Air Date: 3.29.16
You can read the transcript below, or listen to the podcast by clicking here.
TRANSCRIPT: Jennifer: Hi, and welcome to Adoption Focus. My name is Jennifer Jaworski and I am a social worker with Adoption Associates of Michigan. This is Adoption Associate’s premier talk radio blog show. Adoption Associates was founded in 1990 and we specialize in both domestic and international adoptions. We provide pregnancy and adoption services throughout Michigan with offices located in Jenison, Lansing, Farmington Hills, and Saginaw.
Adoption Associates brings knowledge, support, and understanding in adoption. Adoption is not only our specialty, it is our passion. One of Adoption Associates commitments is this radio show to help educate and support adoptive families, birth families, and the adoption community. So we are very glad that you are listening in today. I am excited to welcome to our show Stephanie Yager. Stephanie, are you online?
Stephanie: I am. I’m here.
Jennifer: Wonderful. Welcome.
Stephanie: Thank you.
Jennifer: I’m so excited to be talking to you today. And I was hoping that you could share just a little bit about your experience with adoption just to get us started.
Stephanie: Oh absolutely. My experience started about 19 years ago with an unplanned pregnancy. And I already had a four year old at home so I knew that I wanted to move forward with an adoption plan because I was a single parent, knew I couldn’t take on another child. And also knew that I wanted to give that gift of life to someone else. I didn’t want to have an abortion. And I knew the joy that my son brought to my life so I wanted to give that to someone else who couldn’t have children.
And so, I started looking into the open adoption process. And then, eventually found Adoption Associates where I was able to make the adoption plan for my daughter and it was amazing. It was great. The support I got from Adoption Associates was phenomenal. I wouldn’t have made it through without my caseworker and the support group that you guys have for birth mothers.
Jennifer: So I imagine early in the process, this must have been very scary, I assume. Was this your first experience with adoption?
Stephanie: It was, it was. And it was very scary because before I found Adoption Associates, I was looking in the paper and I had seen the ads in the whatever section, the classifieds sections that said if you have an unplanned pregnancy and yadda yadda. And I was calling those numbers and it was really scary because some of those places it was like they just wanted your baby. That’s all they wanted. They weren’t going to take care of you. And so, I didn’t really know how to go about it. There’s not really a lot out there for single, young birth mothers. So I really had to do the research. And mind you, this was 20 years ago so it was really before Google. You could Google everything.
And so, it was very intimidating. But once I was connected to Adoption Associates, it changed. The whole experience changed. It then became something that wasn’t scary to something that was more comforting. And I knew what was going to happen and I was helped all along the way so it really took most of the fear out of the process.
Jennifer: Well, that’s very interesting to hear because I do work with birth mothers and it is our experience that oftentimes, it can be a very overwhelming and frightening experience. So I’m glad to hear that you were able to move past that. Can you share with us, moving forward, after you made that decision, what that started looking like in terms of selecting adoptive families and beginning those relationships? Talk about that a little bit.
Stephanie: Sure. When I first started the process, like I said, I wasn’t initially hooked up with Adoption Associates so I had found a lawyer and was given some profiles of families. And originally, I found my family through the lawyer. And it’s the same type of process as through Adoption Associates where you get profiles and I knew what I was looking for, I knew that my family battles weight and so I wanted a family that was athletic. And hopefully, she wouldn’t have those challenges if she was in an athletic family.
So I had some little things in my head I knew I wanted. I wanted a family that had a religious background. I wanted a family that didn’t have any children because like I said, I wanted to give them the gift of life so that was very important to me. And I finally settled on a couple and then met them. And it wasn’t shortly after I met them that I actually ended up going to Adoption Associates and they were very happy to change the way that they were doing things and also go through Adoption Associates. And so, that’s really how the process got started.
And then, we really just moved forward with learning about each other and meeting each other. We would get together and talk about just everything. I had so many questions for them. And I just really felt like they were the right couple when I met them. It was like okay, am I going to know? I was really scared about picking a couple. I mean, I’m finding a forever family for my child. And so, I wondered how that was going to be. If it was going to be really scary. And I just knew. I knew when I found them that they were the right couple and we just really gelled and moved forward.
