National Adoption Month Series: Lauren’s Adoptee Story

I was born on August 11, 1985 and adopted by my parents at five days old in Phoenix, Arizona. My birthmom was 19, not ready for a baby and even though my birthdad wasn’t in the picture, she didn’t want him to have any part in raising me, so she chose adoption.

I grew up knowing I was adopted. While it was legally a closed adoption, my parents made the selfless choice to stay in contact with Ginger, my birthmother. They sent pictures and letters back and forth throughout my life. And although they didn’t know it at the time, she lived only a couple miles from them, even shopping at the same grocery store when we lived in Phoenix. Naturally, this probably freaked my mom out when she found out later.

When I was seven, my mom and dad moved my siblings (biological to my parents) and me to Holland, Michigan to be closer to my mom’s family. The letters with Ginger continued but began to wane as time went on. I grew up knowing I had a biological sister named Tayler, seven years younger than me who my birth mom decided to keep and raise on her own. I was always excited to know I had another sister.

At 14, when email started getting popular, I asked my parents if they would be okay with me emailing Ginger sometime. My mom, although a little nervous and insecure about it, agreed, and contacted the adoption agency in hopes of getting any up-to-date info on her since we didn’t have her email address. When we got it and I wrote my first email to her, I was so nervous. What should I write about? Teenager things, I guess. Honestly, I don’t even remember what I wrote, but it started my first line of communication between my birthmother and me. We didn’t email every day, just once in a while to say hello. Ginger had mentioned we should keep it to a minimum to respect my parents and not make them feel like they’d been replaced or that I wanted to go back to her. I agreed.

Two years later, in my junior year of high school, we began to email regularly, learning more and more about each other. We talked about our personal lives and I learned that in addition to Taylor, I also had a little brother who was two at the time, from her new marriage to her husband. Inevitably, the conversation about meeting in person happened. I was so excited, but so nervous, when I got that email. How would my mom feel? Would she be mad that even came up? Would she be angry that we had been communicating as much as we had?  Maybe she’d be okay with it if she came along to meet her? And so I had that conversation with her. To my surprise, she was thrilled, cautiously thrilled. Of course I’d expect her to be insecure about it. After all, I’m HER daughter. She’s the woman who raised me, fed me, took care of me when I was sick, disciplined me, taught me everything about life, hugged me and told me she loved me. But she was so excited I asked her to go with me to meet her. And so we booked our tickets to Phoenix.

We flew out there the week before I turned 18. I had just graduated from high school and was ready to find out where and whom I came from. My mom was a wreck on the plane; she hates to fly. I waited anxiously while my mom squeezed my hand the entire four hour flight. We landed in Phoenix and my heart began to race. Walking through the terminal into the lobby was surreal. I wanted to vomit, smile, scream, dance around, but instead, I just walked.

And then, there she was. Blonde hair, green eyes and short. It was like looking into a mirror. We hugged for what seemed like hours; I couldn’t let go. This was my mother, the woman who birthed me. The woman who chose life. This was the woman who selflessly gave up her firstborn daughter to a family who desperately wanted a baby after trying for seven years to have one of their own. The woman who gave birth to me on my daddy’s birthday, August 11th. I suddenly made sense. The first thing my mom said to Ginger and me was, ‘Wow, you both are shrimps! Now we know where Lauren gets her height!’ We all laughed and the ice was broken. I met her husband, Dane, my little sister Tayler, my little brother Mason and we all headed out of the airport a little less nervous.

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I spent the entire week with them, while my mom stayed with relatives in Phoenix. I asked Ginger every question I ever had. Why didn’t you keep me, but you kept Tayler? Why did you choose adoption? Why didn’t you fight for me? Why, why, why? She answered everything without sugar coating or dodging, just straight forward, which is exactly how I answer questions. I realized the concept of nature vs. nurture. I wasn’t raised by this woman but our mannerisms are the same, we sleep the same, laugh the same, smile the same, speak the same. Our personalities are so similar, it’s insane. I am bold, stubborn, kind-hearted, forgiving, strong-willed, direct, and I don’t take crap from people. Now I get why I had such an identity crisis as a kid; I am so different from my family in terms of personality, even down to my delivery of words and my thought process. I am all Ginger. Looks, personality, everything.

I also met my grandparents for the first time. I am the eldest of the grand kids, so it was very special to meet them. They cried and called me their granddaughter. I met my cousins and aunt and uncle for the first time and still have a great relationship with them. We celebrated my 18th birthday together with my mom and relatives before heading home, both of us feeling great about everything that happened that week. But also relieved it was over and excited to see my new family again in the future.

That was twelve years ago and there hasn’t been a year since where we haven’t seen each other. I visit Arizona every year and they have also visited Michigan a few times. I have taken vacations with them, been there for birthdays and holidays, surgeries, and various other events. Ginger has been by my side, watched me grow into an adult, heard listened to me talk about my silly relationships, met my husband and embraced him like a son. She attended our wedding on June 30, 2012 and my little sister Tayler was a bridesmaid. She and Dale look forward to being grandparents someday.

I’ve been able to watch my little sister grow into the woman she has become and watch my little brother grow into the feisty teenager that he is. We are family. I can’t say she is my mom, or an aunt, or friend, or whatever label you want to put on her. She is my family; her whole family is my family. There isn’t any other way to describe them. All I can say is that I am blessed. I am blessed to have parents who were so accepting of Ginger, allowed me to grow up knowing about her, let her be a part of my life, embraced her when she was a physical part of my life, and consider her family. I am so blessed to have a birthmother who is so strong and selfless, and respectful of my parents. She never stepped on their toes as parents, she is grateful to them for raising me how they did and proud to be a part of our family. She will always be there for us.

