If you haven’t listened to Birth Mothers Amplified yet, here’s how they describe themselves (because they can explain this far better than I can): “Birth Mothers Amplified is a podcast that is co-hosted by Muthoni and Emma. The goal of Birth Mothers Amplified is to empower women who make adoptions possible and to allow birth parents to speak their truths and share their authentic stories.”
In this episode 17 of Birth Mothers Amplified season 1, Emma and Muthoni are joined by Ana, “a sweet and passionate birth mother. Ana’s been a birth mother for 6 years to a sweet little boy. She lives in Texas with her husband and daughter and loves to bake and watch binge-worthy shows including The Office, Parks and Rec, and reality TV shows. She’s a stay-at-home mom, so quarantining is nothing new to her.” (Preach it, lady, I’m with you there.)
This podcast was titled “The Paradigm Shift in Adoption.” It wasn’t what I expected from the title (I was expecting something about the societal shift towards adoption being more “normal”), but it was a really good one to listen to. It was about how a birth mom’s feelings change after having a child that they don’t place for adoption. It was amazing to hear Ana talk about her initial feelings when she placed her son for adoption. There was also a great discussion on what not to say to a birth mother, or really anyone in the adoption triad. That is the part that resonated the very most with me.
People can say really weird things when adoption is involved. I appreciated how gracious Ana was when correcting the person in question. I have not always been particularly gracious or kind when correcting others. For instance, I have heard “I can’t imagine giving away your own blood” in regard to birth parents. In my kids’ circumstances, no one was placed. They were removed. Regardless, birth mothers who choose to place their children for adoption aren’t “giving away” their blood. They are choosing to give their child a different life than they feel they can give them.
I find the whole concept of blood ties being the most important thing awful anyway. Some of my favorite people, whom I consider family, are of no blood relation to me at all. I’m closer to them than I am to some of my blood relations. The idea that loving someone has to be tied to genetics is offensive. In this birth mother’s case, the statement was, “Oh, I was going to place my son but I saw him and he was so precious I couldn’t give him up.” Ana thought, “Wow, and my kid was so hideous I just had to give him away?” It wasn’t meant to be offensive, but it certainly came across that way. Ana said she wasn’t offended; she didn’t think less of that person because she has put her foot in her mouth a number of times.
Honestly, I wish I was better at gently correcting than I tend to be. It is hard enough when an angry kid spouts “You’re not my real mom”; it is even worse when an adult who should know better asks about my kids “real parents.” Hello, I am a real flesh and blood human who would jump in front of a moving car to save my kid, ok? I am their “real parent.” The word you are looking for is “biological parent,” and they are none of your business. I digress.
There was a big discussion about how their second pregnancies, with the children the birth mothers chose to parent, felt so different. When they were pregnant with their first children, everyone was anxious. Nobody celebrated or congratulated them. It made them feel like, to others, their babies weren’t as special or precious, whereas when they were pregnant the second time, everyone was excited.
Oddly, I’ve heard adoptive moms feel similarly. A dear friend of mine adopted three precious kiddos and the fanfare was minimal. People did not know how to respond and didn’t act like it was a big deal. We were the only family from their friend group that showed up at the adoption. When she ended up miraculously pregnant with her youngest child, everyone went nuts. She had several baby showers thrown for her, people sent cards and congratulated her. It felt so strange to have one child celebrated and the others ignored. The takeaway for me was that I need to be more supportive of adopting and pregnant people that I know, regardless of the situation. A baby is a baby and should be celebrated.
A big deal for all of the moms was their guilt over feeling excited about their second pregnancy when they had felt ashamed and scared for their first. This of course has to do with the reception they received for the first. It also, I’m sure, has to do with the circumstances. Parents are generally excited to have babies from planned pregnancies. Unplanned pregnancies though, even in married stable couples, can cause some anxiety and strife.
I have a friend who already had five precious children. Her husband had a vasectomy, and three weeks later, she found herself expecting her sixth child. The vasectomy wasn’t 100% effective. She was not really excited about the baby until much later in the pregnancy because she had a young toddler, a few preschoolers, and an older child with anger issues. She wasn’t prepared for the added struggle of a pregnancy that would leave her on bed rest for a month and cause a great deal of upheaval in their already stressful lives. They made it work and are thriving now, but the early months were really difficult for her.
