Airdate: 9.12.17  Knowing the Birth Mother

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Recorded Female: Blog Talk Radio.

Jennifer: Hi, and welcome to Adoption Focus. My name is Jennifer Jaworski and I’m a social worker with Adoption Associates of Michigan. This is Adoption Associates’ premier talk radio blog show. Adoption Associates was founded in 1990 and we specialize in both domestic and international adoption. We provide private adoption services throughout all of Michigan with offices located in Jenison, Lansing, Farmington Hills, and Saginaw. Anywhere in Michigan you can find a connection to Adoption Associates. Adoption Associates brings knowledge, support, and understanding in adoption. Adoption is not only our specialty but it is our passion. One of Adoption Associates’ commitments is to this weekly radio show to help educate and support adoptive families, birth families, and the adoption community, so we’re very glad that you’re listening in today.

Today we are talking about the birth mother, and what exactly that entails and how that comes to be. Brandon and Beth are our guests today and I welcome them to the show. Hi guys!

Brandon: Hi.

Beth: Hi.

Jennifer: Thank you so much for taking time out of your schedules to be with us on Adoption Focus. I know that you guys waited for four years to become parents through adoption, and it was just one year ago that your son was born. You guys have had a whirlwind of a year, and during this time that you were waiting to adopt, can you tell us what course of things you were doing to prepare yourself, and what were your general feelings about meeting a birth mother? That’s pretty intimidating for a lot of people who are new to this.

Beth: It is. We went to a lot of Adoption Associates meetings, we educated ourselves with a lot of the things we saw online, and then one of the meetings we went to included a meeting where I think there was three birth moms on the panel, and during that we were able to listen and experience from her perspective what she thought of adoption, and the relationship that she had with the adoptive families.

Jennifer: That is such an important, exciting meeting, and it’s a really special night at Adoption Associates when we’re able to hold one of those meetings. I’m glad that you said that, off topic just a smidge, we do have one of those very meetings tonight, so if we have any of our waiting families that are listening to this podcast, join us at the jenison office this evening at 6:30 for the birth mother panel meeting, or call the office to get some more information.

Beth, I’m glad that you brought that up, because I totally just remembered when you were talking about that. What about your feelings, gene feelings, about meeting a birth mom for, I assume was this the first time for you?

Beth: Yes it was. We were kind of nervous, because we didn’t know how it was going to go meeting the birth moms, and their perspective on families, and just what they thought about adoption in general. It was really interesting just to be able to sit down and talk to them and listen to their side of the story.

Jennifer: Do you remember the day that you got the phone call, when your wait was finally over and a birth mother had selected you guys?

Beth: I do. It was a Tuesday around 4:30 in the afternoon. A social worker from Lansing called us and said that we were selected, and she said that it was going to move rather quickly because the birth mom had chosen us, and we were meeting the birth mom on Thursday, and the baby was due on Sunday.

Jennifer: Oh wow.

Beth: Brandon was at work at the time, so I called him and I’m like, “Hey, what are you doing right now?” He was delivering parts for work, and he was out on the road, and I was thinking about not telling him but I figured I’d better. I then told him, and he responded, he was like, “Are you serious? We got [inaudible 00:04:37]?” When he got home from work at night we talked about it, and he told his work on Wednesday that he was going to be gone on Thursday so we could meet with the birth mom.

Jennifer: A really frantic, happy time, and shocking. It sounds like you guys were in a bit of shock too. Tell us, what did you learn about the birth mother during that first meeting?

Brandon: As adoptive father, going into it your general sense as a male is to think they’re going to have a connection with the adoptive mother. I don’t know how to explain it really. When we got there eat the office to meet, her case worker told us a little bit about her beforehand, before we met her. She basically just said, “You as adoptive father, she’s going to be trying to figure you out, kind of ask questions or whatever, so be prepared for that.” When I did meet her, a lot of her personality, her likes and dislikes, were about spot-on with me. You would almost think we’re like siblings, so to speak. I felt a real connection with her, and also the birth grandmother. She was there with her. She had a lot of personality traits and likes that I had, as far as, I like cars and they both kind of like cars too. It was kind of a cool connection.

Jennifer: How were your feelings, or what were you feeling, about the birth mother, after the first meeting?

Brandon: I think we felt a sense of a guard kind of going down a little bit, because we both agreed for a open adoption, and going into it we felt really connected to them. We just knew that after that first meeting we would be probably having a fairly good relationship with them.

Jennifer: I assume you went into that first meeting feeling pretty nervous, right?

Brandon: Oh yeah, very.

Jennifer: Feeling like, “Are they going to like us?”

Brandon: Yeah. We were both nervous. Like what if we say something wrong, or say we like this, whatever, and they hate it? A lot of things, but a lot of all that wasn’t even relevant to the whole situation.

Jennifer: She was just wanting to get to know you a little better too, correct?

Brandon: Correct. We were going into it, we wanted to make sure she felt kind of like the spotlight with her, because she’s the one that’s making the ultimate decision for this whole situation.

