Sunday, May 27, 2012

It's been 5 years since I last posted...

It's been 5 years since I posted on here!! That would be a whole lot'a life going on for the last few years.  Over all in reference to adoption things are the same :)

My daughter who I raised is graduating from college next week.  Off to college in just a couple months. My daughter who I placed for adoption 21 almost 22 years ago is very much in our lives fact she will be here visiting us in less than a week for the graduation. 

I'm feeling like I need to re-energize my spirit to this cause.  I have strong passion for my opinion's on this open adoption subject and need to put my energy toward this cause again.

More to come soon.......

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I need to make some things clear...

My blog address has been included in the new article that I had published in Adoptive Families Mag. I want to quickly make clear a couple things that aren't in that article and that matter to me. First of all I in no way shape or form believe that adoption is some perfect option for tough times. Sometimes...many times to be with the natural parent even if times are hard is a Much better option. It is my opinion that if the adoption can not be open with all family members (natural and adoptive) concidering eachother as family than in MANY cases adoption will be very damaging to the adoptive child and not live up to the dreams an adoptive family may have had. I would be happy to dig into this deeper but I have a daughter that needs to play the flute in this room and well...I'm not going to be able to think, type and listen all at once. Please feel free to leave comments and we'll see if I can get back to being active in the field I care so much about!!

Thanks to all of you who have stayed checking in with me through out this last year that I haven't been so on top of things...and welcome any newbies that are first time visitors due to my article!!


I GOT published!! Adoptive Families Mag.

Here is the copy and pasted version of what is pubished this month in "Adoptive Families" Mag. I don't know how to put the PDF files on here with the picture and all but here is the story!!!

Promises Kept

The time I spent alone with my newborn daughter meant a

lot. But the fact that she has grown up knowing me has

meant the world. BY SHANNON THOMPSON

I wanted to take my baby home and spend two days alone with her before she began

life with her new adoptive parents.

Everybody said it was an impossible

dream. But I found a way.

Growing up, I remember wondering who

I was, whom I looked like. I had been adopted

at birth, but my adoption was far from open.

Seventeen years later, and only two weeks

before I was due to give birth to my first

child, I made the difficult decision to place

the baby for adoption.

Determined that my

daughter would not grow

up without knowing her

birthmother, the way I

had, I thought about

what I'd need to help me

go through with an

adoption plan. I decided

that I needed time to

say my own goodbye.

Lisa and Charlie, the

couple the agency

found to be my baby's

parents, understood

this, and agreed to let

me spend two days

alone with my child.

My due date

came, and I gave

birth to an eightpound,

six-ounce girl

via Cesarean section.

Lisa and Charlie

arrived on the day of her birth. They

had driven through the night, from

Idaho to Montana, to become parents

for the first time, and I could sense

their excitement. Chariti was beautiful

and perfectly healthy from the

moment she entered the world. I was

the one who had to spend seven days in the hospital

recovering. But when I was finally ready to

go home, I didn't have to go alone.

Lisa and Charlie, who both have beautiful

voices, had been scheduled to sing at a friend's

wedding back home soon after Chariti's birth.

But when it became clear that I'd just be getting

out of the hospital on the day of the performance,

they cancelled it. They were committed

to giving me the two days I'd asked for, and

never pressured me to change the plan or cut

short my time alone with my daughter.

Goodbye, for now

The two days I spent with my baby will always

stay in my heart. But they convinced me that I

wasn't ready to be a mother.

At 17, barely able to take care

of myself, I got up every three

hours to feed, rock, and hold

this tiny baby. I felt the

weight of it all in those 48

hours. A baby would depend

on me to survive, but I did not

have the focus or strength to

meet her needs. No matter

how badly it hurt, I knew

then that an adoption was

the right thing to do.

The day finally came to

let go. I was up for most of the

night before, feeding my hungry

child. But even if Chariti

had slept soundly, I wouldn't

have been able to, because I

couldn't stop thinking about

the future. I vividly remember

the thoughts that ran

through my head: Will this

really be as open as I would

like it to be? Will Chariti hate me and feel that

adoption is a terrible thing? What if I place

this child and never have another one? This

tiny being is the only person on earth that I

know to be my own blood and bone. Is this

really going to be OK?

There was a knock on the door, and my

heart sank Still, I already loved these wonderful

I had been

adopted at

birth, but my

adoption was

far from open.

I wanted my


experience to

be different.

people. I didn't want to hurt them by changing my mind, especially

since I knew I couldn't be the kind of parent I wanted

Chariti to have.

