This guest post is by Bob Spears, who is married to a birthmother.
I am married to an amazing woman who placed her baby for adoption several years before we became involved.
I have lived with the trauma now for 20 years and feel I have an observation on her decision to place and that of so many others I have been acquainted with through her.
She feels so strongly about birth mothers that she has spent an amazing amount of time and money to create a support system.
I have been blessed to be on the ride through this adventure and think I see this through pretty open eyes. I wanted to give a few of my thoughts.
My intent is not to hurt others but to compare what I see within our society. Also, for those who want to condemn me for a male view, please take time to visit with anyone who knows me well.
I have no superior view of men. Men are more powerful due to physical genetics but I know few men who are the equal to women in mind.
My view in this article is what I see in society through my observation of birth mothers and the decisions only women are left to make.
The thing that is such an untruth is that a birth mother gave up on her child. If anyone takes the time to sit down and engage with a woman who has placed, it takes very little time to know that they never gave up and they live with their decision every day.
Some it haunts and others it gives a sense of accomplishment—haunts because they have a biological link to their child, a sense of accomplishment because they made the right choice for a better life.
My wife dwells in the “what-if” world constantly when the daughter she placed for adoption makes harmful decisions.
I am amazed at a society who still belittles a woman who placed her child when she knew her ability to raise the child would be beyond her capabilities.
Whether it was financial or mental, my wife knew her child needed more and it was not going to be within her means to do it.
She placed her child with others who so desperately wanted what they could not physically produce on their own.
Birthmothers do this out of love and I have yet to see any of them who did it for any financial gain or fame.
We are faced in today’s world with so many children who have little or no chance in life without a major uphill climb.
A woman who has no financial means to raise a child becomes pregnant by a guy who will not take the responsibility of being a parent now relies on a welfare system to sustain her.
Medicaid now pays for over 50% of the births in the United States which lets you know things are tough from the start.
The children have little or no supervision because the mother is trying to keep them afloat with no time for parenting.
We have gangs rampant in the major areas where this is prevalent. Poverty is becoming the standard for so many of these victims of a one parent home. Is this a better decision for a child?
The child who was placed by a mother who wanted them to have opportunities in life should be praised for her decision. She did this because she truly loves that child.
I won’t dismiss the fact that almost all women love their children. I think a mother is an amazing person.
She sacrificed herself to bring a child into this world and I have seen few who would not go to any ends to protect them.
But survival limits the ability of that mother to guide and direct a child. As much as they would like to see their baby become one of society’s best, they are only able to do what is within the capabilities of any human.
Left with little education, no work skills and the need to sustain another life, odds are pretty slim for success.
Abortion is now a standard within our society and it is for a woman’s health, not as a solution to an unwanted pregnancy which says we no longer judge this decision.
I guess that confuses me when I see the disdain for a woman who could not abort her child and places them and the tendency not to judge the one who could.
I don’t condemn abortion but I do think a woman will live with that decision all of her life; it just isn’t as obvious to society because there isn’t a child brought into the world but it will live in her soul.
I have spoken with women who chose abortion and even 20 years later still deal with the decision. Any decision in an unwanted pregnancy is hell.
But as long as we embrace open sexual behavior, women will be faced with one of three choices. Why should placing a child for adoption be the one that is unacceptable?
I believe in equal opportunity but as long as only women can become pregnant, it will stay a woman’s problem. It’s pretty rare to see a male left by himself to raise a child from an unwanted pregnancy.
Those who adopt rarely struggle with financial turmoil. Adoption is expensive and those who make the decision are prepared for the challenge.
They are established couples who are required to prove to authorities they are capable of raising a child. There are times when this can go bad but it is rare.
Couples who have decided on adoption have spent many long days dealing with the decision and placed themselves at the mercy of others to deem them worthy.
They truly want to give a child a great life.
At least in today’s society, birth mothers are no longer made to give birth in solitude, be slipped out the back door. and hide their sinful ways.
Open adoption is now becoming the norm. Children who have been placed need to know the woman who gave birth truly loves them and did it for their benefit.
They are not a person who wasn’t willing to take responsibility. They are mothers who love them so much they will allow others to be the parents for a better life. Hopefully someday we can get more people to agree.
I will continue to be amazed at birth mothers and especially my wife. She has such passion for women who have placed.
She spends endless hours working with agencies, foundations and other support groups to provide a voice for birth parents.
