It’s March and I can’t help but think about my little guy’s birth mom who has a birth day this month. Every holiday that passes I wonder how she is dealing with the adoption. Does she miss him on his birthday? Does her heart hurt on Mother’s Day knowing that one of her children is not celebrating with her? I am pretty sure that she doesn’t regret her decision (at least at what she has shared with us), but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt sometimes. I would like to take this hurt away from her, but there is no way to do that. All I can do is continue to love her, and keep her in my thoughts and prayers. This may seem odd to you if you have not been a part of an semi-open adoption.
I’d like to share with you how I fell in love with this amazing woman. I’ll try not to be too personal in the interest of her privacy, but I would like to think that if by some weird coincidence she were to stumble upon my blog, it would make her smile. My hope is that for those of you who are considering adoption, you would come to know the joy and benefits of the opportunity of getting to know your child’s birth family. Almost all domestic adoptions today are open at some level. That can mean many different things. You might meet once in the hospital, talk on the phone with your agency mediating, or send cards and photos once a year, or you choose to have ongoing contact. The choice is up to the comfort level of you and the birth mom. Research has shown that most adoptees have a curiosity on some level about their birth families. There are over 300 adoption reunion search registries in the U.S. and that just goes to show you there is certainly an interest.
When we first started the adoption process we were scared of the unknown, the what-ifs of having contact. What if the birth family changed her mind and showed up on her door step trying to take our baby away? (I laugh at myself now, it sounds so absurd!) What if she didn’t approve of the way we raised her child? What if, what if, what if? Our agency mediated a call between the birth family and the adoptive family prior to each accepting the match. I can tell you that from our very first conversation with her it was apparent our birth mom had similar what-if fears. Her what-ifs weren’t that different. They were probably something like: What if they don’t like me? What if they don’t want my child and change their minds? What if they don’t approve of my lifestyle? What if, what if, what if? I didn’t fall in love with her in our first conversation, but it didn’t take long until I was head-over-heels for this spunky, fun girl. Now I see her in my son’s face from time to time and blurt out, “You know who makes that same expression? Your birth mom.” I smile and laugh knowing that. My son says, “Huh,” because it is beyond his comprehension at this age and then I say, “Never mind, you’ll understand me someday.” I wouldn’t know this if I hadn’t had the chance to spend some really precious time with her. It gives me a connection to our son’s biological family, that in turn gives a chance to help our son understand his biology.
We originally agreed to letters/cards and photos after the adoption, but it didn’t really occur to us at first that we would even have the opportunity to communicate openly with our son’s birth mom before he was born. It sort of happened by accident, and I am so glad that it did. First it was a necessity because our agency had sort of dropped out of the picture and we were still interviewing lawyers in her state. We needed to communicate with her to get everything in order, and to let her know where we were with all that. At the suggestion of our adoption agency, we purchased a cell phone for our birth mom to call exclusively. It had a number that was not from the area in which we lived and it allowed us to keep our location non-specific. She knew what state we were from but our agency and attorney suggested we keep it at that. We began to call and text each other. I would look forward to her texts and calls and hang on every word she said. During our phone conversations I would take notes. I didn’t want to forget anything that I could someday share with my son if he asked. Her mom soon asked to talk to me, and I was learning all about their family and their heritage from my son’s birth grandmother. This family is caring, has a great sense of humor, is very open and honest, and just plain fun. I saw the best in them and was easily able to overlook any differences. I don’t know a more caring, considerate selfless person than our son’s birth mom. It is indescribable how I feel about this special person who gave me her child. Think of it this way, the more you know about your child’s birth family the more you know about your child. For me, as I waited for our son to be born, I felt close to him as I learned about his first family.
Our future son’s birth mom eventually invited us to meet her and come with her to the ultrasound (where she found out she was having a boy!). The first meeting was super awkward even though we had been communicating every couple of days. It’s just different when you are face to face for the first time. We met her in the parking lot of the doctor’s office and just like that we were in there waiting for the doctor. The doctor never made it because he was delivering a baby instead, but she welcomed us into her life, and into the life of her child from the very start. The nurses were hesitant and she just kept saying, “They can hear anything you say about me. I don’t care about privacy. It’s their baby, I am just carrying it for them.” I was moved to tears many times by her kindness, and how insistent she was that we be included in every part of the pregnancy from here on out. Prior to meeting her she called me one day at work from the doctor’s office. I was worried that something was wrong (she had told me the exact time of her appointment and of course I was thinking constantly about it). She could sense the fear in my voice and said she was just calling so I could hear the baby’s heartbeat. What care and consideration and maturity – way beyond many people twice her age!
