Today is national Grandparents Day, a day to celebrate the top integral figures of the family tree. In an open adoption adoptive parents can encourage a loving bond not just with their own parents, but with their birth grandparents as well. Delaware birth grandparents Chris and Adrienne have been present in their granddaughter Charlotte’s life literally since birth. Here is their story:
One night in April 2019 Chris and Adrienne were sound asleep when their daughter Samantha started experiencing severe stomach pains. The pain continued by the minute leaving Samantha in such a debilitative state she had no choice but to wake her parents and ask them to call 911. When their daughter arrived at the hospital the doctor’s diagnosis rocked her to her core. Samantha was evidently nine months pregnant! To say this was a whirlwind of news to Samantha would be a complete understatement. There were not any tell-tale signs of pregnancy throughout the course of those last nine months, the doctors must have made an error! But there is no error and she was experiencing labor pains.
No one could have been more surprised than Samantha, but her parents were second in line for their state of surprise. Samantha and her parents are very close, they could not even believe what they were told. Their daughter was living in the same household as them at the time and they could not believe they never picked up on anything that would indicate a pregnancy. However, amid emotional trauma the birth grandparents now had answers to what was happening. “[I was] a little bit relieved it [pain] wasn’t something that was going to kill her,” said Chris. Before learning their daughter was pregnant, Chris and Adrienne thought maybe Samantha had something wrong with her gallbladder or maybe an appendicitis. The situation was still an emotionally traumatic event to watch their daughter go through.
The nature of the emergency placement does not allow for a birth parent to have nine months of decision-making time about what to do next. Samantha was at the point where she legally had two options: parenting or placing for adoption. Although it was not an easy call to make, Samantha chose to place the Charlotte for adoption. Samantha felt adoption would be the best option simply because she was not ready to be a parent at this point in her life. Chris and Adrienne let Samantha know from the get-go they would support her in whatever she decides on (parenting or placing for adoption). “I don’t think it was a question if it [adoption] was the right decision. That was Samantha’s decision that we stood behind,” said Chris.
Chris and Adrienne had a connection to adoption within their respective immediate families growing up. Adrienne’s mother and father placed their first child for adoption as an infant. She and her sisters would later reconnect with their oldest sibling. Chris’s father is an adoptee too. Aside from family members Chris’s boss is an adoptive father who will talk about his experience adopting his children through foster care from time to time. Both Chris and Adrienne thought about these people as they helped Samantha track down a hospital social worker to talk about the protocols for moving forward with adoption. They connected the family with Amanda Aliberti from Adoptions From The Heart’s Wilmington, DE office.
Amanda met with Samantha at the hospital and spoke with Chris and Adrienne afterwards. Along with introducing herself she went into detail about Adoptions From The Heart and levels of openness in adoption. Out of concern for Samantha and their granddaughter’s best interest Chris and Adrienne had a lot of questions to ask as well. “She [Amanda] was wonderful. We were all really confused and emotional and she was a huge, huge help,” said Chris. Amanda’s next order of business was to present Samantha with AFTH’s prospective adoptive parent profiles.
This was the biggest decision of their daughter’s life and there were so many profiles to look over. Chris and Adrienne’s judgement and perspective mattered so much to their daughter. It was important to have the two people she loved most in the world be part of the process in choosing a family for Charlotte, their granddaughter. “Me and my parents split profiles into thirds and my Dad came across Justin and Wenonah. I saw on their [Chris and Adrienne] face that they loved them,” said Samantha. Samantha proceeded to check out Justin and Wenonah’s profile and immediately had the same feelings her parents did after reading it. Justin and Wenonah from Virginia were already parents to their daughter Annabelle whom they adopted through AFTH. Their profile presented a very loving family that likes to spend time and go on outdoor adventures together which Samantha appreciated. They knew this was the best family to parent Charlotte, so the agency called the Virginia family with the exciting news that they were placed.
Three days after Charlotte was born, Chris and Adrienne accompanied their daughter when she came to the office to sign paperwork and say temporary goodbyes to Charlotte, Justin, and Wenonah. Adrienne remembers the moment she walked into the building and saw Charlotte in her car seat, her resemblance to Samantha at that age was uncanny. “She was so much like Samantha it was crazy, it overtook my heart,” said Adrienne. Charlotte is so loved and special, it was as if Chris, Adrienne, and Samantha knew Charlotte their whole lives. While the grandparents were happy about placing Charlotte with Justin and Wenonah, there was still a cloud of sadness occupying their mind because of what was to come next. Charlotte, an important member of their family would be moving hours away from where she was born.
Chris, Adrienne, and Samantha leaned on one another during the hard transition. Chris’s boss, who is an adoptive father, was very supportive and respectful of Samantha’s decision. Adrienne credits best friend Barbara for helping her through those dark first few months post placement. Barbara gave Adrienne the time to be open about her feelings by not passing judgement on the decision to place Charlotte for adoption. This same friend also reminds Adrienne to take pride and celebrate that she is Charlotte’s birth grandmother. “She has me send her pictures, give her updates and things like that. She’s been very supportive,” said Adrienne.
Picture and letter updates from the adoptive parents are one of the many pros of an open adoption. Chris and Adrienne experience the same joy Samantha has whenever she receives new letters and pictures from Justin and Wenonah. They get to see how much Charlotte has grown, her milestones, and her personality she’s developing. The only thing better than pictures are the visits with Charlotte. On the most recent visit the adoption triad got together for a day at Milburn Farms. For Chris and Adrienne there is nothing better than seeing their granddaughter so happy. Little Charlotte was so vocal and waving to everybody. Watching their granddaughter walk with Samantha was a beautiful moment as well. “She seems so friendly to everybody. I think part of it is just Justin and Wenonah, she’s not excluded from anything. She doesn’t seem to be at all shy,” said Samantha. It is amazing to see how much their bond with the adoptive family has grown since the very first visit at the AFTH family picnic, to their most recent outing. “We’re all getting a little more comfortable with each other. We are not afraid of saying something stupid. They really seem like easygoing and nice people, and you know we try to be,” said Chris.
As much as Chris and Adrienne advocate for birth parents like their daughter, Samantha has been a huge advocate for birth grandparents. “They are overlooked. I wish there were some kind of community for birth grandparents like there is for birth parents,” said Samantha. Adrienne notes that “you’re always going to love and care for them,” and not only that grandparents have a lot of wisdom and life lessons to teach their children and grandchildren. “Both of our parents were married for a very longtime and we have a lot of support to show Samantha about life and marriage and we want to be able to pass that on to our grandchildren,” said Adrienne. Chris and Adrienne have been married for 30 years and their love has grown stronger through both good times and hard times. This type of dedication to their loved ones and resilience to overcome life’s test is what shaped Samantha into who she is today, and a trait they want to bestow to their “little peanut” which Adrienne affectionately calls Charlotte.