Meet Shanda. Six years ago she was faced with a pregnancy that she was not prepared for. She considered adoption during her pregnancy, but it wasn’t until her child was two months old that she came to a realization. She believed strongly that she needed to make a stable and permanent plan for her child’s life. She chose adoption, and then faced her fears one by one. Read the transcript or Listen here to find out how Shanda overcame obstacles and how her adoption decision has impacted her life and the life of her child in ways she could never have imagined.
Jennifer: Hi, and welcome to Adoption Focus. My name is Jennifer [Jaworski 00:00:39], and I’m a social worker with Adoption Associates of Michigan. This is Adoption Associates’ premier talk radio blog show. Adoption Associates and its staff, are trusted leaders in adoption, and we have placed over 5,000 children into loving homes. Since 1990, we have advocated, supported, and nurtured both birth families and adoptive families.
Our offices are located in Jenison, Lansing, Farmington Hills, and Saginaw, and our pregnancy and adoption services are available throughout all of Michigan. One of Adoption Associates’ commitments is to this weekly radio show. So thank you for listening in today. We hope that you find this forum to be inspirational, educational, and thought provoking.
If you’d like to call in during the show, with questions or comments, we would love to hear from you. And the number to call in is: 347-850-1100. Again, 347-850-1100.
And we’re gonna get started today. I’m really excited that we’re talking to Shawnda. Are you with us, Shawnda?
Shawnda: Yes, I am.
Jennifer: Good morning.
Shawnda: Good morning.
Jennifer: Thanks for being with us. And I know today, we’re excited to be talking about, and in our audience has tuned in, to hear a little bit about your story, and the resolve and commitment that you had to your son and to adoption despite many obstacles that lay in your path.
So, I’m excited to hear from you, and if you wouldn’t mind, set the stage for us a little bit, and help us understand a little bit about your circumstances. I know that you had told me that you thought about adoption during your pregnancy, but didn’t make a plan until sometime thereafter. So tell us a little bit more about that.
Shawnda: Okay, when I first found out I was pregnant, I was pretty scared. I was young, no school, no nothing. And adoption had always been in my mind, but of course, you hear negative things. You don’t know much about it. And it was a really scary decision I made, and a hard decision to even consider going through with it. But the process ended up being really worth it, in the end, for me.
Jennifer: Okay, okay, so you mentioned that it was hard. So it was an emotionally difficult decision. What was the time frame for you before you came to that decision?
Shawnda: I would say, the day I was in the hospital, I started thinking about it more. And I did start calling. And I found this agency. And I talked to them a little bit. But it wasn’t ’til about … My son was about two months old when I finally decided to go through with it.
Jennifer: Okay, and what were those first couple of months like after you left the hospital when you were contemplating adoption?
Shawnda: It was a very challenging time. TV glorifies having a child. They blur out a lot of the hard points. And once I got the kid at the hospital, and he was put in my arms, I never thought I could do it, and decided to try to give it a shot. It looked easy on TV, that 16 and Pregnant show, and all this other stuff you see. It was nights of just no sleep, weeks maybe running off of five hours, six hours of sleep. One time I actually slept through him crying in the same bedroom as me, three feet away, for two hours until my uncle came in and woke me up. I was that exhausted.
I couldn’t even consider going to work or finishing my education, high school, because I was so tired, I could barely even function to take care of my son. It was just way more than I expected and bargained for. I could feel myself falling apart, crying, all of the time, emotionally detached to my son. And after about two months, I just, I realized I couldn’t handle the stress, and I was not emotionally ready at all.
Jennifer: Mm-hmm (affirmative), and so that touches a little bit on the circumstances that led you to choose adoption for him. Were there any other circumstances or situations in your life that contributed to this decision?
Shawnda: Well, for one, I went in on this alone. My significant other left me the day I found out I was pregnant, which made the journey even more scary. Had no real help or support. Some family was trying to help me, but it just didn’t seem like enough. I was not in a stable living environment. At any point, I could’ve been homeless again, jumping from house to house. I didn’t have a GED or a diploma. I wasn’t working. I was so young. I didn’t even think about getting a job yet. I just, I couldn’t afford to do anything on my own, and I was becoming a burden on everybody around me. That was the main choices.
