When You’re Pregnant Again After Placing

when you're pregnant

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“How could I let this happen again?” If you became pregnant again soon after making your adoption plan, you might feel embarrassed about finding yourself in a similar situation or face judgment from family members or friends. Below are some things I hope you’ll remember as you navigate this pregnancy and think about your options.

Unplanned pregnancies happen.

I’ve worked for several years in the family planning field, and you can trust me when I tell you that you are not the first person to have more than one unplanned pregnancy. Many women feel intensely disappointed in themselves, especially if, after terminating the pregnancy or giving birth, they continued to have sex with the same partner without making any changes as far as using birth control or what kind to use.

Certainly, practicing safer sex can significantly decrease your chances of an unplanned pregnancy, and you can use this experience to guide you in making changes in the future. But instead of feeling ashamed or angry at yourself, consider this: in each woman’s lifetime, there are about thirty-five years during which she can become pregnant. Thirty-five years is an awfully long time to expect yourself to be completely perfect! You’re human. Unplanned pregnancy is common. Anyone who looks down their nose at you is being unfair and unrealistic.

Every pregnancy decision is different.

If you made an adoption plan because you were not in a place where you felt like you could provide the life you wanted for your child, then there is a good chance that your circumstances have not completely turned around since then (after all, change takes time). For this reason, some birth moms feel like they have to choose adoption again. First of all, there is no “have to.” This is your choice, just as it was the first time. If you don’t want to make another adoption plan, then forcing yourself to do so is a bad idea.

Second of all, every pregnancy is different, even if the circumstances aren’t. One big difference is that now you know what adoption is like. When you make your choice this time around, you can consider the feelings you had during your placement as you think about what to do. Remembering the intensity and emotional difficulty of the adoption process, you may feel like you simply can’t go through that again, and that’s okay. If you do choose adoption, you have the power to make any changes that you think would have made things easier the first time around. Talk to your adoption counselor about what you want and about any issues that need to be addressed. No two adoptions are the same.

Did you become pregnant again soon after making an adoption plan? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


3 Tips for Great Annual Meetings with Your Child

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First dates are pretty awkward. You’re not sure what to talk about, you worry about how you look and sound, and it’s impossible to tell what the other person is thinking.

Birth parents and adoptive parents tend to feel the same way about their first meeting after an adoption. Everyone wants to make a good impression, but no one knows how to do that because they barely know one another!

It’s completely normal to feel anxious about your first post-adoption meeting with your child’s family, but we’re confident that you can not only get through it but really enjoy it. Here are a few tips to guide you.

1) Call your agency.

In the first couple of years after you make your adoption plan, you can expect to get a call from Adoptions Together a month or a couple of weeks before your meeting is supposed to take place; after that, it’s up to you to reach out to us when it’s time for your next meeting so we know you’re on board. We have a counselor who is dedicated to working with birth parents and adoptive families “post-adoption” (after the adoption has taken place), and she will talk to you about what to expect if you’ve never had a meeting before. She’ll also reach out to your child’s adoptive family to schedule a date and time that works for everyone.

2) Know what to expect.

Meetings usually take place in one of the Adoptions Together offices or at a park, depending on the time of the year and how old your child is. A social worker from Adoptions Together will be there to support you and to make sure that you feel comfortable; if at any time during the meeting you feel overwhelmed, just pull her aside and the two of you can talk privately. Meetings usually last about two hours, during which time you’ll chat with your child’s family (don’t worry, your social worker will help come up with things to talk about!) and play with your child.

3) Think about who to bring.

If you’re comfortable bringing your children to the meeting with you, that’s great! It’s never too early for them to establish a relationship with their sibling. Aside from your kids, it might be tempting to invite your partner, your parents, your grandparents, or other family members or friends so that they can get to know your child. Bringing a support person is also a great idea, although we don’t recommend bringing more than one. The purpose of these meetings is for you to get to know your child and their family and begin building a relationship with them, which is difficult to do if there are too many people in the mix. So, definitely invite your partner, your mom, or your friend – but don’t invite all three.

