Christmas is a time for family, not only of traditions from years prior but of forging new bonds and memories. For one family in Langdon, this holiday season is all the merrier and brighter.
By Melissa Anderson
Todd and Shanda Christianson, along with their daughter Rayelynn (5), welcomed the newest addition to their family just in time for Christmas. Hogan Robert Sonny completed the Christianson clan on November 16, 2018, when his birth mother blessed the Christiansons with their son.
Adoption was not the Christianson’s first option, but it was their best option for achieving their dream of a child after unsuccessfully trying to conceive. The Christiansons had a choice to make.
“We tried for four years with different medical fertility treatments. [Adoption] really was our only other option,” Shanda shared.
Shanda, herself, is adopted, coming all the way from India to find her family in the United States. For her, adoption held appeal as she would be able to explain adoption to the child much more easily. For Todd, the experience and idea was completely new.
“We talked about it extensively and started going through the thought process for it. Nobody on my side, at least not immediate, is adopted,” Todd explained.
Once they had made the decision to adopt, the Christiansons started the process in North Dakota in September of 2017. The entire process for a adoption in North Dakota typically takes about a year before adoptive families will be included as an eligible family.
“We attended a workshop, did a home study, marriage counseling and personality checks to make sure we were good candidates for adoption,” Todd said.
The Christiansons then started the adoptive family process in Minnesota in February of 2018, finishing a similar process in March and were placed on the eligible family list for that state.
“Once that happens, you just wait,” Shanda shared.
“The hardest part of the process is the waiting. From March till the end of September, we never heard anything. In Minnesota, we never knew anything unless someone wanted to meet us or they ran out of our pamphlet,” Todd said. “In North Dakota, we didn’t have contact except for check-ins from our social worker.”
September 25, 2018, will be a date etched into Todd and Shanda’s memory as it was the day they received the call that would change their family’s life.
“We got the phone call asking if we would be willing to be looked at, and on September 27, the mother asked to meet us,” Shanda said.
“It was a little nerve wracking to meet someone who could change your life. We had 45 minutes to sort of ‘woo’ her,” Todd added.
The mother had made a very specific request when deciding to place her baby. She wanted the adoptive family to be biracial. In early October, Todd and Shanda met with the birth mom. The following day, they learned that their family would be growing, not only by one but two.
“The birth mom is part of our family, too. I text her pictures everyday and send her hard photos. We couldn’t have asked for a better situation,” Shanda stated.
Shanda shared that originally, the birth mother wanted it to be a closed adoption, where once the child was born she would not have contact or knowledge of the child growing up. After talking to the social worker, however, the mother changed her mind. Shanda shared that it is an open adoption and that they have had a good relationship with her.
“She knew what she wanted and was very hands-on about how she wanted things to go,” Todd said.
While most prospective mothers are unsure of the how they want the adoption process to go, the birth mother for Hogan knew exactly what she wanted- from being induced to the hours following the birth.
“She probably had an idea of what she wanted for adoptive parents as well, and lucky for us, we fit,” Todd shared.
Todd and Shanda explained that for a lot of these adoptions it’s the little things that catch the mother’s attention. So prospective families put forth a lot of effort in their pamphlets to ‘wow’ somebody. For the Christiansons, it was little things in their pamphlet that caught the mother’s eye.
“She liked that I taught Sunday School. Rayelynn looked like she was genuinely happy in the photos, and in one of the photos, Todd is jumping on the bed with Rayelynn,” Shanda explained.
As the adoption quickly became a reality, one of Todd’s fears was what their daughter, Rayelynn, would think of having a new sibling? How would she handle no longer being the only child? What will her response be? Those fears have so far been unfounded, as the proud parents share that she has been amazing and is the first to make sure little Hogan is included in everything.
Leading up to the birth, Shanda shared that Rayelynn would ask, “When’s my baby coming? When’s my baby coming?”. At the hospital following the birth, Shanda heard Rayelynn say to Hogan, “You are a Christianson now, buddy.”
Once Hogan was brought home, the social worker for their adoption continually checked-in with them asking how they felt. The questions were about the process and everything included in that. How did they feel? Did they feel like they were just babysitting?
“To have that process of ‘ok, somebody else is giving birth to this baby’ and then you are just taking it in,” Shanda explained. “We never felt that way. I was in the delivery room, and the moment I saw him my heart was overfilled. Instantly love at first sight.”
The whirlwind adventure of completing their family began with the call for being viewed to holding little Hogan in their arms is nearing its completion. While many adoptions take much longer, on average nearly two years, for the Christiansons, the process has been better than they could have hoped for.
“I don’t think you could dream of it happening better than it did,” Shanda said.
From being lucky enough to have the adoption take place in North Dakota to the birth mother being induced allowing for planning of the event made it that much easier. The additional blessing of having a birth mom who is amazing and even having Hogan home with them is proving to be easier than anticipated.
“We have waited four years for this, so the little things you take for granted, like sleep, are well worth it,” Todd said.
“Truly blessed and all our prayers have been answered. It’s crazy how it all fell into place. Everything happens the way it’s suppose to be,” Shanda added.
The Christiansons would like to thank everyone from friends, family, co-workers, and employers for their support. Without all of them and their support, the Christiansons would not be where they are today- from friends showing up with clothes, diapers, and other supplies for the new baby boy to emotional support during the waiting process.
“This has been a dream come true, honestly. He fits in perfect. We have our girl; we have our boy. Our family is complete,” the Christiansons said.