I have spent a significant amount of time wondering where to begin. Where to start my story and how to really hit home with who I am. It’s funny that one event always comes to mind now when trying to explain who I am, and what my story is. “Birth mom” is a title etched permanently in my mind, and on my heart. It’s funny . . . as a teenager, and honestly, up until it was me, I condemned adoption a lot of the time. I thought a woman who placed her baby was heartless and couldn’t possibly truly love her children. I mean, how can you let go and “give up” something you truly love? I’m often ashamed of that, but shame has no place in who I am now.
It’s funny . . . as a teenager, and honestly, up until it was me, I condemned adoption a lot of the time. I thought a woman who placed her baby was heartless and couldn’t possibly truly love her children. I mean, how can you let go and “give up” something you truly love?
Whenever I write about my adoption story, I sometimes wonder how to do it justice, where and how to begin. My story doesn’t begin like most. It doesn’t begin in a hospital room, filled with a mixture of sorrow and joy. My grief and loss didn’t begin by being wheeled from the mother-baby unit with empty arms and a heavy heart. I didn’t watch a couple who were nearly strangers leave the hospital with the child I had carried for nine months. No, I wasn’t smart enough for that.
I was stubborn, and desperately clinging to the life I had created. I left that mother-baby unit with a car seat in my lap, tenderly and precariously positioned so as not to disturb my newly healing incision. I loaded a sleeping baby boy into the back of my grandmother’s Kia, and I took him home. I didn’t have to go to sleep that night wondering if he was okay, if his new mother was properly tending to his cries, if he was cold or knew that the heartbeat he’d heard for nine months was miles away. Those eight pounds of baby softness were on my chest that night . . . crying every hour to nurse. My arms were full. But my heart was heavy just the same.
As ridiculous as it may seem, sometimes I wish that my story had begun as I just described. Knowing as I heard him cry for the first time that he wasn’t truly mine. That as I kissed his tiny forehead when my mother brought him to me, freshly swaddled, his parents were waiting outside. Sometimes I wonder if my grief would somehow be different if it had been Drea in that room with me as I gave birth to her son. If Drea and Jason had been the ones to take him home. But at that moment, he was all mine. Oh, I had considered adoption during pregnancy, but hadn’t been able to go through with it. I’m not proud of myself for that, it was one of my more selfish moments.
Benjamin was mine for four and a half months. Although that isn’t entirely accurate, as I began the adoption process six days before he reached the four-month milestone. I am certain that September 16th will be a date I never forget. That night was one of the most painful nights aside from placement in my life. I held him on my chest as he slept, stroking his soft little head, feeling him breathe. He was so beautiful and warm, and something in me felt as though it died that night. I was going to lose one of the best things that had ever happened to me.
I was now on the path to no longer being his mother.
My adoption story isn’t necessarily all warm and fuzzy. It’s not full of loving support from family, or an adoptive couple by my side throughout my pregnancy, though I know they would have been had they been given the chance. It is a painful, and difficult story. As soon as I made the choice that adoption was necessary, hate and anger flooded from all directions. Just what-the-hell kind of mother was I, giving up my son? How could I claim to love him, then give him to strangers? I was a piece of crap, a worthless human being. I was scum as a mother, and deserved to lose him. These were just a few of the hateful things I was being told.
Just what-the-hell kind of mother was I, giving up my son? How could I claim to love him, then give him to strangers?
I knew it was their way of bullying me into changing my mind. Forcing me to parent Benjamin because they wanted to be able to see him grow up. It did not matter that they would not be the ones responsible for clothing, feeding, and raising him. It only mattered that they get to be in his life.
The process started almost immediately once I had made the choice of adoption. Less than 24 hours later, I had been set up with a caseworker. My head nearly spun with how fast it all happened. And then, it was time to look at profiles. Dozens of hopeful families just in the Phoenix/Chandler area alone. All longing for a child, all appealing to potential birth mothers. It felt like so much pressure, and I felt guilty for each profile I passed up, even though I knew they had no way of knowing I’d done so. I found two couples, and sent out a fairly generic message.
