You could say that little Taggart Marsh will have an overabundance of birthday gifts this spring. And we don't mean just mean the kind wrapped in shiny paper.
The tot, now almost 2, was given up for adoption by his birth mother, then 18-year-old Hannah Mongie, in March 2016. She knew she made her choice out of love, so she filmed an emotional video for him. It went viral, and we defy you to watch it without a Kleenex nearby.
“I made this video, so you know how much I love you. I wanted to tell you why I made the decision to place you with your family,” Mongie said through tears in the video.
Tagg was adopted by Emily and Brad Marsh, and Hannah Mongie is firmly a member of the extended family. Which means they blow out the candles for her big day as well. That's how this family is making open adoption work for everyone involved.
"With Hannah’s birthday we try to celebrate eating out together and spending time together," Emily Marsh tells Megyn Kelly TODAY. "Not much has changed about our relationship over the last 2 years. We talk to each other just as much and see each other almost as often. We continue to feel and treat each other like family: comfortable, loved, invested in each other’s lives. We continue to have consistent, open communication and enjoy each other’s company."
Shocking, right? At the very least, unexpected? Not so, says Marsh.
"I think for some people it’s hard to comprehend the idea of us having such a healthy, balanced relationship with one another, where everyone feels safe and protected in their roles," says Marsh. "The emotions Hannah shares in her video are very raw and very real. I don’t think many people understand how hard it is for these birth mothers to place their babies for adoption. They don’t understand how what she is doing is out of greater love and selflessness. She loves little Tagg so much that she recognized she couldn’t offer him what she wanted him to have, at that time in her life."
In her video, which she placed on social media, Mongie shares her visceral love for her son, and explains why she's not the right person to raise him. It’s been viewed 2.4 million times on Love What Matter’s Facebook page.
“I never thought more than a handful of people would see it,” Mongie, 21, of Provo, Utah, told TODAY. “I am blown away by the response.”
In the video, Mongie tells Taggart, aka Tagg, about meeting his father, Kaden. The two first became pen pals during Kaden’s Church of Latter-Day Saints mission trip. After corresponding for months, they met in real life and started dating. Soon after they learned Mongie was pregnant and they weighed their options. They had only been dating for two months.
“It was way too early in the relationship to do anything marriage-wise,” Mongie said.
They had to make a tough discussion about the baby. Mongie always wanted to be a mother and a wife and she already loved the baby so much. It felt too difficult placing the baby with another family.
“Adoption wouldn’t have been my first choice,” Mongie said.
But an open adoption provided their baby with a stable family and allowed the couple to be a part of his life. This felt right.
“We both felt this enormous peace,” she said. “This is what we needed to do.”
At her 12-week sonogram, Mongie heard the baby’s heartbeat and recorded for Kaden to hear. Just two days later, Kaden, 20, died suddenly of natural causes.
“I was just so depressed. I was not going to think of adoption at all. The baby was my last part of Kaden,” she said.
She didn't know what to do. She prayed and talked to family and friends but remained conflicted. But then something clicked.
“I just woke up and knew you were supposed to be with someone else,” she said in the video.
She met with a prospective family, but they found another child. Mongie briefly reconsidered but then found Emily and Brad Marsh. The couple already had a child from an open adoption and their views on adoption struck Mongie.
“They said they love the birth mom and they think she is the angel of the family,” Mongie. “This stuck out.”
The couple took Mongie out on “dates” during the pregnancy and she even helped set up the nursery.
“I fell in love with them and they were beyond anything I could have asked for and I have really really high standards for anyone who is going to raise my child,” Mongie said to Tagg.
While Mongie allowed them to be present for some of the labor, she did want the 48 hours after delivery to just be her and Tagg. She knew it would be her only time to mother him. After pushing three times on March 19, 2016, Tagg joined the world.
“I was his mom and it was the most incredible thing ever,” Mongie said. “As soon as I heard him cry the clock started. I didn’t know how I was going to do this.”
But she knew he belonged with the Marshes. Mongie asked the nurses to leave her alone with Tagg for 45-minutes as she made the video.
“I just allowed myself to break down,” she said. “I was just determined that Tagg was going to see this someday.”
Mongie realized both of her goals: a loving family for her birth son, and an awareness of the benefits of open adoption. In her situation with the Marsh family, no one feels marginalized or less than.
"I think that the topic of adoption and birth mothers has been so taboo that when a birth mother finally showed her experience during the raw moment, it brought the topic to light," says Mongie. "I wanted my adoption to be open so that my son could always know where he came from. I did not want him to have an identity crisis his entire life and to wonder why I placed him with his family."
And before anyone asks, there's no confusion about who plays what role in the tot's life.
“We had this mutual understanding each of us is Tagg’s mother and we are both confident in our roles. She is the mom who raises him,” says Mongie. “I am his tummy mommy. And he is always going to know I gave him life and gave him to his family.”
She and the Marshes, says Mongie, "talk and hang out on a regular basis."
One day when the time is right, Mongie hopes to pull an Emily Marsh. She has learned that "I am stronger than I ever thought I was," says Mongie. "When I am older and have some more education and work experience behind my belt, I have every intention of being a wife and a mother."