I Consider My Open Adoption My First Marriage

In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption is hosting the fifth annual acclaimed series, 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 people with widely varying experiences.

By Roanne Olsen

My name is Roanne, and I am a proud birth mom. I am a Big Tough Girl!

Seventeen years ago, I broke my heart and placed my birth son with an amazing family. We have a beautiful open adoption. Adoption is a very emotional and difficult journey for all sides. My decision wasn't made lightly. The most important advice I can give to potential adoptive parents and expectant mothers is to always be honest with each other.

Treat each other with love and respect. Don't make promises you can't keep.

It is better to under promise and over deliver. When I placed I only asked for one visit a year. My birth son's parents invited me to their house almost every month for the first year. We celebrate family events together. They were at my wedding and my college graduation. I was there to see many of my birth son's accomplishments. I am proud of the young man that my birth son has grown to become. His parents did an amazing job raising him.

I was nineteen years old when I found out I was pregnant. I learned about the pregnancy from the doctor as I was trying to enlist in the NY Army National Guard. When I told my boyfriend at the time, we decided to look into abortion. When we went to the doctor’s office, I was told that I was at least four months along. Abortion was not an option.

We talked about raising our unborn child together. We picked out names. When I was around seven months along, the birthfather announced to me that he was leaving. His parents gave him $300 to walk away and forget about me and the baby both. I was alone and terrified. I was heartbroken. I was losing my best friend. I moved home to my parents. My mom and I sat and talked about what I was going to do. My parents told me that it was my decision, and they would support my decision.

I told my mom that I wasn't ready to care for a child. I decided that adoption was the best option for the child. I wanted him to have more than I could provide. I wanted him to have two parents. I also knew I had to know my child. I couldn't wonder every time I saw a child. My mom told me about open adoption.

My midwife gave me a name of a lawyer. I went to see him, and he attempted to talk me out of an open adoption. During this time, my mom went to a nursing class for her work. The teacher and a couple of the other students were talking about wanting children. The teacher mentioned she was looking to adopt. My mom really liked her and approached her about me. My mom came home and told me about her. That evening I called her, and we talked about everything. I felt comfortable.

The next day, I called my lawyer to set up a meeting. He once again tried talking me out of it, but I was persistent. We met a week later. My parents and I spent a few hours talking with the couple. They brought pictures to show me, and I felt comfortable with them. It felt like I had always known them. As we were leaving, they asked what I was thinking. I told them they were the perfect family. After they left, I told my lawyer that they were the couple for me. I didn't look at any other couples.

When my birth son was born, they came to the hospital. They went by the nursery to see their new son. Then they came to see me. They walked into my room with an angel, a locket and a dozen roses. Ten red roses and two white roses. A red rose for every pound their new son weighed and the two white roses for how close they held me to their hearts. The angel was because they felt I was their angel. They came every day to see both of us in the hospital.

At that time in New York, the lawyer, the adoption agency or the birth mom has to be the one to carry the child out of the hospital. I carried my birth son out with his mom walking next to me. When we got to our cars, I handed her newborn son to her and told her that here was her new son. The day after we were released from the hospital I went to court to sign the papers. My mom and my birthson’s parents were there to support me. They were all in tears as I told the judge this was what I wanted.

A couple of months after I placed, I was living alone for the first time in my life. I was trying to work through my grief and depression. One night, my whole world was turned upside down. As I came home from work and unlocked my door, my neighbor forced his way into my apartment. That night he sexually assaulted me. I was devastated and felt more alone than I ever had.

The very first person I thought to call was my birthson's mother. She called my parents for me. My mom showed up at my door with my black Great Dane, and we called the cops together. For years I allowed my assaulter to take what strength I had left. I tried to allow myself to heal by burying it. It is still very hard for me to talk about.

Two years later, I allowed my demons to consume me. I attempted suicide. I slit my wrists, because I didn't want to feel anything anymore. I believed I couldn't handle the pain anymore. My best friend saved my life that night. She made me call and talk to a therapist that was offered through our work.

My best friend also sat and reminded me how amazing of a person I am. I am thankful that she was there for me. She still reminds me every so often. I feel this helped me push to make my adoption the relationship it is. I needed the extra love and support, and thankfully, my birthson's family was willing to give me their love.

