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Birth Parents – The Forgotten Voice of Adoption Series

To continue our series on the birth parent voice, we are sharing two articles — one written by a birth mother and the other by a birth father.  These two birth parents placed their child domestically through Holt’s branch office in Chicago, Holt-Sunny Ridge.  While in some ways their perspective is unique as domestic birth parents, we have through the years heard similar thoughts and feelings from birth parents overseas.  In so many ways, the birth parent voice is universal. Their process may be different, but their desire for their child is the same: to have a better life than what the feel they can provide.

Tiana’s Story: The Best Decision for My Baby

A young woman faces the fear and reality of an unplanned pregnancy, and is able to make a selfless, loving choice for her baby.

A “plus” sign. That was how it all started. It’s amazing how a little plus sign can completely change your life.

There was the shock, the denial and finally the crying because the realization was finally beginning to set in. I was a single, 24 year-old woman about to have another baby.

In the days when I first found out I was pregnant, I was so scared. What was I supposed to do? Unfortunately, the birth father did not want to be involved in the pregnancy so I felt alone. I lived away from my family and I didn’t have many friends who lived in the area. Even though everyone was very supportive of me, when night fell I was alone in my thoughts. My baby was growing inside of me and although I should have felt joy, most of the time I just tried to have the courage to get through each day.  In the evening I would call my family to cry and express my concerns. I wanted what was best for my baby, but I knew that I could not provide everything that I wanted for her. I was already raising a two year old alone.

In order to give her the life that I wanted her to have, I started looking into adoption agencies. I wanted to make sure I found the perfect adoption counselor so I set up meetings with three different agencies. All of the agencies ultimately provided the same service but I was drawn to Holt-Sunny Ridge because of their warm and caring approach.  I wanted an agency and a counselor who understood my needs. When I first met with my adoption counselor, she put me at ease and gave me hope. She let me just talk and tell her about everything I wanted for my child.

Dad and baby hands.jpgOne of my biggest concerns with Holt-Sunny Ridge was that I lived so far away from the agency. I didn’t have a car and I lived in the city, so although I wanted to work with Holt-Sunny Ridge, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to. I expressed my concerns to my social worker and she immediately told me that it was no problem for her to come into the city and meet me.

In the weeks that followed, my social worker and I would meet regarding the adoption. She took care of all the paperwork and met with the birth father, because she knew it was difficult for me. I was trying my best to get through each day. It was so helpful to have her support and take some of the burden off of my shoulders. Most of the time we met in the city, but I also went to Holt-Sunny Ridge for their birth parent support group. It was such a relaxing environment where we could hear each other’s stories and know that through it all, we were not alone. Although we all came from different walks of life, ultimately we shared the same fears as well as the same hopes for our children’s futures.

We discussed the options between parenting and adoption and weighed the pros and cons of each. Although I wanted to keep her, because I loved her, I could not parent another child. I wanted her to have parents who were able to provide everything that she needed.  In the back of my head, though, the nagging question was always “how could I find parents that would give her everything that she deserved and love her as much as I loved her?” But somehow I knew in my heart that everything would work out as it should.

When I met with my social worker, I always talked about an open adoption. I wanted to have an arrangement where I was able to see my daughter and she would know who I was. I wanted to make sure that she knew I loved her and would always love her. 

When I started to look at families, I was immediately drawn to Charles and Deborah. People have asked me what drew me to them and I give them many reasons, but deep down I know that there really was only one reason: when I met them, I felt at peace. I knew that these were the parents that I wanted for my baby.

In the weeks that followed, Charles, Deborah, and I met to get to know each other more. Throughout this time, I was continually meeting with my social worker and she reminded me that no matter how much I like Deborah and Charles, in the end it was my choice. I decided to take three days after Whitney’s birth to spend time with her. After those three days, I would make my decision.

When Whitney was finally born, I looked at her face and was so in love with her. I never wanted to take my eyes off of her. The social worker came to the hospital to see how I was feeling. Through tears I told her how in love I was with Whitney. She was perfect in every way and I knew that she was going to do amazing things in this world.

On the morning of the placement, I packed Whitney’s things and headed to Holt-Sunny Ridge. When the moment came to place Whitney into Deborah’s arms, even though it was the most difficult decision of my life, I felt at peace. I knew that all of those long nights trying to make the best decision for her had paid off. I was appreciative of the preparation and support I received from family, friends and Holt-Sunny Ridge. She would always be my daughter, but now she had the parents that I had always wanted for her.

Tom’s Story: At Peace with an Adoption Plan

A young man deals with the emotional choices of an adoption plan for his baby daughter.