There were pictures and promises, tears and smiles. I was

nervous about saying goodbye, but excited for what lay ahead for

them. It struck me, at that moment, that "giving a child up" is

the wrong terminology. This adoption was not about "giving up"

anything, but about gaining an extended family.

I took our baby outside and put her in her tiny car seat. I

buckled her in, kissed her over and over, and couldn't stop

repeating, "I love you, baby...always." I hoped that, somewhere in

her nine-day-old mind, she'd remember this and understand

that I really did love her.

When Charlie shut the car door, it was as if a dam had broken.

I'd been strong until that moment, but I couldn't hold back

any longer. My tears started falling and didn't stop for hours. I

yelled, "I love you!" one last time, but I wasn't afraid that this

adoption would turn out like mine. I would know this beautiful

child, and she would know me. I was giving Chariti a life she

couldn't otherwise have, and I had faith that Lisa and Charlie

would keep me in her life. This would not be the last time she'd

hear me say that I loved her.

The car pulled away, and the first day of the rest of my

daughter's life began.

Life goes on

Years have flown by, and all the promises we made that morning

were kept. In some weeks, months, and years we have been

in closer contact than in others, but we always knew how to

reach one another. The last time we saw each other was when

our families had Thanksgiving dinner together in 2005, and

we're planning a visit for this coming spring.

Our relationship continues to evolve. Chariti and I are now

best friends on MySpace and correspond frequently. When I

think of my daughter now—16 years old, confident, beautiful—

she is everything I could have ever wanted her to be and more. I

have never regretted my decision to place her for adoption, and

I believe that's because there has been no mystery, no secrecy, no

wondering. She's known me all her life.

SHANNON THOMPSON is a freelance writer currently working on a book.

Read her blog at She lives in Missoula,

Montana, and is parenting her 12-year-old daughter.


I couldn't stop repeating,

"I love you, baby...always."

I hoped that, somewhere

in her nine-day-old mind,

she'd understand

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Being both adopted in a very closed adoption that I don't thing was healthy AT ALL And a mother to a beautiful daughter I placed with an adoptive family almost 16 years ago which IS very open this word adoption means two different things to me. Today on one of the groups I belong to they set it up for us to write what adoption means to us and this is what I wrote.

A nother option
D ividing families
O penness is the only way
P rotecting children
T ool when needed
I ntense emotions on all sides
O nly when there is true love between all families
N ever should be closed in anyway

There’s my shot at it. Hope it doesn't offend anyone. Please remember that I feel adoption is great when a woman makes that decision on her own and when the families have love for one another. That a child doesn't grow up in the dark or feeling uncomfortable wondering about what everyone wonders about naturally. When a child can get the answers they need from the right source their mothers and fathers, natural and adopted. When it is needed and allowed to be open it is a successful way to save a child’s chance in this world but when it isn't it can ruin what chance there may have ever been.

Monday, April 10, 2006

This beautiful card I sent my friend

I received some very bad news this week. My father in Libya was hit by a car and killed...before I was ever able to meet him. Ohhh it hurts so bad...but it is life and what do you do??

I sent this card to my friend and I try and read it everyday myself....I think it's so true and maybe is helping me get through these very trying times...

I beg have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, with out even noticing it, live your way into the answer...
(rainer maria rilke)

Friday, March 31, 2006

Some Great Advice!

The A, B, C's of SEARCHING

A. Anything can and usually does happen when you're searching. If
you're not prepared to deal with the truth of your life, you're not
ready to search. Your natural mother could be dead or may not want to
meet you. Chances are she's alive, living a normal life and is as
anxious to meet you as you are to meet her.

B. Natural mothers never forget. Tucked away somewhere is her memory of
you. It reappears on your birthday and on the day she surrendered you.

C. Cry a lot and laugh a lot during your search. It's healing.

D. Don't expect a reunion to solve all your problems. It won't.
Searching will make you stronger and may answer questions you may have
about yourself, but it will also bring new complications to your life
and possibly new relationships you'll have to deal with.

E. Expect to feel very emotional as your search progresses. It's common
to feel a lot of grief--anger, sadness, hopelessness--as you proceed on
your search.

F. Feelings mean you're doing your work. If you're not feeling
anything, chances are you're running from something. Expect to feel
tremendous highs when you uncover new information on your search and
tremendous lows when you find yourself up against a wall.

G. Go to meetings, get search help and talk about your experience. It
helps to talk to people who are in the same boat as you or who have
gone through their own searches.

