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The Family that Chose Each Other

This Saturday, 11/21, is National Adoption Day, and this is our family's adoption story.

12 years, 11 months, and 3 days ago I became pregnant with our first child.

I had just turned 18.

Back in late 2007/early 2008, I was a senior in high school. I was on the Honor Roll, a member of National Honors Society and Future Business Leaders of America, and taking AP/Honors classes. I was busy preparing for college, and had been accepted into my "dream school," a small, private college in Westminster, MD. Of course, I had no idea what I wanted to do, and who I wanted to be. On the surface, things were perfect and I was on the fast-track to my successful future!

Behind closed doors, I was struggling with anxiety and depression, and it would manifest itself through low self esteem, poor body image, mood fluctuations, and feelings of doom. Although I wouldn't even know until I was almost 30 years old, this would continue to affect me and change the course of my life for years to come.

When I was a Sophomore in High School, I ended up finding myself in a tumultuous relationship with a boy a couple grades older than me. We were off and on, hot and cold, and all around toxic for 4 years. Then, one day, I found out I was pregnant.

I do believe all couples can, and should make their own decisions when it comes to their lives, and their bodies. Either way, whatever your choice, there will be hard work associated with a teenage pregnancy, and I knew either way I would have to do the hard work. I also knew I could not abort my baby, and I couldn't give him/her up for adoption either. The best choice for us was to try to make it work.

After I graduated, we moved in together, and started to prepare to welcome our child together. Thankfully, both of our families were supportive of us, and once the shock wore off, the excitement of welcoming a grandchild set in. At 40 weeks and 1 day, a day after my due date, I drove myself to the hospital when my water broke. 11 hours later we welcomed a beautiful baby boy. He was perfect, and I got to be his mom.

I threw myself into being a mom. I nailed down a routine, mastered breastfeeding, and soon 6 months had flown by. My partner at the time was working a steady job, and things were going somewhat smoothly at home. Tax time rolled around and it would be money that would tear us apart for good.

My ex-partner and I split up, and it wasn't smooth sailing. We both lawyered up, and for the next three months we would work out a visitation schedule and child support payments, and attend mediation and parenting classes. Those three months were the longest months of my life. I would worry constantly, I questioned my ex-partner's parenting, and I was preparing for life as a young, single mother. Throughout it all, our son was my light, the thing that kept me going.

Eventually my ex-partner would bring a girl along with him to pick up our son. I figured he was dating again, and as much as I would like to have met his new girlfriend, he wouldn't introduce us. I would watch from the window as they drove away with our son, and just pray that when they had him, she would take care of him like he was her own.

By the time our son was 9 months old, we moved about 30 minutes away from where were were living at the time. My ex-partner came once for his scheduled visitation, and when the second scheduled visitation rolled around, he didn't show up. I couldn't get ahold of him, he had simply disappeared.

The small amount of child support I had been receiving stopped when he disappeared. While, thanks to my parents, I have never known homelessness, I have known poverty as a single mother. I have fed my child through WIC vouchers, and received Medic-Aid for myself and my child, I clothed him and got toys through Freecycle, and drove him around in an expired carseat I got for free. It was embarrassing, I would be lying if I told you it wasn't, but I vowed we wouldn't be a statistic.

When I finally weaned him, I figured it was time to find a job. It was 2009, and jobs were scarce. I went to local fitness centers, grocery stores, and retail stores looking for a position, but I was applying next to people who had their Masters Degrees. I could not find a job anywhere.

Meanwhile, I was also trying to date. I didn't want to be alone, but who my age would want to date a single mother? I tried a few online dating sites, and had gone on a few dates, but things just weren't working out. There was one guy who I had chatted with, he was older than me, but he had a niece the same age as my son so we connected through that. I gave him my information, and told him I was deleting my profile.

Matt and I ended up meeting up for coffee as friends to chat about all of our online dating stories. For three months we were friends because of our age difference. But when we were together, we would stay up for hours talking. We talked about everything, shared our experiences, and got to know each other well. One night I told Matt I didn't think love existed outside of the parent/child relationship. Apparently that night he promised himself that he would prove to me love did exist, and really the rest is history! We officially started dating after those three months of friendship, got engaged after a year of dating, and in 2012, when our son was 4 years old, Matt and I got married.

Shortly after we got married, my ex-partner reached out randomly to tell me that he would be willing to sign over his rights to our son if I would waive his back child support. I immediately got in touch with the lawyer who handled our custody case 4 years prior, and we drew up the paperwork. On October 17th, 2013 Matt officially adopted our son and our family was legally complete. Matt and I still talk about how the adoption hearing felt like our final "marriage" as a family. At the hearing, the judge said to Matt "Seems like you've been on the job for a while, huh?" And wasn't that the truth! Matt is the best dad, and it has been one of my greatest joys in life watching him be a dad to our kids.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, for one, I believe vulnerability brings people together. I also believe talking about our experiences, and that by being open and honest we bring community together. You see, our life isn't Instagram-perfect. Matt and I both have walked hard roads, and will walk hard roads again, but this crazy, hard, beautiful life is worth living. I want to see what the ending will be!

Never give up, you don't know what is around the corner. I am always here as a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or a friend to laugh with. Please never hesitate to reach out to me!

And to my first born, the first love of my life, and my amazing husband, happy National Adoption Day. Some kids get the dad they were born with, and some dads and kids get to choose each other. I am so glad we got to choose. I love you both with every fibre of my being.

*In this post I talk about mental health. I am not a licensed mental health professional. If you or anyone you know needs help, you're urged to call the National Suicide Prevent Hotline at 1-800-273-talk or text "talk" to 741-741.*

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