Hi. I’m Hillary. I’m a photographer and a birth mother. I intend to travel the country and meet with other women who have placed their children for adoption. Some of the stories will be beautiful and inspiring, while other testimonies will be completely heartbreaking. Click here to see more stories. 

Have you ever known someone in an unfortunate situation as a result of a mistake they made and thought to yourself, “Oh, there’s no way that could happen to me”?

I think we all have. Growing up, I was the type of kid who would do things her own way, thinking, with the ignorance of youth, that the consequences really only happened to other people. And then suddenly, when I was 17 years old and only a few weeks away from graduating high school, I found out I was six weeks pregnant. I WAS that person. I had made a mistake and landed myself in one devastating situation.

I knew early on in my pregnancy that I wanted to make an adoption plan. I was no longer on speaking terms with the father, and I knew that I was nowhere near ready to become a mother. Above all, I knew that my child deserved a better life than what I could provide at such a young age. I was fortunate enough to find an amazing support system in my family. They made it clear that if I did choose to parent, they would help me as much as they could. But that wasn’t the life I wanted for my child. I wanted to give my son a family with two parents who were together, who were in love with each other, who could provide him with opportunities I would never have been able to provide.

As my due date approached, the agency I made my adoption plan through gave me a few adoptive family profiles to browse. I probably went through three or four groups of profiles, each group containing around ten to twelve families, and I found myself returning to one profile in particular. It is still something that I cannot put into words, but I just had a feeling that this was the couple meant for my son.

I met John and Mary (names changed to keep their identities anonymous) with my parents and our social workers, and I fell in love with them immediately. They were so in love and exactly what I wanted for my son.

Now that I’d made my decision and chosen my son’s adoptive parents, there was nothing left to do but wait. My due date came and went, and my doctor finally decided to induce labor at midnight on December 29th, 2008, a week after my due date. John and Mary received a call from my social worker, and they started driving to the hospital almost immediately.

My beautiful son was born around seven o’clock that morning. He was 22 inches long and weighed 9lbs 12oz, (almost 5 lbs heavier than my doctors expected!)

The adoptive parents arrived shortly after the doctor induced my labor, and my mind started racing. Nothing could change the fact that I was my son’s mother, his first mother, but Mary was going to be his mother too. She was going to care for him and raise him as her own; she could care for him in a way I knew I could not. Suddenly I thought to myself, “How wonderful would it be for her to be able to tell my son that she was there the moment he was born?” Witnessing the birth of the child they are hoping to adopt isn’t an opportunity many adoptive parents have, and I wanted Mary to have that experience. I invited her into the labor room and she was able to be there when our son drew his first breath. It was a sacred experience.

I spent three days in the hospital after my son was born. During those three days I was allowed to hold and feed my son, and I was in awe of what a precious little miracle he was. My mother was a constant companion, for whom I was grateful, and we were visited occasionally by a few immediate family members. One night, John and Mary, along with our social workers, brought my son into my room and we presented them with gifts my family had prepared: A beautiful blanket handmade by my aunt and a scrapbook I made, containing pictures details about my life and passion for art and literature in case he ever wondered what activities I participated in school, and a letter for him to read when he was older, explaining why I made the decision to place him with this beautiful couple instead of parenting him myself.

The day I left the hospital, we held a sort of dedication ceremony. At the time I was a devout Christian, and I felt that it was very important to pray with John and Mary over this incredibly beautiful (and heartbreaking) moment.

For the first three years I received yearly updates and pictures, but as his 4th birthday came and went, I started to wonder why I hadn’t received anything new from John and Mary. It took another six months until my social worker was finally able to contact them, and I had my answer. She told me that John had very angrily stated that they had not agreed to send pictures and updates every year, and that he no longer felt obligated to do so. She wasn’t able to speak with Mary, as John had forcefully denied my social worker the chance to speak with her.

It has been another three years since then, and I still cannot understand their change of heart. What are they so frightened of that would drive them to deny the woman who gave them her child the only thing she asked for? I didn’t ask for visits, as I knew they would be too painful for me, and possibly confusing for my son. I didn’t even ask for frequent updates; I only asked for a letter and a few pictures once a year.

I struggled to accept their refusal for quite some time, especially because I knew many birth mothers who are in very open adoptions and get to see their children on occasion. This, in part, motivated me to start my photography series, “The Birthmother Series,” which has been an amazing and healing experience. Though I will always be grateful that they provided my son with the life I could never give him, I still have trouble trying to be at peace with John and Mary’s failure to honor their agreement: I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel bitter about it every once in a while. I still have hope, however, that someday I will have the chance to finally meet him.

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Hillary Jones can be reached at hillaryjones@mail.usf.edu.