I am so blessed to have more family that loves me and who I can love. I am so blessed to have a husband who has only been supportive of the relationship I have with my birth family and eagerly waits for our next trip to visit them. I am so blessed to have a ‘dad’ in Ginger’s husband, Dane. He accepted me as part of his family, considers me his daughter, even though he came into the picture years after my adoption and encouraged Ginger to connect with me.

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Lauren Haveman is a real estate agent for City2Shore Real Estate, She and her husband, Todd, reside in Hudsonville, Michigan with their two dogs, Dweezel and Lola and enjoy cooking, camping, and living the Michigan seasons to their fullest. Ginger and her husband continue to live in Phoenix AZ and Lauren and Todd still visit them every summer; it feels like their second home.

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National Adoption Month Series: BraveLove – Telling the Story of Birth Mothers

The idea of BraveLove began in 2012, with a small group of people working with a local pregnancy resource center in Dallas, Texas. They witnessed their clients weren’t even considering adoption as an option when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. This observation was consistent with the National Council for Adoption’s Fact Book, which says only 2% of women faced with an unplanned pregnancy choose adoption. So often the brave act of placing a baby for adoption is viewed in a negative light, when in reality it is a selfless, difficult, and loving act a mother can make for her child. The story of the birth mother needs to be told.

As an adoptive mother, I have two adopted children and two biological children. My husband and I are immeasurably grateful to the women who carried our babies, and delivered them into this world, so I have a huge heart for these brave women who place their children for adoption. I started BraveLove to change the way our culture thinks about adoption and the women who choose to place.

Our mission is to change the perception of adoption through honest, informative, and hopeful communication that conveys the heroism and bravery a birth mother displays when she places her child with a loving family through adoption.

The heartbreaking truth is that many women facing unplanned pregnancy feel unable to care for a child. Sometimes the single-most loving thing a mother can do is place her child with a caring, eager adoptive family. We aim to invite and empower women to choose adoption.

If I could convey one message to birth parents it would be that you are loved, respected, and honored.  We recognize what you did as a great act of love for your child, and we want others to see you as the brave loving person you really are.  You gave your child what you yourself could not give.  There is no greater act of selflessness.

In the same regard, if I could convey one message to adoptive parents it would be that your child can only benefit from knowing how loved they are by all the parents (adoptive and birth) in the equation.  Every child in an adoptive situation, domestic or international, has a birth mother and birth father somewhere out there. The existence of these individuals needs to weigh upon adoptive parents as they seek to rear their children. It makes me sad that we may never know the birth parents of our adopted children. We may never be able to thank them or show them the incredible fruit of their sacrifice. As much as we are the mommies and daddies to our children, there are two other very important people out there that need to be honored, talked about, and recognized for the role they played in the child’s existence in your family.

BraveLove is so much more than I ever thought it would be!  At the very beginning, we were not quite sure who BraveLove should be targeting.  Everybody is an influencer. Everybody plays a role in a birth mother’s choice to place for adoption. Our perceptions affect the decisions others make. We want BraveLove’s message to touch everybody in a birth parent’s sphere of influence — grandparents, teachers, pastors, friends and family, so that when birth parents decide to place for adoption, they have a network of support that can walk with them through this hard decision.  This is not just a movement for birth mothers – it’s for everybody. As we began researching and asking questions, it became loud and clear that the birth parent story was one that needed to be told. It is our honor to provide a platform of support and encouragement to these unsung heroes of adoption.

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Ellen Porter, the Founder of BraveLove, lives in Dallas, TX with her family and works with a dynamic team to run the organization. For more information about them and to read some amazing stories, letters and interviews with real birth moms, please visit them at www.bravelove.com and connect with them on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest.

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National Adoption Month Series – Christina’s Story

My husband and I tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant for 16 months before we pursued fertility options. At our first clinic visit they ran some tests and called me a week later with the results. They discovered that I have what’s called “diminished ovarian reserve” and told us it was unlikely that we would be able to successfully conceive on our own.

I was extremely saddened by this news, but I refused to stay depressed over it. I gave myself 24 hours to cry over it and then my husband and I discussed our options. Despite my disappointment, I felt relief amidst the pain. Neither of us can actually remember who thought of adoption, but we both always knew we were open to it and immediately decided to pursue that route instead of additional fertility treatments at the clinic.

My mother suggested meeting with her and my dad’s trust attorney, who was very passionate about adoption and could possibly represent us as we moved forward. When we met with him for a consultation we overwhelmed with the many different types of adoption to choose from. He encouraged us to sleep on it and see how we felt the next day. When we did, our hearts leaned toward private domestic adoption, so on Easter Sunday we announced to our family that we were pursuing adopting a U.S. baby through our new attorney.

I got straight to work on our paperwork and home study and I couldn’t help but also start to create a nursery for our hoped-for little one. The crib came first, and one of my best mom friends took me to Babies R Us to register for gifts. I was definitely excited! Since I hadn’t yet experienced any heartbreak on our journey to having a baby, I viewed an empty nursery with hope and it wasn’t painful for me. If anything it made me more joyful.

I must have emailed our attorney three different times, asking if there was anything I should change in our profile. I was politely reassured that we should be as authentic as possible and that someone would love us and pick us for who we are. Nine weeks later, we got a call with a match and were informed that we were their second choice. I have adoptive couple friends that had experienced failed matches and placements that fell through, so I tried not to get my hopes up, but I was still ecstatic.

We met with the expectant mother and father a week later, along with our attorney. We immediately hit it off, exchanged numbers and began texting. Over the next few weeks we took them to lunches, shopped for maternity clothes and even got to go with them to a doctor’s appointment and see the baby girl on 3D ultrasound! It was really important to me that they agreed with the name we had chosen for our daughter. I wanted them to see her in their minds and call her by the same name that we would raise her with, even though I knew we had the final, legal say in the matter after the adoption was finalized.

