Adoption was always the way I knew I was going to expand my family!
It all started at my birth, September 1991. I was born to a 15 year old teenager in Illinois. She had no prenatal care and had hidden her pregnancy while living in a motel with her family. At the tender age of 15, she made a decision that would forever change the trajectory of her path and my path — adoption.
My situation fell into my (adopted) parents lap. (NOTE: I never use the term “adopted” parents when referring to my parents. Just like they would never call me their “adopted” daughter. They are simply my parents, but I used “adopted” here so you know who I am referring to when I say “parents.”) At the time, they were both in their late 20s, no children and living in a small house on Evans Avenue (which is kind of cool because that small house on Evans Avenue is now owned by my aunt!)
As the story goes, my mom’s best friend came over to my parents house on Evans Avenue one afternoon accompanied by her aunt. While I don’t know the exact conversation, she shared “My niece just had a baby girl. Would you be open to being considered in adopting her?” JUST LIKE THAT, as my mom puts it, it was like someone ripping off a bandaid: blunt and to the point and without warning.
“Let me call Bob.” Which is my dad. It’s funny because 28 years later, I can picture EXACTLY how my mom would say that. Down to her exact tone too. Ha! A couple hours later, they traveled to the hospital to meet my birth mom, Annie* and I. My dad shares there was an instant connection the moment he held me. He said he just knew.
Fast forward to the naming of yours truly. THIS IS THE CRAZIEST MOST MAGICAL PART! Keep in mind, neither my birth mom nor my parents had discussed names. My birth mom legally named me Ashley Marie. At the time of the birth certificate process, my parents didn’t know what name I was given by Annie*. Come to find out, both my birth mom and my parents had picked the SAME NAME, Ashley Marie!
My adoption was closed. I always knew I was adopted from a very young age, but I never knew my birth mom's name. I never knew where she lived and I didn't have any information beyond that she was “young.” All I knew was she was possibly still local and that she was a teenage mom. However, I think this is where I greatly differ from the majority of adoptees: I have never had a desire to learn more about her. I thought it would be interesting to see if she looked like me, and if I had any siblings out there, but I never desired to meet her. Looking back, this notion is kind of sad. But I never felt like something was missing from my life. Growing up, I rarely asked my parents questions about her. I wish I knew why I have these feelings, not having the desire that many adoptees have, but I don't.
Fast forward to October 2009 — one month after my 18th birthday. I received a Facebook message. I saw a preview of the message and it said something along the lines of,” My name is Annie*, and I think you may be the daughter I placed for adoption…”
I FROZE. I didn’t open it initially. I had my boyfriend at the time (who is now my husband, Kyle) open it and look at her picture. As I was sitting on the couch in SHOCK, I remember the first thing I finally said was, “Is she pretty?” I don’t know why to this day that THAT was the first thing I wanted to know. But remember I did say I was curious if she looked like me.
Just before Halloween in 2009, we met at a diner for the first time. I brought my boyfriend (now husband) and she brought her little sister who is just a few years older than I am. I’m going to be completely open and transparent here: it was the most awkward thing I have ever been apart of, and I’m pretty certain I can say the same for Annie* and her sister. There wasn’t the huge grand reunion with cameras, balloons and gifts galore (not that that’s what either of us wanted.) As we were standing in the parking lot of the diner, it was just like... okay, we are here! We didn't feel this instant connection like most adoptees and birth mom's share and inside the diner wasn’t much better.
There were no tears of joy, no super long hugs, no pomp and circumstance. I’m grateful for that because I am so awkward as in uncomfortable circumstances. And that’s what I felt: uncomfortable meeting her. I felt like I was betraying my parents because I didn’t tell them my plans, and didn’t end up telling them for a month or so after that I had met Annie*.
In the same breath, I feel guilty because I do not feel any emotions towards her, other than gratitude even in present day. None. And I hate it. I meet up with her maybe once every other year after moving 1000 miles away when I was 20. I wish more than anything I had a stronger connection to the woman who gave me life, but for some reason, I just lack those feelings. She has two other kids she was able to parent and I also feel zero connection to them too.
Do I think this has to do with my closed adoption? Absolutely. Do I blame my parents for the closed adoption and therefore lack of connection to my roots— absolutely not. Closed adoptions were the “norm” 30 years ago. We are evolving in the adoption community and are learning that open adoptions are the most beneficial to the child when possible so they feel a deeper sense of belonging and identity. I have no reason to believe my parents had a closed adoption with intent to hurt me. I wholeheartedly believe they did what they thought was best or what was advised of them by the professionals in their life. This was a different time in the adoption world.
