First, following is a simple piece I wrote a few years ago to share with potential adoptive couples and birth parents.
My name is Heather, and I wanted to share with you how adoption has changed my life. On September 25, 2002, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Two days later I helped create a family by placing my son for adoption with two loving parents who could give him the life I could not.
Going back a few months, to when I found out I was pregnant, I was absolutely thrilled. But, I didn't know what I was going to do. For as long as I could remember, I had always wanted to be a mother when "I grow up." It had been my life's ambition, but this wasn't how it was supposed to happen!
There were so many thoughts running through my mind. How was I going to take care of this new precious baby?
I'm adopted myself, and it was often something I thought about. I truly count my adoption as one of the greatest blessings in my life. As I thought about possibly making an adoption plan for my baby, I more fully recognized the blessings I had received because of my birthmothers sacrifice and the love she has for me.
After much soul searching and tears I knew what I needed to do. I knew what would be best for my son, and as hard as it was to accept, it wasn't that he be with me. How I prayed that it wasn't true! I wanted him to be with me! After all, this WAS my life's ambition! But, I knew he needed and deserved to have a family that would have both a loving mother, and a loving father, a family who would raise him to be an upright and righteous man, and a family who could give him a happy life full of laughter and love.
With tears and a heavy heart, I began making an adoption plan for him. Soon, it became time to start looking for a family. There were so many loving families who could provide for him. It was an extremely difficult decision; things were slowly becoming real. And then, as soon as I saw their smiling faces, and read their letter, I felt a quiet confirmation. This was to be his family. They were meant to be his parents.
A short while later, I met the individuals I had chosen to be his parents. After meeting them, I knew I was doing the very best thing for him. They are two loving people, who would not be able to experience the joy of having a child, if it was not for the opportunity to adopt my son. They would be able to provide everything I could not.
For a while, I tried not to get attached to the baby growing inside me - to no avail. I was completely and totally in love. I now realize the stereotype the surrounds birthmothers and try to educate others about the incredible struggle we go through. There is a bond between a mother and her child, and it is incredibly hard to fight the battle of loving this baby, and knowing you can't keep him or her.
Through this time, I grew closer to my family. I started a scrapbook for my son. It was very important to me that he have answers to the many questions I had growing up about my birthmother and birthfather and my beginning into this world.
I started to feel like time was moving so quickly. The few months flew by, and suddenly he was here. Tears flowed down my face as I stared at my son. His eyes looked into mine, and I knew that he knew. No words can adequately express my mingled emotions at that moment. I knew that his family was eagerly awaiting him, but their joy was my anguish. I felt cheated of the timing, but I held my son and loved him every minute.
On September 27, 2002, it was finally time for him to go home with his new family. I sat in the hospital chapel holding him, rocking him, and kissing him through my tears. My heart was so raw ~ I started to pray holes in the roof of that building. 'Father, if thou wilt take this pain from me, I can't bear this any longer. Please take this burden from me.' His peace came to me, it engulfed me, and I was surrounded by His love.
What an overwhelming, spiritual, emotional, painful, and uplifting experience. When his parents walked into the hospital chapel, I felt a burning in my chest, the spirit was so strong! His mother was crying harder than I was, and the happiness that glowed from her was amazing! Looking at her, I knew I was doing the right thing. I knew they were to be his parents, and it was all worth it. This meeting was short and sweet. I did not try to stop the tears as they ran down my face. With a strength and confidence I never knew I had, I told them I had something for them, and brought forth my son and placed him into his mother’s arms. He was theirs, and the looks on their faces further confirmed to me of their love - they loved both of us. And as I left the room, God held my hand.
Placing my son with his adoptive family was indeed the hardest trial I have yet gone through. But, I know I did the right thing, and that my son will have the life I could not yet provide for him.