Not long after, our birth mom showed early signs of labor and was admitted to the hospital. Finley was born nine weeks early with minimal complications. In a normal birth situation in our state of California the birthmother will sign relinquishment papers upon being discharged from hospital. She then will have only 24 hours to change her mind. But due to legalities and because our baby came so early we had to wait about three weeks before she was able to sign. I was nervous, only because I was growing so emotionally-invested in this little baby that I could now hold and help care for. And I could tell that our birthmom was in love with Finley, too.

Our baby was in the NICU for a total of five weeks, and I was there around the clock the entire time. The birth parents also visited frequently and I realized that we were about as open as it gets. It was odd to most of the nursing staff and one social worker kept encouraging our birthmom to call and get updates on her baby. She made me feel like a bad person, questioning my reasoning for requesting that I be the only one to hold Finley skin-to-skin. I had asked our birthmom not to hold her this way because I wanted Finley to bond solely with me and to get used to my scent since we would be taking her home. But, for some reason the social worker continued to call our birthmom with updates, even after the medical rights were released to us.

Needless to say, I learned very quickly that some people just do not support adoption. I was filled with what-if’s and life-changing emotions that I had never experienced before. It was truly one of the most difficult times in my life. I also struggled with guilt as I watched our birthmom grieve her loss, and I literally cried myself to sleep one night over it. Who wouldn’t? Someone had placed their firstborn child in our arms. My husband and I believe it is the most generous thing one can do for someone else. It’s just indescribably amazing.

After the birthparents terminated their rights, they still visited each day and it was as though nothing had changed. The hospital staff was very confused, wondering why I would let the birthmother still see and hold the baby. I knew that some adoptive moms are very sweet and open with the birthparents but as soon as those papers are signed, they change their tune. I didn’t want to be one of them. I wanted to build trust. I knew we were going to be forever attached with this couple.

This relationship we share is unique; bonded by a baby. And on top of that bond, we also have a friendship. We discuss life, interests and experiences; probably more so than we discuss Finley. The first year after she was born we had visits about every six to eight weeks because we live fairly close and my work schedule was nonexistent. We have open communication and I text photos every Friday. Our open adoption works best this way. Of course, I understand that life can and will change things as time goes on, but as long as my daughter knows she was carried and placed in love then I am happy.

We finalized our adoption this past summer. Finley is now 14 months old. I’ve thought of her as our daughter from the beginning so I didn’t think that officially finalizing it would be that big of a deal. I literally thought it’s just signing another paper, but as soon as we sat down in court and the judge began to speak, it hit me like a ton of bricks! I cried the ugly cry and could barely get out my words. We were able to profess our love for our daughter in a courtroom. The official terminology they used alone is enough to make you cry and it was by far one of the best days of my life. I got to sign my first birth certificate. You can watch the court finalization video here.

Two days later we had Finley dedicated in our Christian church, and her birth family came to witness it. It was so beautiful to me because the first open adoption picture I saw on Pinterest was of birth parents and adoptive parents together at their child’s baptism. I still get emotional thinking about how I accomplished the exact moment that I longed for!

To say we are blessed is an understatement. Our placement happened very quickly and our daughter came so early. She’s a happy and healthy baby with many people that love her. I want to continue to create awareness about adoption and educate everyone I can on the importance and origin of open adoption. And we look forward to adding to our family through adoption again in the coming years.

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Christina Smallwood is a 29 year-old business owner from Southern California. She loves God, her family and taking photos of everything. Her greatest joy is living a simple life as mom and wife!

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National Adoption Month Series: Elysa’s Adoptee Story

The drive felt like it took hours even though it had only been minutes. My dad stopped the car in front of a white house, and I felt my heart stop beating for just a moment. Pink balloons decorated the inside of the garage where unfamiliar faces gathered. I took a deep breath and somehow got the feeling back in my hands so I could open the door. I was only 16 and I was about to walk into something most 16 year-olds don’t ever do.

I had wondered and questioned for so many years, and the time when I would see her face to face was here. I got out of the car, wearing one of my favorite outfits and my hair done up in curls. I started walking up the driveway which felt like miles and miles. Then I saw her: someone I had never seen before but felt a connection the moment our eyes met. With tears filling her eyes, she ran to me and hugged me as tight as she could. I mutually embraced her. She couldn’t let go of me as she cried.

The last time we saw each other was in a hospital room 16 years ago. She was my birth mother. She made a courageous choice 16 years ago. She chose life for me and for a family she knew could give me a better life than she could offer. She blessed a young couple who couldn’t have children of their own with me, and in return, she blessed me with a wonderful family to spend my life with.

I was adopted when I was 3 days old. My adoptive parents already had a daughter they had adopted a few years earlier. Adopting another child was not necessarily in their plans at the time, but it was certainly in God’s plans. My birth mother sought counsel from the Crisis Pregnancy Center knowing she did not want to go through an agency for my adoption. With this being an unfamiliar situation for the counselor, the founder of the center became involved. God’s hand was at work in incredible ways, for the founder was a dear friend of my adoptive parents. She immediately contacted them and told them about a 19-year-old girl who was pregnant and needing a home for her baby. They felt this was clearly God’s plan for them to adopt me, and I became part of their family.

Growing up, I always knew I was adopted. In fact, just the other day, I was discussing this with my parents, and I thanked them. I thanked them for raising me with the knowledge of my adoption. It showed that they saw my adoption as a beautiful thing and were proud of it. For anyone who has adopted or is considering adoption, no matter the situation, telling your child about their adoption is the best gift you can ever give them. Not only is it the honest thing to do, but being adopted is so beautiful and special: in fact, it was God’s idea.

