also a proud birth mother and advocate for open adoption.
“There’s a lot of things about adoption that people don’t know,” she says. “There’s the standards that you give your baby up and then you go away. And it doesn’t have to be like that.”
This is Randi’s story.
Although Randi had missed a period, pregnancy was in the back of her mind and was something that she really didn’t want to accept. It wasn’t until an unrelated visit to the doctor that she learned she was pregnant. “I had been having these horrible migraines, and I hadn’t been able to fall asleep at the drop of a hat, and that’s not me. I’m the kind of person who goes to bed at night and wakes up in the morning,” she says. A blood test confirmed that Randi was two and a half weeks along.
“My pregnancy was pretty rough,” says Randi, whose baby was born at nine pounds. “Every piece of energy, she had it.” Her pregnancy was a lot sleeping and taking it easy. She was also still working, at the same place (a call center) as her baby’s father. “It wasn’t a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship,” she says. “We were more or less hanging out. Things just stopped for us. He stopped talking, stopped emailing, anything.”
“As I got pregnant, it was really hard because I saw him every day,” Randi says. “He saw as I got bigger, he saw me get sick at work. And he had nothing to say about the situation at all.”
Luckily, Randi did have the support of her family. “My immediate family is just my grandpa and my mom,” she says. “My dad is really not in the picture, so I’m close to them. We pretty much just stick together.”
After telling a friend that she was considering adoption and receiving a lukewarm response, Randi hoped to find support from her mom. “It’s your baby, and you can decide what to do. I’ll be supportive either way,” her mother said. “So my family had my back the whole way and the whole adoption process,” Randi says.
Randi began researching adoption and was drawn to American Adoptions because it was “easy-going” and the adoption process was “really up to what you wanted.” Randi was especially excited to share what she wanted in an adoptive family and to get to pick them for herself.
Matthew and Katheryn made the choice easy. The letter on their profile assured Randi that they would be open to contact after the adoption and that they’d always tell her daughter that Randi loved her. Their focus on family and God were also attractive. And it seemed like fate that they’d already adopted a biracial daughter. “I felt like not only being adopted but also being biracial, they had something to compare themselves to each other and to relate to,” Randi says.
“When we got matched with them, it was like an instant connection,” she says. Matthew and Katheryn made themselves available to Randi throughout her pregnancy with weekly phone calls. “If I wanted to talk one week, they would talk to me. If I didn’t, if my emotions were just too strong, they were like, ‘Ok, let’s talk next week,’” she says.
When Randi was seven months along, Matthew and Katheryn traveled with their daughter Verity to visit her. “Oh my gosh, my nerves were off the wall,” she says. “I got her flowers and Matthew this Almond Joy thing, and I was trying to hand it to them. But I was shaking so much, I had to set it down. I didn’t even know what to say and what was going to happen and what they were really going to look like and if they were going to be different than their profile or the phone. My first reaction was to cry because I couldn’t believe that I was actually meeting them.”
During the visit, Matthew and Katheryn got to be with Randi during an ultrasound. And she got to see them interact with their daughter Verity. The whole experience helped Randi feel at ease with her adoption decision.
“I think that if I would have waited to meet them until it was actually time to have her and give her up, I don’t think I would have been as comfortable with it,” she says. “It was even more helpful seeing them around Verity and seeing how they react with their kid already and how they are teaching Verity and all that stuff. It put a comfort in me knowing that they were as good as they said.”
The couple headed back to their West Coast home, and Randi settled into her last months of pregnancy.
At 7 a.m. on a Friday in September, Randi went to the hospital with contractions. She’d already taken the time to plan out her hospital stay and delivery with her Adoption Specialist at American Adoptions. Her hospital also catered to her wishes and was even willing to change the plan on the fly if Randi felt it would make her more comfortable. “It was nice to have them double-check because you feel one thing before everything happens, and then when it’s happening, it’s a totally different feeling,” Randi says. “You don’t know how you’re going to react until she [the baby] is actually here.”
Baby Gethsemane Juniper Anne, nicknamed Gethey or Juniper, was born by 1 p.m. Randi said the birth made her feel overwhelmed, even though she was trying to stay calm and collected and strong. “But the moment I saw her, there was nothing else that mattered more than her,” Randi says. “It was overwhelming because I’d never felt that before. I don’t know how to explain it. I’ve never held or made anything so important. It was like a step back from reality, so many emotions, one word doesn’t explain it.”
Although Randi would have been happy to have Matthew and Katheryn in the delivery room with her, the couple didn’t make it to the hospital until about 6 p.m. after driving in from the West Coast. Randi sent one of her friends to the lobby to pick them up when they arrived. “She said they were running in the hospital, and she had to fast walk to keep up,” Randi says.
