Iakwe, Jera | Hello, Friend

Guest Writer: Jade Bommarito

I’ll be honest, when my husband and I first started exploring the idea of adoption, we had our research cut out for us. We had no clue where to begin, and the towering mountain of questions before us seemed slightly unsurmountable. 

I sat down at my computer one night and typed “adoption” into the search bar. I kid you not, when I hit enter, several pictures of puppies filled my screen.  “Okay,” I thought, as I began to re-enter my refined search. “Human adoption…”

We were off to an interesting start, and I quickly realized how much I had yet to learn. 

There were only two things I knew for certain at the time [or at least thought I knew]. The first was that adoption had long been a deep desire of my heart; I felt certain that it would be the primary way our family would grow, and we’d get to the end somehow, regardless of knowing little now. The second I was just as sure of – open adoption was NOT for me. 

I wanted to be a momma, the momma. And the motherly instinct inside of me propelled me excitedly into the journey. 

It wasn’t new; it was something I had thought about for many years prior. There was a particular moment when I was 19 years old that the belief I would one day adopt was solidified in my heart. The moment came entangled in a sweet relationship with a feisty and mischievous second grade boy that I met when working at an after-care program in college. Although he was always causing trouble, there was something about him that made me love him. 

One day, he came up to me on the playground and said, “I really want you to be my mom. Will you adopt me?” I was young and a little naive, but I replied the best I could. “Oh, that’s so sweet,” I told him. “Thank you for saying that. That makes my heart feel good, but I’m sure that’d make your momma sad to hear you say you want a different momma.” 

 “I don’t have a momma,” he looked back at me and replied. “I have a foster mom and dad that I live with. But I don’t have a mom.” 

I had no idea. And in that moment, my heart broke. At his face. At his words. At the thought of him not having someone to call “his”. I remember leaving my shift that day and calling my mom on the way home. I was 19 and single, but I told her, “I’m either going to be a foster mom or adopt all my children. I just need you to know that’s my plan…”

And it has been, from that moment on. 

I dreamed of being a foster mom and eventually adopting an older child – maybe out of system or maybe overseas – but someone who needed a family. Someone who could call me “his” or “hers”, and they would be “mine”. We would be a family. 

Then I met my husband. That dream held firm and me, and we talked early on about adopting one day. He was open to the idea and willing to grow our family this way. However, when we began this journey, he expressed that he felt strongly about beginning his fatherhood journey with an infant. I wanted to honor that in him.

And so we shifted from foster care and international adoption to a state-side, domestic adoption of a newborn

This brings me back to #2 on the list of things I “already knew”: open adoption was not for me. 

I don’t even like admitting this now, but it was my hope in leaning towards foster care or international adoption that an open relationship with the birth family would be highly unlikely. I was headstrong on maintaining that distance even as we stepped into this new direction.

The idea of sharing a child with another family seemed, well, a little too close for comfort. My mind swirled with a long list of unfounded fears and unanswered questions. What if she likes them more than us? What if she never feels like “mine”? And what if things get REALLY weird and the birth family starts randomly showing up at our house?

I was so busy being bombarded by my own anxiety about the ways open adoption could negatively impact me that I never once stopped to think of all the ways it could positively impact my child. Our child. Maybe even the birth mother. Maybe even myself. 

I remember being on the phone with a representative of an adoption agency who told me that in a nation where social media is so prevalent, “closed adoptions are nearly impossible”.  I yielded to the reality in that moment, pushed past my fears, and decided if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. 

In the days and weeks that followed, I researched the heck outta open adoption. I watched documentaries, read articles written by psychologists, and found blogs of families’ personal experiences. 

I silently cheered myself on with a “fake it until you make it” outlook when it came to the idea of embracing open adoption and trudged forward. So little did I know, but it got me here…

After a handful of unsuccessful adoptions, we were matched with the woman we call Mama N. It was then, when I was first thrust into actually experiencing “open adoption”, that God completely wrecked me. 

Our adoption attorney connected us through facebook, and let me know Mama N was waiting to hear from me. I was incredibly nervous and under the impression she didn’t speak much English. But with a bit of help from our adoption attorney, I was able to pick up a word in her language and sent the first message… 

“iakwe, N!” I wrote. 

“iakwe Jade! How are you?” she responded. 

Another fear was silenced, and we immediately began asking each other questions. We shared brief family history and our likes and dislikes. She shared why she was choosing to place her baby and I shared why we wanted to adopt.  

Before long, I started looking forward to our nightly chats, something I never anticipated. She was an open book, kind, funny, and down to earth. During one of our nightly chats, she asked me if she could consider me her “jera”, or close friend. I may have reverted to my 5 year old self for a moment as I squealed with excitement and eagerly responded, “Absolutely!” 

After what felt like an eternity of late night conversations, I received a selfie from Mama N. It was three days after her expected due date, and she was draped in a hospital gown, lying in a bed, hooked up to an IV. 

Her message underneath the photo read: “Its time.”

My husband and I immediately booked the next flight out of Nashville and made it to Salt Lake City seven hours later. We weren’t quite there and were so worried we’d miss the birth! I texted Mama N and told her, “We’re coming as fast as we can!”

“Don’t worry, jera. She will wait for you.”

My husband an I signed into the labor and delivery floor at 12:00 AM, and Mama N’s daughter was born one minute later.

Even though we became jeras over messenger, I was nervous that it would be awkward in person. I was wrong. 

“I’m so glad you guys made it!” were Mama N’s first words to us as we held her baby. 

The time we spent together over the next couple days at hospital were precious. We laughed. We cried (and by we I mean me. Mama N politely asked me to stop, informing me that it was not common for people to cry so openly in her culture. Ha.)  We laughed some more. We swooned over baby girl. We hugged. We shared meals. We practiced words in her native tongue. We were together.

Those moments in the hospital were more meaningful than I ever imagined they could be, and the time we spent together even after she was discharged are forever imprinted on my heart.

They were and will continue to be some of the happiest and saddest moments of my entire life, and I can’t wait to tell my daughter about them. 

It’s funny, looking back now. I was always prepared to fall in love with a child, but never once did I expect to fall in love with that child’s mother. 

Today, I can’t imagine my life without Mama N. She’s smart and funny and has a smile that lights up an entire room. She’s passed all of those traits down to our daughter. She’s one of the feistiest women I know, yet also the most gentle and most kind. 

Besides just the joy of just knowing her, she also invites us into our daughter’s birth culture. Mama N continues to help me practice my kajin majol. She shares with us popular island music and artists. She has even gifted us cultural headpieces and woven baskets to use as decor. I mean, how cool is that?! That I can give my daughter something that I would never be able to give her on my own. We get to do it together.

And that’s not even the best part. Do you want to know what is? The best part about open adoption? My daughter will always have access to answers.

My daughter will never question why her first mama placed her. She will never wonder what her birth family looks like or where they came from. She won’t have unanswered questions about her family history or a family tree she can’t complete because Mama N will be there to talk to. During times of confusion and frustration about certain parts of her story, Mama N will be able to reassure her of her love. 

She’ll be able to give her something I cannot, and vice versa, I know. 

But there will be no empty void, no mystery, no unanswered questions. Our daughter will grow up knowing both her adoptive family and her birth family, and she will get to witness the unlikely friendship between both her mamas.  

I can’t help but notice what a beautiful excerpt that is – from a story written by so much trauma and loss. 

God knew I needed to be wrecked by open adoption. He removed my selfishness and fear in order to follow the plans He made. He led me to my daughter and to the mama who loved her first. 

What a gift. I love my beautifully blended baamle and the life we get to live.

Anij Emman // God is good.