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The Double-Edged Sword of Adoption No One Ever Talks About

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mother and newborn baby
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I first met my daughter’s other mother at the hotel she was staying a week before giving birth. I was picking her up for lunch at what was meant to be our chance to get to know each other … and her opportunity to decide if she wanted me to adopt her baby.

I had no idea what to expect from that first lunch meeting. I wasn’t working with an adoption agency and I hadn’t planned on adopting a newborn. Our meeting was the result of a random introduction by a coworker who knew that I couldn’t have kids, and also knew this woman was looking for someone to adopt hers.

No one had trained me on how to talk to a prospective birth mother. In a lot of ways, I think that was for the best. I wasn’t putting on a show, and neither was she. We were both just there, raw and in the moment.

Not knowing what to expect, we could have hated each other. We could have found we had nothing in common and sat uncomfortably together for the hour that followed.

But that day something magical happened. Instead of dwelling on all the ways we were different, we latched onto the similarities we shared. The hopes this woman had for the daughter she was carrying perfectly aligned with my own dreams of motherhood. We both had a passion for writing. We were both fairly open books.

” … I’m pretty sure God wants you to be my baby’s mother.”

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By the end of that lunch, we’d shed more than our fair share of tears. Happy tears. Tears of grief. Tears of relief in realizing this was a good fit. Tears in determining once and for all that this was the way it was supposed to be.

“I’m not sure if you believe in God,” she told me, “but I’m pretty sure God wants you to be my baby’s mother.” A week later, I was.

She called me at midnight to tell me she’d been admitted to the hospital. The baby was coming, and she wanted me there. I quickly jumped in the shower and threw together a bag. For a few hours, she and I sat in that hospital room and chatted between contractions.

As labor progressed, she requested an epidural and the nurses shuffled me out. The plan was that she would give birth alone. She said she was embarrassed to have anyone there; she was too modest. Part of me got the impression she was maybe punishing herself a little as well. Either way, it was her decision to make, and I supported her in however she wanted this to go.

But just before the baby was born, a nurse came to get me. “She changed her mind,” she told me. “She said that she realized if her first baby was being born, she would want to be there. So she asked me to come get you.” I started crying. Of course I started crying. In a daze, I followed the nurse back to the delivery room.

In the 30 minutes that followed, I held her hand and rubbed her back, but mostly felt helpless as she writhed in pain and pushed when doctors told her to. No matter how hard I tried to respect her modesty and not look, once things got going, there was no avoiding the miracle that was now on full display. Thankfully at that point, she didn’t seem to care.

In those last minutes, my whole heart was with this woman exhibiting a strength and fierceness unlike anything I’d ever witnessed. Pushing a baby out is intense, and I was in awe of her. And then in an instant, our daughter was born and the whole world shifted.

I held that little girl in my arms and cried and kissed her all over, completely oblivious to the fact that she was covered in another woman’s bodily fluids. I followed as she was weighed and washed. I held her against me again once she was handed back. And only when her other mother asked to see her did I remember we weren’t alone.

Initially, she had been adamant about not wanting to hold this little girl, but that changed once she was in that room with her. I handed her little swaddled body over, and together we passed her back and forth for the next several hours as we talked about the future and how it all would be.

In that time, something shifted between us. It wasn’t just the two of us forging a friendship anymore. Now there was another person there — a little life we were both tethered to.

The best thing to ever happen to me was also one of the worst things to ever happen to her.

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Every time our daughter cried, I could see her other mama fighting the instinctual urge to get up and soothe her. And as I fell more in love with this child and my joy soared in conjunction with that love, I could see grief washing over her other mama by the second.

That was when it hit me: The best thing to ever happen to me was also one of the worst things to ever happen to her.

My daughter’s other mother never wavered in her decision; there was never a moment of hesitation on her part. “This is the right choice,” she told me again and again. But there was grief. There was heartbreak and sadness mirrored against my own elation, and none of it was really fair to her at all.

Our relationship shifted in the days, weeks, months, and years that followed. I still felt a connection to her, but once that little girl was in my arms, it was harder. The adoption wasn’t final until our daughter was just over 3 months old. I felt guarded during that time, always afraid that something could change.

And I was jealous. Every time she visited, every time she held our little girl, I was jealous of the connection they shared. I was envious of what it meant for her to carry this little girl I loved with all my heart for nine months before I’d even known about her.

Once the adoption was finalized, and as our little girl grew older and our connection solidified, I think that jealousy shifted, too. It became easier for me to spend time with my daughter’s other mother, but I believe it became harder for her.

The visits and calls became fewer and further between. To protect herself, she had to pull away.

It was all so much more complicated than I ever realized it would be. The love was there, it still is, but none of it is easy. Today our daughter is almost 5 years old, and the bond we have as mother and child is incredibly tight. We have a good life. A happy life. A life that is full of joy and love.

“I picked right,” her other mama told me on the phone about a year ago. But she said it through tears with her voice breaking as she spoke.

It’s still not easy for her. Maybe it won’t ever be. Maybe it’s not meant to be.

But the juxtaposition between her sorrow and my joy has never seemed right, and there’s nothing I can ever really do to repair that.

So I do the only thing I can do. I keep loving and caring for this little girl who means the world to us both. I keep moving forward and leaving the ball in her court.

I keep letting her know that we’re here if and when she wants to be part of our lives. And I’ll understanding when she can’t be. Because sometimes, it might just be too hard for her to see our joy pitted up against her sorrow.

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