In the fall of 2007, Nicole and Brian started their freshman year at Pittsburgh Technical Institute as perfect strangers. When the two college students first met, they felt an instant connection. It was not long until the two began dating each other. In the beginning stages of the relationship, Nicole took a test that would be the most important one of her life. Awaiting to see the results of any test is nerve-racking, but the results of a pregnancy test could be life-changing.

When Nicole went home for the holidays, she knew her body did not feel normal. She could not fathom the thought of letting Brian know before the semester break about her speculations that she may be pregnant. “I didn’t want to say anything before we went home to our families out of fear of ruining it (winter break),” said Nicole. The moment of truth came on a day Nicole was working a shift at Curves, where she worked part-time in college. Before Nicole opened the store, she took a pregnancy test that her friend bought for her, it revealed she was—in fact—pregnant.

On December 29th, 2007, both Brian and Nicole returned to school in Pittsburgh. Nicole met with Brian face-to-face to tell him about the pregnancy. “I cried to him; it was the longest day of my life,” said Nicole. Brian panicked. “At first, obviously being so young, I was really scared. I think it took her [Nicole] a little time to settle and decide on adoption. I was always planning on being there for her no matter what, and for our baby.”

Brian and Nicole only told a handful of people about the pregnancy. Nicole’s grandmother had a friend with a connection to a couple hoping to adopt. Brian and Nicole met with the couple and the plans seemed to be falling into place. At nine months pregnant, Nicole was taken by complete surprise when the prospective adoptive parents were not able to move forward with the adoption.

Brian and Nicole found themselves in a state of distress. “I freaked out not knowing what to do because I was about to pop. At that point I stumbled across an ad for Adoptions From The Heart, I reached out to the Greensburg, PA, office and spoke with Joan,” said Nicole. Joan Smith, BS served as the couple’s social worker. Soon after receiving the call from the couple, Joan made plans to stop by Nicole’s apartment to talk with her and Brian in person. While she was there, they were able to look through profiles of prospective adoptive parents.

Profiles are like scrapbooks that prospective adoptive parents fill with pictures and stories to show expecting parents who they are and give an insight into their lifestyle. One couple’s portfolio stood out to Brian and Nicole; their names were Chad and Jelana. “Chad and Jelana reminded me a lot of Brian and I. Fun-loving and carefree, they embodied that in their portfolio and that they had a good head on their shoulders. It was like if we had to grow up, we would want to be just like them.”

Joan, their social worker, arranged a date for the two couples to meet. A million thoughts went through Nicole’s mind about meeting with Chad and Jelana. What Nicole and Brian did not know was that Chad and Jelana were going through similar emotions. “We were both a little nervous. Brian and Nicole were both a little shy. I just remember how young they looked, and how much respect I had for them. The meeting was a little awkward at first, but at the same time, we clicked from the beginning,” said Jelana.

On August 19, 2008, Chad and Jelana received a surprise phone call that Nicole was in labor. Nicole had invited Chad and Jelana to be at the hospital with her along with Brian, her mom, sister, and best friend. After 24 hours in labor, Nicole gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Amelia (Mia) Claire.

Nicole recalls the first time she saw and held Mia as “surreal.” Brian vividly remembers that time as well. “The whole thing was something I’d never experienced before. There was a lot of love there in the room. Seeing her was like ‘Wow that’s your kid; I’m a Dad now,’” says Brian.

Aside from Brian and Nicole, Chad and Jelana went through their own whirlwind of emotions the day of Mia’s birth. It was not lost on Jelana how bittersweet the process for Brian and Nicole. Afterall, Chad and Jelana would bring Mia home while the couple who conceived her would go home empty-handed. Jelana expresses how empathetic she felt for Nicole as she labored for 24 hours. “I was so concerned about Nicole and how hard it was for her. I am so grateful for her and Brian. They are great people.”

After Mia was born, her birth parents went through the expected post-placement grieving period. Brian and Nicole leaned on each other a lot throughout the months after the birth of Mia. They are no longer a couple but remain friends. Brian still gets emotional every time he thinks about their first visit at Panera Bread—Mia was just a few months old. Brian held Mia in his arms for the first time in months during that visit. “I remember the first time outside of the hospital talking to her; she put her hand on my heart I guess to feel my heartbeat. It was just such a beautiful moment. It felt like she already knew who I was,” said Brian.

Placing a child for adoption is one of the hardest decisions to make; however, open adoption makes a big difference according to Brian and Nicole. They may not see Mia every day, but they remain important figures in her life whom she looks up to. Anytime someone asks Mia about what Brian and Nicole are to her, her answer is “special to me.”

Jelana and Chad never kept Mia’s adoption a secret from her; however, they waited until Mia turned six to reveal that Brian and Nicole were her birth parents. She was very curious and had tons of questions to ask them the next time they visited. “She was just so curious about everything; she had this little journal book. She asked questions about

my favorite food, movies, and music. She asked me what my favorite Star Wars movie was. I didn’t even know she liked Star Wars! We realized we had so much in common even though she was being raised in a different environment,” said Nicole.

Looking back, Nicole wished she would have connected with Adoptions From The Heart from the start. It would have relieved her of a lot of stress knowing there was someone like Joan, her social worker, who she could turn to. “Her constant contact is something I did not have early on. It was nice to have that person on the outside care about my mental state,” said Nicole. Brian also has a lot of respect for Joan and how much support she is to everyone. “Just her being there for us on a personal level going through the emotions with us was big. We all were crying at the hospital. It was difficult, but it was also the best decision we ever made. I love how excited Joan gets every time we see Mia. She was a perfect fit for us and Mia,” said Brian.

Brian is now married and has a 3-year-old son named Ledon. This year Brian brought little Ledon along for the group’s annual visit. “He visited her for the first time. Seeing her face light up when she saw him made my day. Ledon kept saying how much he loved Mia. I am excited for them to develop a great relationship,” said Brian. Mia loves being a big sister. “I love to watch him grow. When we visit, I’m looking forward to teaching him how to play the games Chuck E. Cheese.”

Little did Brian and Nicole know that the heartbreaking beginning to their adoption journey would blossom into a loving extended family with their daughter Mia and her adoptive parents, Chad and Jelana. Many of Nicole’s friends know their story and are always “shocked” at how well the adoption turned out. Brian would like other birth parents going through the process to know that it is important to have an “open mind and an open heart” to get the most out of an open adoption. The consensus from all the adults involved is that because of open adoption, there is no shortage of love for Mia.