I hoped they wouldn’t answer back. One of them did nearly immediately.
I felt no peace as she and I emailed, as we spoke of her other two adopted children, one of whom was part of an “open” adoption—except that he was 8 years old and had never met his birth mother. Despite feeling like I needed to choose a family, and despite this being one of the only two families I had been okay with, I felt doubt. She mentioned allowing Benjamin to see me a lot as a baby, but not wanting to confuse him as he got older. I wanted to say, “What you really mean is you’ll cut me out once he’s not too little to know me.” She mentioned changing his name almost immediately. It hurt. What was so wrong with his name? I’d agonized over choosing his name, and it was the only name that truly fit him.
I started to feel despair, but that night my phone rang. On the other end was Margie, a woman I didn’t know, who had heard of me through her church counselors. She was sorry to bother me, but wanted me to know her niece was looking to adopt. And would I please just look at Drea and her husband’s profile? I said I would, but hung up angry. I wasn’t going to look at anything . . . except that I did. That night, laying in bed, feeling a distinct lack of peace, I finally looked them up. My heart kind of stopped when I saw them. She was beautiful, and he had kind eyes. They exuded happiness. Even in their message, I could feel the love they had.
My heart kind of stopped when I saw them. She was beautiful, and he had kind eyes. They exuded happiness. Even in their message, I could feel the love they had.
Suddenly, the other family seemed all wrong. Why had I even been looking at them? Now I felt too guilty to tell them they weren’t the family. Yet I mailed Drea anyway, and waited for a response. It came within a few hours, and I read it a few times, trying to decide if or how to answer. But I did answer, and we started talking back and forth immediately. She was sweet, and talking to her was easy. I looked down at Benjamin in my lap. “Is this your mommy, Benjamin?” I asked him softly. He cooed, and smacked the keyboard. Not the clear answer I hoped for, but a cute reaction nonetheless. I asked to meet them while emailing with her the next day; of course she said yes. The other woman texted the morning I was to meet them and invited me to breakfast. I politely turned her down, saying I already had plans. Part of me knew we’d never meet.
Meeting Jason and Drea was easy. I was terrified, of course, but excited. I felt an immediate connection with them. Jason seemed so kind, and I could tell he loved Drea. She was so sweet, and I felt like I really saw compassion in her eyes. I felt like she cared, even though she was just meeting me. Benjamin loved them. He let them hold him, cooed and grinned, and drooled all over Drea. She just laughed and let him drool all over her hair and shirt—I loved that. She seemed so happy to just be holding him. She didn’t care about drool or having her hair pulled. She just appreciated the baby who was doing it. That was the kind of woman I wanted raising him.
It hurt to have faces with names . . . real people who had suffered heartache, loss, infertility, and pain. My heart broke so much for Drea’s pregnancy losses, for her inability to be a mother when she clearly was meant to be one. I was being given this opportunity to give her what she longed for . . . and honestly, I didn’t want it. I left that day knowing I was going to choose them. Whether I kept it to myself or not, I knew: those were Benjamin’s parents. I felt him slip through my fingers a bit more, and the breaking of my heart truly begin.
Drea was so loving, making sure to text and email whenever I needed it, pouring out love and encouragement. I felt something different about her. She wanted to be a mother, but it wasn’t just my son she wanted. She cared for me, she cared about what I was going through. I felt an immediate love for this woman who was to be my son’s mother. I wished so much that I could take the pain out of her eyes, that I could fix everything. I wished I could give her as many children as she could want, ease the heartache that loss brings. But I couldn’t do that; all I could do was trust in the Lord and make her a mother to Benjamin. I couldn’t change her infertility issues or take back the losses. I couldn’t give her all the children she may want. But I could give her a son, and I knew that for her, that was more than enough.
