Birth Mothers Amplified is an awesome video podcast co-hosted by birth moms Emma and Muthoni. It is made in partnership with the Gladney Center for Adoption and Adoption.com. Emma and Muthoni talk about adoption topics and help give a voice to birth mothers like themselves, often featuring birth mothers as guests on their podcast.
I especially love episode nine of Birth Mothers Amplified. As stated in the YouTube summary, in this episode, “Emma and Muthoni are joined by birth mother Mackenzie, who placed her daughter for adoption three years ago. [She] shares how she connected with the family she chose, how she navigated an abusive relationship as a teenager, and how she decided that adoption was the best decision for her and her daughter. Mackenzie has an open and sweet relationship with her adoptive family and shares how their journey united them.”
I was drawn to this episode of Birth Mothers Amplified because it focuses on how adoption unites birth and adoptive families, and I have experienced this from the other side. My husband and I feel like we have gained extended family members through the adoption of our children from foster care because we have an open adoption and remain close to their birth families. In this episode, Mackenzie tells of her experience with open adoption. She also feels like she has gained extended family members through the adoption of her daughter into a loving family.
When Mackenzie found herself with an unplanned pregnancy as a teen, she was overwhelmed and wrestled with how best to handle the situation. Her circumstances were further complicated because her boyfriend was abusive and she knew she needed to break up with him. In the months that followed her discovery of her pregnancy, she made many very difficult decisions, including separating herself from the birth father of her baby. She considered all of her options with regard to her baby and set her mind to do whatever was going to give her daughter the best possible life and keep her safe. With her own parents and family by her side through it all, Mackenzie courageously faced the challenges that accompany teen pregnancy and the mixed emotions of placing a child for adoption.
Through peers and a family friend, she heard about the concept of open adoption, and she began to think that may be the best option for her. Shortly after, a friend introduced her to a couple who were seeking to adopt a baby. The more she learned about them, the more she liked them. She went to an adoption agency and was given a caseworker who helped her find out more about this prospective family. Though she had the option to consider other families, her heart was set on the one connected to her friend. She reviewed their adoption profile book and took it home to share with her parents and siblings. Everyone agreed that the couple was the best choice to become her daughter’s parents.
Makenzie and her family arranged to meet the adoptive family in person. They went out to dinner together and immediately clicked. The adoptive parents were very supportive of and helpful to Makenzie and they took a genuine interest in her well-being. Mackenzie describes how comfortable she felt meeting her daughter’s parents and how their compassion for her reassured her that she was making the right choice for her daughter. It was at that first dinner meeting that she and her family surprised the adoptive parents by revealing the child’s gender. Mackenzie watched the couple respond with tears of joy as they learned they would be having a girl.
Love at First Sight
Mackenzie had a scary start to her birth experience when she went to a routine appointment, only to learn that labor was starting and she needed to travel over 40 minutes to the hospital where she would be delivering. Her own doctor was on vacation and only one doctor was available for the OB. As her labor progressed and she neared the time of delivery, an emergency C-section required the doctor’s attention and she was left waiting and struggling through her labor. Her sister who was in medical school offered to deliver the baby if the doctor did not return in time. Mackenzie laughs as she retells her family’s response to the stress and anxiety of the birthing experience.
After the long labor came to a conclusion, Mackenzie spent time holding and feeding her daughter and wept at the impending loss. It was love that made it difficult for Mackenzie to let her daughter go, but it was also love that compelled her to place her child with the family she had chosen. When she was ready, she called the adoptive parents and invited them to the hospital to meet their daughter. They arrived with her favorite food and a gift for her. They again showed genuine concern for her and comforted her in her grief, reminding her that they were always there for her and that she could reach out to them any time.
Once they knew Mackenzie was okay, they experienced the long-awaited joy of holding their newborn daughter. It was love at first sight as they held her and gave her the name they had decided on together with Mackenzie.
As Mackenzie speaks during this episode of Birth Mothers Amplified, the influence of her daughter’s adoptive parents is evident, and I find myself hoping that my own sister-mom, as I call her, feels equally loved and supported by us as we raise the children she gave birth to. The role of birth mother is one to be honored and valued. Sadly, birth mothers often feel judged by others, isolated, and forgotten. My goal as an adoptive mother is to extend love and grace to my sister-mom and to be sure she knows that we consider her a part of our family. We pray for her every night with our children and try to send her updates and pictures or videos periodically to help her stay connected to the kids between visits.
In our case, we do not have a formal open adoption agreement, but we strive to get together when we can (usually a few times each year), and we communicate via text and video chats in between. We have relationships with our children’s extended biological family members as well, and some of them have met members of our extended family. This further strengthens the bond between our families. Mackenzie also mentions a similar experience as she has met other family members of the adoptive parents and they have met her extended family. This builds even greater trust and a feeling of involvement in each other’s lives. Mackenzie and her daughter’s parents do have an adoption agreement, but the adoptive parents in that situation go beyond the agreement and work hard to make sure Mackenzie feels included, even supporting their daughter calling her “Momma Mack.” Mackenzie knows where they live and they know where she lives. They are not far apart, but they get together in person about four times per year, usually near birthdays and holidays. As Mackenzie’s life changes and she looks ahead to the possibility of moving, the adoptive parents assure her that they will adjust as needed to keep her in her daughter’s life.
A Bright Future
Mackenzie plans to move out of state to attend flight school, but as a birth mom, each decision she makes is impacted by her relationship with her daughter and her daughter’s adoptive parents. Mackenzie says she seeks their input and advice on most significant issues in her life, and she values her relationship with them. When she was struggling to find the middle ground between her desire to make a future for herself and her desire to stay connected to her daughter, the adoptive parents encouraged her to take the step and go to school. They told her they would continue to communicate as always and that when she came back home, they would get together. They even promised that they would travel to see her sometimes too so she didn’t always have to be the one traveling.
Mackenzie is able to have the best of both worlds because her daughter’s parents are so willing to include her in their daughter’s life. Though she did not know in the beginning how the open adoption relationship would work, she has found it to be a beautiful solution to the heartbreaking dilemma she first faced. She can now focus on a new start for herself to make her future better, and she is comforted to know that her daughter has a bright and promising future with parents who love both her and Mackenzie.
Open adoption is an awkward and complicated road that is most definitely worth traveling. Based on my own experience, the kids are the ones who win most in an open adoption when all parts of the adoption triad are determined to make it work. I love that the Birth Mothers Amplified podcast gives a voice to birth moms so the rest of us can learn from them. I have definitely benefited from hearing the perspectives of birth moms when it comes to open adoption. There are so many experiences and emotions that can only be accurately conveyed by someone who has faced them. Some birth mothers enjoy having an open adoption while some prefer not to pursue this option, but for those who are interested, my open-adoption advice as an adoptive mom encourages families to consider opportunities similar to what Mackenzie experienced. It definitely takes hard work on the part of everyone involved to create a successful open adoption, but to quote successful businessman Art Williams, “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy—I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”
If you’d like to hear more of Mackenzie’s story or other similar stories, watch the complete Birth Mothers Amplified episode here or wherever you listen to podcasts. Check out the Instagram page @birthmothersamplified to follow along as Emma and Muthoni continue to help amplify the voices of birth mothers.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.