Did you catch Katie Couric’s adoption special the other week? Heartfelt and uplifting, it showcased the story of three celebrity moms — — Nia Vardalos, Jillian Michaels and Kym Whitley — and how adoption and motherhood have changed their lives for the better.
It’s rare to see a prime time show take such a positive and in-depth look at adoption. Rarer still, however, is seeing the stories of birthmothers who have recently placed their babies for adoption. You won’t find them on TV. But you will find them online.
Birthmother (and adoptee) stories are the missing piece in the open adoption puzzle. And an essential one, too. To really understand why birthmothers “give up” their children, how they feel about it afterwards, and how hopeful adoptive parents can increase their own chances of having a successful match, you need to see and hear their stories first-hand.
Here are three that caught my eye. Hopefully, they’ll give you a better appreciation of what goes on behind the scenes during a placement and about the joys and tears experienced by birthmothers in an open adoption.
In this video, Tamra, a birthmother shares the story of her decision to place her son, Justin, for adoption. Posted just a few days ago, it has already received 8,000+ views. And it’s not hard not to see why. With honesty and humility, Tamra discusses the different stages of her adoption story: from her reaction to her positive pregnancy test to thinking about adoption to eventually finding parents for Justin. Struggling with her decision, she says the turning point came when she asked herself “Do you want enough for Justin or do you want best for him?”
Highlights: Her realization that adoption isn’t about “bad people placing babies with good people” and the story of how she met the “strangers about to raise my child.” When she saw them, she says, “I felt family.” Equally moving is her “bittersweet” realization that although she knew she could have done a good job raising Justin, “when I looked at (his adoptive mother) in the eye I knew that was his mom.”
Already a single mom to a five year old boy, Sarah discusses her decision to place her son, Christian Luke, for adoption and what she was looking for in an adoptive family. According to her adoption worker, who also appears in the video, the first time they met Sarah was “really confused about what she wanted to do.” Like a lot of expectant mothers, she didn’t know a lot about adoption or what parenting was going to look like. Sarah eventually looked at five adoption profile books, an experience she describes as “surreal,” before choosing Julie and Paul, Christian’s adoptive parents.
Highlights: Breaking down into tears, Sarah tells how she “fell in love” with Julie (who is also featured in the video) and Paul during their first Skype session. “I could give my son a mom,” she says, “but I couldn’t give him a dad. The dad he deserves.” She also discusses how much the adoption of Christian has meant to all of them and about the added bonus of having Julie become a friend.
In this video, Jessica, a birthmother, and Lisa, an adoptive mom, share the story of how they connected and what openness in open adoption represents for them. Sitting side by side, Jessica starts off by talking about how emotional the placement was for her in the early stages — about how “you’re informed and yet removed” and about the challenges of finding a “happy medium” where everyone is comfortable. You can really see how comfortable she and Lisa — self-described “openness queens” — are in their relationship from their body language and the free and easy way they interact and even finish each other’s sentences.
Highlights: Jessica says she originally didn’t consider openness. But, as is often the case with many expectant mothers exploring adoption, the more she found out about it, the more she came to like it. In the first year of the placement, she says openness was tricky was navigate and time to figure out. As for what drew her to Lisa and her husband, she says she looked for a family that resembleed her own” so that David, would grow up with the same values she did. And what does Jessica thinks is the key to a successful open adoption? “To be as honest as you can with yourself, with your agency, and with others. Everything will work out if you’re honest”
Great advice all around. Whether you’re thinking of placing a baby for adoption or hoping to adopt and looking for inspiration and insights, these three birthmother videos are as good a place as any to start. What do you think of the stories? What do you think a birthmother or a hopeful adoptive parent needs to do to feel confident about their decision and their relationship? Share your comments in the space below.