This guest post is by Heidi Russo, a birthmother and VP of Three Strands
“Inside Edition” even offered me a lot of money just to come to my home and take my picture during the Super Bowl, which I refused. I was so shocked and overwhelmed by the sheer number of calls that I didn’t return the majority of them.
The reason they were calling was because my son, Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, was about to appear in the Super Bowl that Sunday.
Twenty-six years earlier, when I was a teenager, I gave birth to Colin. But after realizing that I was unable to give him the kind of life that I had dreamed for him and felt he deserved, I placed him with his adoptive parents, Rick and Teresa Kaepernick.
When the media came calling that week, I thought I would be prepared to handle all of the attention. But I had no idea how persistent they would be in trying to get me to tell my story.
I’ve learned to be very careful about trusting the media with MY story — as opposed to a sensational version of it that’s filled with conflict and aimed at grabbing people’s attention.
My story as a birthmom is a separate story from Colin’s story, even though I am his birthmom.
And despite the way it has sometimes been depicted in the media, I feel strongly about the need to share it. I’ve also realized that trying to change perceptions that have existed for decades brings forth the horrible and hateful opinions of those who don’t understand. Initially, it was another blow to an already painful situation.
Now those comments only fuel the fire that burns inside me to attain my goal of changing the stigmas and stereotypes of birthmoms.
In sharing my story with others, I feel that I am able to give a voice to birthmoms, all birthmoms, who for decades have hid their brave, selfless decision to choose life for their child and have placed them in another woman’s arms to raise as her own.
Why is that decision viewed in our society as a bad thing? Why are birthmoms shamed into silence for the beautiful and heartbreaking decision they’ve made instead of being supported, loved, praised and feeling proud?
Adoption is such a blessing, for all involved, yet we have failed the birthmoms who have made adoption possible and continue to this day to make them feel shunned and ashamed.
My goal has not been achieved yet, but in sharing my story, I feel that it has opened the door for birthmoms, adoptive moms, adoptees, and society as a whole to change the stereotypes that have surrounded birthmoms and adoption for decades. And I’m just getting started.
What I’ve learned from my experience is that there are numerous opportunities to have more education, support, resources, and love for birthmoms and adoption as a whole. I’ve received many emails from adoptees who wish they were able to know who their birth parents were, where they came from, their history, who they look like and why they have certain traits.
I believe that knowing who we are is an innate, natural desire that we all have. But in talking with several adoptive moms, I have come to realize that fear has prevented us from making this connection.
When we get beyond that sense of fear that has separated birthmoms, adoptive mothers and their children and we come together in the best interest of our children, change can happen.
For me personally, as much as I believed over the past 26 years that my heart healed after placing Colin in Rick and Teresa’s arms, I’ve come to realize there will always be a piece missing. There isn’t a day that goes by, if even for a second, that Colin doesn’t cross my mind.
Over the past year I’ve grown, changed, and continue to heal. Thanks to Stacy Coleman and her love and passion to serve birthmoms, I’ve gone from a place of feeling shame and less than deserving to a place where I can hold my head high, knowing I did my best for Colin and believing I deserve good things in life.
I’ve learned that I can be fully present as a mom for my son Michael in his life, talking, teaching, guiding and loving him to the fullest AND still move forward in using my pain and journey to help so many others.
I’ve changed from telling my adoption story from a place of deep pain and grief to sharing it for the benefit of other birthmoms — to supporting, loving, and walking with them so that they can hold their heads high.
Our non-profit organization, Three Strands Inc, was born after an adoptive mom, Stacy Coleman, joined me and another birthmom, Jennie Hundley, on our journeys to love and serve birthmoms. Our goal is raise birthmoms everywhere from a place of SHAME to a place of HONOR.
God promises, “out of the ashes, beauty will rise.” Today, I’m proud to say that together, through our efforts and the efforts of others, we are finally beginning to walk into that beauty.
Heidi Russo is a mom to a wonderful 10-year-old son, a nurse, hospital supervisor and VP of Three Strands, a non-profit organization serving birthmoms in an effort to change the stigmas and stereotypes that have shamed them for decades. She spends her spare time volunteering at her son’s school, cheering and supporting him in his sports and outdoor activities, and being more involved in her church, where her walk with God is stronger than it has ever been.
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on January 30, 2014.