It’s hard not to notice Amber Fiedler as she enters the audition hall on American Idol. She has crimson hair and stars in her eyes. But that’s not what makes her stand out the most. What catches your eye first is her radiant smile and the fact that she is heavily pregnant. She stands confidently laughing before the judges, lovingly stroking her enlarged abdomen. Like any other contestant, she answers their probing questions as they strive to learn about her, and what brings her there that day. What struck me most is the calm, the pride, and the love she exhibited throughout her questioning. When asked finally if she had a name chosen for her daughter, she drops the bomb.

She has made an adoption plan for her daughter. She has chosen a family for her child that can provide her child with everything she could ever want. Soon the screen is filled with Amber and she begins to tell her story. A story not uncommon, but poignant just the same. She tells of her childhood, raised primarily by her grandmother due to her mom’s prolonged addiction issues. As she talks of her choices over the last few years, she discloses her own partying ways, all the while lovingly stroking her belly. And while she does mention that financially it would be a struggle for her to parent, she makes it infinitely clear that she is not ready to be a mom. Since she is not ready, she feels that raising her child would be selfish, and that making an adoption plan is the best choice for her daughter and for herself.

While we cannot possibly know how hard her childhood was, we can imagine that it must have been a struggle in order for her to find herself in this place. Amber does go on to talk about her relationship with her mom now. And soon Shamara, Amber’s mom, comes into the picture. You can see the love between them, and what is the most striking is the love and support from Amber’s whole family. Amber talks about her mom’s sobriety, how she has been clean and sober for four years at that point, how their relationship has grown, and how her entire childhood was affected. I can imagine that the pain and regret in their reality run deep.

Her amazing calmness and soothing presence as she discusses her hopes and dreams for her daughter is notable. She speaks with dignity about open adoption and what that will mean for her and her daughter’s future. Closed adoption is rare in current adoption communities, I can tell by the way she states that her daughter will “know her” that an adoption plan has been made, and that Amber has made decisions that will allow herself to know and be known by her daughter so they can love and be loved. Though I have no connection to Amber, I am immensely proud of her.

When the story fades away and the air is filled with the sound of her voice, you can sense the emotion. As she finishes her song, the judges talk about her talent and how, if she chooses, she can go very far. They also mention the reality that the show continues just one week after her due date. The trepidation is there, and you can sense just the slightest bit of hesitancy. But then the fire returns and Amber decides right then that she will be strong enough, that she can do this, and that life can—and will—go on after her daughter is born.

Some may assume she is callous and without emotion, but that is not true. She exudes peace, determination, and serenity with her decision. Her love is obvious, and she has given much thought to her decision—a decision that will change the trajectory of both her life and her daughter’s life forever. The weight of that decision, I’m sure, has weighed on her, but she steels her resolve, wipes away the tears and trudges forward for both of them.

As the show moves on, Amber is there. She is no longer pregnant. Her daughter has been born and is living and being loved by her birth mother, and her adoptive family. Amber discloses that Nora Rose was born just three weeks earlier, which means just shortly after Amber’s initial audition. Amber shows pictures of herself in labor and with her precious daughter. She talks about how the adoptive family chose the middle name of Rose after Amber, for her maroon hair. The smile that brings to her eyes is transcending.

Yes, she is grieving. The pain is evident. She quite obviously loves that little girl with all she has. Amber speaks kindly and lovingly about her daughter’s adoptive mom, about her choice to place her baby for adoption, and how she is positive that she made the right choice. As with any grief, it is personal. Only Amber will be able to know how long the process takes for her. The truth is her grieving process likely started when she made the decision to place her daughter for adoption.

She will have days of strength, and days of weakness. Perhaps having this distraction will be exactly what she needs to heal and to feel whole again. I am sure the healing process will be long and arduous, but the healing will be wholly and completely hers. My hope is that having an open adoption, being able to see that sweet baby’s face grow and mature, will only help the healing process for her.

There’s a lot of the story we will never know. And that’s ok. As an adoptive parent, I struggle with how my story and my children’s stories interconnect and figuring out where to draw the line between telling my story and leaving theirs for them to tell. I believe that I will get it wrong sometimes. Amber did a great job of telling her story, sharing her concerns, hope, dreams, and yet leaving the rest of the story for her daughter. I think about that video and hope that her adoptive parents preserve it for little Nora to see one day. I am confident that Nora will see what I see: the thoughtfulness, the hopes, the dreams, and, most importantly, the love.