Knowing that I was adopted growing up was wonderful, but I always had many questions. My parents were always very good about answering them the best way they could. But as the years went on I wanted to know about my birth family: Where is my birth mom now? Where is my birth dad? Is there anyone that I look like…share the same personality with? Does my birth family ever think about me? Do I have any siblings? The curiosity was something I could never help. I had the security of knowing that I was truly blessed to be adopted into a family that took me in as their own, loved me unconditionally, and always respected the fact that I was going to have questions. Still, there were a lot of unknowns,

My curiosity increased as I got older. When I was 15, I talked to my parents about taking steps to contacting my birth mother. My parents, understandably, were hesitant because of how much was unknown. There is a risk in taking these steps. After 15 years, we didn’t have any idea where my birth mother was in life. Would she want to hear from me? Would her reaction to my contact be healing, or would it affect me negatively?

After much prayer, my parents agreed that it was the right time, and I began to work on my letter to her. At first, it was hard to think of where to start. What do you say to someone you have no relationship with, don’t know at all, but still have a deep connection with? Eventually, I found the words I wanted to say, wrote the letter, and included a few pictures in the envelope. Once again, God’s hand was working.

Overjoyed upon receiving my letter, my birth mother wrote back to me. Words cannot describe the feeling I had when I opened that letter. Pictures of her, my half-brother and some of her friends were included in the envelope. My heart was beating so fast as I looked through the pictures and read her words. I could feel the emotion in her letter, and I felt so much joy in knowing that she wanted nothing more than to know me.

After many letters back and forth between the two of us, my parents agreed to take a trip to North Carolina to meet my birth mother. That is when my relationship with her began. In all honesty, building a relationship with a birth mother is not easy at all. It takes a lot of learning along the way and a lot of understanding. You see, I wasn’t in need of a mother at all. In fact, God blessed me with an incredible mom who adopted me and called me her own. To learn how to have a relationship with someone who can feel the need to mother is hard at times. It has taken several years for me to learn how to separate things and make the relationship a friendship in respect for my adopted mom who has dedicated many years to being my mom.

The last several years, I have continued to build relationships with my extended birth family. My uncle has become an incredible part of my life and has been a great support and encouragement and I have loved getting to know my birth grandma who has always shown such love to me and has taken the time to get to know me. But what I have appreciated the most in my process of getting to know my birth family is seeing how truly blessed I am to be raised by the parents God gave me.

There is a lot of divorce in my birth family and, unfortunately, a lot of relationships there are broken and estranged. That was all very new to me. Growing up, I never experienced divorce in my family or my extended family. Everyone loves each other, everyone forgives and respects one another. Being part of my birth family’s life is truly a gift, and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but I am beyond grateful that I didn’t have to grow up in divorce and broken families. God had a plan for my life, and His sovereignty in my life is overwhelming to think about.

Now, at 24 years-old, I continue to be in relationship with my birth family. Just this year I met my birth dad for the first time. It took many years for him to agree to meet me and it was many years of me having to remind myself that it’s not my fault that he didn’t want to take that step. It took a lot in me not to feel abandoned by him or hurt from him. I knew that if God intended for my birth dad to be a part of my life, then it would happen someday. What helped through that process was the fact that I was adopted by the best daddy a girl could ask for. I didn’t need a dad, but there was still an empty space I had before meeting my birth dad. It was a space I could have lived the rest of my life having, but I am thankful I didn’t have to. After meeting my birth dad, I learned a lot about him and have gained understanding about why he wasn’t ready to meet me right away. I felt the same feelings when meeting him as I did meeting my birth mother eight years ago. I’m not sure why I lose the feeling in my hands every time I step into these situations, but it has happened twice now! But meeting my birth dad was so special for me! I am truly grateful for the relationship I am building with him today and for his interest in my life. I love having him a part of it.

Today I have an even stronger appreciation for adoption. God’s sovereignty is what comes to mind when I think about the story God has written for my life. Being adopted is a huge part of who I am, and I intend to raise my own children with an appreciation for it as well. 24 years ago, a 19-year-old girl faced an extremely difficult choice: a choice that affected not only one person, but many. She chose life.

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Elysa is a mommy to three and a wife to one incredible man. She is a business owner, photographer and has a heart for ministry. Following Christ and striving to live a life Glorifying HIM in all that she does. You can catch some of her writing at the collaborative blog, www.artichokeheartsblog.blogspot.com.

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National Adoption Month Series – A Gift of Hope Adoptions

Happy Adoption Month! My name is Elizabeth and I’m so honored to be sharing about adoption on M2M; it has been a passion of mine since I was a kid. I had always planned to work in adoption in some capacity, but when I was doing my internships at adoption agencies in graduate school, I got very disenchanted with the process. The agencies were so careful to remain neutral about adoption that they ended up promoting parenting over adoption most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I know adoption is not the right choice for every person experiencing a crisis pregnancy or even a crisis in their lives that requires them to evaluate options for their children, but I firmly believe that it is the right choice for some. In any case, people deserve to know that it is an option, and what adoption is really like in the 21st century.

After grad school my job options were limited given the economy, so I got together with my dad, Dewey Crepeau, and Tina Tyra, an adoption facilitator in California. We decided that an agency could provide more services than our separate areas of expertise and combined forces. Out of that meeting A Gift of Hope Adoptions was born, and we have been going strong for nearly ten years! We have been able to provide the social services necessary to a good adoption experience for both birth parents and adoptive parents. With Dewey’s invaluable legal expertise ensuring that adoptions are always done the right way and Tina’s experience in matching and making sure prospective birth parents have choices in the adoptive family they select, I believe our agency has the keys to healthy adoptions.

