When considering adoption for my baby, I felt that the most important decision I had after moving forward with my decision to place was picking her parents. My parents, just like many others, have been fundamental to my future. When thinking about the ideal situation that I wanted for my baby, I made a checklist of my priorities for a family to raise her:
- Two-parent home
- Ability to pursue and discover passions and talents
- Option to go to college or pursue higher education
- Extracurricular funds such as dance, soccer, or piano
- Safe and stable home to live in
- Basic provisions necessary for life
- Present parents who can put work aside on the weekends and nights to focus on her
- Faith-based home
These things were the foundation of what I wanted for my daughter’s future life. I was adopted when I was two days old, so I went into the adoption journey with a pretty open mind. I tried to put myself in the adoptive parent’s shoes. All the couples whose profile I viewed were worthy of being parents; that was undeniable, but I knew that I needed the choice to make sense to me. I needed that aha moment to validate the choice.
After all, my child would be their kid forever. So once I had established the main qualifications and shared them with my caseworker, she was able to work with adoptive parent caseworkers to get some profiles for me that met the criteria I’d already set in place. This was in 2009 and while we lived in a very technologically forward world, profiles were for the most part in the form of photo books.
The day I picked an adoptive family my caseworker gave me 5 profiles to look through to start with. I remember this being extremely exciting, but I also did not want any of the other women who were considering adoption and living in the dorm with me at the adoption agency to see them until I knew if I was picking one of them. I didn’t want someone else to fall in love with one of the couples in my stack because I felt it would sway me. So, I took my books to my bedroom and laid them all out in front of me. I remember all their faces so vividly still to this day. Every single one of them would have been an outstanding choice. As I was flipping through the books, several things in the profiles stood out to me. I loved any pictures of their pets or farm animals, pictures of friends and family, traveling pictures or stories, pictures of their homes, letters that they wrote about one another, and if they had other kids.
Personally, I was thinking of my parent’s situation heavily through this part of the process and how they were unable to have children before adopting. Therefore, my heart was pulled towards couples who have not been able to have a family yet. I also really love animals so if there wasn’t any in the profile, I didn’t choose them for my situation. (If you don’t have animals I don’t know if we can be friends, but I am sure there are lots of other people out there who feel that way. Right? Ha-ha, all joking aside, it’s not a deal-breaker for most so don’t put too much stock in my opinion.)
I remember that I kept looking at two of the profiles, but my heart just leaped for C and A. I knew with every fiber in my being that they were meant to be my child’s parents. So I gathered up the books and rushed out of my room to ask the other girls if they wanted to look through the adoptive parent profiles. Of course, they all did. We all loved it when one of us was at this part because it was exciting to see potential parents for our children. And we cared a lot about one another’s journey so we wanted to be as supportive as possible. They all really liked who I had chosen, and it made me feel even more sure as I chatted about my reasons for choosing them.
I knew I was ready to tell my caseworker that I did not need to see any other profiles and that my decision was made. The next step was to have an optional phone call to chat and get to know them a bit more before meeting up. To be honest, I don’t know if this was necessary but I see how it is a good steppingstone to make sure you click with someone enough before moving forward. Regardless of anything, it was awkward. There was no dancing around that, but it was exciting to tell them a week before Christmas that they were going to be parents. I was genuinely excited for them and at that moment I kind of felt a tad like Oprah revealing a huge prize to her audience. “You get a family!” I was also thrilled to let them know that I already knew she was a girl and that I was looking forward to meeting them in person.
We made plans to meet at the beginning of the year for lunch. January came around, and I was a nervous wreck. It’s funny when I do panels at the agency that helped with my daughter’s adoption and we chat with prospective adoptive parents, I am always asked two questions:
What do we need to put in our profiles to stand out? Animals obviously. Just kidding. What you really need to put in your profiles is your true selves. Be authentic. The right mama will pick you out because they liked your 12th Man jersey (gig ‘em!), the fact that you have Italian night with homemade pasta, or simply because your name is XYZ. There is not a magical algorithm for this stuff it’s truly a heart decision.