H. Hold on, you move too fast. Chances are you haven't dealt with the
intensity of emotions you may experience on your search. Searching can
often feel like a roller-coaster ride. Sometimes by slowing down, and
by not being in such a hurry to have all the information at once,
overwhelming feelings may subside.

I. Inventiveness pays off. You have to be active in your search. Those
who stay on the sidelines don't find. Searching doesn't go by the
numbers. The more inventive you and your search helper are, the better
are your chances of having a successful reunion.

J. Join a search/support group (like Crossroads); people who search
through a group have a better chance of finding and a better chance of
a good reunion.

K. Keep good records. Don't throw away anything that might later
provide an essential clue.

L. Adoptees should listen to the experience of natural mothers in the
group. Chances are you've never met a natural mother--and known it.
This is your opportunity to gain some valuable insights into your own
natural mother. Chances are she didn't give you up because she didn't
love you

M. Meetings. Meetings. Meetings. They provide a safe place to explore
your adoption experience and to gain support from others who are going
through their own search processes.

N. Nice people tend to have smoother reunions. It's understandable to
experience rage at what has happened to you and at your natural mother.
Deal with the feelings of rage as much as you can before you approach
your natural mother. Chances are you'll get off on a better foot that

O. Only the beginning ... Searching is not the end, it's only the

P. People who don't understand are best left out of the search process.
Expect to hear some people tell you have no right to search for your
natural family, that you are being disloyal and ungrateful to your
adoptive family and that you will destroy your natural mom's life by
revealing her secret. natural mothers don't die from being "exposed."
Experience shows that many natural mothers, once they overcome the
fear, want very much to meet their sons and daughters. Your adoptive
parents won't die because you search, either. It may be painful for
them, but it's your right to search and to know the truth of your life.

Q. Quitting won't get you anywhere. Expect to have powerful feelings of
wanting to quit your search at times, especially if it becomes lengthy
or difficult. You don't have to quit, but sometimes if the emotions
become too intense, you might want to slow the pace of your search and
come to more meetings as a way of understanding what you're feeling.

R. Rejection is every adoptee's middle name. Expect to feel a lot of
fears of rejection as you search. But you will find yourself growing
stronger at every step as you confront these fears. Expect to feel
afraid that your natural mother or adoptive family will reject you for
searching. Chances are this won't happen.

S. Sad as it is to accept, adoption is not all it's cracked up to be.
Your experience hasn't been perfect, and a lot of things have happened
to cause you pain. To believe that your adoption experience has been
perfect is to be in denial. By being in denial you are running away
from painful feelings about yourself and about your life. Running only
makes it worse.

T. Therapists are often useful when you're searching. They can help you
deal with the confusing feelings you may experience. Seeing a therapist
doesn't mean you're sick. It just means you're trying to take care of
your emotional life and to learn more about yourself.

U. Understanding will be a valuable asset when you meet your natural
mother. As you go through your search, you are preparing yourself for
your reunion. Your natural mother is not. She is probably still
in "hiding" and has not conscious idea that you are searching for her.
Occasionally, natural mothers and adoptees do look for each other.

V. Voice your feelings when you go to support group meetings. As hard
as it is to share painful feelings, sharing them will help you deal
with your emotions.

W. Wounds from adoption take time to heal. Be kind to yourself.

X. Xpect to feel that your natural mother is dead. It goes through
everyone's mind. She's probably not dead, but if she is you may have
the opportunity to meet siblings, aunts and uncles and even your
natural father.

Y. You won't die from your feelings. You may feel like you're going to
die during your search experience, but unless you walk in front of a
runaway truck...

Z. Zzzzzz Zzzzzz Zzzzz. Sleep a lot while you're searching. It's a
tiring experience, both physically and emotionally.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Adoption in Islam

This was posted today in a group I belong to that is very Anti-Adoption. I find this especially interesting because I am Arabic. My father was an exchange student in his first year when my mother got pregnant. I didn't know I was Arab until I was 16 and a letter surfaced that my parents had since I was 6 years old. I didn't know what country until I was 25 and found my mother. I'm 32 now and have tryed to connect with some of my culture but the Arab-Americans that I meet don't understand really when I tell them that I'm arab, but my name is Shannon and I haven't met my father face to face yet. So I'm not Arab enough to even get to learn about being arab and I'm not all american white girl enough for these people in Montana...not that I want to be. I've found my own place being proud for being different but... anyway I find this article to be EXTREMELY interesting.

Adopting a Child in Islam

Islamic legal rulings about foster parenting and adoption
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once said that a person who cares for an orphaned child will be in Paradise with him, and motioned to show that they would be as close as two fingers of a single hand. An orphan himself, Muhammad paid special attention to the care of children. He himself adopted a former slave and raised him with the same care as if he were his own son.

