Heather lives with her family in Raleigh, North Carolina. She has been married to Daniel Ritchie for 14 years and together they have two children, 8 and 5 years old. Heather and Daniel co-host a weekly podcast, The Middle with Daniel and Heather Ritchie, and they work together in Daniel’s speaking and writing ministry. As an artist and designer, Heather seeks to reflect the beauty of the Lord across multiple mediums. You can find her on Instagram at @heathersletters.
My family is currently in the moving process and as I packed some memories the other night, I shared with my kids the only picture I have of my birth parents. They were young, cute teenagers. His athletic frame towered over her slender one and she was laughing, seemingly from the weight of his arm draped around her shoulders.The kids were interested but only for a moment, and I guess my tone was nostalgic as my daughter, who just turned five, asked, “Are you sad, Mommy?”
I wasn’t sad at all. I told her I was thankful. Though, the gratitude is layered.
My adoption is a closed one, but what little my Mom was told from social services was that my parents were teenagers. Too young to be parents and being a pregnant teenager was more taboo in the 80’s than it is today, so they sought an abortion. Gratitude rises in me for the sovereignty of God, who watched over my unborn life. He perfectly aligned the timing of that doctor’s appointment to be past the legal date of an abortion in North Carolina, in 1985. There were laws protecting the unborn. My life was protected.
In what I imagine must have been insurmountable embarrassment, shame and fear, that sixteen year old girl moved into an unwed mother’s home. There she received medical care and support for the remainder of her pregnancy. After delivering me, healthy, she surrendered me for adoption. I think she is awfully brave. She was asked to do something as a teenager most middle aged women cannot imagine.
I am thankful for the hopes she had for my future and hers, enough to give of herself for my life. She gave me a name, and you only name something that you have affection and hopes for. Her decision to carry me and seek proper care is a beautiful example of second chances;
redemption after a bad choice.
My foster family sounds adorable, I would love to meet them one day. With little boys of their own they welcomed me, at three days old, a little girl - their first placement. She told my Mom I was the centerpiece of Easter lunch all propped up in the middle of the table. They doted on me, named me as well, and loved me until I was no longer theirs at six weeks old. There is no doubt in my mind, the love and attention I received in those formative first few weeks of life gave me a sense of security and stability that has lasted into adulthood. All foster parents should know how valuable they are.
The greatest affection and gratitude I feel is for Mom and Dad. The couple who desperately
wanted a family, and did not see adoption as a lesser vehicle to achieve it. My name was their favorite name picked out for years before I was theirs. My Dad gave me his middle name to share, and the one I kept even after getting married. They raised me always with the knowledge I was adopted, with all the details and that God used them all in bringing me to them, where I belonged all along.
That truth gave me a knowledge that my life was purposeful and valued, not inconvenient or
unwanted. I am so thankful that even though my parents had two biological sons after me, we were all loved and raised the same. They showed me blood does not make a family. That is something I wish the whole world knew today, that God gives us family through many avenues. Adoption and foster care are the proof we are all more family than separate tribes.
How much better would we care for each other if we all knew and believed this down to our
depths? I am thankful for my story as it has given me the ability to imagine myself in anyone’s shoes. After all, I could have been a part of anybody’s family, thus giving me a completely different experience in life than the one I was privileged to grow up in. It is all grace, and I am grateful for it all.
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