"Letters to Noelle"

In this personal essay, one adoptive mom describes her struggle to find the right tone for her birth mother letters.

One mom's story of writing dear birth mother letters.

When our son’s birth mother chose our profile and her social worker called to give us the news, I was beyond happy. I galloped through our house. The social worker described Noelle’s warm, outgoing personality, and said that she’d love to hear from us. “A letter would be nice,” she advised.

The first letter to Noelle became my focus for the next few days. It was even harder to write than the profile letter, because now there was a defined recipient with whom I hoped to have a lifetime bond. I wanted to express my feelings–the giddiness and gratitude that both my husband and I felt–without sounding condescending. I wanted to be empathetic, but I knew that I couldn’t understand everything she was going through. Most of all, I wanted her to know that we would love to parent her baby, but I didn’t want to make her feel the adoption was inevitable. So I wrote several drafts and gave them to my husband for his feedback. I rearranged, reworded, and fussed over it, until, finally, it was ready to mail.

After receiving my letter, Noelle invited us to her next doctor’s appointment. I was nervous about making a good impression, but our first meeting with her and Paul, the baby’s father, went well. The ultrasound showed that the baby was healthy and strong, and we all went out to dinner afterward. It was the first of three visits we would have prior to Frank’s birth.

How to Write From the Heart

In between the visits, I wrote more letters. They were easier to write than the first one, but I was still nervous about pressuring Noelle. I wanted her to understand that she could decide to parent her baby (however heartbreaking that would be to us). The social worker, who read my letters before sending them on to Noelle and Paul, gave me some good advice. “You don’t need to remind her that she can back out of the adoption plan; I make sure that she knows that. She has made a choice, and right now you need to count on her following through, while knowing that she may not.”

“Describe the nursery you’re decorating and the preparations you’re making. Tell her how happy the grandparents and your other kids are. One mistake that I’ve seen hopeful parents make is to be distant and detached. That hurts the prospective birth mother’s feelings. This is her baby that she’s planning on letting you parent. That’s a big deal! She wants to know you’re ready, and she really wants you to be excited about it.”

I changed the tone of my letters after that. I opened up about the things I hoped to do with the baby, tacitly confident the adoption would take place. I wasn’t comfortable calling him “my baby,” as Noelle had insisted I do, but I started to use phrases like “When we bring him home,” even though they made my stomach flutter with anticipation. Was the adoption really going to happen?

Yes! He’s really here, and we’re really his parents. Both his birth and adoption were free of complications, and, at 25 months, Frank is an unstoppable, lovable little force of nature.

A Collection of Letters

For the first couple of months, I wrote Noelle about twice a week. They were long, emotional letters, inspired by the grief I imagined she was feeling. I was blessed every second of every day to get to love this precious boy, and I told her so. I told her I knew she loved him, and that I’d make sure he knew that, too.

At Frank’s baby shower, I mentioned to friends that I was terrible at keeping a baby book. “It’s just too much for me to do,” I confessed. “And besides, when I have time to write, I’m writing letters to Noelle.”

“You’re making copies of the letters, right?” one of them asked. “If you’re not keeping a baby book, you should at least be saving the letters.” Of course! From then on, I copied everything I sent. Even if I never get around to finishing the scrapbook of Frank’s birth, I’ll have a stack of memories for him to treasure.

Nowadays, I write Noelle every two weeks, and send pictures and a letter to both her and Paul every few months. I have heard through the social worker that she loves the letters, and that is all the encouragement I need to keep them coming. One day, perhaps Noelle will reenter our lives, and Frank can spend time with her. For now, the letters are our connection. It was a gift to get to know Noelle and Paul, and I see their faces, expressions, and personalities in Frank, every single day.


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