However, the Qur'an gives specific rules about the legal relationship between a child and his/her adoptive family. The child's biological family is never hidden; their ties to the child are never severed. The Qur'an specifically reminds adoptive parents that they are not the child's biological parents:

"...Nor has He made your adopted sons your (biological) sons. Such is (only) your (manner of) speech by your mouths. But Allah tells (you) the Truth, and He shows the (right) Way. Call them by (the names of) their fathers; that is juster in the sight of Allah. But if you know not their father's (names, call them) your brothers in faith, or your trustees. But there is no blame on you if you make a mistake therein. (What counts is) the intention of your hearts. And Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful."

(Qur'an 33:4-5)

The guardian/child relationship has specific rules under Islamic law, which render the relationship a bit different than what is common adoption practice today. The Islamic term for what is commonly called adoption is kafala, which comes from a word that means "to feed." In essence, it describes more of a foster-parent relationship. Some of the rules in Islam surrounding this relationship:

An adopted child retains his or her own biological family name (surname) and does not change his or her name to match that of the adoptive family.
An adopted child inherits from his or her biological parents, not automatically from the adoptive parents.
When the child is grown, members of the adoptive family are not considered blood relatives, and are therefore not muhrim to him or her. "Muhrim" refers to a specific legal relationship that regulates marriage and other aspects of life. Essentially, members of the adoptive family would be permissible as possible marriage partners, and rules of modesty exist between the grown child and adoptive family members of the opposite sex.
If the child is provided with property/wealth from the biological family, adoptive parents are commanded to take care and not intermingle that property/wealth with their own. They serve merely as trustees.
These Islamic rules emphasize to the adoptive family that they are not taking the place of the biological family -- they are trustees and caretakers of someone else's child. Their role is very clearly defined, but nevertheless very valued and important.

It is also important to note that in Islam, the extended family network is vast and very strong. It is rare for a child to be completely orphaned, without a single family member to care for him or her. Islam places a great emphasis on the ties of kinship -- a completely abandoned child is practically unheard of. Islamic law would place an emphasis on locating a relative to care for the child, before allowing someone outside of the family, much less the community or country, to adopt and remove the child from his or her familial, cultural, and religious roots. This is especially important during times of war, famine, or economic crisis -- when families may be temporarily uprooted or divided.

My previous post

I just posted an article about a disaster open adoption. Believe me when I tell you there are more possible things that can and sometimes will go wrong than we can imagine. Just to clarify what I believe needs to happen compared to what was sold to this girl as open adoption. My belief is that if a person is going to adopt a child that they need to be choosen by a natural mother that finds things that they may have in comman. I believe those parties need to meet, spend time together and truly love one another, relize how important it is to have all of these people in this childs life. I believe if adopted parents don't feel that way toward the natural parents or if they feel fear, selfishness, jealousy of the natural parents or visa versa this move should NOT be made. Now of course some people are going to pretend to feel one way to get what they want and then change their mind... This is why the laws need to support whatever the agreement was that the parties came up with before birth.
The adopted mother on this story sounds like a very greedy, selfish person. I'm so sorry for the natural mother that lost her heart and life behind all of this. The stats saying 80% end up closed makes me sick in my stomach. It is NOT ok to lie to a natural mother than leave her out there like that...what I would like to say though is for the 20% that are going as great is it for their children that they are growing up not wondering and feeling true love from all parties. How many natural mothers committed suicide just over wondering...we would never hear that story.
This story is sad and proves how much needs to change...but can't we see the little change that is happening is great for those children!!

Pitfalls of Open Adoption

In Memoriam: Cindy Jordan
The lure and pitfalls of open adoption

Most pregnant women who are contemplating adoption for their child are aware that there are various formulas from which they can choose. An increasingly popular form of adoption is what is known as "open adoption", in which the parties agree to varying degrees of openness toward each other with respect to their identities and whereabouts, and to varying degrees of ongoing contact after placement. In fact, the possibility of having an open adoption and thus ensuring ongoing contact with their child after his or her adoption is a deciding factor for many women who would otherwise keep their baby.

If you are an unsupported pregnant woman looking into adoption and you think this kind of arrangement sounds like the best of both worlds, you should know that if you select this path, the arrangement you will be arriving at with your child's adoptive parents will not be legally enforceable. You will be literally at the mercy of your child's adoptive parents' willingness to allow you access to your child as promised.

