After finding out at 17 that she was unexpectedly pregnant, Danielle faced an impossible decision: What was she going to do about an unplanned pregnancy? We read last week how Danielle made the decision to release her child for adoption. (Read about how and why Danielle chose adoption.) In today’s blog, we explore the adoption process. What did it look like to place her child in an adoptive family? How does she feels about that decision 20 years later? What does her relationship with her daughter look like now?
Danielle knew that the decision to release for adoption meant continuing this pregnancy, and she feared how this would affect people’s treatment of her.
“That was a big fear of mine: I just did not want to be pregnant. I was the captain of the dance team and in the honor society. I was worried what others would think of me. That was a big moment of humbleness. I tried to hide it for a long time, wearing big shirts. I really tried to hide it for as long as I could because I was embarrassed. What I found however, was that when I just shared with people that I was pregnant and choosing adoption, most people were surprisingly supportive. I was actually elected the homecoming queen of my high school. Most people seemed to rally behind me.”
Not everyone was supportive or understanding of her decision, but ultimately Danielle experienced overwhelming support. Furthermore, Danielle’s confidence that she was doing the right thing for herself and for her child kept her resolve strong throughout the adoption process.
Choosing a Family
After choosing to release for adoption, Danielle began working with her adoption counselor at Bethany Christian Services to find a family. Currently in the United States, there are approximately 36 families waiting to adopt for every 1 infant placed for adoption, so a mother choosing to place her child for adoption can typically interview many families to find the right fit. Danielle wanted a family that could give her child the things she valued. In her case, this meant two parents that loved each other, financial stability, and a similar faith background.
“I asked them questions about education, discipline and I wanted to know if they were going to buy her her first car. I asked any questions that I had opinions about. Some of them we laugh about now.”
When Danielle met her daughter’s adoptive family, she saw that they could offer her child the things she valued. She also knew they desired the same openness about the adoption that Danielle did (more on that later).
A Birth Plan
With her counselor, Danielle built a birth and transition plan. She decided who would be in the hospital, how much time she would spend with her baby after the birth, and when her daughter would go to be with her adoptive family.
“My choice was that I wanted the family to be there when she was born…everything moved quickly and I ended up not calling them until the last minute, and they waited in the hallway. As soon as she came out – when I had her on my chest – they came in, and the adoptive mom held her right away.”
Danielle shared more about her time with her daughter in the hospital:
“I ended up never putting her in the nursery; I didn’t want to give up any second with her…I kept the baby in the room with me, and I talked with her about why I was choosing adoption, even though she didn’t understand anything I was saying. I told her how much I loved her and took a ton of pictures with and of her. I didn’t want to leave the hospital without her, so I took her to Bethany, and then the adoptive parents met me there.”
From Birth to Placement: A Bittersweet Transition
Danielle described for us what she referred to as a sort of ceremony. What she describes is unelaborate, but the sacredness of it is so apparent. Danielle received a mother-daughter necklace and the Peter Rabbit stuffed animal that had been in her daughter’s bassinet at the hospital, and Danielle placed Alyssa Danielle in her adoptive mother’s arms. (And yes, the adoptive parents chose “Danielle” to be her middle name. I’m not crying, you’re crying.)
“That whole transition was really emotional…I felt so sad to lose my child but so happy that she was going to a great family who so badly desired a child.”
Danielle says these bittersweet emotions could also be seen on the adoptive mother’s face: happiness over holding her new child mixed with sadness for Danielle.
In the midst of all these hard emotions, Danielle says the things that helped her the most were the things that helped her feel connected with her daughter:
“My counselor encouraged me to write my child a letter about why I chose adoption. Over the next week, I don’t think I could write anything. I was pretty emotional; I just cried holding on to that stuffed animal and wearing that necklace. I don’t think I took the necklace off for two years, not even for showers.”
In addition to the letter, the necklace, and the stuffed animal, Danielle says she had made her daughter a quilt. This provided a connection back to her for her daughter.
Being a Mother
Danielle had chosen an open adoption, which meant that she would get to have an ongoing relationship with her daughter as she grew.
Especially at first, this was hard.
“She looked bigger already in two weeks, and there were so many emotions around that. The first few times after leaving our visits, I just cried.”
Despite how painful this time was, it’s clear that Danielle looks back on her journey with few regrets. Danielle and her daughter – now an adult – have a wonderful relationship. She attributes this to the honest way they approached their relationship.
That honesty led to this special moment. When Alyssa was still very little, Danielle watched her for a week while her adoptive parents were on a trip. At the grocery store, a woman commented that Alyssa looked “just like her mother.” Alyssa didn’t skip a beat. “That’s not my mom,” she said. “That’s my birth mom. My mom went on an airplane.” This was the moment that Danielle knew Alyssa would be okay. Alyssa understood, in her own way, that their family was special, and that she had the love of two mothers.
Is adoption right for you?
We’re so glad you’ve taken the time to read Danielle’s powerful story. It can offer wonderful insight into what it looks like to place a child for adoption. We hope her story has encouraged you and offered you hope today.
If you are pregnant and would like to speak with someone about your options, ArborWoman is here for you. Our licensed counselors and nurses are here to listen to you right where you are at, and help you move forward with hope. If you’d like to learn more about the adoption process or get connected with an adoption counselor, contact Bethany Christian Services at 800-238-4269.