Crystal Rae didn’t know what she was getting into when she placed her baby for adoption 12 years ago. And though her decision didn’t come easily, she recently told me that her experience has been better than she ever imagined.
I’ll let her tell you why, in her own words, in a moment. But first, some background information about her: Crystal Rae is a surgical assistant and TV Host in Cave Creek, Arizona.
She lives with her 8-year-old daughter, Gracie, and has a “fantastic” relationship with her 12-year-old daughter, Faith, who lives in Minnesota.
In the years since Crystal Rae chose open adoption for Faith, her relationship with Faith and Faith’s adoptive family has grown and evolved. Today, they can best be described as members of an extended family, keeping in touch through social media, FaceTime, texts as well through visits back and forth between their homes.
Crystal Rae, who is writing about her journey and plans to share it with others, calls adoption “the most beautiful pain you could ever choose” and says that “choosing life for my daughter and giving her the family she has is the single thing in my life that I am most proud of.”
1. How did you decide that open adoption was the right decision for you?
Almost immediately after I found out I was pregnant, it was clear the the birth father and I weren’t going to be able to maintain a relationship. Almost immediately I went to Christian Family Care in Phoenix for counseling to investigate what my “options” were. When I realized that adoption didn’t have to be at least 18 years of wondering and inevitable heartbreak, I was willing to consider it. Prayer was probably the most influential power at work in my life, throughout the whole process.
2. In our pre-interview, you said that open adoption is more amazing that you ever dreamed of. What did you know about it before placing your baby?
I actually knew very little. I wasn’t close friends with anyone who had a good first hand experience, or even a bad one. It seemed almost too good to be true.
3. What has changed your mind about it since then?
Nothing has really changed my mind, but my eyes have been opened in a lot of ways. There’s no way that in a few short months (or weeks) you can possibly imagine all of the twists & turns that will happen in the rest of your life that will affect the relationship you have with your child and/or their adoptive parents. It’s one thing to hear prospective adoptive parents tell you that they will always support your relationship with your child, but it’s a blessing to get to see those actions time & time again, over the years.
4. At what point did you starting looking for adoptive parents for your baby?
I started looking at profiles (nothing was really online then) fairly early, probably in the beginning of my second trimester. Nothing seemed the right match though. At the time I was living in Arizona, and knew that I wanted my daughter to grow up in the midwest, where I did. When I was about 6 months pregnant I moved back to Minnesota, with the main focus in my life being, adoption.
5. What was your criteria?
A household income of $100k.
One of the parents to stay home, at least for the first year.
My daughter would likely have blonde hair, blue eyes & fair skin~ I wanted her to look like she “fit in” in the family
Live on a farm, or have horses.
6. How easy was it to find the parents you were looking for?
Extremely difficult. I was prepared to parent her, if the right family was not brought into my path.
7. How did you eventually find them?
Through a recommendation of a social worker.
8. What was it about them or their profile that drew you in?
They lived on a darling hobby farm and had the setting that I would have wanted to provide for her myself.
9. As your placement day got closer, did you ever think about changing your mind?
Changing my mind was never an issue. I knew that leaving the hospital “empty handed” would crush me though. For a few reasons, I chose to bring her home with me for her first 30 days. It was planned that way from the beginning. During those precious 30 days we spent quite a bit of time with her adoptive parents, and any questions I may have had, subsided.
Of course the days immediately following our placement were particularly difficult. I knew that their door was open if I wanted to see her, and they were only a phone call away. It did take some time before I was ready to see her.
Luckily, I had an attorney who was very proactive on my behalf throughout our entire adoption process. In Minnesota our “Openness Agreement” was legally binding and we could include anything we wanted in it. It basically was for my security and included “bare minimums” for both me and the adoptive parents. At the time the agreement was very important to me, but as time has passed we’ve never even referred to it.
10. Did you ever worry that they wouldn’t follow through on their promises?
Not at all.
11. Some birthmothers, who have had a bad experience with adoption, will post messages on Facebook and elsewhere warning other birthmothers: “Just you wait. One day the adoptive parents will close your adoption on you.” What’s your reaction to that?
It’s saddening and frustrating to see that. I understand that relationships aren’t perfect, because people aren’t. In the event that a child’s parents decided that openness was not in their best interest, I’m sure that it is not a decision that was taken lightly at all. It may not be permanent also. The birthparent may be at a point in their life where they aren’t able to be supportive or nurturing to their child for a multitude of reasons, i.e. substance abuse, etc.
That part of a story many times goes untold. Both the birth parents and adoptive parents will hopefully put themselves aside to maintain some kind of relationship for the sake of their child. People move, change jobs, get divorced, life happens. In a sense you’re entering a relationship that can potentially outlast even marriage, choose wisely.
12. You told me that you wish more women would realize how wonderful open adoption is. Why do you think more women don’t consider it?
The biggest reason I think is fear. A common misconception when someone thinks of birthparents is, “I could never do that, it would just be too hard.” What’s harder is dealing with the aftermath and pain of an abortion, or having to look at your child in a situation where parenting just isn’t ideal; all along knowing that their reality (and yours) could be a blessing instead of a struggle. Another factor for me was the support that became available to me, once I really began to pursue adoption.
Although I had recently graduated from college, I was too sick to work during my pregnancy, and my family wasn’t exactly supportive. There were resources available to me, and even the adoptive parents were able to help me with the expenses of daily living, which lifted a lot of stress. It also showed me that they weren’t just interested in a baby as an end result to this pregnancy, but we were all now invested in a relationship together.
13. What do you think needs to be done to raise their awareness of open adoption as an option?
The stigma and labels that once surrounded adoption seem to have lessened, even since our placement 12 years ago. Awareness and education benefit everyone. Birthmothers come from all walks of life, in all stages of life as well. A birthparent once explained their placement as “The most beautiful pain you could ever choose to go through.”
That has rung true on many levels. I’m working on writing the story of my journey, so that it can be shared and hopefully will land in the hands of someone when they need it most.
My goal is to have it be a free online download as well so that it can be accessed by anyone. Since the social media revolution has come upon us, there are many platforms that birthparents can receive support through, from online chats to birthparent retreats.
Especially in what is many times considered a “crisis pregnancy” birthparents need to understand the resources and relationships that are available to them. I tell my story to everyone I can, without hesitation — in a version that is appropriate that they can understand for each situation. Choosing life for my daughter and giving her the family she has is the single thing in my life that I am most proud of.
What do you think of Crystal Rae’s story and her approach to open adoption? What do you think makes for a strong relationship between birthparents, adoptive parents and their child? Leave your comments in the space below.