When I was first considering adoption for my birth daughter, I thought it only affected a few people: birth parents, adoptive parents, and the adoptee. Oh, how wrong I was. Choosing adoption for baby R affected not only her parents, but her brother, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and countless friends. On the other side, my life was not the only one changed by my placing. My entire family was permanently changed as well. My parents watched me, supported me, and felt my loss as well. What would it be like to watch your child place their child for adoption? I asked the best birth grandma I know, my mom. And this is what she said:
One look at the intensity on my daughter’s face, and I knew this was it. It was time for our first grandchild to be born. The hours of coaching my daughter through contraction after contraction helped keep my mind off of the separation to come. As her sweet, perfect little girl was born, I sobbed with simultaneous grief and joy. Even as we welcomed her baby into the world, we prepared to say goodbye.
The following two days, we kept a vigil over baby R, treasuring every moment with her. My heart overflowed as our family pulled together to support Annaleece in this selfless sacrifice.
The most difficult part of the adoption process was being present to support our daughter as she signed the documents relinquishing her parental rights. The legalese involved seemed so cold, and the words cut deeply as she had to promise to relinquish all “interest” in a nameless baby girl, as if we weren’t doing all of this because of our intense interest in her well-being. In all of my fifty years I had never had to exert more self-control than it took to not rip those papers into shreds and take that precious baby home.
Ironically, my initial reaction to the news of my daughter’s pregnancy was that adoption was the best solution for both baby and mother. She was only 17, barely out of high school, and trying to make sense of her own life. Her relationship with the birth father was discordant. I knew that the statistics for babies placed through adoption in mature two-parent homes were far better than for those raised by single teenage mothers. Nevertheless, Annaleece was determined to parent her baby, and my husband and I prepared to support her in whichever path she chose. Even so, I felt duty-bound to occasionally remind her of the advantages of adoption when she felt overwhelmed by the prospects of parenting her baby alone, potentially facing never-ending custody and child support battles.
However, as the baby grew in my daughter’s womb and we could see her little face and limbs in ultrasound pictures, the thought of parting with her became more and more difficult. Despite the challenges involved, I was relieved at my daughter’s determination to parent.
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Through a variety of experiences, our daughter had a change of heart and decided to place her baby with an adoptive family. She had developed a mature love for this new life within her and opted to put aside her personal wishes in order to provide her daughter with the best possible situation. She selected an amazing couple whom we came to love dearly. They had adopted another child already and shown that they were serious about maintaining relationships with their children’s birth families. We rejoiced with them in their joy at welcoming another child into their family.
And yet . . .
We still grieve the loss of our granddaughter. We feel deeply grateful for the pictures and visits with her family and find comfort in the way she is thriving, but it is almost as if she is a different child than the newborn we were privileged to call our own for those two precious days. We know our daughter made the right decision given the circumstances, but the right way is often not the easy way.
We were recently blessed with a sweet little grandson whom we get to “keep,” but even as I snuggle with him, there is a piece of my heart that mourns the baby other grandmothers get to nurture and babysit. Despite the pain, I wouldn’t change this because “when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love” (E.A. Bucchianeri).