Overcoming the Stigma of Adoption: A Birth Mom’s Point of View
When I think of all the stigmas we humans attach to life choices, abortion immediately comes to mind. I’ve seen, and escaped, the protests outside clinics full of heartbroken, scared, even angry women who made the decision to end a pregnancy. For some, the decision is made for them by husbands, boyfriends, parents, etc. For others, the decision is theirs alone, but no easier to make. The mere idea of a child – the reality of a child- conjures myriad images for every single human. Some have a deep, aching desire to parent, while others cannot fathom raising another human being (for myriad reasons!). Children can complete us, or destroy us, depending on your personal opinions. Either way, the decision not to see a pregnancy to fruition is most certainly met with so many other’s opinions…
Stigmas * Desires * Beliefs * Situations * Fear* Surrounding Adoption
The adoption process isn’t built around “instant gratification”, in fact, it’s far from it. There are fiery hoops to be jumped through and acres of paperwork to be filled out and filed. Background checks that rival FBI proportion; home visits that seem never-ending. This process can seem daunting, even scary, without proper guidance. Choosing to adopt a baby or older child can certainly carry a stigma that affects not only the birth mom and dad but the adoptive parent(s), as well.
STIGMA is lurking just around the corner ready to attack, screaming: You’ll be giving your child away! You’ll be shunned in society! Nobody will ever look at you the same way again! What a horrible person you are for even thinking of such a thing!
Stigma doesn’t stop there. Oh, no. It has no mercy, and it is determined to drive its insane point home. Stigma sounds like the truth sometimes. You know when? When you are at your lowest. When you are deeply hurt, sad, depressed, lonely, afraid. Stigma is a ruthless opportunist!
I have stressed the word STIGMA because, in my adoption experiences, it was the most terrifying word I heard. I lived all the scenarios I mentioned: becoming pregnant with a partner and becoming parents; becoming pregnant as a single woman and being terrified, and also becoming pregnant as a single woman knowing I could not keep and raise my babies. STIGMA was attached to me like super glue. I was shunned publicly, made fun of at work, disowned by family members, and worst of all, I hated myself. I knew what it took to raise healthy, happy children and I also knew at that particular juncture of my life, I was in NO position to raise children who resembled that description. I had to get real and make serious, life-altering decisions that would break my heart into a million pieces, but that would ensure the safety and wellbeing of my unborn babies. My story is my own, but I pray deeply you find something in them that will help you make the right decisions regarding your unborn baby, and possibly fill the void in another’s world.
Driving down Swann Ave in Tampa I passed an engineering firm. It sat squarely across the street from my apartment, so I declared out loud I would simply walk in and get a job! I was hired on the spot and began the following Monday. I kept my nose to the grindstone and learned the ropes. My boss was very kind and I really liked my job. I began hanging out at the bar next door with the girls in the office after work, and that’s where I met “Henry”. He was on the survey crew in our firm and was super cute. We began seeing each other and it didn’t take long for a romance to ensue. I enjoyed his company and we both enjoyed cocaine and drinking. Recently divorced, I no longer had my boys with me, so I had lots of extra time on my hands.
My ex-husband had done a superior job of devastating me by winning custody, and my modest income and apartment hardly compared to his generous bank accounts and large pool home. But that was good for the boys, so I learned to live with it. Of course, the cocaine and alcohol certainly helped ease the pain, and Henry helped, too. We partied nightly, had reckless sex daily, and never ever considered the consequences. Before I knew it, I was pregnant. With baby number 5.
All the cocaine in the world could not erase the fear and devastation I felt the day I took an at-home pregnancy test. Almost as soon as I peed on it, it showed positive. I walked around with the knowledge for a few weeks, terrified to mention this thing to Henry, all the while deeply knowing what I must do. There was no way in hell I could raise a child alone. I had failed miserably at it before, and now the circumstances were even worse. No. I would absolutely have an abortion. That was all there was to it. Henry would never know. I would no longer be pregnant. The world would be right. I would avoid all that stigma…
Driving to work one day, I noticed a lovely old home that had been repurposed as an office. It was a law office that handled adoptions. I can’t tell you how many times I had passed that building and never once paid any attention to it. But that day, that very special day, that old house seemed to jump right out into the middle of the road! I started to cry and my car, my little Hyundai Excel that was on its last leg, turned as if by itself into the parking lot of the law office and parked itself by the entrance. Without so much as a thought, I was out of the car and stepping into the foyer of the office. It was as if I had walked into someone’s lovely home – soft colors and sofas, overstuffed easy chairs, upholstery of chintz, and muted pastels. A sweet, pretty woman greeted me as I entered and quickly took me into her arms as I heaved my gut-wrenching tears. This was my sanctuary. My safe haven. God had delivered me to the perfect place at the perfect time for the most perfect reason: to save my baby’s life, and mine.
Amy was gentle and kind. In no rush to push me away. She simply held me and let me cry. I recall thinking I must seem insane, crazy, unfit, lost, but I never ever felt that way again. I was taken to another cozy room, Amy’s office, and offered all sorts of comfort. We talked for what seemed hours, and I told her my crazy life story. She listened patiently and I knew I had a new friend. No judgment. No stigma. Just love and patience and reassurance that this baby and I would be so much more than okay. I revealed to Amy that I had been sleeping in my car for some time, after losing my apartment. I also revealed I had not seen a doctor at all. And worst of all, I revealed my drug and alcohol use.
