Mother, pregnant. Baby, born. The little one who grew inside now gone, in someone else's arms. But the bond that only happens in the womb, that still remains. Read the words and images flash in our minds. They reverberate, echo.
Some women choose to place their child for adoption and their decision is carefully thought through, carried through with tenderness and care. They have family support to deal with the natural, normal grief. On the other hand, for some women whose child is adopted, the experience of surrendering their baby did not feel at all like a choice—and may not have been.
There have been television shows, including The Locator , Find My Family and Adoption Diaries that have highlighted aspects of the process. Terri Rimmer offered to share her insights and experience* here about giving birth, and deciding it was best for her daughter to be adopted by another family. Terri, explains:
"For 14 years I didn't think I could get pregnant, so the last year before I got pregnant at 34 I really didn't think I had anything to worry about and was off the pill. When I found out I was pregnant it was quite a shock, to say the least, and I knew immediately that I would have to place the baby for adoption due to financial, emotional, and physical reasons."
How have you made peace with your decision-and did that decision feel like a choice?
TERRI: It took me about three years to make peace with my decision and I did that through therapy and lots of prayer. The decision really didn't feel like a choice, just something that happened over time through lots of writing, talking to other birthmoms, bonding with the adoptive mom, and spiritual guidance.
I'd like for you to pretend that I am just learning the language of adoption. Help me understand what you felt in letting go of a child? Can you explain the love that that decision springs from?
TERRI: It feels like someone died, like your heart and guts are being ripped out, the most excruciating emotional pain you can imagine. I didn't eat or sleep for two weeks, pretty much and I had to be medicated. It was like being in a trance most of the time, with me barely being able to function except for going to work and even that was a struggle but I knew I had to do that to survive. Even though I knew I was doing the right thing it was still incredibly painful and since I suffered from depression it took me a lot longer than it did many other birthmoms to get past the pain.
The love the decision springs from comes from a deep knowing in your soul from the bottom of your heart to every inch of your being that you might think it's okay to drag yourself through hell financially, physically, and emotionally, but to do it to a child is another story. I could not be okay with that and I knew that I would regret it if I did.
Often ambivalence comes up for the parent who gave birth after the child has been adopted. Some parents would see it as being honest to discuss this with the child, and with the adoptive parent, perhaps wanting more time with the child. Others wouldn't see it this way at all. How do you see it?
TERRI: I think the natural parent's responsibility is to be there for the child as allowed by the adoptive parents, but never to impose, intrude, or put the birthmom's needs above the child's. In other words, no matter how depressed or sad I would get and can get at times, the most important thing is the welfare and happiness of my birth daughter. I can't make myself happy or content at the expense of her happiness and well-being. That goes for the adoptive parents, too. I can't impose my needs upon them without regard to their feelings and welfare.
Can you tell me about your birth daughter - how old she is today, and if you have a connection that is both ways, what's that like? Since you have written about adoption and your experience, is she aware of this story?
TERRI: My birth daughter is nine years old. We do have a connection but it is more as friends than mother and daughter. I see her two to three times a year because we have a semi-open adoption arrangement. I live in Texas as does my birth daughter.
I have written her letters through the years and continue to do so which the adoptive mom will give her when she's old enough to understand them and deal with them. In addition, before she was born I made her a scrapbook which I think the adoptive mom has set aside to give her when she's older. My birth daughter has also seen her "baby tapes" or videotapes/DVDs of Placement Day (the day she is placed with her adoptive parents in a ceremonial setting) and her time in the hospital when she was born. She has watched these several times and loves them, according to her adoptive mom.
Where is your life now? Where are you? How have you--if you have--found a sense of acceptance for yourself? Or, do you have a deeper sense of okay-ness now?
TERRI: Though I wish I could've raised my birth daughter, I don't regret my decision because she is happy and well cared for. I do have a deeper sense of okayness now but I still get irritated and sometimes angry when people who don't agree with my decision say things to me that I feel are insensitive or ignorant. I think there's still a lot of ignorance surrounding adoption and that so many people in society do not understand that when birthmoms make this decision it is not one made lightly or overnight. One of the myths that a lot of people believe is that the birthmom did not love her child and that is why she placed her baby for adoption. Nothing could be further from the truth.
*This interview used the term birthmother and birthmom for clarification of mothers.