They went to my doctor’s appointments with me. They lived in Ohio and they would drive here for my doctor’s appointments. They were in every appointment with me. I remember being in one of the first appointments when they were doing the heartbeat and taking her heartbeat. And the mom, the adoptive mom, she started crying. And for me, it wasn’t a big deal. I had had a son but I remember thinking wow, this is the first time. She had had many miscarriages. So this was the first time that she had actually been able to hear a heartbeat. And that was huge for me. That really solidified my choice and that I was making the right choice. And so, we just moved forward from there.
Jennifer: And that was because why? You were able to see the excitement that the adoptive family was experiencing?
Stephanie: Yeah. It was the excitement, the emotion, that went along with it. And I know a lot of that is that I’m a very giving person and the type of person I am but it was really … I don’t even know that it was necessarily the excitement for them. It was truly the heart of the emotion that wow, this is something that they have wanted for so long and couldn’t have. And I’m able to give them this experience. And so that was for me, the very personal side of it.
Jennifer: That’s amazing to hear. I’m really glad that you spoke about that. I know that you and I when we talked before, you were sharing with me, you have three children. Is that correct?
Stephanie: I do. I do have three children. I got pregnant again about four years after my daughter was born. And I knew right away, again, that what I was going to do because I had such a wonderful experience with the open adoption process and with Adoption Associates. Like I said, it wouldn’t have been the same without you guys. And so that … I mean, I remember the day I found out I was pregnant and I called my social worker there at Adoption Associates and I said, I’m pregnant again. And I know exactly what I want to do. And this is the plan. And she said okay. And she said I have a family that I think would be perfect. And I’ll introduce you to them. And we went from there. It was another wonderful experience.
And that’s hard for me to talk about because it’s hard for me to talk about the fact that I’ve had three children and I was a single mother to my first son and then, to get pregnant again and put that child up for adoption. And then, to get pregnant again. I get a lot of people that just landbase me because of my poor lifestyle or whatever. And so, it’s really kind of embarrassing for me to talk about it but at the same time, I talk about it because it was such a wonderful experience.
And I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and this was God’s plan. That it was His plan for me to give birth to these children so that these couples would have them. And I don’t feel ashamed. I don’t feel … I don’t let the people that really knock me for my choices and why weren’t you on birth control? And why did you do this? And why did you do that? I just let it go in one ear and out the other but it still is kind of hard because I know people are hearing my story and I know what a lot of people think. But I hope that my story, the part of my story that’s important which is I didn’t have an abortion and I went through with these plans for my children. I hope that’s the part that really sinks in with people.
Jennifer: Absolutely. And there could be a woman listening right now who is facing the same situation that you were many years ago. So we appreciate so much your willingness to share your experience and your honesty about the emotional impact that that’s had and has had on your life. Your children now are adults, or almost adults, right? 15 and 19 are the children that you placed for adoption. Talk about, if you don’t mind, that relationship over the years. What your relationship with those children and/or the adoptive parents, how it’s changed or has it changed?
Stephanie: Yeah. Well, with my daughter it was a little rocky. When I first read their profile, I stated right up front that they wanted a closed adoption. But because like I said, I was working with a lawyer at the time and my best interests weren’t really being looked at, I still settled on them but we talked about it being more open. And they were like okay, I guess we can do that. And I think had I gone through Adoption Associates to choose them, I don’t think … I know that my social worker would have cautioned me more about the fact that they wanted it closed because they said yep, that’s fine. We’ll be open. We’ll send pictures and letters and have that openness. But it really shut down after she was born and so there was an initial feeling of betrayal for me. And resentment. Even though I felt that they were the right family for her, I felt like they told me what I wanted to hear so that they could get her.
So initially, it was kind of rough for me but that goes back to not paying attention to what their true wants were, and needs were. And so that is one thing that when I talk to birth mothers is I just always say make sure that that is truly what they want. I was fortunate enough that I did get pictures and letters sporadically throughout the years. They weren’t consistent but I did get them. And when I got them, it put me at ease because I saw her with them. I saw her happy. One of my favorite pictures, I remember when she was like two was she was on her dad’s shoulders and holding his head and she had this big smile on her face. And that’s what got me through were those pictures and seeing that she was well taken care of.
