I was folding laundry, doing dishes, and singing made-up songs in silly voices to the babies when this video was sent to me. I opened the link, hit play, and within the first 21 seconds had tears stinging my eyes.
As I read Braden and Kristen’s words and watched the video they created, a love letter to their son Ryker, I experienced all of the best emotions: joy, a deep understanding, laughter, hope.
I wanted to know more, to know them; there were silly parts of the video that left my curiosity looming, and I could not ignore the demanding questions in my head. I reached out to Braden and Kristen and asked if they would be open to answering some questions regarding their family, adoption, and that amazing video.
I dare you to watch the video without crying; you’ll be wondering some of the same things I was. Read their interview below and allow your heart to be moved in beautiful ways. I know I teared up a bit more as I read Kristen’s answers to my probing questions.
How did you decide that adoption would be a means to grow your family? What brought you to this place of building your family via adoption?
I have some reportive health issues that make having biological children very difficult and risky. Before my husband and I got married we talked about adoption and were both in agreement that adoption was something we wanted to consider. After completing some medical mission work overseas I knew for sure I wanted to adopt from Africa. We started the process of adopting from Africa soon after. Once we signed on with an agency we started to learn about some very unethical practices going on with our agency and the country we were hoping to adopt from. After a two-year wait we decided to part ways with our agency and try for a domestic adoption.
Tell me about being matched with your son and his placement story.
We were trying to find another agency to work with when a coworker asked me if we still wanted to adopt. She ended up introducing us to her niece, who was pregnant with her second child and considering making an adoption plan. We had dinner with her a few days later and a week after that, on mother’s day, she told us she wanted my husband and I to adopt her son. We ended up using a local attorney and everything was going great until a few days before the birth. To make a long story short, what was suppose to be a super simple private adoption turned into a nine-month situation from hell! We always joke with our son’s birth mother that our adoption story would make the greatest “Lifetime Movie” of all time. My son’s birth mother and I have even joked about who we would want to play us in the movie.
Here is a link to my son’s “Origin Story” video. It is the “G” rated version of our son’s adoption story less the drugs, abuse, threats, and tears.
What is your experience and heart towards your son’s birth mom?
I love her!!!! She made me a mom. We got very close during our son’s legal battle and found out that we have a lot in common. I admire her so much. She went through so much during our son’s adoption and she never backed down from what she thought was right. She fought for her babies when giving in would have been so much easier. I don’t know many people twice her age who could have faced what she did with so much strength. My husband I have so much respect for her.
I watched the video your family put together. Your video was an amazing blend of humor, love, reality, and beauty. I would love to hear more about the behind-the-scenes of making this video.
First, I have to say that every day we shot video outside, it was at least 100 degrees!!!! And our family doesn’t do hot!! Second, my family can’t dance. My husband has some moves when he thinks nobody’s looking but that’s about it. Third, I have done a little amateur photograpy but never any video work and subsequently had no idea what I was doing. So those parts of making the video were a little difficult. We live in a cool city that has so many neat places to film from, so my mom and I went on a day trip to downtown Kansas City looking for the perfect places to shoot our video. My husband and I made up the dance loosely based on the dance from “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” We got the family together for about three dance practices before we actually shot the dance scenes. Everything else was just trying to set cameras up to catch our everyday antics.
What led you to make this video?
When we decided to make a profile video I started shamelessly creeping on other couples profile videos for months. I saw a lot of good ones but, to me, they all looked the same and none of them really stood out in my mind. I knew that I wanted ours to stand out because, let’s face it, my family is loud and outrageous and normally stands out in a crowd.
We also knew that after our son’s adoption and seeing just how much contact we have with his birth family, I wanted to make sure our profile was a sincere depiction of our family. I remember the first time we met our son’s birth mom. We were so worried about the perception of our family and making sure we looked like the perfect buttoned-up, Polo-shirt-wearing, stable family that we assumed every expectant parent wanted to see. I THANK GOD everyday that our families turned out to be the perfect fit for each other. It would have sucked to have to put on an act for the next eighteen plus years.
The rest was trying to find a way to convey everything we wanted to say in under five minutes. My husband and I have been together for ten years, we are madly in love, and we love our son more than life. We have a great life together but it has not been an easy one.
This came up as a Facebook memory today and sums much of what we have been through together:
“8 years ago I woke up to find this man in my the kitchen with a sign made out of macaroni and a ring bought with garage sale money asking me to marry him. We had just graduated from college during the peak of the biggest economic depression in history, he had student loans up to his eyeballs, neither one of us could find a job in our major, we had no health insurance and we were what I have always referred to as macaroni broke (because we couldn’t afford the cheese for macaroni n’ cheese). We scraped up every cent we had to buy our “fixer upper house” from hell. We took jobs we didn’t want and moved away from all of our friends and family. We worked nights, holidays, and weekends, spending most of our holidays in hospital cafeterias and private security office break rooms. Our one vacation attempt in 8 years was diverted by a hurricane coincidentally the same year our house flooded. We lost a fortune and hope on a failed adoption. Then fought for 9 months with everything we had in a custody battle for our son. We slept on the concrete floor of our destroyed house for 6 months with no walls, kitchen, or insulation while we rebuilt side-by-side. The only easy part of the last 8 years has been the marriage.Braden Duckworth our life may be hard, but life with you is the easiest thing I’ve ever done! Together we kicked our flooded house, a custody battle, adoption bills, Ryker’s epilepsy, car loans, and our student loans butts! So all I have to say is: World, is that all you got????”
We wanted expected parents to know that we are real people, we have been through hell and we came out a stronger couple. We can’t promise fancy vacations and backyard swimming pools but we can promise a family that will always stick together and make the best of whatever comes our way. Our son sometimes dances on the kitchen table in his underwear screaming “I’m a princess,” we eat chocolate chip pancakes, ride on grocery carts in the parking lot, and our son jumps on the bed and we are okay with that! We have rules and eat well-balanced meals but we don’t shop at the whole foods store and the boys laugh at farts. Our goal is to find a family that wants to join our kind of crazy!!!
How in the world did you persuade your entire extended family to participate? I don’t know that I could pull that off, and I have an awesome family.
I pretty much told them they were doing it!!!! I have a long history of dragging my family along on my shenanigans so by now they are used to it. We have a few family members who don’t dance and chose not to be in the dancing part but they are still excited for a new addition to the family.
Please . . . please explain that dinosaur!
I saw this T-rex costume last Halloween on a website but is was sold out. I have wanted one ever since. (My brother and I had a childhood obsession with dinosaurs). So when my family asked what I wanted for my 31st birthday, I said this dinosaur costume. Everyone pretty much blew me off thinking I was joking. Then my brother, who is my “Irish Twin” and lives next door to us, sent me a text asking me what I wanted for my birthday. I sent him a picture of the dinosaur costume and said “this would come in handy in SO many situations!” His reply was “I don’t know when that wouldn’t come in handy.” (He totally gets me!). So he got it for me. I bust it out all the time (birthday parties, jokes at work, ect). I thought it would be cool to do a backflip on our trampoline while wearing it for the video but got tripped up on the tail, resulting in a minor concussion.
Now be honest: did you actually catch that pancake the first attempt?!
Yes, I am a seasoned pancake flipper. My brother and I used to try to flip just about anything when no one was watching. It did take several tries to get a flip with adequate rotation.
As always, it is such an honor to hear from adoptive families and learn more about them. If you haven’t watched their video yet, you better watch it!