Blogtalk Radio Transcript: Embraced by the Birth Mother – One Family’s Story, Air Date: 10.24.17 (You may listen to the podcast by clicking on the audio link, or read the transcript of the podcast below.)
Deb, an adoptive mother, shares the reservations she and her spouse had about open adoption, and what changed their perspective. Deb describes their first meeting with the birth mother. “When she walked into the room with a large baby bump, I teared up. Suddenly it was happening. That was the moment that reality set in.” They were going to be parents!
Jennifer J.: Hi. And welcome to Adoption Focus. My name is Jennifer Jaworski, and I’m a social worker with Adoption Associates in 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 5,200 children into loving homes. Since 1990 we have advocated, supported, and nurtured both birth families and adoptive families, and helping families and birth parents grow through the adoption process is very important to us. We have offices located in Jenison, Lansing, Farmington Hills, and Saginaw. And our private adoption services are available throughout all of Michigan.
Thank you so much for listening in today. We hope that you find this forum to be inspirational, educational, and thought-provoking. Today I am happy that we’re touching on a topic related to openness, and we are going to hear from the perspective of an adoptive mother about how one birth mom unwittingly turned this adoptive family’s reservations about openness into a true and genuine connection. And so I am honored to welcome to Adoption Focus today, Deb. Deb, I believe you’re on the line. Are you with us?
Deb: Yep. Good morning!
Jennifer J.: Good morning! Thank you so much for taking time to be with us and to share your story. And I’d like to get started, Deb, if you could please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Adoptive Family’s Journey
Deb: Well, about four years ago we got married, and we started trying to have a baby. I’m 46, and he’s 41, so we had that against us. We ended up going through the whole gamut of medical procedures and exhausted every medical option we had. We got to a point where we had spent a lot of money, and a lot of heartache and had just waited a long time. Finally, we came to a decision that adoption was the path that God wanted us on. So about a year and half ago, we contacted Adoption Associates and started the process.
Jennifer J.: Okay. And so in the beginning of your adoption journey, as is the case for many of our families, you were assigned a caseworker with Adoption Associates to complete your home study, and one of the topics that I know you were asked to consider at that time was openness. Can you share with us a little bit about that?
Deb: It took us quite a while to actually get into adoption. I think because we really wanted to have a child ourselves. A year before we even started the process, we talked about it, and talked about it, and talked about it, and prayed about it. And once we finally said, “Let’s go down this path,” we started looking into it, and we didn’t know anything about adoption. There’s a lot of different types of adoption.
Jennifer J.: Sure.
Deb: It took a while for us to find information. And we were also a little private about it, so we probably didn’t ask people as much as we could have, because it’s an emotional thing. It’s hard to talk to other people about infertility and adoption. So once we finally got into it, we learned that now the norm is open adoption rather than closed adoption. We were very apprehensive about open adoption. We slowed down our home study process because we really had to process the whole idea of open adoption.
Jennifer J.: If you wouldn’t mind elaborating on that a little bit, because, Deb, your experience is really not that uncommon. I think you’re speaking to a lot of people who are new to adoption, new to the scary sounding home study process, “What is that? What does it mean?” And so particularly when we’re talking about openness, I appreciate you acknowledging that you kind of decided, “Well, we better slow this down. I’m not so sure about this.” Can we just explore for a few minutes here what were the specific reservations that you and your husband had in reference to that?
Deb: I think it just sounds very scary because you feel like you’re not in control. You feel that, “We want this child to be ours,” and we didn’t want to co-parent, and we didn’t want suddenly to have strangers in our life. I think that was the main thing is that we felt that it was going to be a stranger that we were suddenly beholden to. And we weren’t sure exactly what was going to be expected of us. I think it was more of control. You know, how much control were we actually going to have? And was this child going actually be ours? And so it’s a scary thing at first.
