“I was in labor until the morning of December 4,” wrote Sandra, Texas Search Angel, blogger and birth parent. “They got a wheelchair, took me to my room and left me there. I was by myself with no one to talk to or ask questions.”
In the early days of adoption, placing a child was a hushed, secretive process. There was a great deal of shame associated with the process, both on the part of parents who weren’t able to conceive and the pregnant and unmarried birth mother.
Historically, all adoptions were closed, which meant no contact between birth and adoptive parents before or after adoption. For a long time, this was seen as the right approach, one that was in the best interests of everyone involved. In hindsight, it’s clear it has not necessarily been the case and some people have been hurt by it in different and lasting ways. Sandra is one of them.
In December 1976, 17-year-old Sandra made the decision to place her baby for adoption, and selected Methodist Mission Home. Years later, in her blog, Natural Mothers Dream of Hope, she writes of her intense and difficult grieving process due to lack of information about her son. She was a changed person after she returned from San Antonio.
“A long time after I got back, I wouldn’t go anywhere or do anything. I wanted to be alone…I was very depressed not knowing what was going on with Michael…,” she wrote. Her blog continued: “In the beginning, I said I would never search for my son because I thought I had no right to do so.”
But, 21 years later, on January 15, 1997, she received a letter from Methodist Mission Home requesting information concerning her son. “I knew when I got that letter that something was seriously wrong with him or they wouldn’t have notified me for an updated medical history,” she said. “When I was told about my son’s cancer all I could think was: ‘My God, he’s going to die and he will never know how much I loved him.’” Months went by, and she found herself suffering from depression complicated by feelings of low self-esteem brought on by guilt.
Sandra’s experience describes a birth mother’s pain, but the truth is that the child and the adoptive family can also hurt because of closed adoption. Studies show some adoptees struggle with personal identity because they don’t understand why they were adopted. When there are no answers, the pain deepens.
For adoptive parents who didn’t know anything about their son or daughter’s medical or general histories, lack of knowledge was one of the most stressful aspects of a closed adoption. Sandra’s testimony made it clear her son’s adoptive parents needed immediate medical information for the illness of their son. There used to be fear the birth mother would change her mind, often born of lack of understanding of the birth mother’s true wishes for the future of her baby – a life of more opportunity than she could provide.
It is heartbreaking to hear from birth mothers like Sandra who suffered so acutely, but there’s a happy ending — a few years later, she managed to find her son through different websites and they are now reunited. Providence Place is proud to be a leader in open adoption in Texas, helping birth mothers to stay in touch with their babies, and helping adopted children know more about their background.
Today, adopted children can grow up knowing the generous story of their birth parents and adoptive parents coming together to ensure a loving and supportive childhood. Research shows adopted children placed through modern adoption processes thrive. Today, Providence Place has many adult adoptees who know their birth mothers, but also speak with great gratitude for education and stability their adoptive parents provided and that would not have come their way had their birth mother not made a courageous and selfless choice for adoption.