I'm so grateful for my family. I'm grateful for the love they shower me with, despite the pain and anguish I created for them. In the beginning, I didn't think, or even realize how much of what I thought was one simple decision on my part, would influence so many others. How terrible I feel for the pain I inflicted upon them. I was not the only one who was going to miss out on raising my son; my family would miss out on a nephew, a grandson, and a cousin. I would never have imagined the pain and suffering they would go through because of my decision. They supported me through my decision, and let
it be MY decision. I was not forced into placing my son, and was not judged by them.
I tell my story to educate - so adoptive parents and all who want to know, can hear of a birthmother's love. I will always love my son, and will now always be a mother -- I'm just not a parent, yet. I can stand tall knowing I walked through my own personal fire, and put my child's best interests above my own wants. He will have the best life I could offer, and I will always love him and his parents with all of my heart.
There is no mystery in adoption, only what we allow. It is a wonderful thing, painful, but worth it. It is truly about love.
Shared with Love,
Now, onto answering the flow of questions that have been asked:
~ How old were you when you had your son?
I was 27 when I had Dylan. I conceived him on my birthday (January 14th). Coincidentally, it was also the very weekend I met my birthmother for the first time.
~ What brought you to the decision to place?
It was VERY hard. Incredibly hard. Anyone who knows me is aware of my love for children. I’ve always planned on having a “herd” of kids. I’ve always been the one who others could count on to take care of their kids if they needed it, or if an emergency popped up. I had taken every class I could to prepare me to be a mother, and had grand plans in mind for when the glorious occasion arouse. But, as things in life sometimes go – things in my life don’t always go according to plan (or according to my own schedule).
There were lots of different factors which finally brought me to this final decision. Most of them were centered on providing the best living circumstances for my son. I was older (27) and knew I could provide for his physical needs. I wanted the very best situation for him – the same situation I had been given. I wasn’t willing to marry his birth father, and I knew that even if we were able to work together, we still wouldn’t provide him with the best environment. There were too many differences between us with how we wanted him to be raised. After finally realizing that the best thing for him might not be to be raised by me, I started looking into adoption.
~ Was it hard?
Finally coming to the decision, choosing to select his parents, and holding onto my decision was very hard. None of it was harder than actually doing it though. It truly felt as if I was tearing my heart in half, wrapping it up into a tender soft blanket and passing it onto someone else.
~ Do you regret your decision?
Over the years, I have often thought back to my decision. At times of sadness, or depression, I’ve wondered if I had made the right decision. I think back to my life then, and then to my life now. He could easily have been a part of both. But, I always realize that I made the best decision I could possibly make for my son. Does it make the hurt any less? Not a single bit. My heart still aches for him. This decision wasn’t about me. It was then, and remains still, the best thing for him.
~ How do you deal with it emotionally?
Wow. Honestly, sometimes I don’t. I’m really good at blocking out emotions. To an extent everyone is – you have to be to survive. When I see a cute little boy, who is around the same age as my son – I think of him. When I see a new born baby being blessed - I think of him. Mothers Day is hard, but I’m learning to celebrate and enjoy in other’s blessings. Sometimes I shed a tear (or two… or shower them). Normally though, on the average day, when I think of him… I look at the photos his parents are kind enough to share with me, and I smile. It’s not always easier to smile, but it sure is prettier – don’t you think?
~ How could you have done such a thing?
When I realized it was best for him – how could I not? Choosing to keep him for myself would have been undeniably selfish and detrimental to him.
~ How could you have done this to your parents and other family?
Did my family suffer? Most definitely. My choice to place him eliminated their opportunity to have another nephew, grandchild, and cousin to spoil. Was it hard for them to handle? Most definitely. I was repeatedly asked if I might reconsider, if I was sure, and other ways of asking the same question. Most definitely. Did they try to dissuade me? Once I had made my decision – not once. In the end, and during the process, they supported me in my decision making process and even agreed with me. My family has always been and continues to be an incredible pillar of support for me in my life. At times when I’ve needed sometime to rely on – my family has always been there and I believe will always be there for me. Yes, there are those members of my family who still do not agree (or understand) with the decision I made, but they continue to love me nonetheless.
