Dana and Andrea after a show that Dana's band played.
Dana DeStefano, a Holt-Sunny Ridge adoptee, shares about her adoption experience and the fulfilling relationship she has with her birth mom, Andrea.

My relationship with my birth mom is unique — I suppose it’s sort of unique to have a relationship with my birth mom at all. I hear many stories about adopted kids meeting their birth families and having disappointing experiences. I also hear stories of adopted kids who don’t have the opportunity to meet their birth parents at all. The relationship between my birth mom, Andrea, and me is such a special part of my life and I feel so blessed. She is my friend. She’s supportive and loving and a great role model. I can talk to her about anything and she will never judge me. She’s fun and cool and I love hanging out with her.

Some friends have asked, “Why do you call her ‘Andrea’ and not ‘mom’?” I don’t call her mom because she’s not my mom. She didn’t raise me. My mom, Donna, did. Andrea gave birth to me and chose Donna and Vince to be my mom and dad. She gave me the gift of life and by choosing the best parents, she gave me everything I have. She gave me to my mom Donna, who taught me the alphabet, and how to walk and talk and write and took care of me every day of my life. Donna is my mom. Andrea is something different, so I call her Andrea.

From my very first memories, my mom always did her best to explain my adoption to me. “Your birth mom’s name is Andrea,” she told me. “She found out that she was having a baby, but was too young to take care of a baby, so she chose us to be your parents.” I would get packages and cards for my birthday from Andrea and her mom, Judy, but I wasn’t ready to meet in person until I was a teenager.

Dana with her brother and Andrea, the first time they met.

Dana with her brother and Andrea, the first time they met.

Once I got to high school, I started to understand what “too young to have a baby” meant, and started to wonder about Andrea and what she was like and how her life was now. Getting close to the age she was when she was pregnant with me, I was able to imagine what it would be like to be in her shoes. I was Andrea’s second pregnancy. My half brother, Eric, is a little over a year older than me. I couldn’t imagine the hardship that it would be being pregnant in high school once, let alone going through it twice, and doing the absolute least selfish thing in the entire world. She gave both of us to couples who were completely ready to raise children, instead of attempting to be a parent at age 15. I began to see how strong and brave Andrea was and I wanted to get to know her.

She contacted me online when I was 16, and we started to talk and eventually met. She invited me and my family and Eric and his family to her house around the holidays. I met her, her soon-to-be-husband, Ryan, her mom, Judy, and her two kids who are my half siblings, Eden and Ryder. We were all a little bit shy since it was our first time meeting, but it was fun and comfortable and went well.

Andrea and her daughter, Eden, Dana's half sister, watched Dana's band play at the House of Blues.

Andrea and her daughter, Eden, Dana’s half sister, watched Dana’s band play at the House of Blues.

From there, we continued to talk online and saw each other every once in a while. She and Ryan came to see me play guitar and sing at an open mic. Eric just so happened to play guitar, too, which always kind of blows my mind when I think about it — we didn’t even know each other existed until we were 15, but somehow we ended up with similar interests. When Andrea and Ryan got engaged, Andrea asked Eric and me to play music at their wedding ceremony. It meant so much that she wanted us to be involved, especially by doing something we were passionate about. Music has become my career, and Andrea is in the audience at almost every show I play. She’s invited me to yoga classes and took us out for drinks after Eric and I turned 21. She’s had us over for game nights at her house, and we always do a get-together with our families around Christmas and sometimes near our birthdays. It is always lots of fun.

I’ve always thought of my relationship with Andrea and the rest of my biological family as a huge “bonus” in my life. Between a birth mom and the child they placed with an adoptive family, there aren’t really any built-in expectations or obligations on either side. But she made a place for me in her life and I made a place for her in mine. It doesn’t take anything away from my relationship with my parents, or her relationship with her family. Our relationship is a beautiful addition to the beautiful life she gave me.

We’re an amazing example of how fulfilling an open adoption can be for all parties involved. Just because she didn’t choose to be my mom doesn’t mean we can’t be a part of each other’s family and an important part of each other’s lives. I don’t feel that she “gave me up.” She gave me my best chance at an amazing life and waited until I was able to understand and ready to get to know her. Our situation is unique and special and I can’t imagine anything better.

Dana DeStefano | Holt-Sunny Ridge Adoptee