Tonight our class was all about birthmoms and what the adoption experience is like from their side. I cried multiple times throughout the class and my heart was just aching for these women the whole time. We watched a video with interviews of birthparents and then a birthmom came in and spoke in the class. Ryan asked me on our drive home what I was thinking and I just burst into tears. But let me back up and start from the beginning of this part of the story.
When we were first considering working with the agency we chose we found out that they preferably do open adoptions. Open adoption means that the adopted child and the birthparent(s) have the opportunity to form an ongoing face to face relationship. This is opposed to a closed adoption where the adopted child may know some identifying information about their birthparent(s) but does not meet them face to face or have any communication with them (unless they choose to search for them later in life). To clarify, open adoption does not mean co-parenting. Legally the adoptive parents are the absolute "real" parents and the birthparents can never interfere with that or change that status in any way. Open adoption encourages occasional visits throughout the year and fosters a mutually beneficial, trusting and honest environment for the adopted child to grow up in. Research has proven that this is the healthiest approach to adoption for the adopted child and the birth family. It doesn't always work out perfectly, but it is the preferred path for adoption.
Now, when I first learned about that my first thought was "No way is there gonna be another set of parents to deal with! This is gonna be MY baby and I don't want to share them with anyone else!" I thought the birthmom should move on with her life and I didn't want her interfering with how we were going to raise OUR child. I imagined having these incredibly insecure and competitive feelings around the birthmom. We'd tell our kids all about their adoption story when they were old enough to understand and that would be just fine. Oh man I had so much to learn!
For some reason God made me open enough to the concept to at least move forward with this agency. Ah I'm so glad he did! And I'm so thankful that he's in the business of graciously and tenderly changing hearts!
I went from feeling very put-off by the idea and not wanting anything to do with the birthmom, to now tonight crying mournful tears for her and feeling such heartache over what she will be going through. I now feel like the absolute best case scenario would be an open adoption. For the sake of our baby, I pray God grants us that. I want our child to have that connection, to feel those binding ties, to see the noses and eyes and freckles that are in their DNA and all over their face. It's an ideal for sure, but it's one we and our agency thinks is worth striving for. (However, all types of situations can present themselves and we may end up with no choice in the matter in the end if a birthmom has already made up her mind that she wants a closed adoption, or if we receive a safe-haven baby whose mother is not identified at all.)
I'm sure I'll write more about open adoption as things continue. What I really intended to write about tonight though was birthmoms. Once I say the word most of us probably come up with a stereotypical picture of a girl who is "giving her baby up". We may envision all birthmoms as 16 years old, carelessly sleeping with their boyfriend, doing drugs, not getting any prenatal care, in denial of her pregnancy and just waiting for the day she can give her baby away. This can be the case sometimes, yes. But I'm learning more and more about the great variety of situations that birthmoms come from and that the majority of them have their heart invested in their baby and are choosing adoption because of love. Our teacher tonight even said that adoption is always a choice of love. And the more I learn about where the birthmom is coming from, I really believe that. Even from what can appear to be the very worst of situations, that woman decided above all to choose life for her baby and beyond that to choose a bright and hopeful future for that baby by planning for adoption. She may not have been able to provide anything else at all, but those two decisions made the absolute difference.
The other part that grips my heart and reaches down to the core of my own loss and grief is what the birthmom goes through as she places her child with the adoptive family and says goodbye to being their mother forever. In the hospital she has only a couple precious days to say both "hello" and then "goodbye" to the baby that's been part of her for every second of every day for the past nine months. She will leave the hospital with an empty womb and empty arms. It is an experience super charged with both inexplicable joy and also immense sadness and loss as the adoptive family embraces their so-longed-for baby, the baby leaves the only mother they've ever known and the birthmother realizes that she's made the best decision, even as her heart is breaking.
So many emotions for everyone involved- joy and loss for everyone involved. It's hard to explain how it is all interwoven, but my heart is starting to connect to that part of this process. We've waited so long to receive our baby, what on earth would we possibly feel sad about in that moment? We're gaining a child, what loss could we be experiencing? I can't put words to it all tonight, but I'm seeing it all come together now- how there is this tapestry of loss and love and grief and wholeness that the adoptive parents, the baby and the birthmom will all experience. Maybe in very different ways, and sometimes in very similar ways.
A few weeks ago I told Ryan that somehow I felt like something in me connected to the sense of loss that the birthmom feels because of losing our baby. It's obviously a very, very different type of loss and a very different situation- and I would never want to make a comparison that in any way minimizes the great sacrifice that is involved in choosing adoption for your child. But there's this part of my heart, and it really flared up tonight, that connects to the heartrending of saying goodbye to your baby and leaving the hospital empty-armed. I know it's not the same, but maybe it's just that sense that it's not supposed to be that way. We wouldn't need to adopt other people's children and mothers wouldn't need to make adoption plans for their babies if it weren't for the dark and deadly effects of the fall that creates these situations. This wasn't how God planned for families to grow. I know he redeems it and writes beautiful stories out of it all, but this was not the original plan. There wasn't supposed to be infertility and there wasn't supposed to be people placing their children into other peoples arms. We weren't supposed to have to say goodbye to our babies.
So tonight I'm thinking about the hospital experience and all that the birthmother of our child will feel and think and say and do and I just feel very sad for her.....so very grateful, and also just sad. We don't know how much we'll get to interact with the birthmom at the hospital, if at all, but I imagine I'll be a puddle of tears most of the time- tears of joy and these tears of mourning. Oh Jesus how we'll need you!