~ How did your parents respond to your decision?
With much prayer, tears, and love, they supported me with the decision I made. Not once did they apply any pressure to me, to choose one way or another. They truly supported me as I worked my way towards making the decision to place him. My mother attended each doctor’s appointment with me, and was even in the delivery room as he entered the world. She came with me and looked at potential family profiles. They cried with me when I was struggling, laughed with me when he kicked me, and put up with all of my hormonal tirades and cravings.
~ Did your decision change how your family reacts or acts towards you?
Not at all. My family loves me just as much as they did before. They continue to support me through the various changes I’ve made in my life, and continue to love me regardless.
~ Did you choose his parents? How did you choose them? How did you know they were the ones you wanted him to be with? What made you choose them? Was it hard?
It was HARD!!! Literally, I was choosing his life – his whole life. The decision I was making would likely determine what kind of boy he would be; what kind of man he would become. When I made the decision to place him, I met with an agency worker. I explained some of the characteristics I wanted them to have (musical, intelligent, educated, culinary inclined, had seen parts of the world – things I liked in myself) and she did a basic search for me. We met and she handed me a stack of profiles for me to look through. Each profile included basic general information (family traits, height/weight/hair color, basic ancestry, education, etc), a “Dear Birthparent” letter, and a photo collage. Being a scrap booker, I always looked at the photo collage first. I wasn’t looking at how they laid it out – I really was interested in the photos. I wanted to SEE their faces.
Interestingly, the first profile I looked at was of Becky and Owen and immediately I felt an unexplainable bond with them. I remember specifically looking at their profile, and thinking it was cool that he had been to Europe, and that they were both musically inclined. I don’t remember specifically why, but I set them aside and went onto the other profiles. However, when I had finished them all, I asked the worker for additional profiles, and kept theirs.
I went through over 150 other profiles – much more than the average birthparent for the agency I used. I had narrowed the profiles down to two families. They both had so much to offer my little man. Both families wanted a child to love. They both had all of the qualities I desired, and were able to provide for his needs. I knew they would both be great families for him. I was torn between the two until one day when I noticed something I had not noticed before.
I have always been a heavy girl, always always always. It wasn’t until one night as I was lying in bed (thinking about all of the weight I had gained) when I looked over to the backside of one of the profiles, and saw the weight of the mother. It was by far less than I weighed when I became pregnant, but more than typical “average” woman. I immediately felt a closer bond with her, and was proud that she had put her weight on there. I loved the fact that she was just a little more like me. Over the coming weeks as I pondered whether or not I had chosen the right family and each time I felt a quiet reassurance that they were indeed the family he should be with.
~ Do you communicate with his parents? Do you get to see photos of your son?
We communicate as needed, or as wanted. We share what is commonly known as a semi-open adoption and it borders right on the brink of an open adoption. I know who his parents are, where they live, and generally what goes on in their life. They’ve created a family website (a blog really) for their family to visit and see what’s going on in their life. They share photos, and various information and updates about their life, Dylan’s life, and just life overall in general. Becky has a blog (like I do) to share her favorite recipes. They visit my blogs, and are aware of what I’m up to and what’s going on in my life too.
I do get to see photos of him – and I’m so glad. I know many birthparents don’t receive photos or updates (hopefully either by their request or choice) because it’s easier for them (emotionally, mentally, etc.) I love seeing photos of Dylan – seeing him happy makes me happy and is another reaffirmation that I made the right decision for him.
~ Do you attend parties and other family functions with him and his parents?
No. We currently share a semi-open adoption arrangement, and a little more open than most semi-open adoptions. The opportunity is there to open our adoption further, should the situation arise or necessitate. However, it was (and remains) important to me that Becky and Owen focus on their family with Dylan and not on involving me into their family. I believe it to be essential that Dylan realize that I am not his mother. I’m how he got here (to life, to earth, etc), in who’s tummy he grew, but not who is his mother. I don’t want to confuse him.
