When I was younger, I dreamed of marrying my true love in a beautiful church with stained glass windows. I dreamed that I’d live in a white painted cottage-style home with a cherry-red door, and a giant tree swing would hang in the front yard where I’d push my two boys in denim overalls and two girls in matching dresses. My baby names were picked out. My maternity clothes were selected. Adoption, however, was never part of the plan.
Sometimes our most thought-out plans can be tailored to something greater than we ever anticipated. Over the years, I’ve learned to embrace adoption as a beautiful part of my life:
I am a birth mom of one adult daughter.
I am a biological mom of three teen boys.
I am an adoptive mom of one adventurous eleven-year-old son.
I made an adoption plan for my daughter when she was born. When I was a junior in college, a set of skinny pink lines appeared on a pregnancy test and I wilted onto the bathroom floor. I’d always dreamed of being a mom one day. Just not yet. I was in a committed relationship but there were no plans for marriage. I didn’t have a steady income. I had no way of providing the kind of life I felt my baby deserved. After months of agonizing over my choices, I made the heart wrenching decision to make a semi-closed adoption plan. During my final months of pregnancy, I created a memory book for my daughter. I wanted her to know about her birth parents and why we made an adoption plan for her. Inside the book were photos of my childhood, my interests, accomplishments and a handwritten letter. When my child asked her adoptive parents one day, “Why did my mom give me away?” I wanted her to read my words.
At the hospital, I held my newborn and caressed her tiny hand as time dwindled away. When the adoptive couple arrived and I had to say goodbye, I whispered into my daughter’s ear, “I will always love you.” Then, I pulled the memory book from my bag and tucked it beside my daughter as the social worker carried her away. My cries echoed loud in the hospital corridor as I left without my daughter. I held onto hope that I would see her again one day, when the timing was right.
Hundreds of seasons would come and go after I’d said goodbye to my daughter. As the years passed, my home filled to the brim with children. I’d married my high school sweet heart and birth father to my daughter, and given birth to three boys. Then, I began volunteering as a mentor to birth moms. I wanted to offer support; answering questions and offering insight as they navigated the adoption process. One of the birth moms I mentored was a family friend who had encountered an unexpected pregnancy. During one meeting, she turned to me and asked softly, “Will you adopt my baby boy?”
I broke into a smile and immediately said, “Yes!” My husband and I both wanted to expand our family and were nervously delighted to take on the role of adoptive parents. At first, I felt confident I could handle all the responsibilities that came with adoption since I’d made an adoption plan for my daughter years earlier. I understood the hopes and dreams a birth mother has for her child. More than anything, I wanted to honor our son’s birth mom’s sacrifice by being the the most loving mom that I could.
At the hospital, when his birth mother placed her son into my arms, I stared at him with both awe and wonder. But then questions of doubt began. Will I love him the same as my other children? Do I have enough love for everyone? I prayed that God would give me the love I needed for each of my children. Before leaving the hospital, we held an adoption entrustment ceremony where I read a poem I’d written for the occasion and my son’s birth mom handed us an adorable stuffed monkey she’d bought as a baby gift and said, “Something for him to remember me by.”
We brought our son home and showered him with abundant love. I nurtured each of my boys with utmost care, playing tag during the day and reading superhero books at bedtime. While I reveled in motherhood, my thoughts often wandered to my daughter.
A few weeks after adopting my son, the phone rang. It was my twelve-year-old daughter. After all these years, she hadn’t forgotten about me. When she asked if she could meet me in person, my heart erupted in joyous celebration. On the day of her arrival, I waited with anticipation to meet my daughter and hold her in my arms. When a car pulled up in our driveway and a petite girl with long flowing blond hair and light blue eyes stepped outside, I marveled at her loveliness. Then, I ran to her and held her close. “I love you,” I told her. She looked into my eyes and smiled.
Years later, everything changed for our birth daughter. We learned that her adoptive parents were no longer supportive of her relationship with us. She’d been instructed to choose between her birth family and her adoptive family. There was no in-between or chance of negotiation. I was baffled by the adoptive parents’ change of heart and immediately got on the phone, pleading with them to consider all of us a vital part of our daughter’s life. But they wouldn’t budge, removing all financial support from our daughter and stating they regretted the adoption altogether. They turned their backs on my daughter and disowned her. I felt betrayed. I had entrusted my daughter to them and now they’d abandoned her. The pain of watching my daughter endure loss was almost as unbearable as the day I left the hospital without her.
It was my husband who brought up the idea of re-adoption. “We can take care of you,” he told her.
Since our daughter was eighteen, she only needed to give her consent for an adult adoption to take place. In essence, we would become our daughter’s legal parents. While an adult adoption was somewhat common between parents and foster or step children, it was rare at best between a birth parent and birth child. My husband and I didn’t bribe or beg, and assured our daughter that our only motive for an adult adoption was love.
After months of thought and prayer, our daughter agreed to be re-adopted into our family. My husband made the announcement to our four boys while inside a pizza buffet that they were about to gain a big sister. “Cool!” they cried out in unison before excusing themselves to grab another slice from the buffet. To them, she was already a part of the family.
My daughter wore a bright teal dress while the boys sported collared shirts and khakis for the adoption hearing. I clicked my heels nervously outside the courtroom, wondering if I was doing the right thing for my daughter. When I turned to face her, my fears lessened. I realized that my heart had been fastened to hers ever since I carried her in my womb. I promised to give her the best life possible and would do anything to make that happen. I couldn’t provide for her at birth, but I would grasp at the chance to take care of her as an adult. When our names were called to enter the courtroom, I turned to my daughter and smiled. She smiled back.
Today, as I sit across from my daughter, I still recognize traces of hurt. I wish I could heal her deepest wounds and erase the years of separation. Instead, I can only love my daughter unconditionally and tell her, “I’m here.” I can teach her love and forgiveness. I can walk alongside her during times of doubt and struggle. We are creating new memories in our still-growing relationship.
My adopted son continues to have a beautiful relationship with his birth mom. He loves seeing his birth mom, where they laugh and share stories with one another. We are thrilled to celebrate his half-sister’s first birthday this month, where my son can spend time with his aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins.
I’ve spent time in reflection about my decision to make an adoption plan and become an adoptive mom. Did everything turn out as planned? Not always. Sometimes we have to take steps of faith without seeing the whole picture. We can only do what we think is best at a particular time in life. I can’t dwell on the “What ifs.” I can only embrace the journey and discover how I was changed because of it. I grew in strength, perseverance, confidence and courage that led me to an unexpected and beautiful reunion with my daughter, and love-filled relationship with my son. I’ve given myself an extra measure of grace when things didn’t turn out they way I thought. I learned there are new mercies each morning. I’ve watched beauty come from ashes.
Guest blog post by: Adrian Collins
Follow her on Instagram @adrianccollins