"I am Olivia’s Birth Grandmother. Olivia began changing our lives for good from the moment she was conceived. She has a great God-given mission in this life, which has only just begun. She brought miracles with her from heaven and she is literally an angel sent from God to Stefanie, to our family and to the J family.
I would like to set the stage for our little miracle worker with a story from the Book of Mormon about a young man who was born into a family of faith, his father was a great man of God, a prophet-leader. The young man and his friends chose to turn against the teachings of God and began to live a selfish and pleasure-seeking life, causing his family great pain and anguish. His prophet-father prayed unceasingly for the son that he loved so dearly and who was destroying his own life and the faith of others who were watching his example. One day, in answer to the prayers of his father, God sent an angel to this young man and his friends and told them that if they did not stop what they were doing and change their ways, they would be destroyed.
The young man was so shocked that he passed out for 3 days. During those 3 days he was subjected to the pains of hell until his soul was racked with torment. Finally he remembered the teachings of his father about Jesus Christ and how He would come to save the souls of all men who would repent. As soon as he prayed to have his sins forgiven, he was delivered and felt the joy of the pure redeeming love of Jesus Christ for him and his sins were forgiven. From that day forward he completely changed his life and spent the rest of his life teaching others of the beauty and the reality of the atonement of Jesus Christ, which he had learned by his own experience. This young man’s name was Alma the Younger.
Stefanie’s life in many ways parallels the story of Alma the Younger. Alma’s change took place in 3 days, Stefanie’s took 9 months, but the change was no less miraculous, and Olivia was the angel sent from God in answer to the prayers of everyone in Stefanie’s life who loved her…parents, grandparents, sisters, and friends.
Stefanie has been very open about her life before Olivia. It was extremely painful for all of us to watch her choose to live a lifestyle that was slowly destroying her. We tried everything to help her change the direction she was going in life, knowing that drinking, drugs, and risky sexual behavior would never bring her happiness or safety. After a suicide attempt at age 16, we took her to therapy and put her in rehab programs at great personal cost both emotionally and monetarily to try to give her an opportunity to change the direction she was going.
Nothing that we tried seemed to work, she was determined to live only for the moment and for her own pleasure. Our warnings were ignored and trust between us was destroyed. Fear and anger prevailed. If any of you have ever lost a child in a crowd of people, you know the sheer panic that overwhelms your whole being as you hunt for that lost child. That is the panic and pain we lived with as we watched our beautiful sweet Stefanie descend into ever increasing darkness, and we knew we were losing her, perhaps forever.
With that background, I give you my story.
One day in the fall of 2008, I knelt by my bedside to pray for Stefanie for the millionth time, but this time my prayer was different. I explained to God that we had tried to do all we could to help her, she was 18, and I could not think of anything else we could do. At that point in my prayer, I turned her completely over to Him. I said in essence, “I know that thou hast all power and can change the hearts of men , please send help, because there is nothing more we can do. I remember sobbing and pleading over and over “Please help, please help, please help“. I said this prayer with faith and trust in Heavenly Father, knowing that He loved her even more than I did, and He would do what was best, or would allow things to happen that would give her an opportunity to change her heart.
About that time, she broke up with her abusive boyfriend, to our great relief, and began dating Nic. I thought this was the answer to my prayer and I was happy that he seemed to be a decent guy. I began to hope that he would be the catalyst for change that would bring her back to us. That turned out to be true, but not in the way I had envisioned.
I knew that Nic and Stefanie were sexually active, but Stefanie had been on the Pill for a few years, so I wasn’t very worried about an unplanned pregnancy. Around Christmas their relationship began to unravel and Stefanie got sick with Strep throat. She went on some medication that reduced the effectiveness of the Pill, and Olivia was conceived just before Nic and Stefanie broke up.
Stefanie needed to go back to the doctor regarding her illness, and she told me that she thought there might be a small chance that she was pregnant, so I advised her to get a pregnancy test when she saw the doctor. Later that day she called to tell me the pregnancy test was positive. At that moment I had a very unreal experience that is hard to describe. I felt complete and utter calm. I didn’t feel anger or shock or panic, just peace and quiet in my soul. I recognized immediately that the Holy Spirit was with me and I knew that I was to say certain words to Stefanie. They were not to be condemning words or angry words, but I was to show complete love and concern for her. I remember my words to her were something like “How do you feel?” She told me she was afraid, and I told her I was too, but somehow we would get through this together and everything would be OK. And I knew it would be. I didn’t know how, but I knew it would be.
