Pregnancy is supposed to be one of the most joyous times in a woman’s life. Some little girls practice taking care of their baby dolls before they are even capable of performing their own basic self-care needs. Many young girls’ aspirations of being a mother start at such a young age that they rush into it before they might be ready to become a parent. To find yourself pregnant at any age with the possibility of being unable to provide your child with the life they deserve can evoke the deepest levels of pain and confusion of what to do. I was pregnant and considering adoption at the age of 17 years old and can attest to exactly how difficult that journey can be.
I can still remember exactly how I felt when I saw the two pink positive lines on the pregnancy test. I was living with my sister and her boyfriend at the time in a small apartment in far North Dallas. My boyfriend and I had walked up the street to Albertson’s to purchase the test and after waiting the appropriate three minutes required, we were so happy to see the results. We were young, in love, and incredibly naïve at the thought of being parents. We had no jobs, no education, and no support from our families, but we just knew we would defy the odds. Unfortunately, that was not the case and at three months pregnant, I found myself alone in the situation. At that point, adoption was not even on my radar. I still believed that I could somehow pull it off. Denial was real and I refused to face the idea that things would not work out exactly how I envisioned them.
A few weeks later, I found myself at my own going away party. After my boyfriend and I broke up, I moved back into my father’s house and it was not long before he sat me down to tell me about a place called The Gladney Center for Adoption. They are an adoption agency that, at the time, had a dorm available for girls who were pregnant and considering adoption to live at for the duration of their pregnancy. I did not agree to move into the dorm willingly, but knew I could not continue living at my father’s house. I felt like a burden. I felt as though I was a disappointing thorn to my father’s new wife and child‘s life. I wanted to be able to parent my child but was struggling to understand how I could do that without any support from my family. I thought if I moved into the dorm, it would give everyone enough space for me to realize they had to step up and help me. I had seen enough Lifetime movies to know my family would not be able to let me go through with giving my child away. My father agreed to come pick me every weekend, but I would move into the dorm that following Monday. At my going-away party with my friends, we talked about a baby shower only furthering my idea that I eventually would not have to go through with the adoption.
When I moved into the dorm, there were many other girls and women whose stories were both similar and completely different from mine. Circumstances ranged from girls in their teens to women in their 40’s; some came from stories of sexual abuse and others from stable, married relationships and already parenting other children. The circumstances for how we all arrived at that place, at that moment, were completely different, but we all had one common denominator: being pregnant and considering adoption. Obviously, the emotions and hormones were running quite high, but I made some of the strongest friendships of my life while living there.
I spent many nights in my room with my friends, crying and sharing the pain I was experiencing with the only other people in the world who could understand exactly how I was feeling. To be in a position where I wanted so badly to parent my child, but lack the resources needed was a gut-wrenching feeling. My heart felt like it was on the verge of being ripped in half at every moment. Defiance ran through my veins, I wanted to be able to prove everyone wrong who was telling me I would not be able to parent. But, at the same time, the love I already felt for my child was telling me I needed to put my ego aside and succumb to the fact that I would not be able to give her the life she so deserved to be living. It is one of the most difficult things in the world to have to admit you are not what your child needs most. Biologically, a mother’s entire purpose is to deliver nourishment, comfort, and security to her child. Having to swallow the fact that I would not be the one who provides those things felt like I was choking on glass with every breath.
As my belly continued to stretch and swell with the baby growing inside of me, time was running out for me to figure the logistics of parenting. The caseworker from the agency where I was living was gently trying to guide me to look at parent profiles. I keep telling her I was not ready; I was not ready. It was not that I was not ready to look at the profiles, it was that I was not ready to let go of my dream of parenting. I wanted to be a mother for as long as I could remember, and I wanted my family to help make that possible for me. There were other girls in my dorm whose families stepped in at the last second to give the option to parent. After I watched one friend choose an adoptive family, go on several outings with them, and even share the name they were planning on giving the child, she changed her mind at the last minute to parent. I decided I would not choose a family until I was completely ready to let go of any option of parenting myself. I was feeling overcome with grief at losing my child to another family and I felt that the adoptive family must feel something similar each time they started to fall in love with an unborn baby, thinking they would become that child’s parents, only to be told that could not happen at the last minute. I could not add another family’s agony to what I was already struggling with.