Your first meeting might feel a little awkward, and that’s okay! The relationship is still new and everyone is a bit jittery. We promise that as time goes on, everyone will become more comfortable — we know this because after the first couple of meetings, most birth parents and adoptive families tell us that they feel comfortable setting up future visits on their own and just leaving our agency out of the whole thing. Of course, we’re always available if you want us there, but you’ll probably be surprised to find you don’t need us.

Do you have a meeting with your child and their family coming up? How do you feel about it? If you’ve already had a meeting (or two, or more), tell us how it went in the comments section below!


Not Every Woman Wants to Be a Mother

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image c/o www.scoutiegirl.com

We’re getting annoyed.

We recently wrote about the anti-adoption community and explained that we actually agree on multiple issues: that we, too, are troubled by coercive for-profit adoption businesses and that we know that adoption is often a “Band Aid” solution to the much larger problem of women not having the resources they need to be able to parent when they want to.

So why were we annoyed when we saw yet another anti-adoption article pop up on our newsfeed? Because along with the totally valid argument that women should not be denied access to the financial and social support they need to parent, we keep running into the assumption that every birth mother wishes she could parent. And this is simply not true.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: There are as many reasons to choose adoption as there are birth mothers. It is definitely true that many women choose adoption because they feel that they can’t parent for financial reasons, and that our society needs to do more to remedy this problem. But it is also true that some women do not want to parent – and that is perfectly okay.

It is very difficult for our society, which places so much value on motherhood, to accept that not all women want desperately to be mothers. Many of them do, and it’s important that we support them, but you know what’s also important? Women doing what they feel is right for them. Every woman has the right to be emotionally healthy and happy and to create the life she wants for herself. Sometimes, parenting one or more children is not a part of that picture.

We’re tired of seeing all birth mothers lumped into one single category. Each woman is an individual with her own life, dreams, goals, and hardships. It is time to stop assuming that all women were “born to be mothers” and to start recognizing that women are complex human beings who are capable of making their own choices. It is time to start trusting women to think about what they want in life and to make decisions that are right for them. It is time to recognize that adoption can be not only a way of taking care of a baby but a way of taking care of yourself, and that taking care of yourself is just as important.

Tell us about your reasons for choosing adoption in the comments section below!


Post-Placement Advice from a Birth Mother

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image c/o www.pinterest.com

This is our second guest post written by Jenna Myers, a birth mother who placed her daughter with an adoptive family in 2009.

I remember it like it was yesterday: I was wheeled out of my room, and downstairs to wait for my ride home from the hospital. My nurse parked me in a line of women who were also waiting for their ride home, the only difference between them and me is that in their arms laid their sleeping newborns; and in mine, the baby blanket I unwrapped my daughter from before saying my goodbye. The cotton candy colored balloons on their wheelchairs floated happily through the air, announcing to everyone if they had a little girl or a little boy. That day was torture for me, and I’m sure many birth mothers have gone through a similar experience. I was lucky enough to have Lindsey, my counselor, at my side. She always provided me with so much support, and I honestly couldn’t have done it without her. I was her very first case since she accepted the position. She wasn’t sure what to expect, and neither was I. Together we crossed each bridge as we came to it, hand in hand.

I am not very close with my family, and wasn’t comfortable leaning on them for support, so my first weekend was scary for me. It would be the first time since I gave birth that I wouldn’t be able to talk to Lindsey during the day. I had her e-mail, and could  call her in an emergency, but I wasn’t comfortable calling her over the weekend. Friday came and went and Lindsey gave me a book to read for the weekend titled Something Borrowed, Something Blue. I never read it. Still haven’t. The book was for leisure reading, and had nothing to do with placement. Friday night I woke up with a nightmare about Julia (my daughter). I dreamt that they took her from me before I could say goodbye, and wouldn’t let me see her. That’s when I started my search for information about what to expect post-placement. And that’s when I realized that there is no information out there.

