Some nights before bed, I find myself sitting in a rocker in Cate's nursery, staring down at this beautiful girl in my arms, the embodiment of a desire my heart has had for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, my home was always filled with people, related both biologically and by circumstance. Since I was a toddler, people had moved in and out of our home through foster care and through less formal living arrangements.
When I was a senior in college, my best friend found out that she was pregnant. She decided to pursue an adoption plan, and together we pored over parent profiles as she searched for people to raise her child. Months later I found myself in the delivery room with my friend and her chosen adoptive mom. I watched as she handed over her beautiful baby to an amazing family. Two years later, while pursuing a master's degree in family communication, I decided to conduct my thesis project on the stories parents tell their children about coming to their family through adoption. It seemed only natural. I was enthralled with each story I heard in my project, and I found myself emotionally connected to the adoptive parents who told them. Something inside of me said, "I was meant to do this, too!" My husband, Jason, and I began to discuss the possibility of adoption as a way to grow our family. We were in our early 20s, and not yet ready to parent, but I knew that adoption was a road I wanted to take eventually.
Slowly, this dream of mine took root. One day Jason told me that he, too, would be interested in adopting. Soon after, we found that our plan of waiting 10 years to start a family had been changed...I was pregnant with our son, Max. When Max was a year old, we began discussing adoption again, and started the process soon after. In a flurry of home studies, paper chases, notaries, and emotional fatigue, we pursued an international adoption before deciding to adopt in the U.S. The questions changed from "Boy or girl?" to "What ethnicities would you accept?" and "How much openness would you feel comfortable with?" Though we secretly hoped for a girl, we declined to request an ethnic or gender makeup. Two months later, we were matched with a birth mom.
"You're going to have a baby!" our agency called to tell us, and we quickly asked for information about the couple who had chosen our family. They were a few years older than we were, and they already had a daughter. And so began our adoption story, one that was anything but typical.
"Oh...is Max adopted also?" people would ask when they heard we were adopting. "No? Then why are you adopting this time?"
"You mean the birth mom [or, to quote precisely, "real mom"] isn't a teenager? And she's married? Then why is she giving this baby away?"
People seemed shocked to hear that a young couple, able to bear children, chose to adopt a baby girl born to a birth mom years older than we, married to her husband, the father of our child. I knew from our first conversation with our birth mom that she would not take the baby home from the hospital. She had already gone through sleepless nights and diapers with her daughter. In many ways, she viewed herself as a surrogate. When I went with her to the ultrasound appointment (where we found out that my wish for a daughter would become a reality), she immediately told the technician, "This is her baby." I was with her when she informed her daughter, "Did you know that Erin is going to have a baby, and that baby is in Mommy's tummy?"
I used to worry about the relationship we would have with the birth parents of our child. Would we want to know them? Would they want to know us? Would we want to continue a relationship with them after the baby was born? All of my questions vanished when we met them. My husband and I began to wonder if things were too "perfect" with our birth parents. As I learned more about our birth mom, I realized that she is one of those people who understand the realities of life. We didn't talk about her decision beyond the fact that she didn't feel it would be responsible to raise any more children. The fact that she made a plan is one of the things I respect most about her.
I look forward to the day I can tell Cate how strong and determined, how realistic and levelheaded her birth mother is. I also look forward to telling her about her compassionate and caring birth father. I am lucky to know these details firsthand. When Cate smiles her toothless grin, I see her birth mom. It reminds me of the loving choice she made for Cate, and how lucky I am that she chose me to be Cate's mom.
When people ask me how I can sustain a relationship with someone who "gave away her baby," I smile and try to think of a tactful way to educate their ignorance. Once our birth mom realized she was pregnant, she weighed her options and chose the harder route. I really enjoy talking with Cate's birth mom on the phone. Our conversations touch on Cate, but we talk mostly about what is going on in our lives and with our families. I don't know what our relationship will look like in a year, or five years, but I know that the more open our relationship is, the better the chances that our little girl will know about her history and feel more confident about her place in our family.
Erin Krusiewicz lives with her husband and two children in Southern California.
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