I have seen her in pain, struck with immense grief and depression but she always gathers herself up and moves the ball forward.
There seems to be little financial support for this endeavor but she secures what little she can from a few along with her own finances and does amazing things.
She also spends an enormous amount of her time listening to birth mother’s anguish, in phone conversations, social media and at her support group.
It doesn’t leave her a lot of time for her personal life. It would be great to have more volunteers who are on board. Hopefully as the journey continues others will step forward to join her.
Bob Spears is married to Lynea, founder of Life After Placement. They share a life together and are parents to a teenage son. He is an advocate for birth mothers and believes in the cause of Life After Placement.
Many people say “I will be happy when…” as though the only time you can be happy is when you get something or get to a certain stage in life.
But being happy in the here and now is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.
When I was expecting my birthson, Mason, I remember I would wish for things.
I would think to myself that once my boyfriend talked to me again, I would be happy. But then I realized that wasn’t going to make me happy.
It bothers me when people live their lives in the future because you can’t. You have to live your life in the here and now.
Hoping is not a bad thing in itself, but hoping for happiness based on the outcomes of other things is.
As an individual you have full control over your attitude and how you feel. Even when the hardest and worst challenge is thrown at you, you can still choose to be happy.
In the hospital where I gave birth to and eventually placed Mason, one of the nurses who took care of me shared a few of her personal experiences.
She told me how blessed she was with having a child after several miscarriages. I asked her how she could keep going through the same process over again and again so many times.
She replied that even though it hurt and was hard, she knew she could have a child one day. She said she chose to be happy, even when it was hard to feel that way.
I look up to people like her, people who choose to be optimistic. Over the years, I’ve heard all of the the scary adoption stories about birth mothers who stopped getting updates from their birth child’s adoptive parents.
I knew that Mason’s parents were the right parents for him and I would be happy with my decision for the rest of my life, no matter what happened.
The way I see it, everything is a matter of perspective. Even though blessings sometimes are hard to see, it’s important to be happy and grateful for every experience that comes your way.
Sometimes all you need to do is open up and take the blinders off your eyes to see the beauty all around you.
Over three years has passed by since I placed Mason with his family. Three years of holidays, birthdays, and get-togethers. This last year I had an amazing time, more than I could have wished for.
Every time I would go towards the door or put on a jacket because I was cold, Mason would run to the door and hold it shut because he didn’t want me to leave.
Four years ago when I was expecting Mason, I never would have thought that I could have this much of a presence in his life because I had chosen to place him.
I used to fear that as he got older that he would hate me. With our open adoption he gets to know who I am, and I get to see how loved he is.
When I’m not there, there are some of the strongest birth mothers I know in his life. I never worry about him not being loved.
After I placed Mason for adoption, I am glad I chose to be happy in the here and now and not lived in the “when this happens I’ll be happy” mindset.
Makena is a birth mother from Idaho who placed her birth son in 2014. She now mentors expectant mothers who are planning to place their children and works with an adoption organization in her community.
It would be easy to assign all of our family’s challenges to all of the issues that brought Hope to a period in her life where she needed a new permanent home, but that wouldn’t be true.
Certainly, those issues shaped our experience, but many of our challenges are routine, post-adoption issues.
In the years since Hope became my daughter, I’ve learned that our experiences aren’t all that unique. Lots of families struggle like us; sadly, but many adoptive struggle in silence.
The public’s desire for happy ending adoption stories is strong. My and Hope’s story is a happy one, but we’ve both learned that in the context of adoption, we’ve had to redefine love and happiness.
In the early days of my adoption journey, I thought I had a good sense of what parenting my daughter would be like. I would parent much like my parents parented me, with a few trauma-friendly adjustments.
I thought I would have this amazing village of family and friends. I had visions of creating this lovely council of men to help provide father figures to my daughter.
I thought that if I just did things that made us look like a ‘normal’ family then that would be enough. That’s what my love for Hope would look like.
About three weeks into Hope’s placement with me, I realized that my love for Hope was not enough—at least not a love that didn’t include a lot of interventions.
That kind of love was not going to work for us. Hope honeymooned in her new home for a few weeks and then hit the skids, hard.
She struggled in ways I never anticipated and in ways that I was completely unprepared for; remember I was just three weeks to loving Hope.
I quickly realized that while I needed to do all the things I planned, and that my love plan for Hope needed to include a lot of external support.
