Adoption perspectives: A birth mom, adoptive mom, and daughter share their story

March 11, 2019

Adoption is a brave, and often hard, choice—for birth and adoptive parents. Though it’s a beautiful picture of the gospel, not everyone gets to experience their adoption story come full circle. But when it does, it’s a tangible display of God’s redemption. We get a closeup view of this through Lori Bova’s story. As a teenager, she chose adoption for her baby girl. Years later, Lori was reunited with her daughter and her adoptive mom. As Christians, all three of these women use their circumstances to testify to God’s goodness and grace through Jesus. We hope you are encouraged by their perspectives.

A birth mom’s perspective

Lori (birth mom): What were the thoughts and emotions you were wrestling with as you considered and decided on adoption? In the beginning, I had hopes to marry and parent, but the young man did not stay. Thankfully, my parents lovingly helped me navigate my options. It became apparent very quickly that I was ill-equipped in every way to parent at age 17, and that adoption would offer the best life for my baby. I wavered back and forth during my pregnancy, clinging to a hope that this knight-in-shining-armor would appear and rescue us both. The Lord surrounded me during that time by his body in a local church. Staying tethered to his Word helped me cling to the truth and not my emotions.

Lori: Did you struggle throughout the years as you remembered your daughter? If so, how were you comforted? The most difficult day was pulling out of the hospital parking lot and leaving her behind. My mom and I sobbed off and on as we drove from San Antonio, Texas, back to New Mexico. While my heart had a gaping hole, the Lord faithfully provided his perfect peace. A great comfort over the years were the annual updates her adoptive parents sent through the agency. Those photos of her smiling face from baby to teen gave me comfort that she was cared for and loved.

Lori: What are some of the hardships you’ve had to navigate as a birthmom in our society? How have you navigated them? During the late 80s in small town America, the subject of teen pregnancy was still fairly taboo, especially within the church. I often felt isolated knowing most could not identify with and would likely judge my circumstance. As I went to college and then entered my career, I carried the burden that I had to hide this “secret.” I feared that others would look and treat me differently if they knew. This journey prepared me to truly empathize with other young women facing the same. I can see how the Lord has continued to use the hardships for his glory.

Lori: What are some of the blessings of being a birthmom? Just the privilege of carrying a life in my womb was an extraordinary blessing. To see her born, both beautiful and healthy, was overwhelming. The moment I held her and kissed her sweet cheeks left a beautiful imprint on my heart. Further blessings became more apparent as I began to ask the Lord to use this very difficult circumstance and deep loss. As I matured in my faith, I knew that he would use it all. I became very active in the pro-life arena through politics, my church, and local pregnancy centers. It has been a great blessing to share with others in unplanned pregnancies the hope that only Jesus brings. The ultimate blessing came as we were reunited, and I was able to learn that she was raised by a godly family and was following Jesus herself.

An adoptive mom’s perspective

Sherril (adoptive mom): What were the circumstances that led you to adopt? Adoption has been a part of my entire life. My grandfather was an adopted child, and I have two adopted sisters. My husband and I discussed and prayed about adoption as a way to grow our family even before we knew we would experience infertility. After three years of infertility problems, we were blessed with the birth of a son, followed by secondary infertility. It was then we began the adoption process.

Sherril: Did you have any concerns or fears as you walked the adoption road? Sure, when we start a new journey there are always concerns, but when the Lord walks alongside us and gives direction he also gives peace. It seemed like a natural step for us to take.

Sherril: What were some of the events that led you to moving from a closed adoption to an open relationship with Lori? When we adopted Ella, open adoptions were not as common as they are now. There wasn’t a specific event, but it was Ella’s desire to find her birth mother that gave us the opportunity to meet Lori. We were open to Ella finding her birth mother but always encouraged her to do this when she was mature enough to handle whatever came along with this plan. Since before Ella’s birth, we had prayed for Lori, so we were always open to a relationship with her.