I believe her hope at the beginning of the pregnancy was that Nic still had enough feelings for her that they could mend their relationship, get married, and provide a home for the child that they had conceived. But as time went on, it became increasingly clear that Nic was not interested in making that happen. I remember feeling angry that he could just walked away from what was happening to Stefanie and leave her to deal with it alone. It was very painful to watch her deal with the abandonment, the loneliness, and most especially the fear of what was going to happen to her and her baby. But his reaction to the situation showed his true character and I knew he was not the type of man I wanted for my daughter anyway. Blessings sometimes manifest themselves in strange ways.
If I could give advice to a birth father from a birth grandmother, it would be this: Please don’t completely abandon the girl. You don’t have to marry her, but at least be there to help share the burden, listen if she needs to talk, reassure her when she gets scared, or occasionally take her out for a hamburger. Be honest, don’t give her false hope if you have no intention of marrying her, but have some compassion, and find a way to let her know you care about what she is going through. I realize every situation is different, but even the Savior needed some help carrying His burden up the hill. You will be a better man if you will take some responsibility for the situation, and do what you can to help. She may not want or accept your help, but at least you have sincerely offered, and that counts for something.
As I watched Stefanie dealing with her pregnancy under these very trying circumstances, I remembered the joy of my own first pregnancy (I think there was some joy there in between the vomiting), and the fun of sharing everything that I was experiencing with my husband as we suffered and rejoiced and planned together. One night Stefanie texted me and said she was having some strong cravings, and would I please stop by Chili’s to get her an order of chips and salsa. All of a sudden it hit me that she was missing out on all the bonding experiences that happen between a husband and wife during pregnancy. The thought came to me very strongly, “It should be her husband doing this for her, but she doesn’t have anyone.” My heart hurt so deeply for her because she was missing out on so much of what a first pregnancy should be. I sobbed for her pain that night and I made a greater effort to be there for her during her pregnancy since she didn’t have the blessing of a spouse to support her.
There are many things that happened at the beginning of her pregnancy that began to change her life. One of the things I noticed immediately was that Stefanie felt a very deep connection to the baby she was carrying. She was determined she was not going to do anything that would cause harm to her baby. She began to take better care of herself. She didn’t use any harmful substances because she loved her baby and wanted her to have a healthy mind and body. I also felt that Olivia’s spirit was already influencing Stefanie for good. I was very proud of the maturity that Stefanie began to display as she realized that her choices would profoundly affect the life of another human being.
I am not sure at what point Stefanie began turning to her Heavenly Father, but I could see a gradual change in her attitude toward God and her family and herself. I could tell that she was coming to the realization that when no one else is there for you, God is always there and your family is close behind. Her choice to have faith in God was the catalyst that began the change in her life.
I know she had many painful days and nights during her pregnancy. I could not take that from her, as much as I would have liked to have wiped away the tears and made things all better for her. It was too late to take away the pain. There was no going back, only forward, and what lay ahead would be painful for everyone involved, but most especially for Stefanie. A very wise person once told me, the fastest and easiest way through pain is to face it and deal with it, avoiding it will only prolong it and make it worse. I am very proud of the way Stefanie faced her pain. She dealt with it and she didn’t sit at home feeling sorry for herself (at least, not very often!)
Once it became clear that marriage was not an option for Stefanie and Nic, the next question became, “Do I keep the baby, or place the baby for adoption?” The maternal instinct had kicked in pretty strong for Stefanie, and I knew she wanted to keep and raise this little one with all of her heart. Could I blame her? I love little babies, and my grandchildren are the joy of my life. How could I bring myself to encourage her to give this sweet little baby to another family to parent and grand-parent?
But the harsh reality was that Stefanie had few job or life skills that would enable her to raise a child on her own. The birthfather gave no indication that he would be able to support a child anytime in the near future, and I knew my husband and I were not in a position where we could help raise the baby. But even more importantly, this baby needed the blessing of an eternal family and the blessing of being raised in the Gospel by two righteous parents with the ability to provide a stable and loving home.
