American Adoptions writer, Diana, is an adoptee. Her parents, Harry & Sherry, share their story:
Our adoption story began in the summer of 1988. My husband and I had been married nine years and spent five of the nine years in infertility treatment. My husband, frustrated with our progress, suggested we visit an adoption agency. I was very hesitant.
Although I was frustrated as well, I was optimistic that “next month” we would be pregnant. Finally, in the fall of that year I agreed we would visit with a social worker at the agency, but still thought of adoption as “Plan B.”
One of the reasons I was reluctant to adopt was my worry that as my child grew up and asked questions about birth parents I could not answer, they would begin to fantasize about the life they could have had and not be happy with their life in our family. Those worries were dispelled when the social worker told us that the agency only did open adoptions.
She described how the profiles, pictures and letters we would compile would be shared with birth parents, and after viewing profiles from several potential adoptive parents, the birth parents would choose who to meet with and potentially place their child with. The birth parents and adoptive parents would then stay in touch (deciding among themselves exactly what that meant to them) and the adopted child would grow up knowing who their birth parents were and have health history and the ability to ask questions of birth parents when necessary.
All of the sudden I was “all in.” Open adoption made perfect sense to me. I could see how important it was for the physical and mental health of my child and also for the mental health of the birth parents. Learning about open adoption took away my fear of the adoption process.
In February of 1989, our son was born. His paternal grandmother placed him in our arms three days later. In the 27 years since his birth, we have maintained a close relationship with his birth parents and birth-grandparents, and by close I mean visits over the years and frequent phone calls and letters. My son, as an adult, now determines how much contact he wishes to have, but my husband and I always stay in contact with the birth families because they are part of our extended family.
I could go into more detail about our son’s adoption, but this blog post is meant to highlight our daughter, Diana’s, adoption, which took place 27 months later.
When our son was around 20 months old, my husband and I knew we would like to adopt another child. Our worry was: how could a second adoption possibly go as wonderfully as the adoption of our son? Would we always compare the two processes? What if we don’t feel as bonded to this birth family as we do to our son’s? Good advice from my sister propelled us forward. She said, “Why shouldn’t the second adoption be a miraculous as the first? Have faith. Don’t be afraid.”
We contacted the same agency and, once again, our profile was sent out to birth parents. We were selected by a couple who were college students at the time. My first impression of these two young people was — “they are so smart!” They were very interesting as well — people who I could have imagined myself being friends with when I was in college.
It was also obvious that they loved their baby. Birth Father was so gentle and considerate with Birth Mother. Birth Mother was very careful of what she chose to eat for lunch to make sure it was healthy and would not upset the baby. Needless to say, we admired and respected these two courageous people who wanted the best for their child.
Diana’s birth parents wanted to place her with us at the birth father’s home. Her placement is such a lovely memory. We had chocolate cake and strawberries. Both sets of birth grandparents were in attendance. Birth Mother’s older brother spent time entertaining our son, so much so, it was hard to get him to leave when the time came. One of the most vivid memories I have of that day is Diana fussing while I was holding her and thinking, “She hears her birth mother’s voice and wants to be held by her.”
I cherish that memory as it reminds me of the sacrifice that the birth parents had to make to provide me with a family. My love and respect for them is overwhelming.
We were happy to send letters and pictures of Diana to her birth families. It was never a burden because we were so proud of this beautiful child and couldn’t wait to share every milestone in her life. Their letters to us were always so positive, and when they expressed gratitude to us for being such good parents, I was humbled beyond what I can express.
I have many wonderful memories of letters, gifts and visits with Diana’s birth families; here are two of my favorites:
When Diana was about 2 ½ years old, we met her paternal birth family at a hotel as we traveled through Kansas on our way home for Christmas. This was the first time her paternal grandparents had seen her since her birth. Diana was quite precocious and articulate for her age. She was cute as can be all dressed up in her poinsettia dress for the special occasion. I could not wait for her birth family to meet her. She was a delight, and entertained everyone. Her birth family was so complementary of her and our family. I was reassured by the visit that her birth father was confident of the decision he made to place this precious girl with us.
The second memory is when Diana’s birth mother was her Confirmation sponsor at our Catholic Church. We had such a great family celebration afterward. Diana’s birth family — grandparents, birth mother and her husband’s precious children, my parents and siblings with their children — all in our home together celebrating this incredible young woman we all loved and supported. I remember looking around my very full home with such joy in my heart.
Diana now is in control of the contact she has with her birth family. We still keep in touch with them by Facebook and are happy when Diana meets with her birth father or hears from one of her birth grandparents. We love seeing pictures of her birth mother’s beautiful children and have felt honored to be able to attend her birth father’s music performances.
I know this story sounds a bit idyllic, but I can honestly say the only downside we have experienced of the open adoption process is — we wish we could have spent MORE time with our children’s birth families but distance and time have not allowed us to do so. We genuinely care for them and enjoy their company. We wish they could have attended more of Diana’s piano and dance recitals, seen how beautiful she was for prom, and experienced her extraordinary talent when she acted in plays in college.
If I can, from our experience, give one piece of advice to prospective adoptive parents, it is DO NOT BE AFRAID! Do not let fear invade your relationship with the birth parents of your child. Remember always, love is never divided, only multiplied. I wish each and every one of you the joy that can only come when you are called “Mom” or “Dad.”
