It’s not often that someone asks about my adoption story. As a matter of fact, hardly anyone does. You hear about the families who grow through adoption, and the lives that are touched by it. It’s not often you hear the story as told by a birthmother. When I was asked to share my story, I was elated. I’ve always hoped to tell people my story and my journey through adoption. I hope to touch someone out there who wonders what a birthmother goes through; what her journey is like and the stories she has to tell. There are always two sides to a story, and here’s mine.
When I was pregnant with Asher I didn’t know where my life would go or what decisions I would make. I didn’t know how I’d raise a child my senior year when I still felt like a child myself. What would my friends think? What would my parents think? I asked myself all the typical questions, and had no “typical” answers for any of them. This was a time when teen pregnancy wasn’t at its highest. There weren’t any pregnant girls at my school. I didn’t know of any either. All I knew was that this was happening to me and I had no idea how to handle it. My parents (unlike many) were very supportive. From all the doctor’s appointments, to making sure I was taken care of at school, they were there. I was never alone, though at times I felt like I was. I knew people noticed at school and around town, but what do you say? How do you act? How do you explain to your friends that you’re still the 16 year old girl who plays flute? It didn’t matter. I was “that girl” whether I could explain myself or not. I was the statistic.
The decision of adoption was not chosen easily. I had never met anyone who was adopted, nor anyone who had gone through adoption. It was unfamiliar territory. When the option was first brought up, I was hesitant. Why would I want to give up my baby? Why would I want to put so much into this, just to let it go? That’s where the negativity of adoption comes to play. Every birthmother has her reason, and every birth mother has her struggles. I was 16, a junior in high school, and trying very hard to make it to college. I had no job, I was not in a relationship, and I couldn’t fathom putting the weight of a baby on my parents, as well as myself. Before he was born, I loved Asher. I loved his kicks, I loved his hiccups. I loved every part of this little person. And it was because I loved him that I chose adoption. He deserved a life far better than I could give him at 16. He deserved the toys and the attention. He deserved the Mom AND the Dad, and to be spoiled and loved in every way imaginable. I have always hoped that Asher will never doubt my love for him. I hope that he never wonders why I did what I did. It was because I love him. Every choice I ever made was for him.
Once I was firm on my choice of adoption, my journey began. I chose open adoption because I wanted to know his new family. I wanted to know who he would grow into and what kind of life he would have. I wanted to be there to love him through his life. I couldn’t imagine walking around my city wondering if he and his family were walking right by me. Open adoption was my first and only choice.
What was to be a typical doctor’s visit turned into a diagnosis of preeclampsia, and I was placed in the hospital that Friday after school. As I sat in my hospital bed, I scoured books and albums of these hopeful families ready and wanting to adopt. Some were deep in their faith, some already had big families. How was I to make such a big decision from a book? Some were from out of state, which was an issue for me. When I mentioned that I wanted some close to home, my social worker came back with a bag full of an assortment of binders and albums from the Quad Cities and surrounding area. Then I saw it. A square red book with button letters sharing their names on the front cover. My favorite color is red. I read every inch of that album. Twice. Three times. As I sat in my hospital bed with my notebook “check list” of qualities in a family I wanted for Asher, I realized they had everything I was looking for. They had the same belief in faith that I did. They loved music and they loved their home state of Iowa. I told my social worker that this was the family; this was them. I wanted to meet them. I wanted to know them. She asked several times if I was sure that I didn’t want to look over any other albums. I’d never been so sure.
The pain of giving birth that night was unreal. From 0 to 100 in less than two hours. I don’t remember much, except for watching him being taken away by the nurses, and briefly falling asleep while eating. The next morning I held Asher. I kissed him. I watched my parents play with him and feed him. It was so unreal. Did this really happen to me? Did I just bring a life into this world? The nurses during my pregnancy and after were some of the kindest women I’ve ever met. They knew he was to be adopted, and they were very understanding. They made sure I had my alone time with him, but also were sensitive to the situation and made sure I wasn’t uncomfortable at any time. I wrote them all thank you letters.
