A Road Worth Traveling: Cook Children's Employees Share Their Adoption Stories
Megan Mansfield’s Adoption Story
“Congratulations. You’ve been chosen to be the mother of a beautiful baby girl.”
Excited. Shocked. Joyful. Overwhelmed. I imagine most people would have similar feelings upon hearing those words, especially when just 48 hours earlier neither my husband nor I knew that our daughter was preparing to enter the world.
I remember that day vividly--the day of her birth. I lived three states away from her birthplace and spent morning entirely unaware how much our lives were about to change. I’d taken our two- year-old daughter, Gracie (who is also adopted), to the splash pad park. I was watching her with soaked hair in a neon floral swimsuit as she tried to scoot her way down a blue slide when I received an email notification. It was from our adoption agency and was marked urgent.
Four months earlier the adoption of Gracie’s half-brother fell through on the day he was born. Needless to say, our hearts were broken and it took us months to feel ready to begin the matching process with an agency. We had been approved to start again just two weeks earlier. I opened the email to see that a birth mom was on her way to the hospital at that moment and when she arrived she wanted to view profiles of prospective adoptive families. If we wanted to be considered we needed to let our agency know immediately.
As I stared at the words, a half dozen fears came pouring into my head. We weren’t ready. We hadn’t made arrangements. There was so little information available about the situation, etc., etc.—on and on my head went. Yet my heart was strangely warm and still. It was telling me the answer. I quickly called my husband and asked him to read the email. After asking how he felt, he said, “I don’t know if this will be our baby but I feel we need to try.”
She was born that June 5th day. After being told we’d been in the birth mom’s top two, it was radio silence. We’d had situations fall through when trying to adopt our older daughter and, of course, the failed adoption four months earlier. We weren’t strangers to disappointment. Still, we couldn’t help feeling disheartened after jumping at every text, email or phone call for the last 36 hours. My husband and I had determined the lack of news was not good news.
This is likely the reason for my amplified shock when I answered my phone driving home from work that day. I could barely comprehend as I replied in broken sentences (fairly certain I squealed), tearing up as I replied, “Wait, wha... Are you serious? What does that mean?” The social worker chuckled and said, “It means you need to get on an airplane real fast. We need you at the hospital at 9 tomorrow morning.”
Lots of packing, little sleep and a 5 a.m. flight later, we landed in another state, anxiously raced toward the hospital and, with excitement bouncing in our bellies, met the social worker at the nurse’s station of the birth hospital’s newborn unit. Our two-year-old daughter was not allowed back so my husband stayed with her as I was led into the nursery. It’s possibly best described as a slightly humorous reversed telling of the children’s book “Are You My Mother?” as I walked past tiny bundles in clear bassinets thinking as we neared each one, “Are you my baby? Are you my baby? Are you my baby?”
As we approached a far corner I spotted two nurses standing beside a pediatrician carefully examining a small baby with big eyes, a perfectly round head, smooth skin and a slightly upturned nose laying on a fuzzy blanket decorated in pink and blue footprints. She was my baby. Our Everly.
It’s impossible to recount that moment without emotion. Picking up my daughter for the first time. Cradling her to my chest in the dim corner of the nursery. Whispering in her ear as those chocolate-colored eyes absorbed me. Feeling her incredible warmth when we first did skin-to-skin. The absolute unparalleled joy of wheeling her into a room to meet her impatiently waiting daddy and sister. Tears poured from my husband’s eyes as he held her in his big arms. Protecting her, as he has every day since. We both smiled as Gracie kept asking to see Everly’s toes and saying, “Put her in car seat. We take her home now.” Everly patiently tolerated her countless kisses, toe tickles and lots of head patting. They’ve been each other’s biggest fan ever since.
Adoption is a journey. One filled with foreign paths, fear, disappointments and doubts. But watching my two girls, one dark and the other fair, bent over in belly-rocking giggles at the simple bliss of splashing together in a bathtub full of bubbles, I say with ardent assurance that the road they came by holds no regrets. The doors that didn’t open, the opportunities we couldn’t take, they led us all to their loving arms and slobbery kisses. If I lived two lifetimes I would never find adequate words to describe the debt. The small moments I’ve shared with their birth mothers are sacred. They gave our girls life. Then gave us the supreme gift to raise them in it.
Yes, adoption is a journey. Our journey. And the destination is so much better than we ever could have imagined.
Deann Kenaly’s Adoption Story
My husband and I started our domestic infant adoption journey with Gladney Center for Adoption in 2015. We attended classes in person and online, became CPR certified and had our lives and home dug deep into before becoming “ready to adopt.” The waiting was long and hard, until August 2016, when we got a call from CPS asking us to foster our nephews.
This changed everything for us. We were in line to have an infant, not 4 and 6-year-old boys. We soon became foster-certified and were willing to do anything we needed to do for these two boys to come live with us. We put our domestic adoption with Gladney on hold at this time. On November 16, 2017, we welcomed Joseph and Jesse into our lives forever and officially adopted them.
In March 2018, we were ready to continue our journey with Gladney. We had a few more bumps in the road along the way. On December 31, 2019, we got a call from our Gladney caseworker presenting us with a potential birth mom, which is something she commonly did, so not out of the ordinary. She told me the history and background of this little baby girl. She was already born on December 10, 2019, and she is healthy and beautiful. I immediately said, “Yes, please show this birth mom our profile book.” Our caseworker then said, “Deann, she is yours. The birth mom has already given up her rights and this perfect little girl is yours!”
I didn’t know what to do but cry tears of joy and repeatedly say, “Really, are you serious?” I was then able to call and share the news with my husband. That night we shared our happy news with the boys. With the New Year’s holiday and some paperwork that had to be completed we were able to pick up our little girl on Monday, January 13, 2020. We waited to tell our immediate family until the night before we picked up our little girl.
Monday morning came and we all got dressed up to go to Gladney to meet baby Stella and bring her home. We were ecstatic to finally meet and bring home our sweet baby girl. On July 10, 2020, Stella finally became an “official” part of our family. Although it was the longest journey ever, it was well worth it. Within 5 years we became parents to three wonderful children--Joseph, 10, Jesse, 8, and Stella, 9 months.
Claire Cartmel’s Adoption Story
We’ve always wanted to adopt. It’s been part of our conversations for years. My background of volunteering and working social services, combined with our love for children, made this desire a no-brainer. We struggled with knowing when the time would be right to grow our family through adoption. It’s hard to know when to hit the ground running toward a journey well known for its ups and downs.
After wading through mounds of paperwork, we became active in February of 2020 and matched with a mother due six months later. For reasons that are not my story to tell, that match failed, and we found ourselves back at the drawing board sad but hopeful.
The morning after we got this news, our social worker set up a phone call for us to talk with another expectant mother. Instead of a phone call at our agreed upon time, we got a text telling us to hang tight. We soon learned that the mother was on her way to the hospital, unsure if she was in labor. When it was clear that she was, we spent the next couple of hours packing, buying last minute things and trying to enjoy the unfolding journey. Our daughter was born the next morning as we traveled to meet her—22 minutes into our 8-hour drive, and just four days after the news of our failed match.
While 2020 hasn’t been the poster year for many things, it has been a particularly memorable one for us. Stay-at-home orders have afforded us more time with our family than we could have ever imagined. We finalized our adoption this summer and marvel daily at the precious gift that she is to our family.
Thanks to the administration for recognizing our employees who have adopted!