Jennifer J.: Absolutely. And so even though you had some reservations, and I know you received education through the agency and in private conversations with your caseworker as well, you did move forward with completing a home study and with the plan to adopt but still very leery about this concept of openness. And so I just want to kind of put that there for now, because we’re going to revisit that. But there was a day that came that you received a call. Your home study had been approved, and now there was a birth mother that had selected you, right?
Birth Mother Chooses Adoptive Family
Jennifer J.: That day did actually come.
Deb: The day did actually come, yeah. It was almost a year to the day that we got our home study approved. And we were told it was an approximate 18 month wait once you’re approved. As soon as we got our home study approved, we thought, “Well, we’re wonderful people. Some birth mother’s going to pick us right away. It’s going to be a month, and then we’re going to get picked.” And month after month after month no word and no word and no word. And a year later, we were very defeated and very questioning ourselves, “What did we do wrong with our profile? And why aren’t we getting picked?” And one day we got a call. The caseworker called us on a Thursday, and I don’t think this happens to everybody, but she called us on a Thursday, and said, “You’ve been selected by a birth mother, and she’s due next week. She’s due next Thursday.”
And after I gulped really loud she said, “She wants to meet you on Tuesday.” So, yeah. We found out on a Thursday. The next Tuesday we met her and her mother and her stepmother, and had a wonderful meeting. It was about a 20-minute meeting with them and we took them to lunch afterwards. So we had a great time.
Jennifer J.: So what was that like for you?
Meeting the Birth Mother
Deb: The meeting with the birth mother was terrifying. I don’t think I’ve ever been as nervous as that – ever. We were so grateful for our home study training because it really helped us. It helps you be empathetic to the birth mother. It helps you really understand what the process is going to be. Before she even got there, we got her medical history and the birth father’s medical history, and their family history and all that. So we had a little bit of knowledge about her.
And then when they came in, it still … She walked in, and she’s large with child, and I teared up. Suddenly it’s happening. Her mother and the stepmother really grilled us. They asked us a lot of very serious questions, “Do you plan on spanking? What are you going to do if something happens to you? Do you have somebody picked out for if, God forbid, something happened to you?” I mean, they asked some very, very serious questions. And luckily, because of the home study process, the social worker had already had us to come up with those answers. There were a lot of things that they had asked us that we probably wouldn’t have thought of before, but luckily we’re already prepared with a lot of the questions that they asked.
It was about a 20-minute meeting, and the birth mother said, “Okay. Let’s do this.” I think we hit it off right away. I didn’t realize how quickly … That was the thing in the beginning. This whole idea of a open adoption we thought, “All of a sudden strangers are going to be a part of our life.” And in that 20-minute meeting, those three women were not strangers anymore.
Jennifer J.: Wow.
Getting to Know Each Other
Deb: I can’t express how bonded we got that quickly. So we went to lunch, and it was more of a casual meeting, and we got to break bread with each other and talk a little bit more about just regular things. We were there for about a hour. I gave her a big hug and cried before I left. And honestly, he was ours that day. He was ours in our hearts that day. We knew going forward that it was going to work out. I’m tearing up just thinking about it.
Jennifer J.: You’ve done such a great job of describing this, and I appreciate that. I also really love that you took a moment to talk about the importance of the home study, it’s purpose, and how it served you well. And in addition, how the training came back to you when it was time to meet the birth mother. But, I know that beyond this initial, what you refer to as terrifying, first meeting, there were more meetings than that. There were other times that you were able to meet the birth mother prior to her delivery. Tell us what that was like.
A Generous Opportunity
Deb: Well, just one other time. As soon as we left after that first meeting, we exchanged phone numbers. So we texted back and forth. She was due the next week, and she texted me, and that day nothing. The next day, she started having contractions, and she texted me every time she had contractions, and it really looked like something was going to happen, and I didn’t want to be three hours away. So we drove over there and stayed in a hotel over the weekend. And then my husband ended up going back for work, but I just stayed there for the next week, just waiting. And she’d text every day and let me know what was going on. And then she finally had a doctor’s appointment and she said, “You’re more than welcome to come to the doctor’s appointment with me,” and I, of course, jumped at the chance.
