The following is a story from a woman who has experienced adoption from two perspectives – first as an adoptive mother and then as a birth grandmother when her daughter placed a child for adoption.
Twenty-nine years ago, our sixteen-year-old daughter, Danae, told us she was pregnant! To say this revelation was a shock is an understatement. Like most moms, I asked myself, “Where had I failed? How could this be happening to our family?” We always prayed together and taught our children right from wrong. But, there are no guarantees in this world. I’ve learned so much about my daughter – and myself – since that day and I can tell you that we are stronger today.
Our lives were definitely changed from that moment on – changed for the better, even though I didn’t know it then!
Becoming a Mother Through a Closed Adoption (and How I Wish It Had Been Open)
Let me give you a little background as to where my perspective on adoption comes from. Fifty years ago, my husband and I found ourselves desperately wanting children but unable to conceive. After five years of struggle, we finally went to an adoption agency. Miraculously, in a short ten months a precious baby boy was placed in our arms. We were told very little about his background and never met his birth mother. At the time, all I wanted was a baby and the fact that we knew little made no difference to me. After all, I had my baby! However, as the years progressed, I could see that there was a piece of the puzzle that I could not fill for him. It broke my heart but there was nothing I could do about it, since his was a closed adoption.
Now, I know that there are different personalities and degrees of sensitivity. We just happened to adopt a child who was sensitive and inquisitive and I had nothing to give him but love. You might think that was enough; that’s what I thought. You might think that you’ll take a baby, love it and you’ll make all the difference in the world. However, life isn’t always that easy.
Today my son still struggles with the lack of information in his adoption. If I could go back and change his closed adoption to an open one, I would do it in a heartbeat, but open adoptions were not an option fifty years ago.
Becoming a Birth Grandmother in an Open Adoption
Back to our daughter… the first thing we did was contact an adoption agency. We knew an agency would help her explore all the possibilities for the baby. She and the baby’s father, Ryan, went through extensive counseling, exploring all avenues of keeping the baby vs adoption. One thing I was sure of: this was her choice, not mine, as she was going to have to live with the decision the rest of her life.
Once they decided on adoption, my daughter was adamant that it be an open adoption. (I think after seeing her brother struggling with his closed adoption all those years, she realized the importance of an open approach.) The next step in the open adoption process was to pick a family. Danae & Ryan were presented with dozens of adoption dossiers. I’m not sure what my daughter was looking for as she read through each application. Whatever it was, she wasn’t finding it. Finally, she went back to the agency and asked if they had any more for her. The case worker said “no” but she would try by next week to have a few more. Danae was excited because she was hopeful the next group of dossiers would provide a family to raise her child, since she was getting closer to her delivery date.
Meeting the Adoptive Couple
On the other end of this saga, a prospective adoptive couple was urged to get their paperwork in quickly. They obliged and were among the three dossiers that were presented to Danae the next week. God was at work behind the scenes.
When Danae received those three dossiers, she read the first one and laid it aside. Then, she started reading the second one and she called, “Mom, come here! This is it. This is the couple I want to raise my baby.” Now, you might ask me how she knew. I can’t answer that but she just knew. God had stirred in her a response she had not felt before. Of course, she shared the dossier with Ryan and he agreed with her decision. From that moment on – even before she met the couple – she knew “this” was the right decision for her baby.
The next step was to meet the prospective parents. The meeting with the couple went smoothly and only confirmed in Danae and Ryan’s minds that they were making the correct decision for their child. In the weeks that followed, Danae heard from the couple several times. One thing I appreciated was that they never wrote or talked about “our” baby; they knew the final decision would come once the child was born and they never assumed anything. After all, Danae and Ryan could change their minds about the adoption at the last minute and the couple understood that.
You might ask – where was I in all this? My husband and I were able to meet the prospective adoptive couple prior to the birth also. Our time with them just confirmed what Danae had decided – THIS couple would be perfect to raise the baby… my first grandchild! God is good.
Saying Goodbye to Stuart
The time came for Danae’s delivery and it was a difficult one but she was a trooper. Ryan was by her side the whole time. The baby was a boy and they named him Stuart. As they held him and marveled at his tiny fingers and toes, Danae looked at me and said, “Do you think it’s too early for us to call our baby’s new parents?” (It was 2:30 in the morning when she asked so it was decided that they would wait a little longer before making the call.)
Two days later, I watched as my daughter laid her son in the crib, kissed him goodbye and told him she loved him. Seeing your baby tell her baby goodbye rips at your heart like nothing else. It was at that point I knew none of us would ever be the same again. However, we had put our trust in God and His will.
I must tell you that I never really knew whether Danae would change her mind once she held her tiny baby, but she never wavered. She knew an open adoption was the most loving thing she could do for her son. She wanted him to have two parents who would love and care for him. And, she wanted him to know about his birth mother and birth father… to know that they loved him enough to relinquish him to the care of another family. And, I can tell you, twenty-eight years later she has never said she made a mistake. She knows she did the best thing for her son.
No Regrets in this Open Adoption
I know there are different degrees of openness in adoption. Some might be afraid that the birth mother will “come back for the baby” (not legally possible) or perhaps that she will just insert herself into the new life her baby has, much to the concern of the parents. I believe the birth mother, once she has placed her child for adoption, should take her cues from the adoptive parents. They are in control now and know what is best for their child. But I urge both birth and adoptive parents to set aside those initial fears and embrace openness in adoption!
Stuart’s new parents were very open with Danae – sending pictures and writing letters telling her of his progress. I commend them for their willingness to share so openly. I think they realized what a sacrifice Danae had made and they wanted her to be as much of a part of Stuart’s life as possible. They managed to visit Danae almost once a year. How grateful she was to see her birth son, and it was always difficult when they left. But, still, she knew she had made the right decision.
As for Stuart, he grew up always knowing that he was adopted and that Danae was his birth mother. When they visited us, Danae was able to put her arms around him and tell him how much she loved him. The first time I saw her lean down and kiss him, it brought back memories of that day in the hospital when she had placed him in the crib and kissed him. Tears streamed down my face as I was reminded once again of how good God is and how He provides for us in ways unimaginable.
Yes, all our lives have been enriched by this experience. Our faith is stronger and we truly believe in the scripture that says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11
Danae finished high school and went on to graduate from college. She and Ryan broke up but remained in touch for many years. Danae eventually married and had more children. She still has contact with Stuart.
Fast forward to today: Stuart lives just an hour from us, and we have had several occasions to be with him. What a wonderful young man he has grown to be. He is still my first grandchild, although I have 20 more now! There will always be a special place in my heart for him and I am so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to know him through the years. This was a gift his adoptive parents gave us.