Imagine the pain of placing your baby into someone else's arms, who they would call their mom for the rest of their life, and having to sort out how to cope with that kind of pain. This is something that I, under unfortunate circumstances, was faced with deciding when pregnant with my third child. The final decision was that yes, I would have to do something that would hurt more than labor itself.
Going into it, I knew it would be the most difficult thing I'd ever do. I had no idea the traumas and troubles I would face. It took a few days to muster the courage to reach out and find an agency to work with.
When I made initial contact with the adoption agency, I expected negativity; perhaps a cold distance due to making a decision that people would likely frown upon. Even though the agency dealt with women like me all of the time, I had no idea how I would be treated. They're not required to cater to me; if anything, all catering should have been going to the adoptive parents. I felt like such a horrible person, but I had to make the connection and begin the process before it was too late. Anxiety ruled every moment I spent on the agency's website entering my information and requesting to be contacted.
The first contact I had was a woman named Becky. To my delight, text contact was an option, so I was able to ease into acquainting myself with her in a more comfortable manner. We arranged for her to meet at my home to discuss the ins and outs of open adoption and review family profiles together so I could select a couple. She was a kind social worker, but my guard was up. What if she harbored animosity toward me for being the type of person who couldn't raise her third child? I was anxious and my brain concocted numerous terrible thoughts she must have had about me.
Imagine my surprise when she showed nothing but grace and kindness as we reviewed family profiles. She provided personal opinions and asked plenty of questions about the ideal family that would raise my baby. After I selected the family I'd place my child with, with her invaluable input, she reviewed packets of research about the grief a birth parent experiences. She was in no rush to leave. She spent as much time as I needed reviewing everything I needed to know. Becky was honest with much compassion woven into the research she shared with me. When she left that day, I felt two emotions simultaneously: hope and fear.
When the time came to give birth, she arrived at the hospital several hours after my birth son's parents. I know this was part of her job as the social worker to a birth mom, but I don't believe it was part of her job to be as caring as she was. She held the baby, cooed over his beauty, remarked on his features and who they resembled, and treated me like a worthwhile human despite my feelings of inadequacy. She mentored me every step of the way leading up to that day, and after that, I expected very little.
When the court hearing came up to finalize signing my rights over officially, Becky was there for support. She advised me on how the hearing would go and remained close to let me know I wasn't alone. When all was said and done and my heart was torn into pieces, she took me out to lunch before running out to obtain resources to help my family get through the difficulties that would follow.
I remember sitting in that little hole-in-the-wall diner, waiting for her to return, thinking how wonderful it was to have this kind of guidance in the worst time of my life. After we departed, I had no expectations for further contact. Her work was done.
Becky surprised me further by continuing her dedication to mentoring me. In the months following the court hearing, she would text to check in on me and my mental health. She invited me to lunch when she was in town and we spoke at length about how I was doing. She informed me of birth mom events and even invited me to speak at an event due to her faith in my strength as a birth mom. She believed in me and she let me know it.
Becky provided insights I hadn't considered and such a deep understanding of my position in this situation, I felt that I was truly cared about as a birth mom. She helped to get me involved in a private group for birth moms who placed through the agency she worked for, hoping to give me the connections I needed in such a hard time. This resource helped me through many dark, depressing moments when I needed others who understood.
Every conversation we had never ended with me feeling like anything less than a good woman who made a strong, difficult decision. I admired her for her dedication and it wasn't a dedication to her job...it truly felt like dedication to me. I suppose growing up and knowing that adoption was a taboo subject in earlier times gave me the expectation of being mistreated and shunned, pushed under a rug so others weren't uncomfortable with the pain that came with being a birth mother. Her advice, love, and devotion to my happiness helped keep me together when everything was falling apart.
It's been six years since placement and today, I'm friends with her on social media. When I see her face pop up on my news feed, I'm always reminded of love, understanding, acceptance, and empathy. I don't know if she realizes what an impact she made on me during those times, but when I started to think of mentors in my life who made a difference, she was the first one to come to mind.
Maybe a lot of social workers for birth parents are like her; maybe they're not. What I do know is she was given to me to mentor me through something heartbreaking and it was a beautiful fate to be paired with a whole, genuinely golden heart who looked at me as more than a woman at her worst. She saw the best in me, and she was my hero in every sense of the definition.
To my wonderful Becky: thank you. I know you would never ask for repayment for all of that emotional support, but if I could give you any gift in the world that would prove it, I would. You are a shining light that I am grateful to have felt the warmth of when I felt cold and alone.