Lindsey had explained grief to me, and what I should expect and how to handle each emotion as it came, and that was very helpful, but there was always a part of me that felt like she didn’t understand. I definitely went through the stages of grief. It was almost comical how spot on I was with certain things. But the stages of grief just made me feel guilty. I felt like I wasn’t grieving, my child was alive and well. My brother had just had a stillborn — he was grieving. I chose to place, what I was going through was my choice, and that meant I shouldn’t be feeling as down as I was. That was one of the more difficult things for me after placement, I felt guilty for hurting. If I have any advice for someone feeling this way it’s to feel what you’re feeling, as you’re feeling it. Don’t think of grief as a feeling after one dies, but rather the feeling after one loses someone close to them. For a mother, having a child that you won’t be parenting is a loss, and sometimes only other mothers will understand that. The emotions are healing, and you shouldn’t be worried about if it is or isn’t okay to feel how it is that you’re feeling. Of course it’s okay to feel that way. You need to feel that way at that time, in order to heal, so just let it happen! Guilt is probably inevitable, and I think it passes with time. Once you start to see how amazing your baby is doing, and the endless amounts of opportunities you have given them, I think it will wash away all of your guilt.

My second piece of advice would be to ask your counselor for the name, number and/or e-mail of other birth moms. The birthparent community is so warm, friendly, and open. I know of a few birthmothers who would love to talk to other birthparents, and give them some support advice if need be. Just ask!

My final piece of advice is what helped me the most. I bought a journal, and I wrote Julia letters every day, sometimes a couple a day. I would tell her everything I wanted her to know — things about me, goofy things about her father, quirky things about the family. I gave her advice, and told her stories. I explained to her why I chose adoption, and even wrote to her in the times when I yearned for her the most. It was so therapeutic for me to write that, because it documented everything I went through after placement, and I know I can always give it to her one day if she has any questions. It’s also always there when I want it, I can see how far I’ve come, or I can lend it to a birth mom who recently placed and let her read through what my feelings were. Here is some information about my healing after placement: I placed 12/14/2009; I had 30 days after that to change my mind: 1/14/2010. My first journal entry: 1/27/2010 — and I wrote multiple pages (6+) every day until 2/10/2010. My next entry is 3/20/2010 — and I tell her how much I miss her, and that “I feel like a huge hole was just stamped out of my chest.” I wrote off and on after that. My last entry was 5/21/2010, and by that time I was feeling much better with everything. I still had my hard days, I still do now, but they are few and far between now. Time will heal. I know it’s not what you want to hear, but it’s true.


When the “Perfect Family” Isn’t “Perfect” Anymore

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image c/o www.telegraph.co/uk

About fifty percent of marriages end in divorce.

A divorce can be extremely difficult and emotional for the couple splitting up and for their children, if they have any. And when the couple’s children were adopted, there is someone else who may be upset about the divorce: the birth parent.

Because divorces consume a lot of emotional and physical energy, adoptive families often communicate less frequently with their child’s birth parents during the divorce. There’s also another reason why they may shy away from you during this time: they’re worried. If you chose them so that their child could have a two-parent family, there is a good chance they are worried about upsetting you with the news that they won’t be that two-parent family in the same way.

And you might be upset with them! When you were choosing an adoptive family for your child, you picked the book that labeled this couple as a couple; you didn’t choose two separate albums for two separate families. You may have envisioned your child growing up in a picture-perfect family that you couldn’t provide. It’s normal and okay to feel upset when you think back to the role these things played in your adoption decision.

If you are in a relationship at the time of your child’s parents’ divorce, you may also feel some guilt about not parenting or start second-guessing yourself about whether you should have parented and provided that two-parent home. These are normal reactions, but try not to be too hard on yourself. There is much more to every family than whether both parents live together, and you didn’t make your adoption decision based solely on relationship status.

