My Journey to Joy

October 7, 2017

Letter at Five Years Old

Filed under: Contemplations — aunthoddy @ 3:13 PM
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Dear M_____,

I’ve been thinking of you so much lately!  Our boy started kindergarten last week.  It seems too incredible that he can already be old enough for that.  Did you think about it?  Did you add up the years and wonder?  I feel sure that you have.

He absolutely loves it.  He is eager to go each day.  He’s enrolled in a small, private school, but his class is racially diverse and another student is an adoptee.  I worry about things like that for him, but God worked everything out beautifully.  He adores his teacher.  He notices everything about his classmates; today he told me who was wearing shoes with laces.  Because that’s important in kindergarten.  He’s been nervous about wearing “tie shoes” because he can’t tie them.  I assured him that his teacher would help him, and sent him off with a secure double-knot.  He came home happy that they had stayed tied.

I miss being with him every morning.  He is so full of ideas and articulate; it seems quiet with just his brother and me here at home.  In the afternoons he wants to cuddle, so I think maybe he misses me too?  We read books and I say silly nonsense until he smiles.  He has such a gorgeous smile…I suppose that’s part of your legacy to him.

I ache to share him with you.  I wish that you could see what an amazing kid he’s growing up to be.  He’s sweet, and brilliant, and funny, and strong.  He’s observant and compassionate.  He is cautious and determined.  He worries, like me.  He’s thoughtful, like his dad.

He’s asked to see you several times now.  We have an open adoption with his brother’s birthmom, and he wants an open adoption with you.  We all do.  I wonder where you are, and I pray for you.  He prays for you every night, before going to sleep.  He’s old enough to start understanding more of his story, and he asks great questions.  We took him back to Mississippi.  We toured the hospital where he was born, and even met a nurse who was on duty that night.  We went to the courthouse and the adoption agency, then met with his foster parents.  They doted on him again, just like they did when he was tiny.

Our boy started kindergarten last week.  He’s so ready.  I’ve cried because it feels like a big step.  And I’ve cried because I miss you.  I miss you seeing it.  I miss you knowing he’s okay.  I miss knowing you, and sharing little things about him. 

I’ll print some more pictures and this letter, and send them to the agency.  I hope you’ll read them someday.  I hope you’ll come back to us.  Until then, I’ll continue to wrap you up in prayers, wherever you may be.  With so much love…


February 24, 2017


Filed under: Contemplations — aunthoddy @ 12:01 AM
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It amazes me to think that a few short years ago I had never heard of open adoption.  When we began to pursue adoption, our agency really pushed the idea. Quite honestly, I resented it.  I think mostly I was uninformed and afraid.  So afraid.  Of a million imagined things.  Eventually, I became convinced of the merit of open adoption as I learned more about how openness can benefit everyone in the adoption triad, but particularly adoptees.

By the time we were chosen by our first birthmom, I was excited about building a relationship with her.  I faithfully sent the required updates.  I sent cards for special occasions.  I sent albums with loads of pictures.  I wrote long, newsy letters.   I was crushed when she stopped receiving our correspondence.  (We respect her choice, but hope someday she’ll choose to be part of our lives.)

Our second adoption proved to be longer, and incredibly painful.  We “lost” three babies: September 2013, January 23rd, 2015, & February 3rd, 2015.  We were deeply grieving these losses when we met our precious second birthmom on March 13th, the day we adopted our second son.  She was wonderful.  Maybe our losses helped us understand some of her pain?  We all spoke cautiously, hoping to do no harm but only good with our words.  We found out many things we had in common, but most importantly how we all desperately loved the same baby boy.  My heart ached as we left to let her say goodbye.  I didn’t know if I would ever see her again.

The next few days we soaked in the joy of being a family of four.  We bonded with our sweet cuddle-bug and took an insane number of pictures.  I prayed for our birthmom, and worried and wondered about her, but all was quiet.  Then one afternoon there was a text on our Google Voice!  I eagerly wrote back, wanting to share how our precious boy was growing and thriving.

As we continued to text, my love and respect for our birthmom grew.  While I don’t pretend to know her feelings, I can honestly say that she is a hero in my eyes.

As time went by, we became more comfortable with each other.  She gave us an email address, so we wouldn’t need to go through the agency for pictures.  She told us her last name, we told her ours…we shared our addresses.  I learned how to send videos to her via Google drive.  We agreed to meet at Chick-fil-A.  And one day I realized we have an open adoption…

There is still so much that I don’t know, so much that I am learning.  I’m sure that I’ve made mistakes along the way.  Sometimes I send pictures & notes for weeks or months without hearing anything back.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m writing too much, or too little?  I pray that the love that we feel will come through in all of our correspondence.

