We brought home our oldest son, as a newborn, more than 20 years ago, through an agency that promoted open adoption. My husband, Douglas, and I hadn’t thought about open adoption, but we agreed to it. We were so thrilled to become parents, we would have agreed to anything – including keeping in touch with the birth mom.
Shortly after we were matched, we met for an interview, at the birth mother’s request. She was seven months pregnant. We listened as she described her feelings about being pregnant, about her life, her decision, and her commitment to an open adoption. I couldn’t help staring at her bulging stomach, trying to imagine what our son or daughter might look like, be like, smell like, feel like. I had a mental image of our baby having two doting mothers, and I wasn’t sure I liked it.
For two months, we awaited the birth. When my husband and I received the call from our adoption agency, informing us that our son had just arrived, we were both ecstatic and frantic. We made the trip to the maternity hospital in record time, despite a flat tire and a missed off-ramp.
At the hospital, we stopped by the nursery and peered through the glass. When the nurse finally placed our son in our arms, he was the very baby I had mentally “chosen” from all the newborns.
A Change of Heart?
The next three days were a blur — caring for our son, shopping for baby necessities, and calling everyone we had ever known to tell them our good news.
Day four of Zachary’s life came with the announcement that he was being discharged from the hospital. Our next step was to meet with our social worker at the adoption agency to finalize paperwork. Then we would begin our journey home as a family of three.
When we walked into the agency’s waiting room, we were surprised to find our son’s birth mother sitting with a friend on the sofa, crying and shaking gently. I was torn between wanting to comfort her and wanting to take our baby and go. I was frozen with fear. (Would she change her mind about the adoption?) And I was ashamed that I hadn’t given much thought to her loss and her grief.
She explained, through her tears, that she needed to see Zack one last time, hold him, kiss his cheeks, and take photos of him. Nervously, we said OK. She promised to send us weekly, even daily, letters, and I agreed to answer them all and send photos as he grew.
Missing a Mother
Three months passed. We hadn’t heard from our son’s birth mother, although I had sent her monthly update letters and many photos. I felt a loss of connection from her. What had appeared threatening at first began to feel comforting. My husband has no living extended family, and I have few relatives, so I wanted Zack’s birth mother to join me as he grew up, to smile at the photos, to hear about his first words, his first step, his reaction to his baby brother (and, later, his baby sister), his devotion to his dog. I wrote and sent photos of our growing family, and I bragged with a motherly pride I thought only she could understand. In my letters, I gushed about his musical talent, his aptitude for disassembling everything in sight, his fantasies about becoming a cowboy, then a fireman, a garbage man, and finally a “race car guy.” Still, she kept silent.
It was years later that I learned what a rough road my son’s birth mother had traveled, after our meeting at the adoption agency so long ago. I heard that she was fighting many demons, which had destroyed her relationships with partners and with her subsequent children. Her life was one of grief, pain, and loss.
Still, I held onto the belief that we would hear from her. I imagined her missing her son every year when his birthday rolled around. So, in her honor, we celebrated “birth mother day” every year, four days after his birthday. When Zack graduated from high school, I sent her a letter, along with his senior portrait and the graduation ceremony program. I wanted her to beam with pride, as I did.
A Son of Two Mothers
It was after my son’s graduation that I remembered the letter she had written to us during her recovery at the hospital. It was the only letter we ever received from her. I brought it out to show Zack how much his birth mother loves him, even though she chose not to stay in touch with us.
The letter brought tears to his eyes, and he asked to keep it, so that he could read it over and over. It was his bridge to the past, a connection to his roots. That lone letter spoke with clarity, love, and sincerity. Our son saw, at last, what a perfect gift his birth mother had given to us, and he realized how treasured he was by both of his mothers.
Zack is well into adulthood now, an accomplished mechanic and, still, a wannabe race car driver. He knows that, should he ever want to find his birth mother, he will have our blessing. I am satisfied in knowing that I kept his birth mother informed of every milestone while he grew up, and I feel that she must have cherished that connection, too.
What started as an open adoption, with some misgivings, some fear and anxiety, became a positive experience for our family. We wish Zack’s birth mother the best, and hope that, some day, in some way, we can connect with her. If that doesn’t happen, though, we hope she knows how grateful we are for our precious son. We’ll continue to celebrate birth mother day every year, and we’ll always keep the other mother in our hearts.