Jennifer: Okay, okay, thanks for sharing that. What did you know about adoption, prior to making this plan? Or what experiences had you had?
Shawnda: I had no idea, anything about adoption. I had a rough idea that adoption was very closed, that you handed your kid off, and then never seen or heard from that child, or whoever got the family, it was a big mystery. I really didn’t know anything about it, actually, to be honest.
Jennifer: Okay, and what was the process like, once you made this decision?
Shawnda: Well, the process was hard, just because I didn’t have any family. So, I didn’t even know where to look. So, I went around, and I called a bunch of different agencies, and I came across Adoption Associates. And they actually were the first agency I talked to, that wasn’t like, “Okay, when do you wanna start? When do you wanna hand your kid over? Let’s get this paper work done.”
They were very, they wanted to make sure I was very certain on my decision, and that it was the best one for me. And we went from there. I met with my caseworker, and she soon became my biggest support.
She went out to eat with me, even if she had a busy day. She would sit with me, and make sure I was okay when I left. And then, it was emotional but exciting at some points. I remember getting the profiles, people that were looking for children. And it was so hard, and I had my caseworker to sit down and help me narrow out through 50 or more profiles, what was the best fit for me?
And it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be once I hit every milestone during the process.
Jennifer: Okay, and when you say “milestones”, are you referring to looking at the profiles and then meeting the family you selected, and then actually placing your child, is that what you’re talking about?
Shawnda: Yes, yeah, every little bump, the first one was you’re nervous about picking the family. Then you pick them, and it’s a relief. Then you’re nervous to meet them. And then, every time I went through it, I just realized, it’s not so hard, but, it was new.
Jennifer: You just sort of baby stepped your way through it, and then it seemed doable, that maybe something that seemed overwhelming initially.
Jennifer: Okay, so, what was going on during that time as you’re meeting with the caseworker, and picking a family, and putting a plan together? What was going on for you personally, or with the other people in your life?
Shawnda: A lot of my family, I guess, at some point in time, the era they grew up in, adoption was something shameful, that many people didn’t quite understand and didn’t realize how it’s evolved over time. So, I got a lot of criticism from my family. They constantly wanted me to change my mind and go back on what I was gonna do. And it was hard, especially when you’re used to being able to go to that family member for anything, and nobody seems to understand you. They’re a little upset with you. They’re made. I was threatened to be disowned.
I was kicked out of my grandparents’ house when they finally found out that, they came across the profiles. And then, that’s when I had to move out, and I was sure that this is the right decision.
But it was hard because you don’t have anybody you can call, that’ll just be like, “Oh, I understand”. That was the hardest part for me.
Jennifer: Okay, yeah, I can definitely see that it would be. For some women who are faced with that circumstance of not only lack of support, but maybe, anger, from the people that they’re closest to … Sometimes it makes them question the choice that they’re making and in some cases, even then changed their mind completely, and not move forward with an adoption plan. How was that different for you? And how did the pressure you received from your family not then impact the ultimate decision that you made?
Shawnda: Well, when I first started doing adoption, I kept it pretty hush until I was, I was gonna wait until I had figured out a plan. And, of course, they found the paper work and stuff. So, a lot of my family was angry and … But at that point I had already met my adoptive family. I met them, and I just … Seeing their faces and the excitement they had, and so much love they had to give to not only my son and myself, I couldn’t go back on my word to them. I couldn’t, and you find out so much about these people, too, their profile, and what they’ve been through. And some of them have gone through this adoption, and then the girl changes their mind at the very end, which they’re entitled to do so, but it breaks their heart. And I vowed that I wasn’t gonna be that person.
So that helped me a lot. If I hadn’t met them, I really don’t know how it would’ve ended up. But, it was really important to meet the family, for sure, for me, at least, it was.
Jennifer: So it’s really that connection in knowing who they were that made the difference for you?
Shawnda: Oh, yeah.
Jennifer: Okay, and it’s not uncommon for women in your position to have a lot of fears coming into an adoption, especially as you stated, really not having any experience with adoption, or not understanding in knowledge. Can you maybe talk about that a little bit. Discuss the fears that you had coming into the process.
