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Moms Like Me, July 11, 2021. This annual event will be held at the Gallatin River Hideaway from 5-8 pm.

Finding Lucy WRITTEN BY REBECCA SCHLENDER

My journey toward motherhood began at the age of 12. Our church had a guest speaker come to talk about adoption. As he spoke, little flyers with the faces of two babies pictured on the front were passed down each row. I couldn’t take my eyes away and, in that mystical moment, I knew that adoption would be a part of my story someday. When I was 20, I met my soon-to-be husband, Jared. We got married the following year and agreed that when the time felt right, we would have one biological baby and then adopt. Seven years passed and infertility plagued us. Every miscarriage felt like a death to our dreams. During this time, escaping into the outdoors was the only way to feel alive again. As we laid in the back of Jared’s truck, starring up into the darkness, stars more numerous than we could count fell from the sky. We quickly wished again for a baby. The following year I became pregnant with a baby that my body would keep but, instead of excitement, I rode on waves of terror for the next nine months. Often Jared would read me a book from my childhood collection to calm my anxiety. One evening before bed, we read Alice in Bible Land, the story of Esther. Nearing the end of the book, Jared asked, “Do you like the name Estelle?” We quickly looked it up on our phone and discovered that Estelle and Esther both mean star. We were immediately reminded of the wish we made in the back of Jared’s truck on that starlit night. The name Estelle felt like a promise that our baby would be safe. After Estelle turned one, we decided to start the adoption process. We felt eager to complete our family and sincerely hoped that the adoption process would be easier than getting pregnant. Finishing a home study was our first step. This process took three months and included countless background checks, multiple 40

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home visits from a social worker, trainings, medical evaluations and a full disclosure of our finances. It was invasive and overwhelming, but understandably necessary. Once this was completed, we searched for an agency. There were hundreds of them across the country, each with different requirements due to state laws. We decided it would be best to have an adoption consultant, a middle man to help us navigate this process. The consultant’s job was to send us birth mother cases from various agencies. After reading the case, we had 48 hours to decide and then the birth mother would pick a family from those of us who said yes. We were quickly matched to a birth mom from Kansas. However, two weeks before she was due, she disappeared and we never got to hold the baby we dreamt about and we couldn’t get back the $20,000 we had lost in medical expenses and agency fees. We grieved for months, and then miraculously found the strength and financial resources to try again. This time around, we said yes to more that 30 cases and were never chosen. My health rapidly declined and insomnia began to plague me. Eventually we decided it would be best for our family to end the adoption process. This decision felt like defeat and we had no idea how we would ever find our baby. Exactly three weeks later, on July 15th of 2020, a social worker we knew from Kansas called to tell us about a baby that had just been born in Oklahoma. Because the birth mom had no prior medical care and tested positive for meth and numerous STD’s, there were no families willing to adopt her. If this baby wasn’t placed with a family, social services would take her, and she would become another number in the foster system. I will never forget the night I met our baby girl. She was lying in a crib in the NICU. Cords were hooked up all over her body and she had a black eye mask on to protect her eyes from the bright

lights that were treating her bilirubin. The very first thought I had was, “She has a black eye mask on just like the one I sleep with every night.” Then I noticed her full head of dark hair. Estelle was born with a full head of dark hair and I couldn’t believe I was staring at a baby who looked exactly like one I could have given birth to. What I saw next completely took my breath away. Above her bassinet was written “Baby Girl Lucy.” At the hospital, babies are identified by their birth mom’s last name. Jared and I loved the name Lucy and decided that if we ever had another baby girl, we would name her that. (We had named the second baby I miscarried Lucy.) Just like the divine had named Estelle, my second daughter had been given a name as a promise that she would be safe. Hear more about Rebecca and Jared’s journey into parenthood at Moms Like Me, July 11, 2021. This annual event will be held at the Gallatin River Hideaway from 5-8 pm. Rebecca Schlender is a Bozeman mama, hairstylist and certified yoga instructor who loves to inspire others into brave action.

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