And so, fast forward now 19 years and I actually just quote/unquote met her for the first time in January. And that was something that she wanted. She’s off at college. She had talked with her mom about it and her mom was like yep, absolutely. And so we got together. I drove to Ohio and we spent the entire day together and it was everything that I dreamed it would be. Because I had the fear that her parents weren’t really talking about me or that it might be more closed instead of sending letters to them or pictures to them, throughout the years, I collected things every holiday, every birthday. I would buy gifts and put a letter with them and date it and put it in a box. And so, I had several boxes full of stuff for her from throughout the years.
And there were times when I’d be at the store and it wasn’t even a holiday and I’d see something and I’d think of her and I’d buy it and put a note with it. And so, I knew for me, that was also what helped me get through with that part of the process for me and choosing to do that. Because I knew that some day I would get to meet her and I would be able to give her that time capsule letting her know that regardless of what was said on her side, she would see that I had thought about her and I hadn’t forgotten about her and that she was a part of my daily life.
Jennifer: And that time did come.
Stephanie: It did. It did. And like I said, it was phenomenal. It was exactly like I had imagined. And I brought all … I lugged all that stuff to Ohio. And we sat together and went through everything. And we … I brought the stuff from the hospital that I had saved and one of the things that had happened was when I had her, I had named her … Well, they named her and they gave her, her middle name was my maiden name at the time.
And she … I changed the spelling of her name, the way that they were spelling it which was a traditional way. So when I signed the birth certificate and put her name on there, I spelled her name the way I would have spelled it. So I had that, what do you want to say, more of like a keepsake certificate that the hospital gives you. Not her actual birth certificate. But the one that you can put on the wall or whatever with her little footprints. And I had that and she saw that and it hadn’t clicked with me that I hadn’t ever told her. And she goes why did they spell my name wrong? And I said oh. And I was able to tell her that’s how I would have spelled it but your parents changed it. And that was just fun to talk about and all the different things that went on.
And she had actually asked me to bring photos of my family. My parents, my siblings, and so I had made a little family tree with everybody’s faces on it and depicting everybody.
Jennifer: Oh, that’s great.
Stephanie: And their information and brought that and she loved that. So we spent the entire day together. But one of the things that was the most significant about that day for me was I learned that it was truly that opposite of what I thought all those years, even though they didn’t, they weren’t as open as I would have wanted them to be with letters and pictures, they never once kept her in the dark about who I was or they always talked positively about me. I had given them a box with some momentos and some letters and stuff for her when they left the hospital with her. And that box sat on her dresser and she was always able to go and look at it and when she was younger, her mom would read her the letters. And that was huge for me to find that out and because …
Jennifer: And surprising.
Stephanie: And very surprising. One of the very first things she said to me when we got together that day was I just want you to know that I don’t hold any resentment or any negative feelings towards you because my parents always spoke so highly of you and taught me to love you. So I don’t have any questions or negative feelings about you. That was huge for me to hear that.
Jennifer: Sure. So despite the fact that the openness wasn’t at the level that you might have wished or had planned, all along there were wonderful things happening in terms of her understanding of your decision, her understanding of who you are, and that your decision was made out of love. And so, I imagine how happy and surprised you were to hear that and especially coming directly from your daughter. Pretty amazing stuff, right?
Stephanie: Yeah, it was. It was very powerful and it was very freeing for me because like I said, I knew I had chosen the right family but I had that little piece of resentment and betrayal that I carried all those years and it was like when she told me that it was like I was able to just be free of that.
Jennifer: That’s a wonderful, wonderful story. And I’m sure that impacted the next adoption plan that you made I think you said about four years later. And that was a really different experience. Could you touch on that a minute for us?
Stephanie: Sure, absolutely. It was very impactful on that because of how I had gone from wanting a very open adoption to it being a lot more closed than what I wanted. So when I called Nancy that day and said look, I’m pregnant again. And I need to find a family. And she said I have a perfect family because she knew I would want openness. And she gave me the profile of a family that she knew was very open. They were a little bit closer to my age than the first couple. And we met and they … It was instant connection. They had already adopted through Adoption Associates so they had, at the time, he was about one, one and a half, somewhere in there, their son.