I started to harness therapeutic resources and outfit our home with gadgets like safety monitors and cameras. I found the best doctors and therapists I could get who took our insurance.
I made appointments and shepherded Hope from point to point. I got prescriptions filled for both of us because I needed something for depression and anxiety too.
I read blogs, watched videos and skimmed adoptive parenting books. I got myself a therapist and visited every week.
Most of these activities happened behind the scenes of our public life. So much of life is smartly curated on social media these days: honor rolls, soccer games, and happy smiling family snapshots.
Our struggles became our family secret; I dare not post the truth about the multiple appointments we attended each week just to keep us functional.
I realized that a lot of the folks who supported the idea of me becoming a parent through adoption weren’t interested in hearing about the rough stuff.
Adoption narratives spin stories of grateful children parented by savior-like parents. Adoption stories disproportionately feature white and/or transracial families in airy, sun-filled pictures accompanying happy stories of well-adjusted children.
My reality with Hope was a single Black mom and her Black tween daughter showing up out of thin air.
As a unit we were new to everything, and a lack of community history together meant that people around us filled in the blanks unless we disclosed our adoption.
Behavioral problems at school initially cast us as a stereotypical single-parented minority family that didn’t value education. Public meltdowns cast me as an overly permissive parent.
I struggled to make parent friends at school because I didn’t relate to the long history families shared, having had kids in school together for years.
My own loving family had no idea what to make of my and Hope’s lived experience; they often argued, “All you need to do is…”
Hope required constant demonstration of my commitment to her safety, health and well-being. She wanted love, but she wanted safety and security more.
I spent a lot of time performing a happy mom, while behind the scenes coordinating resources for Hope, fighting against racial stereotypes about our family and trying to figure out how to connect with families like ours.
Oh yeah, I was also working full time, finishing my dissertation and ridiculously exhausted.
The point of this essay isn’t to belabor the challenges of being an adoptive parent or to discourage adoption of children, like my daughter, who need families.
The point is that love isn’t enough in adoption; a lot more is needed. Our children and our families need extended families willing to learn about trauma, neglect, abuse and connected parenting.
We need access to doctors and therapists with the special skills needed to work with families like ours.
We need educators who understand trauma related behaviors and cultural competence in dealing with students of color and their families.
We need supportive communities willing to recognize our versions of success as we help our children come back from tough places. We need all of these things and love.
In fact, the best way to show love for our families is all of this and more. Love as a noun is not enough in adoption.
We need an expansive interpretation of love as a verb; we all need that. That’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as an adoptive parent.
Being Hope’s mom has taught me so much on this journey, but one of the most important lessons is that love isn’t enough.
We needed more than just love in order for us to grow into the family we are today.
Hope and I still have a lifetime of growing to do, but today we are a happy, healthier family. Our life together is much easier than it used to be.
My friends and family have learned that we need more than just love from them, and we have the types of support we need now.
Hope and I have also learned how to define our own versions of success. Therapy breakthroughs, moments of courage, and average grades are where it’s at for us.
As a mom, I have a more expansive definition of love than I used to. I know that all the things I do for my daughter and our family is because I love her so much.
In adoption, love is important, but it isn’t enough. Our kids need much, much more.
Adoptive Black Mom and her daughter, Hope, live in the DC area with their dog, Yappy. She blogs about her adoption journey as a single parent to a teen adoptee at www.AdoptiveBlackMom.com.
This guest post is by Anthony Zurica, an adoption attorney.
Adopting a child into a new home can be a whirlwind of activity.
In addition to the huge excitement and joy that comes attached with expanding the family, there is often a bigger amount of concern as to whether the child will be comfy with adapting to the new environment, especially if he is an older child.
While you might feel tempted to create an adoring design in your home, it is important to leave plenty of room for self-expression.
You also want to ensure that the newcomer is learning while adapting to the ‘new home’ you are trying to create for him.
One of the fastest ways through which you can keep adoptees occupied, engaged and learning at the same time is to hook them up with movies; movies tailored for them.
Generally, some movies and TV shows have great themes that describe happy adoption, even if not always well-implemented, are able to create a relatable experience for adoptive families and the adopted children in a way they can identify with.
Here are 5 adoption-friendly movies – in no particular order – for those involved in the adoption process:
This 2014 movie portrays a beautiful young girl who was hopelessly lost within the New York City foster care program yet stayed strong and smart enough to survive the woes of NYC streets.