We went to the doctor’s appointment, and I got to hear him on the sonogram. And I held her hand, and it was a wonderful experience. And afterwards, I took her to lunch again, and the place that she picked was where she works. So I, got to meet her coworkers, and some of her family actually worked there too. So I got to meet some of her family and got a grilled a little then, too. And it was clear that she had a support system, and that everybody was very supportive of what she was doing. Everybody knew about it. It wasn’t a secret. She was very proud of what she was doing, and she wanted everybody to know. The fact that she wanted to take me there meant a lot.
Jennifer J.: That’s awesome.
Deb: Yeah. It meant a lot, because it meant that she was very open to sharing this with everyone, and she’s very proud of what she was doing.
Jennifer J.: Yes. That’s awesome. So you had these two opportunities. I know that maybe, to some people, two opportunities doesn’t sound like a lot to really connect or get to know someone. But these are very intimate, intense times when you’re getting to know someone who’s asking you to parent their child. I’m curious during this time what surprised you as you were getting to know the birth mother?
Deb: What surprised me is how quickly we bonded and how open she was. I mean, think about it. I knew her for a week, and she let me go to her doctor’s appointment. This is about the most intimate appointment you can have with your doctor, and here I am this complete stranger, and she let me in there, and she let me hold her hand. And she let me hear his heartbeat. She opened up all of her medical history to me, and every conversation we had she was sharing as much information about his history that she could so that we would know later on. She was very adamant about making sure that I knew things that I might need to know later. I was very impressed with how generous she was with us.
Birth of the Baby
The day that we met her we made a birth plan. During our conversation she says, “Okay, let’s decide what’s going to happen at the hospital. Well, I can have three people in the delivery room, and I want my mom and my sister to be there.” And then she said, “If you want to be there, you’re welcome to.” I said, “Try and stop me now.” She actually let me in from day one. They ended up inducing. She was admitted at 8:00 in the morning, and I showed up right at 8:00 and stayed the whole day. I was there with her the whole time along with her mother and her sister.
I got to hold on to her while she gave birth, and I got to cut the cord, and I got to hold him first. And it was all her decision. And, again, I can’t stress enough the importance of the home study process. Let the home study process work, because we, at first we thought, “Why do we have to do all of this training?” It’s preparing you for what’s going to happen at the hospital, and preparing you to deal with all of the emotions of it. It’s different than having a baby yourself. You’re dealing with another person in an emotional state too. It really helped prepare us for what was going to happen at the hospital.
And the hospital puts her in charge. The birth mother is in charge, because she has the option to change her mind at this point. She still can change her mind and say, “I’m sorry, but I want to keep him.” And so they give her every opportunity, which I’m happy that they do that, because you want her to be onboard. You don’t want to push her into doing something. So I’m happy that they did this. Anything that had to do with the baby, they would ask her about. She would look at me and say, “You ask her. This is mom.” And she didn’t have to do that. She could have kept this time for herself regardless of the adoption plan, but she didn’t.
Bonding with Baby
She was very generous with me and even said, “You need your time with him. You need to bond with him, and I don’t want to take this from you.” I’m very, very grateful for her. I don’t think that everybody has that kind of experience. I think that because we were so hesitant about this openness, God brought this special birth mother to us. Her generosity helped us to be okay with the openness of the adoption plan.
Jennifer J.: Mm-hmm (affirmative). You guys were building this relationship with her prior to the hospital and becoming connected with her. And the hospital can often be a time where emotions are kind of at their peak. You did touch on that a little bit. Can you share or give us anymore insight about what you feel this time was like for the birth mother at the hospital, and also for you and your husband?
