Birth Mom, part I
Updated: Feb 3
Most of us probably know someone who was adopted. But have you ever met a mother who allowed her child to be placed for adoption? Maybe you have and you didn’t realize it?
A few years ago, my mother (adoptive mother, but I almost never refer to her that way because, well, she’s just my mom) challenged me to use more sensitive language when referring to birth mothers and the act of adoption. Instead of give, let's say that a birth mother allows another family to raise her child.
Allowing. Giving up. There is power in words. I try to be more thoughtful about them. And there is power in the act. Adoption is a powerful act.
And this act, of procreating, is amazing. Miraculous really—that life perpetuates from the marriage of a sperm and egg. Genetically, everything a person is or will ever be is present at conception. All that is needed is nutrition and time in the safety of her or his environment.
As wonderful as this is, we know parents are not always prepared to provide for their child after birth. In the U.S., around 18,000 mothers allow their infant to be placed for adoption into another family. L'Chaim! To Life!
Adoption is a powerful act.
Incredibly, approximately 800,000 mothers will abort their baby this year. Why? According to the abortion advocacy organization, Guttmacher Institute:
“Having a baby would dramatically interfere with their education, work or ability to care for their dependents, or they could not afford a baby at the time. In addition, qualitative data from in-depth interviews portrayed women who had had an abortion as typically feeling that they had no other choice, given their limited resources and existing responsibilities to others.”
It is estimated that for every one infant who is being placed for adoption there are 30 to 40 couples waiting to adopt, according to Allan Hazlett, then president of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.
The year I was born, in 1970, there were 89,200 American children placed in permanent homes to unrelated couples through adoption. By 1975, two years after the legalization of abortion, that number was cut almost in half, to 47,700. On its page titled The Case Against Abortion/Abortion Alternatives, Abort73 says:
"The bottom line is that even if there was nobody waiting and willing to adopt, killing children would still not be a justifiable solution to 'unwantedness'. As it stands, however, there is an abundance of people who are ready and waiting to adopt all of the children being lost to abortion."
I am grateful my mother did not have the legal option to abort me. In 1994 when I first attempted to contact her through a social worker, only my maternal grandmother could be reached. She was very upset at being found and she lamented, “Nobody, nobody knows! My daughter had a good life when she got pregnant. She wanted to finish college. She could have aborted.” The social worker shared her response with me.
Yes, she could have aborted me. Thank God she didn’t. I have since had the opportunity to tell my birth mother--through an intermediary--how thankful I am that she protected me and allowed me to be adopted. I sent her a letter in 2014 and have confirmation that she received it. I never received a reply. I hope that she has never doubted the beauty and rightness of her decision. I pray she has peace.
...even if there was nobody waiting and willing to adopt, killing children would still not be a justifiable solution to 'unwantedness' ~ Abort73.com
I met a birth mother last year. Her name is Patricia. She is beautiful, kind and strong, smart and talented. She placed her infant for adoption in the early 1970s when she was a college student. I am privileged to have recently learned her story and she gave me permission to share it . . .
Denial & Disappointment
Patricia was around 17 when she became romantically involved with a longtime friend. “I asked him to my (high school) graduation and we dated until the end of summer. We had sex only one time.”
I have a close friend with a similar story, she chose to parent her child. Patricia did not. Abortion was never considered. “I pretty much decided to have the baby adopted as soon as I believed I was pregnant.
“I was in denial for a long time before I really came to terms with it. I felt I had disappointed my mother.” She hid the fact she was pregnant for a long time.
That fall Patricia was off to university living in a dorm and the father was going traveling for a year with a friend. She chose not to tell him about the pregnancy. She confided in her best friend, her university roommate and the roommate's boyfriend. “They were very kind, understanding and nurturing.”
She told her mother very late in the pregnancy after she had decided to place the baby for adoption. “My mother told me that I did not have to and that she would support me in raising the child. She would have been a great support during the pregnancy had I given her the chance. I felt that I had disappointed my family so was embarrassed to tell them.”
Patricia had some friends who were adopted but did not know anyone who had placed a child for adoption. “I had read stories in magazines about mothers giving up their babies for adoption but was quite naive.”
Her mother was with her when she gave birth. “I had a natural birth and it was quite fast and easy. Everyone treated me very well. I was in the hospital for about three days in a room with two other ladies about my age who also gave their babies up for adoption. We three talked quite a bit.”
She was told she had given birth to a boy. She chose not to hold him. “I remembered reading that if I held him, it would be much harder to give him up.” She named him--Christopher Lee. His adoptive parents chose a different name.
Like most domestic adoptions of that time, birth moms and adoptive parents did not typically meet. She could have chosen a family with a particular religious background, but she did not.
"I realized the enormity of what I had done"
In the days following his birth, Patricia went home to her family and worked the summer as a life guard at the local swimming pool. She tried to put everything out of her head and thought she was just fine.