One American source suggests as many as 80% of 'open adoptions' are unilaterally closed by adoptive parents in the first year after the adoption is finalized. These just aren't good odds for a mother contemplating adoption for her child. Chances are, if they promise you'll get to visit your child, you won't. Some 'open adoptions' are only a letter or a photo once or twice a year. Even in these types of adoption, adoptive parents often renege. The grief of mothers who lose their children again in these ways is increased by the knowledge that their 'choice' is not respected, and that people who don't respect their own promises are raising their children.

You should also be aware that some unscrupulous prospective adoptive parents and "adoption facilitators" use the lure of open adoption to convince pregnant women to place their babies for adoption, knowing all the while that they have no intention of honoring their promises.

Sometimes, failure to live up to such agreements can have tragic consequences. Cindy Jordan, the natural mother of 3-year-old Malia, took her own life on April 8th , and the pitfalls of open adoption may have played a role in her untimely death.

Cindy's daughter, Malia, was placed in a semi-open adoption with Susan Burns, whose book entitled "Fast Track Adoption" was published last December. Here is how Amazon describes "Fast Track Adoption":

Most couples in the U.S. have to wait up to seven years to adopt an infant domestically-and all the expense and waiting doesn't always result in a successful adoption. Now, rather than relying on slow-paced and expensive adoption agencies, many couples are choosing to privately adopt a child. By eliminating the adoption agency, couples can customize and control their own adoption plan.

Inside this book, couples will learn how becoming proactive in the adoption process may significantly speed up the adoption. Following the Fast Track method, readers will learn how to:

Establish a budget
Assemble a professional team
Obtain an approved home study
Prepare an effective family profile
Advertise for and talk to potential birth mothers
Detect warning signs for frauds and scams
Be prepared at the hospital
With this book as their guide, potential parents can actively pick their own birth mother. By doing so, couples will save time and money, reduce stress, and, most importantly, find a baby to adopt.

If you think that this sounds like a blueprint for manipulating the adoption process and a vulnerable pregnant woman to your advantage, you are right. The press release on "Fast Track Adoption" was written by Laurie Frisch, of Origins USA.

Cindy, who had by then begun her descent into depression following the unilateral closing of her daughter's adoption by Ms. Burns, found out by accident about the book. Here is a posting she wrote to an on-line group she belonged to, after reading the book written by her daughter's adoptive mother and finding out about the method used to obtain her daughter:

I am lost again . I so much do not even know what to think .. I know now that all the bonding they did with me was all part of a plan .. a plan to make me feel good at the time .. and to "ensure" a successful candidate for placement .. I feel sick ..

This is a specific on-line comment that Cindy made about Susan Burns:

…with Sue I gave more I gave a part of me . and I thought she liked me for me but if you like someone you want to interact with them not forget they exist…

To find out more about Cindy Jordan, please follow this link:

May you rest in peace Cindy. You are not forgotten.

April 2004

"What you should know if you're considering adoption for your baby"... Heather Lowe

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Open Adoption

I just posted one of the most beautiful stories of open adoption I have read!! I've lived this myself so I know it is possible. The things is I've been beat up on a bit by people who hate me or dislike my message because they say, adoption is not beautiful and that Love is not the answer.

This child is still young but as an adoptee I have no dout this child will NOT have the issues created for me because of adoption. I grew up curious and lost in wonder why? and who? All of which created all kinds of closeness in relationship problems, trust problems and feelings of abandonment. When a child does know where they came from and heard it from that persons mouth why they had been placed. They experience and feel the love from that party as well, they don't wonder and wish their whole lives. They don't have to search as an adult and have unrealistic expectations that don't end up being true to only feel unwanted again. They will always know.

Over the past 4 months or so I have been very active on line about what I wish to see the adoption industry do more of and have been attacked time and time again by people who say that adoption is not beautiful and that Love is not the answer and that I sound corny and undereducated for saying such things.

This story as well as the one I have lived (not to mention many others people have shared with me) proves it. Love, true love for other people involved is what works.

I feel like this. If you can't find a family that you love I mean really really love and are ready to be a part of their lives for life than you should NOT be placing your child. If you want to adopt and you don't LOVE, again, Really really love the woman who is giving birth to that child and are prepared to have her in your life for good, then you shouldn't adopt. You shouldn't agree to open adoption just to get a child and not really like the woman who is giving birth to that baby.
IT IS NOT WHAT IS BEST FOR THE CHILD! What is best is this love...As these women in this story have and as I do with the family who has been parents to my daughter for 15 years now.

So call me corny for saying love is the answer or even say I sound undereducated but it is the TRUTH!!