So we encouraged Stefanie to consider adoption, but we were willing to support her choice either way. We hoped she would consider all of the ramifications of this extremely important decision and that she would pray fervently for guidance from God.
I remember Stefanie asked her dad to give her a priesthood blessing at the beginning of her pregnancy. As the blessing was given, we were all in tears and the Spirit was very powerful. I had no doubt that God was aware of Stefanie and the trials that had beset her and our family. It was a beautiful spiritual experience. I recall one thing clearly from this blessing of comfort. She was told that Nic was not the man she would marry, but that the Lord was preparing another young man for her, if she would prepare herself for him. And he would be able to take her to the temple someday. I don’t know if she found any comfort in that, because at the time I think she was still hoping for a reconciliation with Nic. But I prayed that she would have the good sense to wait for the young man the Lord had in mind for her.
I had heard through a friend that LDS Family Services was an excellent place to go for help and counseling for single moms, and there was no pressure placed on the expectant mother or their family to place the baby for adoption. The counselor helps the young woman explore all of her options, so she can make an informed decision for herself, and they are supportive of her decision either way. I knew since the trust relationship between Stefanie and I was tenuous at best, and Nic was non-supportive, that she would need someone that would be there for her with support and good advice for the next 9 months. I was very relieved when she agreed to go.
Little did either of us realize the great blessings and miracles that were yet to happen in Stefanie’s life as we walked into that building for her first appointment. The first miracle happened when we met Stefanie’s counselor, Loni K. She was young and vivacious and funny and someone that Stefanie could look to for sound advice and as a great role model. I will be forever grateful to Loni for the deep impact she had in our lives as an instrument in God’s hands. You may think I say that because I think Loni convinced Stefanie to place her baby for adoption, but I know that is absolutely not true. In fact, Loni was as surprised as anyone when Stefanie made the stunning announcement that she was going to place Olivia for adoption!
Stefanie faithfully went to her counseling sessions with Loni. I believe she felt accepted and never judged for what had happened. The counselor was there to help her deal with the realities of her pregnancy, and to make the best of the situation. She also went to group sessions with other young single pregnant girls. Together they supported one another, cried together, shared their pains, fears, angers, and worries. The program also taught these girls life skills, healthy relationships, and true principles of happiness.
I loved all of the young women from Stefanie’s group that came home to meet us. I remember thinking how sweet and courageous they were as they dealt with very difficult choices and situations. I admired each one of them for choosing adoption. And I am grateful for the positive influence they were on Stefanie. One of the biggest things a young pregnant girl needs is a friend. I was so thankful she had a place to go where she could make good friends, and where she could be a friend.
One of the biggest changes and miracles that I saw in Stefanie’s life was her willingness to give the gospel another chance. For Olivia’s sake, she wanted to be a better person. She wanted to prepare herself to be a good mom and to be a good example for her daughter. This desire to live a more righteous life turned her heart to Jesus Christ, and just as with Alma the Younger, she chose to repent and change rather than destroy her life. She began to believe the promises that she could have a fresh start and a new and better life, if she would turn to her Savior for help. She also began to attend Church again, and I was astonished that she continued to go even as her pregnancy became impossible to hide. I have never been more proud of any of my children than I was of Stefanie and her determination to do what she knew was right for her and for her baby, as she went to church alone (Single’s Ward) week after week.
What happened that made Stefanie do a complete about-face in choosing to place rather than parent? This particular miracle began many years ago. In fact, Stefanie was a very young child when God began putting things in place for Olivia’s adoption.
May I stop here for a moment to express a belief in the true doctrine of the fore-knowledge of God. I believe God knows everything past, present, and future. I also believe very adamantly that He never usurps our ability to make our own choices. But He does know what those choices will be and He can put things into place far in advance of us ever making those choices. I would like to share a poem that I believe expresses what I am trying to say:
Man's Life is laid in the loom of time
To a Pattern he does not see,
While the weavers work and the shuttles fly
Till the dawn of eternity.
Some shuttles are filled with silver threads
And some with threads of gold,
While often but the darker hues
Are all that they may hold.
But the weaver watches with skillful eye
Each shuttle fly to and fro,
And sees the pattern so deftly wrought
As the loom moves sure and slow.
