Birth Mothers Amplified is a community where birth moms come together on podcast episodes and YouTube videos to share their stories, answer questions, and discuss adoption. The hosts of Birth Mother Amplified, Emma and Muthoni, are birth mothers themselves that placed their children for adoption. Both women are four years post-placement. Their site states that their community desires to empower birth mothers to “speak their truth,” “be heard,” and share their stories authentically. They are sponsored through the Gladney Center for Adoption. I enjoyed listening to Emma and Muthoni host the episode and add their own experiences to the podcast.
In the past, I’ve been able to listen to a panel of birth mothers share their stories post-adoption. They shared the joys and challenges of what led them to adoption. While hearing the stories of the birth mothers, I’ve been blown away by their transparency and thoughtfulness.
I listened to Episode Seven about a birth mother named Dominique. She shares her story of placing her child for adoption and of the 48 hours after the baby was born. In the state of Texas, the birth family is allotted 48 hours to change their mind and for 48 hours, the birth family has full rights to the child. After that time, the birth family signs their rights over to the adoptive family. The birth parents are not named on the podcast, but Dominique’s story is followed minute by minute by The Archibald Project, an organization that brings awareness to orphans via video and photographs.
Through Dominique and the hosts, I was able to hear through the voice of a birth mother in Texas share the helpful and challenging parts of her story. Their purpose was to educate the adoption triad and facilitate change in the adoption process and world.
Dominique is a birth mother from Dallas, Texas. She had already been a single mother for three years when she became unexpectedly pregnant. Initially, she wanted to have an abortion but changed her mind after speaking with her mother and a lady at her local church. Her mother shared with Dominique that she had an abortion and that she was unable to forget about the baby since. This got Dominique to think differently about abortion. Her mother emphasized that even after having five children, she never forgot about the baby she aborted. Dominique shared that despite hearing this from her mother, she remembered her background of growing up poor and did not feel like she had the means to keep her child. Through all of this, Dominique continued to waver back and forth with her decision to place her child for adoption, parent her child, or abort her child.
Adoption or Abortion?
Being an adoptive mother, I reflect on all of the education that I was required to get before becoming a parent. I never thought that birth parents might need to go through a meeting or counseling to learn what their options are as well. An adoptive mother named Jennifer wrote an article called What Are My Options in an Unexpected Pregnancy? She gave an outline of different options that the birth families have during an unexpected pregnancy.
Dominique mentions that before she placed her child for adoption, she did not know anything about adoption. Her only reference to adoption and foster care were Lifetime movies that painted both in a negative light. Once she was presented with adoption as an option, she started researching adoption and remembered that she befriended a woman at a local church a month before and asked her for advice. She spoke to the woman about adoption and asked her “if God would forgive her if she had an abortion?” The woman answered, “Yes, He loves you that much. He would, but in reality, He would want you to do what is right for the child.” I believe that was such a beautiful and honest response. In the end, she left the choice up to Dominique. She did not force her to respond nor condemn her for her choice either way. She was met with love. Because of this woman’s loving response, Dominique felt that she was heard and seen. I am in awe of how this woman helped Dominique through this tough decision in her life.
Despite having a stable job and a steady income, this was the one time in her life when she did not have enough money to have an abortion. She took this situation in her life as a sign that she could pursue adoption. Dominique made up in her mind that she wanted her child to go to a family that is similar to the family that she would want for her child. She educated herself on “foster care.” She did not want to be a parent after parenting her first child by herself.
The woman stayed available and never pulled away from her. She reached out to the church woman and then she helped her. The woman connected with a woman who had an abortion before and wanted to adopt a baby. Dominique wanted to meet the family, but she did not feel ready with a decision and the family was not at a place that they could adopt. Next, she Googled an agency to work with to help her decide to parent or not as well as explore the adoption process. The agency spoke with her and they ended up sending 30 profiles. She spotted a couple that she thought would be the perfect match and it turns out that they were matched with another birth family. Little did Dominique know that other events happening behind the scenes would continue this adoption story.
A Family is Available
Meanwhile, the family she had snubbed for a while that was recommended through the woman who mentored her at the church became available. They became available and then she left her agency and went with the agency of the birth parents. The couple mentioned by the woman at Dominique’s church were all of a sudden interested in adoption. Dominique speaks about them with such warmth and thoughtfulness. She said that at their church, they are people who walk through life with women who have unplanned pregnancies and they find themselves available to those who want to parent. They will ask families if they want help or need anything to maintain their family. While Dominique wanted to be matched with them, they were already with another agency. Thus, she had to leave the agency that was helping her and then sign on to the agency of the couple. I learned in the interview with the Archibald Project that the couple’s names were Ally and Ryan. Dominique ends up working with their agency and she continues the process towards adoption. The one important thing that she did to protect herself was to create an adoption plan for the hospital. She had different requests that she had in her plan. She wanted the handoff immediately following delivery to be to the prospective adoptive parents. She wanted the baby with the prospective adoptive parents in the hospital. Dominique and the couple, along with their agency, came up with a plan of action but then the baby came early.
