Adoption Advocate No. 41: My Perspective on Open Adoption and Recommendations for Birthparents
Published November 2011 by Amy Hutton†
Nicole M. Callahan, Editor
Chuck Johnson, Editor
Merilee J. Meacham, Editor
I grew up in southwest Pennsylvania, in a small suburb of Pittsburgh called Moon Township. Sandwiched between an older and younger sister, I was surrounded by supportive family and friends growing up. My family went to church every Sunday, my sisters and I competed in soccer and swimming, and a bad report card was never an option.
I found out I was pregnant shortly after I began my senior year of high school, two weeks after I was crowned Homecoming Queen. At the time, I was in serious relationship with my boyfriend Robbie, the captain of the football team. Although we were shocked and completely unprepared to see those two pink lines, we decided, almost immediately, that we would raise our child together.
I soon began to feel the humiliation of being “that girl” as news of my unplanned pregnancy began spreading around school. I was embarrassed, and the rumors ran wild. But the hardest part was telling my parents.
I told my mother first – or tried to. I had no idea what to say. “Mom, I…uh…well, you see, there’s this thing that happened..."
"Well, what is it?” she asked.
I expected her to be angry, and she was, at first.But I was unprepared for the worst feeling of all, and that was realizing that I had disappointed my family.
My mother broke the news to my father that evening. Later in the week I went to the doctor, whose test provided official confirmation: I was pregnant. After recovering from their initial shock, both my family and Robbie’s family were very supportive and agreed that they would help us to raise our child.
Robbie and I spent several months discussing where we would live, when we would get married, and how we would support a child. Then reality began to set in, and the doubts began to arise. Neither Robbie nor I had any significant source of income, a college education, or even a place to raise a child. Although our parents offered to help us out, Robbie desperately wanted to be able to provide for his family, and it was hard for him to accept that our parents would have to help, especially if we continued on to college.
A few months before I became pregnant, Robbie’s parents, who had recently relocated to Raleigh, NC, met a couple at a Christmas party. Their names were Don and De, and they were hoping to adopt. After learning that I was pregnant, Robbie’s parents had a few additional conversations with Don and De, and then suggested that Robbie and I meet with them to explore the idea of adoption.
I was shocked and upset.This had been completely out of the blue. Robbie and I had never broached the subject of adoption before, and I felt as if his parents were questioning my ability to parent. The last thing I wanted was “to give my child away to some strangers.” I refused to meet with Don and De.
Though I continued to resist the idea, Robbie eventually convinced me that it would be all right to meet them and simply hear what they had to say. So, the day before Valentine’s Day, we met at a Panera Bread restaurant. I sat with my arms crossed and my ears closed – until Don and De told me about their desire to have an “open adoption."
I had no idea what that meant, but I was intrigued. I learned that open adoption meant that Robbie and I could maintain a relationship with our child if we chose.
I began to think about the kind of a life we would be able to provide for our child versus the kind of life Don and De could provide. Still, I was angry, upset, and emotionally numb as I began to consider adoption. A few weeks prior to meeting Don and De, I had discovered that I was having a girl. This made it even more difficult to consider making an adoption plan, because I had always dreamed of the day I would have children of my own, especially a daughter.
Robbie and I spent the last four months of my pregnancy getting to know Don and De. They invited us to dinners at their home, and encouraged us to ask them every question we could think of. At their invitation, we even talked with their family and friends to find out more about them.
The more we learned about Don and De and their families, the more we realized what amazing parents they would be. It still amazes me how well and how quickly the four of us bonded – Robbie and Don share the same sense of humor, and De and I have the same gentle, sensitive nature. We discussed what our birthparent visits would look like, how often we would see each other, and what would happen if they ever moved away from Raleigh.
Ultimately, after weighing all of our options and considering what would be best for our daughter, Robbie and I agreed that adoption was right for us.
Our daughter Deanna Marie was born on July 11, 2005. Robbie and I were given alone time at the hospital say to say hello and goodbye. Then Don and De hugged us and left with Deanna, saying, “We’ll see you soon.” They weren’t kidding. They invited us – and our families – to visit them at their home that very same day.
Now, more than six years after her birth and adoption, Robbie and I still visit Deanna and her family often, and our relationship has grown stronger over the years. While being Deanna’s birthmother has changed my life profoundly, I honestly can’t imagine my life without Don and De, either. They are absolutely wonderful parents, and they love Deanna more than anything else in the world.
People often ask me, “What makes your open adoption so successful?” While to outsiders it may look as if we have a “fairy tale” adoption, in reality, no open adoption is perfect. It has taken a great deal of trust and open communication to make ours work successfully and in Deanna’s best interest. As an experienced birthmother, here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way that may be helpful for parents condsidering adoption:
I am at peace with my decision to place my daughter for adoption, knowing wholeheartedly that I would not have been able to give her what she needed from a parent at the time. Had I chosen to parent Deanna rather than place her with Don and De, I might then have experienced feelings of guilt for not being able to give her everything she needed from a mother.
Over the years, what has helped me most has been to see, firsthand, how much time, energy, love, and devotion De and Don have been able to give Deanna. I graduated from NC State University in 2009, and De, Don, and Deanna were there to cheer me on as I walked across the stage to receive my degree. Even though my adoption journey has been very difficult at times, I wouldn’t change the outcome for the world. I have a beautiful daughter who is loved greatly by both her birthparents and her adoptive parents, and her adoptive family has become, over the years, part of my own extended family as well. I wouldn’t trade our shared happiness for anything.
†Amy Hutton, 25, is the birthmother of a six-year-old daughter placed via open adoption. Amy has been featured in stories about open adoption in the Raleigh News & Observer and the Technician, NC State University’s student-run newspaper. Amy recently co-presented “How to De-Freakify Open Adoption” at an Open Adoption Symposium held at the University of Richmond School of Law. In her spare time, she enjoys writing about open adoption on her blog, Amstel Life. Amy currently resides in Raleigh, where she works as a marketing director.
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