How One Birthmother Found Joy In Open Adoption
That’s the message that Cami got from a friend after she placed her baby for adoption. And it’s the approach that has guided her life since then. Thanks to her positive attitude and the support she has received from her family and her daughter’s adoptive parents, she says she has been forever changed for the better by the experience.
Five years ago, Cami was a typical high school student and member of the cheerleading team. Then an unplanned pregnancy forced her to make one of the most important decisions of her life — a decision that culminated on National Adoption Day when she strapped her newborn daughter, Lily, into a car seat, tucked a blanket around her, kissed her “a billion times” and said goodbye.
But it wasn’t goodbye for ever and it wasn’t goodbye for long. In the years since then, Cami and Lily’s adoptive parents — whom she found online — have kept in touch on a regular basis and enjoy a strong, healthy open adoption. Recently I had a chance to talk to Cami about her adoption journey, which she has documented at her blog, and about the lessons she’s learned along the way.
1. You’ve said that you can’t come out unchanged after placing a baby for adoption, and that you’ve been forever changed for the better. What are some of the positive changes you’ve noticed in yourself?
2. What helped you get to where you are today?
Lots of support. I would be lying if I took all the credit and said no one supported me or helped me get through the rough times. My sisters especially are always there to bring me back up, or hold my hand when I can’t handle things. But I also owe it to Lily’s family. Her parent were always willing to give me whatever support or reassurance I needed.
3. At the same time, you point out that it hasn’t been easy. You tell the story of breaking off with a boyfriend after he told you that you had “a lot of baggage.” Over all, how have people reacted to your adoption story?
At first I had a hard time with the way people acted towards my adoption story. Many of them did not understand or could comprehend my decision. But as time has gone on I realize I cannot please everyone. I just have to remind myself why I made this decision when someone disagrees. I also have to remind myself that everyone has their own opinion on things and at the end of the day it only matters how I feel and that I know I did the right thing for Lily and for me.
4. You mention that you find it hard telling people your story. Not because you’re afraid of sharing it, but because of how they’ll react. How do you decide who to tell and what do you tell them?
I always try to gauge the situation and what I think their reaction will be when I tell them before I choose to tell someone. Sometimes that does not always work and I have many times put myself in a situation where I told someone and it turned out quite awkward. But you get use to that. Adoption is such a large part of who I am today that it is hard not to share my joy. So I tend to share it frequently.
5. Being a birthmother is a big part of who you are, but it’s not the only part. How often, and in what ways, does the birthmother part come up in your daily life?
There is always a constant reminder that I am a birthmother. From the little kids that come in to be seen at my work that remind me of Lily, or the picture of Lily sitting right next to my desk, or even the little reminders all over my house of her. There is always a reminder of her. Sometimes that is a harsh reminder of the motherhood role I gave up, but it is always a bittersweet reminder.
6. Most open adoption placements today are done shortly after the baby’s birth directly at the hospital. In your case, you took Lily home and spent the full 72 hours before relinquishing her. Why did you decide to do that?
I took Lily home for the remainder of the 72 hours because I wanted some uninterrupted time with her. In the hospital there are always visitors, doctors, nurses and tests to be done. At home it was just time for me to be Lily’s mother. Even if it was just 72 hours, I needed those 72 hours for me. I had a clearer head at home, and was more prepared for the emotions and heartache that came with placement.
8. As you spent those last moment alone with Lily, did you ever worry that you were becoming even more attached?
9. What did your adoption worker say about your plan to bring Lily home — did you feel any pressure to place?
My adoption case manager was always very clear that I was in the drivers seat from day one. I never felt as if I was pressured into placement by him. He offered to help me with whatever decision I made. If that was parenting he would have offered to help make that happen if that is what I felt was best. He had no objection to me bringing Lily home to my knowledge. He knew my personality and knew that I would make the best decision for me.
10. How close were you to changing your mind about your adoption plan?
I wasn’t close to changing my mind about my adoption plan. Once I made that decision I was pretty set on it. But believe me it did take me a long time to get to that decision and even being sure of my decision did not make the pain go away.
11. Do you remember what your thoughts and feelings were during those 72 hours before relinquishment?
The time I spent at home with Lily was the most memorable. I was able to tell her all my hopes and dreams for her. I was able to express my love and care for her. I was able to process my thoughts and feelings. I remember just holding her every moment I could. The last night I held her all night. For me that was comforting.
12. Do you recommend other expectant mothers considering adoption take their baby home before making a decision?
13. How did you end up choosing parents for Lily — what were looking for and how did you find them?
I found Lily’s parents online. I had no real requirements when I was looking. For me I just felt that I would know when I found them and all the other little things would not matter. For some reason I kept coming back to families who were already blessed with children, and particularly the family I chose. There was just a feeling I had when looking at them that made my heart full. From the first email I was hooked and knew they were Lily’s family. I was blessed with that assurance.
16. If a teenager with an unexpected pregnancy is reading this, what’s the one thing you want her to know about open adoption?
For me open adoption was about Lily never having to have unanswered questions. She will always know who I am and will always be able to ask me any question she pleases. Open adoption has allowed me to be able to move on in a sense. This is because I too never have unanswered questions. I know her family. I know she is doing well. I know she is happy. I would just want any girl faced with an unplanned pregnancy to know that.
17. What’s the one thing you want Lily to know about your decision as she grows up?
That I made it out of love.
What do you think of Cami’s story and her advice? What do you think is the secret of a successful open adoption? Leave your comments in the space below.