An Open Adoption Story

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Carol, would you share with us a little bit about your experience with open adoption? Maybe you could share with us how it happened and how the journey has been for your family?

Years ago, prior to adopting our own children, a good friend of mine named Mary adopted a baby and had an extremely open relationship with the birth parents and their families.  It always made me very uncomfortable to hear about the birth mother staying overnight with them on a monthly basis, celebrating holidays and birthdays together, and even vacationing together.  I didn’t have any concrete reason for doubting the wisdom of this arrangement except for all the horror stories that had been broadcast in the media.

Aside from the bad press, it just seemed to put the adoptive family in a position of significant vulnerability for no apparent benefit.  To the contrary, Mary would expound on the wonderful benefits of having her son’s birth family involved in their lives.  She used to say, “It provides more people to love our son as much as we (she and her husband) do”.  I would just smile and think to myself, “Ok, sounds nice, but really?”

Kirschner pic

Carol, Hannah and Heather

Well, I’m here to say, “Yes, really!”.  Over six years ago, while we were in the process of waiting to adopt a child from China, God brought a young woman named Heather into our lives who was looking for an adoptive family for her soon-to-be-born daughter.  After a couple of face-to-face meetings Heather chose us to be her daughter’s adoptive parents.

At the time, she had reservations about having contact after the baby was born, although the baby’s grandmother Diane asked if it would be possible to see the baby once a year or so, even if she just posed as an acquaintance.  She was trying to be sensitive to us, but also knew that she really wanted to know her grand-daughter.  We thought that was acceptable, although no formal agreements were made.  Despite feeling a bit uncertain, David and I agreed to stay open-minded and maintain open communication with Heather and Diane.  This mindset positioned us to begin a relationship that has gone beyond our wildest imaginations.

While Heather was still pregnant, she decided to move back home to Oklahoma, an eight-hour drive from St. Louis, where we were living at the time.  Diane lived in St. Louis and became our main contact person throughout the duration of Heather’s pregnancy.  As Diane called with regular updates on Heather and the baby, we started to share our life stories and came to find out that Diane was adopted by a Baptist minister and his wife and was a fellow believer in Christ.  She proved to be instrumental in helping Heather and us navigate these uncharted waters.

At the invitation of Heather, David and I drove to Oklahoma to be present for the birth of Hannah Elizabeth, a name mutually chosen by Heather and us.  It was a joyful and yet tense time.  Up to this point, Heather had resolved out of love to have us be Hannah’s parents, but we knew this could change after giving birth to her precious daughter.  The five day waiting period required before relinquishing parental rights felt like an eternity.

We had to surrender control and trust that, however it went, God was in charge and cared more about Hannah’s destiny than anyone else.  When the papers were signed and it was time to take Hannah from the hospital, I broke down in tears of relief, joy, gratitude, but also deep sadness for Heather who walked out of the hospital broken-hearted.  We were awed by her act of sacrificial love for her daughter.

Upon returning to St. Louis with our newborn baby, Diane offered her help, especially since we had very little family support in town.  We recognized the potential long-term benefits to Hannah of knowing her biological family and were willing to take the risk involved in opening our lives to them, although we didn’t expect it to evolve as it did.  We took Diane up on her offer.  She was the grandmother we didn’t have and needed.  The more we invited her into our lives, the more involved she got.  Occasionally, we expressed our need for space and she respectfully granted it.  Gradually, without even realizing it was happening, we were growing into a blended family built on trust, respect, and love.

In Oklahoma, Heather focused on pulling her life back together.  She would occasionally visit St. Louis to see family and friends.  She would ask to see Hannah, but would be somewhat tentative for fear of interfering in our lives.  We welcomed her with open arms and always encouraged her to visit as often as she wanted, assuring her she was not being an imposition.

