The Shock from the Unexpected
Two active U.S. military members Jason and Kelly met one another on the job and quickly hit it off. Their relationship was put to the test when the military stationed them in different locations. The long-distance relationship between Jason and Kelly proved that their love is strong.
It was the year 2015, and Kelly found herself fighting through severe stomach pains. She traveled to the Yale-New Haven hospital hoping to get some answers. The answer she received was shocking and unexpected.
Kelly was 7 months pregnant! “I was probably a little more shocked than she [the gynecologist] was,” said Kelly. There was no time to really react. At the time Jason was stationed far away from where Kelly was, so she had no other option but to deliver this life-changing news over the phone.
7-months Along with a Short Time Frame
At 7 months along, there was little time to make plans. What were they going to do? They considered two options: parenting or adoption. After deep reflection, they decided on adoption. As they researched more about adoption, they realized there are different types of adoptions. There are “closed adoptions” and then there are “open adoptions.” In an open adoption, Jason and Kelly could still be present in their child’s life. Their child may not see them every day, but they would grow up knowing who they are. Kelly knew some information about open adoptions before that moment in time; however, Jason was not familiar. After talking about it together, Jason and Kelly decided to pursue an open adoption relationship.
Time was moving at a rapid pace, and the couple knew they needed to look for an adoption agency to work with. Jason and Kelly went into “research mode” as Kelly puts it, for adoption agencies within the state of Connecticut. The agency that stood out to her the most was the domestic adoption agency Adoptions From The Heart (AFTH). It was one of the first agencies on the east coast built on the foundation of facilitating open adoptions.
“I connected the most with Adoptions From The Heart. He [Jason] checked it out and concurred with all of that,” said Kelly.
After their very first meeting with a social worker at AFTH, the couple knew they were in good care. They were certain about adoption and were ready to begin looking at possible adoptive parents.
Their social worker provided them with a profile of couples and singles. They came across a profile of a married couple from Pittsburgh, PA. Chris and Jaime’s profile was like a scrapbook and diary combined. The Pittsburgh couple’s description of each other gave Jason and Kelly a sense of who they were as people. “They both had an active lifestyle. Both were teachers and very candid. We saw commonalities that we could relate to too,” said Jason.
Several states away, Chris and Jaime were continuing to live their life the best they could. The couple always knew they wanted to become parents, but the road to getting there was a long, and at times, discouraging process. After going through trials and trials of fertility treatments, the couple from western Pennsylvania began exploring adoption. Like Jason and Kelly, Chris and Jaime went into their own “research mode” for adoption agencies.
They began reading different reviews about agencies close to where they live. Adoptions From The Heart’s Pittsburgh office was one of the agencies in their area, so they went ahead to check it out. “After we left there [Adoptions From The Heart], we were pretty convinced it [adopting] was something we wanted to do,” said Chris. They knew Adoptions From The Heart was the agency they wanted to work with too.
After all the paperwork, education courses, and creating their adoption profile, Chris and Jaime were finally “in the books” as they say in the adoption community. Prospective adoptive parents who are “in the books” can be shown at any time to expectant parents considering adoption.
On one afternoon in late May 2016, Jaime was driving on the turnpike when her phone began to ring. The call was from Adoptions From The Heart delivering life-changing news that Jaime and her husband Chris were chosen by expecting parents. She was so overwhelmed with happiness and excitement that she had to pull over.
Chris and Jaime did not have the traditional nine months to prepare for parenthood, but the truth is that the couple had been yearning to become parents for years. Two months could not come soon enough. Chris and Jaime were beyond mentally, physically, and emotionally ready to become a mother and father. Jason and Kelly requested a meeting with them, and once a date was set, Chris and Jaime hopped in their car to drive 8 hours to Connecticut without hesitation.
Jason and Kelly had felt in their gut that Chris and Jaime were the right adoptive parents for their child, but they wanted to meet them face-to-face to be certain.
Jason and Kelly drove into the Adoptions From The Heart parking lot well in advance before the meeting. They were excited to meet Chris and Jaime, but at the same time, were very anxious about how the meeting would go. “Jason was good at calming me down. I am a very sentimental person, and it was a very humbling, exciting, and scary experience,” said Kelly. Jason’s comfort gave her the strength and confidence she needed to go in and meet with the couple. Both parties had communicated with one another several times through the agency.
The meeting in person would determine if Chris and Jaime were the ones. There they were finally—both parties sitting straight across from one another. The connection between both couples felt different in person, in fact, it was stronger in the most positive way. The fact that Chris and Jaime dropped everything to travel 8 hours to meet with her and Jason “spoke volumes.” “Jaime and I fell into each other’s arms with a bump between us,” said Kelly as she reminisced fondly of that first meeting.
There was no facade when it comes to the true character of Chris and Jaime. The same positive, genuine, and loving disposition they portrayed in their profiles was there in person too. “After meeting them [Chris and Jaime] that was it,” said Jason. There was so much love in the room between two couples who had just met, and yet it felt like they had already been family for years.
8 Hours of Anticipation
On June 25, 2016, just a month and a day later after meeting with Jason and Kelly, Jaime’s phone rang while she was out celebrating a family friend’s birthday. It was Adoptions From The Heart. Kelly had gone into labor early, just two days before her estimated due date to be exact. Chris and Jaime immediately left the party and drove to Connecticut. A car ride that Jaime describes as “eight hours of anticipation.”
On June 25, 2016, at 5:51 p.m., Kelly gave birth to a healthy baby girl whom she named Kiersten Jae. Due to military obligations Jason was unable to be present at the hospital.
