Episode 23 of Birth Mothers Amplified features Latoya, a birth mother whose journey had some bumps along the way. She offers advice.

Birth Mothers Amplified Episode 23: Finding Strength from Within

“There are those who viewed my decision to be a birth mother as selfish, but in fact, this journey has been the true definition of selflessness. No longer do I walk this path in shame or embarrassment. For being a birth mother requires strength and grit, and greater than these, it requires love.” – Latoya

In Birth Mothers Amplified Episode 25, hosts Muthoni and Emma talk with Latoya, a birth mother of 16 years. In addition to being a full-time mom, Latoya is currently in nursing school and she is working on starting a nonprofit organization to help young girls in crisis situations.

Choosing to Become a Birth Mother through Adoption

Latoya was an 18-year-old senior in high school when she found herself dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. 

At that time, Latoya already had a son who she was raising and found herself in the difficult position of having to make the decision as to how she would proceed with this pregnancy. 

Initially, Latoya’s first choice was abortion. She describes going to a clinic with her boyfriend. She explains that she believed that she had nothing to give to the child and abortion was her only option. It wasn’t until a sonogram revealed just how far along she already was that she immediately knew that there was no way that she could follow through with that choice.

She also says that after her experience at the clinic, she looked into a Florida adoption agency, but the effort to make an adoption plan did not pan out. While discouraged, Latoya would pursue the option again, but several states away.

Up until the pregnancy, Latoya explains that she’d been living with a godfather-type family figure, but she soon transitioned to move back home with her mom and stepfather. However, when her stepfather found out that she was pregnant, Latoya was given the choice of finding herself somewhere else to live or getting a ticket to move to Texas where she had other family members.

Latoya chose to move to Texas.

Once she arrived in Texas, Latoya looked into adoption agencies and found one with an “amazing” caseworker who she says had an immediate impact on her life and her decision to proceed with adoption. 

Together, Latoya and her caseworker walked through the process, at some point discovering a waiting adoptive family who she immediately felt a deep connection with—particularly the adoptive mom, who had appealing qualities that Latoya felt were deeply important. The hopeful adoptive mom was an educated attorney, artist, author, and painter. Not to leave the adoptive father out, who Latoya warmly describes as being someone who she was looking for and just as important to her child’s life. But, as a self-described young black girl giving birth to a son, she recognized just how important a mother would be to her child’s life and was truly thankful for the connection she felt she’d made, which made her decision to place her child with them easier.

Pregnant in Texas

Latoya didn’t hide the fact that she was pregnant once she was settled in her new home in Texas, but she says family members there made it clear that they felt she should keep the child within the family by letting another family member adopt her son. She wasn’t comfortable with this, however, and that caused friction. Latoya knew that she wanted and needed space and distance, while also wanting to know exactly where her son was and that he was okay. 

She felt the idea of a family member raising her son in such close proximity wouldn’t be the best decision on her part, her son’s, or the family member.

Getting Through A Difficult Birth

Already a hard day for a birth mother due to the basic nature of it, the day Latoya gave birth to her son was extremely difficult. Although her OB-GYN had been made aware of her adoption plan, that doctor was unavailable when it was time to deliver. She found herself being tended to by an on-call doctor who had no idea what was going on.

She recalls sobbing after giving birth, and the doctor saying, “Can you please shut up.”

It’s extremely important for everyone involved with a delivery to be on the same page and aware of the birth plan because, as Latoya found out, an already difficult situation can feel even more traumatic with little to no sympathy or support from those who you are most reliant on in that moment.

Latoya says that she has heard similar stories from many other birth moms about birth plans not being respected or followed and the added stress and hardship that obviously brings.

Latoya remained with the OB-GYN office after the incident and says she took the high road on that one (in dealing with the uninformed and unsympathetic on-call doctor). But now she’s ready to educate and make the medical community aware that this situation should not be okay.

