HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - Across the United States, November is recognized in the United States as National Adoption Month. For one Hasbrouck Heights Middle School teacher, Dana Regan, this especially hits home, as she wrote a children’s book, Amarylli’s Bunny: Where is She Now?, about her adopted daughter Amarylli, or “Rylli”, and her stuffed bunny.
Regan’s children’s book was inspired by Amarylli’s attachment to her bunny and the adventures of bunny, as her and her husband frequent found that bunny simply could not be found.
“The book is kind of based on truth. When Rylli came, she was in emergency foster care placement. When she came to us, it was late on Friday night. She was wrapped in a hospital gown, and she had a bunny in her hand. It was her bunny. I don't know who gave it to her: her mom or her grandma or somebody. That's what she came to our house with. She was extremely attached to this bunny. And literally, we took it everywhere with us. She didn't go anywhere without this bunny. And as the years progressed, there were so many times where the bunny was lost. This bunny was everywhere,” Regan recalled. “There were times where we would come home from the food store, my husband and I would look at each other, ‘Where's Bunny? She's asking for Bunny. We don't know where Bunny is.’ We had to go back to the food store and it was like in the parking lot or on a shelf. The bunny was everywhere and it was always lost. She would just drop it.”
Since the book has been published, COVID has made sales slow. Regan found that the self-publishing route was better for her, and when she came across a book coach, Kim Rouse, shortly before stay-at-home orders, they worked together to get the story out. Rouse is from south Jersey. Natia Gogiashivili is the illustrator, from the European country Georgia. Regan has never actually met either of the two, but recognizes their contributions to Amarylli’s Bunny: Where is She Now?
“I came across a woman. She's actually a book coach, and she helps authors through the process. So during COVID, I actually got in touch with her, probably before right before we had to shut down coincidentally. And then during that time, I was able to work with her, and she was helpful," Regan explained. "But I guess it was a little frustrating in the beginning because I have no idea what I'm doing. This is the first time I've ever done something like that. There's a lot to it. So having her as a coach, I was really helpful. My illustrator is from Europe. So now, with technology, right, you're able to connect with these people all over the world.”
“Now, I'm kind of happy that I did what I did [self-publishing] because I feel like I'd be tied into a lot more. And sometimes the publishers have something to say about, things you put in your book or how they want it. So when I did the self-publishing, it really made it like mine,” Regan said.
Regan and her husband, Brian Regan, had been in foster care for ten years before Rylli came into their lives. With three biological children, finalizing her adoption made an addition to their family. In her story, Regan looked to create an allegory which represents the movement of children in foster care and to symbolically represent that they will be found.
“When we went into foster care, we weren't necessarily planning on adopting. I have three biological children, and we wanted to foster. We wanted to take the kids, and it was super hard but super rewarding," Regan said. "We were never able to adopt the other kids that were in our home. They came to us sometimes when they left and went to their grandparents, or they went back home. Some kids came to our house that had been in previous foster homes."
“So the message that I was trying to convey was just illustrating the movement that some foster kids experience where they don't really have a permanent place," said Regan. "And it's really hard for them to move around a lot; that feeling of being lost and not having ‘home home’. But then, I know a lot of other people that have fostered and adopted. Then I wanted to illustrate the feeling of, the price, and the commitment that comes along with adoption, the feeling that the bunny has at the end of the book where Bunny feels found. Now he knows Amarylli really loves him, and no matter what she's gonna, you know, go back and get him, no matter what. So I was just kinda trying to illustrate that.”
In light of National Adoption Month, Regan hopes that her story can raise awareness and dispel misconceptions about adoption.
“So Rylli is almost 11, and we have a great relationship," Regan stated. "She's actually a wonderful little girl, very typical of a 10-year-old. So yes, we argue back and forth, but there's no difference in my mind and in my heart between Rylli and my biological children. And I think people when they think about adoption, especially people that already have biological children, and you have to be honest like you think about things like this. ‘Could I love an adopted child as much as I love my biological children or what would be different?’ And I have to say, there's zero difference. I love her like I carried her for nine months. She's been with us since she's 15 months old, so she doesn't really know any different. But we have a whole family, has a great relationship with her, and she's a very good little girl.”
Adoption is something that Regan thinks is beautiful and that needs to be more encouraged in society.
“I think it's important because I think that we should be," observed Regan. "I think adoption is not talked about enough in a positive way. I think that A.) birth mothers who may feel like adoption could be an option for them think they're a bad mother if you know if they can't take care of their baby for some reason about giving their baby to adoption. I think that is not talked about in our culture as a leading act. So I think a lot of women would be ashamed to have to do that."
“And B.) I think that growing families don't always think about adoption as a viable option for them; say, for example, a couple that is having trouble having kids," she continued. "There's obviously, with science now, a lot of different options for families, but I don't think adoption is promoted enough in a positive way on either side.. I wish it was talked about more because it's a beautiful thing. It has it's issues; it can be difficult like any other time you have a child. I wish it was more accepted."
“A lot of times people think it’s very hush-hush. People ask, ‘Oh does Rylli know she’s adopted?’ Of course she knows she's adopted. We talk about it all the time," said Regan. "She knows she has another mommy and all this other stuff. So I feel like national adoption month is a great time to talk about adoption in a really positive light and just even just to talk about it more. Sometimes when you talk about it, it plants to seed in other people's minds that maybe, maybe it's an option that they never thought about before,” she said.
The book can be found on Amazon at the following URL: https://www.amazon.com/Amaryllis-Bunny-Where-She-Now/dp/0578692147/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Amarylli%27s+Bunny%3A+Where+is+She+Now%3F&qid=1604365587&sr=8-1
“I like the book. I'm really proud of it. Since I was young, I always said I wanted to write a Children's book. I like to write. I'm an English teacher, a reading teacher. So I love books; I love Children's literature," said Regan. "When my kids were little, we had a huge library of all the classics. I just really appreciate Children's literature. I've always wanted to write a Children's book, and I'm really happy with the way it came out happy with the illustrations. I'm happy with it. I'm happy with the product.
"I'm excited to share it with people with little kids. It's really cute to see a little kid like, get some of my friends. Their little kids have the book, and they're ‘Oh, you know, she loves it. She wants me to read it to her every night.’ That Makes me so happy,” said Regan.
Editor’s Note: Emily Condon is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of the “Pilot’s Log,” Hasbrouck Heights High School's newspaper. In addition, she is a member of the Student Council, Junior Executive Board, the Black Hole, head organizer of Spirit Week, co-organizer of the Junior Formal with History teacher Catherine Cassidy, and member of the indoor and outdoor Track and Field teams.
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