Do you ever sit and think about where your true friends in life have come from? Did you meet one through a mutual friend? Did you meet another at college? How about your neighbor or perhaps a co-worker?
What about a stranger whom you gave your baby to through adoption?
That is exactly what occurred between birth mother Amanda and adoptive mother Jenny, who four years after the adoption view each other as “extended family.”
“It’s awesome. She is a friend as well as an adoptive mom,” Amanda said.
Amanda’s adoption story began very similarly to most others: the relationship with her boyfriend was deteriorating, money was tight and she was in the midst of an unplanned pregnancy. Also, she already had a 2-year-old daughter, who required much of Amanda’s time and resources.
Around five months into the pregnancy, Amanda recognized that raising another baby, especially without a father figure, would be difficult, so she researched the benefits of adoption and realized it was the right decision for her circumstances.
The visit that spoke a thousand words
Amanda received a packet of adoptive family profiles from American Adoptions, and her first choice resulted in a nagging feeling that the couple was not ideal for her child. She requested another packet of profiles and found one that immediately struck her as the perfect match.
“The next packet had Jenny and Keith, and I just saw right away that they would be the right ones,” Amanda said.
American Adoptions requires all adoptive families to be receptive of at least a semi-open adoption; however, from the very beginning Amanda knew she wanted not a semi-open but an open relationship with the adoptive family and her child.
“I didn’t like the idea of being cut off right afterwards,” Amanda said. “Some people are OK with it but for me I wouldn’t have been able to go through with it if you hand your baby over and that’s it.”
The soon-to-be adoptive parents were not planning on any sort of open relationship, but one month before the baby was due, Amanda invited Jenny and Keith to her hometown halfway across the country. Jenny immediately accepted the invitation.
The personal relationship among the three began there, in Amanda’s hometown. The prospective adoptive couple finally met Amanda and her family, exchanged phone numbers and visited the hospital in which Amanda would soon enter with the baby, and leave without him.
Recently, one of Amanda’s friends chose adoption for her child as well. Once she was in labor and the adoptive family showed up, they didn’t treat her with the respect birth mothers need and they only focused on claiming the baby. Amanda’s friend chose not to adopt with that couple.
Four years prior, the opposite happened for Amanda, who said when Jenny and Keith visited her, it confirmed to her that she had picked the right couple.
“They cared enough about me as a person to come all the way out here; they showed that they were really serious, were caring people, that they wanted to get to know me and they made sure I knew all I needed to about them.”
From then on the friendship grew. Amanda even cared enough about Jenny and Keith to say “your son,” in reference to the baby to reconfirm that she would indeed go through with the adoption.
“I didn’t want them to worry that I’d back out of it, but that I really was ready to do this,” Amanda said. “That was one of their fears, would I really go through with it. So I wanted to put them at ease and get used to saying it.”
However, once Amanda went into labor, she began to question her decision.
The relationship post-adoption continues
Nearly every birth mother regrets their decision to adopt once they first lay eyes on their newborn baby – it’s only natural – but Amanda was able to do what some birth mothers cannot: Remind herself of the reasons she chose adoption in the first place.
“I did consider backing out, but just the realities of how I would do this kind of overcame the emotions of me being selfish and wanting to keep him rather than what’s best for him,” Amanda said. “I had to remember what he was going to need out of life that I can’t give him.”
With Jenny and Keith’s support, Amanda went through with the adoption. Amanda had all the time she needed alone with her baby and Amanda said they were very considerate of her feelings.
“You will always be a part of our family,” Jenny told Amanda at the hospital.
Jenny and Keith have kept their word.
The two parties haven’t seen each other since the adoption, but they keep in contact frequently. Amanda usually only calls on birthdays – even though Jenny says she can call anytime – and Jenny and Keith continue to be gracious with the sending of pictures and letters. They even send pictures of their son dressed in the outfits Amanda mails him for Christmas or his birthday.
That alone is more contact than some birth mothers have with the adoptive family, but Amanda receives even more correspondence through Facebook, where they communicate at least once a month. Jenny posts pictures of her son and updates about things they might be doing that day, keeping Amanda up to date on her child’s life.
Amanda said the benefits of interacting online are immense, but what she appreciates the most is Jenny and Keith’s acknowledgement of her being part of the family.
“She doesn’t make me feel like she has to hide our relationship or who I am from family, friends or co-workers; Facebook is just another way to be in contact and feel like I’m a part of his life,” Amanda said.
Jenny said that keeping Amanda updated on her son’s life is the least she and Keith can do because of what Amanda did for them.
“She is like my angel because if it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t have my son. I will always respect her and love her for the fact that she did that,” Jenny said.
Open adoptions are not for everyone because some adoptive families have fears of feeling like co-parents if the birth mother is still around; conversely, many birth mothers say that it is just too difficult seeing their child with another family and they would rather have contact only through pictures and letters.
However, when open adoptions do work, the benefits are immeasurable. Jenny and Keith gained a child, Amanda was able to continue on with her life and remain in contact with her son, and each gained an unexpected lifelong friend in the process.
“Amanda and her daughter are still a part of our family, and even though we don’t see them, we will always be connected for the rest of our lives,” Jenny said.