Throughout my life, one quote as always touched my heart and I never realized its importance and value in my life until I adopted my son. “When a child is born, so is a mother” is the saying I used on a page in my eldest daughter’s baby scrapbook 15 years ago. It is the quote I included in a thank you letter I wrote to the surrogate mother who carried my friend’s baby and it is what I wrote to my son’s birth mother who carried a child that she loved enough to let go. Despite the greater world that may exist beyond the life she could have provided for her baby, I wanted to promise her that her child would grow up never doubting that she loved this little boy so much that she made the selfless sacrifice to give him more.
While I don’t know the pain of placing a baby for adoption, I do know what it is like to have to let a baby go. I lost a baby in the middle of my second trimester and had to deliver my little girl after a full day of labor. Watching Elizabeth leave in the arms of a doctor, knowing I would never see her again, is a pain that still brings me to tears as I write. I vividly remember every step I took down that corridor, the comments from nurses, the outfit I was wearing and the way I felt walking down that hallway knowing that I was leaving without my little girl. I would give anything now to get a glimpse of my baby and I believe that my experience of loss and the calling God placed upon my heart to parent a child, not born to me, led to our son’s adoption. There are not many that can understand what it is like to deliver a baby and watch that baby leave in the arms of someone else. I know that feeling and because of that, know that honoring our baby’s birth mother was important for our family.
I will be the first to admit that the relationship between myself and our birth mother has not always been roses and we have had our ups and downs. We come from very different backgrounds with very different life experiences. There was the struggle of having very adult conversations with a teenager who was still very much a teenager in need of motherly support. Not only was I the adoptive mother, I fell into the roll of being a mother figure to her as well as she reached out to me for guidance and advice often. Not unlike the relationship with my own teenage daughter, there were flare ups and arguments that made things uncomfortable but they worked themselves out as these things do. Even on days when I disagreed with her, I would continue to tell her that I cared about her and wanted to see her succeed. She told me repeatedly that she didn’t hear that a lot. I made sure she knew that I believed in her by helping her get back into school. During her pregnancy and following the adoption, we researched careers, searched for apartments and did a lot of things I definitely did not intend to do that happened as a result of the bond we formed. (I honestly thought I would just meet her and then see her again at delivery.) I asked her for her mother and grandmother’s favorite recipes so I could include them in the baby book. I created a list of “My Favorite Things” and asked her to fill it out so that her son would know a little about his birth mother when the time came. I also asked if we could take photos together at the hospital with the baby so that this child knew that two mothers came together to make his life beautiful. Ultimately, I want the birth mother of my child to know that she is valued in our family. Despite our differences, I want her to sincerely believe that we want her to be successful so that she can give herself the life that she wanted for her son. When the time comes for our son to know his story, I want him to be proud of her.
In searching for the perfect gift following the adoption, I read a lot about personalized jewelry so I had a necklace and bracelet made with the baby’s name on it. This seemed to be the standard. I also gifted her a laptop, school supplies and bus pass because I wanted her to know that continuing her education was crucial to her success. I still felt that something bigger was missing so I promised her a more sentimental gift in the months that followed. I wanted to gift to her the same cherished keepsake I had made for all of my children.
Four months later, during our first post-adoption lunch, I gave our birth mother a quilt that I had made of several of our baby boy’s first outfits. I included the onesie she brought for him in the hospital, the one we picked out together at a baby store, an Easter outfit he wore and a few other special ones that had sentimental meanings. She couldn’t have been happier and immediately smelled the blanket saying she would carry this with her for the rest of her life. We talked about our relationship and like any good mother, I told her that I snooped her social media and didn’t approve of her outfits. I told her she was better than that. She laughed and said that’s why our relationship works.” I received her permission to include her thoughts on what makes a good birth mother-adoptive parent relationship. She simply said, “I feel like you cared about me too. I don’t feel like you took my baby and ran away. I feel like you care about what happens to me.” While she knows her baby boundaries and understands she can’t see him right now, she also said she doesn’t wonder about him and feels he is safe because she doesn’t always have to ask or wait on pictures. She included that she likes when she opens her email and finds two photos.
People often ask me I worry that she may come back for the baby (legally she cannot) or worry that talking to her may continue to remind of her of her baby. Oddly, for her, it does the opposite. She told me that not wondering about what he is doing and knowing what he looks like actually gives her more comfort. When I hear from our birth mother, it is usually to ask for life advice she never really received as she should have. Following our lunch, she texted me, “He is very blessed to have you all for his family. Every morning I wake up…and I am reminded that I made the right choice.”
I’m navigating adoption for the first time. I honestly have no idea what will happen in the years to come but I pray about it often. I know that caring for and honoring the woman who gave my son life, despite the differences that may exist in our lifestyle choices, is of paramount importance to his development and emotional well-being. This baby is hers in a way that he can never be mine and mine in a way that he can never be hers. The greatest gift that I can promise our birth mother AND our son is a loving family where he never doubts her love for him. She will always be the mother who loved her baby beyond her own heartbreak and for that, this child will grow up knowing that his birth mother’s love is the beginning of his life’s journey.
If you may be interested in getting your own quilt made (you can use toddler clothes as well), contact Alena Pierce at Sew Little Bea on Etsy. I have now had seven quilts made by her. My adoption quilt was $80.
If you need birth mom gift ideas, these are the other gifts I purchased:
- Beaded baby block bracelet with the baby's name on it from Pretty Beaded Jewelry on Etsy.
- Necklace with the baby's name in script from Mackenzie Treasury on Etsy
- Newborn baby hat that he wore in the hospital from Little Ones Love on Etsy
- "I love my birth mom" onesie photo from High Street Littles on Etsy
- Laptop in a backpack filled with school supplies to encourage her to finish her education
- Gift card for a manicure and pedicure
- Robe, slippers and lounge wear
- Three nights at a beach front hotel for her post recovery as she didn't have a lot of support. I included room service for convenience.
- A monthly bus pass so that she could get to and from school and to job interviews.
If you have any other gift ideas, please share those below. If you are a birth mom, please share any special keepsakes your adoptive parents provided to you.