Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives.
A Birthmother’s Journey
As told by Hope O Baker to Carrie Goldman
I had an unexpected pregnancy when I was a junior in college and I found out when I was about 20 weeks along. It was pretty far along to learn, but I was dealing with big life distractions. My mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
My mom was supposed to drive me to the abortion clinic, but as we were in the car, my mom got a call that she was bumped up for her surgery at mayo. So we stopped the car and my sister came to drive me. The sad irony of the situation was that my sister was trying to get pregnant at the time, and still, she stepped up to be with me and drove me to the clinic.
I am pro-choice, but as I sat there, the choice I decided to make was that I was not going to get the abortion. Still, I couldn’t see myself raising a baby. Everyone said, “you can’t do this” and I agreed.
I began searching adoption agencies on google. I signed up, and by the next day, I had an insane amount of stuff in the mail. The woman who became my son’s mom, her adoption profile book came up on google.
I read about her, and I was so drawn to her. I thought, this is who I want to be when I grow up. She was a single mom; she was just right. We both clicked. I got great vibes and energy from her. Being around her made me feel safe and good.
As soon as she picked me up from the airport, I knew that she was the one. At that time, I was six months pregnant. I talked to a couple families before I met her. After I met her, I never spoke to another family ever. From the time we had our first email exchange, I just knew.
After we met, I went back to Minnesota and continued waitressing in an outdoor restaurant/bar. It was a fun job; I was paying for my own college. I had bills to pay — cell phone and car. I hid my pregnancy from other people.
But when I couldn’t hide my pregnancy anymore, I went out and lived with the woman who would become my son’s mom for the last two months. We went on walks every day and did prenatal yoga. We got cupcakes every other day at Magnolia’s.
My lawyer strongly advised against this, saying that when you spend that much time with someone, you build a relationship, and it would be hard to change your mind if you decide to keep the baby. Yes, there were warnings against doing this, but we felt good about it, and we did what worked for us.
She really did become like a mom and a friend to me. She treated me like her kid and I could see my kid would be well loved and cared for.
At the delivery, she was there, her mom was there, and my mom was there. We each had our own challenges. My mom caused a big scene after the birth, and I was so angry at her. For years, I was so mad at my mom and blamed her for making a scene.
Two years ago, I took her on a trip to Greece and I brought up that I was still very angry. She told me her perspective. I never thought about how my mom was watching her own child go through so much pain and struggle.
I never thought about how she was leaving her first grandchild. She just wanted everything to slow down. I know now she wasn’t trying to derail the adoption; she was trying to make sure I had what I needed and that I had time with my son.
So we finally cleared the air after me holding onto anger for five years. Now I live basically a mile away from my mom. We are best friends.
I wrote my book when I was still in the “adoption is beautiful” world. Since then, I’ve met other birthparents and adoptive parents, and I’ve found that it’s okay to be able to say on some days I hate adoption. Having those feelings doesn’t make me regret my choices, and I love my son’s mom.
What I’ve learned is that when you aren’t speaking to people in the adoption community, you think your story is crazy and dramatic. But when you start talking with people within the adoption community, you see that all these feelings are normal. My story – the struggles, the pain – none of this is abnormal within the adoption community.
Anyone who says everything is rosy and perfect and rainbows – even those adoptive parents – I don’t think they are telling the truth. It’s just more complicated than that. Adoption is hard. Adoption sucks for a lot of people. Talking about it openly helps to process it.
You don’t how many times I’ve been told, your son is so lucky to have found a great home, and I used to say things like that too. But I’ve learned that I don’t like that phrase anymore. My son wasn’t lucky to be taken from his mom. When we can open it up, adoptees are allowed to say how they really feel.
I feel like my son’s mom and I have had a good relationship. I’ve recently learned that I need to be more open with her about how I’m feeling. When I developed negative feelings about adoption, I first went to social media to express it. That was my bad, because I wasn’t sharing my new feelings with her directly, and I should have, but it just reinforces how important the communication lines are for everyone. I’m glad that my son’s mom brought this up to me this week, and I plan to share my feelings with her first from now on.
With covid, I haven’t seen my son in quite some time. I am typically there for his birthday, my birthday, holidays – but now I am loving him from afar. He’s seven. He loves to garden; he really loves garbage trucks. He’s just so cute. During my last visit, we were belting out Christmas carols in the backyard in the summer. I look at him and I see myself and my little brother. He reminds me so much of myself.
His mom sends picture books to me, my mom, and my grandma every month. Sometimes, when I am in a mood where I’m hating adoption, I forget those little things and how nice they are. The little things are really the big things for a birthmother. I think about how on holidays getting a picture or a call is everything to me.
It changes my whole world to hear from my son’s mom. I can’t relax on Thanksgiving or Christmas or Mother’s Day until I get a call from her or until she sends a picture. That moment transforms my day, my mood, everything. That little gesture can go so far. That’s when I know I can enjoy the day.
A few months ago, I moved back to Minnesota. I was living in London the past two years, and I was engaged and planning a whole life. It didn’t work out. I still love this man, and I am still thankful for him and our time. I couldn’t have written my book without him. I needed so much support and love and kindness during that time, and he provided those things.
But I knew in my heart deep down that it wasn’t the right fit for marriage and I’m proud of myself for acting on that. I’ll always be grateful to him for helping me see such a good version of myself. He is still in London and I am back in Minnesota. It’s been interesting because I’ve lived in big cities for the past ten years, and now I’m in a small town.
I wrote Finding Hope: A Birthmother’s Journey into the Light, because I felt really alone being a birthmom and I didn’t feel like there were people who understood me. I wanted to share my story so other people wouldn’t feel that. I wanted people to know that pain, trauma, and happiness can all exist in the same sentence.
Now, I’m like, wow, there was this whole support system out there. Why didn’t I know about these people? I wish I had known about this community. I hope my story helps other people.
I have a full-time job in corporate America. I’m working from home. I bought a house here. I’ve always been a person who wanders: California, Washington D.C., London, but now I want to build roots and a life in one place.
Luckily my job is great and supportive of me moving back to Minnesota. I adopted a puppy and didn’t expect to have a hard time, but it brought up so many traumatizing feelings for me when I drove away with him from his siblings and his mom. I had to stop the car and I was crying, and I had all these emotions.
Now he’s my best bud. It helped me to post about this experience on Instagram and hear from other birthmothers that they had experienced similar things. It was traumatizing but now he is amazing, and he has helped me so much with feelings of depression. We are doing pretty well, and I’m grateful to have him.
Hope O Baker is living and working in Mankato, Minnesota.
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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter