The pandemic brought much uncertainty in the world, especially in the world of adoption. In a community filled with paperwork, in-person visits, and home inspections, the paperwork delays and courthouse closures stalled domestic adoption, foster care, and private adoption. Adoption placements slowed down, which is heartbreaking for a hopeful adoptive family.
Throughout this season of uncertainty, there were stories of miracles to bring hope. Such is the case for Rachel and Grant Sanders. In their story, we see them grow from a family of three to a family of five with open adoption. Going from a low chance of biologically having children to becoming a family of five during a pandemic was nothing short of a miracle, with the catalyst being adoption.
Who are Rachel and Grant?
Rachel and Grant are both from Edmond, Oklahoma. They grew up in the same area and lived about 15 minutes apart but didn’t officially meet until their late 20s through a dating app. Rachel was living on the East coast in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and planned on moving back to Oklahoma to be closer to family. She moved back to Oklahoma, and they met, dated, and married. Grant owns a Commercial Construction company. He loves camping, hiking, and being outside. Rachel was a Pre-K teacher before her kids were born, but now she is a stay-at-home mom. She enjoys reading, swimming with her kids, and cooking.
The Trials of Getting Pregnant
Adoption was something that Rachel felt was always there, but it was not the first method of growing a family for them. Rachel and Grant met with every couple, and they fell in love. As with any average couple, they decided to grow their family. Unfortunately, their road to becoming pregnant faced complications. They took these complications to an infertility clinic and faced unfortunate news. The doctors told them they had less than a 10% chance of getting pregnant without infertility treatments. The information from the doctors was sad news for both of them, but they decided that they were not going to give up on having children.
With the information from the doctors, they decided to give the treatment a try. They went through an IUI treatment. According to the Mayo Clinic, IUI is Intrauterine insemination, a type of artificial insemination for treating infertility. The first treatment did not work; thus, they tried a second treatment. Rachel said that with the first IUI treatment, she sat in the parking lot and cried. She did not feel like they were grieving a loss, but she thought they were wasting time. When the second time did not work out, they started their road to adoption. Rachel felt that becoming an adoptive family was “what they were supposed to do.”
Becoming an Adoptive Family
Rachel comments that at a young age, adoption was planted in her heart. She has a family friend who adopted their second child from Colombia. Also, she remembers that she had a 3rd grade teacher who adopted her child because of what she thinks were complications due to infertility. They applied to an agency in Oklahoma, but they were denied because they were not married long enough. She Googled adoption agencies, and then Gladney Adoption Agency popped up. Their adoption journey with Gladney began after Rachel researched them.
The Gladney Center for Adoption is an adoption agency that originated in Fort Worth, Texas, that provides adoption and advocacy services. They are involved in lobbying, international adoptions, counseling, maternity services, education, and philanthropy. With Gladney, they hadn’t been married long enough as well, but by the time they would be in the program and complete the requirements, enough time would pass for them to be eligible for adoption. They began orientation in October of 2013, and their son was born in March of 2016.
As all adoptions start with a loss, open adoption can bring a sense of belonging to the two worlds: the birth family’s world and the adoptive family’s world. Of course, someone would work out the arrangements between the adoptive family and the birth family, and the adoption agency. The Sanders family realized that an open adoption would differ with each scenario and depend on some sort of connection. After connecting with the agency, the couple began the journey of open adoption.
What is Open Adoption?
According to the article “What is Open adoption?” by Claire Walters, this type of adoption allows for “communication, understanding, and growth for the adoptee, his or her birth parents, and adoptive parents.” It gives a chance for all parties involved to get to know each other and address any lingering thoughts or questions about placement. More importantly, it provides the adoptee with a chance to ask questions about their identity, such as medical history and genetic traits.
Walters continues that open adoption is now commonly used in most adoption agencies throughout North America. As I’ve learned when walking through domestic adoption, the agencies in the United States promote open adoption, and they encourage adoptive parents to be open to open adoption. According to Walters, open adoption is a “child-centered model: the adoptee grows up with an adoptive family while also maintaining a connection with their birth family.” Birth parents do not have to be 100% involved, but they must be open to answers that the birth child has. I agree with Walters when she says that a measure of contact is beneficial for all parties.
It’s a Boy!!
Three years later, they matched with their son. They both agree that there was a great connection with the birth mom, and Gladney did an excellent job making all the arrangements to meet the birth family. Typically with open adoption, arrangements are made with the birth mother regarding the logistics of what will happen during the delivery and after the birth. These are agreements that are between the birth mother and the prospective adoptive family. Rachel was in the room for delivery and the first one to hold him; she felt that it was a smooth experience.
They knew they wanted to adopt again, but waited because a month after their son was born, there was death in their family, and they were walking through tough family challenges. I remember that we experienced the same scenarios in between adoptions. It is tough to walk through tough personal things and then fill out paperwork. Rachel was encountering health problems and family issues. They decided to wait to submit paperwork for another home study in 2018. They were told that they would be waiting for another two or more years for another child.
In the middle of waiting, they received an unexpected text message from Grant’s stepmother.
It’s a Girl and a Girl!?
Grant’s stepmother, who is a nurse, sent a text message to Rachel one night. She was sitting next to a co-worker who said that her daughter was pregnant. The co-worker was very upset and asked Rachel if they would adopt her daughter’s baby. The family was interested in adoption. Rachel emailed her social worker at Gladney after speaking with Grant’s stepmother and shared the scenario. The social worker answered honestly and said that she shouldn’t “get their hopes up.” She continued communication with the expectant mother’s mom afterward, though.
While the couple could have saved money and hired a private attorney, they decided to go through Gladney. They could not imagine not working with them for their second and third adoption. They didn’t necessarily have to use them with either of their girls’ adoptions because they met the birth mom through word of mouth. While speaking to them, it was very apparent that Gladney, especially their social worker, Jennifer Hart, supported the birth parents just as much as the adoptive parents with resources that they needed and emotional support.
Within a month or two of her due date, the birth mother became more involved with the adoption of her child. Rachel and Grant’s social worker said that they wanted to meet with them. They agreed to meet up with the family. They met with the birth family’s social worker, the birth family (mom and dad), and Jennifer, their social worker. The birth mother automatically shared with them that they would be the adoptive parents and was very open to having them feel her belly while the baby was kicking during dinner. The birth family connected with their social worker at Gladney, and they had the same arrangement in the hospital when their son was born in January of 2020 with one exception—the birth parents held the baby first. They had a hospital room next to the birth parents, and the birth parents signed consent, and they were home a couple of days later. They remained in contact with the birth family.
Life went on, and they were celebrating the 4th of July with Grant’s cousins, and one of the cousins announced that she was pregnant. Rachel commented that she would give all of her daughter’s things to the cousin, except she thought another one was coming. She jokes that Grant shot her a look across the room in disbelief.
The next day Rachel sent her daughter’s birth mom and birth grandma a picture of the baby. Grandma sent a text back, asking if they wanted another child. She called the birth grandma, and she wanted them to adopt. The process began again with Gladney. The birth mother went into labor a month early, and the baby was born in December in the middle of COVID. They drove in the middle of the night in a snowstorm to another town in Oklahoma. The hospital ended up letting them in and found them a room, and they had the same scenario as the other children. The two girls were born ten months apart.
The Conflict with Open Adoption
There are two different levels of openness: semi-open and fully open. This is complex with an open adoption with multiple kids. While the birth parents are not involved with the girls, the birth family is very active with permission from the birth parents. They even include the little boy in gifts and being welcoming with their time. They are contacted during holidays.
While there is the openness with the birth family of the girls, it is not as open with their son. Their older son is starting to ask questions about his birth mother, which is always tough to discuss as an adoptive parent. It is essential to have support while discussing these things with the children because of the complications of adopting another sibling with a different level of openness. Rachel mentions that it is necessary to be one step ahead, and I do agree.
The one thing that I notice is that Grant and Rachel are beyond respectful of the birth parents. They speak highly of them. While birth parents are not in the children’s lives, they wish to be informed in their life. There is contact with the birth family of the other two children.
What is Adoption to an Adoptive Family?
The miracle and growth of life are always something to behold. As I interview different families, I’ve learned that their path to adoption was very much like my path to adoption. It was something that always felt special to me as I heard adoption stories. It is almost as if adoptive parents have constant exposure to adoption over the years; therefore, the heart for adoption is there, and then it takes an event or a choice to make adoption happen.
Our stories share the exact likeness in development and growth. The only image that I can give this adoption journey is the lifecycle of a plant. First, you have a seed. Then it is given the nutrients that it needs, and despite all of the circumstances around it, it continues to grow and then eventually bloom.
Being told that you have a 10% chance of anything is frightening. I’m sure that for Grant and Rachel, they would not have imagined the adoption of three children. But for them, adoption means hope. Hope that they will grow their family and hope that she will become a mother to three children. For Rachel, she comments that if she ever doubts or questions her faith, she “always think back about that less than 10% chance and then these three beautiful miracles, and that’s all the proof I need.”
For Rachel and Grant, their adoptive family is a beautiful testament to the seeds of love growing and then a heart for adoption and the birth of families. So with their family in place, I’m sure that the final question is how to celebrate one birthday a month from December to April.Do you feel there is a hole in your heart that can only be filled by a child? We’ve helped complete 32,000+ adoptions. We would love to help you through your adoption journey. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.