But that one was closed but it wasn’t because of them, it was because of the birth mother. So they had truly wanted an open adoption too and didn’t get it with their first experience. So this was the perfect match for both sides.
Jennifer: Absolutely. It sounds like it. And you became Mama Steph, is that right?
Stephanie: I did. My son and I would go and visit them on the weekends and when he was first born, we were able to come and go as we wanted. We’d go visit them and like one day when he was little, more of a toddler, she’s just like oh, there’s Mama Steph. And she started calling me Mama Steph right … And it blew me away like wow. That’s just always been the relationship and I know it’s very different than most but it’s always been very open. It’s always been faithfully believed that me and my son, my first son, are a complete extension of the family and treat us as such because they want Coby to always have that connection because they feel that there is no amount of … there’s no limit on the love that you can give a child. And some people are afraid that if they let the birth family have contact or that strong of a connection that it’s a negative thing. But they are very strong in letting people know that it’s not. Because what child wouldn’t you want to have an outpouring of love coming from everywhere.
So my experience with them was very different and it was very much what I wanted. And what they wanted. So it works well for us. We are in contact constantly. I talk to Coby and we have a great time. So just being a big family, I guess is how you’d put it.
Jennifer: Right, and your two adoption experiences at the time of placement were 15 and 19 years ago so that’s been some time. And I’m curious what kind of impact you feel making these adoption plans have had on your life?
Stephanie: Wow. They have brought … I mean, like I said, I’m a very giving person so I’m always looking … I’d rather give to someone else than take for myself. And so for me it’s been extremely fulfilling to be able to go through these pregnancies and to watch these couples grow through the process and go through the experience of watching their child be born because they were in both experiences, they were in the birthing room with me.
With my daughter, her father, he cut the cord. And that was huge. He was right there and that was a huge bonding thing for him.
Stephanie: Yeah, it was actually … There’s a funny little story. When I had my son, we had went in and I was being induced and so we went in the night before and Kerry and I we just stayed up all night and we talked and talked and talked. And the next morning, I had him. And then, like a week later, I think he really was like a week or two old, she called me and she said hey, we just got back from our ski trip and we had a great time, blah, blah, blah. And the first thing I said was oh my God, Kerry, how did you go skiing? You just had a baby. That’s how close we were. In my head, I was thinking wait, you just gave birth and you’re out skiing? But that just tells you how close we were. And we both laugh about that to this day. It was such a powerful thing.
Jennifer: That’s a great memory, for sure. So I know that you spoke earlier when we were talking about the agency and your involvement and the support that you received. And that is something that is such an important factor in a woman making an adoption plan. I’m wondering what this experience may have been like for you if you didn’t have the support of the agency.
Stephanie: Oh, I hate to think what it would have been like. And that’s only because I did start the process without Adoption Associates. So I knew just from that short experience I had with the private lawyer how scary it was and that they didn’t even have a program in place for birth mothers to counsel them or they didn’t have any kind of support group. And I truly felt like all I saw was dollar signs with the private lawyer. And so, for me coming to Adoption Associates, had I not gone through Adoption Associates with my first one, I never would have come back. I don’t know what I would have done when I got pregnant again. I don’t know because it was just such a positive …
Jennifer: You just knew right away that that’s what you were going to do.
Stephanie: I did. I did. And had I gone through and stuck with the lawyer and not had any type of support whatsoever, I don’t know that I could have done it again. Because that was so huge. The support group and being with other women that were going through exactly what I was going through and at different stages. They were further along or we had women that had … were still in the group who had already placed. And being able to pull from them what would be happening at each stage was just so valuable. And so comforting. And yeah, I just can’t imagine what it would have been like without that.
Jennifer: Right. You know Stephanie, I have a million more questions and I think we could go on and on, unfortunately we are running short on time. Maybe we’ll need to have you back for a part two I think. You have given us a wealth of information and I have such respect for you and for you coming forward and sharing your experience. So thank you very, very much.
And for our listeners today that are interested in connecting with Adoption Associates, you may dial 1-800-677-2367 or reach us online at www.adoptionassociates.net. We’re looking forward to next week’s show. We’ll be speaking with an adoptive mother who along with her husband … domestically and internationally. This is Jennifer with Adoption Focus. Have a great day.