It is my opinion that genetics doesn’t determine who a child’s parents are; it’s who cares for them and tends to their needs. I’m sure many of you have multiple mothers. I know I do. I have the mother who gave me life (Sheri), and the mother who raised me and tended to my every need (Mom or Mary). I will forever be a mother, but I may not ever be a parent.
~ How do you feel about others who have chosen to parent instead of place their children for adoption? What are your feelings towards single mothers (young or otherwise)?
First, I believe it to be very sad that our society is not more open and supportive about adoption. I find it very disheartening that it’s not discussed openly, and that it’s not normally presented as an option to young single parents. I’ve never seen it discussed on a talk show (and believe me I watched PLENTY of them while I was pregnant), and the first time I’ve ever heard it mentioned on television was during season one of Grey’s Anatomy when Izzy discussed her decision to place her child for adoption. Generally, the only options presented are abortion or parenting.
That being said, I believe that single parents need all of the love and support we can realistically provide them. It is a very hard job, and normally it’s a hard life for all involved. Single parents (especially young single parents) need to have educational programs (life and parenting skills) and higher learning opportunities available to them so that they can be prepared to provide for themselves and for their families (but not freely given to the extent of where they are taken for granted or abused). I believe we all have the right to choose. Obviously we make some choices that are better than others and each individual’s situation is different. I don’t harbor any ill will towards anyone who chooses to parent their child rather than placing. Every situation is different. My choice was to place.
~ How did his birthfather react?
Dylan’s birthfather initially did not agree with my decision to place Dylan. In fact, he went so far as to pursue legal rights. It was his belief that by not agreeing to the adoption, he would gain full and complete custody of our son. This was a situation which would never have happened. I did not make my decision based on whether or not I wanted to parent – I made the decision because I believed (and continue to believe) that it was in the very best interests of our son.
~ What happened to his birth father?
In the end, he completely disappeared. He didn’t show up to court proceedings. He didn’t return phone calls. He didn’t continue with any interest in our child. He willingly had his parental rights terminated. I later was able to get in touch with him, to see if he was interested in photos or other information and he has chosen to not receive those items.
~ What’s it like being adopted?
I can’t compare being adopted with what it’s like to not be adopted. My parents didn’t treat me any differently than they did my sister and brothers. The only time a difference arose was when “birth” stories were shared. I, obviously, was the easiest delivery my mother has ever experienced. I was, however, the most expensive delivery my parents ever had. My parents picked me up from the hospital, and I’ve never known any other. I've always felt VERY loved.
When I was younger, I loved telling people I was adopted. It’s something special for me. Most people aren’t given the chance to have two families, or the ability to say “My parents chose me.” Of course, when I was being a smart aleck to kids who were teasing me about being adopted, I was able to use the response of “My parents chose me, but your parents were stuck with you.”
I look very much like my family, both biological and adoptive. As you can see in the photo of me and my two mothers, I have characteristics of both (and in case you’re wondering, Sheri is on the left and my mom is on the right). If someone hadn’t told you I was adopted – you would never have known. I can’t begin to tell you how many people have challenged me on whether I was adopted or not.
~ How did you find your birthmother?
I didn’t. She found me. Over the years, she had tried various search methods to find me. In the end, it was a search angel from a website (www.bighugs.com) who found me. I came home from work in July of 2001 to a message on my answering machine. I remember the person mentioning something about classmates.com and needing help completing a puzzle. I assumed it was someone from high school looking for me. So, I returned her call leaving a message with additional contact information. I didn’t hear anything back, so I assumed she had found the help she needed with her puzzle – and I completely forgot all about her call.
That is, until September 5th when I returned to work after the Labor Day weekend. A voicemail message was waiting for me from the search angel. When I returned her call, I remember her asking me a few different questions which seemed really strange and personal. She knew things like where and when I was born – and that I was placed for adoption. My mind was spinning with questions as to who this woman was, why she knew so much about me, and why she wanted to talk to me.
