My Faith Pulled Me Through

My Faith Pulled Me Through

It took years. It almost broke her heart. Here, for the first time, Mariska Hargitay shares the tender story of how she adopted her two precious new kids

Mariska Hargitay is among America’s favorite (not to mention highest-paid) TV actresses for one very good reason: her portrayal on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit of Olivia Benson, the grave, rarely smiling but deeply compassionate sex-crimes detective.

So it’s happily jarring to enter Hargitay’s sprawling but comfy New York City apartment and find…the trappings of a party. Dozens of helium balloons bounce against the ceilings of the living room and office; it was Hargitay’s 48th birthday recently, and her husband, actor Peter Hermann (who recently starred in the Broadway play War Horse), surprised her with a hayride-themed party. While the bales of hay have thankfully been removed, those balloons remain a happy reminder of the soiree. A massive teddy bear is also a permanent fixture in the living room.

“This is the fun house!” Hargitay says, buoyant in a Manhattan mom’s outfit of black jeans, riding boots, and layered tees that reveals her to be, refreshingly, as normal-size around the midriff as any top actress dares to be.

Her Family Plan

Hargitay gave birth to August at 42, an age after which subsequent pregnancies aren’t always easy. After a few years of Hargitay and Hermann’s enjoying new parenthood, “August wanted siblings, and Peter and I both envisioned this big family because we both come from that. Plus, we just had so much love to give,” she explains. “I was really letting the chips fall as they might, because I do think so much is up to God. I always said, ‘I don’t know how this is going to end up. I don’t know if I’m going to get pregnant and have twins. I don’t know…,’ ” she says, throwing her hands up theatrically, ” ‘if somebody’s going to leave a baby on my doorstep.’ But I really did think that down the line, Peter and I would adopt a child. That was always part of the plan.”

GH By Sheila Weller Read Full Story >>

I Couldn’t Get Her Off My Heart

I Couldn’t Get Her Off My Heart

The White family of Louisville, Kentucky knew what hardship was. The recession had hit the family hard and they had been forced to downsize from their large family home to a small rental. However, one of their four children, ten year old Ryan Elizabeth heard about kids with even less than they had. Reading about the orphans in Haiti, Ryan urged her parents to do something. Couldn’t they adopt some of the orphans who had no one to take care of them?

At first, her mom Shelly White thought her compassion was wonderful, but soon would be forgotten. But that’s not what happened. “She literally would not let this go,” White says. Ryan shook her piggy bank and begged her parents to just “take it!”

Soon the family tapped into “Show Hope” an adoption advocacy group so they could pray as a family for the hundreds of needy children on the website. Suddenly, one child captured their hearts like no other. A one year old baby girl with a cancerous tumor in an orphanage in China. The baby most likely had just one year to live. The White’s couldn’t imagine this little one going through that with no family to help or love her. “I had a mother’s love for her right away” says Shelly White, whose other children are 3, 6 and 9. “I can’t really explain it. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I couldn’t get her off my heart.”

The couple came face to face with their main worry—how could they make room for one more person in their small house with one bathroom and six people already living there? And more importantly how could they possibly afford the $20,000 plus fees to adopt? Shelly White finally posed the question to her husband Hal– “Is money the only thing stopping us?” They decided it was, and would no longer be an obstacle. The White’s knew that God wanted them to adopt this precious baby girl, and somehow He would provide a way. They were going to do it! Things fell into place quickly after that decision. A local Louisville hospital offered to treat their new adopted daughter Mya at no charge.

Friends and family rallied around and held fundraisers for the adoption fees. Best of all, little Mya’s tumor is shrinking and her hopes for a future are climbing. The White children are having a blast with their new little sister and the parents say the only time they fight is when arguing about who gets to hold her. They proudly reflect on their daughter Ryan’s tenacity in making sure they “practiced what they preached.” The White’s example to reach out to those in need is not just an example for their four children but an example for the world.

Ring The Bells For The Miracle of Adoption

Ring The Bells For The Miracle of Adoption

Eight families and twelve children finalized their adoptions on live television as part of the Today Show’s “Choosing Adoption” series. The honorable Judge Martha Walsh was on hand to stress the urgent need of over 100,000 children in our foster care system waiting for forever families. Judge Walsh began an annual event in her own upstate New York community to promote awareness of the growing needs of foster care children and to encourage more families to consider adoption. She smiled when revealing her somewhat unusual tradition in the courtroom—she rings a bell every time an adoption is final. “It’s much more appropriate than banging the gavel” she said and reminded viewers it’s “in the spirit of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ when Clarence gets his wings. We thought the bell would symbolize the creation of a forever family.”

One of the families featured, the McIntyres , welcomed 1 1/2 year old Chase who joins the couples three biological and four previously adopted children. They explained that it was their oldest three biological children who expressed a desire for more siblings and were very involved in the decision to adopt little Chase. Mark McIntyre told about the day they all congregated as a family to make the final decision . “We had a family meeting at Denny’s to vote—’is this what we want to do?’ It was a unanimous yes!” Christina, the oldest McIntyre child added “It’s been a very humbling experience. I love the kids. They just fit right into the family.”