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I think as parents, particularly as mothers, we know that our primary focus has to be on our children. We are constantly evaluating their personality, interests, and learning styles in decisions about school, diet, social activities, and extra-curricular activities. Sometimes we grieve that we can’t give them more, and sometimes make hard sacrifices to do so. We celebrate with our child as they succeed and we help them learn from their failures. Often, we are blamed for everything but still bring out the lioness inside when our children need protection. We are mothers, it’s what we do.

I take that approach with adoption, as well. Even though we work with all members of the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptive parents, and children) our focus has to be on the child’s best interests. The child is not paying for the services, and the child is not making the decisions, but the child is still our primary client. When you are considering adoption – whether as a birth parent or an adoptive parent – I encourage you to attempt to put yourself in your child’s position, and evaluate best interests from there. That may lead to some tough introspection, and even tougher choices. You may find that your child’s best interests make your choices clearer or cloudier. Every child needs a mother, though, and they deserve our best. In adoption a child has more than one mother, and that is actually a very good thing. As I often say to our clients, particularly those who are afraid of contact between birth and adoptive families (which is actually now very common and very healthy in adoption), you can never have too many people who love your child.

If you would like more information on adoption services through A Gift of Hope Adoptions feel free to contact us through our website or call 573-356-0025 or toll-free 1-888-564-HOPE. We work nationwide! You can also follow us on social media: Facebook Twitter Google + Pinterest

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Elizabeth Ehlen graduated from Hillsdale College in 2002 with a dual degree in History and Sociology & Social Thought, with special departmental honors in Sociology. She attended Washington University in St. Louis to pursue her Master’s in Social Work and graduated from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work in 2004 with a MSW, concentrating in Children, Youth and Family. In 2005, Elizabeth cofounded A Gift of Hope Adoptions in Missouri with the help of Dewey Crepeau, and Tina Tyra.

In addition to her adoption work, she has also written an ebook designed as an introduction to adoption for adoptive parents, Adoption Options: For Prospective Adoptive Parents. She is married to her college sweetheart, Matt Ehlen and they have two sons, David and Daniel, and one daughter, Rachelle. Elizabeth loves being a mommy, and works primarily from her home office in order to take care of her babies as well as her children through A Gift of Hope Adoptions.

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National Adoption Month Series – Aubrey’s Story

Since the time I can remember, I have always wanted to be a mother. The day I married Craig was a joyous occasion and day of celebration for it marked the day I began my own, forever family. As time moved forward, the yearning to have a child more than consumed me. But one year went by, two years, three, and then four. My whole heart and soul longed for a precious baby, and instead I was left with the emptiness that seemed to fill my entire being. During our struggle with infertility, my husband supported me every step of the way, whether it meant having invasive surgery, another procedure done, more tests, or just holding me as I cried myself to sleep at night.

We had always talked of adopting one day, so in the summer of 2008 we finally decided to take the step and had adoption papers in hand. But for some reason unknown to me at the time, I felt that we should hold off on turning them in. I couldn’t understand such an answer as I had already waited long enough for a child, and we had been told that sometimes it could take years before a baby would be placed in your home. I knew there was a baby girl who was supposed to be in our family, and I tried to wait patiently for that time to come.

After much prayer and consideration, along with the power of priesthood blessings, we finally received the answer I had been waiting for. In May of 2009 Craig and I applied for adoption through LDS Family Services and were approved two months later. Soon after that we received an email from a birth mother who was due in December with a baby girl. Her name was Jennifer, and little did we know how much she was going to change our lives. Exactly one month later she announced that she was going to place her baby with us. During the next months ahead, I watched as Jen’s belly grew bigger, along with the love I had for her. She was going to give me something that no one else could give. She was giving me the gift of being a mother.

Before we knew it, December arrived and we were at the hospital awaiting the arrival of our little girl. On December 11, 2009 our precious baby was born. What joy and gratitude filled my heart when I held Elizabeth for the first time, knowing this special spirit was the answer to our prayers. I knew without a doubt that she was meant to be in our family.

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When we returned to the hospital the following morning, and opened the door to Jennifer’s room, we found her sitting in a chair rocking Elizabeth with tears flowing down her cheeks. My heart began to break for the words I knew were coming but did not want to hear. With her head bowed, Jen said that she didn’t think she could sign the adoption papers. Since Craig’s parents had just arrived at the hospital, he left to go find them and explain what had happened. Feeling as if I could not breathe, I turned and left the room as well. Outside the room, I could not hold it in any longer and broke down in tears. Jennifer’s mother soon found me in the hall and wrapped her arms around me as we both cried together. She whispered words of encouragement, but all I could feel was despair.

A kind nurse found Craig and me a quiet room and offered me a box of tissues. The tears continued to fall as I stared out the window while Craig paced the floor, both of us feeling helpless and not knowing what to do. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with the spirit telling me to ask for a priesthood blessing. I immediately told Craig to find his father, and upon his arrival, the blessing was given. I cannot recall the words of this blessing, but never in my entire life have I felt such an instant feeling of comfort and peace as I had when they placed their hands upon my head that day. I knew then that everything was going to be okay, and that it was important to have faith in the Lord’s will.

A short while later Jennifer left her room to go for a walk with a case worker from LDS Family Services so they could talk things through. While she was gone, we stayed with Elizabeth and I watched as Craig held her tiny hand and touched her tiny toes, trying his best to hold back the tears. When Jen finally walked back into the room, she stood before us with tears in her eyes and said, “I can’t take her away from you…” The tears flowed down my husband’s face and we all embraced.

