The following guest post was created by Ruthie Hart.
It’s been almost three years since we brought our son Gideon home through adoption and there are moments that still take my breath away. For example, when I think of his beautiful first mom and the brave decision she chose to place her son with us. Or when I realize all that I’ve learned through the process. If there is one thing that I have learned from adopting a child it’s that most things in life are out of my control and I am slowly coming to terms with letting my love for that control go. I’ve also learned that every adoption story is incredibly unique and different and for us– “thrilling” is a word I will forever use to describe our story.
About Our Adoption Story
I still remember where I was standing in my kitchen on November 8th, 2016, when my phone rang. It was a quiet Tuesday afternoon. My littles, Ford and Lucy, were asleep in their rooms and I continued to wonder when we would get “the call.” The phone rang and the familiar voice of our social worker Amanda filled my ear. She asked me if my husband Jon was home. I grabbed him from his office and she told us to sit down. She told us that a baby boy had been born the night before in Las Vegas and asked if we were interested in being his parents. Gulp.
Two long and challenging pregnancies had brought us our first two children and here I was having to decide in a matter of minutes if I wanted this baby boy. Without skipping a beat I squealed “YES!” and looked at my husband, then realizing this should probably be a joint decision.
The next few days were an absolute whirlwind of emotions and preparations. On November 12th, 2016 we met our son for the first time.
Recording Our Story
The memories are becoming cloudier as the years go by but one thing I treasure is the photos we have of the way we became a family of five. We had someone shoot video and take photos of the first few seconds with our son and I go back and look at them at least once a month after the kids have gone to bed. They always bring me to tears and right back to the moment I laid eyes on Gideon. With my biological babies, I took weekly pictures of my growing tummy and have 10+ ultrasound photos of their squishy little faces throughout my pregnancy. I have photos of their baby showers, our “babymoon” vacations, each of their perfectly planned out nurseries, and even a few journal entries I wrote as I anticipated their births.
I have none of that for our son Gideon, and that is okay. It’s a weird thing, falling in love with someone you didn’t know existed the night before. Laying your eyes on a precious baby who doesn’t share your DNA and feeling your heart grow the perfect sized pocket for them. I vividly remember staring at him those first few weeks (and admittedly I still do it today) and thinking to myself, “We didn’t know, but it was you all along.”
I knew I wanted to capture so much of Gideon’s life through photos and videos so I wouldn’t forget any detail. It was important to me to remember how thrilling and exciting it was to fly across the country on a Friday night with an empty car seat in search of our son. I cherish the photos people took of me flying solo with Gideon home to Texas at two weeks old with the certificate of his first flight. I still get a lump in my throat when I see the photos of our children meeting for the first time at the Austin Airport, late at night the day before Thanksgiving.
Why I Made an Adoption Photo Book
Adoption is layered with emotions and brokenness, so I want to make sure Gideon always knows his place in our family. Hey may not share our DNA but he is just as much a part of our family as our biological babies. I may not have pictures of him as he grew in his first mom’s tummy but it is of top priority for me to capture and commemorate his childhood and his adoption story.
For the first two years of his life, I took pictures of him on the 7th, his month-birthday, in the same chair and on the same blanket. I made sure to get photos of him by himself, without his big brother and big sister smothering him with kisses and attention. I treasure the sweet photos we have of the time we spent with his first mom when he was just days old before she said her final goodbye.
As his first birthday neared, I knew I wanted to do something special with the pictures and memories we’d made over the past 12 months. One day he will feel the weight of his adoption story and unpack the emotions as an adult but I want him to look back on his life and remember love. I loved creating this baby photo book for Gideon as a reminder of the joy, love, and light he has brought into our family.
I also made a copy for his first mom so she can see her baby boy grow and smile while healing from her heartache. Adoption has been such a gift in my life, growing me, stretching me, taking me outside of my comfort zone, and teaching me that the best things in life are almost always unexpected.
How to Make an Adoption Photo Book
- Your child’s “Coming Home” day.
- Your child’s room.
- Finalization day for your adoption.
- Family pictures including parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins. Adopted children are just as much a part of the family as biological children and it is beautiful to see a big, blended family.
- Incorporate pictures of their birth parents. Seeing where they came from is so important, especially as they get older and start to wonder where certain physical and personality traits come from. Let them dream if you don’t know anything (or much) about their biological parents. Ask them, “What do you think your first mommy liked to eat for dinner?” or “What do you think your first daddy liked to do on the weekends for fun?”
- If your child came to you older without any pictures as a baby, you can leave blank spaces for them to draw what they think they looked like as a baby or what they liked to do as a toddler.
- Firsts: parents of babies are always excited to capture baby’s “firsts” such as first food, first haircut, etc and you can still do this with a child who came through adoption at an older age. Think outside the box: their first Friday family game night, their first trip to Target with mom, their first trip to the hardware store with dad, the first meal you had as a family together. Each of these moments is worth commemorating.
- Quotes, songs, or scriptures that you as a parent make you think of your child. Did you sing a certain song to try to soothe your little one to sleep those first few weeks? Or did you pray over a certain scripture as you waited for your child to come home?
Shutterfly makes it so easy for me to upload photos monthly and pop them right into pre-made photo book layouts. I pretty much used the layouts that allowed the most pictures on each page because how could I resist taking 100s of pictures of this precious baby boy? Earlier this year I wrote about how I organize my photos for our annual family yearbook, and you can read the post here.