I mentioned yesterday that I wanted to share how adoption has impacted our family. I can’t share all the details. I don’t know all of them, but its not primarily my story to tell, so I will only share what I feel all involved would not mind others reading about.
One of my younger sisters left home just after graduating from high school and moved to another town with her best friend. The friend’s brother and my sister became boyfriend and girlfriend, and within about a year my sister became pregnant. She and her boyfriend were not ready to be married and become parents: I can’t remember if they broke up before or after she found out she was pregnant, but either way, it became awkward for my sister to remain where she was, so she came home.
My mother and sister began meeting with an adoption agency, and though all felt this was the right course of action for several reasons, it still shook us all up to think that we would have a family member that we were about to launch out into the unknown without knowing what would become of them and whether we would ever see or hear from them again. I can remember lying in bed at night just aching over the idea and praying for God’s leading in who should adopt this child.
I wrestled with the whole idea of adoption realistically for the first time. The only Biblical instances I could think of where someone willingly gave their child up to another were Hannah and Samuel, Moses and his mother, and one of the women who came before Solomon, whose desire that her child be given to the other rather than killed proved her motherhood. In a way you could count Jesus who was given by God into Joseph and Mary’s care. All of those were very different situations than what we were dealing with. I wondered if it would be better for pregnant young women to take responsibility for their actions by keeping the child (theoretically…it was not my decision to make and my opinion was not asked for, but I was just thinking through the whole issue.) But all things considered, it seemed like what would be best for the child in this instance was to place her in a loving home where she could receive what my sister could not give at the time.
One day during this time we had a piece of furniture that someone gave us when they moved, and I was thinking of trying to reupholster it. I had never done that kind of thing before, but I went to an upholstery shop nearby just to look around. I ran into a former coworker who now worked at this shop, and we chatted for a bit, catching up with each other. She and her husband had been married for several years and had no children and were now considering adoption. I said something like, “That’s interesting – I have a sister who is placing her baby for adoption.” We talked about it a bit, and one of us said something like, “Wouldn’t it be neat if it could work out for you to adopt her baby!”
Some time later – I don’t remember if it was a few hours, days, or weeks – she called me and asked, “Do you think there is any possibility that it could work out?”
I didn’t know, but the first step was to call my mom and sister and see what they thought. Everyone considered the idea and all agreed that they would much rather know who the child would be going to and know that she was well taken care of than to be in the dark about how she was doing.
I’m fuzzy on the details since this was over 20 years ago, but my friend and her husband and my husband and I met with a Christian lawyer to discuss all the details and what would need to be done. We met with our doctor, also a Christian, to explain the situation and ask if he would deliver my sister’s child. The adoptive family planned to pay my sister’s medical expenses. Then we had to get my very pregnant sister from TX to SC, hopefully without delivering a baby en route (my husband did ask the doctor what to do in that event just in case). We drove out to get her, visited a while with my family, and then drove back.
I think it was only a few days later that my sister went into labor, and I took her to the hospital. Thankfully she was able to labor in the small hospital on the Christian college campus where my husband and I had graduated, so it was warm and cozy rather than big and busy (at least it seemed that way to me, maybe because I knew the place and had had my own son there. It all may still have seemed intimidating to my sister.) I was able to be with her during labor and delivery and “coach” her. I don’t remember if she had had any childbirth classes before she came, but I tried my best to help with both what I had learned in my class and from my own experience.
She delivered a beautiful baby girl. She was able to hold her then and for the day or two she was in the hospital. I can’t remember if the adoptive parents were in the hospital during delivery or if they came shortly after.
The nurses, familiar with the situation, were concerned that my sister did not seem upset: she seemed as happy as any other mother of a newborn. It’s understandable that she would be happy. Maybe the full realization of giving her away just hadn’t hit her yet, maybe she was just savoring the time she had with her daughter, maybe, like me, she preferred to do her crying and soul-searching privately.
I happened to be with her when the lawyer came to her room for her to sign the papers to place her baby for adoption. Unfortunately it was not the same lawyer we had met with but another one from his firm, and this one had all the warmth of doorknob. He basically just handed her the papers: I don’t remember but he must have given some kind of explanation or instruction. He and I and a nurse who was there as a witness just stood around waiting. As my sister read the papers, that’s when realization hit, and that’s when the tears came. The hardest part was the word “abandon,” which appeared several times in the document. I wish like everything I had asked them to wait outside while she read them or obtained a copy of them beforehand so she wasn’t dealing having to read and process them for the first time with strangers in the room.
