Please be advised that this summary of Birth Mothers Amplified Episode 1 mentions topics that may be sensitive or triggering to some.
Are you a birth mother looking to hear the stories of others who have similar stories as you? Are you an adoptive parent or someone looking to adopt and want to learn more about a birth mother’s perspective? Or, are you interested in finding out more about the adoption process in general? If you answered yes to any of these questions, the Birth Mothers Amplified podcast is something you’ll definitely want to listen to.
The Birth Mothers Amplified podcast started in August of 2020 by Muthoni and Emma, two birth mothers who wanted to share their experiences with adoption in a relatable and empowering way. Each episode focuses on different aspects of an individual’s adoption journey. It is important to note that the speakers and hosts of the podcast are only sharing their lived experiences and are not “medical, legal, or counseling professionals.” Therefore, if you are needing more concrete advice about a personal situation with adoption, consulting a professional is highly recommended.
This episode of Birth Mothers Amplified opens with both women talking about what they hoped the podcast would bring to the adoption community—a space where birth mothers are able to share their stories in a safe way that helps educate the rest of the adoption community on their experiences. Emma, the co-host of the podcast, describes that after being four years post-placement, she realized how much birth mothers’ voices were needed within the adoption community. Often, their part of the triad is viewed in a light that is not always positive or validated.
Emma says that the birth mother experience is “such a large part of the adoption reality,” which is a significant way of describing what many people’s adoption journey is like. For decades, a single narrative has been told about adoption; it focuses on the child being placed with their adoptive parents. A large majority of birth mothers have been left out of the picture, which has created a vast hole in the proposed adoption narrative. Describing adoption as a reality takes on a much more inclusive tone, which is something that both hosts clearly value.
Muthoni is a 28-year-old birth mother who, after immigrating to California from Kenya when she was a child, eventually ended up in Texas in her early 20s. She describes her childhood in California as “hard,” as she was raised in a single-parent household. As she aged and went off to college, she and her biological family became distanced. However, when she was in college, she met a friend and became very close with her family. After a few more years of living in California, she moved to Texas to be closer to her and to have a better support system.
Within a year, she found herself pregnant by her friend’s brother, which she describes as “bringing on its own set of complications.” She describes not having enough support and feeling like she “wasn’t ready to be a parent.” After telling her friend’s brother that she was pregnant, his first reaction was offering to take her to an abortion clinic. Therefore, he made it clear that he had no plans of wanting to continue with the pregnancy. Her friend’s parents served as a minimal support system throughout her pregnancy and supported her decision to place the child for adoption; Muthoni describes this as helpful, although she still felt like she had to go through the process virtually alone.
Wanting to explore different options for her pregnancy, Muthoni began to consider adoption. Although she did not know much about the adoption process or what it entailed, she had seen adoptive parents from her church who had been through the process. She had never met any birth parents or adoptees, though. After going to her local pregnancy resource center, she was able to find an agency that offered a dorm program for expectant mothers who did not have housing. Muthoni describes the dorm setting as being one of her biggest support systems. She experienced significant stress throughout her pregnancy, much of which she attributes to working two jobs that required her to constantly be on her feet up until her due date. The women in the dorm provided her with a sense of community and comfort that she most likely would not have found elsewhere, stating that “It was nice to be surrounded by other people who just got it.”
As she entered the second trimester of her pregnancy, Muthoni began to look at profiles of families to potentially adopt her child. Her three requirements for a family were: to be faith-based (specifically Christian), to have healthy relationships within their marriage, and to have a “close-knit” family relationship. She describes picking the “right family” as tough because she felt bad saying no to potential adoptive families; however, she says that “at the end of the day, I wanted to make the right decision for us.”
When asked how she came to the decision of picking a couple, she describes it as both practical and emotionally “right.” They appeared to “check all of her boxes” and seemed very warm and inviting. Their profile featured many happy pictures of the family engaged in activities. After looking through their profile, she decided to set up the initial phone call and compiled a list of questions she thought would be important to ask. The birth father’s family was involved throughout this process, although Muthoni questions the motivation behind it to a certain degree. She was thankful that they were being supportive of the decision but states that they really pushed for her to choose a family from their church who had experience with adoption. She declined this offer, as she felt like it would become too “messy.”
Culture and diversity also played a large role in how Muthoni picked the potential adoptive parents for her child. Her daughter was multiracial, so the adoption would be transracial as the parents she chose were white. Because of this, she wanted to see “what diversity looked like in their life.” Looking back, she’s “thankful” that her daughter’s parents have incorporated so much diversity into the daily life of her child.