A local photographer was on hand to capture the moment when Judge Walsh asked all the families to respond “All in favor, say aye” and a thunderous “aye” was given. Bells started ringing and smiles erupted as twelve joyful children heard what they’d been waiting so long to hear. “Congratulations, it’s official. You have a forever family!”


Today Show Doctor Shares Her Story of Adoption

Today Show Doctor Shares Her Story of Adoption

“I’ve had a wonderful life. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank you for everything you’ve given me.”(Kate Snyderman to birthmother Cheryl)

Airing this November as we celebrate Adoption Awareness Month was a heartwarming story from NBC’s own Chief Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman. The Today Show regular took viewers into her private life and shared her story of unexpected joy through adoption.

Dr. Snyder explains that she was a career driven surgeon who received a phone call out of the blue asking if she’d be interested in adopting a soon to be born baby in a neighboring state. Dr. Snyderman reflects on that moment and explained “My decision prompted an impulsive and immediate ‘yes’! The baby girl, who she named Kate, grew up always knowing she was adopted and brought incredible joy to someone who had never even thought about being a mother.

When Kate turned 25 she decided to seek out information about her biological mother by searching on the internet and numerous websites and registries. After about a year of searching, a breakthrough came. An email popped up with the words “I think you may be my sister.” That communication led to Kate finding her birth mother Sheryl and the long awaited connection began. Kate was ecstatic, but also a muddle of nerves. “When I eventually hit ‘send’ on my first email to my birth mother I was so flustered I went out and mowed the lawn to work off nervous energy” she admits. A meeting ensued, and Kate finally got to tell Cheryl something she’d waited 27 years to say; “I’ve had a wonderful life. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank you for everything you’ve given me.” Then it was Dr. Nancy Snyderman’s turn to speak to Cheryl from her heart. “I thanked her 27 times for giving me the opportunity to raise her daughter.” She wanted Kate and the entire world to know “Cheryl was one of the “strongest and bravest” women she has ever encountered. For the complete stories of both, see links below.

Kate Snyderman’s Journey to find my birth mother

Dr. Nancy Snyderman’s the day my life changed forever

Photos courtesy of Nancy Snyderman

Adoption Over Abortion

Adoption Over Abortion

If My Little Voice Could Speak
By: Shelbea Riddle – An Adopted High School Senior

10 little fingers
10 little toes
I am so cute.
But nobody knows.

Only God,
Who fearfully and wonderfully made me.
He knows.
He knows I am perfect.

If I could have just
One breath,
One chance to say the words “I love you”
One chance to live
I would take it.

It would be my chance
To shine
To grow
To cry
To make a mistake
To succeed.

I want to see earth!
Heaven is awesome too…
But I want to meet my mommy and daddy.

So like mind over matter, mommy
PLEASE choose adoption
Over ending my life.

I don’t want the scary doctors to hurt me.
I can hear them convincing you this is the best decision,
It isn’t mommy.
They are brain washing you.

I want to hear your heart beat mommy!
How else will I fall asleep?
When I kick and you feel your belly,
I experience love and safety.
So keep me loved and safe, mommy.
All I want is to live.

Miracle Adoption

Miracle Adoption

The Christmas gift arrived unexpectedly in the heat of summer when a woman in rural Washington County picked up the phone and was confronted with a choice that she knew would ultimately alter the course of a life.What if she hadn’t been home? Or had declined, saying the timing wasn’t right? Both haunting questions that get to the core of love, sacrifice and family — concepts people focus on so intently during this time of year. With one little word — “yes” — a journey began.

Though it may have started out of desperation, it ended in joy Friday afternoon (just two days before Christmas) when a family gathered in a courtroom for a simple ceremony that couldn’t begin to do justice to all that had taken transpired during the past five months.

The call came on July 13 when Sandi Brannock’s husband was at work and the couple’s six kids were busy playing in another part of the house. At her desk, she glanced at the caller identification and readCincinnati. Brannock knew only one person there. And, sure enough, when she picked up it was Robin Steele, coordinator for the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network.

Five days earlier, a mother had given birth in Washington state to twin girls. One was healthy. The other had a heart defect and Down syndrome, both a complete surprise. The parents had decided they were going to take one twin home and leave the other behind. Called boarder babies, these children become wards of the state, which places them in foster care. Steele, who 35 years ago adopted such a child, had been searching her organization’s database to find someone who might take this child.

The parents were checking out of the hospital in two days. She needed to find a family who not only had an interest in adopting a special needs child, but who had also completed a detailed home study, the first step in the adoption process. The computer came up with Sandi and Kirk Brannock. Eighteen months earlier, the couple — both 46 and married for 17 years — had adopted Amira, a two-week-old Washington baby girl who had Down syndrome. Steele had an important question for Sandi: Were they interested in adopting again? Brannock asked if any other families had expressed interest…”No”.