Annie was unlucky to have stayed with a mean foster mom, Miss Hannigan but luck shined on her when she met a billionaire, Will Stacks, who saved her from a near-car accident.
The scene was videotaped by an unknown passerby. Stacks would use this to boost his polls for an upcoming election in NYC. Annie only had one hope of having her parents back someday.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Interesting action film for younger boys, a rat (Master Splinter) played the role of an excellent adoptive father with 4 teenage turtles in his care.
They had a need to fight the enemies of the city but cannot be seen in daylight. The movie laid a strong emphasis on family living and working together as one.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green
Jim and Cindy Green were not fortunate with child-bearing as a result of infertility.
Through the help of Disney Magic, a baby grew in their garden just after dreaming about whom their child would be.
Behold, a Timothy Green! The couple raised Timothy as their own child but soon lost him after he disappeared, leaving a warning message that they both were ready to be parents.
This leaves Jim and Cindy pursuing adoption a year later.
Tarzan; a human raised by an ape, Kala, in the jungle, begins to make inquiries about his origin. T
arzan learned about the jungle culture and began to live just like its inmates.
However, the film celebrates a “two worlds, one family” kind of theme.
This leaves Tarzan to figure out how exactly he fits into the world of apes and other animals.
Superman: The Movie
A couple was faced with the hardest decision of their lives by having to adopt a child who came from nowhere.
Superman’s father Jor-El had made the decision from a planet far away to save his only son as he watched his world crumble.
The couple did their best to provide the best for him but later had to deal with identity-formation issues for the child. Being Superman, he just can’t stop being noticed.
These 5 films aren’t just great movies to watch together as a family, they’re also wonderful conversation-starters about adoption for you and your children.
Anthony Zurica is an experienced adoption attorney covering all of New York, helping single adults, heterosexual and same sex couples fulfill their dream of becoming parents. For more information, check out www.nycadoptionlawyer.com.
Ashley Mitchell is a birthmother and the president of Lifetime Healing, LLC.
Throughout this past decade I have seen a common thread throughout the birth mother communities: a lack of support after relinquishment.
The mission of Lifetime Healing is to make sure that any woman that chooses to place her child for adoption will have free lifetime support, no matter where she lives.
We do not believe that post-placement care should be a luxury, it should be the standard.
I talk all the time about the 3 R’s of adoption: Rights, Roles and Responsibility. I want to share with you some thoughts on the first R – Rights of the mother.
We have rights until we don’t.
I found myself pregnant when I was 25 years old. I was terrified. I couldn’t believe that this was happening. Immediately my thoughts started to race about my options. Abortion? Parenting? Adoption?
In an unplanned pregnancy it is easy to let fear dictate your decisions. It is hard to be calm and focused and ask the right kind of questions. There was only one reality that I could wrap my mind around…I was pregnant and I needed not to be.
That is all I could see, hear, feel, understand. I told myself there was only one way to eliminate that obstacle.
During my appointment at the clinic the nurse said four words to me that changed my life forever. “We can’t help you”.
I was too far along to follow through with a fear-based decision and just like that, adoption became my option.
I truly believe that if we can strip away the fear, if we can offer better options by counseling and empowering women to make educational decisions we can eliminate those fear-based decisions.
But the mothers don’t know that they have the right to do that. They don’t understand that they have the right to ask hard questions, to demand better options, and to challenge resources that are being presented.
The end goal? That women are making more informed and empowered decisions to do what is best for them, no one else, and be supported through that decision for life.
That, regardless of circumstance, women can choose better, have confidence in that choice, and we can stand with them through a more effective healing process.
When faced with an unplanned pregnancy, all options feel like a lose-lose but these mothers have rights and we need to honor them.
When it comes to Infant adoption, society has put adoptive parents on a pedestal and championed them for swooping in and “saving the day”.
That they are so selflessly giving of their home and finance and everything else to parent a child.
Let’s for just a minute acknowledge that they pursued adoption, partly, to fill the desire of having a baby.
With that honesty comes a reality that maybe, just maybe, the pressure falls to the pregnant mothers to fill that gap, that later gets passed down to the adopted children.
Now before you start throwing rotten fruit at me I want you to know that I love my child’s adoptive parents and I believe in open adoption.
I believe that we can be better and love well and offer the best space possible for the entire triad to thrive.
Imagine with me a pregnant woman that takes her time, that asks every question, that listens and does her research and has conversation.
