Air date: 8.15.2017
You can read the transcript below or listen to this podcast here.
Jennifer: Hi, and welcome to Adoption Focus. My name is Jennifer Jaworski, and I’m a social worker with Adoption Associates of Michigan. This is Adoption Association Premier Talk Radio blog show. Adoption Associates was founded in 1990 and we specialize in both domestic and international adoption. We provide private adoption services throughout all of Michigan with offices located in Jenison, Lansing, Farmington Hills and Saginaw. Anywhere in Michigan, you can find a connection to Adoption Associates.
Adoption Associates brings knowledge, support and understanding in adoption. Adoption is not only our specialty, but it is our passion. One of Adoption Associates’ commitments is to this weekly radio show to help educated support adoptive family, birth families and the adoption community, so we’re really glad that you’re listening in today. Today, we’re talking with a fantastic young woman who previously made an adoption plan through Adoption Associates, and she has so graciously agreed to come onto our podcast today to talk about her thoughts and reflect back on what she has learned through this process. I am happy to welcome today to Adoption Focus Ashley. Ashley, are you with us?
Ashley: Yes, ma’am. Hello.
Jennifer: Hi, good morning. Thank you for taking the time to be with us today and to share a little bit about your story. One year ago, you made an adoption plan for your son. Can we talk about that for a minute?
Ashley: Sure. I was 22 years old when I found out that I was pregnant. I was eight weeks. I got pregnant very much on accident, was not at all planned, and I actually almost didn’t go through with being pregnant. I decided to change my mind. When I did that, I called you guys.
Jennifer: Okay. So did you know right away that you weren’t in a position to parent? What sort of decisions were you faced with early on?
Ashley: Yeah, it was obvious to me that I wasn’t ready to be a single mom. The birth dad, or other half of the equation, was not going to be involved, and I was not in a position to become a single mom and raise my son the way that I wanted to. So I decided that adoption would be the best way to go because he can be a gift to another family and still be alive.
Jennifer: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Ashley, what did you know about adoption when you first got started and you first began considering this?
Ashley: I actually didn’t know very much at all. Nobody that I knew had been adopted, and I really only knew whatever I had seen on TV or heard through the grapevine, so I actually didn’t know hardly anything when I first met you guys.
Jennifer: That’s pretty standard, actually, for women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy and find themselves considering adoption. This is, for many people, a first time in looking into the world of adoption. For the purpose of those that are listening today, I want to say that I fortunate to be able to be your case worker, and it was such a pleasure for me to get to know you and help you as you were making your adoption plan. I’m curious, though, what were your initial thoughts about adoption after our first meeting?
Ashley: Well, I remember being super nervous to meet you, and then we were sitting in the booth at the restaurant and you talked to me like a real person. It wasn’t like I was … I had no reason to be ashamed while I was talking to you. You reinforced that throughout every conversation that we had, that I was making a good decision and that I had nothing to be ashamed of. You were very helpful in educating me that there’s different types of adoptions and there’s so many different families out there, and you were wonderful in helping me make decisions that were going to be six months from now, and telling me it’s okay to change my mind. It was just nice to know that I had somebody in my corner.
Jennifer: Oh, thank you for saying that Ashley. What did you learn in those first few meetings that surprised you the most, would you say?
Ashley: Well, I learned that it’s okay to be picky when going through my profile family. There are a lot of families out there, and it’s okay to take your time and not just jump to a decision. I learned about the different kinds of adoption being open, semi-open, fully closed. I didn’t even know that was an option when I started this whole thing, and that it’s okay to take the time to think about what I want and what’s okay with me because ultimately I have to be okay with the choice that I make.
Jennifer: Absolutely. You did just that. You did take your time, and you began moving forward. What was the process like as you began moving forward with your plan?
