Kayla Lupean was 30 when she adopted her daughter after a contentious divorce.
She learned to think outside the box, and wants her daughter to as well.
This is Lupean's story, as told to Kelly Burch.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Kayla Lupean. It has been edited for length and clarity.
In my 20s, I went through a divorce that was a huge shock. As I left the marriage, I was incredibly thankful that I did not share a child with that person. I dated but didn't meet anyone I could envision raising a person with. Adoption started weighing on my mind more and more.
My mom is a nurse manager at an OBGYN practice. One day, I asked her if expecting parents ever came in looking to make an adoption plan. She asked the doctor she worked for, and he said in 25 years that had never happened. But the next day, a couple came in seeking to place their baby for adoption.
It was a wild set of circumstances that felt too aligned to be coincidental. I had no adoption agency to guide me. Over the next eight weeks, I Googled every piece of adoption, from expediting a home study to hiring a lawyer and advocate for the birth mother, and hoped I was on the right path. I wrestled with getting baby supplies quickly on one income.
I did it all while knowing that nothing was set in stone. My daughter's birth parents were well within their rights to change their minds at any time. I was living a dual reality, coming up to a momentous split: in one scenario, I would continue on with my life like any other 30-year-old. On the other, I would become a single mom to a newborn.
We had a horrible start
When my daughter was born, I was at the hospital. But the staff weren't sure what to do with me, as an adoptive mom. They put me and my daughter in a room but told me not to touch anything, including the trash can. It felt like a horrible start.
When my daughter was discharged we went to court. The judge asked her birth parents a dozen times whether they were sure they wanted to give up their rights. Watching them go through that and being the one about to receive a huge gift from their loss, was devastating. I wasn't prepared for the real human emotional aspect when it was time for me to leave with my daughter and they were left with nothing.
Being a mom gave me the confidence to make my own rules
Growing up, we're down this idea of what life is supposed to look like. My divorce forced me to rethink everything I thought I knew. Becoming a mom showed me that I can do things my way.
When I had my daughter, I left a job in corporate real estate to pursue my wedding photography business. That supported us until the pandemic when all my weddings were canceled. That's when I took another major gamble, investing our only savings to found Play Maysie, a line of portable vintage dollhouses.
Through my experience with adoption, I learned a lot about foster care. As part of my adoption paperwork, I came across a list of every trauma and harm that can bring children into foster care. There were horrors beyond the bounds of what you think could ever happen to a child.
Now that my daughter is 5, play is the centerpiece of her life. And I know that ownership can make you feel confident and valued. Too often, kids enter foster care with nothing. That's why I work with foster agencies to donate dollhouses to children.
It took me 30 years to realize that life can look however you want it to. But I want my daughter to know that from a young age. I want her to live a life that's authentic to her. Our family is complete with just the two of us, in a way that I never realized was possible. And it's sweeter than I could have imagined.
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