We received an email from an expectant mother. She wanted to know more about us because she was pregnant and considering placing her child for adoption. I was cautious. We just had an adoption fall through and my heart was grieving. I answered her email, but didn’t expect anything from it. I don’t even think I told my husband about the email until a day or so later. It was almost painful to share with him that someone contacted us.

Building a relationship between adoptive parents and birth parents commences at first contact. I would argue that the first contact is actually right when the expectant mother reads a profile. Though limited, it’s her first introduction to who you are as a family. Our profile was available and our birth mother read through it, gathering as much information about us as she could. That was the first step–the start.

We began emailing back and forth. She asked us a lot of questions, and we answered honestly, knowing she may not really like our answers. It was scary to be so honest because we felt like so much was on the line. But, it was also so easy. We had had failed placements, and we didn’t want to go through that again. We had become numb to the fear of not matching… and so we laid it all out there. Honesty was something we weren’t willing to sacrifice. We had always hoped for an open adoption, and if we were to have that, we knew we had to be completely honest with her from the very beginning. She asked us questions about what we enjoyed doing to how we would handle certain parenting situations. We had religious conversations and talked about different scenarios. In our opinion, no question would have been inappropriate to ask. After all, she was trying to hand pick her son’s family. Do you know how much pressure that is?! What if you choose wrong?! What if you think they’re great, and turn out crazy? What if, what if, what if? We reassured her that she could ask us anything.

When the time came, we began to have phone calls. That was nerve-wracking, but it was the logical next step. We were surprised how easy it was to talk, and there was a peace in hearing each other’s voice. There’s a sincerity that you can feel through a voice. Almost as if you can read someone’s spirit in a way you can’t over email.

Finally, the time came to meet in person. We met at a neutral location with our caseworker. It was a lovely afternoon, and though we weren’t expecting it at all, that’s when she gave us a letter and told us she wanted us to raise her son.

Our relationship grew from there. We continued to email, talk on the phone, and met up when we could. We didn’t always talk about the baby. It was about us…her and us. There was a point when I realized I felt way more connected to her than I did to the idea of adopting a baby. She became family. I realize that not all personalities gel like ours did, and that there are just some situations that don’t allow for the closeness that we share. But I do believe that all relationships between birth mother and adoptive parents can have a special sacred closeness because of that common love. The key is loving HER, not just the baby. I think so anyway.

Because of the relationship we created and the trust we share, I was honored to be in the delivery room with her. Years later, she asked me to be her Matron of Honor. And when her daughter was born, yet again she honored us by asking us to be her daughter’s godparents. The relationship we have is one that has made me wonder: Was she the one we were waiting for? Or was her son the one we were waiting for all these years? Was he the one we needed, or was it her? Was becoming her sister what I needed, or becoming his mom? The answer is yes to all of the above. I think we needed them both.

Oftentimes when people think of adoption, they imagine the beautiful picture of an adoptive couple with a newborn in their arms. It’s magical. It really is. I know because I’ve been on that end. I remember what it felt like after waiting for so long, wondering if it would ever happen, and then to all of a sudden have this little human in my arms. It is a surreal feeling, especially if it happens quickly. When our daughter was born, one day we didn’t have a child, the next day she was in our arms. We got the call and flew out, not having any information beforehand. It was quick, amazing, and extremely emotional–for many reasons.

But, when you’re on that end, the tears freely flow because you recognize that there was immense sacrifice made in order for that beautiful, magical picture to be yours. There is no way to comprehend what it’s like to place your child for adoption unless you’ve done it yourself. That is a sacrifice like no other. And so, as you hold that child and your heart swells with joy, it also rips apart knowing that another mother is empty-handed, and will walk out of the hospital without the growing companion she’s had during the past months. I believe this is an important part of adoption. The deeper your relationship is between you and first mother, the deeper the pain may be… but also deeper the love. I think that’s worth every tear drop. Good relationships are sacred. Work to make this relationship a good, sacred one.