Jennifer: I know that there was another occasion that you guys were able to meet with the birth mother before she delivered, I believe. Which, I know you said you were meeting her the first time when she was due to deliver really soon, so do I have this right? Did you meet her again?

Beth: Yes, we did. She went a week later, so even though she was due on Sunday she didn’t go until the following week. We had agreed, if she did not deliver on Sunday, that we were going to meet with her the following week, which we did. We went out to dinner with her and her mom, and we let her pick and she chose Red Robin of all places, because she was really hungry for a burger. We ate there, and then we just got to know them a lot better on a more personal level without the social worker there kind of guiding the conversation.

Then at that time the birth mom and the birth grandma kind of asked us what names we were thinking of to name their son. We, Brandon and I, had discussed several names, and we had selected one name, but we kind of wanted to get their perspective on our son’s name. We gave them about probably 10 names that we liked, not saying which name that we really liked, and it just turned out to be, they chose the same exact name that we had selected. The reason for that is because, we named our son David Allen, and the middle name is the birth grandmother’s brother’s middle name, so there’s a connection to that name as well.

Then as we were walking out of Red Robin the birth grandma and mom handed us a large gift bag, and the gift bag was full of all sorts of clothes for the baby once the baby was born. We were floored by that, because we weren’t expecting that at all, and to know that they loved that baby so much and they wanted us to be prepared for him and his arrival. That was such a blessing to us, because at that point we did not purchase a lot of items because we weren’t really sure if she was for sure going to go through with it. At that point we knew without a doubt that the adoption was going to occur.

Jennifer: Brandon, you mentioned about the sense of letting your guard down even in that first meeting, and it sounds like even more so in the second meeting. What was it that got you to that place where all of a sudden now we’re feeling very comfortable in her presence, we feel like we do know her now? What was that like?

Brandon: Words can’t describe how good of a feeling that was. After the second time meeting with them, it’s almost … [inaudible 00:11:14] hand of God doing it, but we felt like we were almost family as far as, we were both open to each other. I think that’s important when you want to have an open adoption, is to be able to open more than you’re comfortable with. But every adoption is different. With this, this one we felt total connection with the birth grandmother and the mother. I don’t know what else to say.

Jennifer: No, that’s perfect. Obviously today we’re talking about knowing the birth mother and what that means, and what that looks like. It sounds like you guys did a very excellent job of that, so I’m hoping that our listeners can gain something from this podcast today that helps them as they may move forward with their own adoptions. Were there any particular things that the birth mother wanted to discuss? I’m sure you went in with this plan to talk about naming the baby; did she have things that she wanted to talk with you about?

Brandon: What do you think?

Beth: Not really that much. We asked her as to why she chose adoption and how she came about choosing us, and that was really interesting, to see and hear her perspective on the whole process, from her eyes. But I think for her, she just wanted to know more about what we were thinking for the future, like how to raise him, and what kind of a house we lived in. She had a lot of questions as to how everyday life was going to be for him.

Jennifer: Go ahead, please.

Brandon: I’m sorry. But with maybe things she wanted to know, because we have expressed that I would quit my job and work from home, and be a stay-home dad, so Beth could keep her job, because the benefits of her job were outweighing what I had to give. Kind of expressed that I would be home with our son for the whole time, we wouldn’t need daycare. She expressed that she wanted her son to have a good relationship with her father. Or, with me, I’m sorry.

Jennifer: With his father, yeah. Nice. That was, again, another similarity in viewpoints that the two of you shared.

Brandon: Yeah.

Jennifer: This all sounds great, and obviously it was, it resulted in her giving birth to this baby and asking you then to adopt him, which you did. Were there any challenges for the birth mother at the hospital that you noticed, or that you were aware of, that helped you understand her better?

Beth: She had a long labor, and we were able to experience that with her as we were in the labor room with her. They induced her on a Saturday night and she did not have the baby till Monday morning, so it was a long labor process, but we got to watch that. Then right before she was going to deliver with a C-section she informed us that she did not want to hold our son David first. She wanted us to be the first ones to hold him. You could see, at that point we had gotten to know her a little bit, and you could see the hurt that was in her eyes. Then when she met him for the first time, this was probably eight hours after he was born, she held onto him. Her mom was there too, and her mom just held onto David, and you could see the tears rolling down their faces. It was just, you knew it was a hard decision for them, but they knew that it was the best option that they had at that time.

During the end of the hospital stay, the birth mom got discharged before we did, and she came in and said goodbye to David. That to us was a hard part, because we watched her say goodbye to her son, the son that she carried for nine months, and then to walk out of the hospital with nothing in her arms. It was just as hard for us as it was for her.

Jennifer: Witnessing that grief, and that selflessness that women have when they’re choosing adoption, is a very powerful thing. While it was difficult, I’m sure, for you to witness, in one regard I think that’s helpful for you guys as well. You can now know her in a different way, and maybe not completely understand what she was experiencing, but have a glimpse into this emotional process for her. Because of these experiences that you had with the birth mother, you guys had already decided that you wanted to have an open relationship with her and to stay in contact, so let’s talk about that a little bit if you could.

