Adopting Evan - a story of love and sacrifice
While 3-month-old Evan Michael Webb Wettstone spends most days snuggling contently in the arms of Mom and Dad, the bouncing baby boy was tugging on the heartstrings of more than one woman this Mother's Day.
A year ago, Evan's birthmother, 22-year-old Jamie, was battling a drug addiction. Without a stable job or home, she was days away from a probation violation that would land her in jail.
Though she came from a good family, an unplanned pregnancy three years earlier had sent things on a downward spiral. Unable to support herself and the daughter she gave birth to soon after, she turned to drugs, relinquishing her daughter to family members.
The following two years would be marked by drug use, run-ins with police and, she discovered weeks before an arrest, another pregnancy. "I was in jail and pregnant and didn't have any place to live when I got out. I didn't know what to do and I couldn't raise a kid," she says.
Realizing she was not ready to be a parent but saddened by the thought of losing her son entirely, Jamie researched the increasingly popular trend of open adoption.
"The first attorney I talked to said he did open adoption, but then laughed when I asked to meet the people first. I told him I'd like some contact and he just thought that was weird," she remembers.
Enter Open Adoption and Family Services. Based throughout Oregon and Washington, the agency began 20 years ago with what caseworker Susan Freeman says has placed over 900 children with loving, adoptive families.
In open adoption, birth parents and adoptive parents embark on a partnership of creating a large extended family for a child. Seattle residents Mark and Janice Wettstone, both 43, married later in life and had always discussed creating a family through adoption.
"We checked into (open adoption) and it sounded like a great situation for everyone - for the adoptive parents, the birth parents and especially for the child," says Mark.
"(Adoptions) used to be hush-hush," adds Janice. "Open adoption was a good match for us because the child winds up with a bigger expanded family. We just thought, what's better than more people to love him? There's just love all the way around."
Born on February 13, 2006, little Evan weighed in at a healthy 7 pounds, 2 ounces - and weighed equally heavy on his birthmother's heart. Despite painful second thoughts, Jamie sent her son to be loved by the couple who say they fell in love the instant they were asked to be his parents.
"It was so hard to give him up, but when it came down to it, I knew it was the right decision. This way, he'll know who I am and he'll know in the long run that I love him," says Jamie. "He'll realize I couldn't do it at the time so I chose to give him a life he deserves."
In open adoption, the group known as a triad slowly finds it way. Prior to Evan's birth, Jamie, Mark and Janice discussed frequency of contact and updates such as photos, letters and visits. Improvising is allowed, too.
Recently, Jamie and her grandmother made an impromptu visit. "They happened to be coming up so we all just got together and had a little dinner," says Janice. "Obviously we were all a little nervous to see what the first visit would be like, but it was really nice. I think she got to see he was doing OK and I can tell in her heart she knows she did what was best for the two of them."
As time goes by, Jamie will be part of Evan's extended family: one more person who loves him. The now clean and sober college student wears a silver locket around her neck - a gift from Mark and Janice - with pictures of her daughter and a son she looks forward to knowing.
"I can check in on him and get updates and still be part of his life without actually being Mom," she notes.
While 3-month-old Evan will likely be oblivious to the meaning of Mother's Day for at least another few years, he'll one day realize he was doubly blessed when he thinks of the two women who gave him life.