As parents who have or hope to adopt, please understand that whether your adoption is open or closed or somewhere in between you will play a part in how your child perceives their adoption, their birthparents, their story...which will ultimately affect how they perceive themself.
The following guest post comes from a woman I proudly call, "friend," who has done so much to support countless other women whether they choose to parent or place their child through adoption; co-founder of BirthMom Buds & birthmother herself- Coley Strickland
by guest blogger: Coley Strickland
It was May 2001 and I had just left the health department. I felt like a failure for the second time in my life because I was single and pregnant……..
Let me back up a bit. My story actually begins back in 1996, when I got pregnant for the first time at 18 years old. I forced myself into a loveless marriage because I thought it would be the best thing for my child to have two parents living together. Noah was born not long after I turned 19. He had a lot of complications at birth and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Later autism was added to his diagnoses. His father and I had married for all the wrong reasons and the difficulty of parenting a child with special needs was more strain than our marriage could handle. We split up.
After the split, I began dating around and saw someone off and on for a few months. We realized we did not want the same things out of life and moved on. We had been intimate, though I thought I had nothing to worry about since I was on the Depo-Provera (birth control) shot and it was practically fool proof. Boy was I surprised when I took a routine pregnancy test when I was getting my shot. The test was POSITIVE!! I knew I wasn’t ready financially, emotionally, or physically to be a Mom again at that point in my life.
I immediately made an appointment with an OBGYN to find out how far along I was. I stared in disbelief at the screen as the ultrasound tech told me I was nearly five months pregnant. “How could this be??” I wondered in dismay. I was automatically considered a high risk pregnancy due to the complexity of my pregnancy with Noah and his subsequent birth. I was overwhelmed and afraid. I knew immediately that the guy from months before was the father of this baby and we had gone our separate ways.
I had contacted the bio dad and he pushed for abortion. Abortion was never an option for me and his biological Dad didn’t seem to care that I was already 5 months along. I suggested adoption and he did not like that option because “he did not want junior showing up on his doorstep 18 years from now.” I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was simply taking things one day at a time, trying to let the fact that I was pregnant sink in. I was in denial and I knew I had to accept reality and begin making plans for my unborn child very soon.
Not long after the first ultrasound appointment, I was at the Tex Mex restaurant where I had been waitressing for awhile when one of my regulars, A and her husband S, came in for lunch on a slow day. For some reason I mentioned to them that I was pregnant. They congratulated me and I explained to them that it was unplanned and that I was even thinking of adoption. S and A told me how their daughter was adopted in an open adoption arrangement. I had always assumed she was their biological daughter. A briefly explained open adoption and gave me her phone numbers while telling me I could call her anytime to just talk or ask questions about adoption.
The next day I called A. She explained open adoption, at that time a foreign concept to me, in greater detail. The idea of being able to place my baby in a stable two-parent home yet still maintain some form of contact was appealing. She invited me to come over to their house for dinner one night so I could get to know them better. As we all sat around the table after eating, casually chatting and playing Candyland with their daughter, I knew in my heart that they were meant to be the parents of my baby. Our adoption agreement had begun. A started accompanying me to my doctor appointments and we all began spending more time together.
That doesn’t mean that this was not hard. Knowing that I would be bringing this baby into the world, but then handing him over to another family was extremely hard. I tried to think of him as A’s baby and not mine as a defense mechanism so that when I went home empty handed maybe it would not hurt so much. I was trying so hard to be strong and follow through with my adoption plan.
Our son, fondly known as Charlie, entered this world 4 weeks early in September of 2001. He was healthy, yet small, and loved by both his birth family and adoptive family! I spent three days holding him and talking to him in the hospital. I told Charlie that he was doubly blessed by having a birth family and an adoptive family that both loved him dearly.
Since we had planed an open adoption, I held on to the fact that I would be doubly blessed as well. I held on to the knowledge that I was doing the right thing and would get to see my son grow up over the years. I still emotionally struggled after his birth. I was grieving for the child I lost who was the same child I willingly gave a better life. I felt as if no one else in the world understood what I was feeling. I was desperate for someone who could understand.
Sleepless, I came across an “Is anyone out there?” post on adoption.com written by another birthmom named Leilani. I instantly replied and we began chatting via email. The similarities were amazing. Leilani lived in the next state and in the same city as my Grandmother. Her baby was born on MY birthday, just 4 days before Charlie’s birth, and placed in an open adoption similar to mine.
At first all we talked about was adoption. She understood what I was thinking before I could even get the words out of my mouth! Our friendship is about so much more than adoption now. We are truly best friends as close as sisters, sharing all parts of our lives with each other.
As we began to watch our children grow from a distance, we tried to move forward. We both knew without each other our postpartum grief would have been so much more difficult, and we didn’t want others to have to search for a friend that understood. Based on that principle, Leilani and I started BirthMom Buds together in 2003. BirthMom Buds is a website, community, and nonprofit organization that provides birthmoms with an outlet, a way to meet other birthmoms, and a means to begin healing through our buddy system, pregnant and placing mentoring program, annual retreats, and more.
I still maintain contact with Charlie and his adoptive family and he has grown into a bright and handsome boy who is very confident in himself. I attribute that partially to our open adoption. He knows that he is adopted and knows that I am his birthmom.
It’s been a hard road at times but the good days outweigh the bad and I really try to live a positive life and focus on the good. I have also learned the pain will never totally subside, there will always be a hole in my heart but I hope that others can learn from my experience and that newer birthmoms may have some hope that there is life after relinquishment.
I still believe that Charlie is doubly blessed, but I believe my life is doubly blessed as well. Being a birthmom is bittersweet but because of adoption, I have had the privilege and pleasure of meeting and getting to know many birthmoms and even some adoptive moms (like Madeleine!) that I never would have had the opportunity to meet had I not chosen adoption.