A little over 2 years ago, Stephanie, her husband and their daughters, Carson and Sawyer officially became a family of four. Today, Stephanie is sharing with us their challenging, beautiful, emotional and sometimes overwhelming journey. The incredible thing is that as long as you believe in something strongly enough and have hope, magical things can really happen!
Hi there, my name is Stephanie Duncan. I am a stay-at-home momma with two beautiful girls. I do styling and freelance social media, in addition to authoring Her New Tribe. My background is in Fashion, and while I enjoy staying involved and having a creative outlet, being a good wife and mother are my number one priorities.
My husband and I were able to have one biological child without help, although it took far longer then we had hoped. After Carson was born we almost immediately began trying for a second. After years of disappointment and struggle we felt it was time to try another approach. Fertility treatments were never something that either of us felt comfortable with. I have a history of anxiety and depression and worried about continuing to be mad at my body and isolate myself in the experience from my husband. We also live a very natural life, pursuing homeopathic remedies when possible, using nontoxic products, eating whole organic foods. We didn't want to sacrifice our beliefs to pursue the fertility treatments. I suppose our list of reasons is very long…but the short version is that fertility treatments felt wrong for us and adoption felt right. We decided in a single night and never questioned it, even in the worst parts of the process.
Once we had decided, we rented a cabin the very next day and got out of town. We wanted to have time to really think about our decision and celebrate it before others could chime in. We hit the bookstore on the way out of town and spent time reading and talking about all the possibilities. It was a great time for us to really grieve not having any more children naturally and have closure, so that we could be really excited about the new opportunity and journey ahead. When we came home from the mountains we shared the news. Everyone was incredibly supportive, but cautious and clearly scared for us. No one in our family had adopted, so we were trailblazing!
We began our process focused on International adoption. Because of the timeline, the age of the babies, and my health history, we discovered that domestic was a better fit. After interacting with several agencies, we made a decision to look for an attorney instead. I wanted to feel safe and protected, and have someone that could answer my questions and concerns the whole way through. We found an amazing AAAA attorney here in Atlanta. We knew that their database would be smaller and it could take longer, but we are not impatient people, especially when it came to this. We were matched with a local agency here that was started by another QuadA attorney, for our home study. That part was tedious and not fun, but we came out of the process feeling more certain and clearer then ever before that this was the right decision for us.
As a creative I latched onto the idea of the profile. I thought it was by far the most important thing to connect with the birth mothers. Instead of traditional photography and pages of details, we went with candid shots and over-sized images. The book was full of our life. We made lists of things that we loved, we included artwork that I found on Etsy and had a Family Tree made to be included. I worked with a graphic design student on the layout and printed it locally with bright color and quality paper. We spent $1500 on our profile, which I know is a lot, but you have one chance to make an impression on the birth mother. She is given 20+ books and yours has to stand out. I’m proud to say that all of the birth mothers that were presented with our book all chose us. The other 40+ books I had printed were sent to family members as gifts because we never needed them!
As far as our story goes…I dropped a few of our profiles off the to attorney and within a week or so we got a call. Everything moved very quickly, but we met with our first birth mother within days of finding out about her. Without going into much detail, we were involved with birth mother for months. We supported her entire family as they moved back in together, and personally drove back and forth to meet with her and her attorney. Ultimately and just days before the baby was born, we found out that she had been completely dishonest with us. The birth father was very much in the picture and the relationship had not ended, despite her being reunited with her husband and other children. We were heartbroken. The nursery was sent up in our home, our bags were packed for the hospital...I had even brought our daughter Carson to meet her and her family…it was a complicated situation. On top of the emotional strain, financially it was devastating and not none of it recoverable.
Our failure with the first, lead to success with the second - three weeks later we got the call from our Social Worker, the one who had completed our Home Study. There was a baby girl in the hospital, born just days before, and we were being considered. There was no adoption plan because the mother did not realize how far along she was. There was no prenatal and a lot of unknowns, but there was a healthy baby and we were being considered because they needed someone ready to go.
We got that call Tuesday, met Sawyer Wednesday, and took her home on Thursday. It was a terrifying time. We were holding our breath for 10 days through Revocation and had a champagne toast over her bed when it was over. Although the process wasn't easy we were incredibly lucky to have, in less then a year, made the decision to adopt and had our daughter home with us. We met the birth mother in person at the start of the next year, once she had some time to recover. That is the only time that we have seen or spoken with her. We had some complications when we realized that the birth father was not her significant other who had signed away his rights, but after going through the necessary steps we finalized in April!
We have a completely open adoption. Personally we think that it’s important to be open with everyone involved even if it makes you feel vulnerable. Our daughter Carson has been involved the entire time. It was hard to make that decision, but their relationship has benefited from it. There is no one that loves Sawyer more, or that Sawyer loves more then her big sister! We send photographs and a letter four times a year to the birth mother's step-mother, as she requested. We set up an email for the birth mother that we send the same letter and pictures to, although we have never heard anything in response.
We do not have any plans for more children. We feel very blessed and very complete. My husband likes to tell the story of when we met Sawyer and compare it to when he met Carson. He always says…equally intense, but completely different. He was moved by the delivery and birth process, but he was equally moved by the crazy journey of adoption that led us to the NICU late one night. As soon as we walked up to the cradle and saw her we just knew. She turned her head and looked at us like “where have you two been?”
When you are in it, you might think that it feels impossible or crazy, but I can tell you that when it actually happens, when you meet your child…it suddenly seems completely natural and normal, like that was exactly the way it was supposed to be. Adoption changed our lives, not just because it provided us with this incredible child and family, but because it really instilled a strong sense of hope and faith in us. It showed us what we are really capable of as a team and a family, and we now know that pretty much anything is possible if we work together and really believe in it!
Thank you, Stephanie for sharing your heartfelt story! xo
P.S: Also, Katie's, Larissa's and Kevin's beautiful stories.
P.P.S: Plus, my thoughts on the series.
(Photos by Kate Belle, Alan Matthews and Stephanie)