There are many diverse pathways to parenthood – all wonderfully unique for every family. For Lisa Adukia, Communications and Engagement Manager for Gap Inc.’s Total Rewards organization, a long, and emotional journey to parenthood through adoption required all the strength and persistence Lisa and her spouse could summon. Then one day they arrived at the exhilarating moment when they held their baby in their arms! Lisa shares her heartwarming story, and how – years on – she’s juggling parenthood, work, volunteering, and caregiving with gratitude in her heart.
Can you tell us about your career journey to date and about your current role and responsibilities?
I started in accounting and finance because that felt natural and was most likely to provide stable career opportunities. After ten years in the field and even rising to executive leadership ranks, I realized I wasn’t fulfilled and I was spending 60+ hours a week doing something that I really did not enjoy.
I spent the next ten years trying out different roles, industries, and job types, looking for the right blend of financial, personal, and professional satisfaction. Ultimately, my search led me to find value in helping others on their wellness journey.
I went back to school and earned a Masters Degree in Nutrition Education, and continue to study all aspects of how employee health and wellbeing contributes to employee retention, job satisfaction, and the employee’s workplace experience.
I currently manage communications and engagement for Gap Inc.’s Total Rewards organization, and am an active participant and advocate for our Equality and Belonging employee resource groups. Additionally, since its inception, I have been an active member of the Gap Parents employee group and am currently serving as Interim Co-Chair leading us into 2021.
You are the proud parent of a little girl, Madeline! Can you tell us about your journey to parenthood?
I met my spouse in my mid-thirties, and one thing we immediately clicked on was our desire to have a family. We struggled with years of unexplained infertility and mourned the loss of two pregnancies. Without really knowing what would be involved, or even understanding the various types of adoption, we decided this was our path to parenthood. After months of intense research, we chose to pursue open adoption for our family. All types of adoption are very complex and full of emotional, psychological, and financial pitfalls. Like many other potential adoptive parents, we had a few failed matches and scam attempts; each felt more heartbreaking and discouraging than the one before. To add to the challenges we needed to overcome, the agency we had signed with went bankrupt and we were faced with the daunting prospect of starting the whole process all over again. We felt like our quest to start a family was over before it had even begun.
The young woman who ultimately ended up being our child’s birth mother got our contact information from another couple we met along the adoption journey. After a couple of phone conversations, she agreed to meet with us, and at that meeting, she decided she wanted us to be the parents of the child she was carrying.
Looking back I am amazed by her strength. She never wavered; she had made up her mind and stood her ground amidst many attempts by her family and friends to convince her otherwise.
We received the call letting us know our birth mother would be induced and drove seven hours to meet her at the hospital. Our miracle baby was born 48 hours later; the birth mother insisted we be there for the birth and be the first people to see and hold our baby. Her strength and determination throughout the process will always be an inspiration for me and for our daughter.
How did you and your partner prepare yourselves?
Part of the adoption process includes going through the physical and financial ‘preparation’ to bring a child into your home. We passed multiple home studies, went through extensive background checks, completed physical and mental health screenings, and we were deemed ‘ready’. When that actual moment comes, nothing can prepare you for the magnitude of the experience.
When we went to the hospital, we had installed an infant car seat and had a few very basic items with us. We were trying to prepare ourselves for the very real possibility that we would be leaving the hospital alone and brokenhearted.
Many expecting women change their minds; there is no way to predict how the emotional and hormonal human experience will affect all those involved. We had an online shopping cart full of newborn items, ready to hit ‘checkout and send’ as soon as we knew we would be coming home. Alternatively, we had cleared our calendars and reserved a vacation rental to hide away and grieve if the outcome went the other way. We had friends staying at our house ready to spring into action upon receiving word to receive the packages, unpack and set-up for us.
I will never forget the feeling I had when we finally drove away from the hospital with our child. It was a tangled feeling of excitement, euphoria, fear, and remorse. I kept looking out the car’s back window, fearful someone would be running after us to stop us from leaving with our little miracle baby.
How has parenthood changed your perspective on life and your career?
Parenthood has given me the strength and the confidence to say “no” and limit who I interact with and how I spend my time. I used to be someone who would say yes to every challenge, every ask, and every person who needed something. I would stay up all night and into the weekend to finish a project; I would spend the weekends driving long distances to help a friend or family member. I would never stay in one place very long.
Now, being a parent, I want to stay still and take it all in. Our daughter is growing and changing so fast; I don’t want to miss any part of her childhood. I feel a deep-rooted need to create a stable, safe, and loving home for her to feel comfortable in.
How does Madeline keep you on your toes? What are the challenges?
Madeline is a very active and social child. Before the pandemic, we filled her days with group care and then arranged playdates every weekend and some weeknights. Our lives, like so many others, went sideways when the pandemic forced her school to close.
It was tricky to keep our daughter occupied throughout the day while also working from home. My husband and I traded off doing activities with her, and when we could not, we had to defer to the TV or iPad. We were very grateful when we were able to enroll her in a preschool program near our home. She now gets the social and physical interactions with other children she so badly needs.
Beyond the challenges of parenting during a pandemic, we are constantly challenged by raising a very social only child. She doesn’t like to be alone or do any solo play activities. She loves being the life of the party, leading the pack, and is always the first to try out a new game or toy. We do not want her to become a little adult; we want her to enjoy every bit of her childhood, so we are still trying to find creative ways for her to spend time with other kids, and stay involved with age-appropriate activities that are also appropriate during a pandemic.
You also have caregiving responsibilities for your mother. How do you and your family manage and share the juggle of work and life?
My mother lives about 90 miles away from us, and for many reasons, we have all agreed to continue living in separate houses. For a while, I would go to her house every weekend to help her maintain her home and her yard. My husband would take our daughter on various adventures while I went to help my mother because I found it impossible to do both (be helpful to both my mother and daughter at the same time).
My mother’s house and her very large dog are not at all safe for a small child, so we could not bring my daughter there. When we visit together, we meet at a park where there is a safe place to sit for my mother to watch and interact with her granddaughter in a fun and low-stress way.
I definitely find it challenging to balance providing the right amount of support while visiting and encouraging a relationship between grandmother and grandchild. With the pandemic, we have had to outsource help where it is safe to do so and focus more on safe and socially distanced visits and many video chats and phone calls.
My caregiving support for my mother has transitioned over this past year to financial and emotional support instead of physical support and companionship. It is an ongoing juggle of emotions and expectations.
What have you learnt that could practically help others who are considering adopting?
Every adoption story is so different and so unique. When people ask me about our experience, I say it was 100% worth it because it led to our miracle baby. It could have resulted very differently and does not work out well for many people. The important thing that I would tell people is to brace for a difficult journey, be open and willing to entertain every option, but be sure you know in your heart where your boundaries are. It takes a lot of love, empathy, and acceptance to adopt successfully, and it is a lifelong journey.
Do your research and be sure you are really ready and committed to the adoption process. I still feel a pinch in my heart when my daughter asks why I did not carry her in ‘my tummy’. I just take a deep breath and always lead with love and honesty. We have children’s adoption books in her library and a picture of her with her birth mother on her wall right along with pictures of the rest of her family. She will always have a birth mother who I will always be eternally grateful for – no matter how hard it is.
My favorite time of the day is… bedtime stories and snuggles.
I’m inspired by… the incredible strength and courage of my child’s birth mother.
I’m happiest when… I am helping others.
I’m addicted to… coffee, definitely coffee.
Working parents are… the most important contributors in a thriving community.