"From Adoptive Mother to Birth Grandmother"

In this personal essay, one woman describes her journey from adoptive mother to birth grandmother, seeing both sides.

An adoptive mother becomes a birth grandmother.

In 1970, my husband and I brought home our first daughter, Camille. I can still get misty-eyed at the memory of our first sight of her, in a drab room in the local social services center. Any misgivings I had about adoption melted away when Camille, a tiny 17-month-old with oversized brown eyes, stoically placed her hand in mine as we walked out of the room, into the world, as mother and daughter. It wasn’t until recently, some 30 years later, that events in our family led me to reflect upon the emotions and the pain that Camille’s family must have experienced as they made the decisions that led this little girl to become my daughter.

New Side, Same Coin

In the years after Camille’s adoption, my husband and I were blessed with four additional children. One summer, our younger daughter, Laura, came to tell me that she was pregnant, and that she had already met with the couple she had chosen to raise her child. From the conviction in her voice as she spoke, I knew that she would not change her mind. As she left my house that day, I realized that my task would be to help her siblings, including Camille, support her decision, however complex their feelings might be. I knew that Laura’s decision would be difficult to accept, for Laura and for all of us. And that it would be most difficult for Camille.

Laura’s siblings responded with tears and harsh words. Because Camille and her family lived in another town, I went to see her last, to tell her in person. No sooner had I related the bare facts than Camille began to sob uncontrollably. I wrapped my arms around her, as I had when she was a little girl, and held her tightly. Laura’s decision left all of us feeling angry, helpless, and sad.

On the positive side, Laura’s adoption would be an open one. Unlike Camille’s adoption, both families would know the child’s history and would know each other. The adoptive parents believed in open adoption and promised to visit often.

The day Laura was to give birth arrived, cold and dreary. That evening I received a phone call telling me that my daughter and her baby were well. I spent some time alone before I drove to the hospital to hold this precious new life.

A few days later, I pushed the wheelchair holding Laura and her baby down an endless hall, feeling as if I were suspended in time. I braced myself for the moment my daughter would place the baby into the arms of her new mother.

If time heals, as the old adage goes, it hasn’t happened for us yet, though it is a blessing to watch my granddaughter change from a baby into a sweet little girl. And Laura still struggles with her decision. She may not yet realize it, but her sacrifice was also a blessed gift. I know, for I’ve been on both sides.

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