After having the initial phone call with the couple she chose, Muthoni describes feeling very “happy and peaceful” about the entire process and was confident that she had made the right choice. She moved forward with an in-person meeting within the next couple of weeks but describes being very nervous about being accepted by the family. In a more general sense, she talks about how many birth mothers are apprehensive of meeting potential adoptive families because they are not accepted as easily as their children are. Having a “healthy place in the picture” was important to her, as she wanted to be involved in her child’s life as much as she could. The hosts discussed the “mutual acceptance” that must occur in the birth parent/adoptive parent relationship, as the perspective of birth parents can often be forgotten during the adoption process.
Muthoni’s nervousness was curbed once she met with the couple in person, however. She describes the initial meeting like “friends reconnecting” and felt that it was a space where they could discuss heavy issues about the adoption process safely. Although the parenting decisions of a birth parent are limited to making the adoption plan and choosing the family simply because of the nature of adoption, Muthoni worked with the couple to decide on a name for her child, which ultimately ended up being the one that the adoptive parents had chosen. They wanted to incorporate the name she had picked out as the middle name, which made Muthoni feel incredibly happy and included.
Throughout the rest of her pregnancy, Muthoni and the adoptive parents kept in regular contact about the baby. Because Muthoni continued to work until her due date and was very active, she had expected the birthing process to be quick; however, this wasn’t quite the case. She was scheduled to be induced almost two weeks past her intended due date, which she describes as a nerve-wracking experience. She was exhausted, but thankfully her daughter arrived prior to her induction date. The transparency between her and the adoptive parents continued through the birth of her daughter, although Muthoni chose to not have them in the delivery room. The birth father’s sister/her friend and the birth grandmother were in the room to take pictures and provide support.
Muthoni is clearly joyful as she reflects on the moment her daughter was born; she describes her as “the most perfect little human being [I] had ever seen in my life.” When she saw her and got to hold her for the first time, she talked about the overwhelming sense of love that she felt for her daughter, saying “it was nowhere compared to how I thought I loved her when she was inside of me.” As a viewer, this was perhaps the most impactful part of the podcast; seeing the love that this birth mother had for her child at that moment was profound. She wanted as much time as possible to hold her and interact with her but decided at the last minute to not breastfeed in fear that it would be too difficult to let go of this process.
In the midst of everything, there was a moment where Muthoni realized that her time as her daughter’s primary parent was coming to an end. Although she knew that she could change her mind at any point, she knew that adoption was the right choice for her and her daughter. She describes “not see[ing] any other option at that moment” and feeling that although she wanted to give her daughter everything because she was so perfect, she just couldn’t. When it came time to sign the paperwork, she described the language on the paperwork as harsh and intense.
When the adoptive parents arrived, they were hesitant to hold or touch her at first, as if not wanting to intrude. However, once Muthoni encouraged them to interact with their daughter, she said she saw “love and heartbreak intertwined” on their faces. On the placement day, which was a week after she had given birth, both families gathered to take pictures and connect one more time before Muthoni’s daughter would be taken home by her adoptive parents.
Post-placement, the families had an open adoption arrangement and decided that they would have two visits a year for the first year and then move down to one as her daughter got older. They kept in contact through pictures, texts, and videos until they were able to meet up three months later when Muthoni and the adoptive parents were invited to speak on a panel for the adoption agency they had used throughout the adoption process.
Once everything was finalized with the adoption, Muthoni took some time to speak on different panels and become more involved within the adoption community. The second year post-placement, she took more time to grieve and reflect on the placement. After following some birth mothers on social media and talking to more people within the adoption community, she realized that she had not given herself the appropriate time to process her experience with placing her child for adoption. She sought out therapy, which she describes as life-changing for dealing with adoption trauma and all the “little fires” that led up to her unexpected pregnancy.
Overall, Muthoni’s story sheds light on what it is like to place a child for adoption from the moment she became pregnant to years post-placement. Both hosts agreed that hearing her story was eye-opening and would resonate with many birth mothers, which is much needed in the adoption community.
To keep up with the latest episodes of Birth Mothers Amplified, follow them on their website and their youtube channel. If you are an expectant parent and are considering adoption for your child, please visit adoption.com, adoption.org, or adopting.org for more resources. You can also call 1-800-236-7898 to find out more about what the Gladney Center for Adoption offers.
To watch this episode of Birth Mothers Amplified, click here.