Imagine a woman that has explored every option, every resource and has crunched every number.
Wouldn’t we feel better about a woman that places her child for adoption if she is in that mindset rather than one of confusion and fear and emotion and is making a decision based on obligation and feeling like there is no other option?
I am the mother until I sign my name on that relinquishment paperwork. I have the right to change my mind.
I have the right to explore other options and I have the right to parent my own child if I feel like that is best.
I know this stings. I know this is the greatest fear for couples hoping to adopt. I know there is great pain and loss.
But are we so desperate for a child that we are willing to overlook the loss that takes place?
Adoption is born in great brokenness.
My dear friends, a pregnant woman has the right to change her mind.
You don’t get to deem her worthy of being a mother or not, that is not your right.
If we truly love the mothers, if we truly care about them and want them to have peace and if we really want them to do what is best for them, then we should love them just as much in their decision to parent.
We have rights until we don’t. If you are pregnant and you are making an adoption plan but you feel in any way that it is not right for you, you have the right to speak up.
You have the right to be your own advocate and to stand up for what you know to be true.
When I placed I was never 100% sure that it was right. I didn’t have that kind of clarity.
I made the best decision I could with the information that I was given and I live with the consequences of that decision every day…and will for the rest of my life.
Adoption can be an amazing and beautiful thing. But it isn’t always the right thing.
We have the right to decide if it really is the right thing for us.
Ashley Mitchell, owner of Lifetime Healing, set out to seek increased care, understanding, and resources for birth mothers. For almost a decade, Ashley has been one of the most consistent and sought after birth mother voices in the nation. Well known for her vulnerability and transparency in adoption, her story has touched the hearts of countless members of the adoption community.
I was Miss Squeaky Clean back in high school. I didn’t even kiss a boy till I was 18. But nine years later I had my first real experience and Wowzers, just like that I got pregnant.
Let me tell you that it is sucky to be in that boat. I know because I was there.
Everyone says that placing your baby for adoption is really honorable. The question is, is it the right thing to do? That’s something you need to decide for yourself because it’s a rough road ahead.
In my case, I knew I had to place my baby. I had found two imperfectly lovely parents and I wanted them for my baby. I am now extremely happy that I ever got to go through this.
Today I am married to my soulmate and have two beautiful babies who I stay home with.
Placing my baby for adoption was hard but I have never wished that I would have single parented. There were five things that got me through that tough, sacred first year.
1. My birth mom friend
Tiffany is as close to being the perfect birth mom and we happen to be bosom buddies. I still talk to her more than a lot of my friends and she got me through that year.
How? She had placed her baby May 2012 and she talked to me, served me and gave me her journal where I read every detail of her pregnancy, placement and healing.
I knew what to expect at placement because of her. I knew I might go through a time I would hate someone.
I felt normal because of her. I am so lucky to have found her because she was my favorite support. We are both moms and we text about things at least every week.
Find a birth mom who you can bounce these ideas off of. So they can say, “oh yeah I have felt like that, you aren’t crazy. You will get through this.”
2. My caseworker
Charity, my caseworker, told me to get a list of ten people I could call when I was going through something hard. She told me to start at the top of the list and move down till someone answered.
She told me to tell them I was on her list, that I was counting on them. To each of my ten people, thank you. You saved me more than once. Make a list of ten people to rely on.
3. Blogging and working out.
This was a way of healing for me. I went to a gym alone and I would blog alone. I lived alone and worked full time making pretty good money but money didn’t buy my happiness. Blogging and working out did.
4. Knowing my limits
This is kinda vague but something I really benefited from was knowing me and my boundaries. I skipped family functions where I knew it would trigger me not having my baby and a husband.
I skipped anything that would make me feel the pain of being alone at night without a family. I seriously was hungry for a baby. Hungry for that touch and compassion.
I never felt alone when I was pregnant because I had my buddy with me. After I placed, however, I was ALONE. I didn’t have a reminder from “Baby Pop Rocks” kicking me in my right rib or tickling my cervix.
I did lots of service. Once a week I went to a woman’s house in my neighborhood and we would watch tv together and eat treats and I would sweep her floor or decorate her Christmas tree.
I babysat a couple times so that my friend and her husband could go out. I delivered aloe plants to people that didn’t have one because I had the best plant ever.
I served but I was fine with saying no when I could tell it would hurt me. Know you because only you are going to look out for you.
