Erika was 35 when she found herself unexpectedly pregnant. Living with her fiancé and their two children from previous relationships, they both knew that raising another child wasn’t something they wanted to do at this point in their lives. Erika always wanted adoption from the beginning, but said she was a bit nervous about what it would require from her.
“I was always one of those people that was like, ‘Oh, I could never do adoption,’” she says. “I always believed those women were really strong, but I didn’t know how they did it. Not until I actually experienced it myself did I fully understand how hard it is. You have to have a great amount of love to place your child for adoption.”
It was this love that made Erika and her fiancé take the first steps to connect with American Adoptions and its adoption specialists, who would be there for the couple throughout the journey.
Erika didn’t know she was pregnant until five months into her pregnancy, when she went to a doctor’s appointment for feeling inexplicably sick. She came out of that appointment with a positive pregnancy result, already knowing what her best option was. Her fiancé initially wanted them to raise the baby, but Erika had thought hard about what was right for their child.
“I was for adoption from the very get-go and, after a lot of talking, we decided that adoption was best,” she says.
The two started researching their agency options and came across American Adoptions as one potential choice. When an adoption specialist talked Erika through the adoption process and her options in a caring, objective way, she knew it was the right agency for them.
“I could not have asked for a better set of people in my life,” she says. “They made the whole process amazing… I never went back and forth with my decision, but it was still a tough decision.
“I don’t know how I would have done it without Shannon,” she adds.
Shannon was Erika’s birth mother specialist, who walked her through every part of the adoption process and served as her personal counselor. She was always there to listen for hours on end whenever Erika needed her, even if it wasn’t about her adoption process.
Erika and her fiancé didn’t take long to find a family from the profiles Shannon had sent them; in fact, they knew a family was right within five minutes of looking. After connecting via phone call and sharing email communication, Erika felt even more sure that the family she picked was the right one — and welcomed them along every step of the journey.
“I wanted to form that bond with them, and I wanted them to be a part of the experience as much as possible,” she says. “I wanted to know them so they could know me and be a part of as much as possible.”
Erika and the adoptive family communicated often during her pregnancy, emailing back and forth about everything from the baby to their everyday lives (including Erika’s pet pig, Piglet). The family even came to visit Erika and get to know her better, attending a doctor’s appointment and spending the day in her hometown.
As fate would have it, the adoptive family would be back in a couple of weeks when Erika gave birth to a healthy, but premature, baby girl. Although Erika says she was disappointed that the parents couldn’t be there for the birth, they were there throughout the rest of the hospital experience.
“They came to see me first… and stayed with me for about an hour or so until I actually had to kick them out to go spend time with her,” she remembers.
In another show of appreciation, the parents gave Erika a necklace representing her and her baby, as well as a handmade blanket with a personal poem sewn into it. To this day, Erika has slept with the blanket every night.
“Since we picked them, I had known that they were the ones, but after seeing the way they acted once they had seen her — it solidified everything even more, and I didn’t know that could be possible,” she says.
Erika and her fiancé chose to have a semi-open adoption, which means that they receive picture and letter updates from the adoptive family three times a year. Until her daughter expresses interest in meeting her, Erika will not have a direct relationship with her.
Erika also decided to keep her adoption a secret from her family members, including her children. While this is not the best option for every prospective birth mother, Erika thought it would be best for not only her family members but also her.
“We both have the kind of families who would definitely agree and want what’s best for us, but at the same point, especially my mother, who I love dearly — she would be that person who, every time I would talk to her on the phone, she would be constantly bringing it up, when I wouldn’t necessarily want her to,” she says. “It would be really hard on me, especially… I didn’t want to burden my kids with that big of a secret.”
However, having her fiancé by her side through the whole process was invaluable. While he was always there for support in times when Erika needed someone to listen, he involved himself only as much as he could handle — which meant not attending doctor’s visits.
Her adoption specialist was also always there if she needed another support system.
“Even though adoption was the hardest decision I will ever make in my life, American Adoptions also made it the best decision I’ve ever made in my life,” she says. “Even to this day, I know that every time I call Shannon I feel like I am her only birth mom that she has to deal with, because she has no problem talking to me and listening to everything I have to say.”
Ultimately, adoption is about following your heart, Erika says. Even though she’s a logical person who prefers to think with her head, her adoption decision came straight from what she felt was best. And, as much as it does pull at her heartstrings to wait for her next update from the adoptive family, they only further remind her that she made the right choice.
“When they got home…they took a picture of her holding a piglet that I bought for her when they came down to visit me,” she says. “This is their daughter, but they’re still thinking about me and taking that picture with her. After I saw that picture, everything got a little better.”
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