Randi says the weekend was a blur and a lot of hanging out. “Matthew and Katheryn never pushed anything onto me,” Randi says. “They said, ‘This is your time with her to do what you want and we respect that.’ It was really nice.” Together, they all changed diapers and did feedings, but Gethey slept in a room with Matthew and Katheryn, according to Randi’s wishes . “It made sense to me that they would sleep with her because they would eventually be taking care of her,” Randi says.
On Sunday morning, it was time to sign the papers that made Matthew and Katheryn Gethey’s legal parents. “I asked to have an hour alone [with her] before I actually signed the papers,” Randi says, “I pretty much just stared at her the whole time.” Although Randi says she bawled that day, nothing about the process felt forceful, and she was able to take her time. Then Randi, her family, Matthew and Katheryn left the hospital and packed Gethey into her car seat together.
Randi was able to meet Gethey and her adoptive parents once more before interstate paperwork was filed, and they left for their home. They took extended family pictures in a nearby park and had a final goodbye.
“It was heartbreaking, but there was never a time that I didn’t feel like it felt right,” Randi says. “It was hard because you still have all these hormones running through you and all these motherly instincts. And It’s like your brain is telling you one thing, and your body is telling you another thing. I think that was the hardest part.”
But still Randi knew she was making the right decision in adoption, and the right decision in choosing Katheryn and Matthew.
“It’s amazing how something like that, when you’re so down in your life, and you meet people like that who can just make you realize that there are still good people out there,” she says.
Randi describes her adoption as “pretty much as open as you get.” The group exchanges emails and texts, and Randi says that Katheryn is always willing to talk. With phone dates scheduled weekly during her pregnancy, biweekly after Gethey was born and now monthly, “I’m slowly weaning off knowing everything and just kinda moving on,” Randi says.
But one of the more special aspects of Katheryn, Matthew and Randi’s relationship is a blog that Katheryn maintains. It began during Randi’s pregnancy and now shows adorable photos and all the little milestones of Gethey and her sister Verity’s lives.
“Every picture, it brightens my day. There are two things I check every day, the blog and my facebook,” Randi says. “When I see a random picture that she puts on there, it just makes me feel like she’s not forgetting about me, and keeping up with what she said she was going to do.”
Randi says their relationship has been strengthened by honesty as well. “They’re not promising anything that they can’t or won’t do. From the start, they told me that they would probably not be able to come down here and visit more for a couple years. I was kind of uncertain about it, but they told me that they’re not going to promise me anything that they’re unable to do or go through with. And that kind of built up my trust a little more in them,” Randi says.
Randi, too, has been unable to visit Gethey and family, who live on the West Coast. “I was really, really hoping on going up there for her first birthday, but I had a lot of stuff going on… it was just financially, I just couldn’t do it,” she says. “It broke my heart because I wanted to be there for her first birthday. But Katheryn explained to me that she’s not going to really remember who was there.”
Randi, who admits that some days are harder than others, is “trying to get back on track.” Working full time and saving money, she finds healing in the blog and the openness of her adoption.
After her adoption was finalized, Randi met up with the father of her daughter to try and find common ground. She asked him if he would have helped her parent Gethey, had she decided on parenting over adoption. And although he said yes, “There was just something in my mind that I just didn’t believe that. And so it’s just something I didn’t want to have to go through, having to put my child through the games that he would want to play,” she says.
It’s this strength that helps Randi feel sure of her decision and keep up with daily life. “In an open adoption, you have to be strong,” she says. “You have to be able to look at pictures and not feel like you’re beyond that, but more or less be happy for the baby.”
“It’s hard, but then I always come back to the whole adoption situation itself, how good I have it, how I shouldn’t be sad and how good she has it. I mean, I have my hard days. But I always talk myself out of being sad because I do have it good. I have a wonderful adoption,” she says.
Randi is the first to say that every adoption is different, but feels that open adoption is best for her: “I just have this feeling that every baby is going to wonder when they get older who their birth mother is and why they weren’t involved and why they didn’t care or all that stuff. So I just didn’t want Juniper to ever think that.”
Randi’s best advice for other pregnant women is to think of the future. “I thought about how in the future, I was going to be 22 or 23 having to find daycare for her, trying to get a job, trying to get my life started,” she says. “You’ve just got to be strong and fight through all the crazy hormones that you have when you’re pregnant, and you’ve got to wait. And you can’t be selfish either because it’s not really about you. It’s about that baby, and that’s all that matters.”
She also thinks it’s best to talk to someone who is open-minded about options to “learn if you’ll be able to do it financially or if you’re strong enough to do adoption.”
Because of her open adoption, Randi has a lot to look forward to, especially the joys of a beautiful daughter. “I love still being able to have that connection with Juniper,” she says. “I get all jittery thinking about it because it’s going to blow my mind when she’s five and she starts talking, and I can actually talk to her and have a conversation with her.”
Randi’s story shows how adoption can create a special extended family for a child. To hear about the adoptions that brought Matthew and Katheryn to Verity and Gethey, visit their story here.
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