Thank you SO much to Monika for sharing her personal experience as the birth mother in an open adoption! Monika’s story is part of an ever-growing collection of guest post adoption stories here on See Jamie Blog! If you have a personal adoption story of your own to share, please email me.
The year was 2009. At the end of January, I met Nick. I knew there was something special between us right away as we spent the three consecutive nights prior to our first date having three hour phone conversations. We very quickly fell into a relationship. In May, I moved; Nick and I continued our relationship long-distance, and in July he deployed to Iraq. I loved him and knew he loved me in return, but I didn’t know for certain whether we’d continue our relationship through his deployment and after his return home. Of course everyone knows no relationship is a guarantee.
Let’s fast forward to the night of November 9th. I remember talking to Nick online before I went to sleep as was our habit, and then nothing until the afternoon of November 14th. I know I was lucid during that time, but other than dreamlike memories of a c-section, I remember nothing. That’s right. I’d been pregnant and not known it. I wore all my own clothes the entire pregnancy, and having been diabetic (Type 1, insulin-dependent) since 1994, it wasn’t uncommon for me to miss many months in a row of periods. Also, Nick and I had been so careful to use protection properly each time that it didn’t even cross my mind that I might be pregnant.
From what I can gather, here’s what happened:
I had no medical history of seizures nor did I have any sort of seizure disorder. My roommate heard me flop to the floor and when she couldn’t rouse me, she called 911. According to what I found out later the paramedics and everyone that had contact with me in the ER couldn’t tell I was pregnant either. It was only when they wanted to do a test on my brain that required them to know whether I was pregnant or not that they did a test and found out I was indeed pregnant. Since I was still having seizures, they did an ultrasound and figured out I was about 36 weeks pregnant, and since she was in the breech position they sent me up for an emergency c-section. I was having seizures because my blood pressure was so high due to preeclampsia. My daughter was delivered on November 10, 2009. She was 18” long and 5lbs 3oz.
Having been in childcare for many years prior to my high school graduation and a nanny for several years right after graduation, I knew immediately I was in no shape emotionally or in a position physically to provide the type of care a child truly needs. I also knew that I did not want any child of mine to grow up in a military household. Though Nick is no longer in the military and we are still together, I had no way then to know whether we’d stay together and if we did I assumed that he’d stay in the military. So I made the decision as I was being operated on to relinquish my daughter to adoption.
Since I’d grown up with a father who’d been adopted as a child, I had no concept of what an open adoption can and should be. I assumed that I would relinquish and not see her again for at least 18 years, so I made the decision to not see her, hold her, or name her in the hospital for fear it would make following through with the decision too hard. I do regret those decisions. Despite not knowing I was pregnant, I’d bonded with her.
Since I continued to have seizures after her delivery, the hospital staff was unsure of my ability to make such a decision as adoption, so they put her in state foster care. I still find it ironic that it was only when they stopped the anti-seizure medications that I stopped having seizures. I had to endure two separate court dates to prove that I had not only the mental, physical, and emotional ability to raise her if I so chose, but I also had the same capacity to make the relinquishment decision. Those two months were difficult, but in retrospect I’m glad it happened the way it did. During that time my adoption caseworker opened my eyes to the possibility that I could not only choose the family that would raise my daughter, but I might be able to have a continuing relationship with not only them, but my daughter as well. I told my caseworker some of the basics that I would like my daughter’s family to have, and she showed me one profile. She told me that if I didn’t like their profile that I could choose another, but I liked their profile instantly. I just felt a connection to them and to their story. Universally that’s what an expectant parent considering adoption looks for in the profile of an adoptive family for their child. She wants to feel that connection that’s so hard to define.
On January 4, 2010, the judge ruled that I was indeed capable of making the decision I wanted to make and released Department of Health Services from responsibility for my daughter’s care. My caseworker had driven down from about an hour and a half north, so we had breakfast after court and then went to the DHS office to hang out with my daughter and sign relinquishment papers while we waited for my daughter’s parents to make the trip down from where they live. After they arrived, we all hung out for a while and then I fed her while they went to sign the papers they needed to sign. Then they came back in the room where I was and I handed them my daughter. Though it was difficult I had the peace of knowing I was making a good decision.
That peace has not left. There are still days where I miss my daughter so much I feel like I’m going to die. But now that two and a half years have passed since the day I relinquished I can confidently say there are more good days than bad. When I relinquished, we tentatively agreed to four update letters a year for the first couple of years and a couple of in-person visits as well. We’ve far surpassed that. Nick and I have had many visits with them, and her mother and I exchange emails approximately weekly.
Our daughter knows who her mom and dad are, but with open adoption, she’ll also know who we are and that we made the decision we did out of love for her.
Like any relationship, it can be difficult. But we’ve all made that commitment because we know it’s important for that little girl. Since there’s no lying and hiding as in a closed adoption she will have the freedom to discover both the parts of herself that are biological and the parts that her parents and environment nurture.
Monika currently lives near Tacoma, WA with her partner and daughter’s birth father, Nick. Her passion is truly open and ethical adoption. You can find more of her story as well as her articles on general adoption-related topics on her blog, Monika’s Musings.