When I look back twenty years, it seems like another lifetime. Maybe even another person. I was so young, and I was so focused on my plan – a plan that didn’t include an unexpected pregnancy. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I graduated from high school and received a four-year academic scholarship to Saginaw Valley. My life was going in exactly the direction that I had dreamed. The plan was to get my bachelor’s degree and then go on to attend law school. During college, I majored in English with a minor in History. I was excelling in all that I did. I took my Law School Admission Test and got accepted to law school. I was so excited!
And then, my plan seemed to crash down around me. In a very short time, the trajectory of my life completely changed. I started drinking, partying, and lost focus on my goals. It was a sobering moment when I found out I was pregnant with Emma. Like a train derailing. I pulled myself up and tried to fit the pregnancy into my plan and go back to finish school, but it was just too hard. I decided that college would have to wait. And law school, maybe that was a dream that would somehow come to fruition in the future.
Life as a Single Mother
Even though this wasn’t a planned pregnancy, the idea of having a child grew on me. I became excited about it. I was in a relationship with her dad when Emma was born, but we broke up when she about a year old. Not too long after that, I got pregnant with my second child, Nick. Now I was a single mother with two young children. But I was still focused on my dream, so I tried to go back to school again. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work with two little kids. I shifted my plan and decided I would work while the kids were little and then go back to school as soon as I was able.
Fast forward a few years when Emma was six and Nick was four. I had been working to support us and life was sometimes a struggle, but it was pretty good. I enjoyed being a mother and my kids were my life. I was content and happy (and busy). Then, I became pregnant again and had Olivia when I was thirty years old. Oh boy. When I had two kids, I was able to work and Emma and Nick were close in age so daycare was doable. When I had my third child, Olivia, it was like a whole different world. Two young children and a newborn baby. Wow! My life had derailed and had gone in a completely different direction from the plan I had years ago. It was really hard to find a job within school hours, and then they would get sick and I would need to leave work to care for them. I was just holding on by the seat of my pants. I don’t even know how we got through those years, but we did.
It Takes a Village
Olivia was four when I got pregnant the fourth time. I was a single parent, and I had very little help from my family. My biggest help was actually from my friends. I had three really good friends and we all kind of raised my kids together. Like a village. When I worked, they would watch them and help me out with household chores and cooking, and all those little daily things that add up to an overwhelming load of responsibility.
So, yes, it took a village. But my village wasn’t able to take on any more. When I got pregnant with my fourth child, there were already four of us living in a little two-bedroom apartment. I could hardly pay the bills, and the car my dad had given me was always breaking down. Olivia was four so she had started preschool, and it had seemed like I could finally see the light. I knew that once the kids were all in school, I could go back to school myself, or maybe get a more rewarding, higher paid job. And then I was pregnant again. But this time it was different. The idea of another child didn’t “grow on me” this time. I felt like I just couldn’t do it. I absolutely could not take care of a fourth child. It was pretty devastating.
The Call That Changed Everything
I was 28 weeks pregnant when I called Adoption Associates. I was fortunate enough to talk with Jennifer, who was so supportive, understanding and caring. She understood that I just could not bring another child into my tiny apartment and my life that was overflowing with responsibility. I was worried that if I tried to raise a fourth child and couldn’t make it, there was a chance that I could lose all of my children. That was the hard stuff I thought about and it was terrifying. I had been a single mom for 12 years. That’s a long time.
When I called Adoption Associates, I really didn’t know much about adoption. I knew that I could pick the adoptive parents, but I didn’t really know how it worked. And, I didn’t know anybody that had gone through the process. I figured that I was probably going to cry every day for the rest of my life. My child would probably hate me.
So, I met with Jennifer to talk about where to go from there. I had looked at the waiting families on Adoption Associates’ website and found a family I really liked – Justin and Sarah. As it turned out, we had a lot in common. Their profile said that they liked going to their local community center and the nature center, and other things that my kids and I really enjoyed doing. When I looked through their profile and picked them, I felt like their profile picked me. It was weird, but an awesome feeling. When my mom looked at the profiles (and there were several), she picked the same couple. She had no idea that I had also picked Justin and Sarah. It just felt right.