5. Knowing that not all birth moms and not all adoptive parents get along.
This is obvious. I get along with baby’s adoptive parents and they are some of our best friends.
“Baby Pop Rocks” is what brought us together and he will forever be my son. But he has his mommy and daddy and I respect every single thing about them being his parents.
For me, that first year I was grieving and they had empathy, sympathy, trust and boundaries. I saw “Baby Pop Rocks” every week or every month.
It was brilliant for us. We made a schedule and every time I left their house I knew the next time I would see “Baby Pop Rocks”.
I loved being with him and seeing him grow and, as we know, babies grow so much in that first year. It was healing for me.
I am still so grateful to them for the time they gave me. We developed love and respect for each other.
That first year after placement was the hardest for me. Every birth mom is different. If you are reading this as a pregnant mom or birth mom my heart goes to you. I will be your friend. If you are reading this as a future adoptive parent, my heart goes to you. May we all love another, be compassionate, forgiving and humble.
I would never want to be pregnant and single again, but placing “Baby Pop Rocks” was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.
Alice is the pen name of a birth mom to a beautiful boy. Alice is now married to her soulmate and they have two precious babies together. She enjoys traveling, decorating, and pedicures.
This guest post is by Michelle Thorne, a birthmother.
Navigating an open adoption is not for the faint of heart. It takes bravery and love and work.
I would say, even as a birthmother in my own adoption, I have massive anxiety surrounding every moment of contact.
I never want to overstep my bounds or do anything that would cause further separation.
It’s not my son’s parents who make me feel this way, but an ingrained fear that I don’t deserve a relationship with him.
I am not alone in this.
“I want to tell them but I’m afraid…”
“I wish they sent me more pictures but I don’t want to bother them.”
“It really hurt me that they didn’t send me anything on his birthday.”
These, and more, are all things that I have heard from birthparents.
As a professional and a parent, I see the other side of it as well.
“I am afraid to tell her about…”
“I wanted to send her a million pictures, but I don’t want to bring it up for her/make it harder.”
“I thought about his birthmom all day on his birthday.”
Working in adoption, I have heard breakdown in relationships happen with one overpowering emotion—fear.
Fear steals intimacy. It can wreck our vulnerability and destroy our trust.
In an open adoption, we have to have vulnerability and trust to make this thing work.
And if we have the child’s best interest at heart, we want them to work.
Here are some thoughts on how to be vulnerable and build trust in your open adoption relationship.
The adoptee voice is the single most important voice in your triad. When he is able, let him speak.
If both sets of parents are able to know how the adoptee feels at any point in his life, it can help them make informed decisions about how best to love and support him at that time.
If the adoptee isn’t old enough to speak, begin with the end in mind.
How can we set these children up for success? What will communicate to them as adults that they were dearly loved? Can we choose words and ways of communicating that offer security down the road?
Relationships change. What you set up before the baby was born may not be what happens when he is sixteen.
Especially with the adoptee having a voice, there may be time for less communication, or more.
Be open to the natural ebb and flow of the relationship and don’t let one define how things are going.
Know that love relationships are defined by love, not by anything else.
If you want more contact or if you want pictures on a certain date, say that. If you want to send more pictures, say that.
I think open adoptions would be better if we would speak openly and honestly to each other about our desires.
Asking simple questions can dramatically increase the success of the relationship. “Would you like more pictures?” “Can we send you something on his birthday?”
Even rearranging forms of communication to make it easier can help.
Sometimes, sending an email is easier than sending snail mail these days.
Whatever you do, don’t make it harder on yourself than it already (likely) is, and know for sure that something is better than nothing.
Know that you (or they) aren’t always going to get it right.
Take the opportunity to practice forgiveness with each other, knowing it is vital for your relationship to thrive in the long run.
Adoption is a lifelong relationship that starts with a woman and spreads to a child, another family, and extended families.
Adoption, in a word, is community.
It’s sharing lives together, and because we are human, it’s hard.
If you can see the relationship as we, as if you are one community, one team all working hard to love the adoptee well, that can help diminish the us vs. them mentality.
So often we love big and we are frustrated when the other person in the love relationship doesn’t, or so we think.
I want to challenge each of you to consider love though. What does love look like?
If my love were a shape, let’s say a square, I could define it, right? I could say to my son’s parents, “My love has four sides.”