“It’s difficult for birth moms who don’t even know what they want or need in that situation,” says host Emma. “You don’t know how to handle it.” She goes on to say that it’s critical that the medical staff be made aware of the birth plan. She adds that her adoption agency provides a folder of information to the medical staff, “but they can’t force them to read it.”

As if her experience in the hospital wasn’t traumatic enough, Latoya shares that she called home to tell family members that if they wanted to meet the baby before the adoption, now was the time because the baby wasn’t coming home. 

Nobody came.

The Open Adoption Path 

Having an open adoption and getting those important updates from the adoptive family was important to Latoya. She describes that early on, the adoption agency served as the “middleman” to make all that happen.

Things started out all right and as planned with consistent communication, but they took a turn a few years later. Latoya says that the openness soon closed with a final update: a photo of her son on his first day of school. 

“I had a space in my life where I wasn’t proud of who I was,” says Latoya, who doesn’t fault anyone for the sudden disconnect. She didn’t want to reach out at that time in her life for fear that her son would feel her self-doubt. “If I don’t like who I am, how do I expect him to?” Latoya says. “I always wanted him to be proud of me.” 

Latoya says that after all her sacrifice to ensure she’d made the right choice, she didn’t want his adoption to be in vain.

Although from the outside, this type of scenario may leave some thinking that a birth mother may just not want to be part of a child’s life, that is not the case. So many birth moms are simply too afraid to pursue or maintain an open adoption, fearing they have or would somehow let the child down.

“There’s shame there whether it’s legit or not. Birth moms should be proud, but insecurities prevent them from forming a relationship.” 

When Latoya was in a better place and reached back out to the agency, she said they were unable to find the family. She would carry around and try to unravel the question of “Where are they?” over the next several years. 

Looking for Support and Healing at Home

When Latoya got home from the hospital, she says she felt shunned for a long time, until the eventual birth of her next child when her family members started to come around again. Unfortunately, she says some of these relationships have never healed completely and are still strained to this day.

Now, she says she feels strong and ready to share this story, not only with her family who may not know all the details, but friends as well. She wants to help people overcome the negative stigma around birth moms and to dispel the old myths that “you’re a drug user or you just lived this horrible life.” 

Looking back, she says things could have been different and she especially credits her mom and her sister for standing by her throughout her journey.

Changing Views on Choosing Adoption

Latoya wishes that the topic of adoption and choosing to become a birth mom was as normal as an everyday conversation, stating that she would like “for people to talk about adoption or to learn about it in school where you learn about sex, protection, and abortion…but you never learn about adoption.”

She said she also understands some of the misunderstandings and misconceptions some of her family had with her choice. “For [her] family especially, with a background of slavery,” they might have felt offended by her decision not to keep the child in the family. 

She says that she hopes by sharing her story, she is able to help anyone else facing the same thing to feel encouraged to speak about it.

Finding Hope as a Birth Mother

Of what she’s been through, Latoya says, “My birth isn’t a wound. Wounds heal. But it’s the beginning of a new chapter.” She is not hiding who she is any longer. “It’s who I am.”

And she shares that after such a long time apart, after so much soul-searching and rebuilding, she once again has contact with her son and his adoptive family.

On January 31st at 2 a.m., she finally found and reached out to her son via social media —and he reached back. Latoya can’t stop smiling.

Between that and her ability to now have a platform to share her story and reach out to other birth moms, “It’s not a mistake, it’s no coincidence that we’re doing this podcast.” 

She adds that the unfortunate break in communication between her and the adoptive family and her son is nobody’s fault —not hers, not the agency’s, not the family’s. Stating that “Everything falls in place.” A huge understatement of her 10-year, non-stop search to find and reconnect.

And for Latoya, things really are falling into place —nicely. She shares that as a birth mom, you have fears that you will reach out and it won’t work out or that you will be denied or that your child will hate you.

Thankfully, that has not been her experience and she’s been overwhelmed at how open her son has been at her attempts to be part of his life again, adding that he thanked her, letting her know that his mom and dad are great people and that he’s surrounded by great people.

