When a young woman comes to Mercy experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, she is given the opportunity to prayerfully determine if she would like to parent or place her child for adoption by participating in our Basic Decision Making classes. Should the resident make the decision to place her child for adoption, she works with our adoption staff to choose a family for her child. Mercy has some of the most amazing adoptive parents and we are fortunate to maintain contact with many of them. We recently had a Mercy adoptive family visit the Nashville home with their son Rocco who was born in 2012. His parents shared with us that he loves Mercy, calls Nashville his first home and has been asking to visit since he was 4 years old. We asked the family if they would share some of their adoption story with us.
Why did you choose to adopt through Mercy?
When it comes to why we adopted through Mercy, it was completely God’s leading. We had known about Mercy and had heard Nancy speak, but we hadn’t thought of adoption through Mercy until a friend nudged us in that direction.
We had gone through the heart-breaking experience of a failed foster-adoption. We had cared for our 1st son for a year, and then unexpectedly, he was reunited with his family. It was devastating. Our social worker said we had to take time to heal before our next potential placement.
While our hearts were mending, a close friend visited the Nashville home. When she came back, she came to my office and said, “When you are ready, I really think you should look at Mercy” to which she shared what she had seen while in the home. I found myself on Mercy’s website that night downloading the adoption application.
How have you talked with Rocco about his adoption story?
We have let Rocco know he was adopted since the beginning. We told him he was a Mercy Baby born in Nashville. We had photos of our birth friends, the individuals who were a part of our adoption journey, in Rocco’s room when he was smaller and have a special suitcase that he can access at any time with photos and mementos from his first days in Tennessee. We celebrate our adoption day each year with a special family date and treat. We also recall our Nashville adventures around his birthday, sharing all our pictures of our first days as a family. Both times of the year create space for us to provide Rocco more details or see if he has questions about his adoption. We always follow his lead.
In explaining adoption, we started by saying (and still tell him) he is the greatest gift God ever gave us. We shared how we prayed for him, and how God brought us together through his Birth Mother and Mercy. We wanted Rocco to be proud of his roots but be honest and recognize that there is grief and loss with adoption.
When Rocco was three, our friend who was pregnant came over for dinner, and Rocco was very curious about her growing belly. We explained to him there was a baby growing inside her. Rocco wide-eyed and with a sense of wonder asked, “Mama, I in your belly?”
I said, “No son. In my heart, but in his Birth Mother’s belly.” Because he has seen her picture since he was small, and we talk about our birth friends regularly he knew who we were referring to.
He crawled up in my lap and then laid his head and hand on my stomach, staying there for about 10 minutes. I just rubbed his back and held him. This moment was tender and sad as I watched Rocco try to process his understanding of how children become part of a family. He then asked, “Who gets the baby?”
It took me a second, but he was trying to ask if this baby would be adopted. His first assumption was that a baby would be placed for adoption. We explained babies are always a gift from God, and that our friend would be parenting the baby in her belly, but that for some mamas, they choose to place their babies with another family.
As Rocco has gotten older, we have explained how parts of mom’s body are broken, and that we couldn’t become a family in the same way other people do.
I find adoption questions come up most in the first two months of school when a child has to tell their class about their family, or when a classmate or friend has a new sibling. In 2nd grade, he had a teacher who was an adoptive mom, and she was amazing in framing family tree assignments and conversations differently. I have found it helpful to be proactive to communicate with teachers, coaches, or caretakers that we are an adoptive family.
Please share about Rocco’s excitement & thoughts in visiting the Nashville home.
Rocco was born with a love for Tennessee and has been asking to go to Nashville since he was 4 years old. We wanted to wait until Rocco was a little bit older so he would remember visiting Mercy.
In asking Rocco why he wanted to visit Mercy he said, “I want to see the place that helped adopt me. I want to see where it all started.” He also wanted to see the photo of himself as a “baby in a suitcase” in Mercy’s Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame contains photos throughout the Nashville home of the many Mercy babies who have been parented or placed for adoption.
Rocco was excited and a bit nervous. He knew it was important and different than sightseeing at the Parthenon or Opry.
Rocco gets so excited to meet people from Tennessee. He naturally cheers for the Tennessee Titans, has Tennessee Vols memorabilia in his room, and dreams of attending the University of Tennessee – though after the trip to Nashville says he would consider Vanderbilt.
When we arrived in Nashville, he didn’t want to go to the Air B&B until he saw Mercy. So, we drove by and gave him a minute in the parking lot. Rocco feels so connected to Mercy and Tennessee.
What hopes do you have in bringing Rocco to visit Mercy?
I hope he knows how loved and valued he is. For Rocco, adoption is a badge of honor, something God orchestrated. I don’t want him to lose that. I hope he gets excited when he sees his photo in the hallway of Mercy babies and realizes he is part of a bigger story and not alone.
What words of encouragement would you give a family telling their child about their adoption story?
Do your research. Read stories of adult adoptees or meet with adoptees if you can. When people in our church found out we were adopting, we had adult adoptees share their experience with us, and another woman who had placed her son share her experience as a Birth Mother in an open adoption. Their wisdom and experiences, along with the books we read, and Mercy’s support, shaped our choice to be as open and transparent with our son.
Where there are information gaps, kids will fill with their imagination. Take photos of everything. Journal after significant meetings or moments. I was a bit obsessive about taking pictures during our placement and at the hospital but was grateful to give our son concrete images to piece his story together. I journaled after meeting our birth friends and am grateful for the details I am now able to share with our son.
Don’t be afraid. Be open, be honest, and though it may be brokenness and pain that brings a woman to choose adoption, God redeems and can create something beautiful. Adoption is such a great way to teach our children about how God has adopted us into His family.
Some friends and family thought we have been too open with Rocco, but there is nothing shameful about adoption. It is one of the bravest and most selfless acts a woman can make. Remember this is your child’s story, so be mindful of what you do share with friends and family.
I asked Rocco what he thought about his visit to Mercy or anything he would like to share with other families. He said, “I want them to know you definitely have a good experience. It was pretty nice and looked new. My favorite part was the baby Hall of Fame.”
I asked him if he wanted to change his photo. He replied, “No mom. It is a classic.”
If you want to learn more about our residential services for someone facing an unplanned pregnancy, click here. For more information about our adoption services, click here.