Words From the Heart

By Published On: June 1st, 2023Tags: , ,

How a small greeting card company is shaping the bigger conversation around adoption and cultivating belonging for all types of families.

Throughout life, there are opportunities to connect over shared emotions. In the moments of joy and elation, we celebrate together! And during times of grief and sorrow, we gather to express condolences. But the happy and sad points are not always linear when it comes to the often long and winding road to adoption; the countless moments in between are filled with emotions and experiences that can be harder to speak to and act upon, such as a sense of failure, future hope, excitement, heartbreak, lengthy waiting periods, having the energy to “try again,” and encouragement along the way.

Like all of us, adoptive parents sometimes need kind words of understanding and reassurance from loved ones who care about their journey’s big and in-between moments. Words are powerful and can help us build each other up in times of struggle, offering soothing relief like water to dry ground.

Saying the right thing at the right time is an art form that illustrator Jayne Alfieri and writer Stacy Clark, the founders and creative magic behind Adoptionly Yours, a greeting card company based in Tampa, Florida, have taken to heart—and to the printing press. The duo previously worked together in advertising, where they wrote and created art for mutual clients. But it wasn’t until after the adoptions of their daughters (just three months apart) that they bonded on a deeper level and hatched the idea to start a business.

Self-described as a “small company with a big heart for adoption,” Adoptionly Yours seeks to bring awareness to the adoptive process, an extraordinary journey they say requires a particular narrative of understanding, empathy, and connection. From their shared sense of solidarity came the idea of inviting others into the dynamic story of adoption through a unique greeting card line.

“One day, Jayne brought in a beautiful illustration of a mother and a child on top of the world under a starry night sky, and they were hugging,” recalls Clark. “She showed it [to me] and asked, ‘Can you give me a line for this?’ And the line I gave her was, ‘In this great wide world, we found us.’ And we thought: That’s adoption, finding each other in the world. We didn’t know it then, but that would become our first adoption card.”

From the very beginning, Alfieri and Clark felt strongly about honoring and informing people of the full scope of adoption (the good, the bad, and the heartbreaking), believing that every part of the journey was important and deserved to be included in the greeting card line, not only the celebration at the end. With touching messages like “If Hope Runs Out, I’ve Got More” for anyone needing encouragement to keep going, to witty sarcasm like “Gain Ten Pounds of Paper Work!” and much, much more, Adoptionly Yours does an admirable job of adding nuance and personalization to the card-buying process for adoptive parents.  

“I always tell people if you read every single card on our website, you’ll get a pretty good idea of what adoption is all about at a deeper level, which is why we decided to create this card company,” says Alfieri. “When we adopted, our closest family members didn’t know what to say to us because they hadn’t had an intimate relationship with anyone before that was [going through adoption]. We have empathetic cards that connect in a way that a general card just doesn’t do.”

Clark agrees, noting, “You could receive a ‘Happy Adoption Day’ card, but what about when there was a loss, when you were waiting, or when you wanted to honor a birth mom? We saw that conversation was missing in the world.”

When these circumstances happen, they require communal support. Sometimes there’s a pregnancy loss, or an adoption falls through after the baby is born. Sometimes, adoptive parents have to wait years for a child, where maintaining hope and stamina is exhausting. In other moments, there are feelings of fear, grief, pain, insecurity, and a lack of belief that things will work out. Being that important mouthpiece to help others speak to those challenging, often isolating moments while simultaneously building a sense of belonging within communities is the heartbeat behind Adoptionly Yours.

Though Alfieri and Clark have experienced adoption first-hand, they still intentionally listened to what others had to say about the cards by running focus groups and participating in adoption conferences.

“People just told us what they needed,” insists Clark, recounting a story of meeting another adoptive mom at one of their focus groups. “[One attendee] was the executive director of one of the top 10 adoption agencies in the nation. She just fell in love [with the vision]; she took the cards in her hands and said, ‘I need this. I need this so badly. This is not in the world.’”

