One Birth Mother's Open Adoption Story

by Rebecca Hernon

A girl has many dreams of a grown-up life when she is young, dreams of Prince Charming, her wedding, her house, her kids. How many children will she have? What will they look like? Will they be boys, girls? She thinks of their names. Never does a young girl think to herself, "I want to be a birth mother".

I never dreamed I would one day find myself in the position of having to make one of the most painful choices ever made in my life. A choice that not only changed my life, but my family's life and the life of another family. This choice gave me the title of Birth Mother.

I was 21 years old and had just finalized a divorce to my first husband. I had a 20 month old son, Quinn, and I was living with my mother, my sister and her 2 teenage children in a three bedroom trailer. I met Sol through some mutual friends. I was so starved for affection; I had made a few wrong choices since my divorce, what was one more?

Sol lived with our mutual friends and worked at a drive-in. I don't even know if you could have really called us a couple. We went out a few times and I stayed the night a few times. We had only known each other 3 months when I discovered I was pregnant. I cannot even lie and say the birth control failed because there was none.

I know now we were both scared, but at the time it came out more as denial and anger. Sol wanted to move to Arizona to be close to his parents. At first I thought I would go with him, but when it really came down to it, I could not move away with a guy I hardly knew and so far away from my family. I remember we were very angry; we fought one night and didn't talk again until the baby was 3 months old.

After a couple of months the fear set in. Here I was divorced, living with my family in crowded conditions and already trying to support a small child. What was I going to do? Abortion was not an option for me. Ashamed as I am to tell it, I had already had one when I was 16. I could not do it again. It was very painful and is something that even to this day I regret.

So, I turned to the thought of adoption. When I was 11, I found out my mother had placed a child for adoption and had been forbidden to discuss it since. My mother opened up to me about her experience. I know it was very painful for her.

I then opened the phone book to adoption agencies. I know some people do not believe in fate, of one's future already being set in the Book of Life, but I do. I only called one agency. At 5 months, I looked at the books of families hoping to be picked, hoping to be the ones to adopt my baby. I picked 3 couples, but only met with one. I only had to meet that one couple to decide that I wanted them to be my baby's parents.

They are wonderful people. They were in their 40's, had been married for some time, had a home, a dog, a close extended family and they had adopted once already. I had decided this adoption had to be open and they were sharing an open adoption with the Birth Mother of their first child. I loved them immediately. I had time to decide after meeting them that first night if I wanted them to be my baby's parents, but I didn't wait. I told them right away and we shared a hug.

We met a few times over the next months. I met their son and they met mine. We discussed names. We discussed whether it was a boy or a girl. And honestly, the whole time I told myself it was going to be a boy and it wouldn't be as hard for me to place a boy because I already had the joy of my first son. I literally talked myself out of any bond between the child I was carrying. I thought it would make everything all the more easier when the time came to place the baby with "his" new family.

And then the time came. I had had a hard pregnancy. I was going to fetal monitoring appointments twice a week and I was overdue by a week when the baby showed signs of stress. I was rushed in to delivery. Unfortunately, the delivery did not happen fast enough! I was in labor for over 24 hours and the epidural I was given did not work. The baby was big; the doctors had guessed over 8 pounds. The time came to deliver and I insisted they let the adoptive couple in.

Finally, *N* made her way into the world. When the doctor shouted, "It's a girl!", I thought my heart was going to break in two. I was asked if I wanted to hold her and I said, "No, let her parents hold her first." I was sobbing uncontrollably. My mom was at my side and she said to me, "You know you can change your mind," and looking down, as the doctor stitched me up, I saw that family cradling the baby and I knew I could not change my mind. How could I do that to them?

I had decided to take the baby home for a week. I wanted everyone in my life to know her and to say good-bye. I spent every night holding her and crying. I wanted to keep her so much. I was so angry at the hand life had dealt me.

*N* was a very difficult baby. She had trouble keeping down her formula and she cried a lot. But, none of that made it any easier to accept that I had to place her. I looked over my life and knew I had nothing more to offer her then love. Would that be enough? In the end, I decided it was not. Four days after I brought her home I called the agency and let them know I was ready to place her with her new family.

I will never forget that day. Seven years later as I write this the emotions well up inside me as if I were reliving the moment of sitting at the table at the adoption agency, with the papers to relinquish in front of me. My councilor at the agency told me I could still change my mind. My mom was there and she said I could still change my mind. All I could do was hold my baby and cry. I signed the papers.

The adoptive parents were waiting in a room down the hall. It seemed like a mile walk to the end of the world for me. I walked in and we embraced. I handed them their baby. They were crying as well. I was split in two, part of me gripped by the pain of loss and the other part gripped by the happiness of what I was giving two people that they could not give themselves.

I spent at least the rest of the week crying. I felt as if the pain would never end. I was angry. I was filled with hate. When would these feelings end? I had given up a part of myself. It was like waking up from a dream, hearing cries that were not there, smelling and feeling a baby that was not there.

A month after I placed my daughter, I received a letter in the mail. The housing assistance I had applied for came through. Before I had become pregnant, I was finishing up Certified Nursing Assistant classes and two months after I placed my baby I was in my own apartment and had a job. Three months later *N*'s Birth Father contacted me through our mutual friends. He wanted to meet with me and talk.

And now here I am. *N* just turned 7 in February [2004]. I married her Birth Father, it will be 6 years on April 1st, and we had another daughter who is now 4 years old. We have a nice apartment and we both have good jobs and our kids are happy.

The adoption is still open and I know I am lucky for that. I see *N* about 3 times a year, usually at McDonald's and I call about once a month.

However, none of this replaces actually having her in our lives, here with us as a family. I am not against adoption nor do I live my life hanging on the regret of placing her. It has been a long road traveled to get to this place where I can be at peace with myself.

But, I wonder what will happen as she and my other children grow. Different issues that have to do with visitation and the relationships with one another come into play and it is hard to make each child understand and accept why decisions are made. I wished it could all be simpler. It is like in so many other relationships, a combination of sacrifice, trying to make the best decisions, and respecting comfort zones.

My biggest wish is for all of my children to grow up happy and to know that they are loved. I hope as time goes by they will all get to have close, loving, lifetime relationships.

Whatever may come, I will be here for all my children. I will strive to be happy and I want them to be happy.