Jason and Jennifer: An Adoption Story
The journey of adoption is dynamic and beautiful, but it can also be isolating and difficult. Historically, adoptions have often happened quietly, and the process was little understood. In our time, adoptive families have transformed the movement of adoption into a redemptive narrative, and a celebration of love and community.
Recently I joined adoptive parents Jennifer and Jason at their neighborhood coffee shop to learn about their adoption experience. Jason and Jennifer adopted baby Jackson in 2015, and raised funds for their adoption through Adopt a Love Story. While we talked, Jennifer reflected on how the movement of adoption is changing.
“For a long time people didn’t really talk about adoption this way. No one talked about the hard parts and the scary parts, and the beautiful parts.”
When they decided to adopt in 2015, Jennifer and Jason had the courage to change the narrative that often surrounds adoption. Through social media and their Adopt a Love Story page, Jennifer and Jason shared their adoption story. Soon, a community of support gathered around them.
“Opening up our hearts and telling our adoption story was humbling, but we no longer felt like we were traveling alone.” Jennifer says. “We’ve been able to reach out to other adoptive families going through this and say, ‘we are with you.’ I can’t tell you how many times we sat and cried over how amazing it is to have people love and support you in something that is hard and raw. It is beautiful.”
For Jason and Jennifer, the journey to adoption wasn’t easy. After deciding to start a family, they encountered the emotional pain and darkness of infertility. “Our community was supportive when we were walking through infertility, and as we watched our friends get pregnant multiple times.” Jennifer says with tears. “During this time, our community always leaned towards us saying, ‘how can we love you? How can we support you? What do you need?’”
Soon, Jennifer and Jason were considering adoption. “When we decided that we were going to pursue adoption, our community linked arms with us and said, ‘okay, let’s do this,’” says Jennifer. “They loved and cared for us through the home study process and four months of grueling paperwork. Friends even brought us meals when we were doing our home study.”
“This whole process has been a window into God’s grace through a community, not only financially, but through all the emotional support, love and care we’ve received,” Jason adds. “It’s a huge gift. Every time we look at Jackson, we realize that if it wasn’t for God’s hand in all of it – through our community – Jackson wouldn’t be here. I don’t know that we would have had the strength to jump in, or the resources to follow it through.”
Jason and Jennifer acknowledge that fundraising for their adoption wasn’t always easy. “Asking for help is hard because we felt like this was a burden we had to bear on our own. “Jason explained. “Our adoption is something that we trusted the Lord with, and we didn’t want to expect that anyone would jump in and help. But, we opened up the door and so many people wanted to jump in and help… not just because of us, but because they want to partner with what the Lord is doing through adoption.”
The willingness to share their adoption journey through film took courage, but Jennifer told me that it was also exciting. “The filming process was really cool. It was so fun to tell our story in such a beautiful way and it was exciting and scary to share our story publicly. We felt really cared for by Chris (Adopt a Love Story founder) and the way he encouraged us through the first part.”
“When our fundraising page went up, we would refresh the page over and over again, and people were really giving to our adoption! Every time I would see the list of donors I would ball my eyes out.”
“Adopt a Love Story was a great way for our community to connect with us in such a tangible way.” Jason adds.
It’s obvious that Jason and and Jennifer have settled into their new roles as parents. While we chat, Jason and Jennifer seamlessly handle Jackson’s feeding, toy-throwing, and wriggling with practiced skill and a lot of laughter. Their advice to new parents? Practice vulnerability.
“We ask a lot of questions and we don’t assume we have the answer,” says Jason, “We invite our friends into the conversation – of course without the expectation that we have to do it the way they do – we invite people in, and have a lot of conversations.”
Jennifer brings a balanced and sensible approach to motherhood. “I read a lot of books before he was born and I really feel that I just took lots of things from lots of different books,” she says, “I’ve told a lot of new moms – just read and get different perspectives and see what works for your family. We parent differently than our friends do, and that’s okay. Have the freedom to know what works for you and what doesn’t.”
Jason explains that they take a team approach to parenting.“Speaking as a dad, I get to bond with Jackson through things like bottle feeding, and I would encourage dads to be as involved as possible.”