What can we do pre-placement to best support the expectant mother we get matched with? This one is my favorite. Let her know that you see her. Not just her baby, but HER. One of the (many) things that C and A did well was that they were always intentional with me pre-placement and post-placement. This stood out to me because we obviously were all brought together for the primary focus of my baby. But to find out that they wanted to know me, involve me in little shopping trips for baby girl, take me to lunch, or even DIY fun for the nursery at a pottery place really touched my heart. I knew from that point on, that they cared about my well-being and wanted to be in my life. And ultimately, they wanted me in our daughter’s life. Hands down, that is the best way to support a mama during pregnancy and post-placement. Be intentional and follow up on your promises to her.
When I met C and A for lunch that January day, I was wearing flip-flops and it was snowing outside. (It’s Texas y’all, snow here is icy dirt.) One of the first things they said was about my shoe choice in the cold weather. I laughed and said how I was always hot since I am literally an incubator. That broke the ice and we had a great time chatting about the baby, myself, and them. Every moment that passed, I was less worried about if they liked me and instead hopeful about a beautiful future for my baby. I knew I had made the right choice in them, and they haven’t done one single thing to make me feel any less sure of that over the past decade. Seriously, they were made to be her parents. Over the next few months, I went to baby stores with them some weekends, had lunch to get to know them more, and soaked up all the knowledge that I could on their thoughts on parenting, culture, and life.
When I was in labor, I remember having a super achy back one night. I had been through labor before so I was certain that I just slept wrong or she was having a ball jabbing me with her foot. I was not concerned in the least that I was two weeks early and in active labor. However, after a few hours of this not going away, we realized that I was having back labor. (4 out of 5 stars recommended as it was far less painful the second time around.) A childbirth coordinator took me to the hospital and my parents met me there. I ended up calling C and A to tell them that I was in labor and that I would update them as it progressed.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a trendy thing like it is now for the Adoptive parents to be at the hospital and for the mom to be in the room during delivery. I wish I would have felt less pressure for them to not be there because if I could change anything, I would have had them there for her birth. As I get older, I realize how much I want a family one day and that birth is a very intimate and special moment for parents. It’s raw, bloody, and not usually full of mama’s best moments, but also incredible and miraculous. Women are seriously strong magical creatures.
Once I had delivered my baby, I let C and A know. Honestly, between the drugs and the fact that this was a decade ago, I don’t remember if I asked them to wait until the next day to come see us or if that is what they offered. I do appreciate the time I got alone with baby O. I had one of the hardest moments of my life that next night in the hospital. I was exhausted and really needed some well-deserved rest, but I could not bear the thought of sacrificing any of my time to be with her. I knew that I would never get that time back.
Even now as I write this, tears flow to my eyes with pain. If there was any moment that I felt incapable of putting her first, it was then. I could not fathom how I could let her leave my side. I ended up reaching out to another birth mother who had placed her child through adoption recently and got words of strength from her. I knew I could do this because it’s 100% what I want for her life. I chose to send her to the nursery for a few hours so I could rest and immediately called her back to me.
The next day, C and A came up to the hospital to meet their daughter for the first time ever. It was such an incredibly powerful moment. I saw her future flash before me as they held her and doted on her. The next week was incredibly difficult as I was hopped up on hormones and left the hospital without my child. Regardless of how much I wanted this for her life, it is painful. There will always be a part of me that longs to have that natural motherly bond with her. In fact, when I am around her, I just beam with pride and love. I cannot believe that I created such a beautiful, kind, smart, and sassy little girl.
Every single day since placement, C and A have shown me that open adoption works and it is possible to have a consistent presence in my daughter’s life in a healthy and respectful manner. We see one another whenever someone sets up a visit, we communicate about everything involving our open adoption plan, and we have organically grown to love one another as family. The day that I chose C and A, I would have never guessed that my story would have progressed to the wonderful place it is but God knew that we were all meant to be in one another’s lives. I am so thankful that I listened to my heart when deciding who was going to parent my daughter.