Open Adoption Love: What I Learned As A Birthmother After Three Decades

This guest post is by Christine Bauer, a birthmother and author.

Thirty-three years ago, at the tender age of 19, I gave birth to a perfect, beautiful 7-pound baby girl.

The day after she was born I held her; I talked to her; I told her I loved her but I just couldn’t take care of her at this stage of life. I also told her we would be together again someday.

She opened her eyes then and looked into mine, like she was telling me it was okay.  

Then I kissed her goodbye and handed her to my sister, who walked her down the hospital hallway and placed her into the arms of her new mother and father, Cindy and Dennis, whom I met through a mutual connection.

I chose an open adoption, which was fairly new in 1985, because I needed and wanted to know where my baby was going, where she’d be living, and how she was doing.

I wanted to watch her grow up, but from a distance. Cindy and Dennis were open and welcoming, and they told me I could visit my daughter any time I wanted.

I chose not to be directly involved in her life – until she wanted me to. I left the decision of when we would meet up to her. When she felt ready; I would be there.

I chose this route because I thought it would be easier on her if I let her grow up as carefree as possible.

I also felt it would be easier on me. I worried that if I visited her, I would long for her and question my decision, that it would make it hard to move on with my life.

Instead of one-on-one interaction over the years, I received yearly letters and pictures with updates on Katie – everything from how tall she was getting, to what her favorite toys were, to what she liked to wear. (She loved pink and dresses and all things “girly.”)

I heard about their family, their activities and vacations, school progress, and the ins and outs, and sometimes ups and downs, of growing up. She had a wonderful life full of family, friendships, and fun.

I too had a wonderful life and I did the same on keeping them up to date. I sent letters and pictures, which were placed in an album that Katie could look at whenever she wanted.

I’m not sure how often she looked at them, but she knew they were there. She was busy being a child, then a teenager, and then a young adult.

I was busy being a college student and then a young professional, and eventually a mother to two sons.

We both had good, happy and busy lives, which is not to say it was always easy and that we did not think of each other often. For me, it was always. She never left me mentally or emotionally, only physically.

But I knew in my heart of hearts, we could be together again someday and that day came a few months after she turned 18. My beautiful, confident and wise-beyond-her-years daughter,

drove by herself to meet me and my family and spend the weekend with us. That was the start of our life together.

We would see each other several times a year and on special occasions and we kept in touch with emails and phone calls. I attended her college graduation and then her wedding.

Her wedding was bittersweet for many reasons but mostly because her husband was a native of New Zealand and they would soon be moving to the other side of the world.

I finally had her back in my life and now she was going away. But these feelings were eclipsed by the fact that she was happy; she was in love; and she would be living in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Three years ago in May — almost exactly 30 years after I gave birth to Katie — I went to New Zealand and was in the delivery room when she gave birth to my granddaughter.

It seemed miraculous to me that I would travel over 24 hours and 8,000 miles to arrive at her door to find her in the early stages of labor. To have the blessings of holding her hand and encouraging her as she brought a new life into the world seemed like divine intervention. Love and life has truly come full circle.

My granddaughter Remy Mae is now 3 years old and was joined last month by a new baby brother, Linc.

I have been blessed a million times over through the gift of my daughter and the gift of adoption. But it was not been an easy journey.

Placing my daughter in the arms of another mother and father to raise was the hardest thing I have ever done. I gave a part of myself away and she was always on my mind, especially when I became the mother of two more children.

There was guilt, sadness and emptiness along the way, but deep down I always knew I had done the right thing.

After 33 years, I have finally begun talking in depth about my experience as a birth mother.

Here are some things that helped me and that I learned along the way:

Keep the focus on the child — always: Growing up is hard as it is; so do what is best to make life as easy and uncomplicated as possible for the child.  Moms and Dads on both sides need to sometimes put their feelings and emotions aside to do what is best for the young ones.

Be open and honest: Talking about adoption helps and being open is healthy for everyone involved. Katie always knew she had two mamas. It was just the way things were so being adopted was “normal.”

Be kind to yourself: Especially for birth mothers, you did an amazing thing! Placing a child for adoption is the most selfless, giving act of love you can ever do. And for parents, be good to yourself. Parenting is a tough job!

Christine (Chris) Bauer is writer and marketing professional living in Minneapolis. She recently published a book about her journey as a birth mother — Those Three Words: A birth mother’s story of choice, chance & motherhood.  Learn more at www.authorcbauer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @AuthorCBauer.


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