“It’s very special that Jason gets that face-to-face time feeding Jackson,” agrees Jennifer. “Even the late nights and the middle of the night feedings have been special. I’ve enjoyed it, as hard as it can be, because he needs me, he needs us. I would tell parents not to wish away whatever season they are in. Don’t say ‘I wish they would sleep through the night…’ because that time will come and then you’ll look back and say that’s gone now.”
“Give yourself grace, too,” Jason says, “We do a lot of things wrong and figure it out as we go, and the Lord’s grace is there for us. It’s fun – it’s a journey. And we get to do it together.”
While they share the joys and challenges of parenthood, Jennifer and Jason are quick to acknowledge that the road from infertility to adoption has not been without fears and questions. “We had no idea what to expect,” Jason reflects, “How is this going to feel? How’s the bonding going to work? But, as soon as we held him, we felt the grace from God that we were Jackson’s parents and this was forever.”
“There’s a lot of fear that’s associated with adoption, and we experienced that. To be honest, the things you fear, like finances, and the mountains of paperwork are truly daunting. But in all of that you recognize that there’s a special grace that God gives you once you take that first step and let your community surround you and help you. Lean into the Lord and the strength he gives. There’s so much joy on the other end of adoption and in the middle of all the hard stuff too – we wouldn’t trade it for anything. In fact, we want to keep adopting, if the Lord allows.”
“Sometimes I forget that I didn’t give birth to him!” Jennifer explains. “Motherhood has become natural to me. We walked into the delivery room about twenty minutes after he was born. At the hospital there had been a planned power outage so it was dark and the birth mom was holding him. I walked over to her and she handed Jackson to me and I looked at him and I thought, ‘I’m a mom.’”
“It was instant, this flood of love and fear and all the things that I’m sure that every parent feels. I didn’t birth him in my body, but I birthed him in my heart. We held him and he looked at us and cooed and was making these cute little squeaky sounds. We were in love with this little guy that we just met.”
Jason and Jennifer have chosen to maintain a strong relationship with Jackson’s birth mom and family. “She and I text, and we’ve spent time face-to-face together both before and after the birth.” Jennifer explains. “We’ve met birth dad too, and they are so supportive of Jason and I. It’s amazing. ‘You’re such a good mom, and Jackson is so lucky to have you,’ they tell us.”
When I ask Jason and Jennifer what they would say to families considering adoption, they are both eager to answer. “Get ready for a wild ride!” says Jennifer, laughing. “Know that the Lord is writing a beautiful story and you don’t get to see what the end of it will look like. If someone had told us that in a year we’d be holding our six-month-old baby, we wouldn’t have believed them. There’s fear and doubt… but let the Lord write your story. If He’s leading you to do it, just go for it.”
“It’s amazing to think that in the darkness of experiencing infertility and walking through all of that – at our deepest need – God was already providing the joy that was waiting.” Jason says. “Before we even jumped into the adoption process. The answer was already there.”
Sometimes, the most difficult part of an adoption is the waiting. “It’s really hard, and we know what that feels like.” Jason explains. “We didn’t have to wait very long, but we experienced that ache. You’re trying to lean in and listen to what you feel the Lord has called you to do, and then the question is constantly, when will this happen? Our adoption agency told us up front that it’s typically a two-year wait. So for us it was real gift to be matched so quickly.”
“We have friends that are waiting, and we encourage them to keep doing their thing.” Jennifer says. “Go on vacation. Do things that you love to do. Agencies and caseworkers should be telling people that. It’s really easy to say, ‘well we shouldn’t spend money or go on vacation,’ but the reality is that you have to continue to take care of yourself, and to live life in a way that’s keeping your family together and your marriage healthy. We have friends who remodeled their kitchen while they waited. Do those things you’ve been thinking and dreaming about. There are going to be hard days, and on those hard days reach out and share with someone, go to coffee with a friend.”
Although the waiting is over, Jason and Jennifer continue to share their adoption experience with friends and family. In May of 2016, Jackson’s adoption was officially finalized in court, and friends, family, and birth parents gathered at a neighborhood park to celebrate at a giant finalization party.
Faith, vulnerability and courage continue to guide Jennifer and Jason through their experiences as new parents. As we say goodbye in the coffee shop, I ask Jason if he has some parting words for other adoptive families. “Trust the Lord’s story that he is writing.” He answers. “Even if we had been waiting years and years this is so perfect and we would never change it.”