Sherril: What have been some of the blessings of this relationship? Have there been any difficulties that any of you have had to navigate? The greatest blessing for me is knowing that Lori lives her life submitted to our Saviour and Lord. When Ella was placed in my arms, the joy was more than I could have imagined. At the same time, this joy was tempered with the knowledge of the sense of grief and loss her birth mother was experiencing. So many times during Ella’s growing up years I prayed for Lori, that in the midst of her loss the Lord would flood her soul with a peace that only he could give. The most wonderful blessing for me is knowing that Ella will always have someone who loves her unconditionally and whom she can go to that will give her sound biblical advice. When two people release their child into the Lord’s hand, the Lord works in amazing ways.

A daughter’s perspective

Ella (daughter): How did you find out you were adopted? And did you ever wrestle with that reality? I don’t remember ever not knowing I was adopted. I’m sure there was a specific moment when I was little that my parents told me, but I just always remember knowing that I was born in my mom’s heart, not her tummy, and that it was a special way that I became part of my family. I definitely wrestled with the reality of being adopted in different seasons of my life. In a way, I had to sort through my own stages of grief over the absence of relationship and also balance that with the fullness of having amazing, godly, loving parents.

Ella: How has the Lord used your adoption for your good? How has it helped you understand him as your Father better? I don’t think there is enough ink or paper to recount the goodness of God in choosing adoption to be my story. It has shaped my worldview, which, in turn, has given me unique opportunities to serve, minister, advocate, and connect with others in ways that only someone with an adoption story can. For me, the sweetest way I see God’s goodness in my adoption is the way in which it has allowed me to tangibly experience on earth the spiritual adoption story made possible for us through Jesus’ life.  

Ella: How has your perspective on adoption changed and grown over the years? I’ve always viewed adoption as a great gift. Over the years, as I have worked hard to advocate for adoption and pro-life issues, I think the biggest shift I have made is from seeing adoption as the final result to seeing it as a part of the journey. It’s one part of a grander picture the gospel paints of God and the story of our adoption into an eternal family.

Ella: Are there any hardships related to being adopted that you’re willing to share? Are there any unique blessings or joys you’ve received as a result of being adopted? Even in the best of situations, there are hard things about being adopted. Some of them are surface-level like no one in your family looking like you or answering questions about family medical history on a questionnaire. Those things are little, but they remind you of the loss that took place. Some are more deeply rooted like feelings of abandonment, anger, and resentment.

However, the unique blessings and joys far outweigh the hardships: The joy of holding my first baby in my arms and, for the first time, knowing I shared something biologically with a person I actually knew; the blessing of reuniting with my biological mom and seeing how God is still in the business of redeeming broken things; the joy of knowing that if my earthly adoptive parents have the capacity to know and love me unconditionally, then I have no reason to doubt that God can do that for me in a perfect way.  

The perspective from a new relationship

What sparked the process in this reunification? Was this hard for you? What was that first meeting like?    

Ella: I think, in my heart, I always knew I would try to find my birth mom. There were several times I considered it, and the Lord put a pause on it. Finally, in late 2013 I felt peace about taking the steps to find her.

Lori: I had always wanted reunification to be her choice. I had also told myself over the years that it may never happen. The day the adoption agency contacted me and let me know that Ella had been in touch with them about reunification, my heart swelled. I had loved her since I knew of her beating heart. Thankfully, the agency had a process to ensure that all parties were in good places for this to be a positive step. My husband and I were both excited with the prospect. The hardest part at that point was deciding how to tell our younger children who did not yet know about Ella. The Lord graciously led us through that. They were elated to know they had an older sibling.  

The Lord also went before us for our first meeting. Of course, I prayed and thought through all the words I had never been able to share. I had saved every letter and every photo her parents had sent me. I brought them to show her. Ultimately, I know that the Lord went before us in it all.  There were no words or gifts or gestures that could express the joy of seeing her face. Ella and I had some time alone that morning. We later met up with my husband, children, mother, and grandmother. For all of us, it seemed as though we had known her all along. There were tears and laughter, grief and joy. She was the missing piece of our family.  God exhibited what forgiveness and redemption look like on that day.

Sherril: Ella was the one that got the process going, with our blessing. We felt that she was ready to pursue this. We had discussed this several times, and Ella honored our wishes to wait when we felt she wasn’t quite ready. I was a little concerned for Ella when she reunited with Lori, not knowing how it would go, but was confident the Lord had it in his hand. Our family consists of a biological son and two other adopted children who have not yet had the privilege of reunification, so there was prayer and some discussion about how this would affect their lives. The Lord continues to lead each step of the way.