On a rainy Sunday morning two days later, Craig and I returned to the hospital to pick up our baby girl and bring her home. We both knew that the day ahead would bring tears of pain, tears of sorrow, but also tears of joy. Upon arrival we met with our caseworker while Jen spent time with Elizabeth, holding her, rocking her, and saying her goodbyes. After all necessary papers had been signed, we entered Jen’s room. Watching her hold Elizabeth with tears in her eyes, my heart swelled with the love for the mother who stood before me. Jen’s act of love, just like every birth mother, was putting the needs of her child above the wants of her heart. And when anyone asked her why she gave up her child, she simply replied, “I’m not giving up my child; I’m giving her something better.”

When the time came for Jen to place Elizabeth in my arms, I was softly reminded of the words she had once spoken to me, “from God’s arms, to my arms, to yours.” Many tears were shed and warm embraces shared when we said goodbye that day. After Jen had gathered her belongings, I watched as she walked down the hall with her parents by her side, never looking back. The sacrifice she had made that day was greater than any I have ever known in my earthly life. I looked down at the miracle I held, and felt my husband’s love surround me. I cried and thought to myself, “My arms are empty no more.”

Motherhood has been everything I have ever hoped for and more. It is not easy, but I would not have it any other way. As I look upon my daughter each day, I am reminded of Jen and the sacrifice she made. An adoptive couple we knew once said, “We believe birth mothers have a right to choose. If she has the courage to place, she has the wisdom and right to choose her child’s parents. Our daughter’s birth mother is her first mother.” And so we feel the same for our daughter, Elizabeth, Jen will always be her first mother. And as my daughter grows, I will always help her remember that Jen will always love her.

There is a special poem that was given to us on the day our birth mother announced to our families that she would be placing her baby girl with us. It is befitting of the two women who bonded over the love of the child they both share.

Once there were two women
Who never knew each other.
One you do not remember,
The other you call mother.

One gave you a nationality,
The other gave you a name.
One gave you the seed of talent,
The other gave you an aim.

Two different lives shaped
To make your one;
One became your guiding star,
The other became your sun.
One gave you emotions,
The other calmed your fears.
One saw your first sweet smile,
The other dried your tears.

The first gave you life,
The second taught you to live it.
The first gave you a need for love,
And the second was there to give it.
One gave you up,
It was all that she could do.
The other prayed for a child,
And God led her straight to you.