“As I look back on my life, I realize that it affected me in many ways . . . I felt very unsure of what I should do with my life. I quit school as I could not decide what field I wanted to study. I moved farther away from home and moved every two years. I travelled to Hawaii with a friend and across Canada and the States. I think I felt like I had to do something important because I chose not to be a mom yet, but I had a hard time figuring out what I should do. I chose relationships with men that, as I look back now, were dead-end relationships.”
Patricia kept her child close to her heart, choosing not to share about him for a long time. Then, 14 years later, she gave birth to a daughter. And three years after that, another son. “After I had Pali and Dege, I realized the enormity of what I had done and thought a lot about the boy I gave up.”
Her husband, Patrick, was very helpful and supportive, “very understanding and loving,” says Patricia.
She began to contemplate a reunion. She talked to her brother-in-law, who was adopted, and asked him what he thought. “He warned me that I should be ready to accept anything if I did pursue a reunion.” Her mother was very supportive of finding him and she told Patricia about a post-adoption agency that helped unite birth parents and adoptees who both apply.
Later, Patricia would learn that she and her son had each held their application for about six months and then submitted them within days of each other!
His name is Mark. He indicated that he would contact Patricia. “He wrote me a wonderful letter and we corresponded and sent pictures for about six months until I next went back to Canada where we arranged to meet.”
“I was excited and nervous to meet him. He is a very good letter-writer—I still have all his letters. We planned to meet at Brenda and Wayne’s—my sister and brother-in-law—where we were spending Christmas. It so happened that his adoptive mother was from that area and his grandparents lived near Brenda and Wayne.
“At nearly the same exact time that Mark was to arrive, my brother Gerry and his wife decided to surprise us. They had flown down to British Columbia from Alberta and rented a car at the airport. My son Mark had just phoned and told me he was on his way so we were all expecting him to show up any moment. A car pulled in and we thought it was Mark. As he got out, my sister said, ‘My God, he looks so much like Gerry!’ Then we realized it WAS Gerry! Mark pulled in moments later. It was very surreal.
“It was quite overwhelming for us both. There were a lot of family members around but we did have some time to ourselves. He felt very familiar.”
"It was very surreal."
Patricia’s younger children were there and quite excited to learn they had a brother. Nine-year-old Pali and six-year-old Dege were told that their mother had another child who was their biological brother that she had placed for adoption. “We were sitting around soon after Mark had arrived and Dege questioned him, ‘Were you a really bad baby?’
“Before I had the chance to say anything, Mark answered him: ‘No. Your mom was young and not ready to be a mother and gave me to my parents to raise and love.’”
This Christopher who became Mark understood the truth of his birth mother’s wise and loving choice.
"He felt very familiar."
Patricia and Mark are friends and stay in touch. Their families have visited many times. When Mark became a father, Patricia visited him by herself. She sees him every time she goes back to Canada.
Mark has two sisters born to his adoptive parents a few years after he was born. Once he became an adult, Mark’s father suggested that he find his birth mother. His mother was supportive too. Patricia met them both a couple of years ago for the first time. “They both thanked me for Mark.”
"Your mom was young and not ready to be a mother and gave me to my parents to raise and love."
Mark is an accountant. So is Patricia. Patricia’s mother thinks Mark looks a lot like her husband—Patricia’s father who died when she was nine. Mark has his father’s build. “Mark and I share a quirky sense of humor.”
Her whole family has met Mark and he is invited to all their family gatherings when she is around. He sees Brenda and Wayne quite often and his kids and their grandchildren get along very well.
What about Mark’s birth father? When Patricia found Mark, she wrote to his birth father and told him about Mark.“He was shocked and had no idea and wrote me a nice letter saying how sorry he was that I had to go through this alone. I gave them each other’s contact info and they did meet. They happened to live in the same city a couple of blocks apart!
Patricia has met other birth moms and they have shared stories. It can be therapeutic to talk and write about something so impactful. Many birth moms try not to think about it for years. Patricia reflects, “I am a much different person today than I was at 18.
“One thing I have thought of over the years is how mistaken I was to think that it was my decision alone to make,” shares Patricia. “After having my kids, I realize there are so many people involved with having children, like grandparents, aunts, uncles and fathers. I just have to accept that that is where I was at the time. All of our experiences lead us to who we are today.”
"...how mistaken I was to think that it was my decision alone to make. After having my kids, I realize there are so many people involved with having children, like grandparents, aunts, uncles and fathers. I just have to accept that that is where I was at the time."
THANK YOU Patricia...
for sharing your story! For choosing life. For choosing adoption. And…
Today, February 2, is Patricia’s birthday! She and her husband are currently on a month-long tour of New Zealand. When she returns to her home on Maui, she will be welcomed by oodles of Canadian family who will be there to celebrate her mother’s 90th birthday! Oh joy, how birth days beget birthdays!