USA (MNN) – November is National Adoption Month in the United States.
Bethany Christian Services is celebrating it with those who have gone through the adoption process like Stephanie Bernet.
“My story goes super far back. It’s kind of a unique one. Adoption has been a major part of my life,” Bernet says.
“My parents were unable to have children. So, they looked into adoption and they actually met my birth mother three months before I was born. So, the whole thing was pretty planned.”
Bernet’s adoptive parents formed a relationship with her birth mother and landed on the decision to have a semi-open adoption, this would entail sending pictures and letters every few months to update her on how Bernet was doing.
Bernet was born in September and when December rolled around, her adoptive mother was going to send the first batch of photos and letters, but she decided because of the close proximity, that Bernet’s birthmother should visit.
An Open Adoption
“I’m 26 years old. Back in 1992, it wasn’t quite as common for adoptions to be completely open,” Bernet says. “But my birthmother came over and saw me. My mom let her take me upstairs and sing me to bed, and ever since then, my adoption has been completely open.”
She says this relationship was uniquely special and she was extremely fortunate to have three parents who loved her and were open with her.
This was especially helpful as she grew up. Bernet says when she was an adoptee, kids could be mean and believed the stereotype that her birth mother gave her up because she didn’t want her.
Bernet says she could look to her birth mother who was always there to explain why she chose adoption and answer her questions.
“It just created a really wonderful environment growing up, knowing why she chose adoption, knowing that it wasn’t because she didn’t care about me. It wasn’t because she didn’t want me. It was truly because she didn’t feel at that time in her life, she could provide me with the life that she wanted me to have.”
She says that since her birthmother was present, she had an extra person who loved her and supported her at every school play and soccer game.
Today, Bernet says they still see each other once a month.
“We have a truly, truly special relationship.”
When Bernet was 20, she finally decided to reach out and meet her birth father.
“I sat down with my adoptive father and just kind of asked how he felt about it because I didn’t want him to feel that I was searching for my ‘long lost’ father. I had a wonderful father. I was just kind of curious. Half of me came from a human being that I had never even seen a picture of before,” Bernet says.
She reached out to him and they met.
“We sat down and he immediately just broke down and he apologized.”
Bernet says he had been very nervous leading up to their first meeting and thought she would have feelings of resentment or hatred towards him.
“My adoptive parents did such an amazing job with the way they raised me and the way they taught me about adoption, that I never had a single negative feeling towards him.”
She and her birthfather have grown in their relationship over the last six years, and last year for her birthday, her biological parents took her out for lunch together.
“It was the first time they had seen each other since the day I was born,” Bernet says.
“I can’t even imagine how nerve-wracking that was for them… For them to put all of those nerves and those feelings aside because it was something that they knew it would mean so much to me, I could never thank them enough for what they did for me when I was born [and] for that really special day a year ago.”
Bernet says the gift of adoption made this possible.
Both Sides of the Adoption Spectrum
However, Bernet has experienced both sides of the adoption spectrum.
“A cool little twist to my story is that at 19, I actually found myself pregnant and I was in the exact same situation that my birth mother was in,” she says.
“I called my adoptive parents right when I found out that I was pregnant. They were nothing but supportive. And then, I called my birthmother, and again, she was nothing but supportive. And having her while I was going through the process of choosing an adoption plan for my own child was the most helpful thing to have someone that had walked in those shoes.”
With the help of her birth mother and parents, she found parents for her son.
In August 2012, her son was born and now she has an open adoption with him and his parents.
Bernet says his parents named him Jeremiah after Jeremiah 29:11:
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Today, Bernet is involved with Bethany outreaches. She shares her story with other adoptees and adoptive parents, and she hopes to one day have a child of her own and adopt a child as well.
Header photo courtesy of Stephanie Bernet.