I’ve had people ask me why I bother to send so many updates.  I’ve been looked at as if I were crazy for pouring into a relationship that isn’t always reciprocated.  I’ve felt like I’m on a thousand blind dates, wondering what is the right thing to say or not to say.  I’ve been frustrated by unanswered questions.  I’ve wondered if I’m doing the right thing, or if I need to give more space.  And then I get an email that makes me sob:  “…I am soooo happy I picked you guys to be his parents.”

I wouldn’t change a thing…


October 10, 2013


Filed under: Contemplations — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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Those familiar with adoption realize that it comes with much loss.  A child loses his/her original family.  Bio-parents may die, have their children forcefully removed, or surrender them for the hope of a better future.  Adoptive parents may have lost their dream of biological parenthood, feeling a baby grow for 9 months, and being there to hear their baby’s first cries.  We live in a fallen world, and there is loss.

So often people talk to me with stars in their eyes about adoption.  And believe me, I love adoption!  I want people to be excited about the possibilities.  But it is real, and it is hard.  It involves sacrifice.  And there is always loss.

My husband and I tried to prepare ourselves for the pain that a second adoption would inevitably bring.  We worked to steel our emotions.  But there is always something unexpected…

In the midst of our early grief and trauma over my grandmother’s murder, my father was taken to the hospital with heart attack symptoms.  A procedure was scheduled.  Just routine, but there is always a chance of something going horribly wrong; I knew I wanted to be there.  That morning, as I bathed my little man, I got a phone call.  A friend knew of a birthmother looking to place her sweet, 4-month-old daughter; could she tell her about us?  That set into motion a day of frantic phone calls to our social worker and lawyer, all while getting to the hospital and waiting through my dad’s procedure.  (Which mercifully turned out fine!)  Everything was moving forward at a breathless pace…until I got the text: “She only wants someone in our family.”  And it was over.  I know now that I wasn’t meant to be her mommy- but, oh, I wanted to be!  I wanted her, to love her.  An adoptive mommy can fall in love awfully quickly, without even trying.  And I did.  And now there’s loss…

A few weeks ago I met a precious woman who asked me to parent her baby.  We totally “clicked,” and she said she knew God had sent her to me.  (And I believe He did.)  I tried to tell myself that these things often fall through.  I told my social worker “just in case she called and asked about us.”  And lo and behold, she did.  She followed through.  She set up a meeting.  And six days later she had a miscarriage.  And there is loss.  I ache for her, and for myself.  And my heart cries, “Why?!”

We haven’t even completed our homestudy.  We weren’t prepared (not that you can, really) for the emotional roller coaster that is adoption.  I don’t know the “why’s.”  And I hurt, so much.  But I know the Who.  My faith is in Him.  I cling to the promise that my God is working things for my good.  I cling to hope in His perfect plan.  I mourn the loss…and await the redemption of this pain.

September 3, 2013


Filed under: Contemplations — aunthoddy @ 2:18 PM
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In 2008, my husband and I began our journey toward a family.  I had a pretty complete picture in my mind of what that family would look like, and how it would come into being.  I must confess, I didn’t give much thought to what God’s picture of our family would be, just assuming it must match mine.  (Ignorance, arrogance, immaturity?)

Giving up my idea of perfection and turning towards God’s plan was a long, hard process, that continues to this day.  His vision for our family has been more than I could have dreamed or even imagined.  (Isn’t He great that way?!)  And it appears He isn’t finished yet…

We’d like to announce that we are expecting Baby #2!  We don’t know when; the rules are all different with adoption!  We only know that we are carrying another child and birthmom in our hearts, exactly where God has placed them.  We’re aware that the “labor” involved may be quite difficult, but we’re again turning to God for His strength and help through the adoption process.  We know that He will “deliver” our child at the perfect time.

I don’t know what our family will look like.  Will my children be close in age, or years apart?  What gender will this baby be?  What race?  Will our family grow to include a close relationship with a birthmom?  More grandparents?  How old will I be when my second child is born?  Will he/she come home from the hospital, a foster home, or somewhere else?  So many questions…I know God knows the answers.  And He has a perfect picture in mind…

May 29, 2013

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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A Mother’s Day plea to stop equating adoption with abandonment

By Nina Easton,

Nina EastonMay 11, 2013 12:52 AM EDTThe Washington Post

Nina Easton is Fortune magazine’s Washington columnist and a Fox News analyst.

