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Award-winning journalists chronicle their journey through the adoption process

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Courtesy/Stockmans
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Krista and Dan Stockman getting acquainted with their newborn daughter, Felicity
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Dan Stockman
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Felicity, at 17, is proud to read and share her story.

Local authors Dan and Krista Stockman have published a new book called Finding Felicity: An Adoption Memoir.

Some 17 years in the making, their story chronicles the ups and downs of a complex and sometimes challenging experience they had while navigating an open, interracial adoption, pre-internet.

WBOI’s Julia Meek talks with the couple about the journey, how faith entered into the process, and what they learned along the way.

You can find ordering information at the Nickel Plate Publishing Co. Facebook page.

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Julia Meek: Dan and Krista Stockman, Welcome.

Krista Stockman: Hi, Julia.

Dan Stockman: Thank you so much for having us.

Julia Meek: Now, you have thoughtfully shared a very personal experience with the world in a beautiful way. What motivated such an act?

Krista Stockman: Well, when we were first considering adoption, we did what we always do, we read a lot of books. And we felt like none of the books really quite captured what we were experiencing and what we were looking for. And so I think even very early on, we felt like when we get through this journey, we need to write this down and share our story.

Dan Stockman: Yeah, originally, we had the thought that it would be kind of a guidebook for people in our situation where, you know, we have this church and our faith that has all these rules on what you can and can't do. And we weren't sure how to navigate all those.

We weren't sure what we were comfortable with...what, what to do. So that was kind of the original thought. Now, it certainly has evolved from that, very much over many years, and many drafts, many, many drafts.

Julia Meek: Okay, the fact that both of you are journalists, how did this help your thought process throughout as well as fuel your desire to share that story?

Krista Stockman: Well, we knew that there was a story to tell, first of all, and as we started writing it, we realized it was probably more complex than we had even originally thought. I think being journalists helped us in that sometimes you go into a story thinking it's going in one direction.

And then as you talk to people, and as you gather your information, you realize what you thought was the original story, isn't it at all, and you have to be ready and willing to shift gears and to tell the story that's actually there, not the story that you thought you wanted to tell.

Julia Meek: So let's start with the time and the setting, Dan, the act of adopting in 2004 versus now. How does it seem to have changed, really changed since then?

Dan Stockman: Well, we haven't been involved, thankfully, in the adoption world, per se, in 18 years, so. But in a word, it's the Internet has really changed everything. You know, in 2004, it made sense to use an agency because we needed those guides to help us handle all the paperwork and everything and find a birth mother and you know, birth mothers needed agencies to find adoptive parents.

Today, you have internet, so a lot of that you can do on your own, I don't know that it would make it easier. (chuckles) You know, personally, we loved our agency, and it was so nice to have someone that you could talk to anytime, with any questions at any step in the process,

Julia Meek: That would count for a lot. And so the obstacles inherent to this whole process, let the adopting hopefuls beware would be one part of that, what's going to happen to you. What is likely not to change with those human factors in there when it comes to the fact that you are adopting somebody else's child?

Dan Stockman: Exactly that, right? I mean, you have a situation where you have a birth mother who needs parents for her child, and you have adoptive parents who need a child. I mean, that was, you know, it was very strange when we're filling out paperwork to have to answer questions like, Why do you want children? Right? Because I don't know. Right? (chuckles) I mean, you know, you want them but it's hard to articulate why, right?

So none of those emotions, none of those questions, none of those answers really go away. No matter what the process looks like.

Julia Meek: And the indecisiveness of letting go of your own child from the birth mother standpoint.

Dan Stockman: It's an incredible, an incredible act of love.

Julia Meek: Indeed. Now simply calling this a memoir is rather an understatement. It's more like a how-to manual and beyond that, because you were tested sorely in so many ways throughout this process, what motivated the approach that you finally took to writing the book, then?

Krista Stockman: I think we still wanted to have some of what our initial goal was, which was, you know, we went through this process, you can do it too. We did feel like at the beginning, when we were first going through the steps of adoption, we didn't know anybody else who had adopted or who was adopting, or maybe we knew people who had been adopted, but it just seemed like we were all alone.

What we found out later, of course, is that there were so many people around us that we just didn't even know had gone through the process. So we really wanted to just kind of lay that out that yes, you can do this. Now, w e ended up taking some of that out because the steps that we took really aren't relevant anymore, like getting an 800 number or making these eight and a half by 11, birthmother letters that had all sorts of information about us and going through the design process of that.

Those are just things that are obsolete now with the internet. But we also wanted to share how our faith played into this and the decisions that we made. Again, some of that has changed over time. And so the way we wrote that portion changed over time. And then I think, lastly, we wanted to have something in print for us and for our daughter so that she could carry the story with her forever.

Julia Meek: And your faith was obviously critical through the toughest parts of this journey. Was it difficult to convey that in the meaningful way that you did manage to include it? That's a very impressive part of the book.

Krista Stockman: it was because we have never been the kind of people that want to force our religion or our faith or our beliefs on other people. While we may feel strongly about certain things, we know that what we believe isn't what everyone else believes. And so we never wanted it to come across as saying the way we did it is the way everyone should have to do it.