While you’re thinking about the reasons why you made that difficult decision to place your child for adoption, take a moment, if you can, to put yourself in the shoes of your child’s adoptive parents – because now they are the ones making a heart-wrenching decision that they believe is for the best. Don’t give up on them because of a divorce. Take a little space if you need to, and definitely give them time to sort themselves out, but don’t let yourself get bogged down in feeling sad or angry about the change in their family structure. The truth is that no family is picture-perfect. That doesn’t mean you made the wrong decision or that your child won’t lead the life you want for them. It simply means what you already knew: that life is difficult, people are flawed, and that sometimes doing what’s right for you and your child means making a very tough — but ultimately good — decision.


What Does the 4th of July Have to Do With Adoption?

what does the 4th

image c/o effectspecialist.com

In case your high school history class isn’t still fresh in your mind, here’s a reminder of what we were celebrating with all of those fireworks and barbecues this past weekend:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Yep, it’s the Declaration of Independence! Part of what was so revolutionary about the declaration was its assertion that everyone has “unalienable rights” that are guaranteed and can’t be taken away by governments. Yesterday we ran across an article by a birth mother who asserted that the right to know where you come from is “unalienable,” and that children have the right to see their adoption records and search for their birth families if they want to.

It’s definitely healthier for children to know where they came from than it is for them to wonder about their birth parents, but is it a right? And if it is, how should that right be balanced with a birth parent’s right to privacy if they don’t want a relationship with their child?

Today, sixteen states have opened or partially opened their sealed adoption records, meaning that adopted children can see their original birth certificates and search for their birth families if they want to. Adoptions Together has generally been supportive of these laws, because we have felt that they are in the best interest of adoptees.

That said, we have also worked with birth parents who told us upon placement that they did not want to have any contact with their child, and although we always encourage these folks to leave the door open for contact in the future in case they change their mind, we never pressure or force anyone to remain involved in their child’s life if they do not want to. We would never want to re-traumatize someone for whom the pregnancy and adoption process was exceptionally painful, like a birth mother who had been raped or who placed her child for adoption out of fear of violence from a partner or family member. We have to trust the birth parents with whom we work to know what is best for them in terms of whether to stay in touch with their child.

Clearly, we’re still grappling with this issue and trying to sort out how to respect every individual’s “inalienable” rights. But more importantly, what do you think? Do adoptees have a right to know their birth parents? Do birth parents have a right to privacy from their biological children, if they want it? We’re curious to hear your perspective!


How to Maintain Openness When Someone Moves

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image c/o stick-empires.wikia.com

You may have been counting on always living in the same general area as your child’s adoptive family; their location may even have been part of the reason you chose them. But life is unpredictable, and things change. They – or you – may get a new job opportunity, need to be near family or friends, or be called to move somewhere different for another important reason.

Changes like these can be jarring, but they don’t have to mean the end of your openness agreement. Below are three ways you can ensure that you remain a part of your child’s life despite the distance.

1.Be open and honest.

Sometimes, birth parents don’t tell us or their child’s adoptive family that they are planning to move because they are worried about our or the family’s reaction. But everyone understands that people’s lives change, and the only way anyone will be upset about your relocation will be if you don’t tell them, because then they won’t know how to get in touch with you!

2. Trust and reevaluate.

Every relationship requires trust and regular reevaluation of how to make sure everyone is getting what they need. Unexpected hurdles are normal and they do not need to result in the end of the relationship; they simply mean you will need to reevaluate how (not whether) your adoption will remain open. We don’t mean to make this sound easy; it’s hardly ever easy to trust someone, and you may feel betrayed by your child’s family if they are the ones moving. Unfortunately, as you know, life almost never goes as planned, and families have to make difficult decisions. So even though it may be tough, try to remember that your relationship with your child’s family is just that: a relationship. In order for it to work, you have to trust them to do their part, no matter how many miles separate you. And we’re not only saying this to you – we send adoptive families the same message, and they usually understand that if they are going to move, they will still need to return to the area for visits and/or do whatever else they agreed to in order to maintain openness.