I felt a lot of love for Jason as well. He was such a nice guy, even my older son loved him. I loved watching him hold and talk to Benjamin—it was the sweetest thing. It made my heart happy to know that Benjamin would have him as a father, and that he would have the kind of father I never did. One who would always love and protect him, and never hurt him or tear him down. His mommy and daddy would read to him, love him, sing to him, and shower him with affection. That made me feel so good. I worked hard each time I saw them to not let them see how badly I was hurting—to remain strong and keep going in the process.
I remember the night I told them I’d chosen them. I remember looking at Drea when she told me of a full time job she’d applied for and telling her “don’t take it.” I remember the look on her face. I still feel good about that look.
Two days later I went to my birth mother support group for the first time. I hadn’t really cried yet. I’d chosen his parents, I’d realized he was going to be gone, but every time I started to feel the pain, I pushed it down. That night at group, I struggled to keep it together as a girl who had placed only two weeks before sobbed, trying to express her grief. This was my very near future. When it came my turn, as hard as I had tried to keep it in . . . it hit me. I got my name out, and had only just started to talk about Benjamin when I broke. The sobbing began and I couldn’t stop it. I could see they felt my pain, and somehow, it helped.
Bathing Benjamin, a small, sad smile crossed my face as he gummed his fist and grinned up at me while kicking in the water. This was my son, one of the two loves of my life. He was my absolute sunshine, what kept me going, my boy.
I found ways to connect with his mommy. I still remember sending her a few songs that reminded me of our situation. I sent her Marie Osmond’s recording of the song “From God’s Arms, to my Arms, To Yours.” She responded, telling me now it made her cry. It had the same effect on me. To this day I cry when I hear that song. I sent her pictures each day of Benjamin, and she always enjoyed them. It helped forming a closeness with her. Somehow that closeness made it seem easier to hand my son over to her.
In the days leading to the ceremony, it went too fast. I lay awake all night, exhausted yet unable to sleep. I watched Benjamin sleep and felt the hollow ache begin. I remember so very clearly the day before placement. That day I turned 28. It was the last birthday I would spend as Benjamin’s mother. Drea and her sister Annie took me and the boys to the zoo, and they had so much fun. I watched them with Benjamin, let Drea be the one to push his stroller and tend to him. It was such a good day for me, and for the boys. Jason and Drea took me to dinner that night and celebrated my birthday. They gave me a beautiful angel that is now on the shelf on my wall. And a card written with such loving words. Despite knowing I was placing Benjamin the next day, it was the best birthday I’ve had.
I battled with myself that night, again reminding myself I could change my mind. I knew I couldn’t, but told myself different. In reality, that wasn’t something I could even do. I loved Jason and loved Drea like a sister. My heart broke each time I thought of her loss and pain. I couldn’t do that to her . . . I couldn’t take this sweet baby away after I’d promised him to her. I imagined having to tell her that he wasn’t going to be hers, and the idea of the hurt it would cause killed me. I would not allow her to feel that pain again. I would not take her baby away.
Placement day is probably the one day that I will remember nearly every second of for the rest of my life. The morning was decent. I had my boys, and I tended to them. Bathing Benjamin, a small, sad smile crossed my face as he gummed his fist and grinned up at me while kicking in the water. This was my son, one of the two loves of my life. He was my absolute sunshine, what kept me going, my boy. I was bathing him for the last time, toweling off those chunky arms and legs for the last time, rubbing lotion on his soft baby skin for the last time. I threw a onesie on him, knowing Drea was bringing his placement outfit. I picked him up and held him to my chest. I breathed in his sweet, soft baby smell, the baby shampoo the most comforting smell I could imagine. I ran my hands down his back, cupped his head as he started to doze on my shoulder while I paced. Someone came and picked up my older son, and then it was just me and my baby.
I sat on the bed with him, watching him doze in my arms. I ran my finger along his soft, chubby cheeks, marveling at how adorable they were. I traced along his ear, remarkably like his adoptive father’s. This wasn’t right, this couldn’t happen. I could not sign those cold, legal forms giving up my rights to this beautiful little boy. I couldn’t hand him to Drea, ceasing to be his mother. I couldn’t do this. I had been a fool to think I could. How was I supposed to EVER feel joy again?! How was I supposed to just keep on living without him? I gently laid him in his Rock ‘n Play and busied myself. Shortly after, Drea knocked on the door.
