Honoring Your Child’s Birth Mom on Mother’s Day

 

 

 

Mother’s Day can be an emotional time for women.  Some women have lost their mothers while some have lost children, others are struggling with infertility, and some women have blessed others by way of adoption.  I was a woman who, for many years, struggled on Mother’s Day due to the pain and loss experienced during my own infertility journey.  Once I became a mother through adoption it was not lost on me that I had not come to motherhood on my own.  I would forever share that day, willingly, with my children’s birthmothers.  My husband and I set a tone in our household early on of honoring our children’s birthparents.  They were not simply a means to an end for us.  Our children’s birthmothers had won a place in our hearts that is precious and absolutely unexplainable.

 

Children adopted through international adoption may never have the experience of knowing their birthmothers.  Children adopted through domestic adoption may or may not have regular contact with their birthmothers.  In either scenario, however, it is important for families to be able to honor their birthmothers, especially on Mother’s Day.

 

One way to honor your child’s birthmother can be through the telling (and re-telling) of their adoption story.  This narrative should be shared with our children more than once.  I like to take time before we go to church on Mother’s Day to sit on the couch with my son and daughter and remind them of the moment their birthmothers shared them with me.  I remind my daughter of the special moment that her birthmother was holding her in her arms, stroking her cheek, crying.  How, in that instant, she kissed her gently and placed her in my arms and how I loved her birthmother so much that my heart ached.  My son knows that, during our adoption hearing in court, his birthmother reached out for my hand and held it as my husband was on the stand.  We were united as mothers in that moment, for him. Our children were loved and considered important, above all else.

 

Some other ideas for honoring your child’s birthmother on Mother’s Day are:

  • Purchasing a flower or plant in honor of her and planting it together
  • Sending her a homemade card with artwork by the child, along with photos and a letter
  • Creating a photo book of the past year for her
  • Sending her the child’s handprint or artwork made from the handprint
  • Releasing a balloon that contains a special note to a birthmother in another part of the world with whom you do not have direct contact

 

Make your own tradition.  Follow your child’s lead.  Some children may not want to talk about their placement or birthmother from one year to the next.  That’s okay; however, revisit it the next year because as our children grow and develop, they do become more curious and open to discussion.

 

It is so important that we allow our children the opportunity to love their birthmothers openly.  I once told my kiddos “Just like I can love both of you at one time, you can love me and your birthmother at one time.”  Make it okay.  Make it intentional.

Searching : A Personal Journey of Searching For Birth Parents

 

I grew up knowing that my mom was placed for adoption when she was an infant in the late 1950s.  My grandparents were unable to have children and worked with a private attorney to adopt my mom.  We had little to no information about her birthmother, and what little we may have had, was probably speculation at best for the reasons surrounding her decision.  Growing up, Mom never had a strong inclination to search for her birthmother.  In my high school and college years, I remember asking questions about why she hadn’t looked for her because I had a strong desire to search and (let’s be honest) meet my biological grandmother one day.   But my questions were always met with the same response that she simply wasn’t interested and she knew who her family was.  She also wanted to respect my Grandmother and feared that searching for her birthmother would crush my Grandmother’s heart and cause her to feel like less of a mother in my Mom’s life.  I deeply wish that my Grandmother would have understood that completing a search, and potentially meeting a birth family member, would have never diminished or replaced her role in my Mom’s life (or mine).

After graduate school, I started working in the field of adoption.  I was so amazed to see some of the advances that had been made towards sharing information in adoption – sending pictures, having visits, collecting genetic health information, etc.  As levels of openness in adoption have increased in even the last decade, I have often pondered the circumstances surrounding my mom’s placement. Who was her birthmother and what circumstances did she find herself in that made adoption her best option?  What became of her life and did she ever have more children?  Do I have aunts and uncles out there? Equally as important, I desperately wanted her to know that she made a good choice for my Mom and that she has had a good life.   And then, of course, I had other practical questions like, any chance you’ve had cancer or some other major hereditary disease we should be on the lookout for?

Starting Our Search

The day eventually came that Mom felt comfortable starting the search process.  She began by signing up on the State of Texas’s Central Adoption Registry.  Many states have a website where birthmoms, adoptees and biological siblings can voluntarily register and if a match is found, the state facilitates contact (with a little bit of pre-meeting counseling for all parties).  A short time later, Mom received a letter in the mail in response.  This letter informed us that her records were matched with her birthmother’s and that her birthmother had passed away.  The end.  No name.  No date of death.  No identifying information that would tell us anything beyond the simple fact that she was no longer here (and my dreams of meeting her were crushed). I had always pictured two outcomes from signing up on the registry – either being matched (with a living person) OR knowing nothing (because her birthmother or siblings had not signed up on the registry).  It didn’t occur to me that we would be matched AND we would know nothing further.