Finally, after answering all of her questions, she said, “I’m conducting this search on behalf of a woman who placed her daughter for adoption. In the county she delivered in, there were three children placed for adoption in the same month. Two were boys. She delivered in the same county you were born in.”
I remember suddenly feeling overwhelmed, curious, and freaked out all at the same time. I asked if she would share the name of the woman she was searching for, and she said she needed to obtain permission to release that information.
Then, I asked her if the woman’s name was Sheri Cash. She started to stammer. I knew that this woman had been searching for me on behalf of my birthmother. She started asking me how I knew her name. I explained that I had always known her name. She asked if I was interested in talking with the woman she was searching on behalf of. I, obviously, agreed. After a miss or two (the searcher passed on my work number instead of my home number), Sheri and I finally got to talk for the first time.
~ How did you learn your birthmother’s name?
When my parents went to pay for the hospital bill when I was born, they stood behind a young blonde woman who was standing with an older gentleman. After the couple in front of them had finished, and they explained to the hospital clerk what they needed to do, the clerk responded that the bill had just been paid by the couple who had been in front of them. The clerk, shared the name of the patient (on accident I assume – nowadays it would be a huge HIPPA violation), and so my parents learned my birthmothers name. They’ve never hidden it from me. I don’t remember when they shared her name with me – it seems as if I’ve always known it. (FYI: The older gentleman was my great grandfather.)
~ What was it like talking to your birthmother for the first time?
Cool. Overwhelming. Scary. Emotional. Educational. Awesome – and so much more. I remember getting off of the phone with the searcher and starting a list of questions I wanted to make sure I asked Sheri. I had pages and pages of questions. Hundreds of questions.
I remember one of the first questions I asked her (I can’t believe I’m admitting this) was…. How big was her butt? Seriously. What kind of question is that? I had a HUGE butt (ghetto bootie as it was affectionately termed) and wanted to know if I had inherited it.
During our first (of many) phone calls, I remember trying to remember every word she said; trying to remember her voice, her accent – everything about it just in case it didn’t happen again. It was such a great experience. I learned so much about her and about myself too. It really was awesome.
~ What kind of relationship do you have with your birthparents? What about the rest of your birth family.
My birthmother, Sheri, and I share a fun friendly relationship. She’s known as my “other mother”, a term she coined herself. We chat on the phone, and we email. She (and her family) reads my blog. It has been a blessing to have her in my life. After placing me, she was able to have a son (David) who is my half brother.
My birthfather, Bob, is not a part of my life by his own choice. When Sheri shared that she had “found me” with him, he didn’t have anything to say. When trying to imagine how he felt about the situation, here’s what I’ve come up with (I came up with this before having Dylan – and it still makes sense to me): When placing a child, part of you is gone. Men (in general) try to block things out. So, I imagine that in his mind (and to cope) he acted as if I was dead. Learning that I was alive and well, 25+ years after I was gone from his life would be very overwhelming. I imagine that it would be hard to deal with, and easier to avoid; which is the route he chose. I don’t blame him for his choice – nor do I hold it against him. Again, we all have our free agency to make choices, and that’s the choice he made. Would I welcome the opportunity to meet him? Of course! But, am I wallowing in pity because that opportunity is not available to me? No. Bob later had a daughter (Brittany) who doesn’t know I exist.
Sheri’s family has been incredibly warm, welcoming and loving to me. They’ve opened their arms and have accepted me as part of their family as if I was never gone. It has been incredible getting to know them, and having a whole additional family to love and to be loved by. I have a great grandmother (June) who is alive and well. Grandparents (Jim and Linette) who are active, happy, fun and loving. Aunts and Uncles (Candy, Oliver – and many others) who are way cool, and make me want to be like them when I grow up. I am very blessed to know them – and to have them in my life.
Do I do much with them? No, not really. I think of them often – and have very fond memories of our time together. Managing my life, my newly married life (and a few extra arms of family), and my family is hard. I wish I had more time to spend with all of my family – Sheri’s family included. I’ve made a goal (I’m really good at setting them and no where near as good at following through) of getting out to visit them next year (whether it’ll be Oregon or Mississippi – I don’t know).