None of this information shook Amy, she simply called the OB/GYN office that the firm used and made an appointment for me, then proceeded to make a hotel reservation for me. In all honesty, I was the one who was shook! I had not known such gentle and honest hospitality in years. I instantly felt undeserving and very weak. Stigma had followed me to the lawyer’s office and had no intention of leaving me alone. He and I would fight for my entire pregnancy, and usually, he would win. Admitting my drug and alcohol use at the doctor’s office was tough. Stigma showed up there, too, and did his best to destroy me. But the doctor reassured me that stopping the use of cocaine and alcohol when I found out I was pregnant was the right thing to do and that he would run every test possible to rule out any issues for the baby. She was born unharmed by my drug and alcohol use and I am forever grateful to God for that.
The weeks passed easily as I rested and ate and thought. I found an apartment near my old one and moved in with my meager belongings. Furniture was rented and home came to be. I could relax and focus on the matters at hand: my unborn baby and my looming legal issues. I had written a bunch of bad checks over the course of a couple of years during my separation and divorce. Without the benefit of my husband’s income, I struggled to feed, clothe, and care for my sons on my own. Because we were not divorced, my husband was not legally bound to help me financially. He pulled his direct deposit from our bank account, and that was that. I could not get food stamps because his income still counted for me and the kids and I did not have legal documents of any kind to prove otherwise.
Very long story short, I ended up in jail again during this pregnancy. Amy and the firm looked after me tenderly. All my and the baby’s needs were met. I ended up being released on an ankle monitor after the birth, but all I can say is, it meant the world to me to care for me the way they did. They saved my life once again.
During all the hullabaloo of incarceration and release, I was able to find the most perfect adoptive parents for my baby. Many files were carefully considered. I had a good idea of who I wanted for her (yes, I did opt to know the sex!), and I also had a very good idea of what she would look like (and I was right!). It was super important to me that she “fit in” with the family/couple I selected. Henry is of Cuban descent, with brown hair and eyes, and I had a strong feeling she would be dark that way, too. (She is!)
I am a Nashville native and always dreamed of going to college at one of our excellent schools: Vanderbilt, Belmont, Lipscomb. As it happened, the wife of the couple I most liked attended Vandy and that seemed a true sign! Also, my ex and I had lived in Illinois at the beginning of our marriage, our eldest son born there. This couple lived in Illinois! It seemed clandestine! My instincts were spot on. THIS would be the family she would be raised in.
I knew I must be completely honest with this couple regarding my history, but I also felt Stigma riding my heels. Would they like ME? Would they judge ME? Would they judge the BABY? It seemed all the perfect pieces would be messed up forever because of my poor life choices. Had I screwed up SO many times that they would decide to keep looking for someone else? Someone less messy? My mind raced as the phone calls were made and letters sent and dates for travel and meeting were set. I prayed constantly that they would see the “good” me; the attentive mother who only wants the very best for this precious little girl. I questioned every move made and thought I had. But it was a waste of time worrying because they were AMAZING!
They were everything I knew they would be! Honest and caring. Funny and easy-going. Loving and kind. So excited to have a daughter. And they would make sure she was/is loved and cared for and nurtured and educated and able to have fun! Oh, yes. God pointed me in the PERFECT direction when it came to her parents. And, to top it off, the adoptive mom is dark-eyed and has dark brown hair, and the adoptive dad is, too! They fit. They all three fit perfectly.
Was everything perfect??? No!!! Not at all! I had lots of issues to deal with, but it all worked out. They did everything they could to ease the pain of that situation. I never felt STIGMA from them. I want you to know that no matter who you are or what you’ve done or where you come from, you and your baby(s) matter!!! Stigma will always be around; trying to kill your confidence and make you believe all kinds of nonsense. But just remember, Stigma is not perfect. Stigma is a liar.
Jeanne Tate, Amy, Danielle, and the entire staff at Heart of Adoptions are stellar professionals who only want the very best for you and your baby. No issue will be too big, no problem too much. You will be loved and cared for completely.
Choosing adoption over abortion is a hero’s choice!
You are not giving your baby away. You are making a very serious decision to provide the very best environment and situation for your child. I was adamant that our adoption be open, and we have been able to abide by that wish for the past 20 years!
Today, I have a wonderful relationship with my daughter and her parents. I have had the honor of watching her grow and mature and graduate high school and attend college! She has always known where she came from, who she is, who I am, and why I chose adoption for her. It has made such a difference in both our lives. I can honestly say, she is exactly who she is meant to be because I pulled into that parking lot, trusted the right people, and made sound decisions backed by professionals and the law.
I am forever grateful for this decision and for Heart of Adoption. I pray if you are reading this and have any doubt in your heart about what to do, that you will at least talk with the staff at Jeanne’s office, and Jeanne herself! Hear what they have to say and look at the amazing folks who trust them to help find the baby/child they are meant to raise. “It takes a village” is an ancient African quote that means one person alone cannot take on the full responsibility of raising a child. And moreover, when a mother is in crisis, the village steps up to help! Allow this “village” to help you and your precious baby. I promise you, you will never ever regret it.
A note from Kim: Drugs and alcohol can and will harm your baby if you continue to use them during pregnancy. Please do all you can to stop using while you are carrying your baby. Resources for Birth Moms are available here.