This is a guest blog written by one of Adoptions From The Heart’s birthmothers, Kelsey. You can visit her Tubmlr account for more highs and lows of going through post-placement as a birthmother.
As I watched my son’s adoptive parents leave the hospital, hand in hand, with a baby carrier between them, I wasn’t sure if my heart was bursting from the light that had slowly been building up during my three-day hospital stay or if my heart was breaking into a thousand pieces. Two years later, I’m still not really sure. There’s something to be said about watching near strangers walk away with your child. It’s just unfortunate that I don’t—and probably never will—have the words for it. It’s a strange mixture of life-ending sadness and pure elation.
Although my boyfriend Zach and I really only met them that day, Mike and Amanda didn’t feel like complete strangers to us. They never did. Not in all of the awkward in-between months where I tried relentlessly to find my place in their lives, while trying to live my own. As we were about to leave the hospital, Henry swaddled in his seat carried by his parents, followed by us, his birth parents, I knew the smiles on Mike and Amanda’s faces would make up for the pain I felt in my chest. Zach stood with his arms around me, helping to keep me upright after my long hospital stay, steadying me as the image of our son and his parents walking away into their lives was forever seared into my memory. Zach and I watched until we couldn’t see them any longer, then we left the hospital. Left our son with his new parents behind. That was two years ago.
Having already taken off several days from school, Zach wasn’t afforded anymore time off, and the next day he was back in class. The day after placement, I was alone in a city where none of my friends lived, awake at 6:30 a.m. in the morning, unable to go back to sleep. I was proud that I was able to hold off crying for a few hours before it finally got to me and I let the tears go.
The first few weeks after placement were the hardest, and there was only so much that Zach could do to help me. Luckily, I had a great caseworker who made sure that I never felt alone. Still, it was a constant struggle not to let myself slip into the dark place that I often found myself in, even before the pregnancy. I felt like I had to be strong for my best friend, who was the only reason I made it out of the hospital in one piece. I had to be strong so that I could prove my family—and their doubts—wrong.
The problem with being “strong” was that I was so unforgiving to myself when I felt weak. I was teetering on a very precarious edge of despair, and everyday I am thankful that I was able to get through those dark periods. As the weeks passed, it became a lot easier to suppress (or at least manage) the overwhelming emotions, and learn how to cope with my feelings. I don’t think he ever realized it, but Zach’s unwavering support and every attempt he made to make me laugh kept me from falling off the edge. Much like there will never be words to tell Mike and Amanda how much they mean to me, there will never be words to tell Zach how he kept me from falling into myself, how he kept me from giving up. A lot of birth moms go through the adoption journey without the support of the birth father, and I can’t imagine the incredible strength those women possess.
If the moments leading up to placement were heartbreaking, there’s no way to describe the feelings after relinquishment. I made it through some days in a daze. For the first two weeks, I was still working out the various drugs in my system from delivery, so I slept a lot. I can’t sugarcoat my feelings and say I was without doubts during those first few weeks post-placement. There were days when all I wanted was to take it all back. The only thing getting me through it all was knowing that Mike and Amanda loved our son just as much as we did. I knew they would be able to give Henry a better (different) life than I could ever imagine. If I had chosen to parent, I would have loved him just as much and done everything I could have for him. But I feel like I would have always struggled, and my son didn’t deserve that. Now he has all the love in the world AND parents who can provide for him in ways I possibly couldn’t.
Honestly, I wish there was some magical thing I could do that would take away the pain of post-placement life. There isn’t, though. Most birth moms will tell you that the pain never goes away, and it doesn’t. There are simply good days, and then bad days. As time goes on, though, the good days start to outnumber the bad ones.
Everyone copes and deals with things differently. There were times where I couldn’t bring myself to write back to the letters we got because it was too hard to separate myself from the bad days. I am thankful for my son’s parents for never giving up on me, for continuing to write even when it was silence on my end. I am so grateful that they are just as eager for openness as I am. I remember there was a time when I didn’t think I wanted that level of openness. I thought it would hurt me too much to see how Henry was flourishing without me in his day-to-day life. If anything, the openness has helped me to heal. It reassured me that it was the right choice for Zach and I.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my son at least once. But I never worry because I know he is in the best possible place that he could be. I know a lot of adoptive parents are afraid that birth parents won’t like them, but trust me, the feeling is mutual. There would be times where I would sit for an hour trying to compose a reply to an e-mail or letter because I was too afraid of saying the wrong thing.
Sometimes I feel guilty that I didn’t chose to parent. Those days are the hardest, when the guilt is unshakable and relentless. But there are so many things that I’ve been able to do that I wouldn’t have done if I chose to parent at this stage. Adoption has changed my life in ways I never thought it would. Making an adoption plan gave me the motivation to find a real job and live on my own. Not a lot of people can say this, but I am 22 years old and I am completely independent. Because of my placement, I discovered that I have a genuine passion for adoption, and I hope to go to school so I can work as an adoption counselor one day. I would have never found that drive toward independence and focus if I hadn’t been in that situation. I really think I would still be living in my mom’s basement, working 10 hours a week at a pharmacy.
I won’t say it’s been easy, because it hasn’t been. I feel like everyone in the “adoption triad” can agree with that statement. But it has been life-changing in so many good ways, even when it’s hard. To me, that makes it worth it in the end. Despite the bad days, I can sleep at night knowing that I’ve already done the hardest thing I could do in life, and if I managed to get through that, nothing can stop me.