How open? She and her daughter’s adoptive parents, S and B, are in contact nearly every single day. Through texts, phone calls and Skype, they talk about their daughter, “Little,” and share updates about the latest developments in their lives.
Gen knows that not every adoption is as open as hers. And while her relationship with Little’s adoptive family may not be right for every birthmother or adopting couple, it works for them — and that’s what counts. As she writes on her blog, “a child can never have too many people to love her.”
Recently I had a chance to ask Gen about her relationship with S and B; what helped her make her decision; and how her thoughts and emotions about open adoption have changed and evolved over the past year.
1. You placed less than six months ago, does it still feel raw?
Raw is an understatement, there isn’t a day or second that goes by that I don’t think of her, want to be with her, and love her.
2. What are some of the thoughts and feelings that stand out for you?
Mostly it’s hard wanting her to look at me and remember me. There was only one time when I really got that feeling of her acknowledgement. It was the first time I saw her after placement S, B, Little, and B’s mom came over for dinner and I said “Hi Little” and I got the smallest smile. Most of my thoughts are of holding and just spending quiet time with her. I still deal with the guilt of not providing breast milk for longer, and guilt over signing the paper work no matter how much I knew it was the right choice. There is still guilt.
3. What’s a good day like?
A good day usually has me giggling a lot and joking around whether I’m at work or at school. I’m not quick to get upset when someone does something wrong in the kitchen or at school. I’m more understanding or if a server at work is giving me a hard time I can handle it better. I’m more productive. Those days it’s pretty simple but the air around me is a lot lighter.
4. What’s a bad day like?
Usually a lot of time spent looking at pictures or watching videos on the verge of tears, lots of Disney music (Little and I listened to Disney a lot while I was pregnant). When I’m at work or doing school work, I have to try and hide it most the time. If anyone asks me how I am or what’s wrong, I cry. The emotional weight on these days is unbearable.
5. What helps you get through it?
I usually try to think of the positives of everything and count my blessings. However, it depends on the day, seeing Little over Skype or receiving a new picture via text message. Seeing how happy and well she is doing. And knowing the amount of love S and B have for her. Even though these often help, it stings too.
6. You wrote that “Adoption is all about love. I don’t know how much I would have agreed with that statement or understood it a year ago.” What was your understanding of adoption before you started the process?
Basically it was what you saw in the movies: A couple gets picked, at some point they tell their child, and then the child wonders about the birth mom. I had no idea of the options open adoption could bring.
7. Before contacting an agency, you and your mother would discuss the pros and cons of each of your options every day. What were the pros and what were the cons and what, in the end, helped you decide to create an adoption plan?
Some of the pros and cons we discussed were things like, me working all the time and Little having to be babysat a lot, not having the time to be the kind of mother my child deserved. Probably having to give up my dreams or at least put them on hold. Just a lot of the hardships that come with being a single mother.
Pros were I wouldn’t be alone; I would have someone to love me and I would love them. Of course not dealing with the heartache that comes with adoption.
Cons of adoption would, of course, be the heartache and pain I would feel. Pros were my child would be loved and know of my love and have the type of family they deserved, this couple would finally have a child they had waited so long for an prayed for and prepared for and where ready for.
In the end I decided on adoption because anytime I thought of single motherhood the first thing that came to kind were the hardships Little would endure and then I had thoughts of the joys of motherhood. In pondering adoption the joys it would bring came to mind first and then the heartache only I would endure. I had this overwhelming feeling that I was meant to give this child the body they needed and their family couldn’t give them and then place Little in their arms, that was my role in this story.
8. When you walked into your adoption worker’s office for the first time, you didn’t have any idea what to expect — how the process worked, how much of a say you would have, or if she would even help you. What were some of the things she said that helped put you at ease?
Just explaining the process, that I could pick any couple and they could be from anywhere and I could want any kind of adoption and contact. I had all the say about where my child would end up. I could control and I could contact them and talk to them and get to know them. And I could even meet them in person before picking them. These were all things at that first meeting I needed to hear.
9. At that point of your journey, only your family and friends knew about your adoption plan. At what point did you let others about it and what kind of reaction did you get from them?
Well, unless you saw me in my pregnancy or were a very close friend, you didn’t even know I was pregnant. I kept it very quiet although I knew most people would be supportive. I have amazing friends and family. I wasn’t ready for the negativity that could come. So people at work and school knew because they saw me and most everyone was very supportive. A lot of people tried to bring up different ideas and options and not really sway me but point other things out in a nice way and my family was nothing but supportive. It was hard on everyone but they understood it was my choice to make and mine alone. Only after the placement when Little was a week old did I open it to the world through a Facebook post.
