What’s your story?
Our story together began in 2001 where we met at the bank Kelly worked at. After several conversations, we realized that our families had very big connections…Gil’s older sister & her husband have been Kelly’s very good friends since the 70’s! As far as we know, our lives never crossed paths as kids…30+ years later they did and we are both so thankful. We initially developed a strong friendship and eventually in 2004 our friendship turned into more. Being older now…we both knew what we wanted in life…we wanted to have a loving marriage (married our best friend) and to have children! We were married in 2005 and began trying to start our family immediately (we weren’t getting any younger!)…And that’s when the real adventures began…The next several years were truly adventures…between an ectopic pregnancy and numerous unsuccessful fertility treatments…our journey took a different direction, a direction that we now know was meant to be…Adoption.
What makes your family special?
Our family is special in so many ways…where do we start? We were matched with our son Kennedy’s Birthmother in October of 2010, just 3 short months after submitting our profile to the agency. Kennedy’s Birthmother chose Gil and I because we loved to travel, lived exciting lives and she also wanted us to experience parenthood for the first time. At our first meeting, she presented us with a Teddy Bear…The Teddy Bear had a recording or our baby’s heartbeat…our son’s heartbeat. Now, how could you not automatically fall completely in love with this woman??? What an amazingly loving, thoughtful gift! That day was the day that we met one of our best friends for the first time! We also learned that day that our son wasn’t due until April 2011. The next 6 months was an amazing bonding period. Kelly was able to attend every doctor’s appointment and Gil went to all of the BIG appointments; the Birthmother wanted us to experience as much as possible with her on this journey. Our son was born on April 7th 2011 at 10:51pm after a pretty short labor (Birthmother may not agree). The delivery doctor told us that our son would be out in 1 contraction and 3 (max) pushes…The birthmother looked at him like he was nuts…After all this was her 3rd child and the other 2 were not so easy. Thankfully, our son did just that, 1 contraction and only 2 pushes! Kennedy Patrick entered the world with the loudest scream, he wanted to make a grand entrance into this world, and not much has changed. A little history about how Kennedy Patrick became our son’s name…Kennedy was a name we chose a very long time ago, not knowing whether we would have a boy or a girl, the first name was going to be Kennedy. His middle name has much more meaning to all of our families. Patrick is after 2 of the most amazing women we know. Patricia is the name of Kelly’s mom, as well as the Birthmother’s mom. Both these women battled breast cancer; Kelly’s mom has been cancer free for 5 years. The birthmother’s mom was battling breast cancer for the second time during the pregnancy; she was the biggest support system for our birthmother (and us). Unfortunately, she passed away a couple days after Kennedy was born. We all believe that she waited to make sure that her grandson and her daughter were ok and that he had become a part of our family. We continue to have a very open adoption with Kennedy’s Birthfamily and are so blessed to have such an amazing relationship with both sides, including their extended family (siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.).
In 2014, we seriously started discussing adopting again after Kennedy started telling everyone that would listen that we were “getting” him a baby sister! Adopting again was always on the table, but when Kennedy started voicing his wish, we called the agency end of February to set up an appointment to discuss the possibility of #2. There were two concerns we were worried about which could lead to possibly a longer wait time A) Our ages, no longer spring chickens and B) We already had a child. Both could possibly be held against us in the process and we really didn’t want to wait years and years, because let’s face it, we weren’t getting any younger. Two days after Kelly made the phone call to the agency to set up a meeting (appointment was set for the following week); they called her to tell her about a “situation”. The Director of the agency had just met with a pregnant couple where they talked to her about the history of the baby, what they were looking for in an adoptive couple, what type of Open Adoption they desired and also to get any questions answered. During their meeting, they voiced that they preferred a couple that were experienced parents (already have a child) and that they wanted an open relationship but wanted examples of what it that could look like. By chance (not remembering that Kelly had just called her 2 days prior to discuss #2), Sarah used our Open Adoption relationship with Kennedy’s Biological family as an example of how awesome it could be…Their eyes lit up…That’s the kind of relationship they wanted… After the couple left her office, the light bulb went off in the Director’s head…she remembered that we had just called about #2…she reflected on the conversation she just had with the couple and all of the similarities with the baby and what they were looking for…She picked up the phone and called us to see how serious we were about adopting again, remember the appointment was just to “talk” about the possibility…We told her of course we were, we just had questions and concerns that we wanted to discuss with her…She said ok…”Well, let me tell you about this situation…”. She began to tell us all about the couple and the baby…it did seem like a perfect match…but wait, we haven’t even signed up with the agency yet! If we were serious about adopting #2 and wanted our family profile to be included in the stack she gave to this couple…our package needed to be in her hands the next morning.
After an all-nighter…Kelly was able to hand over our packet to the agency the next day…This included a 20 page personal questionnaire about our lives, jobs, income, personalities, likes/dislikes, you name it…It also included a 1 page (double sided) Biography (“Our Story”) about our family of 3 and all our adventures…Why we wanted to bring another baby into our family etc…This process is not an easy task, but we miraculously managed to pull it off so that this couple would have us a choice. Two agonizing weeks later, the agency called and simply said over the phone…”I knew it!”…Wait, what did that mean??? What it meant was that couple had selected us to be the parents of their baby…their little girl due in May. Kennedy somehow knew that Mommy and Daddy were going to “get” him a baby sister.
