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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

celebrate: meeting Ella's birth parents

I've shared just a small portion of our adoption story in past posts. I am so grateful to those who have responded. Your comments have given us such hope and encouragement. Thank you!

Our story continues.

About six months ago, we realized that Ella was "stuck" in her play therapy. I remember telling her therapist, Erin, "If I have to play out that story one more time I'm going to freak!" (At that time I was also in the playroom with Ella during therapy.)

Erin just laughed. She asked if I was really ready for a change. I knew what that meant. With change comes emotion. Not just a little emotion, A LOT of emotion from our Ella--spewing everywhere, especially in my face.

Erin could see that Ella had parts of her story that were missing, and suggested we fill in the blanks. We all met together and with a stack of pictures and photos, unfolded Ella's story before her eyes. Erin explained each part so Ella could understand. It was hard to listen to all she had been through when she was so little. Ella was pretty quiet--and then hyper--as she took it all in.

Yes, there was a fall-out--as expected--but it was also very helpful. Ella had very strong, painful emotions associated with her mother, but I was the only mother she remembered. Now she could see, that it wasn't me who hurt her so deeply.

Fast forward, and Ella starts asking more questions about her birth parents. Why did they make bad choices? Do they still make bad choices? She wondered if she wasn't with them because "she wasn't born right." That seriously broke my heart. I could see the little wheels turning in her head and her self-worth being impaired.

We thought perhaps it was time for Ella to "meet" her birth parents. I say meet, only because she didn't remember them. She had pictures and had actually talked to her birth father, Sean, a couple of times, but was still struggling with whether they were "real".

The big day.

For days, Ella shared her feelings as excited, but also nervous. I'd tell her, "Me too!" and we'd giggle. We explained to Ella that she could change her mind at any time and cancel the meeting.

Ella chose to meet at the Family Support and Treatment Center. I was hesitant, but Erin explained it was a very understandable choice, because she feels safe there and it's where she deals with hard things. (Yep, my issue again. :))

Boy, I was pretty serious about getting this right! :)

Lynn, Ella and I arrived early and kept ourselves busy with projects. Erin met with Ella's birth parents, Sean and Daniela, to let them know what to expect.

Soon the door opened, and there they were. Ella ran to me and buried her face in my side. She would sneak little peeks and quickly hide again. Sean and Daniela walked in with huge smiles on their faces. Daniela was trying not to cry, which made me tear up. They talked to Ella quietly and were very patient. Sean gave her a small bouquet of pink roses which kind of broke the ice.

Ella with Erin.

Erin had let Ella choose some activities beforehand, so she knew exactly what would be happening when we were together. We played Ella's favorite game--Chutes and Ladders (I won for once!)--and made a snowflake craft.

Erin is amazing in action. I see it all the time, but couldn't help being even more impressed and grateful as she tracked and validated and guided and directed the entire time. This was all just second hand to her and she was in her element. She is such a gift and blessing to our family.

Ella's favorite part was opening Christmas gifts from Sean and Daniela. She loved her jewelry box, bracelet, pink Uggs, and Merida doll. 

Before we left, Ella wanted a picture of her birth parents. (Those red eyes are from tears of joy. :))

 The ride home was pretty quiet. Ella was taking it all in and processing. At home it was pretty much the same. She showed Madi and Lilah her things and told Kate what we did and that she liked it.

Lynn and I had been looking forward to this day for a very long time. I'm sure that might seem strange to many, but Sean and Daniela are not only Ella's birth parents, they are also our son and daughter-in-law.

It had been a very long time since we were all able to be together. This was an answer to years of prayer on their behalf. To us, it is a miracle. Our children were both once in a very, very bad place and as difficult as it was, we reported their substance abuse to CPS. Ella was placed with us and because Sean and Daniela were unable to meet the requirements of the service plan that was set up with DCFS, we adopted our granddaughter.

It feels so good to have our kids back in our lives. We had talked to them often, but when they came into town, we met somewhere else for lunch or dinner. We spent time almost every day of the week and a half they were here this time visiting together--playing and laughing and dancing (Sean LOVES Just Dance Disney. Okay, not really. :)). And we were able to spend time with our grandson, Karson. Lynn calls him "Tank." He's a wonderful handful.

One of the things we always told our kids was to make good choices. But we also knew they would make mistakes. They quickly learned that if they expected us to enable them, they were big time wrong. Was it difficult to watch them deal with consequences? Unbearable at times. We even met with the city's prosecuting attorney once to say, "Sean needs help, can you please not let him off easily, and require him to go into rehab?" The attorney just looked at us and replied, "Wow...this never happens. Most parents are in here wanting me to be more lenient." My experience has been, that enabling simply prolongs the pain and makes change and healing impossible. I also believe our being "hard-liners" as we were once described, saved our son's life.

But our children have always also known, that if you truly want to change, I will be your biggest support ever. And when you are successful, I will be first in line to celebrate with you. Because I love you, and there's not a thing you can do about it.

This was a day of celebration for us all. Our tears of pain and anguish have turned to tears of joy. Sean and Daniela have been clean for almost four years now, and we are so proud of them. If this were not the case, they would not have been able to see Ella. We want her to be safe and to have healthy relationships.

I could not imagine not thanking my Heavenly Father for this miracle, because I know all blessings come from Him. We are here to build and strengthen our families, and He wants us to be successful. 


  1. Kim, I loved that! I know it takes courage to open up to things, but that's what connects people. Thanks for your genuine and honest post. I'm sure you had many tears just writing it. Great pictures too. Steve and I think Sean and Daniela look so grown up in the picture. Thanks!

  2. What a wonderful story. As an adoptive mom, I love to hear happy stories of birthparent reunions!

    My husband and I worked as weekend parents at Family Support and Treatment Center when we were students at UVSC and BYU. It's a wonderful place!

    1. I couldn't agree more! Bless you for working with those wonderful kids and families at FSTC.

  3. I'm in tears again Kim! I dropped you a mail. Mazeltov on such a big step towards a righteous goal! x

  4. This is so amazing! In tears again! Love your story!

  5. Kim,

    I came across your blog somehow and I was so excited! I have been wanting to comment for a while now and this post really made me tear up. You have such a beautiful family and I am so glad you shared this beautiful day with us. I am adopted as well and have a unique story so I am always interested in hearing other people's stories. Ella looks so much like Kate, I can't believe it! Remember when you helped me put together a scrapbook for my high school sweetheart? I hope you are doing well. Tell Kate hi from me!

    Love, Stephanie (Davis) Jepson

  6. your story is beautiful... thanks for sharing... I've thought about it often the past week.

  7. I hope you don't mind me reading through your blog. I found your life through a pinterest search for Relief Society Birthday activities and it's led me to your beautiful and thoughtfully shared life. I love this post. I love how you share everything, all the pictures, all the reasons, all the emotions. Simple and beautiful. That little Ella is one lucky girl to have such great parents/grandparents in her life. And I'm so glad you chose the hard road and requested consequences. Shows how loving of a mom you are.

    Thank you!

  8. Thank you, all of you, for sharing your thoughts about our experience. It's difficult to put yourself out there and risk judgement and criticism. You are all so supportive and loving. It means the world to us.