God surely planned the pattern:
Each thread, the dark and fair,
Is chosen by His master skill
And placed in the web with care.
He only knows its beauty,
And guides the shuttles which hold
The threads so unattractive,
As well as the threads of gold.
Not till each loom is silent,
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God reveal the pattern
And explain the reason why.
The dark threads were as needful
In the weaver's skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
For the pattern which He planned.
The first golden threads that were woven into Stefanie’s life began many years ago in Texas when two little 8 year old boys in the same Mormon ward became best friend, D.J. and Joseph B. They were best friends for 9 years, but separated when Joseph moved with his family to the Tampa, Florida area and moved into the same ward as the G family. At the time, Stefanie was in 3rd grade so she probably didn’t even notice Joseph, but for her older sister Erika, it was “love at first sight”. They dated for 2 years and then Joseph left to go on a 2 year mission for the church, and shortly thereafter the G family moved to Utah. When Joseph came home from his mission, he came to Utah to go to school. Erika and Joseph rekindled the old flame and were married in the temple the following year and continued to live in Utah to attend school. In the meantime, D had also completed a 2 year mission and moved to Utah to continue his education at BYU. The two best friends were reunited, and soon D met the girl of his dreams, V.P. and they were also married in the temple.
The two married couples enjoyed hanging out, playing games, and suffering through the woes of college life together. Stefanie “the younger sister” and now a teenager, would often go over and spend time with the couples, playing games with them and watching them have fun together. Stefanie was able to get to know the J family in this very fun and informal way, and none of us ever dreamed that only a few years into the future, they would become the adoptive parents of her beautiful little girl Olivia!
If I remember correctly, when Erika mentioned the J's wanting to adopt her baby, it was the first time Stefanie seriously considered adoption. Here was a couple she already knew and admired and she realized these were people she might be willing to trust enough to raise her baby. Another plus in favor of the J’s was cute little B. Stefanie had always wished she had an older brother, and now she could possibly give her baby something she had always wanted. No one but God knew that this would be the way to open her heart to the possibility of adoption.
As soon as Stefanie came to me with her decision to place her baby for adoption with the J’s, I was surprised and a little worried that this might be temporary, because it was so sudden, and was an about-face to her past attitude about adoption. So my first words to her, that I remember, were: “Do not tell them until you are absolutely certain, because if you change your mind after you tell them, it will absolutely break their hearts.” I also remember putting my arms around her and telling her I loved her and I was proud of her for making a terribly difficult decision. I knew then that Stefanie’s change of heart was inspired by God. And I’m not sure she realized the gut-wrenching pain and the mountain of courage it would take to follow through on the decision she made that day. But one thing I have learned about Stefanie over the years is that she is very determined once she makes up her mind, and very compassionate towards other’s feelings. With those character traits and God’s help, she had the inner strength to stick with her decision to the end, no matter how hard or painful it became.
Once she made her decision, it gave her a purpose and she put all of her energy into giving this beautiful couple the most precious gift of all: her daughter. She didn’t want to tell them immediately because she was very close to her 20th week of pregnancy so she wanted to find out the sex of the baby first. I was with her (as was the birth father) when she had her ultrasound and found out she was having a girl! As a side-note, I am very grateful that Nic was supportive of Olivia’s adoption.
Once she knew it was a girl, she purchased a bunch of pink, frilly baby things and put them in a package to announce that they were having a baby girl! She was on pins and needles the whole time waiting for their reaction. She kept wondering if she should call to see if they got it. She checked the tracking online and was able to see it was delivered, but there was still no phone call. At first when it took them so long to react, she was afraid they weren’t excited, or maybe had changed their minds and didn’t want her baby after all. I reassured her that was not likely to happen! It turned out that V was waiting for D to get home late that night before they opened it together.
When they finally called so full of excitement and joy and tears, I think we all felt like a miracle was occurring. Olivia would have an eternal family!! I know there was not only joy on earth that day, but joy in heaven.
Stefanie made the ultimate sacrifice. Her own desires were sacrificed on the alter of love for Olivia. At all times, she wanted what was best for her baby, no matter the cost in personal pain or suffering for herself. This is unselfishness in its finest and purest form. My greatest hope for Olivia is that she will see herself as the most blessed of children. That she will be filled with gratitude for the sacrifices that have been made so that she could have blessings and happiness now and throughout the eternities.
