It's a common question for anyone who has adopted a child: "Mommy, did I grow in your tummy?"
For some parents that may be among the hardest questions to answer, but Cameron and Vachelle Johnston think they've found the perfect answer: "No honey, you grew in our hearts."
"Just because you didn't come from my tummy, that doesn't mean I am not your mom," Vachelle said.
The Johnstons, who are members of King of Kings Lutheran Church in Woodbury, have released their first book, "You Grew in Our Hearts," a children's book to help talk to children about their adoption.
"Kids are gonna ask, so are you prepared for it?" Cameron said. "Do you want to do it blindly or do you want a tool?"
The book was released in the spring of 2009.
"You Grew in Our Heart" is best for ages three to five, Vachelle said.
The book is printed by Graphic Resources in Woodbury.
The book is divided into two parts, frequent questions that children ask and the adoption story.
Some of the questions addressed include: "Was I in your tummy?"; "Why didn't she keep me?"; "How did you know you wanted me?"; "If I'm bad can you un-adopt me?"
"What we were trying to do was figure out how can we do this at a very young age so you can introduce the concept of adoption, so all of those terms aren't a shock at a later date," Vachelle said.
A personalized story
"You Grew in Our Hearts" can come tailor-made for families.
When ordering a customized book from the Johnstons' website, the first step is to select the gender and the ethnicity of the child, which include Caucasian, Latin American, Asian and African.
Each illustration will include the selection.
"I really wanted them to have a story that they could see a child that looked similar to them," Vachelle said.
The next step is to tell the child's story. A personalized dedication can be written and then the child's adoption story can be told. If a custom book isn't quite right, the Johnstons also have a generic book that is available.
Currently they are working on getting the generic book into LifeWay in Woodbury.
The story of adoption
Back in 2005, the Johnstons began the adoption process for their first daughter Grace, now 5 years old.
During that time, Vachelle and Cameron were constantly thinking about how they would bring up the topic of adoption and explain to Grace how she came into their lives.
Vachelle and Cameron, who now have a second adopted daughter, 2-year-old Madison, said they thought it was important to talk to their daughters early about their adoptions because it prepares them for later in life.
"You hear all these stories of adoptive children who later in life find out they were adopted and they're seeking out all of these answers," Cameron said. "You need to give them the answers through a timeline, throughout their childhood.
"You need to not make it an event but make it part of their life."
While reading through various books, Vachelle and Cameron realized that none of them really fit with what they wanted.
It was Vachelle who thought of the possibility of writing their own book to read to their daughter.
"I thought it would be kind of a neat idea to put in some of those basic questions kids are asking but also have a section where they can hear their own story," she said. "Grace was the inspiration behind the book."
Over time, the Johnstons realized that "You Grew in Our Hearts" could benefit other adoptive families as well.
The Johnstons said "You Grew in Our Hearts" acts as a tool to open up discussion with children.
Vachelle said every time she reads the book to Grace she asks new questions.
For more information of Vachelle and Cameron Johnson and "You Grew in Our Hearts" visit www.storyforalifetime.com