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Rachel’s Open Adoption Story

Rachel had apprehensions about having an open adoption at first. But after learning about the adoption process and open adoption, and being able to select her child’s adoptive family, she realized she had nothing to fear.

When I found out I was pregnant, it was not a happy moment for me. I was already a mom to three young children and I was no longer with the baby’s father. Added to that, I had a full time job and was working towards my Masters degree in social work. I knew that I was not in a position to parent another child.

Once the shock wore off, I started researching options. I was intent on keeping the pregnancy and baby a secret from my friends and family; I just didn’t want to have to deal with going public with my situation.

Dispelling Adoption Myths

A social worker suggested that I consider working with The Cradle and called them for me. My Cradle counselor met with me and quickly dispelled the myths I had surrounding working with an agency. You see, I was afraid working with an agency would be too public for me. I was afraid that I would be forced into an open adoption and I didn’t want that. I learned during that first conversation with my counselor that I was wrong. Adoption could be as private as I wanted it to be.

After that meeting, I went home and researched The Cradle’s website and paperwork. While I didn’t think I would want to have anything to do with the adoptive family, the more I looked at the profiles and considered prospective parents from The Cradle, the more I liked the idea of selecting the family and, maybe, even staying in touch. I chose a great couple with whom I had a lot in common. They are traditional and artsy, just like me. When we met, it just felt so natural to talk with them. They even chose a name for the baby — Harper — that has special significance to me. It felt like fate. I knew then that my daughter will have a good life with them and it will be easy for me to stay connected to that family.

Coming Around to Open Adoption

I realized that I didn’t need to fear open adoption. Once I learned how it actually worked, I couldn’t be more pleased with the result. I now see Harper and her adoptive parents four times a year, and we communicate monthly via text or email. Even though this regular contact is grounded in my love for her, it’s strengthened by my friendship with her adoptive parents. We all live in Chicago, and we all share a love of art, music, culture and travel.

Looking at the two of them now, I’ve never seen a couple so genuinely pleased to be parents. They used to have a carefree lifestyle, and now their house is stocked to the brim with bins full of toys and books. They’ve raised Harper to be an extremely happy, well-adjusted child. She has friends from all walks of life — all genders, races and sexual orientations. She has a family who adore her. She has uncles and two sets of grandparents who fly more than 1,000 miles regularly to see her. She has the household stability that I couldn’t give her, and I couldn’t be happier.

An Update Over a Decade Later

This story was originally published in 2010. In 2023, The Cradle got a chance to reconnect with Rachel to hear an update on her story. Harper is now 14 years old.

How Open Adoption Has Changed for Rachel

I think you go into [open adoption] with this idea of what it’s going to be, and it can evolve into something different that you didn’t anticipate. Some things are good, and some things are definitely a challenge.

When someone gets older and they start grappling with difficult questions, then be ready to answer those from a very honest place and be prepared for the harsh responses you may get. I think for me, the only change is practicing self-care in that area. Don’t shy away from therapy yourself and be ready to process those things. It’s not easy.

Caring for myself as I address questions has been my biggest thing as an area of growth and mindfulness. Don’t think it’s going to always be this cute relationship. [Harper and I] still have one — it’s more one-on-one. Like so many young people, we text quite often and do a check-in. I prefer her to take the lead. I try not to be pushy on the relationship and always leave the door open if she ever needs anything.

Rachel’s Relationship with Harper’s Adoptive Parents

I have an amazing relationship, something you would even call a friendship, with Harper’s parents. We talk quite often, but it’s not even necessarily about Harper. We talk just about the Cubs and Chicago and life and jobs, and so on.

We have, in partnership, navigated the challenges of two white, cisgendered gay men raising a black, teenage girl who’s working through being adopted. I think we’ve done a really good job as a unit to navigate those things as a united front, and for me to be an integral part of her journey. And I’ve gotten married since, so the four of us have done a really good job of navigating it together, just always trying to make the best decisions for Harper.

Rachel’s Advice to Someone Considering Adoption

For me, it was a good thing. Was it a hard decision? Absolutely. I don’t think anyone approaches that decision lightly. Sometimes the most selfless decision you can make is to go down that path. It was one of those tough questions and one of those hard truths that Harper made me face. I still stand by that decision, and I still continue to feel confident that as she grows and continues to develop and has a better understanding of life that she will understand that as well.

I would recommend going through the Cradle. The support and the continued support, even now, has been great. I never felt that the decision wasn’t mine to be made. I never felt pressured. I would feel supported and given resources no matter what avenue I took.

I would also implore potential adoptive parents or a birth parent to allow room for flexibility. You should not go into [adoption] with a rigid idea of what this is going to look like, what this relationship is going to look like. Understand that life is going to happen; things are going to change for you.

It does get easier. I know those first days and months you think about it and reflect on ‘What if I would have made a different choice?’ It definitely gets better. Life goes on and you adjust. That does not take away any love or care. But you come to terms with your personal growth that this was in the best interests of everybody.

There are things that I have gone on to accomplish that I could not have done. And there are things that Harper has accomplished and been exposed to and been a part of because of the loving extended circle of amazing people that would not have happened. I think we all are a little better because of the decisions that we have made.

Understand that there is a support system of people who have been through this journey, who you can reach out to, if needed. Tap into those resources. Tap into that network. Build community around those who have made a similar decision. That was key for me — to talk to other people who have been further in their journey, and now I can have that conversation with people and pay it forward.

For 100 years and counting, The Cradle has built nurturing families and provided lifelong support to people whose lives have been touched by adoption. Faces of The Cradle is a celebration of their stories. Meet more of the people who make what we do possible and all the more meaningful.

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