The pregnancy came, I heard the heartbeat, the due date was approaching, the couple was nervous and excited, I was nervous and excited . . . now what?
I remember the days leading up to my due date. I was anxious about labor, nervous for recovery (both emotional and physical), and so excited to meet this little man who had already left imprints on my heart. How was I supposed to plan what I wanted to happen when he was born? That meant fully admitting that it was going to happen, and I was in denial that the day would ever come. What about placement? Planning the moment that would take away my right to be his mother was excruciating, but being able to anticipate what would happen left me open to begin my healing process.
When it came to labor and delivery, I had heard many versions of what other birth moms did. Some wanted the couple in the delivery room, saying that they wanted to give them the most opportunity to participate; other birth mothers didn’t tell the couple that the child was born until it was time to sign the papers. I wanted something in the middle.
When I went to write out my birth plan, I decided to call the couple when I was admitted into the hospital. It was up to them whether or not they showed up (of course they did!) Each situation is different, but I felt comfortable with them coming to the hospital and meeting their soon-to-be son. I requested that they stay in the waiting room while I was in active labor, but they could be notified when he was born. To allow them some sort of participation, I asked if they would give him his first bath.
In Utah, where I delivered, birth mothers are required to wait 48 hours after the birth before signing any relinquishment papers. So I gave them permission to visit as much as they wanted in the first 24 hours; the next 24 hours were all about me saying good-bye. No visitors, no soon-to-be parents, just my son and me. While it’s hard to anticipate exactly what could have happened, I planned and kept my fingers crossed. I’m lucky that I had a great case worker; I know if things had veered off my plan (such as an emergency c-section), she would have helped me to have the experience I was most comfortable with.
As for placement, that was a lot smoother to plan. I chose to sign the papers at the adoption agency, where so much of my comfort had been found. The adoptive couple, my parents, a caseworker, my son and myself all exchanged gifts. We talked and laugh, we said a prayer together, took pictures. There was no rush; we were encouraging a lifelong relationship between the families.
However, all too soon the time came to sign the papers that would relinquish my rights as a mother. I went into an office with my son, my parents, and my caseworker. The caseworker spoke to me with compassion, telling me there was no pressure and it was still my decision. She prepared me for the harsh legal terms that were written in the papers. I stared at my son, emotionally sober, waiting for a reason to run away with him. But it was always about him, and this was best for him.
Once the papers were signed, I carried my birth son in my arms and put him into his mother’s arms. My heart numb and broken, I wanted to leave first. It didn’t seem right to watch another woman walk away with my child. So I left, with my parents behind me. It went exactly as planned, and my heart still broke more than I thought possible. I’m grateful I was prepared for what to expect.
Each experience is different. Each person will and should have different expectations for what to expect. What happens during birth and placement should be catered to the wishes of the birth mother, for her heart is about to ache beyond all she’s experienced. Planning the hospital and placement will allow some preparation before the grief fully sets in.
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