February 2nd, 2011 by admin

28 Comments

Stewards of Our Children

Stewards of Our Children

Sydney Young

At A Glance

Sydney Young has five children, but she has never been pregnant. In this interview, Sydney describes her journey through four open adoptions and the assumption of guardianship over one teenager. She exemplifies devoted stewardship over children who have not been birthed to her, but who have been sealed to her.

When did you discover having children would not be easy for you?

When we started trying to have children we knew within a year and a half there was a fertility problem. Luckily, we didn’t spend that long on the infertility rollercoaster. Doctors told us right away we would need either to go through an invasive procedure to conceive or adopt if we wanted to have children. For us at that time, adoption was much more affordable, as it was half the cost of medical procedures. We went through the process of getting approval to adopt while we lived in Utah. Then we moved when my husband, Dave, started medical school in Missouri in 2001. We updated our home study for adoption placement when we got there.

Sometimes people make assumptions or say things that can be hurtful to couples without children. Was that your experience?

When we lived in Utah, people would flat out ask us when we were going to have kids. That was hard; it’s not like we weren’t trying. In Missouri people were less invasive, but I was more lonely. It seemed that everyone around us already had kids, and they made friends with other people who already had kids, so I had a hard time making friends. One time we went to a school function, where there was a woman who was very pregnant. Her husband was a year ahead of mine in school and we began talking. We joked about how small the town was and how there was nothing to do. She said, “It’s so boring, so I just got pregnant again.” Dave and I turned around and left. I went home and cried and cried. Looking back, I was depressed during that time and didn’t realize it. I just wondered why I took things more personally than everyone else. It wasn’t a good time for me.

Maddy, Sydney, Dave, Jordan, Jamie and Cooper

Maddy, Sydney, Dave, Jordan, Jamie and Cooper

What was the anticipation like as you waited for a birth mother to choose you?

I worked as an office manager for a physical therapy center in town and Dave studied. Every day when I came home I’d check the answering machine to see if we had a call from our social worker. There never was one. Finally, on December 6, 2001 I was at home alone on my lunch break and there was a message. When I called the social worker back, he said he needed to talk to both Dave and me; I told him I’d head up to school, find Dave, and call him back. It took me forever to track Dave down at his school because we didn’t have cell phones. We went home and called him back and he said he had good news: we’d been picked by a birth mom. The social worker had been there when the birth mother had selected us and was able to tell us some of the things she liked about us–we liked to travel, we sounded fun, and she liked how we’d taken turns talking about each other in our letter to prospective birth moms. We also met one of her requirements: we were both returned missionaries. She called us the “Scooby-Doo couple” because we had written in our letter about how our families were really into Scooby-Doo.

The birth family contacted us. The next step in the adoption process was a face–to-face meeting. I was so nervous to meet them, I felt like it was an interview. What if they didn’t like us? I finally came to the realization that if things did work out and her baby was placed with us, this might be the only time I would get to meet the birth mom, and I wanted to have something to tell the baby about his or her ‘tummy mommy’. That thought helped calm me down some. Dave’s dad was adopted. He waited until after his parents died to look up his birth mom. It meant so much to him just to know where he came from and to make the connections.

I finally came to the realization that... this might be the only time I would get to meet the birth mom, and I wanted to have something to tell the baby about his or her 'tummy mommy'.

The birth family was LDS so we met at the local stake center. When we pulled up to the building, I felt like I was going to puke. We went in, met with the social worker for a few minutes and then he took us in to meet the birthmother. She had brought her mom, who is now just Grandma M. to our family. We spent a couple of hours talking and getting to know this amazing family. Although I felt like the meeting was an interview to see if they liked us in person, they were very sure about placing with us and just wanted to meet us. It kind of threw me. For example, Grandma M asked if we had a crib. I told her we hadn’t gotten one yet, I couldn’t have it just sitting around empty! She said, “Isn’t it exciting, you can get one now!” We had gotten a playpen/bassinet when we were approved, just in case we had a last minute adoption. And we had purchased a car seat/stroller combo. Before we had moved to Missouri I had been working part time at the Gap. I spent almost every penny I earned on kids clothes. I had two full tubs, one of girl clothes and one of boy clothes.

They wanted to know the names we had picked out so when the baby was born they’d know what to call it (she didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl at that point). They really opened us up to open adoption. We fell in love with the birth family, and realized they weren’t scary, that they had this child’s best interest in heart. How lucky is the child that has extra people who love her? We hope by having open adoptions it will be a little easier on the children, so they won’t have so many questions about why they are, the way they are.