You might wonder what you can talk about with someone you don’t know. It’s easier than you think. I would ask what she was craving certain days, and one time I think I even ate it with her over the phone. She would want to know what we were having for dinner or what we were doing after work. She would ask if we were getting the baby’s room ready and if we were going to have a baby shower, saying she wished she could be there with us. She would ask me for advice about different things she was dealing. She would tell me her feelings about the adoption and shared with me the sad truth that some of her family members just couldn’t accept her decision. I felt very much like her older sister. How could I not fall in with love her? This woman was carrying a baby that she wanted to give to me, it was just so hard to fathom. It didn’t feel real. She kept reassuring us that she was sure about her decision (as if she could read the unsaid questions and fear in our minds). It was as if she sensed the deep sadness and doubt within me because of the babies we had already lost over and over through pregnancy. I didn’t share those kinds of details but some things don’t have to be said, she sensed this.
While it was a relief to hear she was so set on the adoption plan we knew that no matter how she felt now, she had a right to feel differently when the baby was born. We kept our wits about us as much as we could but we knew if she changed her mind it would crush us. I believe it was in getting to know her over the last half of her pregnancy that she went through the process of visualizing what her child’s life would be like and finding some peace in that. Her mom shared with us that she was against the adoption until her daughter was matched with us. After her mom met us that only made her more convinced that this was the right plan for her grandchild. She said she told people I was her daughter living in another state if she didn’t want to get into the adoption details. As the due date grew closer, we all were looking forward to the birth for different reasons, but we remained talking these feelings out with one another and processing it.
Nolan’s birth mom gifted me with something I never imagined I would have the opportunity to be a part of. She asked me to be in the delivery room with her, and to stay in the hospital room with her and the baby. Our agency and the paralegal from our attorney’s office told us to be prepared for anything and that the plan could change at any time. In the end I was there for his delivery. I heard his first cry! I wasn’t allowed to hold him in the OR but I did rebelliously reach out and touch his leg when he was getting cleaned up. I had no rights, and the nurses and doctors were sure to remind us of that often. It was our son’s birth mom who was the one to constantly and assertively correct them for excluding us. The hospital staff, with the exception of a few, just didn’t know how to deal with a birth family and adoptive family that were united and in this together. Some were rude to our son’s birth mom. Some were rude to us. Some were rude to both. Out of all of them I have to say that the doctor was the only one who fully embraced this unique relationship. He came to check on our birth mom many times, discharged her early at her request even though she had a c-section, and allowed us to take his picture with our son.
Those couple of days in the hospital were sacred to me. You learn so much about someone when you are with them 24/7. Our son’s birth mom shared with me something she absolutely didn’t have to. In one of the most difficult times of her life, she saw beyond herself and touched my heart with her kindness over and over. I am forever changed not just because I became a mom during that time, but because I shared many intimate precious moments with this former stranger. There is no erasing that connection, not that I would ever want to. I changed my son’s first diaper. I gave him his second bottle (only to the one the nurse gave), she graciously passed on the chance to be the first one to hold him and told me I should. We laughed together when my son shot that lethal post birth poop out across the room when I was changing him. She worried with me when he wouldn’t stop crying all night. I gather it was healing for her to do these things, but nevertheless she didn’t to have to. The point in sharing all of these private details of so sacred a time is to encourage others to not be afraid to open their hearts and their lives to the possibility of open adoption if you have the opportunity.
It might shock you to hear that our son’s birth mom is no longer in contact with us and has asked us to not send updates. People don’t always understand why that is heartbreaking to me, but in reading this I hope you can see a glimpse of our special relationship. I know that right now his birth mom needs this to continue to heal. I respect that. I would do anything for this person who has given us so much. There is nothing I could ever do to repay her the kindness of not just giving us her son, but sharing her life with us. I thank God for bringing her into our lives, and hope that one day she does show up on my doorstep. Whether or not my son chooses to seek her out someday is entirely his choice. We will support whatever decision he makes. But either way we will raise him to know where his laugh comes from, what his birth mom’s favorite food is, who he looks like, about his heritage, and all the other little details of his birth family. I would never have the opportunity to know a fraction of this information without having had the honor to know and love his birth family. I encourage you to open your heart and your mind to the possibility that sometimes peoples’ paths cross for a reason. I am so glad that our paths crossed and wove together with this amazingly brave girl and her family. I am a better person because of it in so many inexplicable ways.