Saturday, December 4, 2010

In Praise of Birth Moms

Last week we woke up and found that we had been sent a surprising email. Joshua's birth mom (I'll call her Andrea) emailed us after 7 years of not being in touch. We were thrilled to hear from her.

I posted something brief about it on Facebook and it was interesting to me to hear people's slight discomfort with open adoption even through their comments on my quick post. "Well, I'm happy if you're happy" said one Facebook friend. "You have such a big heart" said another. I have a feeling that it's quite odd for most people for adoptive parents to be in touch with birth parents.

Alex and I love having connection with our two adopted children's birth parents. Once we learned what "open adoptions" could be about, we were all for it. We want our children to know that adoption is a part of their life stories not because they were abandoned but because they were born of amazingly courageous young women who made a choice in love. These women came to decide that placing their babies for adoption would be the best option for the child and for them. We want to know and bless the cultural backgrounds of our children as much as possible. We appreciate having as much medical history as possible. Open adoption has been a tremendous blessing to our lives.

For Hope that means that we get visits about three or four times a year from her birth mom. We've met her entire nuclear family and some of her friends. She is an amazing person; lovely, gracious and mature. About a month ago for her last visit, Hope suggested that her birth mom might want to take just her out to ice cream for a "special time". Anna asked why she couldn't come along. Hope told her, "Because she's my birth mom so I get special time with her." Anna declared that it was not fair that she didn't get special time with her birth mom. I reminded her that I was her birth mom and that she often gets special time with me. I was informed that I don't count because I am the "regular mom" and that she wanted another birth mom that doesn't live in our house (presumably so that this person could take her out to ice cream).

We were in contact with Joshua's birth mother for about a year after he was born and placed with us. We even drove out to her town (about 2 hours from ours) to pick her up so that she could come and see where we lived and where Joshua was going to grow up. When Joshua was hospitalized and diagnosed at 2 months old, we were in phone contact with her then email contact. We told her everything we knew about his diagnosis (SOD) by that first year then we lost contact with her. (She stopped responding to our calls and emails.) Our adoption social worker told us that it is not uncommon for young birth mothers to need to take time away from contact with the adoptive families. We respected that but were sad to not be able to share about Joshua's life with someone else who loved him very much.

This is some of the background to why we were so thrilled to hear from Andrea. She (along with Hope's birth mother) is one of our heroes in life. She became pregnant at 15 years old and had no family support in her life. She was living with an older brother, who mostly spent time working in a city a couple of hours away. Andrea broke up with her boyfriend immediately and did not tell anyone about the pregnancy (including the boyfriend/ birth father, who did not know about the baby until he was born and until he was asked to sign papers terminating his parental rights). For some reason, despite only having information about abortion as a possible response to an unplanned pregnancy, Andrea felt that it would be wrong for her to abort the baby so she kept the pregnancy. She wore big sweatshirts through the end of the school year then mostly hung out at home by herself during the summer (Josh was born in August). When she went into labor, she mostly labored at home then took the bus to the hospital. She gave birth 30 minutes after she arrived. Then she asked the nurses to help her to find options for adoption.

Although Hope's birth mother's story is very different, she shared Andrea's experience of feeling immense external pressure to abort but also having a strong internal feeling that this was not what she should do. Both of these young women walked through the long months of having a precious baby form inside of them. Both carried through with the conviction and choice to allow someone else to raise that child. I have no idea what kind of courage and love it must have taken to make this choice but I respect it so much.

Through adopting Hope and Joshua, our eyes have been opened to the reality that there are many, many women out there who are birth moms. They have a huge part of their lives that few people may know about and few might affirm. One day, we shared Joshua's story with a speech therapist who was at our house for a home visit. She listened carefully then she shared with us that she had given birth to a child over 20 years before and had placed her for adoption. Ironically, she and her husband struggled with infertility and never had children. As she told us her story, she wept openly, her grief still very much with her, along with her love for the baby that she had so many years before.

There is so much more to say about Joshua and Hope's birth mothers but the main thing that I have on my heart today is this: Thank you. I treasure that suffering and sacrifice that you went through so that these beautiful, precious children can exist. May God honor what you have done and who you are.


  1. My sister gave her first daughter up for adoption when she was 18. The girl has grown up very near where you live and my sister and my mom have reached out to her over the years. The open adoption has had many positive effects on my family and I hope for the daughter who was adopted.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to write these posts. I read each one and appreciate them very much.

  3. I'll take her out for ice cream!!! She just has to visit NJ... :-)

  4. This is very moving, Susan. Thanks for posting!

  5. I enjoy reading your blog. I find so much strength and encouragement. I am also amazed by you guys parenting a special needs child. I hope to visit you and your husband's church one day. Thank you so much for sharing.