Katie and Andres always knew they wanted to grow their family. After having difficulties conceiving on their own, the couple turned to IVF, hoping the treatment would be a solution to their fertility struggles. However, they were unsuccessful after one round of treatment, and the extensive process took a toll on Katie.

“I felt awful; I wanted to continue going to work (I am a teacher). And with IVF, you have to go to the office every day for a week and a half,” Katie says. “And I see these people who’ve been through this process five, six times, and I’m like ‘I can’t do this.’”

After the failed IVF cycle, the couple decided that the emotional and physical strain of the procedure was too much for them. They began to consider other options.

“After the IVF failure, I said ‘Let’s try adoption,’” Katie reveals. “I had no idea if anyone in my family had adopted, but I had a student who [created an adoption plan] with Adoptions From The Heart, and I got the chance to witness her go through the process.”

Like many prospective adoptive parents, Katie and Andres were overwhelmed by the thought of having an open adoption.

“We were nervous at first; we didn’t know what an open adoption meant,” says Katie. “But as we walked through the process, we learned it wasn’t so scary.”

The couple also quickly learned that the process is very different from the myths and misconceptions that surround adoption.

“Everyone was like you’re going to be adopting from a teenage girl,” Katie says. “But, neither of [my children’s birth mothers] is a teenage girl. One of them is my age, and one of them is a little bit older than me. And I made it my life’s mission to speak openly about it.”

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In March 2013, Katie and Andres were chosen to be the parents of a beautiful baby girl named Annabelle (Bella). Bella’s birth mom was in her early 40’s when she gave birth to Bella. She wasn’t aware that she was pregnant until she delivered. Already having adult children, and grandchildren, Beth and her husband decided it would be best to create an adoption plan for her daughter.

Katie admits, in the beginning, an open adoption can be a little uncomfortable, but over time it gets easier.

“We did everything everyone encouraged us to do: going to the picnics and Christmas parties,” says Katie. “It’s awkward at first, but children bring you together. Beth was nervous about being around my family, but I said to her, ‘You’re a Rockstar in our family. You brought the best thing into our family.’”

About three years after placement, Beth received a grim diagnosis.

“It wasn’t until Beth got sick that we really started getting close,” Katie says. “I said to her, ‘What can we do for you?’ She told me she had stage 4 breast cancer, and at first, I had no idea what that meant. I didn’t know if we were going to lose her tomorrow. And Beth said to me, ‘Can I see you more often? Can I see Bella?'”

From that point on, the families’ bond grew stronger.

“[Beth] started coming to birthday parties and summer cookouts. It got to the point that we see them more than once a month sometimes,” says Katie. “As far as I’m concerned, they are my family.”

Not knowing how much time Beth has, Katie wants to ensure that she can do all she can for the woman who gave her the greatest gift: motherhood.

“She has requested very simple things,” says Katie. “She wants to see her grandson swim; she wants to stay in a hotel for the night, and she wants photos of her grandchildren taken.”

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“Beth has really become family. I can call her, and we can talk about everything,” she adds. “And that’s one of the scariest parts for me. I’m losing a connection. It’s been tough. I feel like I’m losing my own mother. This woman has given me a piece of her.”

Although Katie and her family are coping with Beth’s diagnosis, she finds peace in knowing that she has gained a new family.

“As sad as it is, this has really opened us. I think I know all of Beth’s family. My kids refer to the birth father’s mother as Grandma Donna. I truly wish all open adoptions were like this.”