In today’s America, a single woman facing a surprise pregnancy is likely to consider just two options: abortion or single motherhood. The third choice, adoption, carries such a social stigma that domestic placement of infants has plummeted — even as the number of parents desperate for a baby grows.

Birth mothers choose life, and a family, for their child. But this choice is rarely celebrated. Women routinely face family, friends and even health-care providers who think that adoption equals abandonment, according to researchers and conversations with birth mothers. “Just look at the language people use: ‘She’s giving up her baby,’ ” says Kathy Kunkel, founder of the Utah-based agency A Act of Love. “In fact, a birth mother is choosing a good home for her baby.”

Birth mothers in the United States each year number in only the thousands, compared with approximately 1.2 million abortions performed annually, according to Guttmacher Institute estimates, and 1.4 million unexpected unwed births each year. Women bucking the cultural tide generally do not publicize their choice. They are much more willing to admit they have terminated a pregnancy, adoption advocates say, than to say they have placed a live newborn with loving parents.This cultural bias infuses the guidance women receive. Just 1 percent of pregnant women who seek counseling, whether at a church-backed pregnancy crisis center or a clinic where abortions are performed, walk out with an adoption referral, according to the National Council for Adoption. And as council President Charles Johnson told me in an interview: “Your decision is only as good as the information you’re given.”

Russia’s recent ban on adoptions by American parents has drawn attention to the troubled state of international programs, but the U.S. adoption system is also in crisis. Reliable data on American babies placed for adoption are difficult to find. Figures from the adoption councilthat are five years old suggest that annually there are about 18,000 children up to age 2. Only some of those are newborns.

A woman’s decision to carry a baby to term knowing that she will not reap the fruits of motherhood should be treated as an act of bravery and selflessness — the ultimate standards of good motherhood. How did it come to be considered an act of shame?

The numbers offer some insights. Domestic adoptions peaked in 1971 at 90,000 a year — and began a dramatic decline after the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade made abortion legal. Whereas abortion silences the trauma of unexpected pregnancy, birth-mothering trumpets it. Carrying a baby to term invites intrusive questions from friends and strangers alike, and admitting that you are not keeping your baby may incite hostility.

Single motherhood, meanwhile, has become socially acceptable. A majority of births to women under 30 now occur outside marriage. Plenty of single moms carry that off, but what of those who end up in a destructive cycle of poverty, government dependency or abusive partners?

The stigma of adoption even extends to some pro-life evangelical quarters, where, Johnson notes, abortion is cause for seeking forgiveness and moving on, but adoption means giving up on your faith — and your baby. During his years training pro-life counselors at pregnancy crisis centers across the nation, Johnson told me, he would invoke the names of inspiring adoptees from the Bible, including Moses, to make his case.

Tears ran down Adria Anderson’s cheeks as she recounted last month — publicly for the first time — her decision to terminate her surprise pregnancy three years ago. She was too young to raise a child on her own, she explained when we met, and abortion seemed the least bad option. Now it’s a decision she will always regret. “No one ever talked about adoption,” she recalled.

Anderson is helping to lead the adoption council campaign geared toward birth mothers, at “I want to make sure no one has to feel the pain that I do,” she says. “I want to feel proud about the choice I made.”

A full accounting of adoption as an option would not underestimate its emotional challenges — the grief and loss for birth mothers, the uncertainties for adoptive parents operating under a patchwork of state laws. But commonly held myths about domestic adoption would be dispelled. The super-secret affairs of old are largely gone; rather, birth mothers typically choose the family, and adoptive parents share letters and pictures. The baby’s future does not disappear into a black hole.

Adoption should be an empowering option for young women in crisis, knowing that the people around them — family, friends, church — will respect their choice. On this Mother’s Day, I’ll be celebrating the courage of the birth mother who gave our daughter the gift of life — and gave my husband and me the greatest joy of our marriage.

May 22, 2013

Dear Mom of an Adopted Child…

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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Dear Mom of an Adopted Child,

I met you in adoption education class. I met you at the agency. I met you at my son’s school. I met you online. I met you on purpose. I met you by accident.

It doesn’t matter. The thing is, I knew you right away. I recognize the fierce determination. The grit. The fight. Because everything about what you have was a decision, and nothing about what you have was easy. You are the kind of woman who Makes.Things.Happen. After all, you made this happen, this family you have.

Maybe you prayed for it. Maybe you had to convince a partner it was the right thing. Maybe you did it alone. Maybe people told you to just be happy with what you had before. Maybe someone told you it simply wasn’t in God’s plans for you to have a child, this child whose hair you now brush lightly from his face. Maybe someone warned you about what happened to their cousin’s neighbor’s friend. Maybe you ignored them.