Our next step was to have a judge sign a court order to unseal Mom’s adoption records, which are maintained at the Bureau of Vital Statistics (BVS) in our state’s capital.  I thought this process would be like climbing Mount Everest blind folded.  I shared our situation with a friend who is an adoption attorney and he had the right connections to make this happen quickly.  He was able to do a little bit of research for us and within days a judge had signed off on an order!  He mailed it to the BVS office and we waited for a response. And we waited a little longer.  And, sadly, we are still waiting now.

I know there are other methods we could use to continue the search.  A simple Google search yields 11.2 million results for “searching for birth mother” with promises from companies to find birthparents in 3 easy steps.  For our family, we are working through the channels and at the pace with which we are most comfortable.  In my longings to have my questions answered, I have to remember that while this is my history, this is my Mom’s story.  I don’t want to press and pursue beyond her comfort level.

Things to Consider when Searching for Your Biological Family

  1. If you are thinking about searching for your biological parent or child that you placed for adoption, start with signing up on an adoption registry in the state where the child was born. While there is a small fee in some states to do this, these sites are legitimate and a simple way to be available in the event someone is searching for you too.
  2. The options for searching are growing. Court orders to unseal records may be granted or denied.  And, if granted, they still may not yield the answers you’re looking for (as in our case).  There are companies for hire and support groups alike ready to help you search.  We have not engaged in this process so while I have no recommendations to make, I caution you to do your homework on these companies and understand any fee structures before engaging their services.
  3. Have some fun with your DNA. This past Christmas, we purchased a DNA kit from Ancestry.com and learned a little more about Mom’s ethnic heritage.  It didn’t produce direct answers, but I was surprised by the excitement I felt at knowing a little more about where this side of my family comes from.  Another company, MyHeritage is also involved with DNA testing, more specifically to assist in matching biological families.  Currently, they are offering free DNA kits to those who apply and qualify through April 30, 2018.  As stated above, I caution you to do some research here too.
  4. For those of you who may have an open adoption, I would implore you to do what you can to keep the lines of communication open with birth families. Relationships between birth and adoptive families can certainly be challenging to navigate and may change in their frequency over time. However, having direct access to a birth family member who can answer questions an adopted person may not have until decades later (or, ahem, perhaps even the adopted person’s child!) is an asset.  Please know that I’m not encouraging you to maintain close contact if it puts a child in danger, or if someone is not making healthy choices.  But, if the environment is healthy, do what you can to maintain this relationship.
  5. For those considering adoption, I encourage you to work with a licensed agency. If my grandparents had worked with an agency (which I realize were not as common then as they are now), I wonder if documents might have been on file with them.  In our state, agencies today are required to maintain adoption records.  In the event they close, there are policies and procedures in place for the transfer of these records. An adoption agency will be a much easier entity to contact if information is needed.  Plus, they are also required to gather genetic health information from birth families, which is a valuable tool for you and your adopted child to have.  Adoption agencies can also help you navigate through birthparent relationship challenges that may arise.

Searching for birth family is a unique and personal journey.  There is not a one-size-fits-all search process that works for everyone.  Our family has learned a lot about each other in this process and have grown closer as we have experienced both excitement and grief in searching for Mom’s birth mother.  We may never know this side of Heaven who she is, but we know that she made a loving decision for my Mom and we will always honor her for this.

 

Life is a Gift

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Most people rarely consider our very life as a work of God. In fact, we rarely think about life at all (we’re born, grow up and die). Many folks sadly believe an unborn baby isn’t a human life. Atheist Richard Dawkins tweeted back in 2013 that an unborn baby is less human than a pig! [March 13, 2013].

As Christians, we affirm what God’s Word reveals to us about when a baby becomes human life. Scripture tells us that God knows us before He forms us in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). In Psalm 139:13-16 says,

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed. [New Living Translation]

God clearly instructs us that unborn babies are human at the time of conception. Are some people really more human than others? Of course not! God’s Word is clear: everyone, even unborn babies, are made in the image of God. That’s the message our culture needs to hear as America this month ponders the devastating effects of the 1973 Roe v Wade U.S. Supreme Court Decision which legalized abortion: the loss of over 55,000,000 human lives to abortion. Today join us in prayer and action to create a more life-affirming nation, promoting alternatives to abortion, and changing the culture that sees abortion as necessary.

Domestic Adoption Support Group, Nov 29th

little-boy-thoughtBen, who is 28 years old and works in a large church ministry  in SC,  was adopted shortly after birth and learned of his adoption story from his parents when he was four years old.  He has dealt with feelings of  grief and loss.  In addition he has had a  desire to know more about his birth family.

