For Amanda Thomas, adoption is simultaneously normal and exceptional. Herself an adoptee, Amanda and her husband Matthew recently welcomed their son Henry to their home near Ann Arbor through the loving option of adoption. Adoption and childbirth are both wonderful ways to welcome a child into a family.

“Adoption is not a second choice for family building, it’s another option, an amazing option,” Amanda said.

Adoption, like childbirth, brings with it joys and challenges. Amanda has experienced both, in both. Just like her adoptive parents, she has an older child through birth and a younger child through adoption. While challenges are often the face of adoption seen by many, Amanda wants people to know the joy that adoption can bring.

“I think a lot of times adult adoptees who have had a bad adoption experience are very vocal,” she said. “It’s important for me to share my adoption story.”

Amanda’s story began on a college campus in 1982. Her biological mother was studying education when she became pregnant. She had broken up with her boyfriend before finding out about the pregnancy, and the boyfriend had left the university and town. Amanda said her biological father is likely completely unaware of her existence.

With no way to contact the father, Amanda’s birth mother decided on adoption. Her birth mother crafted an adoption plan, placed baby Amanda in a foster home, and three months later she was placed with her new family in a closed adoption. Her adoptive parents had a child previously through birth, but after 10 years and unable to have more biological children, they decided their son could use a little sister.

Amanda always knew she was adopted. As she became older, her parents shared more and more age-appropriate information with her about her adoption. It was always an important part of Amanda’s life growing up, yet her family lived it out as a regular part of life.

“The most important thing was that it was part of my story, but not all of who I was,” she said. “It was always a good thing.”

When discussing adoption, Amanda’s parents didn’t immediately jump into the process. Her father in particular was reluctant, concerned about how adoption would fit their family. Amanda said that what convinced her father to go through with adoption was seeing how it impacted adoptive families that were neighbors and friends. Once he took the leap, her father was all in.

“By seeing those families in action, it changed my dad’s heart,” she said. “I’m a daddy’s girl!”

Several years after Amanda had her biological son John, it was her turn to weigh an adoption choice. Her husband Matthew was on board from the beginning, but just like dad, Amanda had to do some discernment about whether adoption was the right option at that time.

“I think it’s important he took the time to significantly investigate it.” she said. “I asked myself, am I going to be bringing in any baggage from my own adoption?”

After overcoming reservations and moving along through her growing process, Amanda and Matthew are now the happy parents of Henry, who is nine months old. Henry already is fitting in. Much like Amanda and her brother, Henry and John have a loving relationship. She said caring for Henry has brought out a side of John she’s never seen before. Henry is happy and healthy, giving parents delight and grief as only an infant can.

“He thinks he’s the coolest guy ever because he can stand up,” Amanda said.

The Thomas’ have an open adoption with Henry through Christian Family Services in Southfield. They got to know Henry’s birth mother while she was still pregnant. They were able to see the great care and love Henry’s birth mother put into the adoption plan, and still does into her biological son’s life. Amanda doesn’t like to share too many details about the adoption, because Henry deserves to be the first to know.

“It’s Henry’s story, he needs to hear his story first from us,” Amanda said.

Amanda said there were three important contributions to completing the adoption process, which can be difficult getting through. She said prayer was the most important thing. Seeking the counsel of other experienced adoptive families was very helpful, just as it was for her father. Having a strong support system is also critical, for adoptive families as well as any family.

“Knowing you are completely wanted strengthens the bond in an adoptive family,” Amanda said.

Recounting the story of her life and her path to Henry, Amanda teared up. While Henry may have arrived to their family through a slightly different path than John did, the love of this mother for her adopted child is a strong bond beyond measure.

“Every time I see him I’m so thankful he’s ours, he’s been a tremendous blessing,” she said. “It’s amazing how I look back and see how our prayers were answered.”

For more information about adoption services, find an agency or organization near you that can provide adoption services, counseling or referrals. For a list of those, please click here.