"We are now one family and all of that is because Brandy made a brave, selfless, beautiful decision," says Heather Dickerson.
It's an incredible, intimate video now being shared with the world. That's why Motherly has nominated it to be part of our "This is: birth" series. The camera captured the moment when a mom met her new baby for the very first time, but that mom, Heather Dickerson, wants viewers to know about another mother who wasn't in front of the camera for that video but will always be in her heart.
Dickerson's daughter, Adela, was born April 30 to 30-year-old Brandy Griffin, a fellow mom who made the choice to make an adoption plan for Adela. "Really Brandy's the hero. She's the one who had to break her own heart." Dickerson tells Motherly.
To Dickerson, Adela isn't a branch being transplanted from one family tree to another, but a special limb that will forever connect two trees, making each stronger. "We are now one family and all of that is because Brandy made a brave, selfless, beautiful decision," she says.
Speaking with Motherly, Griffin says she made the decision to make an adoption plan during a tumultuous time in her life. Still reeling from the loss of her daughter to Sudden Infant Death syndrome in 2008, she'd recently ended a relationship and was caring for her young son as a single mother when she learned she was pregnant with Adela.
"I just made the decision that I wanted her to have a life that I wasn't capable of giving her at this time," she explains. "I browsed the 'hoping to adopt' pages on Facebook, and there were about five different couples that I was speaking back and forth with, but Heather would literally text me daily and her texts would bring me to tears."
Dickerson and her husband Brent had already adopted once—they have a two-year-old daughter, Willa—and they were hoping to add another child to their family when Griffin found them on Facebook. It seemed like the perfect fit.
After a few weeks of chatting, on Christmas Day 2017, the Dickersons learned Griffin had chosen them to be her daughter's parents. "That was the beginning of the journey and the best Christmas gift ever," Dickerson remembers.
When Griffin and Adela's father resumed their relationship during her pregnancy, she says he too fell in love the Dickersons when they came to visit from out-of-state. It was a journey they would make again months later, when they finally got the news that Griffin was going into labor.
"Brandy's water broke on Sunday night at 11:30 and by 12:30 Brent and I and our 2-year-old daughter Willa were in our car, driving across the country to get to Louisiana from Michigan as quickly as we could."
Griffin's family—including her sister Haley Griffin of Something Southern Photography—helped keep the Dickersons updated as their daughter entered the world, and when the family of three arrived at the hospital Haley was there to greet them. She and her fiance Johnny Cheramie kept the cameras rolling as the two families officially merged.
"The pictures and video are so powerful," says Dickerson, who feels the images are even more special because they were created by Adela's biological aunt. She says the way they were captured is the perfect manifestation of the beauty of open adoption.
"[We're] embracing the fact that she does have two families who are now one and I would never ever rip her away from her first mom or from her grandma or her aunts and uncles down here," she says, envisioning a future where Adela knows all about the other parts of her family tree, and can just pick up the phone and make a call if she has questions about where she came from.
Griffin agrees, and she hopes sharing Adela's story helps mothers on either end of the adoption equation see the beauty that's possible in open adoption.
Helping others is important to Griffin, who plans to keep advocating for open adoption and hopefully help other women extend their family in the way she did. "It's been the most amazing experience of my life next to having my children," she says.
An amazing experience and a truly amazing gift.