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Hannah Kellogg’s Path to Motherhood Through Adoption

Motherhood is a journey, and every woman’s path to becoming a mother looks a little different from the next. From natural birth to adoption and so much more, it’s a personal path—with all roads leading to the beautiful end goal of building a family.

Hannah Kellogg always knew she wanted to be a mother, but didn’t have the details of how or when quite nailed down. As part of our #BreakTheMold series, we’re branching out to tell the stories of all mothers—from those who gave birth to those who adopted or those who struggled with IVF, we’re proud to honor the beautiful details that make each mother—and their journeys to motherhood—unique.

Read Hannah’s story:

Did you always know that you wanted to be a mother?

I always knew I was a family person, and that family was extremely important to me because I love my big extended family, and my sister’s kids, and volunteering in schools. But I didn’t know what having my own family would look and feel like, so I took my time and trusted my instincts, and waited for it to feel right.

That waiting put me into a much later age bracket, but I didn’t have a clear enough vision for what I wanted to make any other decision. I struggled with the thought that having kids was selfish, because I had spent so much time volunteering and doing nonprofit work, so I couldn’t imagine turning all of my energies inward towards my own seemingly personal selfish gain. But in the end, I’m glad I waited—everything felt right and came together at the perfect time.

What was the process like of trying to become a mother for you? Tell us about that journey.

A relationship I had high hopes for didn’t work out, I was 38, and feeling like it was time for family one way or another. I didn’t want to choose a partner out of desperation, so I went to a fertility doctor who said I was a great candidate for artificial insemination and he handed me a book of candidates to choose from. I got through the first page and returned the whole book; it just didn’t feel right.

Then, I did an online search for adoption, found a local agency, and enrolled in their orientation right then and there—it was as easy as writing up a grocery list. I went to the first night of orientation, then the next, then the next. I filled out the paperwork, I talked to other would be adoptive parents, signed up for workshops, went to adoption conferences. Before I knew it, I had a profile about myself posted to an adoption website, had completed a Home Study, and was waiting to be matched.

The whole process carried me along like an easy river: no doubts, no drama, no issues. Every time I came to a fork in the road to make a decision, I kept going with my gut, and it came together very comfortably. Five weeks after I went “live” on the adoption site, I was contacted by their legal team and informed that I had been selected by a birth mom. My immediate reaction was, “What? Get out! Me?”, but one month later I flew to Wisconsin to meet my daughter when she was 12 hours old.

We have an open adoption, which means I remain in contact with her birth mom and she comes out to visit each year. It’s a remarkably easy, happy and somewhat anomalous story.

What were you most scared about before you became a mother?

That I would duplicate all the negative experiences of my own childhood and not enough of the positive ones.

How did you go about picking your children(s) name(s)?

Even though I only had less than two weeks to decide before my daughter Bianca was born, I was pretty relaxed about it and tried out a few different names in my head. One day, I put together a name I had always liked from my childhood as a first name, along with a family name from my grandfather for a middle name, and that was it!

What advice would you give to another woman considering becoming a mother?

As with everything, trust your instincts. Reach out to the new parent community where you live, because it’s great to have a network that your child might know from their earliest days, and it’s nice to talk to other people who are also sleep deprived and don’t mind when you forget what you were saying in mid-sentence.

“Forgive yourself if you think you’re screwing it up, and just keeping trying to do better.”

How do you balance criticism or other people’s ideas of how you should parent with what’s best for your children and your family?

I handle parenting criticism the same thing I handle all criticism in life: I listen, and then, most of the time, I just let it go, unless there’s something I can use from it. If I can’t tell whether I’m totally out of line, I ask a professional (like my pediatrician) and she’ll set me straight.

I also ask for advice from parents who have children that I like. When I started the adoption process, I was told that single women have the lowest chances of being matched compared to any other adoptive family, an alien from Mars has better chances, but for some reason that didn’t bother me, I was like, Okay whatever, so I’ll wait, no big deal, this is what’s right for me.

What’s the hardest part of raising kids today?

Deciding on the appropriate amount of screen time—there is no right answer, and it’s tough to balance!

Is motherhood all you thought it would be? Tell us the hardest part—and the best part.

Oh my gosh, it’s million times better. It’s an incredible sense of purpose.

The hardest part is feeling like I’m not enough: not giving her enough of what she needs when she needs it, not listening enough, not spending enough quality time with her, not knowing if I should force vegetables or just say screw it tonight, let’s eat bread with jam. I tend to be very present-minded, which is difficult because when something happens I feel like it’ll be like that forever and ever, and she’ll be scarred for life. I wish I played the long game better. But as it turns out, you often get a second chance to do better with kids and they forgive so damn easily. I’ve learned to say, “okay, you screwed that one up, try better tomorrow”.

The best part is the profound feeling of joy from small things. Last week, the two of us were having breakfast, the blinds were up, the windows open to our garden, the sun was flooding in, my daughter was sitting in my lap playing happily with her food, and I got choked up and teary with a profound sense of happiness and joy. Even writing about it now takes me back to that moment and I feel overwhelmed.

“There is enormous satisfaction when you feel like you’ve done right by a child.”

Do you have any role model moms?

Not really, but there are women I admire just for being themselves. Seeing someone else doing motherhood in their way ignites my confidence for doing things my way, and hopefully that example trickles down to my daughter to help her do things her way.

How do you #BreakTheMold, and encourage your kids to do things their own way, too?

I let her fall down and learn her own lessons, I’m an extreme non-hover parent.

Here’s an example: we were having breakfast with my dad about a year ago when, as a two year old, she reached across the table for the Tabasco sauce. My dad and a random parent at the next table both lurched for her, but I waved them off and let her continue with her curiosity. I doubt she’ll do that again because now she knows what Tabasco is, but no major harm was done. I prefer to just watch and let her tell me how she wants to do things—so far, so good.

Extra Credit

What’s the first thing you do every morning?

Try to go back to sleep. Seriously. I wish it was something more evolved and spiritual, but, nope.

What’s your favorite mama app on your phone?

I love ‘Endless Alphabet’—it’s pretty great for her, so that makes it great for me.

What’s your go-to bra?

Anything with color! The ThirdLove T-shirt Bra in Deep Orchid is HOT. (I love wearing color that contrasts starkly with whatever else I’m wearing.)

What’s one mom—or kid—product your family couldn’t live without?

There’s not one specific thing per se, although the metal stackable lunch boxes from The Container Store are pretty handy, but without a hug from my daughter every morning at breakfast when she cuddles inside my bathrobe and tries to keep her toes warm I would die of excruciating heartbreak.

This post is part of our #BreakTheMold series, where we celebrate the lives and work of trailblazing women. Check out the rest of the series here.


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