You may want hear how someone who grew up in a Christian family could have adoption-related issues.  He will share what he believes you, as adoptive parents, can do to help your child have a more positive sense of self.  If you have adopted internationally,  you  may also want to attend.

Ben has suggestions as to what he believes parents can say and how they can respond to their children’s questions and desire to search for their birth families.

This Adoption Support Group meets every 4th Monday of month at the Vine Community Church, Taylors, SC.

For more information contact Laura Godwin at Nightlight 864 268-0570 or Laura@nightlight.org

“Adopt: The Option” – New Adoption Education DVD for youth groups

Guest post by Ron Stoddart, Executive Director of Nightlight Christian Adoptions.


AdoptTheOption
Did you know that fewer than 1% of babies born to single mothers are placed for adoption? Did you know that although most teens believe adopting is a good thing to do, few believe they could carry a baby for 9 months and then “give it up” for adoption.

These are startling statistics and reflect how many young mothers place more emphasis on their own needs rather than the needs of their children. (Of course, some single mothers are capable and prepared to parent – but do you believe 99% of single mothers are ready?)

We are very pleased to announce that a new youth group curriculum promoting adoption within teen peer groups is now available for Youth Directors nationwide. Adopt: The Option is a DVD based program developed by Connect the Family with support from Nightlight Christian Adoptions and Generations Adoptions in Texas.

We need to get this vital resource into the hands of our youth directors as quickly as possible – and you can help! Order a copy (or two) and present it to the Youth Director at your church. Even though this DVD program is only $25, youth programs are typically tight on funds, especially near the end of the year. Whether you have a teen in a youth program or not, this would be a great way to support your church’s youth ministry.

Thank you for stepping forward to help in this important effort to educate our young people about the alternative of adoption.

Sincerely,

Ron Stoddart
Executive Director
Nightlight Christian Adoptions

Adoptive family Christmas testimony

AdoptUsKids, an initiative of the Children’s Bureau (part of HHS), is a national database of children awaiting adoption and families approved to adopt. Their website allows families to search for children and workers to search for families throughout the United States. The following is a guest post from AdoptUsKids. We encourage you to prayerfully consider this avenue of adoption in addition to the services Nightlight offers.

stevens_lgMy name is Phyllis Stevens and my husband and I are the proud parents of five children: one birth son and four who we adopted.

My kids know that Thanksgiving and Christmas are our favorite times of the year, as these are the times that we get together as a family. We spend our time reminiscing about growing up in the Stevens home. My son (who is now 27) still loves to tell the story about the time when he knocked over the Christmas tree when he was six, and then ran up the stairs to his bedroom and jumped in bed, pretending to sleep. Or the time he got so mad with his brother that he broke the arms off his eye glasses, but then, feeling guilty, put them back together using paper clips.

Over the years many people have asked me, knowing what I know now, if I would do it all over again. Would I adopt children that were born drug addicted, mentally challenged, children with ADHD and Fetal Alcohol Disorder? And, knowing what I know now, I say yes. Yes, because every child deserves a loving, supportive home. And yes, because all four of my adopted children turned out to be happy, functional adults and have provided me with more joy and happiness than I could imagine. Continue reading

Adoption and other secrets kept from American teenagers

In a recent Los Angeles Times article entitled “No Secret: Another Teen TV Show, Another Teen Pregnancy,” Yvonne Villarreal writes regarding the way Hollywood depicts teenage pregnancy. Certainly, contemporary television and the movies address pregnancy,  and some movies (Bella and Juno) have, in spite of coming out of Hollywood, presented adoption positively.

Teenage-Pregnancy-2This is a far cry from what we had been exposed to in years past. I swore that all the characters were infertile: they had carefree sex but neither used birth control nor got pregnant. Still, what Hollywood is not telling us is that about half of teenagers have sex, and those that do pay the cost: one-third of teenage girls get pregnant. Children also pay the cost: 38 percent of all births are to single women, and kids who grow up in a single parent home usually grow up in poverty. Continue reading

“Ingratitude” and an adoptee’s search for her birthmother

LookingForMyBirthmotherOver at Focus on the Family’s Boundless Webzine, Kimberly Eddy has written an article called “Looking for My Birthmother”.

Here’s an excerpt:

Many people are under the erroneous assumption that an adoptee’s desire to search for their biological family is rooted in some sort of ingratitude towards the sacrifices their adoptive parents have made for them. Others assume that the adoptive parents must have been inadequate as parents to cause their adult child to want to search.

The thing is, an adoptee’s desire to search is not about their adoptive parents; it’s usually about a longing to understand their own roots, or at least to get some much-needed medical history.

I recommend the whole article, although (at least for me) it was a bit hard to follow the progression of events.