The most Beautiful open adoption story!!

Open adoption, broken heart
I knew it would be hard for my daughter's birth mother to give her up. I just didn't expect to feel so guilty for taking her.

By Dawn Friedman

March 8, 2006 | The first time I met my daughter, Madison, she wasn't mine yet and I wasn't sure she would ever be. I stared into her solemn face and looked shyly at her mother, Jessica.

"Can I pick her up?" I asked.

"Of course," she said proudly.

There was nothing about her that was familiar -- not her round face, her tuft of hair, the heft of her body. When I gazed at her, I felt enormous tenderness and the quiet stirring of potential love, but I didn't know her. And I was afraid to look too closely because I knew that, just as I had felt the shift and click of my son's life falling into place after his birth seven years before, so Jessica was coming to know Madison. All those months, she had thought she was carrying just any baby when all along it was Madison. She was saying to her daughter what I had said to my son: "Oh, it was you!"

Adoption social workers say that every woman needs to say hello to her baby before she can know if she can say goodbye. But I wanted to say hello to Madison, too. I wanted to let myself fall in love with her. I wanted to unwrap her and examine each little limb, bury my face in her neck, let my fingers trail across her features. But she wasn't mine. I grieved her even as I knew she wasn't mine to grieve.

Three days after Madison's birth I watched my husband buckle her into the car seat, and then I climbed into the back seat beside her. I thought about Jessica, who we'd left sobbing in the maternity ward. I knew her arms were aching for her daughter, the daughter that was now ours.

"She's beautiful," I said to my husband. He glanced into the rearview mirror. "I know," he said. We sped through the gray morning, heading home.

"I feel like a kidnapper," I told him.

"I know," he said.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

My husband and I came to open adoption filled with hopeful naiveté. We tried for several years (and several miscarriages) to have a second child, but when our infertility doctor said we might need more extensive treatment, we decided to walk away. A few months later, we began to explore adoption. Foster-to-adopt, we decided, would be too emotionally risky for ourselves and, more importantly, for our then 6-year-old son. International adoption was too expensive. But when we found domestic infant adoption through a local nonprofit agency, we realized that we had found our way to be parents again.

We knew that our adoption would be at least semi-open. We would be sharing our vital statistics -- first names, ages, religion, as well as carefully chosen pictures -- with birth mothers, as per the agency's requirements. But we wanted more. We wanted a fully open adoption with an ongoing relationship and continuing contact. We wanted holiday visits, regular phone calls and even -- dare we hope -- contact with the extended birth family. We felt our baby-to-be would benefit from knowing his or her origins; we considered it a birthright. We also strongly believed birth parents were due some kind of relationship with their children and with their children's adoptive parents -- if they wanted one.

We weathered the fear-mongering tales of well-intentioned friends and acquaintances, people who had watched nightly news stories of toddlers snatched by their birth parents from adoptive families who had cared for them since birth. We listened as they wondered aloud what kind of woman would have the strength to walk away from her baby and then come back for occasional visits. "What if she kidnaps the baby?" they'd say. "What if she treats you like babysitters?"

Other adoptive parents we knew chose to go abroad in part because they were alarmed by the trend toward increasing openness in domestic infant adoptions. "Won't you feel jealous?" they'd ask. "Won't it confuse the child? What if your child likes her more than she likes you?"


I dismissed their concerns with all of the blind optimism of someone who had waited through four years of infertility for a baby and now finally thought she might get one. "Don't be surprised if you get placed quickly," our social worker told us. "Most adoptive parents aren't ready to be that open, and it's something a lot of birth mothers look for."

Our agency asked that each hopeful adoptive family put together what they called a profile and other adoption professionals sometimes call a "Dear Birth Mom" letter. (The reason they call it a profile, our agency explained, is that a pregnant woman considering adoption is not a birth mother; she is an expectant mother and should be respected as such.) When a woman came to the agency saying she was considering placing her child for adoption, they gathered at least five profiles to share with her. The profiles were pulled on the basis of any requirements that she might have. If a potential birth mother said she wanted an adoptive family where one parent was a teacher, only the teacher profiles would be pulled. If none of the profiles appealed to the woman, she could ask for more.

The profile contained information about us, about our path to adoption and our intentions as adoptive parents. And the profiles are usually printed out on pretty paper.

"Pretty paper?" I asked Denise, our social worker, when she gave us the instructions.

"It matters," she said. "You'd be surprised."