As a birth mom, Latoya says, that’s all she has ever wanted to hear, all any parent wants to hear from their child.

Latoya’s Family Now on her Decision to Become a Birth Mother

Latoya has four more children, all between the ages of 19 and 2. Her other children know about her choice to become a birth mom and the fact that she has a birth son and that they have another brother who is just as loved. 

“Yes, the other children know,” she says. “You (the child placed for adoption) are not a secret or something to hide.” Latoya shares that she is very open about it with all of her children.

She describes the night that she reached out and connected with her son as incredible and amazing. She works at a hospital and had just finished a 14-hour shift and immediately called her husband and texted her mom and sister with the news, despite the late hour. 

Her other children, too, were happy to hear that she’d gained contact again. And although she acknowledges the lost time, she says it’s never too late to be part of a child’s life, saying that “It’s a good thing. A happy thing. And now wherever you (her son) go, I have an opportunity to be a part of it.”

As Latoya’s life also evolved with a career and husband and giving birth to her other children, she reflects, “I have given someone the opportunity to hear someone say “mama” for the first time, to walk for the first time.” At the same time, she also wishes that people would recognize that, even though she has made the choice to become a “birth mother,” she is in fact a mother, and she wants people to look at birth mothers in the same way as they do any other mother.

Finding the AnswersWithin and Without

And while their new relationship is still new, Latoya is hopeful and confident about becoming part of her son’s life again.

“I think he was worried that I wanted to take him away,” she recalls of their initial interaction. “No. My goal is to be an extension. Now you have a whole other family to love you. Not to take you.”

Host Emma also shares that open adoption in general it’s about extension —not a replacement, not an alternative, but an extension of more people to love the child. It’s not a competition.

Latoya wants other adoptees who have not found their birth parents to realize that just like her, there are plenty of birth parents who are looking, but it’s difficult. Not just trying to find a trail, but also trying to be respectful of the situation and to know how to proceed.

She adds, though, “When it’s time, it’s time.”

And she says that it’s not all about her, but more so about helping her child to know his extended family. “There becomes a fear that you may never get to make a connection. You want your children to know where they come from.” And for this, Latoya is referring to grandparents and other relatives with whom children look to in order to know where they may have inherited a certain feature, like a nose or trait or skill. 

Making these connections has also included reaching out to the birth father, who she explains was initially very hesitant to accept the news. But after sending photos and messages, he became open to the situation and responded. Her goal, Latoya says, is to make sure that her birth son knows as much about his family as she can provide him, and she’s not taking no for an answer. 

Advice to Black Expectant Moms

While Latoya’s story is important for all expectant parents, it especially has meaning to Black expectant moms who oftentimes find themselves with less support and available resources, according to and as experienced by hosts Muthoni and Emma. 

“Be strong. Believe in yourself. Barriers are being broken every day. Be encouraged. And know that what you’re doing is right,” she says. “There will be those who will support you, so have faith in yourself and in all things.”

And regardless of whether or not you are currently in an open adoption situation or in the process of becoming part of your child’s life, either soon or down the road, Latoya advises birth parents to have the answers ready that their child may someday want or need.

“Hindsight is 20/20. There are so many things I would’ve done differently.” One thing she says she did do is journal. She never wanted her child to wonder or not to know why things happened the way they did. Of her writings, she says, “There was something left for you (her son), to answer the why.” She says whether or not a physical connection is ever possible or made, having something like a journal or a recording may mean the world to a child with questions.

Are you considering adoption and want to give your child the best life possible? Let us help you find an adoptive family that you love. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.

Susan Kuligowski

Sue Kuligowski is a staff storyteller at Adoption.com. The mother of two girls through adoption, she is a proposal coordinator, freelance writer/editor, and an adoption advocate. When she's not writing or editing, she can be found supervising sometimes successful glow-in-the-dark experiments, chasing down snails in the backyard, and attempting to make sure her girls are eating more vegetables than candy.