Openness to Life Through Open Adoption

Dan Bartleson
Communications Services Director

On Nov. 20th, in a packed Capitol Building Rotunda, eight families finalized adoptions. Catholic Social Services of Montana served two of the families on their journey to adoption. Their stories show that each adoption is as unique as the families and children involved.

When Adam Stoll called his wife, it’s no surprise that Sarah was in the mountains of Nevada. The couple spends plenty of time enjoying the outdoors hiking and camping. The spring break of 2018 was a little different though. They were apart, with Adam back home in Helena, and by the time Sarah was home, they would be parents. Bethany had just come into the world and Adam was driving to meet her, so of course, he asked Sarah “Guess where I’m going.”

Bethany’s Birth Mother had selected the Stoll’s from among several profiles of potential adoptive families. Profiles include thorough background information and evaluations by child-care authorities and experts. For Bethany’s Birth Mother, the personal information and letter to expectant parents made the difference. She liked that they had no other children and that they love the outdoors, so she contacted Jan Petek with Catholic Social Services just prior to giving birth. Jan called Adam with the news that there was a baby to pick up, Adam called Sarah, and the Stoll’s adoption journey suddenly had an end, and a new beginning, in sight.

After trying to conceive for several years and considering In Vitro Fertilization they pursued adoption. Sarah said, “We looked at the cost of IVF and couldn’t see how we could do it when there are kids just waiting for families.” Adam and Sarah placed their hopes for a child in God’s hands, with Sarah adding, “We see it as God’s providence, that we’re supposed to be Bethany’s parents.” The timing of an open adoption (where birth parents and adoptive parents are known to one another) is a tricky business with layers of moving parts. The intersection of the lives of adoptive parents, expecting parent(s) and adoption requirements are carefully coordinated by case workers like Jan. In her work she sees adoptions that unfold over months, don’t come to fruition or, in the end, develop quickly.

Their sudden final step meant Adam would meet Bethany and her Birth Mother for the first time that day. Sarah would meet them a short time later, and they would keep in touch with Bethany’s Birth Mother. Adam spent two days in the hospital before Bethany would come home and, with Sarah, they would start their new life together. Sarah said, “It was totally worth the journey, God’s timing is perfect even though it’s not how we would have planned it.” Bethany will be hiking and camping and enjoyinging the outdoors right away. With Sarah’s roots in Spokane, Wash., Bethany will very likely “run” her first Bloomsday fun-run in the spring.

Chris, Bristol, Tracy and Paisley Grabowska

Chris and Tracy Grabowska were very happy after adopting their daughter, Bristol, in 2011. Busy as teachers and coaches, and grateful for all they had, life was full. Seven-year-old Bristol had other ideas however and wanted a brother or sister. The family prayed and considered how to live selflessly and to provide the very best childhood for Bristol. Ultimately, their decision for open adoption led them to Paisley and to extend their family in a way only God could have foreseen.

Three weeks before Paisley’s birth, her Birth Mother chose the Grabowskas, inviting them to an ultrasound that same day. This first sign of her profound commitment to open adoption was a lot to take in. Tracy was fearful of beginning to love the child of a stranger who might not let go when the time came. “I went with a lot of trepidation,” She said. With encouragement from Chris, they heard Paisley’s heartbeat for the first time and had their first contact with Paisly’s Birth Mother. They left with ultrasound pictures of Paisley and a tremendous new hope.

Next, it was Paisley’s two families at dinner to get to know each other. Tracy and Paisley’s birth mother hit it off, leading CSSM Caseworker, Jan Petek, to jokingly ask if they were certain they didn’t already know each other. Throughout the process, Paisley’s extended birth family was very present too. Tracy began to pray that they would be accepting of Bristol who isn’t close to her Birth Mother. The two families got to know each other better and, in an answer to Tracy’s prayer, Bristol calls Paisley’s Birth Grandmother Grandma with great affection.

Ever faithful to her powerful commitment to Paisley, her Birth Mother invited Tracy to attend the birth. Tracy was in the delivery room and was the first to hold Paisley as soon as she was born. Shortly after, the Grabowskas received her in their own room on the maternity ward. Before the adoption celebration at the Capitol, it was the Grabowska’s turn to invite Paisley’s Birth Mother to attend an event that impacted both of their families.

The complex but worthwhile child-centered approach to open adoption speaks volumes about the powerful mission of Catholic Social Services of Montana. As we welcome Christ in the manger this Christmas, Adam and Sarah Stoll’s last-minute miracle at the birth of Bethany, the Grabowska’s openness to new life and Paisley’s Birth Mother’s profound commitment to her daughter are inspiring examples of welcoming Him in the midst of all we experience.