And then she was in my room. Changing and dressing my son in the outfit her father and stepmother had bought him. She was smiling and talking to him, tickling his little belly. There was a particular moment as she changed his diaper that, despite my love for her, I wanted to scream at her, “Get away from him, that’s my job, I am his mother!” I didn’t. I slowly packed his little clothes in the duffel she had brought. His blankets handmade by my grandmother. The Red Sox romper he looked so cute in. The little horse toy I thought was so sweet when I bought it. I packed my son’s belongings, knowing it was the last time I’d ever pack a bag for him. Packing to send him home with people who were the only parents he would ever know. I tried to chat with Drea, not let on the pain and anger threatening to consume me. In the ride to the ceremony, we didn’t say much. I think she knew I couldn’t handle a conversation. I told her that I was thinking about how in just an hour, he wouldn’t be mine anymore. My voice broke as I said it. She didn’t respond; I don’t think she even knew how. What do you say to a mother who is losing her baby? There’s nothing you can say.
Walking into that building, stepping into the room filled with their family and friends . . . it was so painful. I couldn’t even enter that room—as soon as I tried my pain was too much and I had to step out. I went to find my caseworker, telling her we had to sign the papers now, before I couldn’t. I slowly walked into C’s office with Jason and Drea. She pulled out the papers, explaining them briefly again. Jason and Drea sat listening, and to this day I wonder what they were thinking. Were they wondering if I’d sign? I wished I didn’t have to. Were they as terrified as I was? No, they couldn’t be. They were gaining a son as I lost one. I didn’t really feel as I signed, initialed, and dated form after form. And then suddenly, I was on the last copy of the last page. I put the pen to the paper, then pulled it away. Turned the pen around in my fingers, willing myself to just get it over with. Finally, I did it. I signed the last form that severed my rights to my baby.
I was no longer his mother.
C smiled gently. “You just made Jason and Drea parents,” she said softly. I knew. I knew what I had just done. I had just ripped out my own heart. I put my head in my hands and cried. Jason and Drea didn’t move, didn’t speak. I am unsure if they knew what to do or say in the face of my pain. I took Benjamin into the next room to have a few minutes. I cradled my sweet little boy, sobbing into his hair. I begged him to please, just not forget me. Told him how I loved him, how I just wanted to take him and run. Then I told him how wonderful his new mommy and daddy were. How they loved him, and how he would never know the struggle and sadness he had lived in those first few months. I memorized every feature, every eyelash, every breath. I wished I could take him home and forget this whole thing. Then C knocked on the door and joined me. Suddenly, I felt the need to hide my pain.
We headed into the room for the ceremony. I remember as if it were five minutes ago when Drea introduced me. “This is Benjamin. And this,” her voice broke, “is Benjamin’s very brave mother.” Only I wasn’t his mother, she was. The hugs began from all of these wonderful people who were grateful for me. Hugging me, thanking me as tears ran down my face. We all sat to begin the ceremony, and the door opened. I turned and saw my mother standing there. I jumped up and walked into her arms. I sobbed on her shoulder. I was so thankful she was there. We sat and listened together.
Shortly after, Benjamin began screaming . . . the emotion of the day, and lack of a nap taking a toll. I heard Drea murmur softly to him, knowing she was behind me rocking him. My mother asked me quietly what was wrong. I shrugged, but every fiber of my being was screaming at me to get off up and comfort my son. But he was her son now, and I didn’t have that right anymore. I wasn’t going to be the one who comforted him when he cried, or soothed him when he was sick. I wouldn’t be the one to be there for every tear and every happiness. She would be.