It was a lot of pressure to take to the stationery store. My son and I spent a long time analyzing our choices. I rejected the pastel baby feet as too pushy, the blue sky and clouds as too ethereal. I finally decided on white with a tasteful abstract green border. We made a dozen copies and dropped them off at the agency.

While our agency allowed "matches" as early as the seventh month, they stressed to us that a match was nothing more than a woman expressing her right to consider an adoption plan. It was not the promise of a baby, it was not a guarantee that we would be parents again.

"There is always a 50 percent chance that a woman who chooses you will change her mind," Denise made clear. "A real baby changes things and no matter how sure she is while she's pregnant, she will need to make that decision again once she has the baby." It was a common refrain from the agency during our wait: "Guard your heart," they told us. "The baby isn't yours until the papers are signed."

Seven months after completing our adoption homestudy, our social worker called. "There's a woman who seems like a good fit for you, and we would like to share your profile with her."

Jessica was 19, they told us, and African-American. The birth father, who was choosing not to be involved, was white, like us. The baby was healthy -- Jessica's prenatal care had been good. "And it says here what she's having," Denise added. "Do you want to know?"

We did. A girl, she told us, due April 4. A week later we got another call. Jessica wanted to meet with us.

Our agency facilitated our first meeting at a downtown restaurant. Jessica brought three of her closest friends, and we all sat across from each other fidgeting awkwardly. Jessica was polite, guarded but not shy, and greeted us with sonogram pictures of the baby she was carrying. She was due in two months and feeling good.

I liked Jessica right away. I liked her confidence and sense of humor. I liked her wide smile. And I liked how direct she was with us. "I'm going to name the baby Madison," she told us. "You can change it later but that's the name I'm going to give her."

When it was time to go we exchanged phone numbers and last names. Over the next few weeks she and I talked regularly -- not just about Madison but about other things, too. Politics, music, Jessica's plans to travel and go to school. One day I hung up the phone after a particularly long conversation and told my husband, "If she decides not to place Madison, she'll be a good mother."

We talked about the adoption, too, about what her plans were and why she chose us to be part of it. Those reasons are complex and not ones I feel I can share here.

"You already had a son," she said. " I liked knowing Madison would have a brother. I also liked what you said about including me. And the paper. I liked your paper. It was tasteful."

At the first meeting at the restaurant, Jessica told us that she knew she would want to be alone with Madison for the three days before she could legally sign the surrender. We said we understood. But the morning that Madison was born she called to say that she had changed her mind and wanted us to come in.

"I need to see you with her," she said simply.

Even after we arrived home with Madison, I could not get Jessica's tears out of my mind. I felt numb. I didn't know how to answer when people congratulated us. They saw only the happy event, but each time Madison cried I felt sure that every one of her ordinary infant sorrows was magnified by the separation from her birth mother. This was not the gauzy, soft-focus motherhood I had envisioned.

Jessica was everywhere because she was in my daughter. The shape of her brown eyes, the curve of her face -- they became mixed up in my mind. During every diaper change I'd gaze at Madison's small body and imagine how Jessica must have looked at one week old. They mirrored each other; the vulnerability of the mother who had given up her child and the child who had lost her mother.

"You need to move on," friends said. "You need to let Jessica move on. Quit taking her phone calls. Step up and be Madison's mother!" But no one could tell me how to be her mother when she already had a mother. I could care for her -- rock her, feed her, and sing her to sleep -- but something would not allow me to claim her.

Was it the phone calls? Jessica called about once a week to hear how Madison was doing and to tell me what was going on in her life. I kept my stories sweet and lively. She was working hard to put her life back in order and was forthright with me about her struggles. She missed Madison, she told me. The decision was the right one but oh, she missed her. I welcomed our talks even as I shrank from them. I felt it was my duty to hear her cry. It was the least I could do, I thought, because I had her baby. My guilt was a necessary purgatory, an inadequate payment for my privilege.

Each time, I would hang up determined to embrace Madison as my own. Jessica wanted me to be Madison's mother, didn't she? She chose me. She signed the papers. She had released her to me, and now I was failing her trust.

So I went through the motions. I sang to Madison so she would learn my voice. I strapped her to me and walked in circles so she would learn the rhythm of my movements. I hoped proximity would breed devotion. But I felt like a liar when we went out and people said what a pretty baby I had. Not my baby, I wanted to tell them, anxious not to take Jessica's credit.

"She even looks like you!" some gushed. Of course this wasn't true. Her smooth coffee-with-cream skin is nothing like my own rosy complexion. Such was their strong determination to fit her to our family.

