“With every season of life. Every adjustment is okay or needs to be talked about. Is there a readjustment that needs to happen? If not, we can keep it the same. Or if there is an adjustment that needs to be made, we’re okay with that, and in the new season of life, we’ll talk about that.” – Megan
In Birth Mother’s Amplified, “Episode 11: Managing Ever-Changing Expectations | Megan’s Adoption Story,” hosts Muthoni and Emma talk with Megan, a 28-year-old birth mother who placed her son for adoption in 2014, about what it’s like to navigate adoption with adoptive parents and the semi-open adoption experience.
“I’m not gonna lie. My options were abortion or adoption,” Megan says in how she initially approached her unplanned pregnancy. “I’d never met anyone or known anyone who had been adopted or gone through adoption or anything like that.”
She explains that after finding out she was pregnant, her first call was to her mom. Shortly after, she says, they had a huge family meeting with everyone involved to help Megan figure out what to do next.
“In your mind, you go, ‘I really can’t raise this baby. I want to, but I know that I can’t.’” Megan says the birth father was unresponsive and didn’t seem to want any involvement. At 21, Megan was living in Oklahoma with her grandmother, working as a waitress and not making very much money.
She recalls it was about a week or two after telling her mom about her unplanned pregnancy and the family meeting that her mom took her to a clinic.
“There were all these screaming people on the street,” recalls Megan. “The doctor comes in and has to do what he is doing.” She says she told him several times that she didn’t want to see a sonogram picture or anything like that, but he showed her anyway. Looking back, she says she understands that they were trying to get her to think everything through before making such a big decision.
“He put it right in front of my face. It was this little bitty being of a thing.”
Afterward, she went into another office with a nurse who talked to her about the procedure that was to happen should she choose abortion.
“We got out of the clinic, and I looked at my mom and said, ‘I can’t do that.’” Megan said she weighed her options but quickly realized she mentally could not go through with the procedure.
Unknown to Megan, her mom had had a friend from high school who had placed her daughter years earlier. The three met for dinner to talk about her story and adoption. Megan says her mom’s friend conveyed that she’d been able to play a large part in her daughter’s life in various ways.
“Okay, so that’s not such a bad thing. I could handle that. I could do that.” Megan recalls feeling hopeful in response to learning about what adoption might look like for her and her unborn child.
From there, Megan jumped right into researching adoption and adoption agencies, choosing the very first one that appeared on her screen. She texted them at 11 at night and immediately received a response. She says she sat and talked for a half-hour.
Megan explained that she was only in town until the next day, and so they met the next morning and talked for two hours–at first just talking about herself and then moving into adoption and the agency. The agency had a dorm where she would be able to stay, which appealed to Megan because her parents had told her she would not be able to stay with them as they’d just moved and her dad had just started a new job and were unable, not unwilling, to help.
“They just didn’t have the means at the time to be able to take care of me and all the stuff that comes with adoption,” she says.
Megan was okay with staying at the dorm and being surrounded by others going through the same thing she was going through. She said she found it comforting to be around others who understood how she felt.
She was able to begin looking at potential parent profiles at about seven months, expressing that she’d wanted to look earlier, but it hadn’t been an option. “I know this is what I want to do. I know that I’m here for the long haul,” she says of her decision to make an adoption plan, explaining that she’d been sure of her choice as early as eight weeks into her pregnancy.
Megan was presented with five profiles, none of which, she said, met her criteria exactly. Her core wants and expectations, including finding a couple that had been married five-plus years, had already adopted a child, had obtained college degrees, but where the mom was a stay-at-home mom. Of the five-year marriage and existing adopted child criteria, she explains that she was looking for an established marriage/family situation. “If you already have an adopted child, you’ve been together for a little while.”
“It’s that level of comfort,” says Megan about being comfortable with and confident in expressing what’s right or wrong in what a birth mother is looking for in an adoptive couple.
On her choice of the adoptive couple, she says that you usually have a phone call first and then meet face-to-face, but in her case, the couple was in town, and lunch was set up nearly immediately. They spoke for two hours.
“The moment you meet your birth child’s family, you know,” Megan says of recognizing that these are the people that are going to adopt your baby.
She spoke with her caseworker and told her this was it. They had weekly phone calls up until Megan gave birth. While she describes her life at that time as anything but exciting–consisting of going to work, coming home, and sleeping–she says they would wind up talking for over an hour about family, expectations, and Megan’s expectations. Megan says she expressed that she wanted to have visits more than once a year and photos as much as possible.
“I just wanted to have this open communication all the time, and they promised that.”
Her baby boy was born in April. However, she had to wait before she could do placement because state law dictates that if the birth father does not relinquish his parental rights, there is a 30-day waiting period for him to claim paternity once the baby is born. Otherwise, the baby can go home with the adoptive parents. It’s usually advised for the birth mom to wait to sign.
Megan says she signed 48 hours after her son was born. “In my case, they had reached out to the birth father,” she explains. Because they’d been somewhat in contact, sent papers, and he didn’t send them back, the agency had felt it was okay for Megan to sign.
During that 30-day transitional care, Megan was able to see the baby two to three times a week, describing the experience as nice because there had been another girl living there with her who had given birth to her son two days later. They were able to go through almost everything together step-by-step, from signing papers to visits to placement.
Megan says that the adoptive parents did not meet her son during that transitional care time. She’d wanted them to be there when he was born, but now looking back, she says she is glad that they were not as it gave her that 48-hour period with the baby. She explains that it’s not that they hadn’t wanted to be there, but between raising their then 3-year-old and dealing with work and travel, it was difficult to make it all come together.
They did have video chats, and Skype calls, including just a few hours after the baby was born to announce his birth. After that, there were brief five-minute phone calls.
