By Lindsey Rattan
My freshman year in high school, I wrote an essay regarding adoption and the affect adoption can have on a child. The essay covered the specific topic of when to tell a child they are adopted. My conclusion from that particular essay? The earlier, the better. Little did I know then how greatly my own life would be affected by this thing they call “adoption.”
It was my junior year in High School. Word travels fast in a small Texas town. It didn’t take long for word to spread that the Varsity Head Cheerleader was pregnant. Not only did I have a leadership role in cheerleading, basketball, golf, and my youth group at church; my father was the superintendent of schools. My boyfriend at the time also carried a leadership role in many activities such as football, golf, and basketball. With his father as a head coach at the school and my father being the superintendent, we were placed in the spotlight at all times.
My initial reaction was that it wasn’t fair. I had a boyfriend. Why didn’t it happen to other girls who were careless? I quickly realized I needed to use the choice I made to set an example to those who looked up to me. The first thing I told my cheerleaders and friends was that it could happen to anyone. It can happen to anyone and when it did happen, a young couple, ages 16 and 17, had a decision to make.
We decided to explore our options. Our only options by choice were parenting or adoption. My boyfriend had a family member who worked for Buckner, so we and our parents decided to meet with the adoption and maternity services counselors. I was shocked by what I heard at the initial meeting about open adoption. Even doing research for the essay I wrote a few years prior, I had never heard of the term open adoption. I had no idea one could place a child for adoption and still be a part of the child’s life. It honestly sounded too good to be true at the time. But, we still had a decision to make.
We met with our counselor at Buckner many times. One particular exercise really put things in perspective for us. We were asked to create a budget for raising a child. “What???” was my initial reaction. Yep, a budget. I was 17. I had no idea what it took to raise a baby – diapers, formula, doctor visits – we researched all of it. We realized that our part-time jobs would definitely not cover the expenses. But this wasn’t the sole reason we chose adoption. We had very supportive parents who were there to help us no matter what decision we made, emotionally and financially, if we chose parenting.
Another exercise opened our eyes to the advantages and disadvantages of adoption and parenting for us and for the child. The advantages for the child were so clear. Adoption would give the child the life we could never provide – to be raised in a stable two-parent Christian home for starters, not to mention the continual financial stability. To us it was clear. Adoption would provide the life the child deserved and allow us to continue our education, all the while being a part of the child’s life.
From there we decided to look through profiles of potential adoptive parents. This all happened very quickly. We began the process at Buckner at the end of May and we were looking through profiles by the beginning of July. We had things that were important to us as we were looking through the profiles and the Lord had His hand in it from the beginning. I would like to say that we chose Taylor’s life for her, but that would be false. We chose to give Taylor life, but God had a place for her all along. He led us to Brad and Shelley, the most perfect parents for her. He led us to a new family.
Two weeks. That is the time we had to get to know Taylor’s parents before she was born. We quickly began to build our relationship. Shelley came to doctor visits with my mom and me, and we spent time together shopping, eating, and learning more about each other. Our families spent time with Shelley’s and Brad’s families and we quickly realized we had many things in common. My boyfriend and I went our separate ways before college that next year, but we both continue to have our own special relationship with Taylor and her family.
Building a respectful relationship is most important with open adoption. After Taylor was born, it was very clear to me that Brad and Shelley were her parents and I was the birth mom. They quickly became more like a brother and sister to me, like siblings to my sister, and like children to my parents. They truly cared about me as a person and we were able to show each other the respect it takes to make a relationship work. It has been nine years since Taylor was born and our families have grown as one. I look back on the past nine years and cannot imagine my life any differently. I have learned so many life lessons from Brad, Shelley, Taylor, Taylor’s sweet brother Will, and Brad and Shelley’s parents as well. In 2007, I married my wonderful husband Frank and I was honored to have Taylor by my side as my flower girl. Shelley sang during the ceremony, and Brad said the prayer before dinner.
The most important part is that I will be in Taylor’s life as she grows. I will be there to answer the difficult questions of why. Brad and Shelley have told Taylor “her story” from the day they brought her home. She knows she grew in my tummy and God placed her with her perfect parents and her brother, too. She knows I am her birth mom, or as she and her brother say, “My Lindsey.” So, looking back at my essay from my freshman year in high school, would I still come to the same conclusion about telling the child sooner than later? Most definitely.
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