This guest post is by Brandy Sacapanio, an adoptive mother and adoptee.
“There is a very good chance we will have to remove the right ovary.”
I walked outside the doctor’s office in disbelief and sat down on the edge of the sidewalk, too weak to stand. It had been a whirlwind of events.
I had gone from feeling “something” one day when I got dressed, to a doctor’s appointment, to the question: “Are you sure you’re not pregnant?”, to an ultrasound and diagnosis, to being told that I had a mass the size of a soccer ball.
I was still in shock. The size of a soccer ball? I would have given anything to know it was all one big misunderstanding and that I was actually pregnant.
Less than a month later, I was wheeled into surgery and later awoke to even worse news: Stage IV Endometriosis and a complete hysterectomy. I was 26 years old.
How? Why? There were tears but I could not cry. I was in too much pain physically and emotionally.
I had grown up in foster care bouncing around 26 times before being emancipated as a minor.
All I dreamed about was having a family of my own.
Not just a family, but a large family. I had been blessed to be adopted at the age of 19 and had a six-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.
I felt guilty knowing there were others who longed to have even one child. But it was little consolation. It was the death of my hopes and dreams.
Every year I drove 10 hours from Illinois to Oklahoma to visit my family on Labor Day, but that year I wasn’t feeling it.
My sister was pregnant with her fifth child. And while I was happy for her, I just didn’t know if I could keep it together in her presence.
At the last moment I decided the change of pace and scenery would be good so my husband, daughter and I headed on our way. When we got there my sister wanted to take us to a mall a couple hours away. I didn’t care as long as I didn’t have to drive.
On the way she told me about a friend who had recently come back into her life who was pregnant and considering adoption. After she said that, I didn’t hear anything else.
All I knew was that I wanted that baby!
The next day my sister proclaimed excitedly, “I’m on my way to get Jenn. She wants to meet you!”
What? Oh my gosh… Did I look okay? What would I say? I didn’t feel prepared.
Three hours later, after tears and each sharing our story, Jenn said it all when she said, “I don’t think it’s coincidence that you came and we met. I believe God sent you and the baby is supposed to be yours.”
It was surreal. We drove to the lake to celebrate our first Labor Day as a new family and on the way I had the overwhelming feeling the baby was a girl.
Although I had never thought about it before, I knew I wanted to name her Madison.
Jenn never wavered in her decision, not even for a moment. I traveled back and forth for doctor’s appointments and sonograms. A Caesarean section was scheduled for December 23rd.
At the beginning of December, tensions were mounting in Jenn’s living arrangement so we moved into a small hotel room together near the hospital.
Initially, I was motivated out of fear the adoption would be compromised.
But later I came to treasure the time to get intimately acquainted with Jenn and her two daughters, then six and three.
At some point during that time Jenn shifted from this person I cared about because she had chosen me for her baby to this amazing person I knew.
I heard her story and watched her as a mom and I knew it was only grace that it wasn’t me in her situation. It could have been me.
Just a few short years before, I was in the worst place of my life. With post-traumatic stress disorder in full swing from abuse and neglect I had endured as a child, my worst fear was that I was mentally ill.
I was a good mom but there was a distinct period of time that I remember questioning if I was what was best for my daughter. I felt like she deserved more than what I could give her.
Thankfully I had a wonderful support system that stepped up and filled the gaps and I moved forward to healing, but I never forgot.
On the day Madison was born, we packed into a tiny Oklahoma hospital. I held Jenn’s hand in the operating room as I sat by her head behind the veiled sheet.
At the moment Madison was born, I was allowed to stand up and see her for the first time. I was overcome with emotion, barely speaking through tears, “Oh, Jenn, she is BEAUTIFUL!” There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Even the doctor choked up.
It wasn’t just another birth.
It was beautiful and heart-breaking, joyous and overwhelming, a loss and a gain… but altogether a miracle. I was torn and Jenn could see it.
I wanted to be with her to make sure she was okay both physically and emotionally, yet I wanted to be with Madison. She said, “Go on, Mom. Go meet your daughter.” I could barely see through the tears.
The staff was unfamiliar with adoption and some didn’t hold back their opinions. One nurse told Jenn, “You know you don’t have to do this!”
I was protective. Selfishly I didn’t want Jenn to bond with Madison. I didn’t want her to hold her without me being present.
At night we had to go to the hotel because of visiting hours and while I could have fought it, truthfully I was so exhausted I didn’t want to.
I needed the rest and I didn’t feel there was anything to worry about. When I learned Jenn had requested Madison in the middle of one night and held her I was initially angry.
But later I realized that Jenn needed that time to say goodbye. And then…I gave Madison back.
It was the hardest thing I have ever done.
But I placed Madison in Jenn’s arms and told her I would take her and the three girls home with me and help her get on her feet.
I couldn’t imagine being in a position where I had to give up my child because I didn’t have the resources to provide for her. I had been there.
I knew how it felt, but I also knew things could get better, too. Through tears, she handed Madison back and said, “I knew before but now I really know I’m making the right decision.”
Right before discharge Jenn seemed down and I wondered if she was second-guessing herself. When I asked she told me she was homeless.
The family she had arranged to stay with after being released from the hospital was not supportive of her decision to place Madison for adoption and had told her she could not go there if she did.
My heart sank. Her only option would have been to go to a homeless shelter and I couldn’t bear the thought. She had just had surgery and had given me the most precious gift. And it was Christmas.
I didn’t even have to think about it. After the 72-hour waiting period, we appeared before the judge to sign temporary custody paperwork.
Then we loaded up our family, Jenn and her two girls, and made the 10-hour trip back to Illinois without a clue how to make it work, only that we would.
A month later Jenn and the girls went to stay with friends. It was both a relief and sad to see her go.
Today, 12 years later, we are still going strong on this beautiful, crazy open adoption ride.
Brandy Sacapanio is a child welfare specialist, adoptive mother, foster mother, speaker, advocate and a foster care alumni.
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