Opening up the possibilities.
Jeff and Amy wanted to be there for the birth of their soon-to-be-adopted son. The Hilliard couple now laughs over the fact that when they stepped off the plane in Arizona they had little more than a used car seat, luggage and their biological daughter, Jaelyn, then 5. They would buy diapers there, while a dresser drawer in their hotel room would serve as a makeshift crib.
The family had started the adoption process two years prior, but when the call came that they finally had been matched with a birth mother, they had barely a week to prepare before the Arizona woman's labor would be induced and their son born.
Jeff shared the story of how they met mother and son together in a Phoenix hospital room: "She was changing his diaper and she turned around and handed him to Amy and said, 'Here you go.' I just couldn't wrap my head around it."
Amy tearfully talked of the birth mother's sacrifice: "She did that for the child. It had to have been hard for anybody to do that."
"(Parents) learn more in that 30-minute meeting than they'll ever get in a 15-page document," said Nancy Burley, executive director of Adoption Circle, a private Columbus adoption agency. Burley compared the adoptive experience to the proverbial monster-under-the-bed: "Adults are fearful of what they can't see and what they don't know."
Burley said when the two sides meet and mystery is removed, it eases a lot of anxieties for all involved.
Jeff understands. Like his son, he is also adopted but the details about his family of birth remain a mystery: "For years I've wondered who my biological parents are, what they are like, and if I have biological siblings."
He said this is one of the reasons why the couple chose to have a level of openness in the adoption of their son.
Gehrig will be 2 in June. His parents plan to introduce the concept of adoption to their son in the next year or so. Burley said that's wise: "If you start sharing information from the very beginning, then that is what's normal to the child. They don't know anything else."
Jeff and Amy (who asked not to share their last name for this story) will one day give Gehrig copies of the letters they still send his birth mother as well as several mementos she wanted him to have. While they were content to tuck their son in a dresser drawer those first few days, they promise that details of his adoption won't be tucked away.
"We want him to grow up with it," said Jeff, "so it's always a part of him and part of his story."