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Open adoption brings families together for Gabriel

Nineteen-year-old Lauren sat alone in an airplane full of passengers. She listened as the jet engines roared and the plane raced down the runway. She felt the nose of the plane rise as it lifted off the tarmac. She was returning home.

The former high school homecoming queen felt trapped in the reoccurring thought, “How could I have let this happen?” She was pregnant.

Lauren knew before she left for Spain. She and her sister Raven were enrolled in a study abroad program and in the “spirit of continuing to make bad decisions,” she did not tell her parents.

Now that they knew, they insisted she come back to North Carolina. Four hours into the flight, the pilot announced the plane was returning to Madrid. Her world turned upside down. Terrorists had attacked the World Trade Center. It was September 11, 2001.

Lauren’s mind raced. Terrorists. Pregnancy. Panicked parents. She went back to Sevilla not knowing when she could return to the United States. She attended her classes and finished the semester.

“My faith was important to me,” she says. “I had always done my best to put Christ at the center of my life. But when I went to college, I began doing things I knew I should not be doing. I began dating a guy—someone I should not have been with.”

Abortion was never even considered. Lauren imagined she would parent her child. Then her mother brought up adoption. Lauren began considering the possibility as she thought about what would be best for her child. She did not trust the birth father. It would be a chaotic life.

“I returned home in December, six months pregnant,” Lauren recalls. “I looked up Christian Adoption Services and called. Sheryl Naylor came and explained adoption and what it would look like. I felt no condemnation, only God’s love.”

There are always questions when considering adoption. Lauren worried her baby might be adopted by someone who wouldn’t love him. She wanted to know her child would be adopted by a family who kept his best interests at heart: “It was my biggest hesitation. ‘Who was going to adopt my baby?’”

Lauren found out about something new. “Open adoption” had been legalized in North Carolina in 2001. It was 2002, only a few months before her baby’s birth.

“An open adoption allows the birth mom to pick the family,” Lauren says. “You get to meet the adoptive family and have a relationship with them in varying degrees. This was my answer. This would be Christian Adoption Services’ (CAS) first open adoption.”

Lauren felt peace. She was not placing her child and walking away. “People associate adoption with a child not being wanted. It was just the opposite. I made the decision to protect my baby from an uncertain, possibly harmful future. I chose an open adoption to be involved in his life—so he would know he was wanted and loved.”

Finding a family that was willing to have an open adoption was not easy. It was new and families in the state were unsure. Lauren ended up choosing a couple from Minnesota. (Adoptive families now embrace open adoption as best practice and CAS no longer recruits or accepts adoptive families from outside the Carolinas.)

A week before Lauren was due, Laura and Joel Tvedt came and spent the entire week with her. “Immediately, we fell in love with each other,” Lauren recalls. “They were loving and sweet people. I felt God affirming our decisions every step of the way.”

On March 28 at 10:32 p.m., on Joel’s birthday, Gabriel was born.

Lauren was released from the hospital and Gabriel went with his family. The Tvedts stayed two more weeks, easing the separation for Lauren.

Laura began emailing immediately when they returned home. She and Lauren agreed to their first meeting after the adoption when Gabriel was 19 months old. The Tvedts had come back to North Carolina to adopt another child.

Lauren was building her life. Healing was taking place. She enrolled at NC State to become a social worker. She met, fell in love, and married Jeff Gilmore. They have four children and have been married for 21 years. After 16 years working for Child Protective Services, Lauren began serving at CAS three years ago.

Laura and Lauren kept up with each other’s children, what their interests were, and how they were doing in school. The families vacationed together. Laura and Lauren were determined to be a part of each other’s lives despite the distance between their homes.

“Here were two families who came together for the purpose of one child, Gabriel,” Lauren says. “We just became one big family.”

The last time Lauren saw Laura, she and Gabriel came to celebrate Lauren’s daughter Laelle’s first birthday. Gabriel was 15. The siblings are both March babies, born 21 days apart.

“We had so much fun together,” Lauren remembers. “I had no idea how in just a few months it would all change when Gabriel called, devastated. Through tears, he told me Laura was in the hospital and wasn’t expected to make it through the night. She was 42.”

Gabriel had lost his mother. Laura had loved and nurtured him to be the young man he was becoming. Lauren had lost her close friend. The Gilmores were on the next plane.

“We spent time together—our families grieving,” Lauren says. “Later, I would call Gabriel and text. We prayed together and I shared Bible verses. Laura and Joel had showed him Jesus, and now it was his faith that would pull him through.”

After graduation, Gabriel came to North Carolina to attend college. He is 22 and has begun a career here. He returns to Minnesota to be with his family three or four times a year.

“Grief and loss coexist with hope, joy, and peace,” Lauren asserts. “I made some bad decisions. I was completely broken and went through heartache, but I never regret placing Gabriel for adoption. God did this right.”

Lauren now counsels pregnant women who are placing their babies for adoption. Having gone full circle, she understands. Adoption is a redemptive story, one where God restores and heals brokenness. There is no condemnation, only God’s love.

Are you facing an unexpected pregnancy and considering your options? You're not alone. Connect with us to learn more about the adoption process, and explore how open adoption might be the right path for you.

Written by Jim Edminson, Editor Charity & Children

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