We wanted Hannah to know her biological mother for many reasons.  The typical reason many adoptive families give is to know the family history for medical and psychological purposes.  As important as that can be, it seemed to pale in comparison with the benefit to Hannah of knowing that Heather desires a relationship with her because she still has the same deep love for her that drove her to make the difficult choice of adoption. Like my friend Mary, we celebrate birthdays and holidays together (as much as possible, now that we’re living farther away in Texas) and vacation at each others’ houses.  Diane’s father even performed Hannah’s baby dedication while we were gathered at our home to celebrate her first birthday.

Remaining open and vulnerable in spite of feeling uncertainty and doubt in the early stages has paid off in ways we could never have anticipated.  We feel a closeness that has emerged from mutual trust, love, respect, healthy boundaries, and similar values and beliefs.  God has truly made us a blended forever family!

David and Carol Kirschner have been married for 12 years and are the loving parents to both Daniel (5) and Hannah (6).  The Kirschner family are an enormous blessing to Crossings Community Church.

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16 Responses to “An Open Adoption Story”

  1. Joel December 6, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    Carol,

    Thank you for sharing. I’m thankful that Heather made the loving decision she did. What a gift you and David are to Hannah and Hannah to each of you!

    • Carol Kirschner December 6, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

      Heather is an amazing woman and God is an amazing God to bring us together!

      • Matt December 6, 2013 at 10:37 pm #

        Reading the story this time (similar to Joel) it hit me in a new way how amazingly brave Heather was to make this great decision. That decision continues to pay unspeakable dividends through all of the great joys that little Hannah brings to those around her…

        I’m so thankful we can celebrate this story…

        • Carol Kirschner December 7, 2013 at 7:23 am #

          Yes, Heather made the bravest decision a woman can ever make. She has had to deal with the inevitable sadness of not raising her incredible daughter, but the fact that she gets to see Hannah on a regular basis has helped to ease her pain to some degree.

  2. Matt December 6, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    Carol,

    This is such a great story…. I can’t get enough of it. It is such an encouragement to see all He has done in and through your family.

    • Carol Kirschner December 6, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

      I’m humbled by how the Lord has chosen to bless us. To Him be all the glory!

  3. Amy DuBose December 6, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    Wow! What an amazing story! Thank you for sharing.

    • Carol Kirschner December 6, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

      This story is such a great illustration of how God does “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20)

  4. Emiky December 6, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

    I loved reading this Carol- you are an amazing momma!

    • Carol Kirschner December 7, 2013 at 7:24 am #

      Takes one to know one :)

  5. Crystal Hays December 6, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

    What a real and beautiful story of God’s love! Just beautiful.

  6. Lori Lavender Luz December 7, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    “Remaining open and vulnerable in spite of feeling uncertainty and doubt in the early stages has paid off in ways we could never have anticipated.”

    This happened similarly to us, as well, nearly 13 years ago. Our lives are so much richer though it’s not always easy) because we were open to being open.

    • Carol Kirschner December 8, 2013 at 7:11 am #

      Lori, any helpful hints you could share for the challenging times? You are farther down the road than anyone else I have met. I imagine there’s a new set of dynamics during the tween and now teenage years.

      • Lori Lavender Luz December 10, 2013 at 11:28 pm #

        Hoo, boy. We are currently going through a Hard Thing, but despite that I firmly believe that parenting with an open heart gives our children the space to feel their feelings and wonder any wonderings as they build and integrate their identities.

        My daughter’s birth mom and I had a book published a few months ago, “The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole.” It’s premise is that adoption creates a split between a person’s biology and her biography, and that openness can be an effective way to heal that split. (You can see what people are saying about the book on Amazon, http://bit.ly/open-adoption)

        You can see why I was drawn to your last paragraph, Carol :-)

        • Carol Kirschner December 11, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

          Your book looks like a “must read” for me. I am going to order it on Amazon tonight and look forward to diving in. So glad our paths crossed!

          • Lori Lavender Luz December 13, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

            Thanks for this, Carol. I hope you enjoy it, and I am open to hearing what you think about it.

            Best wishes!

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