So I can see how a birth mom would feel overwhelmed and anxious if she wasn’t ready to be a mom and the people around her didn’t rally their support. I can’t imagine I would have the grace and courage these birth mothers seem to have had.
Overall, this episode was fun to listen to. It was lovely hearing about how Ana picked her son’s adoptive parents. I love these stories and they always take me by surprise. She shared how the adoptive dad was a big Star Wars fan, and how she was also a Star Wars fan because her dad showed the series to her when she was 6. I loved this so much because we are a nerd family. My youngest daughter is 6 years old and super into Star Wars. I will often find my girls playing with “lightsabers” (sticks) and trying to perform great acrobatic feats. The thought that this woman chose a family based on something I love warmed my heart in a way I can’t quite explain. There were other factors involved, obviously, but that was something that stood out to her.
The hosts went on to say that they loved hearing things like that. Their message to any hopeful adoptive parent listening was, just be yourself. It’s always something small and seemingly innocuous that makes a family “click” with an expectant parent looking at profiles. It could be that you love dogs, or cats, or Star Wars, or that you’re outdoorsy. Stuff that you wouldn’t think about is often the same stuff that makes an expectant mom feel like you would be a good fit for her baby.
I loved hearing about the questions she asked the potential adoptive families. If nothing else, it gave me some knowledge that I can pass on to friends who are hoping to adopt. It is such an emotional process, and sometimes it can be so overwhelming if you don’t know what to ask.
The level of openness was a big deal to Ana; if the potential adoptive parents weren’t okay with that, then they’d need to walk away. I really appreciated her talking about how much her visits meant to her even if it made her really sad. She spoke about missing the milestones with her son that she gets to experience with her daughter and how that makes her feel.
As an adoptive mom, I feel something similar but flipped. All of my kids besides my youngest came to me a bit older. I missed so many firsts. We got to experience a few great ones, like the first bike ride, first day of school, first time they called us mom and dad. But I’ll never know my older sons’ or daughters’ first words. I don’t have an answer for how much they weighed at birth, when they first crawled or walked. I don’t know when they got their first tooth or when they potty trained. It is all a great big blank. Even my youngest who came to us at 6 weeks old is a mystery in some regards. She was born in a motel room. I don’t know what time she was born or how much she weighed. Every milestone with her made me wonder about her older brothers’ milestones. What was my oldest son’s first solid food? Did he like it? I want to know, but I have no one to ask. So, in that regard, I’m so happy for this birth mom who has an open relationship with her son’s family, so she will know the answers to those questions. She may not have gotten to see them happen, but she gets to know about them. I’m sure that doesn’t bring her a great deal of comfort when she sees her daughter doing a new thing and she wonders what her son would have done. I think it will help her with her grief over the years, though.
I have gained so much insight from these podcasts. I always assumed that birth moms were usually young teens or women who had no home. I didn’t realize they came from “normal” families and that birth moms could be in their 20s when they chose adoption. I just assumed once a person was over 18, they could choose to parent if they had family around to help. It made me appreciate even more how precious and selfless the decision to place can be.
Some of the moms on Birth Mothers Amplified could have cobbled together something to “make it work.” Even with birth dads who took themselves out of the picture, they had family around that may have been able to help them. However, they chose to do something that they felt would be better for their child. They allowed themselves to feel so much personal grief for the rest of their lives. They knew it, and they chose it anyway. I used to, as an adoptive mom with friends who are adoptive parents, have a lot of disdain for an expectant mom who would “string along” a hopeful adoptive couple, only to choose to parent at the last minute. I have friends who still, years later, feel the heartbreak of coming home to an empty nursery. However, I understand even more now why that would happen. I can’t imagine being in a place where I’d have to make a decision like that. It is amazing that these moms did it.
I appreciate the candid responses from all of the birth moms that I’ve gotten to listen to on Birth Mothers Amplified. They don’t shy away from difficult feelings and difficult questions. “Do you feel guilty that you enjoyed your pregnancy with your second child?” Who wants to face feelings of guilt? Who wants to admit those feelings to anyone listening to this podcast? It is refreshing to hear hard truths in a world that is often afraid of truths.