Brandon: We decided that, going back to when we first met her, I said to them promising that this wouldn’t be a goodbye, it would be just another chapter in life on this journey together. I told them we don’t want to take this baby from having a relationship with their birth mother or birth grandmother, and if they would allow to have a relationship it was totally up to them, but it was totally up to us too. We wanted to make sure, after this experience we wanted her to know that she made an awesome decision, and we wanted her to be a part of it if she wanted to. Just because words can’t describe how thankful we were, waiting for such a long time, and now having this precious baby in your arms. Then to watch her go through the whole process, we just felt like this would be appropriate. We wanted him to know who his birth mother was.

Jennifer: She was essentially becoming an extension of your family, correct?

Brandon: Yes, correct.

Jennifer: And unfortunately not everyone agreed with this idea or this decision of yours. Could we maybe talk about that a little bit?

Brandon: Yeah. Even now, after it’s been a year, we had someone, family member, come up that said, “You guys are kind of co-parenting with the birth mother, birth grandma.” We’re like, “No, that’s not the open adoption that we have chosen.” It’s because she has said numerous times that she is not David’s parent. She’s his birth mother and we are his parents to raise her child. We also have some people say that they were concerned that it wasn’t good for him to see his birth mother every now and then, like just have a visit, like go for dinner and meet up with them. They felt like that would confuse him too much. We both were firm in our answer. We said no, if we were in his shoes and we were adopted, wouldn’t we want to know who our birth mother is, or birth father? We’re kind of trying to put us in his shoes. Down the road, we don’t know if the relationship continues or not. David might have some questions, and we want to be able to hopefully have that open relationship, that he could ask his birth mother questions about the decision she made.

Jennifer: Absolutely, and often times, you touched on that concept of confusion, and we do hear that a lot in people who are trying to struggle to understand the concept of openness. Generally speaking, the confusion comes in from the not knowing. It’s not the knowing who my birth mother is that’s problematic for me; it’s not knowing, or having information available to me. I’m curious if there have been any challenges thus far, in terms of the openness, or the relationship with the birth mother.

Beth: Not particularly. We’ve met with her at one time, and we were outside, we were at a car show with her and her mom, and we were just hanging out watching David as he played. The birth mom was smoking a e-cigarette at the time, and she blew some vapor on David. We were sitting right there and we were about to say something to her like, “That’s not very good to do that in front of him or on him,” but at that time her mom was sitting right there, and her mom just lit in on her saying that that wasn’t appropriate, and that she wasn’t allowed to do that. It was just kind of interesting to watch her mom take that role and say, “You don’t do that. That’s your son, that’s their son, and that’s not appropriate.” Other than that, there haven’t been any issues at all. Any contact that we’ve had with them, any openness, it’s just been very easy-going. That’s something that we’re very thankful for.

Jennifer: I think what’s important to mention here is that even though you haven’t had any real challenges that you’ve had to address, you would be prepared to, and that because you have an open relationship with her doesn’t somehow mean that you would be unable to talk to her about a hard topic if one arose, right?

Beth: Correct.

Jennifer: You’ve touched on several really important topics today, and as we are ending the end of the show, I’d like it if you could summarize what you believe are the most important lessons that you learned through all of this, or what your takeaway has been from this experience.

Beth: I think one of the most important things is, if people are considering open adoption, be educated on it. Because there’s a lot of perceptions that people may have about open adoption, or ideas, where they think that co-parenting occurs, and that the birth mom is involved in discipline, and everything else. It’s not the case. Our situation in particular, we look at the birth mom as just being like a relative, and the birth grandma is David’s birth grandma. We hope we’re always going to have that relationship with them.

I guess the other important issue is that the birth mom, she absolutely loves her child. Our birth mom loves her son, and she would do anything for him. I think that’s an important thing, because a lot of people think that adoption, you just place the baby for adoption and then the birth mom doesn’t think of the baby any more. That’s not the case. We’ve talked to the birth mom, and she has hard days, and we know that she has hard days. We’ve come right out and said it. But she knows that the adoption was the best decision for her.

Jennifer: I really appreciate this time today, and the topic is such an important topic, and it sounds like Beth, you and Brandon have really gone out of your way to see to it that you’ve formed a positive relationship with your son’s birth mother, and there’s no doubt that those will have nothing but positive impacts for your family in the future. We appreciate you very much for today.

Beth: Thank you for having us. We appreciate you.

Brandon: Yes, thank you.

Beth: We appreciate you talking about adoption and openness in it.

Jennifer: Yeah, it’s such an important topic, we can’t quite get enough of it on our show. For listeners who are looking to connect with Adoption Associates, we would love to hear from you at 800 677 2367. Remember that Adoption Focus podcast airs every Tuesday at 11:00, and we hope that you continue to join us to listen, learn, and grow together in adoption. You can also reach Adoption Associates on the web at AdoptionAssociates.net, or connect with us through Facebook or Twitter. Again, a big thank-you today to Beth and Brandon, and for now, this is Jennifer on Adoption Focus. I hope everyone has a great day. Bye-bye.