Birth mothers—there is never an adoption without that significant human. Adoption stories wouldn’t be heard of without the sacrifice of her body, the willingness to shelter a growing baby in her womb for another, the tough and critical decision made in the best interest of her child, the agony and sadness of parting with a piece of her heart, and a great deal of courage. For every adoptive family out there, there is a birth mother intertwined. She is by far the most crucial piece to the adoption triad. She deserves to be recognized.
I’d like to share a story with you about a woman I have the privilege of knowing. She is a woman who has experienced much throughout her lifetime. She has faced many ups and downs, challenges, and losses. She also has taught herself many things, has paved her way to a better life, has many accomplishments, and has found love through the years as well. This woman is a birth mother. She’s a birth mother to a son whom she placed for adoption.
Many birth mothers if faced with a closed adoption spend moments in their lives wondering and worrying about the child they no longer parent. Questions about their well-being can often plague their mind. For “Jillian Smith,” the woman I mentioned previously, she had some thoughts captivating her over the years. Her son, a beautiful vibrant child, was voluntarily placed in the state care 38 years ago. At the time, she knew she wasn’t capable of parenting him the way she believed he deserved. She knew how fragile recovery was coming from a life of alcohol abuse, and her drive and goals were focused on rebuilding her life. She was working hard to improve her quality of life. She attempted for a bit to manage single motherhood, work, and recovery all while trying to further her education in hopes to be the best version of herself she could be. She fought hard to give her son and herself a suitable living environment. She gave all that she could to try and balance everything on her own. With almost no support system standing behind her, a snowball of events took a toll on her and her son. With no way to care for her son, she was facing losing her job, which would result in not being able to make ends meet. Ultimately, the decision became rather clear. Though not easy, she had hopes that he would find his way into a welcoming adoptive family, live a life with all his needs being met, and grow to be a man she could be proud of.
Jillian was even more motivated than before to become the individual she knew she could be. Surrendering her son wasn’t something that came easy to her or something she took lightly. It fueled her fire to succeed. She would work hard, get the proper education she deserved, and make a name for herself. She wanted to be someone that her son would be proud to call his birth mother.
In late 2019, Jillian had a conversation with her terminally ill mother. Before ultimately and sadly passing, they spoke together about the benefits of locating Jillian’s son. Finding out his whereabouts, his health, the kind of person he had become, and answers to all her plaguing questions might bring peace and quiet to Jillian’s mind. Though she stated that she never regretted her decision to place her son for adoption, she did worry and think of him often. Her biggest fears were thinking his life had been less than ideal, that he got caught up in the wrong environment, or that he may have even passed away. The questions and lack of answers were sometimes suffocating and Jillian realized through the conversation with her mother that it was now time to try and find her son. She decided that finding out the reality would be better than always living in the what-ifs, and she would rather face the truth, be it good or bad.
Jillian had kept her story with her son a secret from many, afraid to open up the wounds from parting with her birth son all those years ago. She had brushed it under the rug and only those closest to her or those present at the time knew of her pain and his existence. By keeping it all to herself she wasn’t able to properly grieve or deal with the emotions of being a birth mother to a child no longer in her care. After her mother passed, she started to progressively reach out and share her story with family and friends, and soon she was seeing tremendous amounts of support. They helped reassure her that she was doing the right thing by trying to start a search for her son. She was nervous and wasn’t sure what to expect but she knew if it didn’t reap rewards, she would have people who she could lean on and who would stand by her side. It was now time to take the leap of faith and begin her search.
Locating her son seemed quite overwhelming. She wasn’t sure if he still lived in the same state, if the adoptive family had renamed him, or if there was any record to be found. After 38 years, she wasn’t sure how he would respond, or if he would even want to get to know his birth mother. He was a grown man, had lived an entire life with his adoptive family, and had never initiated a search of his own. It seemed very daunting but her mind was made up and with the encouragement of others she dived right in. She felt incredibly blessed and a huge weight lifted off her shoulders when she was able to locate her son just two weeks into the search.