And now you ask me through your tears,
The age old question through the years;
Heredity or Environment,
Which are you a product of?
Neither my darling, neither;
Just two different kinds of love.

~~~~~

Aubrey, Craig and Elizabeth live in Highland, Utah. For the past three years, they have been hoping to adopt again and look forward to the day when Elizabeth gets to become a big sister!  Aubrey loves every minute of being a full-time mommy, and both Elizabeth and her daddy are working on their education.  Elizabeth attends preschool three days a week, while Craig will be finishing Nursing School this upcoming spring.

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Welcome to M2M’s Adoption Month Series & Motherhood Monday

It’s finally here! Happy November and welcome to an exciting month-long series here at M2M on ADOPTION! Each week throughout the National Adoption Month of November, I’ll be sharing real stories from real adoptive mothers, adoptees, birth moms and adoption organizations. I hope you’ll come back each week and read them.

Adoption is super close to my heart, most specifically for the cause of the birth mother. I love to champion for birth moms because I feel their pain. I am one. When I was a twenty year-old college sophomore, I made some really poor decisions that led to an out-of-wedlock pregnancy with no way or will to support a child. But instead of seeking help, I chose to ignore all the signs, not think about my problems and hide my pregnancy from everyone around me except my best friend. She continued to encourage me to do the right thing, but with the stress of school and other family problems swirling around me, I just couldn’t think past my own selfishness. It wasn’t until I was just weeks away from my due date that I forced myself to realize and prepare for the inevitable. I confided in another friend at school who could help me take care of myself, make plans and eventually take me to the hospital in time to deliver a tiny, but precious baby boy. It was only by the grace of God that he was healthy, that I found him a loving family to adopt him and that I was able to keep my secret until years later when I was finally ready to work through it, and find healing. I wrote a memoir about that time in my life, not only to help me though the healing process, but to hopefully help other birth moms through their own healing as well.

Each corner of the adoption triad has it’s bumps and bruises. It’s never how it looks on TV or what the adoption literature and profiles want to make it appear like. It is not even close to being all roses and sunshine. Like life, adoption on all fronts is hard, it’s emotional and it’s messy. From the outside, it may just look like ordinary parenthood, but there are a whole slough of even more things to work through. There is loss, nature vs. nurture, abandonment issues and sometimes a lot of therapy. But there is a beautiful side to adoption as well, an important, necessary  and redeeming side. There are so many babies and children in this world, in this country, that need parents. They need loving, stable homes with safe grown-ups who will love them through the tantrums, through the issues, through the mess. And there are parents without children. Women who want to be mothers, but cannot without help or those amazing families that feel called to take the needy in. Adoption is a beautiful bridge between these two heartbreaking places and it deserves to be celebrated. I hope this month you’ll grab a cup of something warm, a snuggly blanket and some tissues and join me each week in hearing these brave families’ stories of heartache, hope and healing.

Do you have an adoption story to share?  I would love to hear it and possibly even feature it here! Please contact me at wynter@madetomother.com

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And now for the monthly Motherhood Monday Link Up! Please also visit M2M on Twitter @made2mother and like on Facebook.com/madetomother!

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Grab the Link Up button!

The Made to Mother Project is dedicated to encouraging, supporting and inspiring women by sharing their stories of motherhood. I hope that this link-up will continue to grow our community of mothers. Please read the guidelines below for information on how to join!

LINK UP GUIDELINES

  • Please post family-friendly topics/websites. Bonus points if they have to do with mothering!
  • Be sure to link back to your blog post not your homepage.
  • Share the Linky love – visit a page or two linked up here and leave them a nice comment.
  • Oh, and a link back to Made to Mother using the button above or a sweet shout-out would be awesome, too!

A Changed Life: What I took Home from #Allume

In addition to a large box of books, notepads, keepsakes and trinkets that I had to hike ten blocks in the hot, South Carolina sun and find a UPS office to ship home for $27, I boarded my 6 am flight home to Portland, Oregon with so much more. A head exploding with new information, thoughts and ideas to write about, a heart full of new contacts and friends and their warm stories. And a body weary from the hustle and bustle that only a cross-country trip for five days at a blogging conference with hundreds of other women can produce.

I got the chance to meet some of my favorite bloggers, authors and speakers, listen in on some amazing, life-changing sessions and keynote lectures. Nearly all day long for three days I was able to engage in deep and heart-wrenching conversations with new acquaintances from all over the world and in every sort of walk of life and circumstance. I made business connections and networked with big names in Christian literary agencies and publishing companies and spoke with several remarkable philanthropic organizations that aid and serve people in varying cultures living through a multitude of tragic events and conditions. And I shared a tiny room with three women I had never met before, who, by the end of the conference have become dear and hopefully, life-long friends.

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Of course I had my expectations and preconceived notions of what Allume was going to be like. Some were unrealistic or just wishful thinking that didn’t come true. Others were fears and apprehensions that for the most part were relieved and overcome. I forced myself to get out of my comfort zone and work up the courage to talk with complete strangers about my writing and the Made to Mother Project, exchanged business cards and asked for social media follows. I pushed away the initial feelings of envy and competition to really listen to other writers, authors and “mommy bloggers,” and I ignored the “not good enough” thoughts that nagged at my soul as I listened to the wisdom of those who have gone before me and have twice (or six times) the platform or book deals that I have. I learned to encourage and cheer on others, practice TRUE hospitality in many different forms, and to change my default mindset from one of of categorizing and comparisons to blessing and reassuring others. Finally, I came away from Allume with the new mantra to trust Him with this calling I have received, to write the story that was assigned to me, work my own patch of land that He has allotted and to repeat, repeat, repeat.

Allume seriously changed my life last week. It reconnected and uplifted my faith in Christ and it gave me the motivation and help to adjust my self-talk and trust God more with my tiny little microphone IN HIS TIME. And, on a completely different note, it gave me a front-row, inside look at the SOUTH. And, wow, I fell in love with that part of our country! I drank gallons of sweet tea, consumed plates of grits; I adored the “y’alls” and drawls and simply cherished the downright, sweet southern hospitality of everyone I met there. And I will be back. Soon.

In the meantime, I have resolved to take a little time off from my crazy obsession of blogging, promotion and social media to rethink, reevaluate and refocus myself. Countless Allume speakers convicted me to spend more authentic time with my family and community, and realign my writing priorities and future so they fall UNDER my first priority as a wife, mom and friend. That being said, as November quickly approaches and with it a big month of sharing adoption stories here at M2M, you are going to see fewer personal posts and less participation in linkups and promotions. I want my family to know that they are the most important job I have; I want more of others and less of me, and I want God to receive ALL the glory through the continuing work of the Made to Mother Project. So, thank you, Allume, for an amazing week of self-reflection and transformation to live more intentionally, love bigger and embrace true hospitality!

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Stress Buster Tips for Single Moms – Guest Post by Holly from Bonza Brats

Feeling the stress of being a single mom lately? Don’t succumb to it! You can fight it. You are unbeatable. You can whip up a magical dish with your amazing culinary skills. You can make the chaos inside the house disappear in matter of minutes. With just one kiss, you can even make your little girl or boy stop crying. But if you were to be honest with yourself, will you still be able to do all of these things if you were stressed out?

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If you have a partner inside the house, you have someone who can take over the activities of the kids when you are feeling under the weather. As a single mom, you need to be the dad at the same time, too, which basically means that the pressure put on you is twice more than that of a parent with a partner. With this come higher levels of stress for single parents.

So what should you do to keep your stress levels in check? Here are some tips that could let you keep a cool head and feel relaxed while working and being a single mom at the same time.

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  1. Ask for help
    Your ex does not want to be a part of your son’s life and you are worried about your kid not having a father figure? Ask your own father or brother to fill in that role. Too tired to do the chores since you have been working the whole day? Then the teenager next door may be in need of a part-time job and could clean the house for you in exchange for a few dollars. You need not carry the burden by yourself. Share your responsibilities with the people around you.
  2. Work on your routines
    Make it a point to follow a routine; this way your child will know what is expected of him. If you wake up at six in the morning so that he will be able to catch the bus in time, then adhere to this on a daily basis. Do this for his meal time, bedtime, and other activities for the day as well.
  3. Learn a bit of finance
    One of the main challenges of being a parent, especially the ones who are earning below to average salaries, is making ends meet. If you are living from paycheck to paycheck, you need to reflect now on where your money is going. Use a calculator or an excel sheet and write down your needs. Take off the ones that are not considered “urgent” until you get your finances together.
  4. Get some sleep
    Your mind and body need rest and sleep for at least eight hours a day. Lack of sleep will not only make you cranky; it will also make you lose your focus at work or possibly snap at your kid even when he is just being noisy.
  5. Have some “me” time.
    Although you love your child very much, you also need to take care of yourself, too. You can’t expect to be an effective mother if you do not feel happy. Aside from your kid, what are the things that make you feel joyful? Visit the salon and get your nails painted. Go out and have dinner with your girlfriends. Or if you have some extra cash, go try on some clothes at the mall and get something new as a gift to yourself.
  6. Eat healthier
    The stress from single-parenting affects not only the way you feel, but your body suffers from it as well. You can correct this problem by observing a healthy diet. To prevent heart conditions, eat foods that are healthy in Omega-3 fatty acids such as tuna and salmon. Green leafy vegetables like spinach will help regulate cortisol levels in your body, and antioxidants, vitamins and other essential nutrients are needed to help fight stress.
  7. Work out
    Exercise will not only help you lose weight and build muscles, but different studies show that they can also help you beat stress. This is tied to the increased production of endorphins (happy hormones) when you exercise. So instead of just lying down on the bed or couch on the weekends, put on your running shoes and jog around the neighborhood, attend a dance class or head to the gym and work with a trainer.
  8. Do not ditch discipline
    Unruly kids are a product of a household that does not follow any set of rules. By imposing some rules that they ought to follow, children know that breaking these will have corresponding consequences. Disciplining your kids is teaching them early-on to be responsible for their own actions. And this could take off a lot of stress from you, too, since you won’t find the need to scold as frequently.
  9. Laugh often
    You may have heard some people claim that “laughter is the best medicine.” In the past, this may have sounded like a promotional script for a certain comedy show to get their ratings up. However, some studies are now saying that it may have some truth to it. According to experts, depression, loneliness, and being pessimistic can impair the immune system, and you could feel a mix of these emotions when stressed out. All of these can be easily countered with positive feelings. So make it a habit to watch a comedy show and play silly games with your kids so that you can smile and laugh more often.
  10. Ditch the guilt
    Thoughts like, “You are not doing enough” or “You could have done better.” Or reminders that there are so many things that you may have missed to do and some things that you can’t possibly do due to limitations that you wished were not there. Want to know how other parents make it look easy? They forgive themselves for the things they cannot do and revel on the things that they can. Do the same and stop feeling guilty since no one could really be the perfect mom after all.

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You can beat stress, guard your health, mind, and emotional well-being through time-management, discipline, sharing responsibilities with other people, eating healthy foods, and working together with your kids. And, remember, you need to be in great shape if you want your kid to see a single mom that is capable of raising them.

