Did you know that November is National Adoption Month? Last year, I had the opportunity to capture the beautiful families of Ashley and Lindsay. Through adoption they have changed each others lives. I've interviewed these mothers to give you an opportunity to see both sides of an amazing journey.
I was born in North Carolina and have lived in Virginia for over 20 years. I was raised in a loving two parent household where the value of faith and family was instilled in me. Family is and has always been very important to me. If you ever visited my parents’ house on a Sunday evening, you’d most likely find a large table full of food, family, love and plenty of laughs. I am a 33 year old mother of 3 beautiful children. My oldest daughter is 13, my son is 7 and my youngest daughter is 6. When she was born, I decided to place her for adoption.
Shortly after the birth of my son, the relationship with his father dissolved. I was a single mother of two. During that time, I started dating a man who came in my life when I was in an extremely vulnerable space. After a few months, it was apparent to me that I was in a toxic emotionally abusive relationship. Before things ended between us, I became pregnant. The circumstances surrounding this pregnancy made everything so different than my others. I was in denial the whole time I carried my daughter. It was like I created a mental block. I convinced myself that I wasn't pregnant and my stomach wasn't growing, and after a while, I started to believe it. I carried really small, so I didn't really start showing until I was about 7 months. One day, my dad came to me and said, “This is enough...we know you’re pregnant Ashley. What’s going on?”
I was honest with him. I told my dad that I was scared and I didn't think I could keep this baby. I expressed my desire to explore adoption as an option, and he agreed and felt like it would be the best thing for me due to the circumstances. Within 3 weeks of sharing my pregnancy with my parents, I went to the doctor. I was so relieved and happy to find out that my daughter was healthy. Thank God!
After my doctors visit, I went to Bethany Adoption Agency. My biggest fear about adoption was not having an opportunity to see and get to know my daughter. My counselor at the adoption agency made the different adoption options very clear. There are some families that choose to have a closed adoption, some that prefer semi-open adoption and others that are comfortable with open adoption. I found a sweet spot with semi-open adoption. I wanted a chance to get to know my daughter and for her to get to know me.
When I was laying on the operating table, before my delivery, the song “Grace Greater than our sins” kept playing in my mind. It made me so emotional that I began to cry. Initially, I had no intention on naming my daughter because I was scared that I would get attached. When that song kept running through my mind, I decided to name her Grace.
I'll never forget the day that I met my daughter's adopted parents, Lindsay and Brandon. They were such sweet and humble couple and they shared the same Christian beliefs as I do. We sat in a room and seemed to instantly click. They wanted to name her Ryah, but they told me they were going to keep Grace as her middle name. They had come up with that name before they even knew they would be adopting her. Our daughter’s name is Ryah Grace, which means River of Grace!
Over the years, Lindsay, Brandon and I have developed an awesome relationship! I can truly say that we now have an open adoption. We go on outings together. They have been to my house and spent time with my family. I couldn't ask for a better situation and I thank God for that!
I met my husband, Brandon, while we were both students at James Madison University. We connected through a campus ministry. After dating for nearly two years in college, we got engaged and married. At that point, we felt called by God into full-time vocational ministry, working with college students at JMU. Today, we continue ministry in college campuses in the Richmond area.
We decided on an open adoption for a couple of reasons. We realized the tremendous bravery necessary for a birthmother to pursue and follow-through with adoption. If God wanted to grow our family in this way, then we wanted to know this birthmother. We wanted to honor her for her courage and selflessness and maintain a healthy relationship with her. In Ryah's development as a child and teenager, we know she will face difficult questions. While we will do our best to shepherd and love her through that process, we felt confident that knowing Ashley will greatly help her process her story and fill in gaps that otherwise might be left unanswered.
The most memorable part of the process, by far, was the day we met Ashley and Ryah. Before meeting Ryah, we were able to sit down with Ashley so that we could hear her story and get to know each other. During that time, Ashley recalled how she chose to name her baby Grace. Laying in the hospital bed before delivery, an old hymn came to mind, "Grace Greater Than All Our Sin". She knew that this baby needed to be named Grace, in honor of God's grace and love for her. During our time getting to know each other, Ashley asked her dad to recall and sing some of the lines of that great hymn, and he did. As he sang, our hearts melted, and we knew this was a sacred moment of honoring and remembering God's great love and grace toward all of us. God had been at work in each of us in different ways and in different times during this process, and for that we're so thankful.
Our relationship with Ashley is great! She has been a true joy to get to know, along with her family. They all have made our adoption journey better than we could have ever imagined. She invites us into her life by sending pictures of her with her family, sharing updates on her life, and even inviting us into her home. It is a privilege to be connected with her in such a personal way. We email and text often, and try and get our families together every few months to catch-up, play, and eat! When we get together, it's as friends and family with a special bond, and our kids pick up right where they left off, playing together, laughing, wrestling, and treasuring every minute.
While we are so incredibly thankful that you entrusted your baby girl to us, we are even more thankful for your bravery in entering into the adoption journey. We cannot imagine the pressure you must have faced to go in other directions with an unplanned pregnancy. The fact that you persevered down the selfless road of giving the gift of life to Ryah leaves us so grateful and impressed with you and your courage. You have set an example to those around you. There is another way, a better way, to move forward in difficult circumstances to honor God and honor life, and for that we could not thank you and love you more!
- Brandon & Lindsay
Dear Lindsay and Brandon,
I could not have have prayed for or even imagined anyone better to raise our daughter! You two have given her everything that I could not, and yet, you still allow me to be a part of her life. You have raised her to know that she is adopted and loved by her birth mother. You have allowed her to build a relationship with not only me, but her other two siblings and her birth family. I will forever be grateful and thankful for you both for the love you have shown to not only our daughter, but to me and my two kids. It's so funny because when our two families get together, the kids connect and play like they see each other every day. They always pick right back up to where they left off. It is awesome!
I praise God for working out what could have been bad situation and turning it into one of the most beautiful parts of my life. God always shows us his power and his GRACE!
Hello Ladies & Gentlemen, It's Samia! I want to take time to give a sincere and heartfelt THANK YOU to Lindsay, Brandon and my dear friend Ashley!
I remember when Ashley shared her adoption story with me a few years ago. I was honored that she trusted me enough to share something so personal. I also admired her for her strength. So many of us feel like there are only two options during pregnancy, keep the baby or opt for an abortion. There are options! I am so very proud of my friend Ashley for stepping into her purpose, sharing her story and allowing God to use her circumstances to connect with women all over.
I would also like to thank Lindsay and Brandon, for their willingness to participate in this shoot and blog. I truly hope that this is a space where you can treasure your adoption story and share God's goodness and GRACE with everyone.
Photography by Samia Minnicks Photography
Ashley's Makeup was done by the incomparable, Regan Wolfrey
The Adoption Agency that Lindsay, Brandon and Ashley went through is