“This is my time with him, and I don’t have very much time, so I don’t want you to get super accustomed to me calling,” Megan recalls telling her son’s adoptive parents, who were very respectful of her decision.
She says it was just the adoptive mom on the Skypes or chats since dad was at work. They honored her time to bond with the baby and spend the time while she could. They shared phone numbers, emails, and Skype from pre-placement to post-placement through the baby’s first birthday before shutting down the accounts.
Now both parties go through the agency.
“I have to contact my caseworker who has to contact theirs who has to contact them, so everything is done through the agency,” she says.
Placement was rough, to say the least, according to Megan. The first hour was chit-chat, laughing, and exchanging gifts, she recalls. And then, the caseworker asked if she wanted to hold the baby one last time. After that, Megan says the room went silent. The caseworker took a picture just before Megan says she started what she describes as “ugly crying.”
“It’s one of the pictures that is up in my apartment and one that I take with me wherever I go, and it’s one that I never change. It was literally the last moment he was mine, even though I’d signed my rights away, really.”
Megan says that post-placement, the couple did a 180 turn with everything they were promising to basically almost nothing. According to Megan, the first year, they’d agreed on pictures and updates at 3, 6, and 9 months and then a year. After a year, it was expected that Megan would receive photos and then have a visit.
“A part of me just thinks they were promising all those things so that I would place with them because they thought that’s what she wanted to hear.”
Megan says she would have preferred if they had promised something they could’ve given, and then if they gave more, that would’ve been great.
“Because they promised so much,” she explains, “over the years, I’ve had to readjust my expectations and my realities of what they can give, so that’s something I’ve always said ‘if you can’t promise it, don’t promise it.’”
As their agreement stands now, she is receiving updates and a visit every year until he decides otherwise, and then if he doesn’t want a visit, it will turn into just an update every year. The adoptive parents have been good about giving updates in the form of a picture album–tons of photos, but not many words.
Megan says she has to figure out what they expect by herself, which fosters the question: Should there be more support either from the adoption agency or another third party to ensure everyone is on the same page?
She shares an example of how things went horribly wrong for a time when she posted a photo of her son as her Facebook cover with no explanation, no words. Still, someone spotted the photo and pointed it out to the adoptive parents, who were not happy.
The agency contacted her almost immediately, and she removed the photo right away.
Because social media has become so prominent and further complicates adoption, privacy remains an area that should be discussed going into placement and expectations and should be something that goes both ways for adoptive families and birth families.
While Megan understands that her son’s adoptive parents had every right to be upset or uncomfortable with her decision to post the photo, she says it was a situation that was never discussed. Because it can be difficult to meet a standard that was never discussed or hadn’t previously existed, it’s very important to take the time to talk through every possibility when setting up adoption agreements, expectations, and boundaries.
As a result of the misunderstanding, Megan says her agency contacted her, and direct updates were taken away for some time. She was required to drive to the agency to view photos for two years. She was not allowed to take the photo books home with her. It was a difficult time for her.
Around his third birthday, the adoptive parents started to send books once again, and both parties began to rebuild their trust, something she said she hopes they can keep. She receives a photo book now once a year, usually a couple of months after his birthday, because they like to include photos of his birthday. Megan also has a yearly visit.
This arrangement, she says, continues to be managed through the agency. “I don’t have any contact with them except through the agency,” she says.
To hopeful adoptive parents and current adoptive parents about setting expectations, Megan says, “My advice to them would be don’t promise anything you can’t give. Promise what you know you can give.”
“If you know you can give a photo update and a visit once a year, then promise that. And then if you can give more, give more. But don’t promise more than you can give because it’s not just you in this picture anymore. It’s the birth mom and her expectations, too. She has to readjust her expectations to be less than what you’re promising, which is hurtful.”
It’s important, as agreed upon by Muthoni, Emma, and Megan, for those expectant mothers choosing adoptive parents for their children to feel empowered and stick by expectations they want. Too often, birth mothers let themselves feel like the ones being interviewed where it’s the opposite–they’re trying to find parents for their children.
And it’s okay to pass on families until it feels right.
And that idea goes both ways–the ladies agree–adoptive parents are not the villains, birth parents are not the villains. It’s not good vs. evil. Just like situations can change and life can change for adoptive parents, so too do birth parents’ lives turn unexpectedly, causing them to change an adoption plan that results in adoptive parents adjusting.
“With every season of life. Every adjustment is okay or needs to be talked about. Is there a readjustment that needs to happen? If not, we can keep it the same. Or if there is an adjustment that needs to be made, we’re okay with that, and in the new season of life, we’ll talk about that,” says Megan.
At 6 years old now, she says her son knows who she is and that she’s his birth mom, explaining that they had that conversation at her last visit. She says, concerning speaking on the deep things, it’s important for her to know what’s okay and what’s not okay to say so she doesn’t break the adoptive parents’ trust.
“I don’t want it to come from me, and then he goes home and says, ‘Oh well, Ms. Megan told me this,’ and now it brings up other issues between us. I don’t want to step on their toes.”
She says that she is happy with things now and hopes that their relationship can keep evolving in a positive way.
“I’m hoping that our relationship, so far as I and the adoptive parents, keeps evolving in a positive way. And we can communicate and have more of an open conversation because he’s getting older and asking questions.”
She wants them to know that if he has a question that they’re unsure of or don’t know how to answer, they can feel like they can come to her.
“The older he gets, the more I think the questions will come, and I just want that to be an open door and have that open communication so far as our relationship.”Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Do you want more choices with your adoption plan? Do you want to regain more control in your life? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98. We can help you put together an adoption plan that best meets your needs.