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Monday, November 29, 2010

guest blogger: What I've Learned About Birthmothers

i asked angie to share with us some thoughts about birthmothers, i asked if she would be willing to reflect on the following: as an adoptive mother, what have you learned about birthmothers, either thru your own experience with your adoption or getting to know others via friends, networking, internet etc.
were there things you assumed that you have come to realize just arent 'the way it is'?
are there things you never knew but have come to recognize?
were you prepared by an agency or counselor with how a birthmom might behave, feel, grieve, react, etc?
Her insight attitude and love are token and a great example of the journey that adoption truly is, for everyone involved. be sure to check out her blog! thank you for sharing with us angie and be sure to kiss those sweet baby cheeks for me! ~birthMOM


When we first starting looking into adoption over 5 years ago, we really had no idea what to expect from a potential birth mother. The only experience we’d had with adoption up until that point was the knowledge that their were 2 people on my husband side of the family that were adopted. They’re adoptions were closed and they knew very little about their birth families. And of course there was always the Lifetime channel's latest movie about an adoption scam or a birth mother taking her child back.
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At our first appointment with LDS family services, our new caseworker brought us up to speed on the changes in the adoption world, the biggest being that most adoptions were at least semi open now days.
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We were told that we needed to be open to sending pictures and letters and that we would be able to meet our child’s birth mother and get to know her a little bit before placement. We were scared but willing to do whatever was asked of us.

We waited 1 year without being chosen through LDSFS and then felt very strongly that we should follow promptings to go through another agency.
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6 months later we found out we had been chosen to adopt a baby boy due in 5 weeks! We were elated, words cannot describe our joy! We felt so much peace and knew that this little boy was an answer to our prayer’s and we couldn’t wait to meet his birth mother and get to know her.

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At this point we were still very much being guided by our caseworker…we’d never done this before and were terrified that we would offend Diane in some way or that she would decide that she didn’t like us! We wanted to spend as much time with her as possible but weren’t sure if that was appropriate or if she would even want us around. I was so happy to find out that she did want us around and I was able to go to all her doctor’s appointments for the last 4 weeks.
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When I found out that Diane was going to let me be in the delivery room for the birth of the baby I was overwhelmed with emotions. I, myself don’t have any sisters and I’ve never experienced a pregnancy or even had a positive sign appear on a pregnancy test so I’d never had the privilege to be present at a birth of a baby; We struggled with infertility for over 5 years and the emotional ups and downs are enough to tear a person down…I never imagined that I would get to see any of our future children being born!
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But here was this amazing woman who was going to be placing her child in my arms permanently and she was willing to let me be there for his birth too! To be able to experience it through her was more than I could ever ask for and I’m so grateful that she included me, I don’t know if I can ever explain how special it was to see our son being born and to actually get to cut the umbilical cord! Looking back on it now, I know that this is a very unique experience that most adoptive couples don’t get to have.

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The day that Adam was born was when I first started gaining an understanding of who a birth mother is and what she represents.
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I was amazed at Diane’s strength, because I know she was in pain both physically and emotionally. She endured labor and when that beautiful baby boy entered this world…she actually allowed me to be the first person to hold him..even before she did.

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When it came time for placement we were once again taken by surprise. We knew we would be signing papers in different rooms and that afterward we would come together again to exchange gifts and say our goodbye's. back together one last time so we could give Diane some gifts we had for her.
However it didn’t happen that way at all.
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We were all sitting in Diane’s hospital room and I was holding Adam, when our caseworker walked in and said it was time to sign the papers. I walked over to Diane so I could place Adam in her arms but was overwhelmed to see that she had started crying. The pain in her eyes was obvious and she shook her head to indicate that she couldn’t hold him at that moment so the caseworker led us out of the room, with me still holding him in my arms.

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I made it into the hallway just long enough for the heavy door to close before I broke down sobbing.
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Seeing Diane crying and falling apart broke my heart.
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I was mad. Mad at our caseworker for not preparing us for that moment. Mad that she wasn’t showing as much emotion as me. Mad that out of so much joy on our part, we were causing so much sorrow for another person.
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Mad that in order for me to be a mother I had to walk out of a room with someone else's heart in my arms.

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I think that’s when it hit me… A birth mother is the most selfless person I will ever meet.
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I know that Diane could have thought of a hundred different reasons to not make an adoption plan for Adam. But in the end she put her own feelings and thoughts aside and focused on what she wanted and needed for him to have in his life.
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In the end, that encounter in the hospital room with Diane was the last time that we saw her. She broke down and just couldn’t bear seeing us again. We weren’t able to give her gifts to her in person or hug her and tell her how much we loved her.
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If I had known that moment was our last, I would have done things differently. I would have stayed and cried with her, told her that I loved her and that I would do everything in my power to give her son the life that she wanted him to have.

