African American woman smiling for the camera

Some people say that things happen for a reason and point to certain events that seem hard to characterize as mere coincidence. Other people are directly affected by such coincidences, dramatically altering their lives if it wasn’t for a specific set of circumstances.

Jennifer is such a person.

“In my situation, I probably would not be alive,” she said.

Jennifer was adopted as a 2-week-old baby by her parents, Jim and Rachel. Two months later, Rachel, a nurse, noticed something was wrong with baby Jennifer.

“She was a little pale and had some trouble breathing, so we took her to see the doctor,” Rachel said.

At 4-months-old, Jennifer was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, which may not have been noticed if Rachel hadn’t identified her daughter’s difficulty breathing.

Jennifer, now 29, is perfectly healthy and the mother of a 2-year-old boy, Jackson. It is possible though, that she and her sonwouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for her birth mother’s selfless decision nearly three decade ago, which resulted in Jennifer being adopted by a nurse and a father who had the medical insurance that could cover her surgeries. For that reason, and for all of the opportunities adoption has provided her, Jennifer will always be grateful of her birthmother.

“I’m so thankful and I very much respect her decision. She is probably a stronger person than she knows,” Jennifer said.

Will my child have more opportunities if I place him or her for adoption?

Jennifer had the ideal childhood and was provided plenty of opportunities by her parents. Growing up in suburbia, she was able to pursue dance and piano, and became photo editor of the school yearbook, a member of student council and captain of the pom squad. Later, she was able to attend college, splitting the cost with her parents 60/40. She covered her 40 percent with scholarships.

Jennifer sometimes wonders which opportunities may not have been presented to her if her birthmother hadn’t placed her for adoption. However, there is one aspect of her life that undoubtedly would have been dramatically altered if she was raised by her birth mother: The lack of a father.

Rachel and Jim were given a six-page letter by Catholic Charities from Jennifer’s birth mother, stating the reasons she chose adoption, the biggest of which was there was not a boyfriend or husband to help raise the child. Jennifer discovered the letter a few years earlier than her parents had planned on showing it to her, but it provided Jennifer enough information to answer many of her questions as a teenager.

“My birth father was not going to be involved in my life if I stayed with her,” Jennifer said. “From the letter it sounded like this was a very thoughtful, hard decision for her. In the end she did what she felt was best for me and her. In hindsight I wouldn’t have been able to be in dance, be in poms, do piano, go to graduate school, and most importantly have a father or have that sense of family.”

Will the adoptive family love my child as much as a biological child?

Rachel said the relationship between Jennifer and her father is very special.

“John turns into kind of a marshmallow for his daughter,” she said. “We’ve all been close. Her father loves her very much. Always did, always will. We were both very upset when we thought we could possibly lose her.”

Even after having Jennifer for only two months, she was already an unequivocal member of the family. The fact that she was adopted was already an afterthought, which was evident in the emotional trauma her parents went through during her struggles as a baby.

That same sense of family unity has been a staple of their lives ever since, and could be seen by daily family dinners and never saying “goodbye” or “goodnight” without “I love you,” accompanied by hugs and kisses. These are memories Jennifer will remember forever and has already begun to instill in Jackson.

Jennifer has a brother, JJ, who is almost 10 years older than her and is the biological son of Jim and Rachel. Some birthmothers wonder if their children will be loved as much as a biological child. In Jennifer’s situation, she was, without question.

“If anything, I was the favorite child,” Jennifer said. “Even as JJ got married and had kids, that was kind of another change. Our son Jackson isn’t my parents’ biological grandson, but even with my brother’s kids, who are biologically their grandchildren, there is absolutely no difference in any way that I’m treated or Jackson is treated. It’s just the same.”

How will the Adoptive Family Tell My Child About His or Her Adoption?

Jennifer, who now works at a national adoption agency as a birth mother specialist, has grown into a confident, successful woman. But as a teenager, she, like many other teens, had trouble finding her own identity. Being adopted and knowing of her adoption, however, helped Jennifer piece her identity together.

“I think it’s really important for adopted kids to have a story, so it’s not like ‘Poof!’ one day you were part of our family,” Jennifer said. “There was a very detailed story they shared with me. It’s an awesome part of who I am, it’s a great story, but it isn’t what makes me.”

Rachel and Jim were always completely honest with Jennifer about her adoption, and there was no “sit-down moment,” according to Jennifer. She was always told she was special and was always told why.

Young children may not be able to cognitively process what it truly means to be adopted, so luckily for Rachel and Jim, their daughter was born during the Cabbage Patch Kids fad, making the explanation of Jennifer’s adoption easier for them to tell and easier for her to comprehend. At her wedding, Jim even talked about Jennifer being his “Cabbage Patch Kid” to all of the wedding guests.

While Jennifer had the ideal childhood and is very thankful to have been adopted, she does still have questions about her birth mother. In some aspects, Jennifer wishes she had a more semi-open adoption as many adoptions are today, which includes the exchanging of pictures and letters between adoptive families and birth mothers. She wonders what her birth mother looks like and what she is doing now, but above all the questions, Jennifer just wants to tell her that she is “OK.”

One day she hopes to do that, but she still isn’t sure when that day will come.

Adoption is one of the prime examples that sometimes things do indeed happen for a reason. In Jennifer’s birth mother’s situation, she clearly chose the best option for her child. Look no further than all of the opportunities Jennifer was provided, how she has enriched each of her family members’ lives, and the number of families she helps create everyday at her job at the adoption agency. None of it would have happened without one decision made nearly 30 years ago.

“I’m just happy for the decision that my birth mother made because I don’t know where I’d be if she hadn’t made a really tough decision back then,” Jennifer said. “I just had this opportunity for a very normal but great life.”

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