After seeing such an important void, the friends committed to moving forward with their business endeavors. One card became many, and the pair eventually created enough material to span the complete journey of adoption (beginning, joy, loss, waiting, hope, heartbreak, celebration, and togetherness), with a myriad of thoughtfully made options within each category. The “waiting” category alone has 12 different cards, so family and friends can browse to find the right message for their loved one going through the adoption process. Because according to Alfieri and Clark, there’s no such thing as too much support.

A Heart For Belonging (For All)

While the many milestones of adoptive parents were the initial focal points for Adoptionly Yours, the brand has since expanded to include other groups and essential occasions. 

“A few years in, we realized that there’s a holiday called National Birth Mother’s Day, the day before Mother’s Day. There weren’t [a lot of] cards for that, and those moms were feeling left out, so we created a collection [for them],” explains Clark. “Then we decided to include all moms [and caregivers] in the conversation. We wanted to include [families with] two moms—even when both “moms” are dads! We wanted to include single moms, friends who are like moms, moms who have gone through a miscarriage or are dealing with infertility, or who are waiting to become a mom; we wanted to make sure that there were cards for them because they feel like a mom in their heart, and maybe they don’t want a ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ card, but [one of our messages] could speak to their experience,” she says.

Often we want to acknowledge something in a person’s life, but we’re intimidated by what to say or how to say it. Adoptionly Yours serves as that bridge and helps others approach these sensitive subjects more safely and with more awareness. 

The birth mother cards are especially heart-wrenching to read and hit close to home for Clark and her family, which made the messaging even more essential. “I do not know my daughter’s birth mother, but I have so much love [for her]. I feel like we share this child, and [I’m] able to say thank you, from a mother to a mother. Thank you for bringing this beautiful light into the world; we share this miracle on earth, which is pretty special,” she reflects, adding, “I think the loss cards are special, too, because a lot of people don’t understand that sense of loss and sorrow when adoption falls through, or [the loss] felt when a birth mother places a child [for adoption]. These cards gently tell people that these emotions are important and that we connect through the messaging.”

Feeling seen and acknowledged in moments of pain, longing, and doubt—as well as moments of tremendous joy—is crucial, agree Alfieri and Clark. Whether it’s adoption, in vitro fertilization (IVF), miscarriage, or something else, recognizing a person’s need and speaking to their unique circumstance (even via pen to paper) is one way we can bring more compassion into the world.

In addition to inclusive experiences of adoption and parenthood, Adoptionly Yours celebrates diversity within these stories through representation in its artwork.

“During the Black Lives Matter movement, we met with some adoptees and listened to what they had to say about their particular experiences because they needed to be recognized,” says Alfieri. “[One adoptee] said that it was so powerful to see that there was a card for her—that somebody in the world was doing something for her that [she says] had never been done before.”

Piggybacking off Alfieri, Clark adds, “We want people to see themselves in the conversation [of adoption and parenthood], that they are part of the conversation. It validates their experience. It’s not better or worse—it’s their story.”

Bringing in collective stories and voices is just one way the duo hopes to help shape the discussion of adoption (and all of its little parts) in today’s society. By including everyone in the dialogue and creating cards for all types of scenarios and family structures, Adoptionly Yours aims to foster diversity and inclusion while normalizing the emotional rollercoaster of adoption for everyone involved. 

Because the truth is adoption is a shared experience that affects more people than you may know, and it is easy to find when you’re looking for it. Our neighbors, co-workers, family members, friends, and community members adopt or are adopted, making it “part of the fabric of families today,” as stated by Clark, noting that she is also inspired by how beautifully blended adoptive families are, further adding diversity to what we think of when it comes to the word family. 

“[It’s inspiring when] families adopt a toddler or older child, or the biological family becomes a part of the adoptive family, and they celebrate holidays together,” she says. “It’s not ‘us’ and ‘them’—it’s all of us, and there’s more love. I think we always fall back on that, bringing our conversations with love into the world. Because the heart of adoption is that, it’s love.”

In the future, Alfieri and Clark hope their cards—and inclusive messaging in general—will become mainstream and be available where all greeting cards are sold, so that no matter what your family looks like or how it came to be, there’s a special card with a piece of your story, waiting for you.