Being a birth mom is an emotional roller coaster. There are still triggers that I deal with. I suffered from depression in the beginning and hid it from my birth son and his family. They were my happy place and I didn't want them to know how much I hurt. Leaving after a visit was very hard in the beginning. I felt my heart break all over again. Over time, it has become easier on me emotionally.

I have discovered so many things about who I am. I found strength that I didn't know that I had until I needed it. In the beginning, it was very hard for me to be a birthmom. I always thought of how they might be feeling. I understood that they may feel threatened by me, so I did everything I could to show them how amazing they were as parents. I understood that I had to step back and was no longer a parent to the child. I never thought of my birthson as my son.

But our relationship is very special.

The adoption has always been open. I knew I was blessed with how open it was from day one. His family invited me to their house at least once every couple of months. They would treat me out to lunches, and they told everyone who I was. I dreaded the first Mother's Day after he was born. My birthson’s parents made a huge deal out of Birthmother's Day for me. We celebrated together, and they have continued this tradition.

The last few years, I have spent Birthmother’s day with my birthson and my youngest son. My birth son was born on December 16. He was our Christmas miracle. Last year, I started a new tradition with his mom and took her to lunch on Birthmother's Day. I wanted to celebrate with her how amazing of a mother she is. We celebrated each other and had a wonderful time.

She told me that I will forever have a special place in their hearts and in their lives. We are family always and forever.

My birth son is seventeen years old. He is an amazing young man. His family is my family. I can't imagine my life without them. My birth son was the ring bearer at my wedding. He is a big brother to not only his parents’ other four children but to my youngest.

We text every day. He is becoming one of my best friends. I treasure every moment with him and look forward to our time together. We have a special bond that his parents support.

Over time, my journey has become easier. There are still hard days, but I know I am not alone. I have a strong support system. I belong to positive support groups. I have a special group of women that I call my sisters now.

I have a wonderful extended family through adoption. We celebrate every Christmas Eve as a family. They have opened their home not only to myself and my parents, but also to my siblings and in-laws. I am invited to all of their family gatherings and special events.

I consider my open adoption my first marriage. It has taken a lot of hard work and time to build the relationship and trust with my chosen family. I can honestly say that I have never regretted my decision to place my birthson. I learned so much about who I am because of my journey.

I am proud to be a birthmom. My only regret is that I didn't have his mom there for his birth. Having a successful open adoption is like having a successful marriage. You have to think of what is best for everyone. I always put their feelings before mine. They have done the same with me! It was hard and hurt at first. Now, it just comes naturally.

I am told often that I was selfless in my decision, but I wasn't. I had unconditional love for this child and believed in my heart that he deserved better than I could provide. When I had my second child, many of these same emotions came to the surface. How could I parent after placement? Didn't this child deserve what my firstborn child deserved?

But my situation was different. I still deal with this daily. I love both of my boys with all my heart. They are my miracles, and I can't imagine my life without either of them. My birth son is the one person who reminds me daily how great of a mom I am to his little brother.

When I married my husband, I wanted a family more than anything. Our son entered our lives almost exactly a year after. After my little one was born, we tried for another child. I had two miscarriages in a six month period. I was told to be thankful for the two children I gave birth to. I am always thankful for both of them.

Only a handful of people in my life know about the second miscarriage. I was asked to hide it to protect a couple of family members because they couldn't handle a second loss so close to the first one and just before Christmas. I regret following this request. It was very hard on me emotionally due to the time of year.

Open adoption taught me about unconditional love, not only of a child but of another family. My full family that I am blessed to have. I can never thank them enough for all their love and for the amazing job they have done.

Seeing my birth son with my son is music to my soul. Seeing the love that they have for each other is profound.  Adoption is not an easy choice or journey. Do the research first. Know what you are going into. If you put the hard work in from all sides, it can be positive and beautiful. I'm proud to be a birthmom!

Roanne is happily married and a mom to a son. She is proud to be a birth mom. She is a freelance photographer/graphic designer with Aume Studios.

Roanne O

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