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.