As we approach the month of May and the celebrations of all things motherhood, I want to take a moment to share my #adoptivemama story, while also offering some perspective on a few important topics of adoption. I have been an adoptive mother since 2017, but it was an arduous journey making it to that point. Although the journey was more difficult than I could have ever expected, it remains the one thing in my life that has defined me the most. When I think back to the past, there is a very clear before and after adoption version of me. The benchmark of my life is our adoption story.
Sharing a Story
I will preface my story by saying that our adoption story is not the norm. We do not know of anyone who has an adoption journey like our own. If you are a prospective adoptive parent, please don’t allow our story to scare you away. Instead, let it encourage you and remind you that anything is possible, and that good things often come when you are willing to take a risk. Prior to becoming an #adoptivemama in 2017, my husband and I endured six disrupted adoptions, which were adoptions that didn’t finalize because the biological parent(s) of the child decided to parent. To this day, six seems impossible to comprehend. While disrupted adoptions (or adoption dissolutions, as they are also called) are heartbreaking, I have learned that there is celebration in an expectant parent feeling empowered to parent their child. However, in the moment of a disrupted adoption, you feel like crawling in a hole and dying.
Prior to marriage, my husband and I were drawn to adoption. We had no idea when or how it would come into our lives, but we were very much open to the idea. Infertility came upon us, and we honestly never expected to struggle so much with it. Those were dark and difficult days, but again, adoption always seemed to be close to our hearts and minds, igniting our hope for a family. After many years of battling infertility, we were eager to begin the adoption process. From 2015 to 2017, we endured a very difficult time. During those years, we experienced three disrupted adoptions. Two of those adoptions were after we had spent time at the hospital holding our miracle. The third, though no less important, ended before we ever boarded a plane. These three adoptions were costly to us emotionally, financially, mentally, and spiritually.
Our final disrupted adoption occurred in 2017. We met our beloved daughter in the early morning hours of February 18, 2017, when she was just two days old. On February 20, she was signed into our custody, and three days later we returned home to the warmest and most loving welcome that any child could possibly have. Because of our past experiences, we, of course, had fears that persisted. When those fears arose, my husband and I would remind each other of God’s promises. Our journey to our daughter seemed to make perfect sense. On April 12, we were notified that our daughter’s birth father had decided to parent. He began doing all of the necessary legal steps in spite of his previous poor choices. For the remainder of April until June 20, we had to continue to parent our daughter with a heavy cloud looming overhead. By God’s grace, we were able to parent her while knowing she could easily be taken. In those months, we loved harder, prayed harder, and held her a little longer. When things became more legally unsettling, we took the advice of our attorney and agency and flew across the country yet again to stand before a judge. The judge ruled that our daughter be returned to her birth family immediately. At this moment, I was sure that death would be soon for me. It was too much to endure. As the agency worker began making preparations for someone to fly our daughter back to her birth state, the heat outside weighed heavy just like our grief. Once confirmation was given that an agency worker would fly to pick up our daughter the next day, we asked the agency to contact the birth mother to have a meeting. Legally, the birth mother had to be notified of what had occurred. My husband and I drove away from the courthouse feeling like death. Driving down a busy freeway, I buried my face in my hands, while screaming that I didn’t know how to give my baby back. My husband, my rock of wisdom and strength, said through his own tears, “At least we can know that we’ve tried everything, at least we can know that we’ve been faithful, that we’ve glorified God in the process. I want to lay my head down at night knowing we did everything.”
Much was discussed, questions were asked, and information was dissected in our meeting with our daughter’s birth mother. It was quickly apparent that although the birth mother and grandmother loved us, they were sympathetic toward the birth father. The attorney discussed heavy issues concerning how things would proceed with the birth father. At the heaviest moment, I asked everyone to stop talking and give me the floor. With my husband beside me, I explained the prayers we had offered all those months, I explained just how certain he and I were that all this, no matter the mess of it, was supposed to happen. Ultimately, I explained that our hope is in something greater and that the pain this situation was going to cause would be impossible to endure without our faith. Needless to say, when we arrived home, we said goodbye to our daughter and never saw her again.
As I said earlier, our story is heavy and devastating. Losing our daughter through a disrupted adoption after five previous losses and parenting her for several months was salt in our already open wound. The rest of June 2017 and July 2017 were spent healing. On August 21, 2017 we were contacted by a family friend who was affiliated with a hospital who had a newborn baby boy in need of a home. On August 23, 2017, we met our forever son! Our adoption was finalized soon after and nothing has been the same since.
Perspective on Open Adoption
Without our faith we would not have been able to endure our adoption journey. Now that we are on the other side of it, we have gained a world of perspective. Now, three years later, we have an evolving open adoption with our son’s birth mother and her family. When we first began our adoption journey, I would never have thought we could participate in an open adoption. However, three years into it, I couldn’t imagine having it any other way.
While I do wear the #adoptivemama title with pride, I now understand that my son having a relationship with his biological mother does not threaten my role as his mother; it only enhances it. As he grows older, he will begin to understand that because I love him, I want him to have access to his first family and to have the ability to have his own questions answered. I want to facilitate his learning of his story, which is his story to own and share as he chooses. We have also learned that adoption is not about us, and when you fully embrace that reality, open adoption makes even more sense.
Perspective on Control
Most people have a natural tendency to try to control the situation they are in. They operate on their own timeline, and when things don’t go as planned, they respond by trying to make things happen. In adoption, you literally cannot control anything. You are hanging on for the ride. When you stop trying to control what happens when you want it to happen, you will have a healthier journey and experience. While this may not be true for everyone, when my husband and I relaxed and lessened our grip on the reins of our journey, things happened for us. Remembering that adoption is not about you is also helpful in getting yourself more comfortable with feeling less in control.
Perspective on Infertility
Adoption is a lifelong commitment. You should not pursue adoption just because you need to heal from infertility. Adoption will not heal the brokenness that infertility so often causes. Choose to heal as an individual and as a family before deciding if you want to adopt.
Perspective on Parenting
Being a parent is arguably the most difficult task on the plane,. but parents are bonded together in their struggle. As an #adoptivemama, I inevitably have another layer of difficulty to my parenting journey. Although every adoption is made up of varying circumstances, every adoptee will have trauma. Even if the adoptee is from the most ideal circumstances, they will have trauma from simply being separated from their biological mother. #Adoptivemamas must be knowledgeable about trauma-informed parenting.
This expectation and pressure used to weigh me down because it seemed like I would never be fully prepared. I was also always watching and waiting for the bottom to drop out and for my son to suddenly not be okay. I have learned to relax and understand that any parental struggles have some level of uncertainty. Maintaining a commitment to remain informed, open, and willing to learn how to meet your adoptees needs is half the battle. If you make adoption a common and comfortable topic in your home with your adoptee, they will feel comfortable and have the space to share with you what they need from you as their adoptive parents.
I have also learned what an overwhelming privilege it is to be an #adoptivemama. Someone has entrusted me with their most precious gift. The reality of that fact slays me every single day. In turn, I allow that to motivate me to be the best and most informed parent I can be. No parent is perfect and being an #adoptivemama is unique. I understand it is not for everyone, but I am so thankful that it has been for me and my family. As I have said earlier, open adoption has been a blessing for our family. I honestly believe that it has made us better parents. Seeing firsthand the love and sacrifice my son’s birth mother and father displayed has made us better parents. They have taught us so much more than we could ever express. Our son’s birth mother is especially a tremendous light in our lives. We have gained so much as a family by having her and her family join ours and vice versa. An #adoptivemama should be celebrated, but behind every strong #adoptivemama is another mama who sacrificed their most precious gift to allow an #adoptivemama to experience parenthood. To celebrate us is to honor them above all. If you are an adoptive mother and have access to your child’s first mother and family, be sure to reach out to them and celebrate them. Your child will benefit immeasurably by having twice the love and twice the family.