When Wendy and Ben started their adoption process, they could not imagine what their futures held. “I could not believe what becoming a mom meant. I could not love our kids any more had they grown within me. I would give my life for them,” explains Wendy.
This emotional side of adoption and parenting is a far stretch from the logical decisions they made as they began their adoption process. “It was hard to figure out what program we wanted, so we went to one of the CH/LSS adoption fairs and heard stories from families who had adopted,” recalls Wendy. “At the time we were looking for the clearest, easiest, most-sure path to parenthood. We quickly learned there was no such thing.”
But looking into infant adoption meant considering open adoption: something that initially scared the couple. “I can’t believe how much my heart changed in learning about open adoption,” says Wendy. “I did a 180. I was so afraid of open adoption, but by the time I went through the education, I understood how healthy it is. How important it is to not have a secret that your child will discover at 10 years old.”
Once they decided infant adoption was the right program, the couple had to face a few fears. “You fear going through the paperwork and the financials,” explains Ben. “You also fear being vulnerable: putting yourself in a book, meeting an expectant mother and then not getting picked.” Even after connecting with an expectant parent, new concerns moved to the forefront: “We were always on pins and needles with whether the adoption would go through, or if we would leave the hospital with a child,” Wendy remembers.
Wendy emphasized that this vulnerability goes both ways. “My heart went out to my daughter’s birth mom. Even with signed contact agreements, she needed time to learn to trust that there would always be a next visit,” explains Wendy. “These women, they carry a child. They give a life within. They place a child in our arms. What they ask is so little. Whether it’s a say in naming, visits, extra time at the hospital—these are small asks.”
Over five years and two adoptions, Wendy and Ben have discovered that open adoption relationships are unique experiences that change throughout the years. “We share text messages and pictures with both moms,” explains Ben. “We see our son’s birth mom less frequently than our daughter’s. Not for lack of effort—there are just different dynamics in each relationship.”
“We try to keep an open door. The more people loving our kids the better. They don’t belong to us.”
Their relationships don’t stop with their children’s birth mothers. They get together with birth grandparents and other important people in the birth mothers’ lives. “We try to keep an open door. The more people loving our kids the better. They don’t belong to us. We’re not possessive of them. The bigger the circle of support the better,” says Wendy.
Throughout the chaos of parenthood, this loving circle of people is present. The kids can flop over from a wrestling match and see pictures of their birth moms in their bedrooms. And Sunday visits with birth family are sketched onto the calendar amidst school reminders and boy scouts.
“We wouldn’t have children, we wouldn’t have a family without these women and our open adoptions,” says Wendy. “Our children are incredible. And we are so grateful that this is our story. That this is how we built our family.”
Photos by Stephanie Bennett Photography.