November is National Adoption Awareness Month. WCPO Digital Account Executive Jackie Meddles decided to share her story of adoption so others can understand what some adoptions can be like. It’s a story of hope and family and Thanksgiving.
I wouldn’t have chosen infertility.
I wouldn’t have chosen the sadness that I felt when seeing baby announcements. I wouldn’t have chosen the loneliness I secretly felt at family gatherings because my husband and I were the only ones without a child.
I wouldn’t have chosen the heartache experienced when we were constantly asked, “So, when are you going to have children?” or worrying, “Is something wrong with us?” or, “Are we being punished?”
I wouldn’t have chosen to be diagnosed with endometriosis, a painful and chronic disorder affecting the ability to conceive.
But I also didn't know my future.
And I didn't realize how all of those things that I wouldn't have chosen, I would choose all over again to be where I am today.
Long before we discovered our inability to have children naturally, my husband Jake and I met in college. It was 15 years ago, and during this time I started listening to a song called “Saving Grace” by a group called Point of Grace. It inspired me so much that when the song was over one day, I spoke to myself out loud, "Someday when I have a daughter I am going to name her Grace.”
About a week later, I was hanging out with Jake (who I liked at the time, but he didn't know it yet), and he told me, "Someday when I have a daughter, I am going to name her Grace."
I was surprised and wondered if that was a sign that we were meant to be… But I didn't say anything (which is unlike me), because I thought if we were meant to be, he would pursue me. And he did. However, I was not ready to date yet and when I told him, he said, "That's OK. I will wait for you. God already told me you are going to be my wife someday."
Well, several months later I finally felt a peace about dating when God shared with me, "I brought Jake into your life for a reason. The two of you together brings me more glory than you each on your own.”
This was the first relationship where dating wasn't just about how a guy made me feel. It wasn't selfish. It was bigger than me.
When we got married, I expected that we would graduate college, start our careers and have children. That's the way it's supposed to be, right?
I had no idea that getting married just shy of 21 years old, that I wouldn't have my first child until I was 34.
I had no idea that the fertile gene in my family was not going to be passed to me.
First, my older sister had a healthy boy and girl, and then my identical twin sister had two healthy boys. Surely, it was just about timing… It would happen when it was supposed to. We didn’t prevent pregnancy, but we also didn’t try to get pregnant. We believed it would just happen when God wanted it to. Well, years and years went by… and no baby.
Finally, we decided to go to a fertility specialist to get checked. I honestly thought they were going to give us techniques, tell us to "try."
To my devastation, the very same day that my twin sister announced she was having a boy, I was told that we were unable to conceive naturally.
While the news was crushing to our spirits, my husband and I looked at each other in the doctor’s office and said, “We will adopt.”
It took about a year of grieving the loss of a child that I thought we’d have naturally before I was ready to move forward with adoption. And once we made the choice, the grieving was gone. The excitement began. I realized that it was no longer IF we can have a baby but WHEN.
It was July 29, 2014, when we met with Adoption Link, a private adoption agency specializing in Ohio infant placements. The same week we met with the adoption agency, Grace was conceived.
Our journey was nine months. Instead of growing in my belly, Grace was growing above it — in my heart.
The first "trimester" was our home study; lots of paperwork, online classes and preparing our life book. That’s a book about our life (mostly photos) that is shared with possible birth moms. It helps them decide who they want to match with.
The second "trimester" was waiting to be matched with a birth mom. Our agency asked us to rush our life book because there was a great need for more families to adopt. From that moment on, it was a butterflies-in-my-tummy trimester. Anticipating getting "the call" or "the email" was, to me, as intense as a little one fluttering inside.
While we waited, I began writing letters to Grace. On December 31, 2014, I wrote, “Today is the last day of 2014. I sure hope we meet you in 2015! Mommy and Daddy think of you all the time. We cannot wait to meet you and love on you.”
