Reid and Ellen Porter hadn’t been married long when they decided adoption was “a no-brainer,” she remembers. “We weren’t having biological children off the bat, and knew we wanted to do this anyway, so why not get the ball rolling?”
The Highland Park High School graduate was pregnant by the time they’d found their son Caleb in Guatemala, so when he finally came home, he had a week-and-a-half old brother, Bennett. She gave birth to another son, Silas, a few years later, and though she was “feeling very full with these three very rowdy boys,” the couple “felt called again by the Lord” to adopt, Ellen says. Last September, their little girl, Micah, arrived from China.
Now 5 and 5 and 2 and 2, respectively, Caleb, Bennett, Silas, and Micah are “two sets of Irish twins,” their mother jokes, and a horde of happy energy.
As for Caleb and Micah, she adds, “there is not a day that goes by that we don’t think about their birth mothers. And I wonder if there’s a day that goes by that they don’t think about their children. … I’m so grateful to these women who carried my babies.”
To honor women like them, Porter has launched an aptly named organization: Brave Love. For now, the nonprofit’s hub is its website, one where mothers, grown children, and others involved in the adoption process can write open letters, share videos, and find resources. In time, Porter said, the nonprofit will become a source for networking, research, support groups, and — someday — outreach into local high schools, with birth mothers sharing their stories and serving as role models.
“The concept of Brave Love is amazing,” said Janice Podell, who gave up her son, Braden, 17 years ago and now works in outreach for the Gladney Center for Adoption. “Adoption has changed so drastically from the way it used to be.”
Birth mothers are no longer social outcasts for being unmarried, or kept in the dark about where their children might go, then left without guidance and a chance to heal later. They’re also given great control, said Podell, who was able to choose Braden’s family at a time when open adoption was still a new concept.
Doing so “was the most difficult decision I have ever made, but I knew in my heart that you deserved so much more than I was able to give you,” she wrote in a letter posted on bravelove.org.
Another contributor to the website, Sally Batt, had a sunny childhood that inspired her search for her biological mother. She’s always just wanted to thank the woman who sought a better life for her, said Batt, 30, but when she finally wrote her a letter, it went unread.
In the version posted online, she describes an upbringing steeped in love, fun, and learning; her husband, Evan; and their baby son.
“As an adult,” Batt writes, “I actually think about you even more. I wonder if we look alike. I wonder if you too love dogs, kids, Michael Jackson songs, and sipping wine. I hope that you are in love. I hope you have kids. I hope you think of me. And most of all, I hope that one day you will read this so that you know that I am happy because of what you gave me — a beautiful life.”
Only 2 percent of women and girls with unplanned pregnancies opt for adoption, said Porter, who started Brave Love last year with a nudge from Frank Garrott, president of the Gladney Center, and Dallas Pregnancy Resource Center executive director Mary Jayne Fogerty. “We needed a movement to change the perception of adoption, to tell the stories of the hopeful sacrifice these women have made.”
Their jaws dropped when more than 300 people turned out for Brave Love’s opening party in September.
“It was crazy,” Porter said. “People cared.”