3.Use technology. Today’s technology makes it practically impossible not to stay up to date on other people’s lives! If your or your child’s family’s move presents an obstacle to having annual meetings, talk with them and/or your agency about using Skype or another video chatting platform in order to get that face-to-face time. If that’s not possible, maybe you can change things up so that instead of having, say, one letter-and-picture update and one visit per year, you could have four letter-and-picture updates per year. We also encourage the birth parents and adoptive families with whom we work with to use Child Connect, a web-based system that allows you and your child’s family to upload and view pictures, letters, and videos from any computer with an Internet connection. If you don’t have Internet access, you can still receive printed letters and pictures through the program. And, in case the texting craze has caused you to forget, actual telephone calls are always an option, too!

If you keep these suggestions in mind, there is no reason, in our opinion, why an increased distance between you and your child’s family should negatively impact your open adoption or relationship with them. But what do you think? Do you have an open but long-distance adoption? Or do you live in the same area as your child? Tell us what your relationship is like in the comments section below!


Adoption as a Band-Aid

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image c/o www.carstickers.com

It’s probably no surprise to you that some people hate adoption.

There are entire activist groups and many, many websites warning women about the “adoption industry” and the people in it.

We appreciate a lot of what these folks have to say. There is a large for-profit adoption industry, and it is extremely troubling how some facilitators and attorneys take advantage of women when they are at their most vulnerable. Before the 1980s, thousands upon thousands of women were coerced into choosing adoption; that number is far lower today, but it is not at zero.

We differ from anti-adoption groups in that we don’t think adoption is always bad for women; in fact, we have seen firsthand how it can lead to positive and healthy outcomes for women, their children, and those children’s adoptive families. We see these outcomes when women feel that they are at a point in their lives or in a situation where, for whatever reason, parenting does not seem like the best option. Parenting is a different experience for everyone, and not everybody wants to be a parent or wants to parent multiple children. Some women choose adoption because they do not feel emotionally ready to care for a child, because they have dreams and goals they plan to accomplish on their own, or because parenting was not part of the plan for this time in their life. There are as many reasons to choose adoption as there are birth mothers.

But anti-adoption groups are right that many women choose adoption largely because they feel that they can’t parent, and it is here that the larger issue, on which we all agree, arises: there are too many factors that make women feel that they can’t parent. Nearly all of the women with whom we work feel financially incapable of supporting a child (or another child), and that is unsurprising given that poverty rates in our country are staggering and that those rates are especially high for single mothers and women of color. They are unsurprising when we consider the sexism, racism, and violence against women that pervade our country’s history. When a woman becomes pregnant, it often seems that the odds are stacked against her. And that isn’t fair.

A great deal of very important activism is happening to fight back against the factors that make parenting so difficult, but it takes time. One commenter on an anti-adoption forum said recently, “Most infants in America that are adoptable are born to healthy women whose only disadvantages are being young and/or being unmarried. Rather than helping such young women (they are typically young) make an ‘adoption plan,’ as if that were somehow an ordinary or ‘respectable’ response to an untimely pregnancy, why not support that young woman so she can keep and raise her child?” The problem is that even though you and I may agree that women deserve support, our country isn’t there yet. There is very little financial support available for women who feel comfortable asking for it, not to mention the lack of support that exists for women facing other difficulties such as sexual or physical violence, drug addiction, and mental health challenges. And what do we do in the meantime, as we work towards becoming a place where an unplanned pregnancy doesn’t have to be so incredibly difficult?

In many cases, adoption is a “Band-Aid” over a much larger problem, a problem that concerns women’s social, economic, and physical rights, a problem that makes parenting far more difficult than it should be. But people are going to need Band-Aids until that larger problem is solved. We believe that when pregnant women are facing circumstances that make them unsure if parenting is the best choice, they have the right to consider other options and do whatever makes the most sense for them. We agree that it’s unfair that those difficult circumstances exist, and we hope that one day the odds won’t be stacked against so many women. But in the meantime, we have to trust women to do what is right for them given their unique lives and experiences.

