What Does Adoption Mean to a Birthmother?

Adoption means many things to many people, none more animated than those in the adoption triad. What does adoption mean to me as a birthmom? This question has been rolling around without me realizing it until someone suggested I write an article about it. Even within the birthmother community, views and attitudes vary widely. Some I agree with. Some I disagree with. As a birthmom in a closed adoption for many years, I have my own perspective.

What’s hard for people to hear is the sad side of adoption. As people, it’s easier for us to talk about those things which are exciting and bring joy and completion to us and our families. Adoption has that power. But for every adopted child, there is a mother with empty arms and a broken heart. That story isn’t so popular. That isn’t the story everyone wants to hear.

I am often asked to speak at women’s events. Recently I shared my own journey with unplanned pregnancy and adoption. There were many tears and nodding heads in the audience. Afterwards, some women looked me in the eye, shook my hand and told me about their adopted children. But other women kept their eyes low as they passed me on the way out. To a birthmom, adoption can mean shame and secrecy. I know there were women in that room, some well into their 80s, who had personally experienced adoption and never told a soul.

Adoption means many things to many people.

As a birthmother who has done much work on healing over the years, I would like to give you my heart’s perspective on adoption. Many would disagree with me. But these are my convictions and what has guided me through the years of ups and downs:

-Adoption means I chose a family for my child that fit what I thought she needed without taking on the daily responsibilities of caring for her. Once you find yourself pregnant, any decision you make is a parenting one. The baby in your womb is your responsibility. Maybe not yours alone, but yours is the only body housing that tiny person. So whatever decision you make, you make it as that child’s mother. I got a say in what kind of family she went to based on what was important to me. Even though I was not able to raise my daughter, I wanted her to have loving parents who could afford to take care of her.

-Adoption means I chose life for my child knowing she had a home to go to where she was wanted. Every child is a wanted child. Maybe not by the woman carrying her, but somewhere there is a family who wants that child. God does not make junk and he doesn’t make mistakes. You are the intended carrier for this child, even if that is as far as your relationship will go. God can use even an unplanned pregnancy to teach you.

-Adoption means I freely gave up any rights I had to her as my child including knowing about her life and family, watching her grow up and claiming her as my own. Again as a reminder, please consider the fact that I placed my child in an era of closed adoption. Open adoption was not even an option for me to consider. I clearly remember going to court and signing a document that terminated my rights as my child’s parent. It was my choice to do so. I did it of my own free will. No one forced me. The letters and pictures I got the first year were happy and sad, but they were totally at the liberty of the adoptive parents. Did I forget about my child in the 17 years between the last letter and reunion? Did I stop caring about her and whether or not her needs were met? Of course not! Sometimes it feels like modern birthmoms want it all. They want to be free of the responsibility of caring for their child, but they still want to be involved in their life.

Adoption means many things to many people. This is my perspective.

Terri Gake

Written by Jason Granillo

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