Finally she did sign the papers, and the lawyer and nurse left. I don’t remember what we said. I think I remember sitting with my arm around her shoulders for a time.
The days afterward are a blur. I know we brought my sister home and she stayed with us some months. She eventually found a job, moved out on her own, married, and had another daughter. I don’t know how she dealt with processing everything: when I tried to talk to her, she’d insist she was fine. Another regret I have from this time is that I wish I had taken her to a crisis pregnancy center for counseling. We have a marvelous Christian one here in TN which provides a variety of services. But I don’t know what would have been available then: as I said, this was new to all of us.
Some of us wrote letters for this new little one and gave them to the adoptive parents to share with her when they felt it was best.
Since we all lived in the same town and knew who each other was, it was inevitable that we would run into each other from time to time. The adoptive parents wanted everything to remain open, partly because the father had been abandoned as a child and knew that pain of a child always wondering what had become of his parents and why they had left him. They would sometimes come into the store where my sister worked and say hello (they wouldn’t come just for that reason, I don’t think — it was a store everyone went to). I don’t know if my sister found it helpful or hard. Personally I found it helpful to see them. My niece went to the same school as my boys, so we’d run into the parents at school functions sometimes. Another thing I’d do differently would have been to sit down and talk with the adoptive parents and say something like, “We feel you are in charge here and we don’t want to intrude, so we want you to take the lead in how much we interact. Do you want us to send birthday greetings and see you from time to time, or would you be more comfortable if we held back?” Because we didn’t know exactly what we should do, it was awkward sometimes, and we tended to hold back so as not to intrude on their family life but hoped it wouldn’t be interpreted as a lack of interest.
The adoptive parents told their daughter from the very first that she was adopted,and I think that is very wise. Revealing it when she became older would have caused much more emotional angst, I think. She knew who we were. She seemed delighted over her boy cousins when we’d see each other.
When she was maybe about 10 or so, my folks were coming to town and wanted to meet the family, so we all met at a restaurant. My niece always seemed happy to see us. When my sister had her second daughter, my first niece was thrilled to have a sister. As my second niece grew up, my first niece and her mom would often be invited to the second niece’s birthday celebrations. After my first niece married and had her own home, she interacted with my sister much more, and now we’re all in touch and interactive on Facebook and such. It is a joy to my sister that her first daughter is a regular part of her life now.
For us an open adoption worked out well. It was nice to be able to see and know that she was well taken care of and thriving, even if things were a bit awkward sometimes. I think if we hadn’t known where she was and who she was with, it would have been like an open wound that couldn’t heal, an ache that would not go away, a cloud always overhead. But I do understand that for some people, seeing a child they had placed for adoption yet not being able to have her would be an open wound.
When a woman becomes pregnant outside of marriage, the decisions she has to make are never easy no matter which way she goes. I say this gently, but I feel it must be said: sexual activity outside of marriage is sin, and though sin can be forgiven, it has painful and difficult consequences. But even though there is pain with placing a baby for adoption, it is a zillion times better than the pain of abortion. I found somewhere online this table from Bethany Christian services:
|You can pursue earlier goals||You can pursue earlier goals|
|You can live independently||You can live independently|
|You will not have to parent prematurely||You will not have to parent prematurely|
|You will avoid being forced into a hasty marriage or relationship||You will avoid being forced into a hasty marriage or relationship|
|If you are a teenager, you can resume your youthful lifestyle||If you are a teenager you can resume your youthful lifestyle|
|Note: There are no similarities between parenting and abortion. One important similarity between adoption and parenting is that you can give life to your child and watch your child grow up.|
|Your pregnancy ends with giving life||Your pregnancy ends with death|
|You can feel good and positive about your choice||You may feel guilt and shame about your choice|
|You will remember giving birth||You will remember taking a life|
|You will have plenty of time to plan you and your baby’s future||Abortion is final; you can’t go back on your decision|
|You can hold, name, and love your baby||You will never know or treasure your baby|
|You can have continued contact with your baby||You will miss the opportunity to see your child develop|