We first adopted eight years ago, but it wasn’t until recently that I feel like I entered the “Adoption World.” Sure I was trying to educate myself by reading books and talking to people—adoptees, birth mothers, other adoptive parents. I was even asked to speak about our experience with open adoption and was thrilled to be doing my part. But common adoption terms like “adoption triad” would have been lost on me. Oh, how little I knew.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t feel like a bad person for not knowing before what I know now. The key, really, is progression—keep learning, keep improving, keep loving. When one chooses to adopt, it’s so much more than just “getting a baby,” just as becoming pregnant is much more involved than just “having a baby.” Amiright? Trust me. I am.
A couple of years ago I was given the opportunity to become more actively involved in the adoption world—and that’s when I realized how much more I needed to learn, if even only for the sake of my children. I began to take notice of so many individuals and agencies I felt were truly doing good work. I became more selective with associating with groups, agencies, and individuals who truly aligned with my beliefs and views on adoption, while still trying to be aware of all perspectives.
One individual I quickly began to admire, not only for her extreme talent (she’s an amazing photographer living in Utah – book her, book her now), is Terra Cooper. Her words, actions, and images she shared all felt completely sincere. She influenced me in a way that really molded who I am as a mother and adoption advocate. Terra’s influence is already widespread; yet I believe the things she is doing now is creating a ripple effect that will touch the lives of thousands.
How would you describe yourself?
I am a very sentimental person—especially with people and my connections I have with them. I am an advocate for anyone I see struggling—and will always be. I eat Ben & Jerry’s every day, am always looking for new shows on Netflix to watch, and get my news from Stephen Colbert. Outside of my volunteer world, I am a mother to two amazing boys and one daughter, as well as a wedding photographer for some pretty fabulous people.
Can you explain your connection to adoption?
I am an adoptive mother to an almost-3-year-old spunky little girl.
There are many people who have been touched by adoption, but you seem to have a passion for it. Can you explain what triggered this for you?
There are quite a few things that have made me be passionate about adoption. I think I work so hard to help make adoption easier for others because I know how hard it can be, and if I can help anyone in any way, it gives me a lot of joy. I also have an amazing daughter and I want everyone around her
to understand adoption more so that she has an easier time with the hard stuff. Our birth family is our family, and I want them to feel how much we love them. Those are just a few reasons.
As my husband and I have been going through our adoption process, something as I refer to as a journey, we’ve definitely had our share of heartache. We are not unique. For the sake of connecting with others who have also experienced heartache, do you mind sharing what you find difficult about adoption?
I think my hardest time was after placement. I didn’t see the guilt and depression that was to come.
No one had told me about it and I thought that I was a horrible mom and person for not immediately bonding with my daughter and feeling like an instant mom. I became really close to her birth mom and to see her in pain was really, really hard for me and still is. I try to do anything I can to help ease their pain. My heart was broken the day of placement and has slowly mended through the love and support of our daughter’s birth family.
But let’s not forget the joy and hope, right? What have you found that keeps you going and so heavily involved with adoption?
Adoption is so bittersweet. It is the best word to describe it. I always tell people that I would never wish it on anyone because of how hard it is, but it is the best think I’ve ever done in my life. Seeing how much love is in adoption and the miracles that happen for families to be brought together is really beautiful. The people and family that have been brought into my life is worth all of the hard days.
I have been so touched by your heart, Terra. You truly want to help people along this journey. What would you say you feel your role in adoption is at this point?
First, you are so sweet. It is people like you that keep me going on days that I feel like giving up! I feel like my role is to help others find resources and support in their journey. I also want to advocate for ethical adoption practices. Adoption isn’t perfect, but I believe people are good and will do better when they know better.
Looking ahead, what do you hope for in the adoption world? Are there changes you’d like to see?
In a perfect world, I’d love to see 100% ethical adoptions take place, all birth parents having access to lifelong counseling services, and stereotypes, especially about birth moms and adoptees, being changed to more positive ones. I’d love to have United for Adoption, or non-profits like it, grow to every state so that there are support groups in every area and no family or person feels alone. I’d also love to see more educational classes being offered in every state or by every agency so that families and birth families have support and education.
Terra’s example has taught me a lot about adoption and given me the added courage to be vocal when necessary. But I think one of the biggest lessons she has taught me is that one person, just one, has so much influence and beautiful, graceful, important power. Each of us make a difference. Often when we think of advocacy, our minds may go to picket lines, letter writing, speaking in public forums, etc. (Does Terra do that? Um, yes. She’s that amazing.) But I know that my voice is important no matter how I feel motivated to share it. And so is yours. It doesn’t have to be scary. We don’t always need to stand up against something in order to STAND UP. That’s what she’s taught me . . . to stand up. To keep educating myself. To be a part of something great, even if for now it’s in a small way. I can do that. We all can do that.
Thank you, Terra, for making a difference.
Terra administers a secret group on Facebook called Positive Experiences & Adoption Perspectives. If you feel joining a supportive, online adoption community would be beneficial to you, contact Terra at firstname.lastname@example.org.