The other day while sorting through my mail, I came across the newsletter for the open adoption agency for which I used to be a Birthparent Counselor. Their mail always causes my heart to ache a little bit. I loved the agency so much. The itty bitty staff was sincerely devoted to openness – true openness – in adoption and they put 110% into their work. Working for them felt like home but being a Birthparent Counselor required being on call around the clock and for me to do a good job, it had to become my life. Leaving the agency was one of the hardest parts of moving back to Massachusetts for me. I knew I would never find another agency like that. Anyways, I digress.
I took a deep breath and opened up the newsletter. There at the bottom of the 2nd page was a family I worked with while I was a Birthparent Counselor. Their beeming smiles and glowing faces warmed my heart and gave me something to feel good about at the end of my crappy day. As I reviewed the newsletter, the Sprint case flooded my mind.
Families at my adoption agency needed to create a scrapbook of themselves and a letter to the birthmom. All of the family books were loaded into a rolling suitcase and whenever a birthmother decided she wanted to select a family for her baby, I’d wheel the suitcase to her and let her review the books for days. Of course, I always reviewed the books too and from Day 1 had decided that if I were a birthmother looking for a family for my baby, the Sprints would be my first choice. They were perfect in every area. Their deep love for each other was evident throughout their entire family book. No one could ever doubt that those two – Mark and Denise – were the truest of soul mates. Athletic and committed to charity causes, the two made Ghandi seem like an underachiever.
It didn’t take long for them to be selected – and ultimately rejected by a birthmother. It just wasn’t the right fit. That birthmother selected another family and it all worked out beautifully. But, Mark and Denise were devastated. Their infertlity and miscarriages were painful enough. Being rejected by someone because they didn’t think they would be the best parent for their baby was crushing.
Within 1 week, another mother had selected them. I set up the first meeting and accompanied them all to dinner. Jasmine was one of my favorite birthmothers. A freshman in college, she had her head on straight. She had been in a committed relationship with her highschool sweetheart but shortly after they broke up, she learned she was pregnant. He didn’t want the baby and, honestly, neither did she. She tried to have an abortion but couldn’t go through with it. When she began researching adoptions, she knew open adoption was the right choice for her.
We met 1-2 times each week to explore some clinical issues and make sure she was deciding on adoption for the right reasons. Her family, especially her mother, very strongly disapproved of her decision to pursue adoption. Her mother wanted to raise the baby herself but Jasmine believed her baby deserved a chance at being raised by 2 parents that desperately wanted a baby. She didn’t want to say goodbye to her child forever because she loved her baby but she did want to permanently give up her parental rights.
I’m positive Jasmine would have made a wonderful mother had she chosen to raise her son but she had career aspirations and held steadfastly to the dreams she had for her child – dreams she believed she couldn’t fulfill. She knew Mark and Denise were perfect the minute she opened their book and when they met, it was like they were all old friends. Their conversation was easy and their bond was instant. Over the final two months of the pregnancy, the three spent lots of time together, getting to know each other and hashing out the terms of the open adoption.
Jasmine and I continued to meet and her parents continued to pressure her to keep the baby. On her delivery day, Jasmine called me and asked me to meet her at the hospital. She and her boyfriend (not the baby’s father) had gone to the hospital alone to have the baby but her mother found out and met her there. Her mother was in the delivery room when her son was born – a baby she named Aaron. He was gorgeous with a full head of fiery red hair. A perfect baby.
When I entered Jasmine’s room, twelve eyes turned to glare at me. I, of course, was the evil adoption social worker who had poisoned Jasmine and convinced her to give up Aaron. I was stealing him and giving him to 2 devil parents. Of course, they would never understand the dozens of hours I had spent with Jasmine encouraging her to parent Aaron herself. The countless community resources and supports I had shared to help her parent Aaron. The numerous game plans I presented to her with ways to meet her own goals and those she had for Aaron. When it came down to it, they just couldn’t understand how she could ever choose to give up her baby.
I ignored their evil glares and gave Jasmine a hug. It was obvious that she was in love with her little boy. Her family cleared the room and as we chatted, she told me (without my prompting) that although she loved Aaron, she was more sure than ever that she wanted Mark and Denise to be his parents. She had already called them and told them the good news.
I left to get her some more water and ran into a pale and frantic Mark and Denise. They had seen Jasmine’s family in the waiting room (the family had never wanted to meet them) and they were terrified. They were shocked that the day had finally arrived for them to meet their child. But they knew that Jasmine could change her mind at any moment – even up to 6 weeks after they took placement of him. Their hearts were bursting. Jasmine asked them to come in and meet their son.
Within a few days, Jasmine and Aaron were released from the hospital. Jasmine carried him out with Mark and Denise walking beside her. Outside, they decided not to say their goodbyes and, instead, Mark and Denise asked Jasmine and her boyfriend to come back with them to their house. I said my goodbye to everyone and left the hospital with a hopeful heart.
The placement continued perfectly with Jasmine, Mark and Denise successfully navigating the unchartered waters of open adoption. Mark and Denise are Aaron’s parents but Jasmine is his birthmother and although she has no rights, is a very special person in their lives.
I don’t keep in touch with Mark, Denise or Jasmine but if a picture speaks a thousand words, the beaming family photo of Mark, Denise and Aaron from the annual open adoption fundraiser told me everything I needed to know.