I cried the entire hour while everyone spoke to me. Thanking me, expressing their sorrow as they watched Drea struggle to carry a baby, their joy at the gift I was giving her. Jason and Drea gave me a necklace. An owl charm hung next to a small circle engraved with “I gave him more.” The owl symbolizing the stuffed owl I’d given them to keep for him. It meant more than I could express, and I loved them even more as Drea fastened it on my neck. I got letters from Drea’s father, stepmother, and sister. I got a necklace from her father and stepmother as well. I was hugged more, photographed holding and kissing Benjamin. Posing with Jason and Drea as Drea proudly held Benjamin.
After it was over, Jason gave me a blessing before we left—a special and personalized prayer in our religion. I felt immense peace, as crazy as it seems. I was okay at that moment. And then I did something no mother should ever have to do. I kissed my son’s head, watched Drea put his bag in the car, and turned and left. I climbed into a car without my baby and went back to that hotel room. His empty Pack ‘n Play and rocker a harsh reminder that there was no longer a baby to fill them. I was numb. That numbness lasted until the next Wednesday, when I got home from support group. Jason and Drea had been there with Benjamin, and we’d told our adoption story. It had been good, but now I was back in that hotel room, not knowing when I was going to see B again. I knew it would be at least a month; we had agreed on that time frame to allow my son to detach from me and attach to his parents.
After that day, the grief hit hard. You try to prepare for it, try to brace yourself for the pain of losing your baby. But nothing does. It slammed into me with a force that took my breath away. I sobbed into my pillow as I lay in the dark, my heart and arms aching to hold him. I would wake, and the grief would often hit before my eyes were open. Some days I forgot, and I woke to wonder why he wasn’t crying. And then I realized he wasn’t there anymore. Your days seem so much darker when you grieve a child. Nothing is bright, your days drag on, you wake up already wishing the day was over.
You try to prepare for it, try to brace yourself for the pain of losing your baby. But nothing does.
His empty playpen taunted me, chipped away at my heart. She posted a pic of him and his daddy on Facebook, a bigger smile than I’d ever seen on his face. And I felt empty. Lost. How could I go on without him? I sat on the floor of the shower, water hitting my face and mixing with tears. I pleaded with God to either take this pain or let me die. I talked to Drea a lot, her voice a comfort to me. I felt better when we were on the phone together. I loved Drea and Jason so much. Drea was quickly becoming one of my closest friends. But my pain was still so real. I couldn’t express to her the depth of my pain. Even if I could have found the words, I didn’t want her to be sad for me. She deserved the joy she was feeling. I would often just wish I could die. Death couldn’t be worse than this pain. It would just make it easier. I could not live with this hurt.
I thought I would die from the heartache. I hoped I would. I tried to sleep but usually just passed out in the wee hours of the morning, only to wake an hour later in a state of oddly painful numbness. The loneliness and longing for my son threatened to take over. This felt so wrong. I felt like my baby had died. How did mothers who lost children keep going? How did they face each day with the knowledge that their baby was gone? I didn’t think I could.
The cloud slowly lifted over time. I grew closer to Drea and enjoyed my visits with Benjamin. I know every moment that I chose the right thing. But the pain of choosing to give him a better life with someone else . . . it will never completely go away. I don’t doubt my choice. I’m blessed to know them, blessed that I was able to make them parents. I know by the miracles that occurred, he was always theirs. I think about how without the random phone call, I would not have found them. It was all built on miracles, and that enabled me to give them the joy of a child. But their joy and my pain are still intertwined. That’s okay.
I don’t doubt my choice, I’m blessed to know them, blessed that I was able to make them parents. I know by the miracles that occurred, he was always theirs.
I chose to give my son more. And I will never be sorry for that.
As far as advice, the best thing I can tell you is feel it. Feel the grief and loss. Scream, yell, cry, punch a pillow. Allow yourself to fully feel the pain and anger, and whatever other emotions you feel. But then, move on. Let yourself heal. Don’t allow this to be what defines you, or what destroys you. Because life has so much to offer. Instead of looking at this as something bad, look at it as giving your child the best life possible. And take care of you, because you’re the only one who can take care of your heart.