Adoption: 'Every day is Mother's Day to me'
BEMIDJI - Mother's Day is every day for Amy Skala, a sixth-grade teacher at Bemidij's middle school, coach of the seventh-grade girl's softball team and mother of two adopted children who are siblings of the heart.
There is an old saying, "You grew in my heart," that adoptive mothers have said for generations to a youngster who asks where they came from.
Amy's story is similar to many married couples who have turned to adoption as a way to fulfill their dream of parenthood.
"When I tell the stories of how I became a mother, I can't help but cry every time," Amy says. "Our journey to become parents wasn't exactly easy, but it was exactly what it was meant to be - our journey."
For Amy and her husband, Jess, operations manager for Lakeland Public Television, it took a year to complete all the paperwork and attend meetings. Finally their names were written in the "Rainbow Book" (prospective parents open to adopt children of any race) of their agency and the anticipation of a new member of the family began.
"We had a few heartbreaks along the way," Amy says. "A baby whose birth mother changed her mind after we had driven through a blizzard all night and a baby we had to bring back after a few days in our home, but (is) forever in our hearts."
Amy and Jess met the birth mother of their son Aidan about a month before he was born. As it turned out, the birth mother had been adopted by her family and therefore they were very supportive of her and her decision. But Amy admits to being terrified the birth mother would change her mind, after all they had been at this stage before.
"God was smiling on us," Amy says. "The nurse on duty during delivery had also been adopted and she helped calm my fears and talked our birth mother through everything. We took Aidan home 24 hours after delivery, on the Fourth of July, and every year we tell him how we saw fireworks out the hospital window the night he was born."
Shea, their daughter, came after being on the waiting list for a year without many contacts.
Amy and Jess had decided to give it another year and went on with their lives. Upon returning from a family reunion, they found numerous phone messages on their answering machine from their social worker. Being veterans of the system by now, they knew it meant that a baby had been born and was waiting for them.
"Sure enough, Shea had been born that morning," Amy says. "The next day we drove to the (Twin Cities). We were shocked and delighted when the doctor said that she was good to go and we could take her.
"When we asked Aidan if that was his sister, he looked at her with love and whispered, 'Yes.' We then asked him if we should take her home and again, he just whispered 'yes' and it was a done deal."
The Skala's parental journey has had it bumps like when Aidan was diagnosed with developmental delays and now receives special education in the Bemidji schools. Aidan is not shy about saying how much he likes his mom.
"I like my mom, my mom is nice and she reads me a bedtime story every day," says Aidan. "I like the 'Magic School Bus' and my teacher is Miss Bonik (Northern Elementary)."
Kindergartner Shea, on the other hand, is very forthright when asked about her mom. "I love my mommy because she buys me pretty dresses."
Both children say going to Poppy and Grammy's farm and lake home in Grand Rapids is one of their favorite things to do. Both grandparents were right in front with their children and grandchildren last Sunday when Aidan received his First Eucharist at St. Philip's. Parental pride was abundant when they shared the day with Aidan, who was wearing a white shirt and tie, quite the grown-up.
"We chose open adoptions, which means the birth parents and adoptive parents meet and 'choose' each other," Amy says.
"We are so blessed that two very brave and strong young women trusted in us to give us a piece of their hearts. I have the greatest respect for the choice they made to carry my children and be strong enough to let them go. I know it sounds cheesy, but through all the moments, good and bad, every day is Mother's Day to me."