In honor of November being National Adoption Month, Portrait of an Adoption is running a special series called 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days. Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by adoptees, birthparents, adoptive parents, waiting adoptive parents, and foster parents-turned-adoptive parents. Painful and beautiful, these stories will bring you a deeper understanding of what adoption looks like, allowing you to appreciate the many brushstrokes that comprise a family portrait.
Could I Open My Heart to Trying Adoption Again?
By Deb Bart, adoptive mom
In 2008, I had been contemplating my upcoming fortieth birthday.
I hadn’t met the right guy and I had always wanted to be a Mommy. I decided to become a single mother and started researching my options.
Adoption was my first choice. It appealed to me that I would be helping another woman out of a tough situation, and providing a home to a baby who needed one. Gender and race of the baby were not an issue for me -- I just wanted to adopt a healthy baby and to start my family.
I chose to do an independent adoption and got moving on the pile of paperwork I needed to do in order to be approved to be an adoptive parent.
I started my search for birth parents looking to make an adoption plan for their baby, placing ads in newspapers all over the country. After about a month, I was contacted by a birth mother in a different state (“A”). She was in a tough situation with her family and unable to care for the baby she was carrying. The birth father was not in the picture and he had agreed to an adoption plan.
I had the honor of being in the delivery room when J was born. It was love at first sight! A and I spoke many times while I was there, and we agreed that we would have an open adoption. I happily took my new daughter home.
But before the adoption was finalized, A and the birth father reconciled and, sadly for me, decided to parent J. After consulting with multiple lawyers and adoption experts, I had no choice but to return J to her birth family, even though she and I had bonded and been together for some time.
The loss was devastating.
I spent the next two months grieving and trying to heal. I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to open my heart again to adoption.
Ten weeks after J was returned to her birth parents, my life changed forever.
I received an out of the blue phone call at work from my adoption attorney. She said that I had been chosen by another set of birth parents to adopt their newborn baby boy and could I please come to the hospital the next day to pick him up. My jaw hit the ground. For about ten minutes, I sat in my office trying to decide if I could go through this again.
After some encouragement from family and friends, I found myself in my car the next morning driving to the hospital to pick up M, my new son. Admittedly, I was in a daze. It all felt like a dream… could this really be possible? My attorney met me at the hospital.
The birth mother had already been discharged, so I hadn't gotten the chance to meet her ("N") or the birth father ("A") and thank them for choosing me.
The nurse walked my attorney and me into a small waiting room, where I sat for about forty minutes waiting in silence. And then, the nurse arrived with my beautiful baby boy and handed him to me. I was crying and shaking both out of fear and gratitude. He was just glorious--with a shock of black hair.
Upon leaving the hospital, M and I were en route to the hotel where we would remain for a week until we had approval to return to our home state. I remember how strange it was driving in the car with a new baby, a baby that wasn't J.
Though I was terrified of bonding with another baby that I could potentially lose--- there I was, snuggling him close to me and hoping it would all work out. He was a peaceful baby who looked up at me with trust in his eyes.
One week later, the adoption was finalized, and M and I were home surrounded by family and friends who couldn't have been more happy for us. Having witnessed the anguish I was in after losing J (many family members and close friends had their own pain to deal with after losing J), everyone was overjoyed to welcome M into our family.
After a few months, I received an email from M's birth mother asking for some pictures. We immediately started emailing each other and began developing a relationship. I thanked them for choosing me and explained to them how their decision to place M with me had turned my life around, from the depths of sadness to the greatest of joy.
My son’s birth parents are so brave, kind and selfless. I can never thank them enough for choosing me---I tell them all the time that they saved my life. And they in turn, tell me all the time that I am their angel, and knowing that their baby boy is so loved and cherished gives them peace in their heart with their choice.
My son has an older full sibling and we have decided to have an open adoption so that the kids can know each other and so that everything is out in the open. I love his birth parents more than I can say because they gave me the gift of my son and trusted me to do right by him.
M has changed my life in every way possible. He has helped me to be resilient, taught me to love unconditionally and given me perspective on what matters in life. I start every day off smiling when I hear his little voice calling for Mama to come and get him from his crib. M is the center of my universe. I am grateful for every poopy diaper, every bedtime story, every smile, and every single second of our lives together.
M is now eighteen months old. He is a loving, funny little guy who is obsessed with trucks and cars. He loves to jump on my bed and dance around the house. Our family may be small, but we are happy.
My journey through adoption was both painful and beautiful. It helped my find my own strength in the face of grief. I still think of J every day. Though her loss was heartbreaking, I hold no ill will towards her birth family. Instead, I wish for only good things for them, as that means good things for J.
As for M and me, we continue to grow and experience life as a family. I am in regular contact with his birth mother and we always end each correspondence with "I love you". We are now bonded through M, and all of our lives are better for knowing each other. Open adoption is a beautiful thing.
My experience has also inspired me to help both birth parents and hopeful parents going through the adoption process. My new company, Adoptimism (www.adoptimism.com), is a social enterprise to help connect birth parents and hopeful parents while providing resources and information to all. I wanted to support all parties in the adoption process.
I want birth parents to know that choosing an adoption plan for their baby could be the beginning of something wonderful for them versus the end of something. And I wanted to help encourage hopeful adoptive parents to never give up their dream of creating their family.
Even when it takes a while, or you have hit some horrible snag, keep going. Your baby is out there. I'm living proof of that. I hope to inspire people to consider open adoption as well as transracial adoption when thinking about creating their family.
My greatest hope is that my story can help to inspire both birth parents and hopeful adoptive parents to open their minds and hearts in all aspects of adoption.
Family is what you make it, and love is the bond that creates it.
By Deb Bart