Viola Lanece was born May 13th 2014 a healthy, happy, beautiful baby girl! How her name came to be…Viola was Gil’s Mother’s name that had passed away 15+ years ago. She was a very strong woman that Gil loved, admired and looked up to; traits that we wanted our daughter to have. Lanece was a name the Birthparents chose for her.
What are your favorite things about your family?
Oh boy, there are so many favorites…Our family is fun, full of adventure, always on the go, outgoing, energetic, colorful, caring, loving…
What are the benefits and challenges of your individual family?
The benefits and the challenges of our individual family kind of go hand in hand…Because of our individual differences, mainly the way we look, we tend to get noticed. A lot of times we don’t notice as much, but occasionally we catch a confused stare. You see, we are a family just like any other family. There is a Daddy, a Mommy, a Brother and a Sister. We don’t see color, we don’t see our differences, this is our life, and this is the only life we know. But to the outside, we realize some may at first only see a Hispanic mix Dad, a White Mom and two African American mix kids…Sometimes when we catch a glimpse of the “looks” and we need to remind ourselves, “oh yeah, we are a little different”. We are very open with our Adoption and really love sharing our story with others, educating people on what adoption is in today’s world, not the world we grew up in where adoption was hush-hush and all a big secret. Our 3 ½ year old son knows where he comes from, he knows his biological family, to him, they are his brothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, grandparents…just as much as our blood family is to him. Our story, his story, is all he knows too. We try to make it as “normal” as possible. Yeah, his story is a little “different” then Johnny’s down the street…but what an amazing story it is for him to tell! At this age, he pretty much leaves it up to us to tell, but he loves to chime in to tell people about all of his brothers and sisters (5 on mom’s side & 6 on dad’s side…which doesn’t include Viola). We plan on handling things similarly with our daughter, unless we learn anything new with experiences with our son.
Challenges are the inquisitive stares and the sometimes inappropriate questions and comments…The benefits to both of those is that we are given an opportunity,an opportunity that not a lot of people have, to educate them on the “unknown” of the adoption world. That is what drives their curiosity anyways, isn’t it? When we first brought Kennedy home, we were able to educate all of our family and friends about adoption “now” and so everyone around us “just knows”…Now that Kennedy is in school and meeting all kinds of new friends…we have gotten some interesting reactions when all 4 of us show up to a class function together…Parents/kids may have only run into Mom or Dad (separately) at pickups or drop-offs and so not knowing, they automatically assume the “other” parents must be African American. Nope we are one big colorful melting pot of LOVE… We have to remind ourselves to share our story with our new friends. Well, we don’t have to, but we love to. Once you open up about it, it’s amazing how intrigued people get.
What would you like people to know?
When you see a family, maybe like ours, that may look a little different than yours…be thoughtful, courteous, respectful…But ask questions. As long as the questions come in a thoughtful, inquisitive manner, why wouldn’t anyone want to share their story? If the family isn’t willing to share, but they are approached nicely, they should respond respectfully. Never hurts to ask questions if it’s interesting to you.
Are there any misconceptions you would like address?
There are a lot of misconceptions when it involves adoption. Of course every situation is different, but this is what we have at least found to be true with Open Adoption…
1. Misconception: Adopted Children are placed for adoption because they are “unwanted” or “not loved”
Response: What?!? Those statements couldn’t be further from the truth. Children placed through open adoption are loved so much by their birth parents that they have to make a very hard decision to place them…Maybe their living situation is unsafe, maybe they are too young to support a baby, maybe they love them so much that they know that they can’t provide a life for their baby that they know they deserve and want better for them…These kids have so much love around them, it’s just ridiculous! The reason the birthparents choose Open Adoption because they want to be a part of the child’s life, they want to be able to explain to them why they made their choice, show them in person how much they love them!
2. Misconception: Birthparents are usually either very young, on drugs, in jail, trouble, unreliable, irresponsible…
Response: This misconception is probably the most aggravating one…Yes, there are those 12 year old birthmothers…But generally they are not that young. Our son’s Birthmom was 26 when she had him. Both our kids birthparents are not druggies, not in jail, definitely not trouble…They have all made a selfless, loving choice to allow their children to experience life the way they wish they could give them, maybe their life circumstances at the time don’t allow them to provide for them the way they wished they could. In our minds, choosing adoption, specifically Open Adoption is probably one of the most responsible, mature, loving decisions that they will make in their lifetimes.
Why do you think this project is important?
We strongly believe that this project is extremely important to share with not only the younger generations about diversity, but also educate the older generations on all kinds of differences in families in today’s society. We have discovered throughout the years with our own family, that the looks, the whispers and the sometimes inappropriate questions come because others do not know the “world” we live in…How we became the beautiful, colorful family that we are today. The “unknown” is intriguing, but education is the “key” to helping people understand differences are not bad at all and an amazing story may be hidden within them.
This American Family is a personal project inspired by my desire to show my daughter what modern American families really look like and celebrate diversity and the power of our personal narratives. If you are interested in being a part of this project please use the contact tab or email me at [email protected] To see other This American Family narratives click HERE.
All photographs copyright of Family Photographer San Diego Rachel Brandt