When we were leaving Dave asked if he could touch the birthmother’s belly. She had been hoping we’d ask and said yes. I got to touch her belly, too, which was neat, but to be honest I was a little jealous in a selfish kind of way because I had never been pregnant.

She was due on January 21st, and we waited to tell our families until we went to Utah for Christmas, and they had a shower for us. After Christmas the waiting began. I started training someone to take over my job in the hopes that this adoption worked out. But they knew there was a chance I’d be staying, too. We didn’t tell anyone at church or school about the adoption, but they had to know at work that I was planning on quitting when the baby came.

January 21st came and went. We didn’t hear anything. I couldn’t stand it any longer, and on the 24th I broke down and called our social worker. He went ahead and called and found out she was going to be induced the next day. At 10:55 a.m. on January 25th, nine months to the day we were first approved for adoption, we got a call from our social worker saying our baby had been born at 10:39 a.m. He said she had brown hair, chubby cheeks, and her birth mom’s nose. She opened her eyes right away. Maddy, our daughter, loves to hear the story about Scooby-Doo on the TV in the delivery room and how she looked right in that direction. She knows she has her tummy mommy’s nose.

We went down to the hospital two days later. Her birthmother had already signed the paperwork terminating her parental rights. Maddy was all ours. Her birth family had asked to be there for placement. It’s amazing how you can be so happy and so sad at the same time. The birth mother passed Maddy from her arms right into mine. There were a lot of tears, and it was a day we’ll never forget. We became parents. I became a mother.

On our fifth wedding anniversary, August 16th, 2002, we gathered in the Nauvoo temple with Maddy and three grandmas, one her birth grandmother, so she could be sealed to us.

The second child to join your family, Jordan, is African-American. For some families it is a difficult decision to adopt children of another race. What did you feel you needed to consider when deciding to become an interracial family? Did you use any specific techniques to make sure Jordan felt completely included in his new family and never “different”?

When Maddy turned one, we were approved to adopt again. We knew we were moving to Detroit at that point so we knew because of the demographics in Detroit, the baby would probably be African-American. We put a lot of thought into our decision and did a lot of research about adopting trans-racially. I remember one story about a black woman who had been adopted by a white family. She said she felt they accepted her as a member of the family, but not as a black member of the family. I want our children to be accepted and loved, to feel secure, but to know we acknowledge their heritage. We have made an effort to buy books that show diversity, purchase dolls that are black, have pictures of Jesus with black children. We have family members that make an effort too.

LDS_woman_photo_Young8
When more babies were available, LDS Family Services in Detroit processed more adoptions than they do now. A lot of babies from Detroit were adopted by families in Utah. Our social worker commented once that she felt like one of the purposes of those children coming into Utah homes was to open people’s eyes and hearts to the fact that we are all the same.

My mom has black grandchildren. My nieces and nephews have cousins that have brown skin. That’s just the way it is. We haven’t had any negative comments from our families. They’ve been very supportive.

Sometimes African-Americans are uncomfortable with white families adopting black children. Did you ever encounter disapproval from people in the African-American community?

We had a lot of positive comments. Although we never had any negative comments, I could just tell if someone disapproved. I would go into public places in Detroit and know who approved and who didn’t.

Do you sense that there are white people who don’t approve of white families with black children?

Yes, definitely. It goes both ways. To me it seems like that attitude is more common outside the Church than inside the Church. We’ve had really positive comments here in Utah. We definitely get noticed when we’re out and about. Fortunately families with black children are becoming more prevalent here.

I want our children to be accepted and loved, to feel secure, but to know we acknowledge their heritage.

As Jordan has gotten older, has he noticed he is different?

Jordan was just starting to realize he looked different than us when we adopted our second son Cooper in 2008. Cooper is also African-American. I know Jordan loves having someone else in the family that looks like him. We’d like to find them a mentor, a young man, hopefully a return missionary that can help them in dealing with the issues that will come from growing up black in a while family. As much as I don’t like to admit it, from all the reading and research I’ve done, our children most likely won’t feel like they fit in completely with the black world, or the white one. But we hope by joining playgroups (there is a great one here in Utah) and introducing them to other black children adopted into white families, they can find friends who are in the same situation they are.

After adopting Maddy, Jordan, and Cooper, you were joined by a teenage son. How did Jaime join your family?

