What It’s Like to Be a Birth Mom
By Terri Rimmer
It was 16 years ago when I placed my only child for adoption, the hardest and smartest thing I ever did.
I was 34, and for 14 years, I didn’t think I could get pregnant. So when I got the positive dollar store test, I was shocked, to say the least.
I went to Planned Parenthood to confirm the test several weeks later. A few weeks later, I moved into a maternity home in Fort Worth, Texas on January 31, 2000.
An Unselfish Decision
On February 28, I got an ultrasound, which showed I was having a daughter. Though I slipped into a deep period of depression while I was pregnant, I knew I had finally grown up because I was making the first unselfish decision of my life. I knew that as badly as I wanted to have a child, I could not parent her for emotional, financial, mental, and physical reasons that had plagued me all my life.
Shortly after I moved into the dorm at the maternity home, I started an adoption journal, and in my regular therapy sessions I would cry from grief about my decision, even though I knew it was the right thing.
Throughout my pregnancy, there were times I thought that if one more person asked me why I was placing my child for adoption, I’d choke them. I didn’t know if the pregnancy was making me stronger, but I found myself standing up to people, which I’d never been able to do.
Two months before I had my birth daughter, McKenna, I met the people who would become her adoptive parents. One month later, I met her adoptive brother, who had also been adopted two years earlier.
McKenna was born on Aug. 15, 2000, and this is what I wrote in the journal to her after my emergency C-Section: “I want to remember your smile, dimple in your chin, all the pictures we took, your dreams, good nature, cooing, feeling like you motivate me to go on, how you love to nap and stretch.”
The nights were so hard at the dorm after having given birth since I had had my child and the other residents were still pregnant and had no idea what to expect. Once, I cried until my incision hurt, and another time I even cried in the presence of a houseparent who naively asked, “Why are you depressed?”
Then on August 24, I placed my daughter with her new family on what is known as Placement Day. Pictures are taken, videos are made, gifts/cards are exchanged, and it is a total ceremonial setting.
I have a semi-open adoption, which means I get letters, videos, pictures, cards, gifts, emails, and I send the same. I made a scrapbook over a four-month period for McKenna before she was born about my life, and I write her letters on significant holidays and birthdays every year.
I also get to see her two or three times a year. It is as if a picture that I have in my bedroom of McKenna and I has been freeze-framed in my mind and soul and comes to life during our visits.
The Long Road to Healing
It used to be that the sound of a bunch of girls’ laughter would echo as I left a store, and I would wonder if I’d ever get through a day when the sound or the sight of a girl didn’t jerk at my numb heart or threaten to stir up tears. Now, when I hear a girl’s laughter or voice that is the same age as McKenna, I smile inside and wonder what she’s doing today.
The first holiday season, McKenna’s first Thanksgiving and Christmas, was brutal for me. I cried in the bathroom on Christmas Day as my family prepared to eat while I was visiting my sister in Florida.
Then one day, I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel a little and focus on how happy McKenna was.
If I had kept her, I would have been on welfare, but being bipolar with a lot of other emotional problems, my lack of financial resources would have been the least my problems.
Shortly after I had McKenna, I wished I could hold her for at least a minute or even a day, but I knew as soon as she got fussy I’d panic and look for her adoptive mom to take her.
My sister, who’s a therapist, once told me that it is mature to admit that you know you’re immature.
I got so much grief at work for my painful adoption decision that when I changed jobs, and when someone asked if I had custody of McKenna, I told them I did, only later admitting the truth.
Then on April 15, 2001, almost eight months after Placement Day, the adoptive mom asked me if I’d like to see McKenna on the day they were scheduled to go to court and have her adoption finalized. For the first time since Placement Day, I got to see and hold McKenna, and we took pictures in which I looked my happiest ever in my life.
I started talking to others about the adoption more, and I was not ashamed.
Fast forward to 2009, and in July, I was invited to my birth daughter’s house by her adoptive mom. To be in McKenna’s home where she lives with her family, to see how she lived and how she was, was a gift, and I cannot adequately put into words how much it meant to my heart, mind, and spirit.
I can’t imagine my life without McKenna now.
Terri Rimmer has 33 years of journalism experience, having worked for ten newspapers and some magazines. She wrote for associatedcontent.com, later bought out by Yahoo Voices from 2005-2012. Ms. Rimmer published her e-book “MacKenzie’s Hope” on booklocker.com under the family heading. It’s also listed on adopting.com. On July 6, 2017, her story “The Birth Mom With No Regrets” was published by New York Magazine (The Cut) and in March 2017, her foster care story was published on “Foster Kids, Tell Me Your Story’s” Facebook page.