After Stefanie had made her decision to place Olivia with V and D, I remember at some point I felt impressed that God wanted her to know something very important. I don’t remember the exact words, but this is what I hope I communicated to her in small conversations that we had here and there:
Because of the beauty of the Gospel and the perfectness of the plan of our God, in the end, all sacrifices by the righteous will be compensated, “even an hundredfold” according to the scriptures. I explained that even though Olivia would be sealed to V and D in the temple, eventually all of God’s righteous children will be sealed to Him and we will all be sealed together in the Family of God. So the most important thing that she could do was to live righteously and find a young man that she could be sealed to in the temple. In that way, she would be sealed to Olivia through V and D along with all of the other righteous families of the world.
Knowing the eternal blessings that are in store for all of us does not take away all the pain of mortality however. The day Olivia was born was a bittersweet day for all of us. I was glad the day had finally arrived, yet I dreaded what I knew would happen in 2 short days, when Olivia would no longer be “our” grandchild, and Stefanie would have to experience unspeakable emotional pain.
The day she went into labor she called throughout the day to let me know how she was progressing. Nic came through in the 11th hour, and stayed with Stefanie all that day as she labored. I am grateful that he came through for her at the end. I know it meant a lot to her that he cared enough about his daughter to be there for her birth.
I was at work when she called mid-afternoon and told me her labor pains were 5 minutes apart and getting more painful. I advised her to head to the hospital and I would meet her there. It was around 4 in the afternoon when I arrived to find her pretty miserable, and Nic looking worried. As with most women going through their first labor, I think she had come to the realization that this was going to hurt WAY more than she had expected. She was ready for an epidural for the pain, but the medical staff was trying to determine if they would let her stay or send her home to labor some more. We were all very relieved when the decision was made to admit her. In a flurry of activity she was moved to her room to labor and the blessed anesthesiologist was called to administer the epidural.
Soon, everyone that had been invited to attend Olivia’s birth began arriving. Three of Stefanie’s sisters, her dad and myself, Stefanie’s best friend Jessica, and V and D all came to welcome little Miss Olivia to mortality. It was quite a crowd. I will never forget the excitement and energy in the room as she was born. It was a moment never to be forgotten. Everyone was taking pictures and laughing and talking and crying all at once. Watching Stefanie’s complete happiness in that moment as she first met and held Olivia was priceless. It was definitely “love at first sight”. There are no words to describe those first moments that a mother and her baby have together: wonder, joy, relief, euphoria, all wrapped together in a fleeting moment as they gaze into one another’s eyes for the first time.
As I looked at V, I could see all of these same emotions mirrored in her face. I know not all adoptive parents have the privilege to see their child born, but I was so happy they could be there to experience those first special moments of Olivia’s life.
All the pain of the past 9 months and all the pain soon to be experienced when the adoption papers were to be signed was put aside as we all took joy in the moment. Olivia was more precious and perfect and beautiful than any of us had anticipated. Stefanie couldn’t stop crying and staring at her. It was a tender sight to witness her great love for her new baby. We took tons of photos, wanting to preserve each moment from the dimming of time. We were like a room full of paparazzi and little Olivia was definitely the “star” of the show!
V and D stood by watching, taking photos and drinking it all in. I know they were anxious to hold the new little one, but they were very respectful that this was Stefanie’s moment to bond with Olivia.
It’s hard to describe how I feel about V and D. I didn’t know them extremely well before the adoption, but they both exuded such warmth and goodness that I knew instinctively they were incredible people, perfectly suited to raising Olivia. V was and is a true friend to Stefanie. She was patient and kind to Stefanie through all of the emotional roller coasters that pregnancy brings with it. She didn’t take offense. She was always kind, compassionate, and patient , and handled difficult situations with sensitivity and maturity. As I observed their relationship develop, I was completely impressed with her love for Stefanie and the respect that she gave her. Stefanie needed reassurance from V that what she was doing was right and good and appreciated. V was everything that Stefanie and Olivia needed.
