When I consider the women behind adoption, there are a few obvious choices; the expectant mother, the adoptive mother, the agent involved in placement (though this could be a male), and possibly the adoptee herself. As we dig deeper, there are often other women involved in the adoption process. Frequently, the expectant mother’s family is involved. A loving and caring mother is essential in supporting the birth mother in decision-making, especially if she is very young. There could also be sisters involved whose life this may impact. Often there will be close girl-friends who are sharing this experience with a treasured friend who needs guidance and comfort.
As we discuss the women behind adoption, let’s look at each one individually. We will focus on the three members in the adoption triad. The adoption triad consists of the expectant mother, the adoptive parent, and the adoptee. I have reached out to three different women to share their stories and experiences.
We will start with the birth mother. After all, there would be no story without her.
Eighteen-year-old “Molly” already had a three-month-old baby girl when she found herself pregnant again. Although Molly was living with her boyfriend’s family and on government assistance, she knew this baby would be her responsibility. The baby’s father had little interest in helping to raise the children. Molly was often left home alone while he was out with friends. She realized that the family she was creating wasn’t what she had hoped for. She knew things needed to change for her babies so she and the father went their separate ways.
When Molly was seven months pregnant, she began thinking about adoption for her baby. “It took me a while to admit that I was going to place. I kept saying I was just looking into it, I think to avoid coming to terms that I was actually going to do it. When I finally decided to just look at profiles of hopeful couples, as soon as I saw the family, I was immediately drawn to them. I didn’t even read their whole profile, but emailed them telling a little bit about myself and that I was still trying to decide what to do.
“What caught my eye with them was that they had four older children who had all been adopted and I knew someday I wanted a big family as well. After sending the email, I got offline and ended my night but woke up not long after falling asleep with the thought to actually read about the family. My house was dark and quiet but as I read their words, sobbing, I kept thinking, they wrote this for me and I felt so relieved but at the same time, I kept thinking, how can I actually go through this?”
The hardest part for Molly was the reactions she got from friends and family members. They told her she was an awful mother for placing her baby. Ultimately, she knew she had to do what was best for the baby. She knew she could give him an okay life but that wasn’t good enough. Having her older daughter made it easier for her. She continues to be her support eleven years later. Women involved in adoption need to support each other. “I know I have the life I do now because of my decision to choose adoption.”
Molly helps out with birth mother groups, supporting other women that have chosen adoption, and is raising the large family she dreamed of having. She remains in contact with the adoptive family on occasion and is comfortable with her decision.
“When I think about placing, I still can’t believe I actually was able to do it. When I talk about adoption, I am pretty particular in how I word things. I don’t like to say I gave up my baby for adoption because I made the decision for my baby to have more than what I could give him, and I can say I chose a wonderful family for him. I also don’t usually say ‘my baby,’ because I knew he was meant to be this other family’s baby, as soon as I read their profile. I love adoption and am so thankful to be a part of completing a family.”
Next, we will hear from an adoptee.
This woman, who we will call Lisa, was in foster care for several of her early childhood years. She was adopted at the age of five. Lisa is now a grown woman with children of her own. I have known Lisa and her adoptive family for many years. She also has a younger sister who was adopted as an infant and an older sister who is a biological daughter of her adoptive parents. Lisa has several extended biological siblings who went to live with other family members.
“Their lives have been riddled with broken homes, alcohol abuse, suicides, and heartbreak. It reaffirms how blessed I have been in my life.” Hers is a unique story, but not dissimilar to those who have experienced life through the foster care system. It is a story of much sadness but also a story with much joy. Lisa remembers being told they were very poor. Her older half-sister saved her lunch money to buy Lisa clothes. Their mother was in an abusive relationship and instead of leaving it, she arranged for her children to be taken care of. Lisa tells how she was taken from place to place to live, thinking how each time might be her last. When she was finally placed into the foster care system, her first family was very kind to her. She referred to her social worker as “Casey the Caseworker.”