When I met Jake and Emily for the first time, I wasn’t sure what to do. I wasn’t sure what to say. Do I stay in my bed? Do I sit in the chair? Why don’t I have makeup on? I look like a wreck. None of my clothes fit and I am still recovering. I hope they don’t think I look terrible. When they sat down on my hospital bed and we talked, it was like I knew. I was still emotional from everything, but the moment Jake held baby Asher, I lost it. I cried so much. I clearly remember saying that I’ve never cried from being happy, but these were tears of joy. Have you ever had one of those moments where you’re down and you feel like life is kicking your butt, then something happens and you say to yourself “Ohhh, this is it. This is why. I get it now. You’re a sneaky one, God.” This was that moment for me. Everything made sense. I knew from then on this family would forever be in my life, and in my heart.
Leaving the hospital was harder than anyone will ever know. I didn’t want to go, but I needed to go. I needed to leave before I decided that I would never, ever leave. Once I was home, the days started blurring together while I healed. I spent a lot of time scrapbooking pictures of Asher that I had. For a while, things were typical. Well, as “typical” as the adoption process can go. I met with my social worker to sign my termination of parental rights, and I requested a Birth Certificate with the name that I’d given him on it. It was important to me that I have a copy to cherish for myself.
Getting to know and grow with Asher’s family was a process. I didn’t know what my boundaries were, and I didn’t know how much contact or attention was “too much.” For the first year of his life, I fought with myself nearly every day on whether or not I was selfish, or selfless. I struggled with depression. I felt empty. I felt like something was missing but I didn’t know what. I saw these other girls my age having babies and I thought, “If they could do it, why couldn’t I?” I also saw these girls barely making ends meet. I saw them leave their babies with their parents while they went out and did things they should be doing at 16, instead of raising a child. I never wanted to be that kind of person. I never wanted Asher to wonder why I wasn’t there or why he couldn’t have all of my attention. It was extremely hard to see all these girls keeping their babies and wondering why I was the only one who chose a better life for their child. Not many knew about Asher. Mostly close family, and maybe two or three friends. I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want anyone to know because I didn’t want anyone to call me those names. To tell me I was selfish. “How could you give up your own baby?” I’ll tell you how. I was able to do it because his needs were far greater than my own. My love for him and my want for him to have the best life possible far outweighed anything I ever felt. The first year was the hardest I’ve ever been through in my life.
I am now 22 and happily in a relationship with someone I was able to share my story with. He knows everything about me and everything I went through. When I first met him, he had no idea Asher existed. I wanted to tell him. But how do you start a conversation like that? Eventually, the answer was clear. Just do it. If he loves you, he will understand. If he doesn’t, I shouldn’t be with him anyway. When you tell someone you’ve had a baby, their initial reaction is shock. Then when they ask where “the baby” is and you say “he’s been adopted”, the situation grows slightly more complicated. Questions come up, as well as speculation. There’s a lot of explaining I had to go through, as well as a lot of tears. It’s hard to talk about something that means so much to you when the person you’re telling has a hard time understanding. It’s always been that way. When I would tell someone my story, the reaction was always the same. “Adoption!?” Then, “the look.” It’s a look that says “How could you give away your baby?” That’s when I know that no matter what I say, they’ve decided I’m a bad person. This story is for those people. For all those people who gave me those looks and called me names and told me things I didn’t deserve to hear. This is for you.
I still can’t answer my selfless/selfish question today. Some days I feel like I know it was for him, other days I wonder what makes me so “selfless” to give up a child because I “couldn’t do it.” I will always struggle with myself. I will always have backlash from people who do not understand. But I am strong. I have an amazing family full of love and support, and I know every day that Asher will always be loved. That’s what matters most to me.
Asher is 5 now, and I am happy to say I have never been more proud of the choice I made. I have never loved anyone as much as I love Asher and his family. Watching him grow and learn has been amazing. I don’t get to see him often due to living out of state, but I get to see pictures as well as videos. I love that my family has such a great opportunity through open adoption. We get to see him grow, and he can always know who I am. He will always have answers to his questions, and he will never doubt how loved he really is.