Maybe you planned for it for years. Maybe an opportunity dropped into your lap. Maybe you depleted your life-savings for it. Maybe it was not your first choice. But maybe it was.

Regardless, I know you. And I see how you hold on so tight. Sometimes too tight. Because that’s what we do, isn’t it?

I know about all those books you read back then. The ones everyone reads about sleep patterns and cloth versus disposable, yes, but the extra ones, too. About dealing with attachment disorders, breast milk banks, babies born addicted to alcohol, cocaine, meth. About cognitive delays, language deficiencies. About counseling support services, tax and insurance issues, open adoption pros and cons, legal rights.

I know about the fingerprinting, the background checks, the credit reports, the interviews, the references. I know about the classes, so many classes. I know the frustration of the never-ending paperwork. The hours of going over finances, of having garage sales and bake sales and whatever-it-takes sales to raise money to afford it all.

I know how you never lost sight of what you wanted.

I know about the match call, the soaring of everything inside you to cloud-height, even higher. And then the tucking of that away because, well, these things fall through, you know.

Maybe you told your mother, a few close friends. Maybe you shouted it to the world. Maybe you allowed yourself to decorate a baby’s room, buy a car seat. Maybe you bought a soft blanket, just that one blanket, and held it to your cheek every night.

I know about your home visits. I know about your knuckles, cracked and bleeding, from cleaning every square inch of your home the night before. I know about you burning the coffee cake and trying to fix your mascara before the social worker rang the doorbell.

And I know about the followup visits, when you hadn’t slept in three weeks because the baby had colic. I know how you wanted so badly to show that you had it all together, even though you were back to working more-than-full-time, maybe without maternity leave, without the family and casseroles and welcome-home balloons and plants.

And I’ve seen you in foreign countries, strange lands, staying in dirty hotels, taking weeks away from work, struggling to understand what’s being promised and what’s not. Struggling to offer your love to a little one who is unsettled and afraid. Waiting, wishing, greeting, loving, flying, nesting, coming home.

I’ve seen you down the street at the hospital when a baby was born, trying to figure out where you belong in the scene that’s emerging. I’ve seen your face as you hear a nurse whisper to the birthmother that she doesn’t have to go through with this. I’ve seen you trying so hard to give this birthmother all of your respect and patience and compassion in those moments—while you bite your lip and close your eyes, not knowing if she will change her mind, if this has all been a dream coming to an abrupt end in a sterile environment. Not knowing if this is your time. Not knowing so much.

I’ve seen you look down into a newborn infant’s eyes, wondering if he’s really yours, wondering if you can quiet your mind and good sense long enough to give yourself over completely.

And then, to have the child in your arms, at home, that first night. His little fingers curled around yours. His warm heart beating against yours.

I know that bliss. The perfect, guarded, hopeful bliss.

I also know about you on adoption day. The nerves that morning, the judge, the formality, the relief, the joy. The letting out of a breath maybe you didn’t even know you were holding for months. Months.

I’ve seen you meet your child’s birthparents and grandparents weeks or years down the road. I’ve seen you share your child with strangers who have his nose, his smile … people who love him because he’s one of them. I’ve seen you hold him in the evenings after those visits, when he’s shaken and confused and really just wants a stuffed animal and to rest his head on your shoulder.

I’ve seen you worry when your child brings home a family tree project from school. Or a request to bring in photos of him and his dad, so that the class can compare traits that are passed down, like blue eyes or square chins. I know you worry, because you can protect your child from a lot of things — but you can’t protect him from being different in a world so intent on celebrating sameness.

I’ve seen you at the doctor’s office, filling out medical histories, leaving blanks, question marks, hoping the little blanks don’t turn into big problems later on.

I’ve seen you answer all of the tough questions, the questions that have to do with why, and love, and how much, and where, and who, and how come, mama? How come?

I’ve seen you wonder how you’ll react the first time you hear the dreaded, “You’re not my real mom.” And I’ve seen you smile softly in the face of that question, remaining calm and loving, until you lock yourself in the bathroom and muffle your soft cries with the sound of the shower.

I’ve seen you cringe just a little when someone says your child is lucky to have you. Because you know with all your being it is the other way around.

But most of all, I want you to know that I’ve seen you look into your child’s eyes. And while you will never see a reflection of your own eyes there, you see something that’s just as powerful: A reflection of your complete and unstoppable love for this person who grew in the midst of your tears and laughter, and who, if torn from you, would be like losing yourself.


May 21, 2013

Songs for the Journey- Everything to Me

Filed under: Songs for the Journey — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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An amazing song…


…and the story behind it!

