An Open and Blessed Adoption
By Amanda Hudson
November 23, 2017
SYCAMORE—“Every nurse at the hospital gave all four of us a hug,” says Elliot Foley. 
 
The “all four” being hugged were Elliot and his wife, Jessica, and their daughter’s birth parents, Matt and Rachel. 
 
It is not every day that those nurses could witness not only the birth of a beautiful little girl but also the blessed relationship of her adoptive and birth parents.
 
“Rachel had talked to me ahead of time” about being with her when she gave birth, says Jessica. “Rachel is one of the most selfless people I know — a very vibrant, very remarkable person.
 
“It was awesome to be there; she actually had asked me to be the first one to hold (Gabriella). I had the first skin-to-skin contact.”
 
In the meantime, Elliot was out “pacing the hallway like any dad,” he says. “I was just burning (through) rosaries up and down the hallway and making the nurses laugh at me.”
 
Elliot is a parishioner at St. Mary Parish, here, and director of creative services at 5 Stones (formerly Lighthouse Media), a Catholic-focused company.
 
“So as soon as (Gabriella) was born, Elliot got to come in,” Jessica says. 
 
“That was probably one of my favorite moments,” she says. “The first thing he did was go straight to Rachel, and they had a moment. Then he came to me and shared the feeling of ‘your child is born.’ Rachel started to sing ‘Amazing Grace.’ She has a beautiful voice.”
 
Last year, after four years of marriage without conceiving, the Foleys had been exploring Church-approved fertility options. 
 
They also had begun to say “We’ll probably adopt some day,” Elliot says. 
 
He shared that struggle with his good friend, Mike, and some time later, Mike called him to say, “Hey there’s someone in our family who is pregnant and is considering giving her child up for adoption.
 
“Would you like to meet her?”
 
“It didn’t take long (for us) to discern the answer,” Elliot says, explaining that he and Jessica decided that “if the Lord wants us to be involved — even if just to pray for them — and if He wants it to happen ...”
 
Their first contact with Mike’s Evangelical Christian cousin in Pennsylvania was by phone.
 
“Jess talked to her first,” Elliot says, “and I talked to her on New Year’s Day. The first time on the phone together, it was natural. I guess the word was ‘chemistry.’ It was a very natural, peaceful conversation.
 
“We tried to keep our feet on the ground,” he adds. “We would talk to (Rachel) every couple of weeks. We met Gabriella’s father, Matt, on Skype, six weeks later. It was a similar experience. We were able to offer our prayers” for them.
 
By mid-February, the Foleys knew they were on the “short list” of possible adoptive parents. 
 
“They wanted us to come out and meet them and their parents,” Elliot says of the two couples. “We got along great. We named her together (over) breakfast. Instead of ‘Gaby,’ we’ll call her ‘Bella,’ a favorite (nickname) of Rachel’s.
 
“They asked us before we left if we would adopt her. From there, it was just elation. And a lot of discernment,” he says.
 
The Foleys called the Rockford Diocese and began to work with Catholic Charities’ adoption team, Virginia Desjarlais and Jennifer Peacock (see related article). 
 
After they told Desjarlais and Peacock they’d already met Rachel and Matt — and were already matched — and the baby was coming in two months, “they fast-tracked everything,” Elliot says.
 
“Gabriella was due in late April. We went there and prepared to stay for a month. We were there a week before she was born.”
 
The out-of-state adoption process included having Matt and Rachel sign initial papers about 36-hours after Gabriella’s birth. Their final signatures followed a 30-day period when they could have revoked the adoption. 
 
Three weeks after the birth — and all those nurses’ hugs — the Foleys were given the okay to bring their daughter home to Sycamore. 
 
The channels of communication continue, however.
 
“It’s a very open adoption,” says Elliot. “That’s how we drew it up. All the sharing in that blissful first hour together — we want that to be a microcosm” of the future, he says. “We’re also bringing Matt and Rachel into our family and, by extension, their family.
 
“We want Gabriella to know that she’s adopted, that this is willed for her, and that Rachel picked us to be her parents forever.”
 
“People are drawn to (open adoption) for lots of different reasons,” Jessica says. “It is very positive for the child. It is definitely one of the movements of adoption in general to try, as much as possible.”
 
The means of communication, she adds, can be “different from couple to couple.”
 
So far, a weekly Skype visit has been supplemented by in-person visits.
 
“They likely will be coming this way more often,” Elliot says. “We want them to see her ‘natural habitat.’ They were out here in August for her baptism.”
 
Elliot and Jessica, Matt and Rachel and Gabriella’s godparents all were around her as she was baptized by long-time friend of the Foley’s, Msgr. Daniel Deutsch, pastor of St. Bridget in Loves Park. 
 
Elliot recalls a moment in his homily when Msgr. Deutsch said, “Gabriella, for all of us, is a living and breathing testament to the faithfulness of God.”
 
Her forever-dad agrees.
 
“It’s hard to put into words the gift that has (come into) our lives,” Elliot says. “Adoption is truly a life-giving option — far more than I ever knew.”