“The unthinkable happened after a year of being with my foster family. Casey the Caseworker showed up. A brown box and my few toys were packed up and I was being moved out. Casey told me to hug my foster mother. I remember hugging her and telling her not to cry and that I would come back and find her someday. I didn’t know why but I knew at that moment I was leaving and not coming back.” Lisa later learned that the abusive boyfriend had threatened the foster family and was going to take her away. The next family served as a stop-over place before Lisa was placed in her permanent home. She would soon find her forever family. Lisa later found out many things that took a lifetime of learning and understanding.
“I can tell you that I am so grateful that I was adopted. They gave me such a great home filled with love, patience, understanding, and a strong sense of family and belonging. Even though there were many times over my childhood and teenage years that I questioned their love for me. I always viewed my older sister as their favorite because she was their ‘blood child’ or their ‘miracle baby.’ My baby sister was just that, the baby sister, the baby of the family with all the perks of being spoiled by my parents. I felt so often the role of middle child, stuck in the middle always wondering if I really measured up. At different times, my mom would have to remind me that they got to choose me from all the other children out there to help me feel like I belonged with them.”
Lisa has a relationship with her two half-sisters that helped raise her for the first three years of her life. “When we are together, there is a special, loving bond that I don’t have with my adopted sisters that I have a hard time describing. When I am away from them, I miss them terribly. I don’t want to know any more of my life without them in it. I longed for them all my years growing up with my family. However, that being said, I have that special sister bond and a lifetime of memories with my sisters I grew up with and my parents that raised me. I truly was blessed to be adopted.”
Not all adoption stories are like Lisa’s. This is just an example of the life of one of the many women behind adoption. Many children are adopted in infancy through adoption agencies or private adoption. The state’s foster care systems are just one route to provide safe homes for children in transition to a permanent arrangement either with their biological family or with an adoptive family.
We will now hear the story of an adoptive mother.
“I will never forget crying on the phone with her bio mom as she told me she knew she couldn’t take care of her daughter; two women who loved this child and only wanted the best for her. “ After several years of being foster parents to over 20 children, “Amy” and her husband were asked if they would like to adopt. This little girl had spent almost two years in foster care after being born prematurely. Her life was uncertain until the “judge hit the gavel and claimed her to be ours. What a joyous and unbelievable moment after years of yearning, heartbreak, and lost dreams.”
Amy and her husband had worked in a group home and knew they wanted to be involved in foster care but hadn’t thought about adoption. When faced with the struggle of infertility, adoption became something they chose to pursue. She decided to join the ranks of the women behind adoption. Her heart would break each time they would have to say goodbye to the children in their care. They longed for a child they could call their own. During this time, their marriage also struggled. The same judge that legalized their adoption would also unite their broken family.
Amy says, “although adoption was such a joyous time, it was also filled with stress, anticipation, and let-downs. Filled with home studies, financial reports, interviews on how we would discipline, our childhoods, and our relationships. But it was all worth it to hear the judge say, ‘it’s as if this child had been born biologically to you.’” They are a “family impacted by adoption and what a gift that little miracle is. I woke up to the smell of bacon this morning and the chatter between my husband and daughter, with so much contentment for my family, and I really couldn’t believe this is my life.”
All of these women are heroes in their own right.
Each of them has had to make difficult life choices that not only impacted their own lives but the lives of many others. When an expectant mother discovers she is pregnant, she has more than just herself to consider. There is the biological father and of course the unborn baby. What she decides directs what the future holds for all of them. The gift of adoption is the most unselfish act of love a person can give.
The adoptive parents have the important role of loving and accepting this new child into their lives. It is an awesome responsibility to accept the gift that has been given to them and to make the most out of that precious life. Bringing a new member into a family can be difficult to adjust to and compromises will be made but the joy of a loving family is priceless.
The adoptee has a chance to soar and succeed with opportunities she may not have had without adoption. No matter what type of adoption is chosen, she will always be loved by more than one mother and have an extended family who cares for her and has her best interests at heart.
I spoke with several women in preparing to write this article. The stories they have shared with me are filled with tragedy and triumph. No situation is easy and no choice is ever easy in the adoption world. Adoption is not a guarantee of a perfect life and involves struggles as well as victories. But the women behind adoption will agree it is worth the sacrifice.