...and the 14, 000 commenters too,
I am sure this is not your first letter, and I am sure it will not be your last. This letter is concerning something very near and dear to my heart: Adoption. Adoption is a very emotional topic and one that tends to get people fired up on both sides. Open Adoption is not just any relationship, it is a sacred relationship, shared with the adoptive couple, the birth family, and most importantly, the adopted child.
My name is Jessalynn Bills Speight, I am a birth mother. While being a birth mother is not my only definition, it is a very large part of my life that has shaped who I am. When I found myself pregnant at 18, I could have never imagined what was about to take part in my life. Abortion was not the direction I wanted to go, I knew marriage would never work between the birth father and I, and single parenting was not what I felt was the right decision for my unborn baby. I carefully considered and researched all of the decisions, but the one that kept coming up in my mind, was adoption.
Adoption is not an easy choice. Here you have a baby, your flesh and blood, and you choose to give that flesh and blood, willingly to another family to raise for the rest of their life. You have the pressure of choosing the perfect family, of keeping the baby healthy for 9 months, going to the doctor, keeping the family updated, keeping the agency updated, giving birth, then relinquishing rights. I went through this whole process at the ripe old age of eighteen years old. Sure, you could argue that I should have kept my legs closed or used birth control. I have heard all that. I didn’t. What matters is what I chose to do with the consequence of my choices.
I gave birth to that perfect 8lb 6oz baby. She had a head full of hair, the fattest thighs you have ever seen, and beautiful eyes that drew you in. I held that baby, kissed her, loved on her, told her I loved her for a little over 24 hours in the hospital. My caseworker called to tell me it was time to sign the relinquishment papers, to not take any more medication. I was in a great amount of pain after a very troublesome labor. I walked into the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and told myself I could not do this. This little perfect baby girl was just too perfect and wonderful. But as I fell to the floor, my legs collapsing beneath me and I started sobbing, I remembered. I remembered the beautiful family that was to love and to cherish her, the 2 big brothers so excited for their couple, I remembered the chapter of life i was in, the emotional and financial straits, and the very strong feeling I had for the past nine months telling me that this baby was to be placed into the arms of this beautiful family. My last thought before gaining enough strength to sign the papers was, “This family promised me they will give me updates, and I will see her grow.” That thought is what got me through this.
I signed the papers, dressed her in a beautiful creme dress. I put her in a borrowed car seat and my mom and I drove to the agency to place her into the arms of her family. We shared a beautiful placement ceremony, there were hugs, laughter, and so much love. The moment that i placed that perfect baby girl into her parents’ arms, there was a trust. We were trusting each other. They were trusting me that I would not change my mind for 9 months and 30 days. I was trusting them that they would hold up to their end of the bargain for the rest of her life.
The beautiful part of my story, the most BEAUTIFUL part? We have maintained that trust. The family has continued to send me updates, we have had visits (1-4 times a year depending on our schedules), they came to my wedding, they speak highly of me to this baby girl. Almost seven years later, we are constantly evolving our relationship and gaining a further trust. That baby girl is now a little girl, who knows who I am. It is not confusing. She does not call me mom or mommy, and I do not and will not ever expect her to. She knows I am her birth mother and I gave birth to her, she knows my 2 children I parent with my husband are her half siblings and they share a very special connection and relationship. That trust is what keeps us going. I love her mother and her father so much. They are definitely family and I feel comfortable talking to them about anything.
Now to answer your question, Should a birth mother retain visitation rights to the child they chose to place for adoption? If you mean visitation as you would a divorced couple where they are required to spend a summer and some holidays, no. If you mean to see the child maybe once to a few times a year when schedule permits, when the birth parents are living soberly and according to the moral standards of the parents, yes.
In many states there is a Post Adoption Contact Agreement that can range from anything like letters and pictures to visits and calls. These are legally binding and the birth mother has the right to take legal action with this agreement.
Overall, even if we may not have the legal right, we do have a moral right to know how our birth children are doing. If you can send letters and updates and text messages to grandma, grandpa, neighbors, and friends; can you not take that same effort and send them to the woman who brought you such happiness and a child? The couple trusts us for 9 months, We, the birth parents, trust the couple for life. If you teach a child to be nervous, walk on eggshells, or dislike where they come from, you teach them to feel that same way about themselves.
So I ask, Why not crusade for adoptee rights to know where they come from and open adoption? It is an incredibly important thing for the adoption triad to have access to information.
Every adoption situation is different. Different amounts of contact will work for different people. The couple and I are ever evolving our relationship day by day. With love and trust, any relationship can grow and blossom into something beautiful. A child can never have too many people to love and care for it. Boundaries and clear relationships make open adoption a working possibility.
Pictures from two birth mother retreats. All women who have placed their children for adoption with varying degrees of openness, all with a very strong love for the child they placed into the arms of another couple. #TiedAtTheHeart