D was no less wonderful, although he took a quieter role in the whole process, it was obvious that he supported his wife a hundred percent and that he loved her with all of his heart. What greater blessing can a child have than parents who love and honor one another?
I was never happier for two people than I was for D and V that night. And I was never more heartbroken than I was for Stefanie and Nic. How can two such opposite feelings exist inside of the same heart at the same time?
Can profound joy and profound grief exist together in the same moment? It made me think of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The joy of His breaking of the bands of death and hell was accompanied by pain and grief beyond the comprehension of man. Through the light of His atonement, I see the incomparable beauty of adoption. The adoptive parents are given a precious gift that will bring them eternal joy, but it is given through tears of pain and grief as the birthmother places her precious baby into their arms.
Stefanie made the ultimate sacrifice. She wanted what was best for her baby, no matter the cost in personal pain or suffering for herself. This is unselfishness in its finest and purest form. This is the kind of love that changes hearts forever. My greatest hope for Olivia is that she will see herself as the most blessed of children. That she will be filled with gratitude for the sacrifices that have been made so that she could have happiness now and throughout the eternities.
I stayed at the hospital with Stefanie and Olivia that night, but I don’t think either of us slept much. Stefanie didn’t want to spend even the smallest moment separated from Olivia, not even to sleep. Nic came the next morning and I went home to shower and rest. I found however that I could not rest. It was time for me to grieve. Grief does not like to be ignored, and insists on being addressed. I cried my heart out at home alone. I prefer to grieve alone. Kind of like an injured animal who crawls into a dark space to hide and suffer alone, and reappears after a time, renewed and healed. I cried for the suffering of my little girl Stefanie, for all the big girl things she was forced to face over the past 9 months. I cried for the little granddaughter that would never be mine. I cried because I HAD to cry, the tears would not be denied. But tears are good, they cleanse, they heal, they bring relief to the inner pain that would surely kill us if we could not release it. I cried with dread over the crushing pain that would come the next day to all of us, especially to my little Stefanie.
I was almost relieved when the time arrived. I wanted the pain to end and the happiness to begin. Loni arrived with her entourage of legal people and paperwork. V and D waited nervously in the waiting room, anxiously daring to hope that soon they would hold Olivia in their arms as their own daughter. Stefanie and Nic prepared to sign the papers as Loni read aloud the words that nearly broke their hearts and then they signed away their parental rights. With a few strokes of a pen, Olivia was no longer ours.
We were told we could spend as much time with Olivia as we wanted before they brought in V and D. We all took turns holding her and crying. As I held her in my arms, she lay there sweetly oblivious to all the drama swirling around her. She was innocent and pure with no inkling of the many lives she had already touched during her nine months of gestation and 48 hours of mortality. All of my grief returned for just a moment as I held her, even knowing she was going to have a wonderful life with parents and grandparents who would love her dearly.
V and D entered the room bearing many gifts. I know it was a hard moment for them because they were so happy to be adopting Olivia, yet so sad to see Stefanie’s heartbreak and grief. They handled the situation sensitively and kindly and brought several very thoughtful gifts. One of Stefanie’s favorites was a teddy bear…one for her and Nic and one for Olivia. Having that little bear to hold and hug gave him and her something to hang onto when the emptiness of her arms became too great to endure.
Watching Olivia grow up over the past year has brought great joy to our family and to Stefanie. Thanks to Facebook and blogging, we get to see lots of photos and we get frequent updates on how she is doing, and we get occasional visits when they are in Utah. It is gratifying to see what a happy little girl she is, and it is wonderful to see her having fun with her older brother, B, her parents, her grandparents, and her loving aunts and uncles. She has double the family and double the blessings!
I feel our family has been blessed beyond measure before, during, and after Olivia’s birth. Stefanie has finally discovered the beauty within herself that we could always see. She’s funny and cute and a little bit kooky! She’s using what she has learned to support adoption, and she is sharing her writing talents in ways that are blessing the lives of many who need her strength and insight within the adoption community. Her father’s blessing was fulfilled and she has married a fine young man and together they are working towards a temple marriage. Olivia has the best family anyone could ever ask for, and she has now been sealed to them for eternity. She has been given the greatest gift that anyone can receive, thanks to her loving birth mother and her Savior. She is a part of God’s great and eternal family."