When I found out about the pregnancy I was halfway through my first semester at college in Wisconsin. The birth mother called me on a lazy afternoon in October, and said we had a problem. We had had the “what-if” conversation before we became sexually active, and we knew what we had to do. Her mom had known a number of couples who had gone through Holt-Sunny Ridge and recommended them.

I called my dad, and I remember the conversation vividly: “Dad, I really love it here, and I don’t want to have to come home… but I messed up really badly.” “Is anyone dead?” “No” “Is anyone hurt?” “Yes.”

And I lost it. I can’t remember how I stammered the situation through my tears, but my selfish fear at the time was that I was going to have to quit school to be involved in this process. I knew I was going to be involved in whatever happened, but I didn’t know what exactly that entailed. I was fortunate that her mother, her best friend, and the counselors at Holt-Sunny Ridge were able to be there for her when I couldn’t be.

“Well, now what are you going to do?” And I told him our plan. My dad was adopted himself, and I think that although he was disappointed that we were in this position, he had some respect for our decision. He understood that although we had lives and careers in front of us, we could have kept her if we wanted to. It wasn’t our lack of desire for a child that prompted us to make the adoption decision; it was our desire that our child have all the opportunities that we had to live a normal and happy life.

Over the next few days, she and I talked online as we looked through profiles of potential parents. We met them, and everything seemed to go okay. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel when I met the strangers who were going to be responsible for the life of my first born child, so I let myself feel grateful that we had found a couple who loved each other and wanted a child to share that love with.

“The plan” was the most important thing in our minds. Yes, our situation seemed awful- but we could see a way out if we stuck together and stuck to the plan. I lived in fear of deviations from the plan. What if there was a complication in the pregnancy? What if she changed her mind? What if I changed my mind? With our minds adrift in a sea of what-ifs, the plan was our only hope of staying afloat. Satisfied that everything was going according to plan, I returned to my new version of life as usual. I was depressed for the next few months, convinced that I had not only ruined my life but also taken her down with me. Christmas break came and went, and I went back to Wisconsin.

Then came the second panic. Unbeknownst to me, she received an e-mail telling her she needed to come into the office. She received a letter telling her that the couple we choseDad and baby “regretfully” had to withdraw from the adoption. Needless to say, this was not part of the plan. With just weeks to go and an exhausted list of potential couples, we began to panic. A counselor at Holt-Sunny Ridge reached out to a few more couples who were at various stages in the process, including one who was just finishing their profile. I was at school when she called me and told me she had found a new couple. She gave me a quick rundown and I was astonished at what a fit they seemed to be. She sounded completely confident, and I told her to go ahead without even looking at the profile. There wouldn’t be time to meet them myself, but with so little time to go and after having so narrowly avoided disaster, I felt fortunate that we were back with the plan and left it at that.

I was contacted by the adoptive mother a few days before the due date, and they were surprisingly interested in coming up to Milwaukee to meet me. I felt an emotional connection to this couple that I was missing with the first. Besides all of the “paper” qualifications that the birth mother and I had been looking for, they seemed to have a relationship that was similar to that of the birth mother and myself. For the first time, I felt like giving them our daughter would be building a family, not completing a jigsaw puzzle.

I understand that it is easy to discount the emotional struggles of the birth father. It seems that more often than not he is either uninvolved or unknown, but I have to say that my projected failure as a father was really eating at me. It was hard for both of us to look at couples who had tried to sum up their personalities, histories, beliefs, values, interests, etc. in a few pages, but it was even harder for me to try to imagine how anyone but me could be the father I wanted my daughter to have. I was going to worry about her constantly if I could not find the right sort of man to make sure she was safe but self sufficient, happy but not spoiled. Someone who would run alongside her the first time the training wheels came off, and who would thoroughly interrogate boys who wanted to take her to dances, and who would give a heartfelt speech and kiss her away on her wedding day. Before I felt that spark, I had resigned myself to the knowledge that I wasn’t prepared to be that father, and that the best thing I could do in the circumstances was to set her up to have the best life she could, even if it meant that I would have to worry a little bit more.

Giving up my daughter for adoption was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, but I feel doubly blessed by the wonderful and open family Holt-Sunny Ridge found for us. First, because we have an open adoption, I’ve never felt I “gave her up” in the traditional sense. I get more pictures and e-mails from the family than I know what to do with, I am Facebook friends with her adoptive mom, and our families try to get together for holidays, special occasions, and for no reason at all. I have never once felt like I lost a family member, I feel like I gained another family! Second, because the open adoption has enabled me to watch my daughter grow with the family we found at Holt-Sunny Ridge, I am continually affirmed in our decision. The love I see in her adoptive parents, for their daughter and for each other, constantly reminds me that I don’t have to worry if she is in good hands.

I know she is.

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