~ How did your parents respond to your birthmother finding you?
Initially, I was VERY nervous about telling them. Over the years, we had openly discussed me looking for my birthmother. My parents had always said they would support me if I ever decided to search. Never did they once try to dissuade me (notice a pattern? They’ve always been supportive of me – in EVERYTHING). After I had gotten the call from the search angel, I knew I needed to tell my parents.
At the time, I was living in Ohio, and they were living in Texas. I didn’t know how they would react. I expected my dad to take it cool and in stride (which is how he handles almost EVERYTHING) and I expected my mother to get emotional but be supportive.
I called my dad (at work) first, because I figured he could break the news to my mom for me (I’m such a coward sometimes). After telling him of the news, he asked me how I felt about it (which is very typical of my father). I explained to him how I was feeling – emotionally, mentally and how I knew this was going to change my reality. He was very supportive and mostly concerned with me and how I was handling it all. I explained to him that I was worried about telling my mother. He helped to prepare me (in case she freaked), he shared his love for me, and we ended our call.
I waited a few hours to call mom. I honestly thought Dad would break the news to her, to prepare her. He didn’t.
I remember calling her at home, doing a bit of idle chit chat, and asking her if she was sitting down. Then, I asked her if she was sitting in a comfy place – and requesting that she relocate to a comfy place. After she had done so, I explained the recent turn of events, and waited for her response. She, like my father, asked how I was handling everything and was concerned about me. Then, as I asked her how she felt about it all – she gave me the response I will never, ever forget.
She said, “Heather, there is enough love in this world for everyone.”
My parents have lived by that statement in almost everything they do. They have supported me in my relationship with Sheri and her family. They have opened their arms to Sheri and have accepted her as part of my life – openly.
~ Do your parents and your birthmother get along?
My parents and Sheri have only met on one occasion – my wedding. My parents are very welcoming and inviting people. When the day came for them to meet (the day before my wedding – talk about stress!!! Seriously… stressful!), they all opened their arms to each other and hugged. Of course, there were many emotions, tears, and words shared but it was a positive experience all the way around. I could not have asked for a better meeting (well… maybe not the day before my wedding.).
My parents also got to meet Sheri’s mother, my grandmother, Linette, at my wedding. Again, emotions, tears, and words – but a very positive experience!
~ Have your feelings about adoption changed?
Changed from what? I think adoption is great! It’s hard (on the birthparent side), it’s awesome (on the adopted child side). It’s an incredible blessing to everyone involved. I’m a major advocate for adoption.
~ Will you have other children? Will you adopt children?
In response to both questions, that remains to be seen.
It is my doctor’s medical opinion (more than one doctor) that it’s a miracle I ever conceived in the first place. I have extreme endometriosis and I also have poly cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). It has been recommended to me (on more than one occasion) that I should seriously consider having a hysterectomy. Until it becomes a medical necessity for me to do so, I will continue to harbor my female organs.
I have faith that the Lord will bless me with a family. How, exactly, that family will come is unbeknownst to me. The Lord works in mysterious ways. I know that He is mindful of me, my wishes, and my dreams. I know that His timing is perfect and that mine is not.
If the opportunity to adopt is ever presented to me, I would gladly jump at the chance to parent.
Would you mind sharing the scrapbook you created for your son?
I have been working on this scrapbook for over 4 years – and it’s STILL not done. Seriously. I can’t even begin to count the hours I’ve put into it. Each time I sit down to work on it, I get overwhelmed with emotions – and perfection. It’s a work in progress. Once I have it completed, I’ll gladly share portions.
Okay, there you have it folks. Answers to all of your adoption questions from my perspective – that of a birthmother and of an adopted child. I’m sure more questions will arise out of my answers, and I welcome the opportunity to answer them. There truly is no mystery in adoption.