Deb: She was very emotional, which is, you know, human. But she was also very certain about her plans. The hospital that we were at gave us our own room. So once he was born, we got to move into our room with the baby, but we brought him back whenever she wanted. Whenever she said, “I’d like to hold him,” we brought him back. So we spent most of the time in her room, so that she could have her time. My husband and I both respected that she needed her time. After 24 hours, we could have left and she could have left, but at the end of the first day, she said, “I’m not ready to leave him yet.” And she wanted to stay another day. So we stayed. We didn’t have to, but we stayed for her. And the second day we basically spent the whole day with her in the room, and she just held him. And we cried. It was a very emotional thing. One of the things that they teach you is, is when you’re at the hospital try to stay in the background, because it’s the worst day of her life in some senses. It’s a very hard thing for her to do, and it’s a great joy for you. So try to be respectful of that. We agree 100%!
So we were kind of being a little standoffish in the beginning, and her and her mom and her stepmom all said to us, “We want to see your joy.” So they kind of gave us permission to be happy. And I think if we would have just gone in there and said, “This is our day,” I don’t know if that would have been the right thing to do, but once they gave us permission, then we starting really expressing our joy and being happy about it. I think that helped her a lot just to see the joy that she was giving to us, and it really helped with closure for her. It was a good experience. It was a very good experience.
Jennifer J.: So we are approaching the end of our show, unfortunately, but this has been fabulous. I want to ask you, Deb, if you could to please try to piece together your experience in reference to the openness piece. That’s what we started talking about today, and you took us through this journey, which was fantastic. But I want to go back to that now and have you talk about how it is that you think you and your husband went from having this great reservation about an open relationship with a birth mother to essentially fully embracing the openness. You kind of did a 180, so to speak.
Deb: We did, yeah.
Jennifer J.: Talk a bit about that.
Learning About Open Adoption
Deb: When we first came to Adoption Associates, we met with Michelle Dykema. I don’t think she was the director yet. She became director a little bit after that, but she was the first one we talked to, and one of the things she said was, “It’s about the child.” And that really stuck with me. Our reservations about open adoption were about our own control and our own, “We want this child to be ours, and we want to be in control.” And it wasn’t about us. It was about what’s best for him. And then when we went through the reading, the home study education, you really need to process that. Each book and each class and each video. Process each one before you move on to the next. Don’t just go through them to get them all done. Really process them. Because a lot of it is about empathy and having empathy for the child, and having empathy for the birth mom and the birth family.
And once you get to that point, it really all falls into place. During this time you hear accounts from adults that were adopted. You hear about the ones that weren’t told they were adopted. These adoptees seem to have identity issues, and feel almost betrayed, because they didn’t heart about it. They didn’t understand why their birth mother did what she did. Well, if an adoption is open, then they know from the beginning, and there’s no shock to their system. And so you have to look at it from that perspective. It’s not about us. It’s about the child.
Jennifer J.: From the birth mother’s perspective, this is not something that they should ever be ashamed of. It is a private matter. Making a decision for adoption for your child is a very personal and private decision. However, it is not one that is shameful in nature. An open adoption affords a child the ability to understand that this birth parent made this decision out of love, and in many cases they hear that directly from the birth parent’s themselves.
Deb: Right. Right. Exactly. And she’s very proud of her decision, which I think some women want to keep it a secret. But she let everyone know that she was doing it, and she was very proud of that fact. She knew our story, that we’d been trying and trying and trying, and I think she was very grateful to give us this gift.
Parents at Last!
Jennifer J.: Fantastic information, Deb. I can’t thank you enough for today and for opening up with us about this topic.
Deb: My pleasure. We’re over the moon with our little boy right now.
Jennifer J.: I’m sure you are. And, yeah, we were talking before the show today. He’s about three months, I believe you said.
Deb: Yep. Yep. He’ll be three months next week.
Jennifer J.: Okay. All right. Well, you guys are new parents and loving it, and you’re so happy that you’ve remained in contact with the birth mother and her family as well. So what a story for you guys. This birth mother embraced you in a way that you saw the benefit of open adoption.
Deb: Right. Yep.
Jennifer J.: Once again. Thank you so much, Deb. For those interested in connecting with Adoption Associates, you can call us at (800) 677-2367, or find us on the web at AdoptionAssociates.net. So for now, this is Jennifer on Adoption Focus. I hope you all have a fantastic day. Bye bye.