Birth of Baby Everett
At the beginning of the adoption journey with Ally and Ryan, they expressed that they were leading an overseas mission trip of 20 people for their church close to the delivery date. They were willing to have another couple come in their place, but Dominique decided that it was fine for them to go on the trip. She was scheduled to be induced when the couple returned from the mission trip, but Dominique’s water broke the day before she was supposed to be induced. The couple was scheduled to come back on the day she was induced.
She explains that this was new for her because she was induced with her first son. She believes that this was the beginning of the adoption birth plan being “torn up.” Her main request was that the baby be given to Ally and Ryan first because she wanted them to have the experience of holding the baby first after delivery. Dominique expresses that she felt their desire to be there for her and she wanted to be there for them by giving them every rite of passage as new parents in the hospital. I admired her commitment and kindness because you can tell she thought about her birth plan thoughtfully and carefully. Sadly, her birth plan was not followed by the hospital.
The Unfollowed Birth Plan
The prospective family reaches out to the film crew and they come to Dallas to film the entire stay in the hospital. The film crew drives from Austin to Dallas overnight to film the rawness of the 48 after the birth of the baby. Once they get to Dallas, they start to film and wait until the adoptive family gets there. They go back and forth between Dominique and Ally and Ryan during their stay at the hospital with the baby. She wanted to address the many comments in the documentary regarding her supposed catering to the adoptive family. She believes that she did not cater to them, but simply had a different level of respect for them because of the love and respect that they showed her as the birth mother to their prospective son.
She shares with the hosts, “If you meet a family and fall in love with them, then you will accept them.” She adds that she chose the family because she felt they were everything that she was not at the time as far as emotional and economic support. She continues, “If you see a sister-friend on the side of the road, you go over and you lend them a helping hand.” She did not want this so-called catering to be part of her son’s story.
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The podcast interview included a lengthy discussion of how the medical field needs adoption curriculum. This discussion was sparked because in Dominique’s situation, patient-nurse boundaries were crossed. At the time, Dominique spoke to a nurse about leaving the hospital for a few hours. The nurse explains to her that Dominique’s leaving the baby would be child abandonment. Dominique explains that the baby’s parents were there and that he could go right down the hall to them. The nurse tells her that because she has not signed her rights over, this is abandonment. Dominique asks the nurse to get the caseworker on the phone so the caseworker could confirm that this was okay and not child abandonment. Dominique couldn’t sign until 10 am the next day so she woke up the adoptive parents to promise she would come back to sign over her parental rights. The adoptive mother said she trusts her so Dominique leaves and then returns to sign her parental rights over to Ally and Ryan. In short, a emotionally straining situation was made more stressful by a lack of adoption education.
From Closed Adoption to Open Adoption
Dominique said she never gave the adoptive parents any hints as to whether she wanted an open or closed adoption. Ally and Ryan wanted to have a fully open adoption and they wanted her involved in raising their son. Dominique feels like she went back and forth on her decision between an open or closed adoption. Dominique explains that she started on a year-long emotional roller coaster with them in order to find a rhythm with them. She says that she was bitter towards the agency and birth parents.
The hosts indicate that this is where they advocate for emotional counseling for the birth family. I agree with the hosts. Dominique felt her communication method was unhealthy and that, unlike adoptive parents, birth parents do not sit through hours and hours of classes to learn about what it feels like after you place the child with the adoptive parents. For me, that was one of the meaningful statements throughout the whole interview. While adoptive parents have post-adoption resources, birth parents sometimes have next to no post-adoption resources.
For instance, adoption agencies should do a better job with emotional counseling. I was shocked to find out that some adoption agencies place a grief packet in your hands and then you walk out the door. I hope that this policy continues evolving throughout the adoption world.
Birth mothers need emotional counseling long before turning over their rights to the prospective adoptive parents. Providing emotional counseling before the birth of the child becomes tricky when a birth parent is far along and close to delivery. This does not give the agency time to counsel the birth parent. I agree with the hosts that agencies should do a better job with preparing birth parents no matter how far along they are in the birthing process.
The adoptive family pursued Dominique and gave her unconditional love. In the end, they finally worked out an open adoption agreement and their relationship has continued to grow.
I enjoyed this interview. I thought that Dominique spoke from a level of experience and newfound confidence. I loved when she said that she believes that the adoption community places the birth family subconsciously on a pedestal. Sometimes, the community implies or outright says that whatever the birth mom says is always right. Dominique does not believe that to be true. She thinks that for an open adoption to work, all parties need to work on communication and self-awareness.
Successful open adoption relationships work well because they have great communication. I commend Dominique and Birth Mothers Amplified for being a voice for birth mothers to bring change to the adoption system.