Julia Meek: It seems actually more like you're saying this is likely to happen and here's ways we found to make not only the best of it, but really to turn it into something positive. Is that what it felt like from your perspective?

Dan Stockman: You have to do what's right for you, right? I mean, this was an interracial adoption. And that was right for us. And we think we believe that that should be an option for anyone if they're open to it. And we think that people shouldn't be so afraid of it. However, if it's not right for you, please don't, right?

You know, whether it's faith, whether it's interracial adoption, whatever, these things are so deeply personal, that you have to do what is right for you. And we could never say you, you have to do it this way.

Julia Meek: Now back to your individual and combined writing skills, you manage to utilize that conversational tone, literally, through the narration, often finishing each other's thoughts as if in a spoken conversation. How intentional of a technique was that, obviously, that you had mastered pretty well?

Krista Stockman: Well, the way that the writing process went pretty much for the whole book was I would start the chapter, I would start writing it out. And I'm a pretty lean writer. I'm a news reporter by trade, and so I am "Get the facts down." Dan is more of a creative writer than I am. And so I would start it out and then he would pick it up and he would expand on things.

And so it was a good combination, where if I couldn't remember something he could, if he couldn't remember something hopefully I could. So it was, yeah, I think it was very much our styles coming together.

Julia Meek: It made for a very clever read to be sure. And was it fun to write?

Dan Stockman: Ummm. Yes and no. (laughs) Now remember, you know, we've written a wine column together since 2004, I think.

Julia Meek: It's good practice, yes.

Dan Stockman: Yeah. So we had a lot of practice at that particular technique. But you know, the beauty really of writing is that you only see the finished product. So you don't (chuckles) you will never see our early drafts, or, you know, the 37th draft, or the 84th draft. And that's probably a good thing.

Julia Meek: That's fair enough. And in retrospect, do you reckon you were processing the whole series of adoption events from a reporter's perspective, which wouldn't have been exactly easy, but perhaps did that help you cope at the time with some of the real big obstacles that were taking place?

Dan Stockman: I don't know if I'd call it a reporter's perspective, per se. But when you're a reporter, you are looking for the true nuts and bolts of the thing, right? I mean, it's just not surface chatter that you're after. And so, you know, we have always as, as a couple, you just directly confront things. Right? So what's really happening here? What is going on? We've never, never shied away from that. So I think that helped us immensely because we were never tiptoeing around

Julia Meek: That directness does come through as well.

Krista Stockman: Yeah, I think that having that ability to kind of step back, you know, in the moment, it's always hard. When things are happening, it's always hard. But again, being able to look at it and know that the story isn't finished yet. And so as long as the story is not finished, then there's more to find out, there's more to learn. And we've still got steps to take. So...

Julia Meek: It kept you all going. I do wonder, had you known all that this journey would entail, would you have done it?

Krista Stockman: No question.

Dan Stockman: Absolutely.

Krista Stockman: We are so blessed to have our little girl who's not so little anymore. But yeah, she is such a joy. She has always been a joy from the moment she was born. And anybody who has kids knows that it is an adventure and you never know what's going to happen. And that was the same with this journey of adoption.

We did not know what to expect. And we'd heard lots of horror stories. And we do caution people to not focus on the horror stories so much, because it's that human element there are reasons that people find themselves in the situations that they're in. And we just need to give each other grace.

And I think going through this journey to find Felicity, and then raising her has helped with that aspect of life dealing with other people. You know, everybody is on a journey.

Julia Meek: Indeed. And of course, we'd all like to know, what does Felicity think of the story?

Dan Stockman: Oh, she seems to love it.

Krista Stockman: When Dan gave me an early copy of it, seeing it actually in print, she started crying.

Julia Meek: She's 17?

Krista Stockman: She is 17. Yes.

Julia Meek: So my last question, folks; as the story is now told, and all of you continue on your journey, what exactly do you want everyone who reads this memoir, who picks it up and brings it into their life to take away with them?

Dan Stockman: I would say, whatever the circumstance, don't be afraid, right? I mean, it would have been very easy to be afraid of interracial adoption. It was very easy to be afraid of open adoption. And a lot of people choose different types of adoption, because they're afraid of that.

But this journey that we've been on has included Felicity's birth mother, and to us, that is important. It's important to Felicity, it's important to us, certainly important to her, because you can't deny it right? (chuckles) They will always have a connection. And to us, it didn't make any sense to break that and to deny that it exists or pretend that it's not there. That has been really meaningful for all of us.

Krista Stockman: Yeah, I think for me it...this is definitely a story of hope, and patience, and just being open to what comes along your path. And for us, it was finding Felicity,

Julia Meek: Dan and Krista Stockman are authors of Finding Felicity: An adoption memoir. Thank you so much for bringing this experience to light and sharing it with the world, folks, what an amazing journey.

Dan Stockman: Thank you so much.

Krista Stockman: Thank you, Julia.

A Fort Wayne native, Julia is a radio host, graphic artist, and community volunteer, who has contributed to NIPR both on- and off-air for forty years. Besides being WBOI's arts & culture reporter, she currently co-produces and hosts Folktales and Meet the Music.