Written September 2015
As she walked to chemistry class, Lisa summoned the courage to call her mom on her cell phone. An 18-year-old freshman at Augustana College in 2005, Lisa had recently discovered she was pregnant. She and her then boyfriend, John, discussed adoption as a potential option for their baby.
Lisa explained the situation to her mother over the phone and her interest in adoption. A short time later, she received a call from both of her parents.
“They wanted me to choose parenting,” says Lisa. “That was pretty much the only choice, to just parent.”
Lisa’s mother and father were not receptive to the idea of adoption, and her extended family was leery. They questioned how she could allow her child to be raised by strangers.
“'We don’t do that,’ and ‘I’ll raise your baby’ were their initial reactions,” Lisa recalls. “For many young African Americans, when you’re pregnant, adoption isn’t a consideration.”
Despite facing criticism from her entire family, Lisa was steadfast in her decision to place her child for adoption and began researching her options. After meeting with a counselor from The Cradle, Lisa’s heart was set on open adoption. She was encouraged by the role she would get to play in choosing her child’s family.
“I really wanted my child to be raised by an African-American family,” Lisa explains. “I just wanted a couple who really loved each other.”
John also supported the idea of an open adoption in hopes that he could still have a loving relationship with his son, despite not raising him.
“The thing that I thought about most was that we would still talk to him, still be a part of his life, share pictures, letters, even go see him,” John says. “That’s what I really needed to hear.”
Though placing their son was by no means an easy decision, Lisa and John supported each other throughout the process and felt confident in moving forward with an adoption plan.
After reviewing profiles of families who met their criteria, Lisa knew which family she initially felt a connection to. Keeping her choice from John, she presented him with the five options. The choice, for John, was immediately obvious.
“It was clear right off the bat that it was the same choice for both of us,” he recalls of the moment he first saw a picture of the couple that would become his son’s parents. As John reviewed the profile and learned more about the couple, his fears faded away as he became confident that placement was the best option for their child.
Lisa and John, along with Lisa’s mother, had a match meeting where they met the couple they had both selected: Donna and John. Besides the two men sharing a first name, the couples felt an instant connection as they began to talk.
Much to their astonishment, they learned that each couple, independently, had decided on the name “John Miles” for the baby. This coincidence was the final push John and Lisa needed to cement their decision.
“I jumped up and immediately started crying,” Lisa remembers. My mom was crying. John’s jaw dropped. It was a moment of clarity, a moment of ‘this is what’s supposed to happen, these are the people that are supposed to parent our son.’”
Ten years later, Lisa and John are now married, and although John Miles’s family moved away, the connections and commitment between these birth and adoptive families remain strong. Lisa and John had a chance to catch up with the adoptive dad while he was in Chicago for business recently. And the families are planning a get-together during the holidays this year.
“They care about us and we care about them, as well as our son,” John says.
He and Lisa feel secure in the decision they made 10 years ago. Whether they’re answering questions from John Miles about his adoption or talking to him about his toys or school, the bond they share with their son and his parents is just as strong as the day they placed him in Donna and John’s arms.
“If you really think about it, an open adoption is like a marathon,” John says with a smile. “This child is going to have two families, so it’s always going to be a process. If we just focus on John Miles, everything will work itself out. Everything.”