Not only am I a birth mother, but I am also an adoptee. Growing up, I always knew that I was adopted and my parents did an amazing job being so transparent about my sister’s and my story. Adoption was normal to us. In fact, we had pride about being an adopted child.
What made you choose the agency that you did?
Since I already knew a lot about adoption, I had heard through the years of several agencies and their reputations. The agency I went with was The Gladney Center for Adoption and I chose them for several reasons:
The Gladney Center for Adoption is extremely well known and has many years experience in the adoption process. They diligently screen any person that is interested in adopting a child through their agency, which made me feel safe. I trusted that any person or couple that would be put in front of me would be a sound option worth considering. At the time I was considering adoption, they had a dorm for expectant mothers and I knew that would be an excellent support system and encouraging environment for me to be in during this journey. I also knew other Gladney adoptees.
The most impactful reason was that The Gladney Center for Adoption has an outstanding and progressive post-adoption team that offers a lot of services and resources. I didn’t know then, but seven years down the road, they would be my rock. I was able to utilize support groups, counseling, scholarships, and the staff became my cheerleaders in life. They are constantly paying attention to how modern adoption is shifting and what that means for post-adoption. They have embraced change with such flexibility and grace. That alone is so important for birth mothers, adoptees, and adoptive parents: having support after placement.
What did you consider in choosing to make an adoption plan?
Unfortunately, when a young woman or young couple is faced with an unplanned pregnancy, there is not an abundance of resources to help them find the stability they want to create for their child’s life. So, that was one factor that I was weighing. I wanted so much more for my child than I could give at that time in my life. I debated for quite a while how I could make parenting work; but the truth is, I knew what the reality of my future was..
I have faced two unplanned pregnancies and with the first, I was young and headstrong. I thought that I could make parenting work. I saw it happen on TV, so it must be easy, right? Six months down the road and working as hard as I was capable of at that stage in my life (two jobs, school, and a desire to parent) was just simply not providing the life I dreamed for my kid. So, my parents adopted him and I continued to be in his life. But when I became pregnant again, I just knew that no matter how hard I tried to make it work, I would not be setting myself, or most importantly my child, up for success if I parented.
Would my kids have had a good life? It’s extremely possible their lives would’ve been good, but it also could’ve taken five to ten years to be able to stop living paycheck to paycheck, to not have to worry about where the next meal or clothing is coming from, or to even simply get them into extracurricular activities that would bring them joy. So, while parenting is a feasible option, it didn’t look like I wanted it to. I knew I needed to sacrifice motherhood and a life with them daily for the future I hoped for them through adoption.
What does grief look like for you?
Messy. Since I am an adoptee, I have a unique perspective of adoption. Before becoming a birth mother, I really was only aware of the positive and joyful bits of adoption that creates a family. It wasn’t until I was considering adoption as an option during my pregnancy that I realized adoption is completely founded upon loss: a baby losing a mother and mother losing a baby. It took me a long time to wrestle with the heaviness in that. I didn’t really accept that I was grieving until about seven years post-placement when my feelings had been shut away so long that they bubbled over and forced me to recognize the trauma I had been through. It was in that moment that I learned we can experience trauma even in moments that are so positive in our eyes.
I lost motherhood. I lost a child. That is sad and it hurts even 11 and 13 years later. Once I was able to acknowledge my grief and give it a name, I was then able to come to terms with asking for help. Once I asked for help and utilized that post-adoption support I spoke so highly of before, I began to heal. It will be a lifelong journey and commitment to myself, but I no longer find myself sad. There are still moments when the grief is triggered, but overall I have learned how to sit in my feelings, to acknowledge when things trigger me, to cope in healthy manners, to reach out to my support system, and to know when I need to reach out to a therapist or mental health professional.
What made you choose the adoptive parents you did?
I have heard so many different birth mothers answer this question and, honestly, it ranges from this magical moment of discernment to not feeling anything at all. There isn’t a statistics formula that you can plug in and get the perfect parents as the outcome; but for each birth mother, there are things that catch one’s attention and increase the likelihood of finding compatibility with hopeful adoptive parents. When I was looking at adoptive parent profiles, I had three core desires that were non-negotiable.I wanted someone with faith values, Texans (because that’s where I live), and a two-parent home. After those things filtered out some of the possible (but great) parents, I was given five photo books to look through and see who I connected with. From there I could make a choice or request more profiles after that. My heart kept pulling me to a particular couple. I just had confidence in my choice. Every day since then, they have validated my choice. They are excellent parents who love our girl abundantly.
What should I put in my profile to stand out as a hopeful adoptive parent?
I have known women who said, “they had a horse just like I grew up with and I just knew,” or, “the way they spoke about their culture gave me confidence in their ability to parent my transracial adoptee,” and even as simple as, “I liked that none of their photos were posed, everything was candid and authentic.” Expectant mothers considering adoption are all so unique and motivated by different things. I personally have noticed some things that stand out to me in profiles, even as I look through them now. Talk about your family and friends, animals, traveling, your love story, children, home and parenting styles. Tell them about your hobbies and passions. Above all, be authentic. Honestly friends, the right person will find you regardless if there are magical moments or not. In my experience, it seems it always works out how it needs to.