“Our love has four sides too,” they might announce, feeling connected.
“My love has four right angles.”
With excitement, they would reply, “Our love has four right angles.”
But when we show our love to our son, I would have a square and they may have a rectangle.
Do you see what I mean? Love can be the same but look different. I love him like he is my son and so do they. Whose love is right?
When navigating an open adoption, realize that love is the single most important aspect of the relationship and that it will look different for each person.
Be present to the similarities and differences in the relationship, and consider the work associated with the openness an opportunity for your child to discover his identity and grow into the person he wants to be.
Michelle Thorn is a wife, mom, birthmom and the author of three books on various topics in adoption. She lives in Qingdao, China. To learn more, visit Michelle Thorn Books.
The small window that sits above the kitchen sink is just big enough to feel the heat of the sun upon my face. I load the dishes into the dishwasher as I hear the laughter of my three children. They chase each other then fall to the ground completely entertained by the fresh air and the dancing trees around them.
I find myself in this position often, watching the three of them in awe that they are mine. I reflect on the pregnancy and birth of each one of them and what beautiful miracles they are.
I send gratitude to the sky to be their mother, to teach them, to love them, but more importantly to learn from them. I cannot imagine one without the other and the different roles and personalities that they bring into our home.
Then I think about her and how it would be, four of them, laughing under the dancing trees. I close my eyes and I see her there, guiding the three younger with grace.
I picture what her room would look like in our home. I wonder what role she would play as the oldest of four. I close my eyes, in the middle of loading the dishes, and let the hurt sink into every pore of my body.
The longing to know her is sometimes too intense to ignore. I will allow the emotions to surface, accept whatever comes through, then send love and kindness her way.
Many times these daydreams will lead to unwanted night terrors. The thought of her subconsciously brings on a recurring nightmare that has been persistent for seventeen years now.
The person who enters to take my beautiful baby can differ, but the idea that she is being taken away from me is all the same. I wake myself up from the loudness of my own cries or my husband will hear me first and reach over to calm me.
By now, I have learned to simply roll over and focus on something peaceful and I’ll quickly fall back to sleep.
I have found that my daily thoughts of her have diminished since the earlier years but that doesn’t stop my three children from thinking they see her in the grocery store, at the park, or even standing in the school bus line.
Every time this new exciting discovery finds its way into their faces my heart breaks. The yearning they have to know her and see her is deep within them as it is me. Our conversations about meeting her have guarded hopefulness.
“Maybe we will meet her someday.”
“Yes, maybe you can give her a Christmas present when she’s eighteen years old.”
Their curiosity about this magical eighteen number also worries me. It may not be when she’s eighteen, it could be when she is thirty years old. I cannot encourage their excitement nor can I prepare them for never meeting her.
In my heart, I do the same, never allowing myself to see the first conversation we will have nor allow my mind to believe I will never see her again.
I have been a birthmother for so long now I don’t remember what it feels like to not be one. I know there is a hole in my heart, where she once was that is now empty.
I know that having my three children did not fill this hole. I know I’ve wasted many years trying to fill something that is unfillable. I know grief has taught me to love deeper, stronger, and with more gratitude.
I also know that it’s okay to have a hole in your heart. That space is for her and when I let the wave of emotions take over me it feels larger than life, but when I accept its existence and carry on with my day, I’m happy and I’m okay.
Becoming a birthmother didn’t mean that my life went back to how it was before I was pregnant. Life went on, but I became stronger. I learned how to battle grief. I was gifted gratitude for the children I was given. I was given a purpose to become something better.
So how does it feel to be a birthmother?
Every day I am reminded, either by my children or by my own thoughts, that I gave the most valuable gift that could ever be given. And when you gift something that valuable, you feel both the depth of its absence and the intense reward in the giving.
I choose to hold my head high. I choose to walk taller. I choose to be proud of the decision I made and the title I hold as a birthmother. No shame or regret will force me to feel embarrassed of who I am.
Being a birthmother feels as courageous as reaching the highest summit. The view from the top is both frightening and incredibly rewarding.
The more I embrace this calling of being a birthmother and don’t shy away from the grief, the stronger I become!
I will continue to watch my children in awe. I will roll over and talk myself back to restful sleep after nightmares.
I will continue to tell my adoption story with pride because being a birthmother is something I will always be proud of.
Gina Crotts is a birthmother. To read more about Gina and follow her adoption story, visit Gina Crotts.