Do you agree that the necessity of adoption speaks to a much larger problem? Tell us about the factors that contributed to your decision in the comments below.


It’s Okay to Change Your Mind

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image c/o thekissofjoy.com

The “revocation period” is the period of time birth parents have to revoke their consent to adoption after they have signed the paperwork (which they usually do at the hospital 24-72 hours after delivery). The length of the revocation period depends on the state: in Maryland it’s thirty days and in DC and Virginia it’s ten days. Revocations happen at every adoption agency, but birth parents who change their mind are often worried that they are somehow doing something wrong. Below are the main concerns we hear from birth parents who are revoking their consent.

1. “I’m being selfish and letting everyone down.”

On the contrary, you did something responsible by planning out how you would proceed. A change of plans doesn’t negate the importance of that process. If your baby had already been placed with an adoptive family by the time you revoked your consent, then they are likely to feel sad and disappointed, but those are emotions that the adoption agency will work with them to manage as they move forward in their adoption journey. Your change of heart will not keep them from becoming parents in the future; the agency will continue to work with them to find the right match. Remember, when it comes down to it, no family truly wants to parent a baby whose birth parent wishes they had never made an adoption plan. The greatest service that you can do for an adoptive family is to carefully consider your own feelings and make the decision that is best for you and your baby, even if that decision is not to make an adoption plan.

2. “I wasted the adoption agency’s time.”

Educating people about their pregnancy options is a service that Adoptions Together and other ethical agencies provide as part of their mission to build healthy families through adoption. If we help you explore adoption and you decide it is not right for you, then we have still provided that service and fulfilled our mission – so it’s all good! Educating people about adoption and planning with parents who are considering it is our job, whether or not an adoption plan winds up being the end result.

3. “I should have decided sooner.”

Planning not to parent can be an important step along the way to making the decision to parent. If you were not originally sure whether you wanted to parent, then you owed it to your child and yourself to investigate, research, and think seriously about all of your options. Had you decided to parent without doing so, then you would have been selling yourself short, and you might always have wondered whether you should have considered adoption more seriously.

Did you change your mind at any point during the adoption process? What decision did you end up making? Tell us what you think in the comments!


Jenna’s Story

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Today’s guest post was written by Jenna Myers, a birth mother who placed her daughter with an adoptive family in 2009.

I’m beyond uncomfortable as I sit alone in the bright, yellow-walled waiting room at the doctor’s office, my fingers and feet swollen with the pressure of what feels like a cinder block crushing my bladder. I can’t help but notice every detail about the women who surround me: the way they hold their husbands’ hands with excitement and anticipation, the obnoxiously expensive maternity clothes that drape their bodies in just a way that makes their sudden weight gain and pop belly flattering, and the books they read about what to expect.

And here I sit in my oversized sweatpants, holding the tears back from erupting.  I have smeared mascara, bags under my eyes, and a nine-month-old sinus infection.

My name’s called out, crashing my train of thought.

“Jenna Myers?” asks an overly cheerful nurse in scrubs with small pastel hand prints on it.  “Follow me.”

Same procedure, different day, for the nurse and for me. Weight, temperature, blood pressure, pee into a cup, and wait.

“The doctor will be in shortly. Undress from the waist down and drape that over you,” the nurse explains, closing the door behind her.

Ten minutes pass before the doctor gives a small knock and barges in, clipboard in hand.  He manages to make awkward conversation while simultaneously poking and prodding around inside of me.

“It’s almost time, the baby has dropped and you are two centimeters dilated. I noticed the amniotic fluid levels are lower than normal. If they drop anymore, we will have to perform an emergency C-section.  I understand you are placing the child for adoption?” he asks, his tone professional and impersonal.

“Yes, that’s right.”

“Okay then, I will put that in our records.  I will see you in a few days for your next check-up.”

As I walk out of the office, I feel all eyes on me.  If they only knew.

