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Jessie Carlson, Courtesy Alison Lea Photography

JESSIE CARLSON – BIRTH MOM

When Jessie Carlson found herself in an abusive relationship and pregnant at age 15, she felt trapped and heartbroken, even after breaking up with her boyfriend. Her mom mentioned visiting a New Life clinic to learn about her options.

“I didn’t have a job, I was still a sophomore in high school, and my baby didn’t have a dad, so I thought I’ll go and I’ll listen (to New Life),” said Jessie.

The idea of adoption wasn’t new to Jessie. In fact, adoption is at the origin of Jessie’s family’s story. Both she and her brother and sister were adopted; her parents worked with New Life Family Services for her siblings’ adoptions.

Based on Jessie’s own experience as an adopted child, she knew she wanted an open adoption so she could be involved in her daughter’s life.

“I knew I wanted her to have everything; a stable home with stable parents. I realized I couldn’t do it by myself. I wanted her to know how loved she was. And that she wasn’t a burden. I didn’t want her to go through the regret phase,” said Jessie.

She flipped through a couple of introductory books of families who were waiting to adopt a baby. When she saw a snapshot of the Kramer’s life, she knew this was the family.

“Right away there was a really strong connections. They were perfect.”

 

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Jessie Carlson, Chelsi Kramer, Julie Kramer Courtesy Alison Lea Photography

JULIE KRAMER – ADOPTIVE MOM

“It was an unbelievable call, when New Life called (with news that Jessie had selected them). Eli (their 6-year-old son) ran around our neighborhood trying to tell neighbors the news,” said Julie Kramer.

The Kramer’s had struggled with years of infertility and had numerous miscarriages. They turned to New Life after a number of people at their church referred them to the adoption agency.

“I felt at peace with adoption after our infertility. I knew at some point with adoption we would end up with a baby, whereas with infertility we never had that peace. God gave us peace in this process,” said Julie.

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Julie heading home from the hospital with Chelsi

Julie said her biggest fear going through an adoption was that the birth mom would back out. But once she got to know Jessie’s level of maturity, she had a greater sense of security.

“I had confidence and trust that Jessie would always follow through, knowing this was best for the baby,” said Julie.

The Kramer’s knew by having an open adoption, they would not only gain one new family member, but a whole extended family. To help navigate that reality, they participated in an open adoption forum New Life Family Services hosted.

“It was super helpful to envision other families becoming a part of our family: traveling together, spending holidays together,” said Julie. “It’s often scary for people to have an open adoption, for me it’s awesome to have Jessie available to answer questions for our daughter when she is older.”

 

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Chelsi and Jessie, Courtesy Alison Lea Photography

CHELSI CARLSON KRAMER

Chelsi Carlson Kramer was born on January 25, 2013 after three long days of labor for Jessie.

“I really felt like God was there because I really didn’t think I could do it. It was sort of like no one else was in the room but me and God and Chelsi,” said Jessie. “That’s when I really got it that He’s still going to be there, no matter what He’s not going to forsake you.”

The Kramers and Carlsons took part in New Life’s entrustment ceremony right there at the hospital: lighting three unity candles, praying and promising to take care of Chelsi.

“I knew I was handing Chelsi to someone who was going to love her just as much as I loved her, so that was really powerful for me,” said Jessie.

“It was so nice to meet people from Jessie’s family and friends. It was really special and emotional,” said Julie.

 

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Carlson Family (L): Andy, Janet, Jessie; Kramer Family (R): Julie, Chelsi, Kevin, Eli; Courtesy Alison Lea Photography

TWO FAMILIES BECOME ONE

The first few months were hard for Jessie. She missed feeling Chelsi’s kicks, she felt empty-handed and she was curious about what Chelsi was doing. But Julie sent daily picture texts, and Jessie was able to visit Chelsi in her new home. And soon each family found their new rhythm.

“It was a really big deal for us to become a family of one. Julie and Kevin are like my aunt and uncle. We’re a super big, connected family.”

The Kramers and Carlsons now share a common bond for this sweet little girl, whose story begins with sacrificial love by both her birth mom and her adoptive parents.

“Our story is unique, I’m adopted and Chelsi is adopted, so it’s a line of adoptees,” said Jessie.

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Eli and Chelsi as a newborn

Julie also discovered an unexpected friend in Jessie’s mother Janet. “I think the whole piece of Jessie being the birth mom, but also being adopted, was very helpful. Janet, (Jessie’s mom) was a great resource for me. It’s nice to have a friend who I can talk to about adoptive parenting.”

Chelsi is now 2-years-old and looks a lot like Jessie did as a toddler. At Jessie’s high school graduation party, Chelsi even confused baby pictures of Jessie for pictures of herself. But it’s not just baby pictures or medical records that this open adoption offers Chelsi.

“It’s a great gift we have to give to Chelsi, that she’ll know Jessie and her parents,” said Julie.