"Promises the Adoptive Parents Kept"

After spending two days alone with her newborn daughter, a birth parent gained a new perspective on open adoption.

A birth parent perspective on open adoption

I wanted to take my baby home and spend two days alone with her before she began life with her new adoptive parents. Everybody said it was an impossible dream. But I found a way.

Growing up, I remember wondering who I was, whom I looked like. I had been adopted at birth, but my adoption was far from open. Seventeen years later, and only two weeks before I was due to give birth to my first child, I made the difficult decision to place the baby for adoption.

Determined that my daughter would not grow up without knowing her birth mother, the way I had, I thought about what I’d need to help me go through with an adoption plan. I decided that I needed time to say my own goodbye. Lisa and Charlie, the couple the agency found to be my baby’s parents, understood this, and agreed to let me spend two days alone with my child.

My due date came, and I gave birth to an eight-pound, six-ounce girl via Cesarean section. Lisa and Charlie arrived on the day of her birth. They had driven through the night, from Idaho to Montana, to become parents for the first time, and I could sense their excitement. Chariti was beautiful and perfectly healthy from the moment she entered the world. I was the one who had to spend seven days in the hospital recovering. But when I was finally ready to go home, I didn’t have to go alone.

Lisa and Charlie, who both have beautiful voices, had been scheduled to sing at a friend’s wedding back home soon after Chariti’s birth. But when it became clear that I’d just be getting out of the hospital on the day of the performance, they cancelled it. They were committed to giving me the two days I’d asked for, and never pressured me to change the plan or cut short my time alone with my daughter.

Goodbye, For Now

The two days I spent with my baby will always stay in my heart. But they convinced me that I wasn’t ready to be a mother. At 17, barely able to take care of myself, I got up every three hours to feed, rock, and hold this tiny baby. I felt the weight of it all in those 48 hours. A baby would depend on me to survive, but I did not have the focus or strength to meet her needs. No matter how badly it hurt, I knew then that an adoption was the right thing to do.

The day finally came to let go. I was up for most of the night before, feeding my hungry child. But even if Chariti had slept soundly, I wouldn’t have been able to, because I couldn’t stop thinking about the future. I vividly remember the thoughts that ran through my head: Will this really be as open as I would like it to be? Will Chariti hate me and feel that adoption is a terrible thing? What if I place this child and never have another one? This tiny being is the only person on earth that I know to be my own blood and bone. Is this really going to be OK?

There was a knock on the door, and my heart sank. Still, I already loved these wonderful people. I didn’t want to hurt them by changing my mind, especially since I knew I couldn’t be the kind of parent I wanted Chariti to have.

There were pictures and promises, tears and smiles. I was nervous about saying goodbye, but excited for what lay ahead for them. It struck me, at that moment, that “giving a child up” is the wrong terminology. This adoption was not about “giving up” anything, but about gaining an extended family.

I took our baby outside and put her in her tiny car seat. I buckled her in, kissed her over and over, and couldn’t stop repeating, “I love you, baby…always.” I hoped that, somewhere in her nine-day-old mind, she’d remember this and understand that I really did love her.

When Charlie shut the car door, it was as if a dam had broken. I’d been strong until that moment, but I couldn’t hold back any longer. My tears started falling and didn’t stop for hours. I yelled, “I love you!” one last time, but I wasn’t afraid that this adoption would turn out like mine. I would know this beautiful child, and she would know me. I was giving Chariti a life she couldn’t otherwise have, and I had faith that Lisa and Charlie would keep me in her life. This would not be the last time she’d hear me say that I loved her. The car pulled away, and the first day of the rest of my daughter’s life began.

Life Goes On

Years have flown by, and all the promises we made that morning were kept. In some weeks, months, and years we have been in closer contact than in others, but we always knew how to reach one another. The last time we saw each other was when our families had Thanksgiving dinner together a few years ago, and we’re planning a visit for this coming spring.

Our relationship continues to evolve. Chariti and I are now friends via social media and correspond frequently. When I think of my daughter now — 16 years old, confident, beautiful — she is everything I could have ever wanted her to be and more. I have never regretted my decision to place her for adoption, and I believe that’s because there has been no mystery, no secrecy, no wondering. She’s known me all her life.

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