Ella: It was a surreal experience for me. When you have built up a moment in your mind for your whole life, and then it happens, it can be a lot to take in. The Lord was so sweet to us in the calm and seemingly sacredness of our first meeting. It was as if he wanted to remind me that this meeting, the redemption of this relationship, was not lost on him in the full representation it was of all he has done for me.

Tell us about the dynamics of the relationship between all of you now and your relationship early on. What has it been like for each of you?

Lori: We had the privilege of being in Sherril’s home soon after we met Ella and other times later. We visited their church with them on several occasions. We were also blessed to have her parents and her sister in our home a couple of years later. There was instant love, respect, and hospitality. I know it is only from the Lord. I am grateful how he has orchestrated it all.

Sherril: As Lori said, only the Lord can work things out above and beyond what we can imagine. We have mutual love and respect for each other. We are all imperfect individuals, but when God’s love flows through our lives, our love for one another grows, and we can be at peace.

Ella: I will say that I had my adoptive parents’ full blessing to pursue reunification, and I knew, because of who they are, that it would only enrich my relationship with them. At times I’ve internally struggled with how to balance my affections and manage relationships. However, it has been beautiful to me to see both my families fall into natural places in my life.

What have been some of the blessings of this relationship? Have there been any difficulties that any of you have had to navigate?

Lori: A wondrous blessing is that our family grew. We not only added a daughter, but a son-in-law, grandchildren, and a host of extended family members that God had carefully knit together in a way that only he could. My greatest prayer has been that the Lord would help me navigate every step of the journey. There are so many dynamics. Ella has a lifetime of beautiful memories with her family that I would never want to diminish. The Lord takes my breath away by his provision of family for Ella. I am grateful for the opportunity to build a relationship and memories with this daughter, and her family, that I had always hoped to know. The ultimate blessing is knowing that we will all spend eternity together!

Sherril: Amen to what Lori said. I marvel also at the provision of the Bova family for Ella and for us. She has more family to which she can go to help navigate through this earthly life, and we have friends who feel like family with which we can have great fellowship. Every unification story is different, but we truly give God glory for how our story has been and continues to be written out.  

Ella: Some of the blessings have come simply from the continued growth of all of us with each other and our families. Additionally, it has been a blessing to share our story and give voice to the goodness and work of the Lord.

Many adoptive families are curious about pitfalls to avoid in the process of adoption. If you could speak to a prospective adoptive family, or a young adoptive family, what piece of advice would you give to them?

Lori: I would recommend using a reputable adoption agency. We were blessed to have a Christian agency that made the process as smooth as possible. I’d ask a prospective adoptive family if they have enough love in their hearts for reunification with the birth family. God really shows the beauty of his redemptive power when the process comes full circle.  

Sherril: Yes, using a Christian agency whose goal is to minister to birth families, adoptees, and adoptive families is such a blessing! Most adoptions today are open, but adoption is not only about birth parents, adopted children, and adoptive parents; adoption has far-reaching implications for generations within a family, including great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, siblings, grandchildren, and so on. When pursuing adoption, I believe it is important for a couple to have the blessing from their family and the Lord as they journey down that road.

Ella: I think if there is anything I would share it would be this: our story is unique, and I recognize the ease we experienced through our reunification is likely the exception more than the rule. However, the goodness of God, his power to redeem, his role as Father, and his gift of reconciliation are truths woven not just through adoption stories but through the story of mankind. The greatest news about the gospel is that we get to experience all of God’s character even if our earthly circumstances never change. So if your story looks different, hard, or painful, cling to the truths we know about God from his Word, and find peace in his character.

Brittany Salmon

Brittany Salmon is a professor, writer, and Bible teacher. She is the author of the book It Takes More than Love: A Christian Guide to Cross-Cultural Adoption releasing in April, 2022. She has an MA in Intercultural Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, an M.A. in Teaching from NC State … Read More

Lindsay Nicolet

Lindsay Nicolet serves as the editorial director for the ERLC. She oversees the day-to-day management of all content and resources from the Nashville office. Lindsay completed her Master of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is married to Justin and they have a daughter and a son. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24