Sherry and I were married in August of 1979 and we spent several years focusing on our professional lives, but knew that we would eventually want to start a family. After many months of trying to conceive and additional fertility testing, we decided to meet with a fertility specialist.
We spent several months following their advice and unfortunately, we simply were not able to get pregnant. This was a very stressful time in our lives as we watched month after month pass without a pregnancy, wondering if we were simply not going to be able to have children.
During that time, I started thinking about other options to bring children into our family. I have always been fascinated with the adoption process having known others who decided that this might be the best option for them.
I presented the idea to Sherry, and at first she was not ready to even consider this option. With a great deal of additional discussion and prayer, we both decided that we would approach an adoption agency to seek their advice and counsel. After visiting with the agency about their adoption process, they encouraged us to consider an open adoption. Both of us really liked the idea and decided that we would work with the agency to seek a child through an open adoption.
The degree of openness to open adoptions seemed natural and welcoming. I liked the idea that an open adoption was simply a way to expand our current family by including birth parents and their family into ours. I wanted the birth parents to be totally committed to Sherry and me – feeling at peace with their decision. This gave them a chance to know that they made the right decision picking us and looked forward to continue being involved with the child’s life in some way. The greatest value in open adoption is that the child has nothing hidden from them… they know the families they came from and the family that raised them.
Both of our two children have been adopted through open adoptions, and even after 25+ years, I’m absolutely convinced that it was the right decision.
Sherry and I spent weeks preparing a profile of our family that included information about our open adoption with our son. We knew that it was critical to try to tell our story through the family profile so that potential birth parents would feel like they knew us. We knew it was important for them to understand the unique opportunity of open adoption like the one we had with our son. It wasn’t about trying to sell ourselves, it was about letting potential birth parents know all there was to know about us, and to open the door for a face-to-face meeting – which I believe is the critical part of the process.
It wasn’t long after we completed the biography that we got a call from the social worker at the agency to tell us they had a couple who really wanted to meet with us. After getting that call, I knew in my heart that God was involved in this decision (as he was in our son’s adoption) and we were in the process of getting our second child.
Our second adopted child, Diana, was born to a teenage couple from western Kansas, who made the courageous decision to place their child for adoption.
Meeting with Diana’s birth parents was simply a delight. Once we started our visit with them, it became clear to me that we wanted to welcome them into our family. They kept us up-to-date about the pregnancy, and we wanted to make sure that they had everything that they needed. There was even some discussion about being in the delivery room with them during the birth.
The total commitment to their decision to place this child for adoption was evident during all our conversations with them throughout the pregnancy. Sherry and I felt it was important that the birth parents give the baby her name. They liked the name “Diana” and we agreed: our daughter would be called Diana.
Both Sherry and I were totally committed to the birth parents. Our door to them was always open; we welcomed visits in our home, we would talk with their families by phone whenever they wanted to chat, we would send letters to them on a regular basis and at least once a year we would provide them with pictures from all the kids’ activities during that year…to this day, we still send them a Christmas letter with photos.
After Diana’s birth, we met with the entire birth family in Dodge City, where they hosted a reception with their extended family to meet us. With a great deal of love, they handed Diana over to us.
It was a true celebration and to this day, we call them our family.
Thank you for these touching stories, Sherry and Harry!
Reading this brought tears to my eyes! What a lovely story. You are all an inspiration to other families! God’s Blessings to all of you!
How beautiful. I hope you will also share the birth parents’ stories.
If they would like to share their stories, we’d certainly love to have them!
As the Social Worker at Charities when you first came to inquire about adoption, I count myself blessed to have been a part of your open adoptions. I remember with warmth our contacts then – and since then. You are both a wonderful example of how open adoptions are supposed to work. Thank you for sharing your stories. Fondly, Bonnie Frey (Back then a MSW.)
My parents always speak so highly of you, Bonnie! Thank you for everything you did for us!
Being a birth mom myself, this story brought tears of joy. This couple looks so familiar to me, though, so I’m a little curious to know which adoption agency they went through. Is it possible that it was in Great Bend, Kansas? I’m wondering if I looked at their profile book back in the Fall of 1990? I had my daughter in January, 1991, and chose a family from Arizona, but I really feel like I looked at this couple’s book. God bless!
Yes, Heather; that’d be them! Wow! What a small world. I was born just a few months after your daughter. I’m glad everything worked out for us all the way it did. : )
I absolutely have goosebumps, Diana! What a small world, indeed! I prayed over all the books that I looked through, as it was too difficult a decision to make on my own. I’m so thankful God led you and my daughter to your respective families. What a blessing to revisit this memory!
When your adopted son was 1 year old, what did you refer to his biological grandparents as? Your son couldn’t talk, but did you say in your mind, Grandma and Grandpa or Mr and Mrs or another name?
Hey! This story is about my brother and I. We usually called our birth grandparents by their first names, but if someone said Grandma and Grandpa Lastname, we knew who they were talking about, then, as well. They usually call themselves our Birth Grandparents, or Grandma and Grandpa Lastname, to distinguish themselves from our (adoptive) grandparents.
Hope this helps!