"She looks just like her birth mother," I'd reply. I wanted them to see Jessica, to acknowledge her. I couldn't stand to have her obliterated, even in casual conversation. It was if they were trying to deny the truth of Madison, the fact of who she was beyond being my adoptive daughter. I didn't want to pretend that she came to us without her own history. But at the same time, polite society seemed to want to dismiss her origins. Per United States law, Madison's post-adoption birth certificate even listed me as the woman who gave birth to her.

The next time Jessica called, I tentatively told her how I was feeling. "I can't stop thinking about you and how hard this must be," I said, my voice cracking. "I know how sad you are..."

"I don't want you to feel guilty," Jessica admonished me. "I want you to love her. I need you to love her and be happy."

"But how can I be happy when you're hurting so much?" I asked.

"It's easier when I think of you cherishing her," she said. "I need you to do that for her and for me, too. I don't regret this."

I wanted it to make better sense. We didn't find Madison languishing in a destitute orphanage. She didn't come to us with a history of abuse and neglect. I didn't know how to justify this great gift of her presence in our lives at the expense of her mother. If there just something I could hang it on, an obvious reason that Madison was better off with us -- but there wasn't. There was just the word of her first mother who said, "This is what I need to do."

In my lowest moments, I would browse the list of adoptive parents on our agency's Web site. One night, I happened upon a profile of a fantastic family, African-American professionals who ran a newspaper and had a daughter the same age as my son. They should have gotten Madison, I thought. They were better educated than me, had better jobs -- and could give Madison the one thing I never could: a connection to the black community.

My friend Elisabeth, who used to do patient support at an abortion clinic, took me to task.

"This is a choice issue," she told me. "You keep telling me how strong and smart Jessica is, but you're second-guessing her. That's not fair."

"I just want us to both be winners in this," I said.

"There is more than one way to be a winner here," she replied. "Stop denigrating Jessica's decision."

I had been picturing the two of us balanced on opposite sides of a tipping scale. If one of us was the real mother, then the other one was not. If one of us was happy, then the other must be sad. But when I hung up with Elisabeth, I realized that I couldn't ease Jessica's struggle by taking it on as my own. Besides that's not what Jessica wanted; she did not want her sorrow to color these first months of Madison's life. It was my guilt that betrayed her, not my love for Madison.

When I stopped feeling so consumed by what Jessica had lost, I was able to find joy in what I gained, the everyday pleasures of parenting again -- dressing my daughter, giving her a bath. Certainly, with that joy came vulnerability and the insecurity my worried friends predicted. Sometimes I don't want to share Madison. Sometimes I want to feel that I am the only mother she has and will ever need. But even at it's most challenging, I still believe in openness. How much easier it will be for our daughter, I think, to never have to search for her roots. She will never have to wonder why her first mother chose adoption; she can ask her.


Jessica lives in our city and visits when her busy life allows, which ends up being about once a month, and we e-mail and phone more often. A few weeks ago she came over and made us jerk chicken with mango salsa; she is studying to be a chef. We joked that now we know where Madison gets her enthusiastic love of good food. After dinner I shared the beginnings of this essay with her and we cried a bit together.

"I didn't know it was so hard for you," she said.

"Well," I shrugged, helplessly. "I didn't know how to tell you."

Last summer Jessica and I took a trip to Washington together so Madison could meet her extended birth family. Jessica was hoping, in part, to show them that it had all worked out OK and that her decision to place Madison with us was a good one. As an interracial family already, the transracial aspect did not grieve them; it was the loss of this wondrous first grandchild to strangers. "When they see us together, how things are, they'll understand," Jessica assured me. Still we were both nervous.

The family reunion took place at a country club on a beautiful cool summer evening. It was amazing to meet people who looked like Jessica and thus just like Madison, too. I kept my camera ready. Madison, open and sunny, charmed everyone, and several people took me aside to thank me for making the trip. "It's my pleasure," I said honestly.

"She looks like her mother," said someone admiringly, and I felt the discomfort the comment left in the room. "Yes, she does," I rushed to say. "She has Jessica's beautiful smile." And they were generous with me, too. "Better ask your mommy," said Jessica's father when Madison reached for another slice of cake. Then he handed her to me although I know it pained him.

When the party spilled outdoors, Madison and Jessica wandered away to play in one of the sand traps on the club's golf course. I stood on the edge and snapped a series of pictures -- first Madison and Jessica crouching together to poke at the sand. Then Madison with her head thrown back to look up at Jessica while Jessica gazed down at her, smiling with great tenderness. Then a shot of Madison laughing and running away. Running toward me.

About the writer
Dawn Friedman lives and works in Columbus, Ohio.