There were several times when the agency asked us to consider a birth mom and we said yes, but we were not chosen.
And then on January 7, 2015, we got "the email!"
We were chosen by a birth mom for a match meeting.
This is where birth and adoptive parents meet, usually with the adoption agency director, to see if there is a good match. Our lunch meeting was scheduled for the following week. And on January 15, 2015, we met Katie.
Katie was a young woman, 26 weeks pregnant and unable to parent the way she wanted, given her current situation. She was brave, bold and selfless to make a decision that was hard on her, but best for her baby. Her baby... that she immediately said is our baby.
We entered our third trimester.
From that day on, we developed an open adoption relationship. I attended every prenatal and ultrasound appointment. I spent time not only visiting an hour north for the doctor appointments, but to spend time with Katie afterward.
"We love you, not just for the gift that you are giving us, but the gift that you are," I told Katie.
Katie is family. When she chose us, we chose her.
An open adoption provides benefits for everyone. It's about more love. More answers. More family.
Not only have Jake and I opened our arms to Katie, but our family and friends have as well. They wrote her personal cards during Grace’s baby showers. We had maternity clothes donated for her to wear during pregnancy. People constantly prayed for her and asked how she is doing.
Katie is family. Biology doesn’t make a family. Love makes a family.
Katie embraced us as parents right away. She encouraged us to hold her pregnant belly and talk to Grace. She said that Grace responded to my voice more than anyone else’s. She asked for our favorite songs to play at night. She called me, Mommy. She called Jake, Daddy.
Katie and I had our final prenatal appointment at 39 1/2 weeks along. That night, as Jake and I were packing for a scheduled C-section the next day, we got the most exciting call. Katie was being rushed to the hospital to give birth.
We quickly made it to Dayton in enough time to relax and experience the moment we've been waiting for… to meet our daughter, who was born at 1:40 a.m. on April 16, 2015.
Holding Grace for the first time was beautiful. She lifted her head and looked me right in the eye as if to say, “Hi mommy!” It’s like she knew who I was.
Jake and Grace had an immediate bond as well. The way he looked at her was the same way he looked at me when I walked down the aisle on our wedding day.
What an incredible honor that Katie invited us to the hospital, asked us to be the first to hold her newborn, and requested that we do skin-to-skin contact. Not all adoptive parents have this privilege. We counted our blessings.
Grace has never been out of our care. We were in the hospital until Katie was discharged, and we brought Grace home at three days old.
Grace has two moms.
One who carried her and sacrificed for her. And one who parents her and shares her with the world every day. Our relationship with each other is nonthreatening and respectful of each other’s position.
Finally, we have our GEM, our Grace Emily Meddles.
Fittingly, her birthstone is a diamond, the most precious gem. And when we legally finalized our adoption on October 27, 2015, she got her ears pierced with “diamonds.” It is a symbol of celebration. A symbol of God's plan. God's grace.
And on that October adoption day, we went to Build-A-Bear where Grace chose a bear and adopted her. Before we left the store, Grace giggled at an object for the first time. She immediately lit up looking at her new friend. Today, Sparkles the Bear is her favorite toy.
This isn't the story that I expected to write. But it is one that I would not change.
My heart bursts with joy every day. I cannot imagine having more love inside of me for a child. Yes, even if I physically carried and gave birth to her.
Katie surrendered her parental rights when Grace was three days old, which is irrevocable. But this doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want a relationship with Grace or with us.
Today, we continue our open adoption relationship with Katie. We mail photos monthly and visit her regularly. She is crazy about Grace, and we love sharing Grace with her. She is even staying with us this Thanksgiving and meeting people who are so thankful for her and her choices.
Grace, you were worth the infertility. You were worth the wait. You were knitted together for us. You were chosen. You are loved. There is nothing that we did to deserve you. And that is the definition of grace…
Who knew that the song that inspired me 15 years ago, Saving Grace, was giving us an opportunity to do just that? Save Grace.