Meeting My Child’s Future Parents
I met Justin and Sarah at Olive Garden when I was 32 weeks pregnant. I brought my four-year-old, Olivia, with me. She helped to kind of break the ice with her cheery outgoing personality. It was a little awkward meeting them, but not as awkward as I thought it would be. After that meeting, we started texting each other, and meeting at parks, taking walks, getting ice cream – that kind of thing. We really got to know each other over the next couple of months. In a way, Justin and Sarah became like part of our family. They took the time and put in the work to build a relationship with me and with my children. It was like we had known each other for years. Their kindness and their caring personalities made me know in my heart that I was making the right decision. I was confident they would love my baby as their own and provide her with a happy life full of opportunities.
I knew that I would want to get pictures and letters from them regularly so I could see my daughter grow. I wanted visits so she could grow up knowing me and knowing that I love her. But at the same time, I knew that Justin and Sarah were going to be her parents and I didn’t want to intrude on that. It’s hard to explain, but this pregnancy just felt different than my other three. All along I felt like she wasn’t really mine. I had such a strong sense that she was Justin’s and Sarah’s daughter. Like I was carrying a child for them. It was a feeling that I can’t explain.
The Day Claire Was Born
On July 19 Justin and Sarah’s daughter, Claire, was born. When I went into labor, I called them and they met me at the hospital. I wanted them to be there when she was born, and to be the first to hold her and love on her. It was such an emotional moment. Everyone was crying. And Justin was taking a million pictures. It felt so right to have them in the room as she was being born. I wanted them to experience the birth as if I wasn’t there and it was just them having this baby. When the baby came out, the doctor handed her to Sarah. That was the way I wanted it. She was their baby. It was such an emotional, magical moment.
Adoption was the Right Choice For Me
Jennifer and I had talked about the grief that comes with placing a baby for adoption. I kept waiting for that grief to hit me, but it never did. I think the emotions that go along with adoption are different for everyone. But I didn’t feel grief because Claire was with her parents. She was being loved and taken care of. I felt so confident that I had made the right decision for Claire and for all of us. I had built a close relationship with Justin and Sarah, and they lived nearby, so I guess I didn’t really feel like I had lost something. If I hadn’t had such a close relationship with Justin and Sarah, it might have been different. After Claire was born, I went home to my three children and it felt good. It felt right. They were running around and playing, just like normal. There was never a time that I felt like I made the wrong choice.
A few weeks later, Jennifer and I went to the court hearing where I released my parental rights. The court wants to make sure that the birth mother understands that adoption is permanent. They asked me in several different ways to make sure I was absolutely positive of my decision. I was absolutely positively sure. Claire was not my daughter – she was Justin and Sarah’s daughter.
The Most Precious Gift
After court, I just jumped back in to my normal life. I felt good. I wasn’t tired from staying up all night with a newborn baby. My kids and I did the stuff we always did. We got back into our normal routine of life. As I thought about the adoption, it really sunk in that I had given the most precious gift to a couple who dreamed of having a child. I gave somebody who couldn’t have a baby, a baby. Claire was right where she was supposed to be, with her mother and father. It made me feel proud. I felt like I was part of something big, something way bigger than me, and that this was meant to be part of my path.
Life After Adoption
I always thought I would go back to school, but that hasn’t happened – yet. But I’ve learned that we cannot simply plan out our lives and expect things to go a certain way. Maybe there is different path we are meant to take. I ended up starting my own small business and we were able to get a bigger place to live, and a new car. We’re doing well. I do seriously want to go back to my “Plan A” at some point and become a lawyer. I might be kind of old by that time, but who knows. It’s good to have goals.
Adoption is a positive option when a woman experiences an unplanned pregnancy. I want people to understand that when a woman makes the decision to plan adoption, it’s not a selfish decision. Unfortunately, some people might try to make a birth mom feel guilty for placing her baby for adoption. Like she’s taking the easy way out. There is a stigma that goes along with “giving a baby up for adoption.” But I’m here to tell you that placing a baby for adoption is a decision made out of love and what’s best for the baby. A decision that is hard, but has such a positive impact. We need to change the way that some people think about adoption. They need to know that placing a baby for adoption is not something to feel guilty about or to be ashamed of. It’s something to be proud of. Adoption is a positive option when a woman experiences an unplanned pregnancy. I am proud to say that I chose adoption.