~~~~~

Holly Easterby is a freelance writer that shares tips for parents and families. Her love for children has seen her featured in many education and children websites, whether helping parents with problems or talking about healthy snacks, motivating students or discussing children’s fashion at Bonza Brats. Holly loves reading books, and shopping is her way of spending time with her young family. You can catch her via Google+ or on Twitter @HollyEasterby

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5 Things My #Allume Roomies Should Know About Me

This is getting real. I am going to #Allume this week…in 2 days, 6 hours and 23 minutes to be exact. I am leaving my three kids with my husband in the middle of the week to get on a plane and fly across the country to Greenville, SC for the Allume Conference for four whole days. I still can’t believe it. I am excited. I am nervous. I just might throw up.

Allume is this amazing community of Christian women who write, blog or aspire to. They hold a conference each fall to refresh, encourage and spur on women writers through inspirational speakers, fellowship gatherings and skills workshops. And this year, I GET TO GO! I first heard about Allume last winter when I began this crazy blogging journey. I knew it would be good for me to attend a blogging conference and there were three that I was mulling over. I finally settled on Allume mostly because of Sarah Mae, a blogging hero of mine.

I went shopping last week for new clothes, jewelry and a new purse so I can attempt to fit in with all the gorgeous, stylish and professional women that I know are coming. I’m packing my husband’s laptop (mine is being sent away for warranty repair), several notepads and pens, blog and book business cards and (gulp) a M2M book proposal that I have been working tirelessly on for an interview with a literary agent. Please cross your fingers, toes and whatever else you can that I don’t blow this!

So, now for the real question you are wondering about…why am I posting about this??? Well, in addition to gearing up for next week’s adoption month series and preparing for my trip, I have nothing else ready to post, nor do I have the time to promote it this week. Also, a couple weeks ago, one of my conference roommates that I haven’t yet met in person wrote a post on her blog about a few things we should know about her. She then challenged us to do the same and last week, Allume echoed that challenge, so here goes. To Aprille at Beautiful in His Time, Katie from Wonderfully Made and Jennifer from Jennifer’s Life Between:

1. Even though a test I took in high school said I am an extrovert, I can be really shy, awkward and self-depreciating at first. But get me talking and watch out, I might dominate the conversation. I am getting better at asking reciprocating and insightful questions, but if I’m a little hesitant, don’t give up on me. And if I talk too much, please feel free to tell me to shut up or take a breath and then talk about yourself.

2. Sometimes I talk, shout and laugh in my sleep. Sorry. BUT, I’m super nervous and we probably will be going to sleep very late every night anyway, which hopefully will help me sleep so deeply…or restlessly because I am so nervous. Either way, hopefully I won’t have time to sleep-talk.

3. Next to all the scheduled events and my aforementioned interview with a literary agent, I have no plans and know no one there. As such, I’m extremely nervous about striking up conversations with complete strangers and terribly afraid of having no one to talk to and sit with, so please include me on anything that you can!

4. I’m not much of a dress-up, hair and make-up, fancy person like I used to be when I was younger. In fact, since I had children and became a SAHM, I am pretty sad to say that I have gotten frumpy and not super stylish. I am trying to fix this, though, perhaps a little too forcefully as I went shopping last week literally just for this conference. So, any styling tips and shameless compliments would be much appreciated!

5. If I could pick ONE post from M2M that is my all-time, must-read favorite it would have to be: When Good Enough Just Isn’t and Living a Simpler Life. Okay, yes, I know that’s two. I just couldn’t help myself. Enjoy!

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