What kind of pictures did you enjoy receiving post placement?
This one is simple: all of them. Just be mindful and ask your birth mother on occasion if these updates are meeting her expectations and if they are helping her or if they’re causing her grief. Those are important things to know as you send photos.
How do you view your self worth?
Shame is a sneaky snake sometimes. I have struggled with judgmental backlash when I share my story, rejection in dating due to my story, and daily reminders of stigmas staining birth mothers. So, it can be challenging to hold my head high every moment. I have days where I fall into the comparison trap, but eventually I am reminded that it’s all so insignificant because nothing defines my worth but me. I know my worth and I know that I did what was best for my children, if people don’t understand that or agree, that’s on them. I don’t have to carry that.
How do you feel about adoption in general post-placement? Are you angry at the systemic reasons that may have caused you to need to move forward with adoption versus parenting?
This one is deep and I don’t know enough to speak too much on this, but a simple answer is yes. I believe that there is a huge lack of resources to help parents be successful in their parenting journey. I also feel there is a huge worldly pressure that if you create a life, you need to buck up and parent. This combination is obviously counterproductive. I knew that even if I chose to parent, I would live paycheck to paycheck if I was lucky, know that there’d be worry about finances constantly, and that I would struggle with childcare and so much more. Am I angry that the systems in place don’t set up parenting as a successful endeavor? Yes. But I am not angry nor do I feel negatively towards adoption. It was still the right choice for me, regardless of the lack of resources.
What do visits look like for you?
I started out with a visit once a year and then we progressed to twice a year, but with time and respecting boundaries we now have visits whenever we think of something fun to do or just want to gather together.
Why is open adoption versus semi-open or closed adoption important to you?
Because I grew up as an adoptee from a closed adoption, I can see how not having a connection to my biological roots caused a lot of identity issues for me. I never wanted my kids to have to question their identity, my love for them, or their worth, so I knew open adoption was what I wanted for them.
What does your relationship look like with your child’s adoptive parents?
I’m really close to her mom. We text, we are connected on social media, and she’s genuinely my friend and a part of my family. We are very transparent with one another and that benefits my daughter’s open adoption I believe.
What do you struggle with post-placement?
Mother’s Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and birthdays are hard days for me still. Moments where family is supposed to gather make it so evident that I am living life separately from my children.
What advice would you give to women considering placing a child for adoption?
Do not forget that you have a choice every single moment of this journey until you sign relinquishment papers. Don’t listen to outside factors, people, or pressures telling you what to do. Give yourself grace and know that you will make the right decision when you are ready.
What advice would you give to hopeful adoptive parents starting a journey to adopt?
Be open-minded. I know open adoption sounds scary and a lot of people looking to adopt a child have similar worries, but if you take time to listen to birth parent and adoptee stories, you can hear the realities of open adoption and it will hopefully reassure you that it’s a wonderful option. There are a lot of articles, podcasts, and stories out there as well as from the adoptive parent perspective. Also, communication is key. As with any relationship, transparency is best to manage expectations and stay on the same page. If you are concerned or overwhelmed eight months after placement and need help navigating your situation, your caseworker is the best resource. Follow up with your commitments to the birth mother and be intentional about your open adoption plan.
What term do you prefer “birth mother” or “first mother”?
When referring to my title in my child’s life, I say birth mother. I am not a fan of the “first mother” term as I believe it sets us up for comparison between my child’s mother and I. I don’t ever want to diminish her motherhood, nor do I wish that for myself, so I just leave that term out of my vocabulary. I prefer to be called by my name because it’s simple and straightforward.
How did friends and family react to your decision to place a child for adoption?
Everyone was supportive. If they were not, I don’t remember it because it wasn’t worth my time.
Do you tell people you meet that you placed a child for adoption?
It’s a huge part of who I am, so I am extremely open about my story. I have faced some ugly judgement and rejection, but despite it hurting for a moment, those people don’t deserve space in my life and are not worthy of knowing that part of me.
How can adoptive parents best support and honor birth mothers?
Be intentional and get to know her, recognize her choice by not labeling her as a birth mom until she has signed relinquishment papers, check in with her after placement and see if the open adoption plan is helping her or causing her grief, be transparent and communicate with her: don’t be afraid to talk about things that are hard, and send her a card or gift on Mother;s Day or Birth Mother’s Day (the Saturday before) simply doing this shows that you recognize her as a mother.That is monumental.
Does open adoption make it easier or harder for birth mothers?
It depends on the birth mother. Some can’t imagine having a gap in seeing their child and some can’t imagine facing that the first year after. My best advice is to check in and be empathetic to her grief and healing.