As with any relationship, it will not be perfect, and it will take hard work from all sides of the adoption triad. For both the adoptive and biological families, life will change. Incorporating an entirely new family into the mix is much like a marriage. Different hopes, different dreams, and different ways of doing life intermix. And though they’ve talked about open adoption, their emotions will change, and adjustments will have to made to accommodate their new life, new situations, and new emotions. They’ll get it; it may just take some growing pains to reach the new normal.

Open adoption is a relationship that has been found to be extremely beneficial for all members of the adoption triad. Of course, whether that benefit is had will depend on the type of adoption you pursue and the mental health of all involved. There is no one-size-fits-all for any family. Whether an adoptive situation or not, the trick is simple: if it feels right for you and the child, go with it. We have three adoptions under our belt in my family, and all three look vastly different. In some instances, we have extra protections in place for our children. For others, their biological mom is busy raising a family and has not shared the birth, and subsequent adoption, with the family she is raising. It’s ok. That’s her right. And I can imagine that it will be a very difficult conversation when she has it.

Many families would agree that adoption is a double-edged sword. Pain and joy in one decision. What I admire most about Amber and her decision to share her story so publicly is that it brings truth and reality to a very difficult choice. Even in this day and age, unexpected pregnancies happen. They happen across every social and economic line; it’s not simply a predicament that affects a specific socio-economic branch of society. Many women will choose other options for their children. But I believe that seeing adoption as a loving choice will encourage more moms to place their children with loving, capable families.

There is much to consider, and there will be opinions on every side of the issue. No one should ever be forced or feel forced to make a decision that they cannot live with. Some will say that poverty should not be a reason to place a child for adoption. And while that’s true, when readiness or willingness to parent is also taken into account, poverty becomes perhaps the strongest reason to choose to place a child for adoption. I cannot begin to know everything about Amber’s story, and I’m not trying to make my truth her truth. But what I took away from her story is that her childhood was hard because of the absence of her mother, and most likely financially and emotionally as well. In that initial interview, she makes the statement that she wasn’t ready. Pairing emotional readiness with financial readiness seems to me like a responsible, valid reason to place a child for adoption.

I doubt that Amber set out that day to be a poster child for adoption, but what a beautiful example she is of the love a birth mother has for her child, long before that child comes to be known. Her story will touch others, will hopefully reach others to help them make a similar choice. Or perhaps it will help a mother struggling with her decision to realize that she absolutely is ready to be a mother. As with anything, there is no black or white in adoption. I have learned that for myself over the past eight years. Every mother will have a different reason, a different experience, and then there will be similarities. But it is a choice. Many women have chosen to parent an unexpected child. They have done it well and with grace, humility, love. And then there are those that have chosen to parent and not done it so well.

Some choices are made selflessly, and others may be made selfishly. However, just because a choice isn’t selfless doesn’t mean it isn’t still noble, well-intentioned, and done in love. Love: I can guarantee is consumes most birth mothers. It would be easy for mothers of unexpected pregnancies to make another choice. A choice where their indiscretion can be easily removed. And yet a birth mother decides to carry this unexpected child. A pregnancy isn’t easily hidden or denied. Thus, beginning to show also shows love, strength, and dedication to the child. I feel that love, strength, and dedication in Amber’s choice. In taking that on a national stage, and not for personal gain, Amber will receive just as much scorn and scrutiny as she will love and praise. But it will be to help someone else and to share the beauty of her very difficult, and now very public, decision.

Adoption is not right for every woman experiencing an unexpected pregnancy. But I hope and pray that Amber’s story will help the mothers that know they aren’t ready to parent to choose life, to choose adoption, and to choose strength. It will be hard; I don’t think it would be a service to any part of the triad to shy away from that fact. But the truth is that pain and heartache do heal. The pain subsides to love and acceptance. Open adoption is a beautiful option and solution to that pain and grief. No longer does a woman have to wonder about her child. Social media, electronics, and all parts of modern society and technology can enable birth mothers to see their children often. To see their lives, know their hearts, and watch them be loved. Thought that may initially cause pain, eventually, it will bring peace and inspire hope. Loving and being loved is what inspired that mother to make the choice she made in the first place.

*Photo credit: LifeNews.com*