Shawnda: Well, of course, my number one fear was pretty tied with, would I pick the right family? How open would it be? Would I ever hear from these people? If my family would ever come around to accept my decision, not just my family, I was afraid of what my friends would think.
Shawnda: I was afraid that my son would hate me. He wouldn’t understand why I would just give him up. Or he would think I just threw him away ’cause I didn’t want him. I think the biggest fear, definitely, at that time, was the family, and just making sure that once you choose a family, and it’s done, I was scared that I’d regret it. But, that was pretty much my biggest list of fears that I had.
Jennifer: How did you work through those?
Shawnda: It was hard. It had to just continue. My fears never went away until after the adoption was completed. I guess it just takes for you to go to the next step to see if that fear was realistic or not. And going through mine, I would say that, these fears seem silly to me now, but they were very real to me then. 99% if not 100% of them were just unnecessary fears that, going into something new.
Jennifer: So it wasn’t your experiences as you went through the process, then actually placed your son with the family, it was getting past that, and then looking back that you recognized that most of your fears weren’t reality?
Shawnda: Some fears like my family and that stuff, they started slowly coming around as the court date came up to sign the paper work to make my adoptive family his parents. But a lot of them with my son and everything, and choosing the right family, the fears didn’t go away until after, and then I started seeing results in the … A lot of the fears I had were pretty much after adoption fears.
Jennifer: Okay, and so, how long has it been now, since you made your adoption plan?
Shawnda: It’s been almost six years. It’s pushing close to six years, and I think it was around September, October that … So it’s been about six years.
Jennifer: What is life like for you now? Do you worry about your son? Do you have regrets about this choice?
Shawnda: I’m emotional about it sometimes, but time has definitely helped a lot. I got my GED. I went to college. I got my bachelor’s. I’m an RN. I got a good job. I’m married.
Shawnda: Expecting another child … Thank you.
Jennifer: How exciting.
Shawnda: And none of these things would’ve happened. I really, I don’t think it would’ve came as soon, if it ever did, and that has put a lot of, I don’t know, emotions to bed. That whole fear about my child hating me. I can show him where I was when I was pregnant with him, to where I am now. And that’s something I probably wouldn’t have been able to do, and I … It’s difficult sometimes. Every picture you get is emotional.
But I don’t ever regret it. I probably did, maybe, for the first month, until I realized. But now, I have no regret. I don’t worry about him anymore. I see how healthy he is, how well dressed he is. And that’s stuff I coulda never gave him. So I don’t really worry about him too much.
Jennifer: And you mentioned pictures. So you’re receiving packets of pictures from the adoptive family?
Shawnda: Oh, yeah, they, very open. Their whole family is very in tune to adoption, or has experienced in a … I get pictures at least every three months. I also have, they gave me their cell phone number. So, if at any time I’m feeling down, or they have a cool picture that they took, and they don’t wanna wait three months to send it to me, they’ll text me pictures. And they’ll give me updates. My visits, since moving out of state, have been fewer. But generally, we try to meet up every six months, unless I was really down. I could request to see him sooner.
So that actually was one of my biggest shockers going into this, is just how open these people are willing to be. And if you don’t want them to be as open, my family will give me a break when I’m feeling a little down. But, it’s pretty, it’s great. I don’t miss pictures. I see him grow up, which is really cool.
Jennifer: And you even said, sometimes you get texts?
Shawnda: Oh, yeah, I get texted. They send me videos sometimes, where he’ll be talking about me, or telling his other adopted sister about his tummy mummy, and stuff like that. And it’s really nice to have that, and again, that fear of me picking the wrong family … I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was great, and I just heard from them yesterday, and they sent me pictures.
Jennifer: Oh, you did? Aw.
Shawnda: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jennifer: And so, I imagine that’s made a world of difference. I can’t imagine how powerful that is for you, to get a video to hear your son talking about you. And I think if I recall correctly, you said “tummy mummy”. Is that what he refers to you as?
Shawnda: Yes, yes, and they’ve always read him books. And I remember meeting up with him sometimes, when he was younger. He was always confused. So they came up with a way to make it … So he could call me mom without calling me mom. So, it’s really cool.
