Ashley N., birth mom
Ashley hid her pregnancy for almost six months. She was 22 years old, working a job, and attempting college after dropping out once before due to persistent health problems. She had chronic epilepsy from an old high school injury, which made daily life challenging. What started off as little jerks of movement turned into full-blown seizures. So when she learned she was pregnant, she was terrified. “You are a stranger in your body,” she said. Living with her mother at the time, afraid of what she would think, Ashley felt she needed to figure it out on her own.
Born in Louisiana to a very close-nit family, they moved to Michigan when she was a young child. They would take family trips back to Louisiana several times a year. But as the years went by, the closeness they all felt began to disappear. After her parents separated, she felt more alone than ever. Confident that she wanted to do the best she could for her child, Ashley faced the reality of the situation she was in. I can’t afford this baby. My house is not the best. I have epilepsy. This baby’s father isn’t around. I can’t do this. Her protective instincts came in, and she decided to pursue adoption.
She remembered a couple she had seen on TV who used Bethany to help them through their adoption. So, after finally telling her mother, she contacted Bethany—with about two months left in her pregnancy. Ashley was introduced to Alyssa, her pregnancy counselor, who guided her through the steps and answered every question she had.
Giving her several potential adoptive parent profile books, Alyssa encouraged Ashley to take her time. As Ashley narrowed down the books, one couple stood out. David and Dawn liked to travel, and David liked to cook. They also had a dog, a golden retriever—that’s what did it for her. When she was young, Ashley got a golden retriever after her parents separated. It was a huge comfort for her. She knew she had to meet them. Alyssa set up the meeting, and on their way, signs of early labor started. Ashley saw that as a sign that her baby had a say in the decision too.
Seven years later, Ashley is confident in her decision. Due to the openness she has with David and Dawn, she gets to witness the big and little events in her daughter’s life. “Charlotte loves to color and draw. She wants to be a fashion designer right now. We'll see where it goes in a few years. But she seems determined, and I told her stick to it.” Ashley can see that her daughter is being taken care of financially, mentally, physically, and emotionally, which gives her continued confidence in her decision.
Looking back, Ashley wishes she could have been more open during her pregnancy. She felt very lonely. “There’s a big stigma on adoption. A lot of women feel they have to keep the baby or they would be failing. But if you really look at most of the cases of open adoption, you would see the progress being made.” Because of this openness, Ashley is thankful to be able to be a part of her daughter’s life and to share things like her genetic health history and her epilepsy. She knows she did not fail; rather, she gave her daughter the chance to flourish in a life she knew she couldn’t give her.
“She is so happy and thriving, and [David and Dawn] are so welcoming and open with my visits.” Ashley is able to have a front-row seat to the beautiful life she has given her daughter through adoption. Her family that was once falling apart has now become larger and more full of hope than she could have imagined.