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Angelina and Ryan’s Story

Thanksgiving usually marks the beginning of the holiday season, and for a lot of people, it’s a really happy time spent with their friends and families. But in the case for many birth parents; it can be a reminder that the next few months are going to be hard or maybe even seem impossible to get through knowing they won’t be necessarily spending it with their child.

My fiancé and I placed our first child in September of this year with an amazing family here in Austin. Over the past couple of months, we have been working on building a great relationship and friendship with them, but I’d be lying if I said that the holidays aren’t going to be tough for us.

With our son only being 2 months old, he is steady-growing and going through all the typical firsts; first bath, first car ride, first laugh, first conscious smile, first Halloween, and now first Thanksgiving and soon first Christmas. This holiday season is going to be specifically hard for us knowing that we have missed out on many of those firsts already and more of the ones to come.

That being said, it’s not all sadness and grief. There are many things that we have to be thankful for. First and foremost, we are thankful that our son is healthy and happy. We are also so thankful that we have the opportunity to be part of his life and the lives of his amazing parents. We are thankful for the open communication between us and our new extended family, we are thankful for an adoption agency that has everyone in the adoption triad’s best interest at heart, and we are thankful that our son will have a happy Thanksgiving full of love and family, and that he will know that even though we can’t be there with him in person, we are sending our love and will see him soon.

So yeah, we’ll be sad, and maybe not feel so festive about watching the Thanksgiving Day parade or preparing a meal with our family; but this first Thanksgiving means that our lives are still moving forward despite working through a tremendous loss, it means that it’s okay for us to move past the event of relinquishment and focus on the future for us, for our son, for his parents and for the new family we are all building together. And we are thankful for that most of all.

Christy and Jon’s Story

A flood of thoughts run through my head, as I stare at this white computer screen, the world outside dark and quiet, everyone else asleep in the very early morning. The last time I was sitting here, writing, was another early morning, September 12th, the day my husband Jon and I were to bring a new baby home to be our son. I was attempting to capture some of the enormity of this event in a letter to the two people who had chosen us as the adoptive parents for their baby. Our emotions were all over the place – sadness, happiness, excitement, fear, wonder, gratitude.

That morning was two days after Sullivan was born to Angelina and Ryan at St. David’s hospital in Austin. It was two days after Adoption Advocates asked if they could show our profile book to Angelina and Ryan, who had decided to place Sullivan for adoption. It was two days after we learned that they wanted to meet us, that we reminded them of older versions of themselves. And it was two days after we met Angelina, Ryan and Sullivan for the first time, and so many things clicked into place. A lot can happen in two days.

Those two days changed all of our lives. How far we had come from three months earlier, when we had written on the final page of our profile book that we knew that we couldn’t control the process, or anything for that matter, so we were staying open to all the possibilities, and looking forward to enjoying the journey. We wondered what the journey would be like, and who we would travel with. What will open adoption look like for us? We had tried to prepare— reading books, attending seminars and support groups, talking with our friends who had adopted their children, but it remained in the abstract. Until September 12th, when it became very, very concrete, in the form of a little boy in a carseat in the back of our car.

A hospital referral meant that we didn’t have nine months to develop a relationship with Angelina and Ryan. It meant that we had to immediately walk that walk of staying open to all of the possibilities, ceding control, and enjoying the journey. It was no longer words on a page, it was our life. All of our lives, to be exact. Because Angelina and Ryan didn’t have that nine months to get to know us either. We started getting to know each other the day that Sullivan was born. They had written down a list of questions for us. I liked them already. Angelina had a dream two years ago that she and Ryan had a son, and his name was Sullivan. We loved it. It impressed us that they were so present in this time after the birth, acknowledging the sadness of deciding to place Sullivan with us, but also so amazed that they had created this little person, and that they could love him so much. Ryan said that he had never really liked kids, at least not other peoples kids, but now that he was staring at his son, he was over the moon. Angelina wanted to know what we saw her and Ryan’s role being in both Sullivan’s life and ours. From that first day, she has been so thoughtful and articulate and creative and engaged in this process. Which is inspiring, and challenges us to be the same, about our feelings, our wishes, our hopes for Sullivan’s life with us, and how she and Ryan will fit into our new family.

Open adoption, for us, is a process of becoming a family. Right now it is visits and phone calls, text messages and a shared photo stream, updated constantly. Angelina makes us care packages, because that is what she does for her friends and family, and because she is awesome. I thought a family dinner on a regular basis would be nice, and Angelina had thought the same thing, but worried it was too soon to suggest. I imagine a dance party in our living room one day soon, all of us dancing with Sullivan, trading playlists, filling his head with the music each of us loves, passing him from one set of arms to another, laughing the whole time. This is the relationship we are developing— one where we can dream about how we would like things to be, and slowly share those dreams with each other.

Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year to think about both the families we are born to, and the families we choose to make throughout our lifetime. Our new family is all about this choosing— we have a son, because his birth parents chose us. We have this chance for a new extended family with Angelina and Ryan, because we all chose an open adoption. This is a part of Sullivan’s story, which he will always know, because the people who wrote the first lines remain in our lives.

There is a kind of gratitude that is immediate and obvious— for our village of family and friends responding with clothes and quilts and toys and books and meals. And .there is the kind of gratitude that is deep and slow as it grows in our souls and becomes a part of who we are, as it forms our character. That’s the gratitude I feel for Angelina and Ryan, and our son Sullivan, who is the tiny spark that ignited our new chosen family.