In the hours before Chris and Jaime arrived, Kelly did not take her time alone with Kiersten for granted. “I had an abundance of emotions. I was sad because I didn’t know how long I was gonna have her. I was soaking her up,” said Kelly. That special bonding period is something Kelly will cherish for the rest of her life.
Chris and Jaime arrived at the hospital at 9:51 p.m. They were shown to Kelly’s room, and there lay this beautiful baby girl. “We loved this little baby from the very second we saw her,” said Jaime. The couple had been ready their whole life to take on the title of mother and father. The couple named her Julianna, her namesake is Juliet O’Hara, a character who they loved from their favorite television show Psych.
As they were filling in paperwork Chris and Jaime discovered that Kelly had given Julianna the temporary name Kiersten, a name she had always loved. The couple thought it over and realized the name Kiersten represented their baby girl just as much as Julianna did. The name Kiersten is an important part of their daughter’s origin, so Chris and Jaime decided to make it her middle name. From that moment she was Julianna Kiersten. “We wanted for Jules to be able to look back at both of her certificates to let her know we wanted her birth parents to be a part of this too. We are all in this together,” said Jaime. Jason and Kelly were touched and honored by this gesture.
Bittersweet Hospital Experience
The day Julianna was born was ultimately a day of happiness and pain mixed together. Before and after giving birth, Kelly was not just suffering from physical pain. There was also a heavy sadness in Kelly’s heart from knowing she would leave that hospital empty-handed.
Chris and Jaime’s hearts were also hurting that day, in a different way. “We are so incredibly happy, but we still were thinking about Kelly and Jason so much,” said Jaime. In an open adoption, the adoptive parents do not just welcome a child into the family, they welcome their child’s birth parents too.
While Kelly says that she absolutely felt Chris and Jaime’s love and care that day as well as her AFTH social worker, she is sad to say she did not feel the same empathy from hospital staff. They were not treating her with the same respect they would give to other expecting mothers. There was no sense of urgency to keep her in the loop or anything that was going on in the stages of her delivery. Kelly felt almost as if she was irrelevant in the eyes of the medical professionals.
Kelly would not wish the treatment she received from the hospital staff on anyone. Based on her own stressful experience at the hospital, Kelly offers advice to medical professionals with patients who are placing their baby for adoption: “Be respectful. Try not to judge or make judgments, just do your job.”
Adoptions From The Heart works hard to destigmatize adoption among medical professionals through trainings held by the agency’s social workers. Aside from trainings, social workers will also work alongside medical professionals during doctors’ appointments and placements. It is the agency’s mission to advocate for expecting parents needs and rights no matter what decision they make in the end: to parent or place for adoption.
Birth Parent Transition
Nine days after she was born, Jason and Kelly had a special moment together to say goodbye to Julianna as she began the journey to her new home in Pittsburgh. Jason finally got to hold his baby girl. “She was the first baby I have ever held. It was a short-lived experience—very emotional. [I was] happy and sad at the same time,” said Jason. After saying goodbye, life was “pretty rough” in the words of both Jason and Kelly. None of their family, friends, and colleagues knew Kelly was pregnant let alone placed her baby for adoption.
Within the period of a week, Kelly was back in her routine at work. She was still trying to learn how to grieve. Knowing she had her social worker beside her each step of the way was helpful, but there were many hurdles that she had to overcome postpartum.
For the first six months of Julianna’s life, the couple had six periods of communication with Chris and Jaime as they previously agreed upon doing. With communication came pictures as well. Their baby girl was growing up a lot in just six months. As much as they loved receiving pictures and letters, they were learning how to cope with their loss.
Now it was time to tell their families. The news was as much of a whirlwind for their families as it was for them. It was emotionally hard for their families to take in the pregnancy and adoption news all at once. Their families were supportive of the adoption, but they needed time to cope from the shock.
“They [Jason and Kelly] are two of the strongest people I ever knew. As a woman, I think about Kelly, and I don’t know if I could ever be as strong as her,” said Jaime. Even the strongest among us have their weak moments, but it makes a difference when your partner is there to lift you up. “We took care of each other the best we could,” Jason said while referring to those first few months after placement.
“We knew this [open adoption] would be what was best for our child,” said Chris. It has been three years since Julianna came into everyone’s life, and Jaime explains “Our relationship is a family. We don’t see them [Jason and Kelly] that often, but when we see them it is great.” They take turns traveling to Pennsylvania and Connecticut to spend time together. During their visits, they create memories that will last a lifetime.
Both parties make it a priority to communicate in-between visits as well. All four adults text each other with updates on their little girl and share a Google Drive for pictures. Whenever a family member or a friend asks about Julianna’s birth parents, Chris and Jaime have nothing but the kindest things to say. “They are loving, fun, and wonderful people. They dedicate their lives to the military, to our country. I am in awe of them,” said Jaime.
The days Jason and Kelly get to visit Julianna are invaluable. That same baby girl they have all held in their arms once is now a little lady full of personality. They speak with such admiration when they talk about Julianna and describe her as “bright, adorable, beautiful, and talkative.” Listening to Julianna talk about what is happening in her life is one of the highlights of each visit. Currently, Julianna is quite a little gymnastics star, which is a big topic when Jason and Kelly come to visit. Chris and Jaime have her enrolled in a gymnastics program that is once a week. Since Jason and Kelly are not able to watch Julianna at her gymnastics class each week, whenever they come over, Julianna is ready to catch them up on her latest moves. Watching Julianna show off a somersault are the little moments both her birth parents and her adoptive parents will remember forever thanks to open adoption.
Within these three years, Chris and Jaime have met every expectation of Jason and Kelly’s when it comes to parenting and providing her with great experiences. Although they may not come from the same bloodline, Chris and Jaime are just as much family to Jason and Kelly as Julianna is.