March 20, 2013

She Chose Life

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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Every adoption story has one thing in common: It began with a birthmother.

…Laura Davis is one of Lifeline’s Birthmother Counselors.  Her husband was adopted internationally in 1986.  His parents received little information about his birthmother-just some minimal health facts, a few physical descriptors, and one document translated into broken English.  It contained a bit of personal information, but was barely complete.  There was one line that was translated and gave insight as to why she wanted to place him with an adoptive family.  It read, “I want him go to America.  Have full love and complete life.”

Some adoptive families have little history about a birthmother.  Others are blessed to have participated in an open adoption that provided an abundance of information.  Whether a family knows the details of the birthmother in their story, or long to know about her-there is a common thread that is woven into the tapestry of adoption: each adoptee’s story began with a woman who chose life.

She chose life– Through difficult circumstances, judgment from others, and maybe without support around her, she chose to carry a child to give that child life.  “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  Psalm 139:13-14

What an amazing and brave choice to make!  Access to abortion services and other alternatives to end pregnancy are readily available and generally more obtainable than affordable prenatal care.  So, why did she choose life?  Through all of her reasoning, one simple truth remains: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11

She chose life, and God chose His people– God has a purpose.  Whether the birthmother has a personal relationship with the Lord or not, He is the One that moves hearts to choose life.  Then God chooses His people to be mothers and fathers.  He equips, entrusts and blesses families with children to disciple in His ways and His truth.

They choose love– Families love their children, and they love the birthmother of their story.  They lift her up in prayer.  They answer questions about her with honesty.  They share their adoption story with others and speak with the utmost respect of this woman’s choice to place a child.  And most importantly they pray for her salvation!  They seek the Lord on her behalf and cling to the hope that one day they will meet in heaven and thank her for choosing life.


From Coming Home, First Quarter 2013, the Lifeline Children’s Services newsletter


March 13, 2013

On the Wings of a Prayer- Poem from a Birthmom

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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Dear Abby: You recently printed a letter from “Marylou in Houston” about the pain of placing a child for adoption. When I went through this experience, I wrote a poem. You have my permission to print it if you think it will help others to understand the roller-coaster emotions a birth mother goes through making this decision.

Dear Lisa: I certainly do think it will help. Abby


I set you free on the wings of a prayer
To fly through life in His tender care,

You’re free from the nest and the ties that are bound
Free from the pressures I carry around.

If I kept you I’d only be cutting your wings,
Not offering the chance a true family brings.

The decision I’ve made has my heart torn in two,
But I know what I’m doing is the best thing for you.

The sky is so vast, the mountains so high
Take wing and remember: I love you.


–LISA BOTE-PHILLIPS, a birth mother

February 7, 2013

1 Year

Filed under: Contemplations — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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This Saturday my baby turns one year old!  I really can’t believe it.  I look through pictures and wonder “where did that chubby, cuddly baby go?!”  Little man has decided to start walking this week.  I’m caught somewhere between being crazy-proud of him, and nostalgic that it’s going by so quickly.

I’ve been reading his birthmom’s bio today.  Wondering how long she spent answering all of those questions!  And being thankful that she did.  We haven’t met yet, but those sheets of paper give me a little window into seeing who she is.  I want to protect her privacy, but I really wish I could share with you what an amazing person she is!  I wish I could tell you what little I know of what she’s like.  I guess “pretty awesome” will have to do.  (That’s my description of her, anyway!)  I think it’s so cool to see what we have in common in personality, preferences, and even physical characteristics.  I hope someday we can become friends.

I’ve been reading the files from the hospital, too.  Thanking God again for how He had his hand on my baby, before I knew he even existed.  Soaking up little details that I only know from those records.  So thankful to have this piece of my boy’s history to share with him as he grows.

I have a party planned for Saturday.  I’ve been planning it for months.  I’ve scoured Pinterest, bought supplies, borrowed cake pans and stuffed animals, purchased gifts, ordered a custom t-shirt, planned a fun menu, and generally had a blast.  Saturday we’ll celebrate our precious gift from God. 

But my heart is breaking, too.  Will you pray with me for our birthmom?  I can only imagine what Saturday will feel like for her.  I’m praying that she will feel an absolute certainty that she made the right choice for her son.  I’m praying that God will comfort her heart, and surround her with friends and family.  I’m praying that she knows, really knows, how much we love her boy, and how grateful we are that she chose adoption.  I’m praying that she knows we love her, and that she is so special to us.  Most of all, I’m praying that she knows how much God loves her.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!   I John 3:1a

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