The circumstances touched a nerve with Brannock, a registered nurse who had worked in a hospital’s postpartum and neonatal unit before quitting to raise her children. She knew of a single mother who planned to put her unborn child up for adoption, but the adoptive family backed out when the child was born with cerebral palsy. The birth mother also walked away, and the child was institutionalized. The story hit close to home because one of the Brannocks’ sons, Cole, 12, has cerebral palsy. Brannock told Steele she had to talk with her husband, who works in the high tech field. After a quick phone conversation, she got back to Steele and said yes.

That evening, the couple gathered their five sons, ages 6 to 16. Before they had adopted Amira — who now walked around the living room during the discussion — they talked with their boys about what it would mean for their lives. Once again, they wanted their boys to weigh in.One day, when their parents were gone, the responsibility of having sisters with special needs would fall to the boys, they told them. The answer was unanimous. They were gaining another sister, one they would love as much as they loved Amira.

The next morning, the family climbed into their 10-seat bus and set out to bring another little girl home. On the way, the adoption caseworker called on a cellphone and told the Brannocks to go to the hospital where paperwork giving them legal permission to see the baby would be waiting.

They arrived at the hospital early in the evening. The boys and their sister stayed in the neonatal waiting room. Their parents were each given a wristband that read “Baby A.” On the band was the date the unnamed girl was born. Brannock studied the band, trying to remember what she’d been doing the day the girl she now considered her daughter was born. A nurse led the way to a room with a sliding glass door. She passed a crib where a healthy baby girl slept and stopped in front of a crib near the back of the room. She picked up a bundle and placed it in Sandi Brannock’s arms. Brannock scooted over so her husband could sit next to her. She pulled back the blanket to look at the little face. The baby was small and pale, more fragile than Brannock had expected, and she said a silent prayer asking for strength.

Kirk Brannock took pictures of baby on his cellphone, then went to show the kids her image. Nurses told Sandi Brannock the baby had heart problems and had undergone blood transfusions, which was why she was so pale. Brannock handed the baby back to a nurse. She said she and her husband would return Friday, and the family checked in to a nearby motel. Sandi Brannock didn’t want this newborn girl to leave the hospital without a name. She researched names online, studyingthe meaning of each one. None felt right.

Then she found Elyana — God has answers.

The next morning, the Brannocks drove to the adoption agency to complete the paperwork and to meet the parents who decided to give up one of their daughters. At 11:30 a.m., the parents walked into the room with Elyana’s sister in a baby carrier. Sandi Brannock expected a drug-addicted mother, or maybe a young girl. Instead, she found an attractive couple who appeared to be at least middle class. The parents were too nervous to sit, and they stood in the middle of the room. At one point, Brannock studied Elyana’s sister. She saw the clear resemblance between the two girls, save for the distinctive facial features that indicated Down syndrome. The couple told the Brannocks they had a 3-year-old son who knew his mother had given birth to twins. The parents said they planned to tell him one of his sisters had gone to live with a family who would care for her.

As gently as possible, Kirk Brannock asked why they’d decided to give up one daughter. When the Brannocks had decided to adopt Amira, some people couldn’t understand why. Even though it felt right to them, they approached it analytically, listing the pros and cons. The only “con” was fear. And that was not enough to stop them from going ahead.

Fighting tears, the woman said she and her husband were their parents’ only children. They had no family in the area to help them raise a special-needs child. They both had demanding careers. They said they wanted the baby girl to live with a family who could do a better job than they could. The birth mother, clearly hurting, began crying. She said she loved the little girl.

The Brannocks would never judge this woman and her husband, a couple so full of fear and doubt. Better than anyone else, they knew what they were going through and would never want them to feel guilty. A little baby — made the way Sandi believes God intended her — would soon be joining a family eagerly awaitng her arrival. But it was impossible to say it just then. All the Brannocks could do was wrap their arms around this couple and hug them tightly.

When the meeting ended,the Brannocks returned to the hospital, where they filled out more paperwork and scheduled appointments in Portland with a pediatrician and a heart specialist. Then they carried Elyana Brannock to meet her brothers and sister. Elyana was so small and fragile that doctors had to wait three months before she’d gained enough weight to fix the hole in her heart. She was eventually released from the hospital and sent home, but the recovery took more than a month. It wasn’t until late November that their little girl was clearly healing.

A date — what the family called “the day” — was set to make the adoption official.

Two days before Christmas they all gathered in the Washington County Courthouse, waiting to be brought in to a courtroom where Circuit Court Judge Rita Batz Cobb would sign the adoption papers. All the Brannock kids, their parents, grandparents and family friends packed the hallway, waiting for the signal that it was time. He reached for his cellphone, tapped the picture icon up popped a photo of Elyana. “The rough patch in her life is over,” Brannock said. “She smiled for the first time two days ago. We got it on film.”

Original story can be found here