Fast forward to January 16th 2020, which is where my husband and my adoption journey began together. Through social media of all places, I connected with an expectant mama out of the blue who was seeking adoption for her baby. My husband and I always discussed expanding our family though adoption, but we just assumed it would be through foster care since we are a licensed foster home. Let me just say that YES, we wholeheartedly support reunification and believe most of the time, it is for the best. We also are not naïve to the fact that not every child gets the opportunity to be reunified with their biological parents or family. Last year, we welcomed 10 children in our home from all ages ranging from 3 days old to 14.
Okay, back to January. I got a random message from one of my followers (let’s call her Sophie*) She nonchalantly asked if we would ever be interested in adopting a baby. I didn’t give it much energy because it's the internet. This was someone I didn’t know, so I didn't think anything about it... I mean adoption scams are REAL. I had my guard up. Besides, we could never afford private adoption. I didn’t even tell my husband that this follower of mine reached out. Because nothing was going to come of it anyway.
“Yes” I said. I’m pretty sure I blabbed on about how we absolutely would be open to adopting a baby but because we are foster parents, the chances of adopting a new baby are usually small. That’s when Sophie* told me that she is a part of a support group for mothers and someone in the group made a post asking about adoption. This lady was strongly leaning towards adoption at that moment in time for her unborn child, which is when Sophie* said that she would love to connect the expectant mama with me. Sophie shared with the expectant mom that I am familiar with adoption, and as an adoptee, I could just be someone for her to talk to and find support.
From my perspective at this time (because I cannot speak for our expectant mama’s side) it never crossed my mind that our conversations would lead to my husband and I being asked to be potential parents for her child. There was just no way. She lived in California, we are in North Carolina. We never met. THIS IS THE INTERNET (scams remember). The expectant mama, who we lovingly refer to as Mama M, was still early on in her pregnancy at this point, and we could never afford private adoption. There were and still are a million variables. I just wanted to be an outlet for her. Someone she could vent, share and find support because I cannot imagine being in her shoes even though, my own birth mom had to make the same decision this mama was considering. Even through talking with Mama M online, I started to feel more and more sympathetic to my own birth mom. Mama M and Annie* didn’t endure the same obstacles, but they both had a decision to make that would change the lives of so many.
Mama M, Sophie* and myself started forming a virtual friendship online and we swapped messages non-stop. We all three learned so much about each other in those first days. It was literally like a group of teens on a group chat in middle school. IT. WAS. AWESOME. A few days passed and Mama M messaged me privately. She let me know that she was considering my husband (Kyle and I) as parents for her child, but I think she was looking for something out of us to prove that we were serious about pursuing adoption too. I told her that we had contacted an adoption lawyer to see what this could entail if it were to go anywhere. The next thing I knew, things were getting serious. On January 16th, 2020, Mama M texted me saying she wanted us to walk alongside her in this journey and parent her baby. And with that, time literally stood still.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED? Moments prior, we were talking hypothetically. What if's and possibilities and this is never going to happen because this is the internet and things like this don’t happen.
I think one of the first things we did was book a flight to meet her. If we are going to be in each others lives for the rest of our lives, the first step is to meet in person. Less than two months later, we boarded a plane to meet Mama M. She was a breath of fresh air. It felt like we weren’t meeting a "stranger", but someone we had known for years. It was a short and amazing trip. We snapped a couple pictures of us together at the zoo and made great memories!
Today as I am typing this, Mama M will be 30 weeks pregnant tomorrow. In 50 days the plan is to be in an Air B&B 2100 miles from home. We want to get there a few weeks before her due date, so that we can spend time with Mama M and really work on a genuine relationship with not only her, but her children!
This is all so important to my husband and I because I want our future child(ren) to have a better relationship with their biological mama than I do with mine. I don’t want them to feel like they have to hide anything from us. I want them to have a connection. I want our future child to feel like they can freely and openly ask questions. If we get the blessing of parenting him, I want him to know where he comes from, especially since he will be a different race than us.
If you are reading this blog post because you came to Arrow and Root from my Instagram, I thank you for making it this far (because ya'll know I can write a novel and not think twice!!) and I appreciate you for following along on mine and Mama M’s journey thus far as we get closer and build a relationship. And if you are here because you are a follower of Arrow and Root, I would love for you to follow along with our journey
Thank you, Mallory for giving me the space to tell my story.
Lastly, Mama M has shared that one day she wants to be an advocate for women in similar situations as her. She has the knowledge, strength and resilience to be a mentor for young ladies who have been through life's struggles. Mama M has a lot to give and I am so proud of her!
Guest Blogger: Ashley from @our1917farmhouse on Instagram
Ashley is an adoptee who is in the process of adopting. She and her husband live in a 1917 farmhouse while loving on babies who have entered their home through foster care. Join her over on her Instagram!