Growing up as a young girl in a religious family, Crystal says that having an unplanned pregnancy was the last thing on her mind. She remembers going to youth firesides and thinking “this could never happen to me. I’m going to wait for marriage.”
But her life took a different turn when, at 26, she found herself unexpectedly pregnant. After considering all of her options, Crystal decided that finding adoptive parents to adopt her baby was the best decision. Now in nursing school, she describes her daughter as a “happy little girl” who is “right where she belongs.”
A little while ago I caught up with Crystal to tlk about her journey as a birthmother — about her initial fears, her hopes for the future, and the moment when it all came together and made sense to her.
1. At what point in your pregnancy did you first consider open adoption?
I first considered open adoption when the birth father and I began talking about adoption. I really didn’t know much about it and he wasn’t sure he would want to get updates. I felt like getting updates and seeing pictures would help me heal by letting me see how happy she was with her family.
2. Do you remember what your thought process was at the time?
My mind was all over the place. I wasn’t sure what to think, feel, or do. There were times that I felt like I could do this even if I did it alone, but then I would remember hearing about adoption at church and how much of a blessing it can be to the couple hoping to adopt. I kept going back and forth on what I should do. However, I believe I always knew what was really best for her. But just saying it out loud and truly committing to it was the most difficult thing to do. When I finally said those words to my case worker “I’m choosing adoption” it was bittersweet. I knew I was about to bless the life of this little girl by placing her in her mommy and daddy’s arms and giving her the eternal family she deserved, but I knew that I only had a short amount of time to create my own memories with this precious little girl.
I didn’t know very much about open adoptions until I went to the adoption agency and my caseworker explained to me the difference between a closed and open adoption. He explained that every birth story is different and that I need to decide what suits me best. After learning about open adoptions I didn’t want it any other way. I wanted to be able to see pictures of the family and how happy everyone is and I wanted to be able to see pictures of my birth daughter throughout her life. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
4. What did you do to educate yourself?
I began to explore blogs from birth moms who had open adoptions so I could hear their stories about their decision to place. After all the reading I saw how having an open adoption can be very positive and I viewed it as a way for me to heal.
5. Do you remember what was the turning point in your decision to place rather than to parent?
My turning point came when my brother, who lives in Texas with his family, sent me an email. He explained to me that he had no idea what I was going through or experiencing, but that he had been in other difficult situations before and he mentioned how he had to lean on our Heavenly Father for guidance as well as our family. That same night I received an email from the adoptive couple that I had contacted in December of 2011. For some reason this email felt like it was a final goodbye and I remembering saying to myself this can’t be a goodbye because they are supposed to be this little girl’s parents. I remember sharing this experience with the family I chose and the hopeful adoptive mother said by no means was that email a goodbye letter, she just felt like she needed to email me. For me I felt as though it was my final answer as to what I was supposed to do.
6. What was your biggest fear at the time?
My biggest fear was that I wouldn’t feel as though I got enough time with my birth daughter and that I wouldn’t be able to do all things I wanted to be able to do in her first days of life. I wanted to get professional pictures with her and I also wanted to be able to nurse her so she could get the nutrients that come from breast milk. After talking with the adoptive couple they understood this was something that was very important to me and they honored every request that I asked. I also feared that I wouldn’t be able to remember the little things from my pregnancy because she wouldn’t be around. That is not a fear of mine anymore, though, because I have been blessed to be able to recall so many precious moments I had with my birth daughter and her parents while they were in Indiana waiting to go home as a family.
In November 2011, when the birth father and I had discussed placing our daughter, I went to the adoption agency websites and began looking at profiles. I searched the profiles of couples that lived in states that I either once lived or loved, or a location where I would like to live. I also made sure I ruled out couples with cats, one reason being that my family is strongly allergic to cats, and the second reason is because I don’t really like them. Silly, I know, but it is what I wanted. It was December 26th when I found the adoptive couples profile that really caught my eye. I printed it off and read it on my plane ride back to Indiana to spend time with my family.
8. Did you look at a lot of couples or did you find one right away?
I did search quite a few profiles before I found the one that I thought would be a good “fit” for me and this beautiful little girl. Once I found their profile, though, it caught my eye. I was at work and I printed it off. I was getting on a plane that same day and carried it in my carry on and pulled it out and continued reading it.
9. What was it about their profile that clicked for you?
I don’t know if I could pinpoint what clicked. I do remember telling my family that night that I found a profile that I liked. They all wanted to read it. My aunt read the profile and said “they sound like a perfect family for her, they sound just like the family that raised you.” I think that might have been it. I think that after reading their profile I felt as though the hopeful adoptive mother could have been one of my sisters and that they both would have fit right into my family.
When the adoptive mom decided to tell me she was a birth mom herself, I felt relief. I knew that she knew what I was going through. I would talk to her about how hard this was in making the decision to place and finding the right couple. She and I kept an open conversation and she was willing to still send me emails even though I hadn’t chosen them yet. I remember her telling me during her pregnancy she wished the baby would have just given her a thumbs up when she found the couple but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. I can’t really say if she gave me advice prior to choosing them but what she did offer me was comfort and peace. She was open and honest with me and she would email me to check in on me even though she wasn’t sure I was going to pick them. She showed me selfless love at that moment and it really stood out to me.
11. How would you describe your relationship with her today — as your daughter’s adoptive mother, as a fellow birth mom, as a friend, as a combination of these, or as something else?
My relationship with my birth daughter’s mother is very positive. We both told each other that we feel as though we were connected somehow before all this. I look up to her on a daily basis as a friend and as a sister. She is an amazing mom to this beautiful little girl and she is an example to me of the type of mother I strive to be some day. We communicate when needed and she sends me text messages and pictures just when I need them. I know that if I were to ask her any question she would be willing to give me advice.
Telling my story has helped me heal because it has shown me to own my story. By placing my birth daughter I gained a new title, “birth mom,” and I don’t want to ever forget that. Telling my story has given me strength in standing up for what I believe in. It has allowed me to accept that many will not accept the decision I made and I am okay with that. I know I did what was best for her and me. I have gained courage. I have learned to love myself and to be accepting of who I am today.
13. As someone who went back and forth between raising her child and placing her, what advice do you have for a woman with an unplanned pregnancy who’s facing a similar dilemma today?
Listen to yourself. Go into a quiet room and sit down and talk to your child. They can hear you. Drown out the world, listen to your instincts. You really are your best judge. This decision that you are about to make is probably the most difficult decision you will ever make in your life. It will cause you grief and pain. However, as long as you don’t dwell on it you can turn this pain into something beautiful. You are about to help create a family. You are about to give this child something you can only dream of right now. Think about your future, but most importantly think about their future.
What do you think of Crystal’s story? What helped you make your decision to place your baby for adoption? Share your comments in the space below.