On the 13th of this month, Jillian and her son will be celebrating the one-year milestone of reuniting. Her expectations of simply finding out if he was okay have surpassed into something quite unexpected. Due to the pandemic, they haven’t had as much time in person as they would have liked but they have shared a few in-person visits as well as many phone conversations. They have also taken to corresponding through letter writing. They’ve been able to dive into the past as well as learn about who the other has become. Jillian was able to get many if not all of her questions answered. She was also able to return the favor and answer what her son has inquired as well. The two are slowly building a foundation. Jillian says there have been so many mixed emotions along the way. They both were surprised by some of the revelations. There have been some disappointments, some shared sadness, some wonderful things, and some history being exchanged among the two. It’s a growing relationship and both parties are committed to keeping in touch and continuing to evolve as the relationship continues moving forward. Jillian has found peace within herself knowing that her son lived a life full of happiness and good health and that he ultimately became a well-adjusted adult.
Jillian’s story is far from over. Now that the line of communication has been opened between her and her son, things will only continue to progress. She leaves the door open for him to gain access to all the pieces of where he came from and how he was brought into the world. Jillian is grateful to have this opportunity to get to know the man she birthed and to hear about the life he has lived. She feels thankful for her support and all those who encouraged her to make this great leap. She was able to get the sense of closure she needed to fully heal and accept the decisions she made in her life. Seeing him happy and hearing about his adoptive family also reassured her that she did make the best decision for everyone all those years ago. She has no regrets—just love.
There are roughly 135,000 children in the United States adopted each year. That is 135,000 children, 135,000 adoptive families, and 135,000 birth mothers who may feel similarly to how Jillian Smith felt. They might walk around carrying the weight of wonder on their shoulders. They might hope and have faith that the child they birthed ended up having the life they deserved to live. You may be one of those birth mothers. If you can learn anything from reading about Jillian’s story, it’s never too late to look. It’s never too late to inquire. Jillian let 38 years pass and she finally can feel a sense of completion. There are many resources where you can find similar information. If you are a birth mother and feel compelled to read other articles similar to this feel free to browse Adoption.com, Adoption.org, and Adopting.org. Many great storytellers are touching on similar topics and there is always great advice and feedback to move forward on your journey. I have been told that birth mothers who placed a child for adoption continuously wear that nametag. You are still very much connected to that child and very much part of the journey, as well as facing your journey. I wish all of you well on your journey and hope you find peace in your beautiful role as a birth mother like Jillian Smith.
Q&A with Birth Mother Jillian Smith:
Q: How old were you when you placed your son for adoption?
A: 26 years old
Q: How many years passed between the time you placed your son for adoption and when you reconnected?
A: 38 years
Q: Do you have any regrets in your past decision of placing your son for adoption?
A: No, I am completely sure that I did the right thing. I was always sure of that, but it made me feel much more comfortable when I learned that he had become a happy, healthy, and well-adjusted adult.
Q: What inspired you to locate your son after all of these years
A: I talked to my mother about it when she was terminally ill back in 2019. She made me think about trying to find out if things turned out okay for my son
Q: What was your biggest fear when deciding to seek out your son?
A: My biggest fear was that he had died or that his life was all messed up.
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Q: What were your expectations when reaching to connect with your son again?
A: I expected to be able to learn the truth about how his life turned out and to know for sure.
Q: Did you ever feel like giving up during your search?
A: It never got to that point. I was incredibly blessed to have found my son only two weeks after I took the first step in looking for him.
Q: What has getting to know your son for the last year been like?
A: It has been many things this last year. We have talked and written to each other many times. We learned all about what happened to the other over the 38 years we were apart. So there has been some sad stuff, some surprising stuff, some disappointing stuff, and some very good stuff. It has been a mixed experience.
Q: If you had any words of wisdom for birth mothers contemplating locating their adult son or daughter, what would it be?
A: My opinion is that until you know for sure, you wonder every day. I think it’s better to find out the truth and accept it, whether it’s good or bad or somewhere in between.
Q: Is there anything you’d like our readers to know about your experience?
A: I’d like to acknowledge that I received tremendous support from family and friends and it helped me to feel sure that I was doing the right thing. It also made me feel that if things did not turn out well I would have plenty of people to help me get through that.
Acknowledgment: I want to thank “Jillian Smith” for being so forthcoming and providing me with her entire adoption story. I hope it touched some of you the way it has me.