****

Now, I’m not very religious, but every night for the next few days I pray myself to sleep, in hope that it will cause these fluid levels to drop.  The combination of excitement, fear, impending relief, and grief is weighing on my stomach like a small sandbag.  My hands lay pressed against my bulging basketball belly, fingers crossed inside my hoodie pocket so no one can see the childish superstition I still carry with me at twenty-one.

“Jenna Myers?” a woman calls out.  “Come with me, sweetie.”  This woman is not the nurse from the other day, but she is soft spoken, with sympathetic eyes.  She puts her hand on my shoulder as she leads me into the sonogram room. As I lay on the table, she says: “You’re placing her for adoption? That’s very brave of you.”

“Yeah. I really just want her out of me at this point. I’m ready to start fresh,” I reply quickly, as I feel the burn of unwelcome tears attempting to make their appearance.  I swallow hard, but my chin still quivers.

“You are doing an amazing thing, Jenna. You are a strong woman,” the nurse says as she rubs my shoulder and hands me a tissue.

“I just don’t want to give….my baby….away…on Christmas!” I finally blurt out in between sobs.

“Well, I can help you with that. You are already ‘full term’, and if your levels have fallen since your last visit, they will most likely want to do an emergency C-section.  Can I just measure the lowest amount of fluid for you instead?” she asks.  I quietly shake my head as I feel a single tear tumble down my cheek.  The levels are low enough for the C-section.  Looks like today’s the day.

It’s as if every minute I feel a different emotion: sadness, excitement, nervousness, relief.  I get into my car, take a deep breath and take my phone out of my pocket.  It’s time to make the call to Lindsey, my adoptions counselor.

“Call Daniel! I’m going in today! Tell him today is the day he gets to meet his daughter!” I say before Lindsey can even say ‘hello.’ Daniel and Elsa are the perfect couple to adopt my baby.  They are who I would’ve chosen, had I been able to pick my own parents.  Elsa is in Sweden and will be taking the next flight home, so Daniel will be meeting me at the hospital.  I knew this was going to happen and I wish Elsa could be here too.  Reality sets in as the excitement starts to wear off the closer I get to my house.

“This is the best Christmas gift you could give,” I repeatedly tell myself.

Sarah, my best friend, is supposed to be spending this wonderful stay in the hospital with me, but she’s in Texas.  Why the hell she is in Texas, I have no idea.  But she is about to board a flight home. My mother is the lucky lady who gets to deal with me.  Two hours pass too quickly, and I’m not ready for any of this, but I can’t wait.  How I feel is too damn confusing.

Finally, Sarah comes running in, with a duffel bag twice her size. “I’m here! You waited for me! That was so nice of you!” she jokes.

“I held her in just for you, how’d you know?” I shoot back.  Not long after Sarah, the doctor walks through the door to go over procedures.  Sarah spends this time getting ready for the “O.R.”– playing dress up, basically.  Her silliness is a pleasant compliment to the craziness of emotion that’s going on.  The curtain flings back, and there stands Sarah, head to toe in blue disposable scrubs.  She has it all on- the hair cap (covering a short mohawk), the blue paper jumpsuit, the shoe covers.  She dramatically turns around while snapping her last latex glove on her hand.  This is why Sarah is my best friend.

The anesthesiologist comes in to prepare me, and Sarah leaves.

“Sit up straight, lean forward, and hug the pillow.  Now do not move.  Your legs will begin to feel very heavy, and you won’t be able to move them, so don’t panic when you can’t.  Also, you won’t be able to feel yourself breathing, but you will be.  So don’t panic about that either,” the anesthesiologist casually states.

“Don’t panic?  I won’t know that I am breathing, and I’ll be paralyzed from the chest down.”  I’m already panicking.  I’ve never felt so claustrophobic in my own body before.  The needle goes in and I jump, of course.

“Now just lay back and rest your arms here,” he says while he moves my arms out to my sides as if I’m flying.  He starts to strap my arms down to a board and a giant sheet flies up over my face.  If I wasn’t feeling claustrophobic before, I definitely am now.

