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Adoption Blog: Raising a Rainbow
Seeing Adoption from the Other Side, Part Two
When my friend Jessica* gave birth, my daughter through domestic adoption was two months old. I remember rocking my baby one evening and letting the grief and loss her birth mother experienced sink into my heart. It’s easy to boast of the “selfless” decision a birth mother makes, but the decision to place a child for adoption is so much more than a single word. It’s complex and bittersweet. And it’s forever.
The next day, I took Jessica an infant car seat and told her, “I will support you no matter what you decide. Here’s a car seat if you decide to bring the baby home.” I hugged her and left the hospital, my heart pounding. I went home and prayed that God would grant my friend clarity, courage, and peace for the days to come -- whatever they would hold.
A few days later, Jessica sent me a text message to inform me that she had signed the papers to relinquish her parental rights. The chosen adoptive family was on their way to the agency. Would I accompany Jessica and her mom to the agency to participate in a Placement Ceremony? I didn’t hesitate to say yes.
When we arrived at the agency, Jessica went into a private room to spend time with her baby. A few minutes later, she emerged and handed the newborn to the adoptive mother. Jessica, her mother, and I sat on one side of the room, the adoptive family on the other, and the social worker and agency director connected the two half-circles. We made small talk and then the director facilitated a short ceremony. The whole time, all I wanted to do was snatch the baby from the adoptive mother’s arms and hand her back to Jessica.
In that moment, I realized what it was like to be on the other side, to be the one handing over my flesh and blood to near-strangers. Jessica sat beside me, not shedding a tear. She was calm. She posed for pictures with the adoptive family. She held her baby again, kissed her, handed her back to the adoptive family, and then walked out the door. On the way home, we stopped for tacos. The whole evening was surreal.
Life hasn’t been easy for Jessica since the placement. In the days following, she experienced post-delivery bleeding, leaking breasts, and hormone shifts. She wasn’t surrounded by “It’s a Girl” balloons and pink blankets. There is no greeting card for her unique situation. These were little reminders of the enormity of her decision.
Jessica’s pain comes in waves. Mother’s Day is tough, because she’s a mother without a toddler on her hip. Every early February, the baby’s birthday looms like a storm cloud---an anniversary that is both celebrated and mourned. Some days her life is the old cliché: one step forward and two steps back. But how could it not be, I think. She did something incredibly unnatural: she gave her child to someone else.
As for me, I’m now the adoptive mother of two little girls. Because of all I experienced with Jessica, I am adamant that my husband and I honor the girls’ biological parents with our words and acts. We communicate with them often, recognize them on holidays, and display their photographs in our home. But I know, deep down, nothing I do or say will eliminate the pain they experience.
Because Jessica allowed me to be part of her adoption journey, I am able to parent confidently knowing that I am a good mom, but that both my girls have other mothers. Their loss was and still is my gain. My previous belief that ignorance is bliss has been replaced by heart-wrenching truth: adoption is messy. It’s not all about me, the adoptive parent. Nor could adoption loss be “fixed” by my futile attempts to minimize the birth parent’s loss.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” If I could pass one lesson on to all adoptive parents, it would be this: Open your heart to the reality of adoption. By doing so, you honor your child’s birth family and you become the strong, courageous, and confident parent that your child needs and deserves.
*Name changed to protect privacy
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