This is the twenty-second post of "30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days," a series designed to give a voice to people with widely varying experiences, including birthparents, adoptees, adoptive parents, foster parents, waiting adoptive parents and others touched by adoption.
The Walls of Secrecy Dissolved Naturally
Written by Sara Hylton for Portrait of an Adoption
I am a very proud birthmother. That’s the best way to start this.
I found out I was pregnant when I was in high school. It was two months after my 16th birthday. The moment I found out, I knew I was going to choose adoption. I did not believe in abortion, and at the time I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with my mother. We were already barely scraping by. I remember thinking I didn’t want to go on state aid because I didn’t want taxpayers to pay for something I did.
Being 16 and pregnant is so much harder than a lot of people realize. There’s such a stigma attached to it. I can’t describe to you the condescending looks I would get -- everywhere; the grocery store, the library, my school, church. I vividly recall, late in my pregnancy, after the baby “dropped,” I got stuck in a desk in my English class. After the class emptied out, the teacher, Mr. Shaw, stood in the doorway and told me “that’s what you get for getting yourself in that situation.”
I had to wait for friends from the next class to help me out of my desk. I was humiliated. In fact, I was ashamed every day. I was angry and disappointed with myself. I felt like I let myself and everyone else down. Every day, there was ridicule, people saying things or just looking down on me. Even though I had been in a steady relationship with the father for almost a year, I was labeled a slut and whore. Sixteen is a hard enough year for a girl’s self-esteem; being pregnant certainly did nothing to elevate it.
My very first OB spent the entire visit yelling at me for my “mistake”. To say it was a dark time in my life is an understatement. On top of all of this, I was incredibly sick with constant morning sickness (I had it from the time I was 2 weeks along until my child was 2 months old) as well as suffering from constant fainting spells.
When I started researching adoption, I came across a relatively new term called “open adoption”. It sounded like it had everything I could possibly want -- my child would have a family, a family would have a child, I’d have a life of my own, and I could know how that child was throughout the years, instead of wondering and hoping for 18 years.
I got a lot of mixed emotions from people when I mentioned adoption. Some of my friends and family didn’t understand it. Some were excited about the idea of an open adoption. Some openly ridiculed the idea. Many supported me. In the end, I knew it was my decision to make, and I felt like I needed to choose what was best for the life growing inside of me, not for anyone else’s sake, even my own.
I found an adoption agency called Sunnyridge. I met with a social worker there, and she explained the process of open adoption to me. I never once felt pressured with them. It was like “Here’s what we do, if that’s what you are looking for.” A previous agency I spoke to had wanted us to sign over custody when I was only about 8 weeks along, and didn’t have concrete answers to any of my questions.
With Sunnyridge, I felt cared for, as a birthmother. Not like I was just a means to an end. I liked the fact that I could “choose” who my child’s parents would be -- not just some random strangers who might or might not raise my baby with similar standards as me. You may say that by choosing adoption, I relinquished the right to decide how my child was raised, and in a way, you’d be right. But with the open adoption, I at least had a say in the matter.
It was a cold night in December when I stood on the front steps of the old Tudor house that was Sunnyridge, waiting to go inside to look at my first profiles. I remember clearly praying that God would point out to me who He wanted as my child’s parents. I felt nervous, but somehow reassured. I walked in, then sat and looked through a few profiles.
While they all seemed very nice, there was one family that stood out drastically. Something about their smiles, similar ethnic heritages to me and the way they worded their profile made them stand out to me. I could tell that they just had so much love --for each other, for family, and to give. As birthmothers, we often describe what we call “The Click” -- when you see that family and you know with every fiber in your being that they are the people who were meant to love and care for your baby. That was on a Wednesday. I was supposed to go look at more profiles that Friday. Instead, on Thursday I called the agency and said “Call Jim & Lynn. They’re the ones who will raise my baby.”
Next: "For me, it was love at first sight."
I was blessed with being able to meet them once before I delivered. For me it was love at first sight. Literally, the moment I saw them, I knew they were “The Ones.” I felt so at peace with choosing them. They were so amazing and warm and wonderful, I really couldn’t imagine anyone else being my child’s parents.
My beautiful little boy came into this world on January 24th, 1994. He had huge cobalt blue eyes and a head full of auburn hair. He was truly the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my whole life. There are really no words to describe what it was like seeing him for the first time. He was wonderful and beautiful and sweet and perfect.
The hospital staffs knew of my “situation” and were so unbelievably kind and accommodating. My nurse -- Bobbie -- actually cried when he was born. She said that what I was doing was so amazing. They allowed me to hold him (I was terrified that he’d be whisked away without me being able to touch him or see him) and again I never felt pressured.
I expected to feel a change the next morning -- after holding him, I expected to feel that he was “mine.” But my resolve to give this precious child to Jim and Lynn was only strengthened. Don’t get me wrong -- I wanted him, desperately. I wanted to take him home with ME. But I also knew that was purely selfishness on my part. I was a child myself -- how on earth could I raise one of my own?!
A few days later, I signed over my parental rights, and William became Jim and Lynn’s, legally. I cried. She cried. Everyone cried. I was so sad and empty going home without him, but I was equally relieved and happy that he was with these amazing people.
I never thought there were people in the world who could love my child half as much as I did. Thankfully, I was completely wrong.
His father and I stayed together for about a year after he was born. He saw him once when Will was 3 and unfortunately hasn’t seen him since. I don’t know where he is now.
Fast forward almost 19 years. I am involved in Will’s life. We see each other at least once a year, (more if both our schedules allow it) and his mom and nana and I talk on Facebook and on the phone. My husband has been in his life since Will was 6 and they adore each other. He calls my mom Grandma Leslie.
Mind you, our relationship didn’t start out this way. The beginning involves a lot of secrecy for both parties, for obvious reasons. But, as time went on, we grew to know and love each other more and more, and the walls of secrecy dissolved naturally. I can honestly say that Lynn is one of my best friends. I love that woman dearly. I know, without hesitation, that she was born to be Will’s Mommy, and I tell her that frequently. I was blessed enough to be the one to carry him.
Everything really did work out in the end. I’d like to think I proved the cynics wrong. I, in fact, was not a slut. I graduated high school (my son and his mother attended my graduation!), and went to college. I’m employed, married to the love of my life, and I’m truly happy.
I have no other children, and that’s ok with both my husband and me. Stories about adoption fascinate me. I relive all the emotions when I read or hear about someone else’s story.
But I can honestly say I’ve never, ever once regretted my decision. I did what I did because I love my child, and I love myself. Now, I just happen to have another family to love as well!
Portrait of an Adoption is hosted by Carrie Goldman, author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear. If you have a story you would like to submit as a candidate for next year's series, please email it to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.