Filming Our Adoption Story: Behind the Scenes

I’ve known Callie from Talk About Adoption for about a year now through Birth Mom Buds. I truly feel like God crossed our paths for a reason. For one, she lives not far from me. Can I tell you how awesome it is as a birth mom that felt alone in my school/city/state for years to have a fellow birth mom just 15 minutes away? Secondly, our kids are similar ages and loooove to play together. Third, we both have passionate hearts to educate others on adoption and to be #prolove towards those facing an unplanned pregnancy. She has such a big heart! She gives and gives, y’all. I’m convinced her love language is gift giving.

Filming DayAll that said, I was honored to be Callie’s choice in the open adoption story she wanted to share with the world. She had a vision of having a four minute video to share at the Pro-Life Women’s Conference we spoke at and all over the internet. We hope it sparks hope for those who are considering abortion or unsure of how to move forward in their crisis pregnancy. This short film will be emotional, relatable, yet joyful. Because the story doesn’t end with pain, it keeps going. There is renewal and beauty. I prepared a lot for this, writing my story and us editing the script several times to get it exactly worded how we wanted it. Sweet Callie watched all four of my kids so I could focus on what I needed to say and prepare 3 outfits for 6 people (that’s a lot of clothes, y’all!).

We filmed this in May one weekend and the weather was spot on perfect for everything we did both inside and out! Blue Carolina skies and temperatures in the 70’s. We used Dr. Matt Harrison’s house and property, who was the creator of the abortion pill reversal. Fitting. It was lovely with lots of space and interesting things like goats and chickens in the back yard!

Saturday I woke up bright and early to get my hair and make up done. A first for me! Even for my wedding I did the best I could by myself, so it was quite the treat to feel beautiful and pampered. We all arrived around 10am and I met the amazing director, Jennifer Joelle Kachler, and her film crew. They drove down from NYC to do this project, so it was fun to hear how housing and lifestyles were different from here in the south. Jennifer is finishing up her film, Kennedy Hill, that is based on her adopted Grandmother, so adoption is near to her heart as well and she was perfect for this.

filming crew

The filming schedule for Saturday was set to show how beautiful open adoption is. My whole crew was with me– my husband and four kids– and Anna’s family came as well. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we are one big extended family. This film will show that. We had a “birthday party” for Anna. We blew bubbles together. The kids fed animals and jumped on the trampoline. Anna and I got to take a walk together and sit and chat alone (well, with 4 film crew watching and listening!). We ate lunch and dinner. It was an incredible fun-filled, long, happy day.  I treasured it with every breath, feeling the blessing and joy wash over me– over and over–with what my hardships 12 years ago have turned into.

filming 3

I was worried the kids would notice or stare into the camera but no one seemed to care that there was camera in our faces or a boom mic over our heads. We just visited and they watched. What you will see is us as we are in real life, truly enjoying each other’s company as we share stories and updates while the kids play together.

I especially enjoyed getting a few moments to film with Anna alone. I remember them telling us what to do for the scene, which was just to sit and chat together, and we were both like, “What do we talk about?!” So, we decided to say watermelon over and over again. Turns out we didn’t need to, because as I asked real questions I really wanted to know about her, she answered them freely. I sat there amazed at how our relationship has changed even in the last year. A new chapter has opened where she isn’t shy anymore with me, she has embraced me as her birth mom. She wants to share, she wants to talk, she wants to hold my hand and hug and tell me she loves me. Melt my heart! The best truly has come, just as I had hoped.

Filming interviewSunday was a different story. Sunday was the day that I dreaded the most because instead of filming scenes that no one would hear…I had to speak. It was interview day. Gulp. Now, I kind of hate speaking. I really would rather just observe other people and nod my head in agreement. But, I knew God was calling me to do this and thus, I knew He would give me strength. I depended on Him (the best place to be…). I had a mic hidden under my shirt and a mic above me. I prepared the best I could and did the best I could, but I am no actress. Poor Jennifer and her crew had to go over this interview for hours with me trying to get it right. Eventually the flood gates opened, the walls came down and the emotions flowed out. You will see real tears and the raw emotion cracking within my voice at times.

Filming interview 3We did more silent scenes (really enjoy doing those!) of me walking empty high school halls and cuddling the stuffed animal I took to the hospital in my pretend bedroom looking at the same exact pictures that spoke to my heart to pick the family that I did. It felt real again. You will see me sitting in those memories of feeling like an alone, guilty, shameful teenager once more conflicted with what to do. You’ll see me cry tears of pain from a breakup and broken dreams, you’ll see me miss my daughter and making the hardest choice of my life to get her go. Jennifer knew what to say, what questions to ask to draw out those memories and emotions. They may of been re-enacting scenes, but oh, how those tears are real. It was really hard, but I pray that God uses every tear and every word to change hearts and save lives.

The final scene was shot at sunset, with me walking up a paved hill. Jennifer told me this was the moment people see the new me and where I am today, not the ashamed one. The sunshine literally felt like God’s grace pouring over me in joy. I hope people see that. While God isn’t mentioned, subtly underneath is that message of hope and faith. He is my hope.

TAA Film Leah At Sunset

This was an incredible adventure. I was stretched extremely out of my comfort zone, but the Lord was faithful and prayers were felt. Like childbirth, the discomfort is felt only for a time. And when it is over? There is pride because we overcame it. Now my job is done and it is in the hands of the Lord and Jennifer’s crew. May He change lives with it

I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Click here to see the final film!

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