Jaime joined our family when we moved to Utah in 2009. He was sixteen. He had been in our ward in Michigan. Jaime’s mom passed away when he was twelve. Dave was his Sunday school teacher and then his Young Men’s leader. Dave’s callings in the Church followed Jamie as he got older. Jaime started spending more time with us. He would come over after church and to all the kids’ birthday celebrations. Dave would take him to see ‘guy’ movies that I had no interest in seeing!

We brought Jaime out for Cooper’s sealing a few months before we were moving, to show him what Utah was like and show him around. We really wanted him to move with us. We gave him the chance to come live with us and he chose to come. We have guardianship. We didn’t adopt him because we didn’t want to disrupt his past family ties. His mom was temple worthy, so he wants to be sealed to her.

Jamie with the younger children

Jamie with the younger children

The guardianship has worked out really well. It’s been great. He’s so great with the younger kids! I think for Jaime it was an easier transition because we weren’t trying to take away his past from him. Everyone in our family has a ‘tummy mommy’, that’s what we call it, so he just fit right in. We’ve had our struggles and learning moments with him. We’ve had a crash course in ‘teenager’! But overall, it’s been really, really good. He earned his Eagle Scout award and his high school diploma. Now he is taking a missionary preparation class at Utah Valley University and is preparing to serve a mission this fall. We are so proud of him!

A lot of times adoption can be an emotional rollercoaster. Did you ever have a bad experience as you went through the adoption process?

In between Jordan and Maddy we had a failed placement. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. In 2003, we had moved to Detroit and one night I got the feeling our social worker was going to call us the next day. The next day our social worker did call. He said we’d been matched with a birth mom. We were excited; we knew about the baby for a couple of weeks before she delivered. She was born on Thanksgiving Day. We named her Sophia and brought her home two days later. She was so tiny, not even six pounds. We chose to do an “at risk” placement. This means we brought Sophia home before her birthmother had terminated her parental rights in court. A week later we got another call from the social worker: Sophia’s birthmother had changed her mind and the social worker was coming to get her. I knew it could happen, but I hadn’t internalized it. It devastated me. At first I just felt sorry for myself. Dave felt sorry for Sophia and what kind of life she was going to have. It took me a while to come around to that. It was hard to grieve for her. It’s not like having a baby die. LDS families believe if a baby dies, they will be with the baby again. This baby will never be ours again, we will never know how she is or what she is doing.

The fast Sunday after we lost her everyone was getting up to bear their testimonies in Sacrament meeting. People were saying how thankful they were for this and that. I was so bitter. Then I had the thought, “But I’m here at church. I’m still here.” It was a real confirmation to me of my testimony, that I believe the gospel is true no matter what happens.

Your youngest daughter, Sara, was a surprise. How did that happen?

In 2008, Cooper’s birth mom had shown up at the hospital in Detroit and asked to place her baby. She was worried we, as his adoptive parents, would hate her because she wanted to give him up. She was blown away that we wanted to meet her and let her take pictures, that we were so grateful to her and happy to have Cooper. Nineteen months later she showed up to give birth again and asked to place another baby: Sara. She told LDS Family Services that she had placed a baby with them the year before, and the social worker called us to see if we’d be interested in taking Cooper’s sister. We had moved to Utah and weren’t even looking to adopt when we got that call December 21st 2009.

Baby Sara

Baby Sara

Did you hesitate to take Sara?

I didn’t. But we had just bought a house, so financially we knew it would be difficult since there are adoption fees. The other times we adopted we were financially prepared because we had been planning on it. But it worked out. It was a miracle financially. Dave’s work had just changed the way he was paid and the money we needed was just dropped into our laps. We told the kids on Christmas Eve in a special letter from Santa that a new sister was coming. Cooper and Sara’s birthmother is happy they can be together in the same family.

When you were sealed to Sara, it was the fourth time having a child sealed to you! What was it like going to the temple to be sealed to each of your children?

Just like Maddy, Sara was sealed to us on our wedding anniversary. I remember bearing my testimony once and saying, “No offense to people who have kids born in the covenant, but being sealed is a sweet perk! It’s awesome!” I almost wish everyone could do it because it’s a really neat experience, especially for older kids. Maddy remembered Cooper’s sealing and now she remembers Sara’s sealing too. She got to have a temple recommend because she was eight. She was really excited.

There’s a quote that says, “Adoption is about stewardship, not ownership.” I love it! Having our kids sealed, I don’t feel like we cut them off from their birth families, but that we’ve added their birth families to our family. We are all stewards of our children. We don’t own them. They are all Heavenly Father’s children. The sealing power is not going to cut off their extended family–it’s like we’re all this big huge family. I would love to do their birth families’ family history.