10. When it came time to choose parents for Little, you wanted a couple that was “good” and open-minded. But at first, it was frustrating because no family stood out for you. What was it about S and B that made you say to yourself, “this is it — there are the guys I’m looking for!”?
There was just a feeling in reading their profile. I fell in love. They wanted to travel and B’s favorite food was popcorn — just how real and honest they seemed. I looked at their blog and they had this video and it was a collection of pictures and it showed this silly side to them. I loved it. They were just a normal couple and I wanted to know more. It’s hard to describe if you have never had that feeling before, but I just knew.
11. You’ve said that “in sharing my joys they also shared in my sadness.” What do you mean by that?
There was a time when we were emailing and they asked how I was, like they always did. I just let it out. My pregnancy hormones were running wild. I was complaining about work and school and how I felt I would never be myself; normal things, but I was just really upset. You know when you just need a friend to listen. Nothing major or crazy but you just need someone to tell you that everything will be fine. Well, I wrote this long email and in the end apologized for complaining so much and they explained that when they ask how I am they truly wanted to know the good and the bad. When I was super sick from morning sickness they told me they were praying for me, and wished there was something they could do and from then on we shared everything.
12. Once you decided that S and B were the couple you wanted to adopt Little, you weren’t sure how to tell them the news — whether you should just say it or in what way? In the end, you told them through a poem you found on Pinterest. What did it say and what was their response?
The poem was:
I Am On My Way
I do not have a face to see, or put inside a frame
I do not have soft cheeks to kiss.
I don’t yet have a name.
You can’t yet hold my tiny hands, nor whisper in my ear.
It’s still too soon to sing a song, or cuddle me so near.
But all will change come May twenty-five; That’s when Genovieve says I’m due.
I am your baby, and I can’t wait to meet you!
All I ask between now and then is your patience while I grow.
I promise I’ll be worth the wait; Because of all the love we’ll know!
So what I have to give you now, is a wish to you from me.
I can’t wait to complete your eternal family!
They cried and looked so happy, and said thank you and that I couldn’t understand what it meant to them. They were nothing but grateful and loving. It wasn’t the words they said but their undying gratitude and joy that radiated from them. I could just feel it.
13. You and B had a pretty special relationship during your pregnancy. Each week you sent her pictures as your belly grew and you would call her after every doctor’s appointment to let her know how you and Little were doing and how Little was growing. How would you describe your relationship before the placement?
Before the placement we were friends and we still are. B and I became girlfriends, I shared everything with her just like you would with any friend.
14. Today you say that B and you share “a different kind of bond, one I believe only birth moms and moms would understand even then our friendship seems even more special.” What has helped you nurture that bond?
I believe the phone calls we had weekly really nurtured our friendship. I would call B after every appointment. We would talk about everything from how the appointment went to how I was feeling, to how was school and work. I would complain about things bugging me and she would listen. We truly got to know each other through those one hour phone calls. What helped the most was her being with me in labor. At first people didn’t know how it would work, but I wanted her there. I wanted her to experience as much of her baby’s birth as she could.
From my very first contraction all the way to the hospital she was there for me. I labored and heard as tears fell down her face and I remember my mom telling her that everything would be okay and her response was simply “I just love them both so much.” At one point my mom left to update the boys and I started to have a contraction and B took my mom’s place, placed her hand on my chest and helped me breathe through it. This experience truly brings people together.
15. Recently B sent you a picture of Little with a little note saying “Hi birth mommy” that you said really made your day. Did you and B make a plan about how often and how much contact you wanted to have after the placement or did it just evolve that way?
We had no formalization of how much we would contact each other. We knew we wanted an open adoption and contact as much as possible. It has just evolved. I was afraid after placement it would feel weird to text each other. But I want to text B and talk to her often, the same as any of my other friends.
16. You keep in touch almost every day through Skype, phone calls and texts. As wonderful as that closeness may be, are there days when you wish you could put your adoption experience behind you — and if so, what do you tell yourself to get beyond that way of thinking?
Yes, I wish it wasn’t so raw and I could be okay again, not spend one minute to the next not knowing if I was going to cry or giggle. Things that get me through it are thoughts of Little, the dreams I have for her, and what she will think about everything when she is older. I want her to know I’m okay and I love her. The only way to do that is keeping in touch and talking to her as much as possible.
My ultimate wish is that when she is older and able to understand her situation that she will be comforted in knowing that I love her with all that I am, and this was the best choice for both of us. And not only do I love her, but so do S and B.
What do you think of Gen’s story and her relationship with S and B? What do you think makes for a strong relationship between birthparents, adoptive parents and their child? Leave your comments in the space below.