I finally decided to look at the hopeful adoptive parent profiles my caseworker was guiding me to. This whole time I had been trying to contact the birth father with no success. I wanted to desperately for him to come back into the picture and us raise this child together but that did not happen. After one particularly emotional night for me, I took a shower as hot as I could stand it. I remember crying and washing my body with soap and thinking to myself “this is it; I am washing any hope I have left in me away”. I vowed to be completely over the idea of us reconciling and give the profile books a chance. I looked at five profile books and it was the weirdest feeling. Even though I was pregnant and considering adoption, it was strange to examine these people’s lives and try to picture them raising my child. I had a list of things I was looking for such as a two-parent home, open to the possibility of siblings, and located in the same state as I was in. I shared these wishes with my caseworker so on paper, most of the books I looked at matched those characteristics. I remember looking into each person’s face, searching for something they had that I did not. These people had all the things required for raising a child; money, stability, security, but were all those things going to make them better parents than I could be? Why couldn’t love be enough? I felt like shame was weighing me down because I could not be for my child, what I knew she deserved. It was hard to look at my face in the mirror and feel my baby move inside of me at the same time because I felt like I was failing her and somehow, she might be able to sense it.
I eventually picked a family to raise my daughter. They had all the things I was looking for and I felt like they would be able to give her every opportunity that I would never be able to. I met them in person, introduced them to my family, and felt content with my decision. There was no magical moment where I knew deep in my heart that they were the right family, it really just came down to them being able to provide what I could not. They accepted me as I was and never made me feel uncomfortable or pressured.
The day I went into labor was earlier than anticipated. I was only 17 and obviously had no clue what labor was supposed to feel like, but I woke up after a night of tossing and turning, feeling different than the pregnancy discomfort I had spent the last eight and a half months growing accustomed to. I went to the house parent of the dorm. I quickly headed to the hospital to be admitted for labor. From giving birth after being pregnant and considering adoption to eventually making the hard transition to accepting adoption was surreal. It still seems like a movie I was watching from above as I gave birth to a perfect baby girl. There were many emotions—mostly happiness tainted with the sting of agony. I got to share my baby girl with my family for five days. Friends came to visit, many photos were taken, and the time felt like a bullet speeding by. At the end of it came the day I had been dreading since I moved into the dorm. There was no hail mary. No one was coming to bail me out and, honestly, I am not sure I would have taken it even if they had. I had made the decision for myself that this was what I had to do for my daughter. I vividly remember the hardest parts of that day: signing the paperwork and placing my baby into her mother’s arms. The paperwork, read to me out loud, was brutal in all the legal ways possible. Signing away your rights as a parent was excruciating. But nothing will ever hold a candle to the empty feeling in my arms after I held my daughter for the last time. It has been 14 years since I was pregnant and considering adoption. My daughter will turn 15 this year and she is thriving and living life the fullest way possible. I spent a long time living in my shame and my anger. I struggled through every stage of grief and all the other emotions I experienced while pregnant, but I have come out the other side as a strong, brave woman who would never be who I am today if it were not for being able to put the wants of my heart aside to give my daughter what she needed most. Adoption is hard, messy, and painful but it can be beautiful if you find the right support post-placement. Never be afraid to ask for help. In my journey, I have connected with some of the most amazing women I have ever met. I would do it all over again if it meant ensuring my daughter has everything and more. I know with my whole heart that she has the family she was meant to have and I never regret my decision to place her for adoption.Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Not sure what to do next? First, know that you are not alone. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to speak to one of our Options Counselors to get compassionate, nonjudgmental support. We are here to assist you in any way we can.