Jennifer: Right, it is very cool. So, I’m wondering your message or your thoughts, words of wisdom … What would you say to someone else who is maybe where you were six or seven years ago, who isn’t sure if adoption is right for them, or they’re considering it. You’ve walked the path, now, and you faced the fears. And I’m interested in your thoughts about words of wisdom for someone else.
Shawnda: My biggest message I’d like to get across is if you don’t have a future, what can you provide for that child? And you really have to put your child’s best interests at heart. You have to make the hard decision to give that child a better life. If you can’t provide for that child, it makes it harder for not just you. It makes that kid’s life a lot more challenging. Don’t listen to, yeah?
Jennifer: You go right ahead. Absolutely, continue.
Shawnda: Don’t listen to people that want you to change your mind. Ultimately, you have to think, and sit down. Are these people going to wanna financially support this child when I can’t? And you have to just push forward and go with what feels right to you. My biggest thing to help people get through this, would be to make a plan, and slowly work on it. Make a promise to your child. All these things, when you write it down on paper, helped me, and I’m hoping it can help someone else.
Jennifer: And so much of the time, when you said this earlier when we were talking, about adoption, and maybe, the views that some have about adoption, who don’t have experience in it, versus the reality, and what we know adoption to be, as a selfless sacrifice. It’s not, getting rid of a child, and women who make this choice, do so out of love. And so, there’s so much focus, as you talked about, the fears, and about your own loss, but I know in talking with you, when we weren’t on air, you shared with me, what you gained through this process, which was surprising, I guess, is the best word to say. Because so much is about the loss in adoption, but if you can talk a little bit about how you feel you received through this process as well?
Shawnda: Like how I got helped out, and stuff like that?
Jennifer: Sure, what you feel this gave back to you … I think you were talking to me about the drive and the purpose and some of those other things that became clear to you through the process of placing your son.
Shawnda: Well, yeah, when I gave my son up, I wrote a letter. We received this little book that you can write down information about yourself, and a little note to the child. I made a plan, and I told him why I gave him up. And I told him that I promised I wouldn’t have another child until so many of my goals were met. It gave me a drive to actually go to college, whereas before, I’d never even thought about it. And that was really important to me, to meet those, before I had a child. My husband wanted one when we got married. But I hadn’t landed that job yet. And it was important to me, even if he doesn’t understand right now. Or, you can put anything on paper, but it was important for me to know that I didn’t lie to him.
That was something I set up just because of that one fear of him hating me. I didn’t want to have another kid and be in the same position I was, but just older.
So that gave me a drive to really make him proud, and more, and realize that I wasn’t lying to him, and that I did love him. And I probably would’ve never done half the things I did, if I didn’t have that drive in place, in the beginning.
Jennifer: Congrats on that. So, you set those goals. And you did the hard work to achieve them. So, not only is he, I’m sure, proud of you, but hopefully, you’re proud of your own accomplishments as well.
Shawnda: Oh, yes. It makes it a lot easier.
Jennifer: That’s awesome. So, we’re, I think you mentioned you’re married, now, and you’re expecting. So, and you’re working, right?
Jennifer: Awesome. So, are there any of the goals left on the list that you are still working towards, or are you at a good place now?
Shawnda: It’s pretty much met. The only thing that wasn’t exactly dead on, is I did say I would get my diploma, but I ended up getting a GED. But I’m pretty set. I still have goals for myself, but as far as the list to him, I’ve met everything on it.
Jennifer: That’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. Well, I really appreciate you sharing your story. Very courageous of you, not only to make the plan against all odds, if you will. But then to come on and share that with our audience. So, I really thank you for that. For our listeners who are looking to connect with Adoption Associates, you may call us at 800-677-2367, or on the web at AdoptionAssociates.net. We thank you, Shawnda, again, for today.
Shawnda: No problem, I hope I can help someone out there.
Jennifer: I’m sure you have. And everyone join us next week, when we’ll be speaking with an adoption professional who will share with us, the adoptive family perspective and process, and their viewpoint. So we’re looking forward to that. For now, this is Jennifer, on Adoption Focus. And I hope you have a great day. Bye-bye.