Having our kids sealed, I don’t feel like we cut them off from their birth families, but that we've added their birth families to our family. We are all stewards of our children.

What’s the hardest part now?

Right now I’m having a hard time finding time for me. But these kids will only be little for a while and then they’ll be in school. Life right now is crazy, but it’s a good crazy. It’s amazing, I can’t imagine Sara not being part of our family, and it’s amazing how quickly I felt that way, even though we weren’t planning on her. We feel complete. We feel full. Life turns out completely different than you planned, but sometimes it’s way better than you planned.

At A Glance

Sydney Young


LDS_woman_photo_YoungCOLORLocation:
Utah

Age:
38

Marital status:
Married 13 years

Occupation:
Mother

Schools Attended:
Ricks College, Utah Valley University

Favorite Hymn:
“O My Father”

Interview by Marintha Miles. Photos by Christina Dixon, Cortney Finlayson and Cassandra Pierce.

28 Comments

  1. Sophia
    1:35 pm on February 2nd, 2011

    I was blessd to have been there for the sealing of Cooper and Sarah… two of the most special experiences of my life.
    I am truly grateful to know Syd.
    Thank you for being a woman of faith and giving strength to others.
    ~soph

  2. Selina
    1:43 pm on February 2nd, 2011

    Syd, you are so gorgeous! i teared up a bit remebering all this… the article is really just lovely!!! i love you!

    ~selina

  3. Angie
    1:52 pm on February 2nd, 2011

    Beautiful story and beautiful family.

  4. Lisa Fuller
    2:00 pm on February 2nd, 2011

    Loved the article. It was so well written. I love hearing adoption stories. Adoption is truly a mircle. I love my 3 adopted boys. I’m so grateful I was able to stay with you during Nathan’s adoption and get to know your family. Thanks for taking us in.

  5. Marintha Miles
    4:14 pm on February 2nd, 2011

    I loved being invited into Sydney and Dave’s home. She shared openly the heartache of childlessness, the anticipation and joy of having each child join her family, and the heartache of an adoption that didn’t come to fruition. One of the great things about Sydney is her keen awareness of sensitive issues in transracial adoptions. I think she walks this road comfortably.
    One thing we weren’t able to touch on, but Sydney expressed to me, is her heartache for couples who haven’t been so lucky in the adoption process. I was able to meet each of their children and see the security and warmth they each felt as Sydney responded to them. Sydney is an amazing woman with a deep capacity and intuition toward others. I feel lucky to have interviewed her.

  6. Charyce
    5:49 pm on February 2nd, 2011

    Syd,
    You are always such an inspiration to me. Isn’t amazing what a miracle you’ve lived! This story brought tears to my eyes just thinking back on it all. Your family truly is extraordinary.
    We love and miss you!
    -Charyce

  7. Kristi
    7:47 pm on February 2nd, 2011

    Beautiful story about a truly remarkable woman and family! Thank you for sharing with us your joys and an inspiring example of faith, perseverance, and motherhood.

  8. Katie
    12:34 am on February 3rd, 2011

    You have made so many good choices in your life, dear Sydney. I’m so happy your story is being shared with so many. Hope you get some sleep, Supermom! Your friendship is so dear to us.

  9. Cheryl
    8:44 am on February 3rd, 2011

    What a heart-warming, insightful story. Thank you so much for being willing to share it!

  10. Michele
    9:04 am on February 3rd, 2011

    To my beautiful “adopted” daughter, Syd:
    What a wonderful interview! You are truly an amazing woman. Thank you for taking such good care of my granddaughter, Maddy, along with her brothers and sister. You are a blessing to our family. Our love for you is eternal.
    Michele, Amy (tummy mommy), Mickey and Leah :)

  11. Aimee Thompson
    12:03 pm on February 3rd, 2011

    Sydney this was so beautiful! I have four nieces and one nephew that have been adopted into our family. I never understood the range of emotions that go along with adoption until experiencing it with my sister. Such a trial but such a blessing. Our family has been so blessed by the miracle of adoption. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

  12. Lydia
    12:50 pm on February 3rd, 2011

    Thanks for sharing!
    I remember one of my friends growing up got to be sealed to her family in the temple(her dad converted when she was about 7) and I was so jealous that she got to go to the temple before 12!

  13. Tanya
    2:22 pm on February 3rd, 2011

    Syd,
    You are truly an inspiration. Thanks for this story. It reminds me of how things don’t always work out how we want or plan, but they always work out.