When our caseworker outlined the “terms” of the adoption agreement, we were asked to send a letter and pictures every other month for six months and then not again until Adam was a year old. After that we were to send 1 package a year (on his birthdays) with a letter and pictures.
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We were also told that most birth mothers will remain in contact for maybe 5 years and then they will move on with their lives.
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When Adam was 1 month old Diane called and asked to talk to us and we had a wonderful time talking to her on the phone.
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When he was 6 months old Diane contacted the agency and asked to speak with us again…We said no. I was scared and feeling protective of our little family. I admit I had a moment of not wanting to share.
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It has by far been one of my biggest regrets and the regret was instant.
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As soon as I hung up the phone I knew I had made the wrong choice, I actually called the agency back and expressed my feelings but the caseworker had just gotten of the phone with Diane letting her know our answer and she said to just let it go for the time being. Out of one stupid decision on my part, I caused Diane more pain.
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Since that day I have learned so much. I’ve made mistakes and I’ve tried to right them, and then I move on and hope to never make those mistakes again. I hope that Diane has forgiven me.
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I stuck to the “terms” outlined by our agency for the first 6 months and then I started to deviate from the rules. Putting myself in Diane’s shoes I couldn’t imagine going 6 months or a whole year without seeing a picture or getting an update about Adam!! I continue to this day almost 3 ½ years later, to send her a letter with pictures about every 2 months plus I send a package on Christmas and Mother’s Day as well.
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The best thing I ever did was to get online and find an adoption community of bloggers. I started educating myself on openness in adoption and the more birth mother bloggers that I found the more I came to understand the love they have for these little babies that they place, I came to realize that this is never a simple decision for them. It’s most definitely not the easy way out for them.
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I learned that openness is the gateway to healing and reassurance… That birth mothers never forget about the children they placed.
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And the more in love I fell with our son, the deeper my love grew for Diane.
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I started to let go of the fears I had about adoption, especially open adoption. At first I was scared to share motherhood, but aren’t I the one that gets to see Adam every single day, to hold him and kiss him and tuck him in at night?

I think Diane has shared much more with me than I could ever share with her.
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I’m happy to say that we now email back and forth with Diane regularly. We also have this blog that I keep updated that she can check anytime between the packages that I send her. We are also face book friends now which is something totally new but great at the same time! We recently called her on her birthday and Adam was able to wish her happy birthday and tell her that he loves her. He may not understand yet but some day he will and he will forever be grateful to the woman that gave him life…and then gave him more, so that he could have the life that she imagined for him.
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I think adoption can be as open as you and your spouse and the birth mother are comfortable with. If you are honest with each other, respect one another and let go of your fears, you can have a loving relationship for life.
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When our son Cooper joined our family 3 months ago through another incredible birth mother, we naturally wanted and hoped for another open adoption. Fortunately, we have learned immensely from Adam’s adoption and so we’ve implemented all those things right from the start with L. We send packages, we email and she has access to our blog.
From L we’ve learned about the power of prayer and following the promptings of the spirit. She was definitely guided to our family.
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I still answer questions constantly about our son’s birth mothers and our open adoptions. People are naturally curious and skeptical and usually have it all wrong. I think that’s why I’ve started to advocate so much for a more positive representation of adoption on my blog. I’m also on the FSA (Families Supporting Adoption) board and I love to educate anyone about it. I’ve taught at local schools, monthly FSA meetings and even had conversations with people at the grocery store.
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If I could teach anyone anything about openness in adoption and about birth mothers it would be to place your fears aside and put yourself in a birth mothers shoes even if for only a minute…
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This is not a Lifetime drama designed to get ratings, it is real life. I recently read in a magazine, about adoption statistics, and only 1% of all the domestic adoptions in the US have a case of the birth parents trying to get the child back…(it does happen and I’m not trying to down play that)..but it is not the norm.
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A Birth mother is an amazing, strong, courageous, selfless woman but most of all she loves with all her heart.
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She will never forget about the child she placed.
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She puts her full trust in us as parents to the child.
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Her life will forever be changed because of her selfless decision.
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Both of our son’s birth mothers treat us with kindness and love and we in turn love and respect them SO much. They grieve, they have days filled with sadness and tears, but they also have moments of joy and are so happy when they see pictures of their beautiful boys smiling faces.
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They are our angels.
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We would never have the privilege of being parents if it wasn’t for them.

7 comments:

Maryann said...

This is a beautiful post! Honest and sincere! Thanks for sharing how openness in adoption has worked for you!

Karine said...

I love this family! They are amazing! :) Thanks for allowing them to share their story! :)

MrsPerrbear said...

I was blown away by this. Absolutely moved to tears. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing story!

Bean Sprouts said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I'm so glad that you have learned so much about open adoptions and us birth moms!

Brit O'Connor said...

This is a wonderful story! I always feel so blessed and lucky to be so close with my daughter's adoptive family...so it's nice to read about other positive situations. :)

A Life Being Lived said...

Ah! This post made me cry. I'm a birthmom and love to hear about adoptive parents' experiences. THANK YOU for reworking your adoption so that it can benefit everyone. In my experience the agencies try to be helpful but it really helps to cut them out of the whole thing as early as possible (not count on them being the go-between). They don't always know what's "best". Blessings!

LisaAnne said...

Unbelievable post. It brought joy to my heart. As a birthmother myself, I love how you appreciate our pain and need for connection. Just because we chose not to parent our children we still love them, miss them, and want to feel connected to them.

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