“No, no, no, no.  You can’t do that to me!  I will have a panic attack!” I try to explain to him.  At that moment, Sarah is finally allowed in the room and I thank god.  Together we convince the anesthesiologist to let me have my arms.  He explains that it’s a natural instinct for a woman to grab her stomach during a C-section. So, I promise not to grab my stomach and I shut up.

The C-section is grueling.  The numbness of the anesthesia and pressure from the doctor moving my organs out of the way as if they are toys in the living room floor doesn’t help. “I’m not very happy with you, Dr. Norman,” I tell my OB/GYN.

“That’s why I didn’t come in here any sooner!” he snaps back.  He and I have a similar sense of humor and he gets me to chuckle.  Sarah starts talking to distract me since I voice how uncomfortable I am about every ten seconds.  Suddenly, everything slows down.  The discomfort is there, but it’s okay. It’s morphine.

My eyes jump around the room to find the clock. It’s 3:33 pm.  The small cry I’ve been waiting to hear breaks my concentration, then silence again.

“Was that the baby?  Why did she stop crying?  Where did she go?” I ask in a slight panic.

“That was your daughter!  We are going to weigh her and get her vitals in another room.  That’s what you wanted, right?” Dr. Norman replies.

“Yeah, that’s what I wanted. Does she look healthy?” I ask.

“She looks so healthy, I can’t imagine a baby that big inside such a small girl!” he says.  Knowing she’s okay puts me at an indescribable ease.  I swear another half an hour passes before I get to go into recovery, a very uncomfortable thirty minutes.

The recovery room is depressing.  It’s dark, and the woman to my left is nursing her newborn, husband by her side.  The nurses are short with me, as if they are at the tail end of a twelve hour shift.  Sarah is giving updates to everyone, as Lindsey comes to check on me.

“How are Daniel and the baby?” I immediately ask.

“Daniel and Emma are doing great.  He is such a proud Dad!  You gave a wonderful Christmas gift today.  Do you still not want to see Emma until the papers are signed tomorrow?” Lindsey asks.

“Yeah, it’s probably best that way.  I don’t want to have any chance to change my mind.  I can’t do that to Daniel, Elsa or Emma,” I reply confidently.

Morning comes too fast.  It’s time to sign the papers.  After the paperwork is complete, the nurse walks me over to the nursery where Emma is.  I immediately know which baby is her.

“Oh, okay,” I say when I see her for the first time.  I turn around and slowly shuffle back to my room.  The face I put on for these people scares me.  So confident on the outside, but I feel like I’m dying on the inside.  Like someone took my soul out of my body, and I’m left empty, sad and alone.

I spend my night yearning, bawling, weeping.  The release is like an avalanche, uncontrollable, yet I welcome it as it wipes out all the things in my past and lays a fresh foundation for my future.

It’s a new day and Daniel wants me to spend some alone time with Emma, just the two of us with no one to analyze me.  I appreciate his empathy and trust, as this can’t be easy for him either.  I sing to Emma, tell her how much I love her, and just stare at her for hours while she lies asleep in my arms.  Now I understand what it is like to be a mother, I feel what it is like to be a mother, a person I never thought I could be.

A few hours pass, and Elsa bursts through my door, tears streaming down her face. But before even looking at Emma, or Daniel or anyone, she runs to me and gives me the biggest hug and the biggest kiss on the cheek.  I smile, reminded again of why I chose Elsa to be Emma’s mom and hand Elsa her new baby girl.  I quietly say “congratulations.”  Elsa’s face lights up.  The room goes silent.  A flash lights up the room.  Daniel has his camera on Elsa so he could capture her face the very first time she sees Emma.  Her eyes radiate an unconditional love I have never witnessed before.  The only sound in the room is Elsa’s joyful, thankful sobbing as she holds her newborn daughter. It is in this moment that I realize the gift I have been given.