  14. Tamra
    3:58 pm on February 3rd, 2011

    hi! birthmom of 14 yrs here! i LOVE adoptive parents who get it and who spread it! these are things folx will only understand by hearing these types of testimonials.
    my story and yours begins with acute disappointment but are we not the lucky ones?!

  15. Grandma Nancy
    6:10 pm on February 5th, 2011

    We love those beautiful children. You can tell they know they are part of a loving family because they are secure and happy. All five of your kids have enriched the lives of all your extended family and we feel privileged to help nuture them in any small way that we can.

  16. Kathie
    10:27 pm on February 5th, 2011

    Hi Syd,
    Great interview! I vividly remember meeting Jordan’s birth mother for the first time. I asked her how she found our agency. She said she was looking at the Yellow Pages and our ad jumped off the page, and she knew that was God telling her who to call for the adoption. It is truly a miracle how the Lord works with birth moms to help them get their children where He wants them to go. Your example is truly an amazing journey of faith, courage, and nobility as a daughter of God. Thanks for sharing your adoption story. It is truly inspiring.

    Love,

    Kathie

  17. Tatiana
    2:23 pm on February 6th, 2011

    What a lovely family!

  18. Jennie
    6:01 am on February 8th, 2011

    Syd,

    This interview was very touching to read. Although I knew you only a short while before you moved, I didn’t know all the details about your journey into motherhood. Thanks for sharing. It was beautiful! Wish we lived closer!

  19. Alana DeGooyer
    10:06 am on February 8th, 2011

    What a beautiful story! I remember the first time I met your first little one. Congratulations, Young family – we are so, so happy for you!

  20. Kristin Hughlett
    12:02 pm on February 14th, 2011

    What an amazing family. I love Sydney’s views on adoption, she is right on. I was fortunate to know Sydney and she was a wonderful support to me as I went through the adoption process.

  21. Erin Walker
    6:23 pm on February 14th, 2011

    Syd, that was so neat to read. Melody emailed me to tell me that you had an interview on Mormon Women and so I came here to read it. I cried on and off throughout the article. It is really neat to know all that you went through, the sadness and the happiness, and how everything came together to create the family that you have now, and the person you are now. Your story is inspiring, and it’s so much more meaningful because i know you are such a faithful and wonderful person.
    I’m glad you guys are happy in Utah! We miss you!

  22. handsfullmom
    8:33 pm on February 14th, 2011

    Thank you for sharing your remarkable story. You have a beautiful family.

  23. Terri Wagner
    11:31 am on February 16th, 2011

    Wonderful story. And you are so right. Trans racial adoptions have extra challenges but sweeter rewards. Thank you for reminding all of us of the special privilege we have to be stewards of Heavenly Father’s children.

  24. Cassandra
    4:42 pm on April 17th, 2011

    I am so blessed to have you as my sister. What a privilege to see you grow up to be such a beautiful daughter of God. You are raising up a beautiful family to the Lord

  25. Michelle A.
    8:56 pm on July 18th, 2011

    Syd -So glad I finally have a chance to read your story. What an amazing path your motherhood has taken. Your children are beautiful! I am both an adoptee and an adoptive mother and believe fully that children can’t always come the way we would expect them too. It’s not how they come into this world that is important. You are amazing Syd!

  26. Sabrina
    5:00 pm on August 5th, 2011

    This story made me cry. It’s SO wonderful to hear stories like this. My mother is a social work director, and it is so rare to have families that want to adopt many children, especially of diverse backgrounds. I am sorry that Sydney was unable to have her own children when she desired to, but she is blessing the lives of these children every day, and I admire her for her courage and love.

  27. Nancy
    2:17 pm on August 24th, 2011

    Open adoption is SO much healthier than closed. I gave my baby girl up 27 years ago. I never met the family. I did get to send a letter with my baby, and the family wrote sort of a “form” thank you letter back. I would have given anything for any tidbit of information letting me know she was safe and happy. I’m pretty sure they forgot about me and pretended I didn’t exist. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for honoring the birthmoms of your children and caring for them too!

  28. Sheryl
    9:58 pm on August 26th, 2012

    Syd,
    Your story is so touching. I’ve heard several pieces of your story, but this is so wonderful, I’m glad to hear it in completion. We are all stewards of our children, regardless of how they come to us. Gordon B. Hinkely once admonished that we always remember that “our” children are Heavenly Father’s, that he has not relinquished his rights to them and so we should treat them with respect and love. LOVE this interview. Thank you for doing it!

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