Ashley: I remember, I think it was our second meeting, that I got the tablet with all the profile families on it and you were like, “You can feel free to go ahead and look through them. Take your time,” and I was all excited to look through there. I started looking, and it’s a very overwhelming decision to make. I am glad that I took the time to actually look through and make a decision. I didn’t just jump at, “Oh, this one looks good,” or “Oh, this one looks good.” I took the time and made pros and cons. “I like this one, and I like this one. I don’t like this.” It’s overwhelming so I’m glad that I took the time and took your advice, and didn’t just jump into making a decision.
Jennifer: So as you moved forward, some of the other things that we did was that we met to discuss the hospital plan and to prepare, also, for what you may experience emotionally prior to delivery and then afterwards. What was that process like for you as you continued to learn more about adoption, about grief, about the choices that you need to make at the hospital?
Ashley: It’s definitely an interesting process to go through. I know that I had originally made my hospital plan with you and I had had it set probably about two months before I delivered. Then, I had some complications with my delivery and my son came early, so that changed all of my plans for everything. It was okay for me to still change my plan as it was going because my pregnancy changed. It’s interesting, and nothing is set in stone because they decide when they want to come, when they want to come.
Jennifer: You’re right.
Ashley: It’s nice to have a plan, but it’s also good to keep in mind that you have to be flexible because things happen and stuff changes.
Jennifer: Absolutely. I appreciate you saying that, too. As we said earlier, it was one year ago this month that your son was born, and you placed him with the couple that you selected. You’ve had a lot of time now, a year, to think about all of this and process the adoption. I know there are some things that you feel strongly about that I wanted us to take some time to discuss today as well. There are, I believe, correct me if I’m wrong Ashley, four or five things that you wish adoptive parents knew. What are those? Can we talk about that?
Ashley: Yeah. I still am in contact with my son’s parents. We did a semi-open adoption, and through that, I contact them every once in a while just to know what’s going on. Every time, they always tell me that it’s such a gift to them, and that they are so thankful for me choosing them in that process, but one thing that I always remind them is they’re a gift to me. I took the time to go through and I chose them. That’s a gift to me. I didn’t give them, but they have my son and they’re raising my son, and that’s a huge thing for me to be at peace with the decision, that I made the right decision because I see whenever I hear from them or talk to them that they love my son unconditionally and give him everything he wants. They are a family, and that’s what I wanted. That was the biggest thing that I wanted when I did this was to be okay with my decision. I know that I made the right choice. They’re a gift to me as much as my son is a gift to them.
Jennifer: That’s such an interesting concept, Ashley. I like the way that you said that because so many adoptive families do view this as a gift. A birth mother making an adoption decision and placing her child with them is a gift to them, but to hear you flip that around and say, “This is a gift to me. It provided me a sense of peace and security that my son is well and loved and cared for,” that’s awesome. I won’t stop you. I know you have more. Go ahead. What are some other things? That’s the big one, I know.
Ashley: Another thing, when we were going through this entire process, after I chose my family, I wanted to get to know them. That was one of the ways that made it easier for me, but to understand that we’re going through this together. It’s not just me, and it’s not just them. We’re doing this together. He may be coming out of me, but he’s your son. Their, their son. So just to remember that it’s okay to ask questions. It’s okay to tell me how you’re feeling or what you’re thinking, or if you want to know what I’m thinking. Unless I specifically tell you, “Don’t ask,” it’s okay to ask. We want you to be involved in this. It’s not just us and you. It’s a together thing.
Jennifer: The process is different for the birth mother and the adoptive parents, but nonetheless, as you said, it’s a process for both of you. In many occasions, it’s a first time process, too. So I think that’s important. You’re right. You’re going through this together, even though maybe from two different points of view.
Ashley: It’s also important to remember that I’m probably going to change my mind a couple of times about am I making the right decision, and if I’ve chosen my family, and I did this with my family, I was excited and then I’m hormonal being pregnant, and I went through a period where I was like, “Well, I don’t know if I really want to do this.” Well, you, as an adoptive parent, have to understand that that’s normal. I’m going to change my mind. I’m going to have those doubts, but in the end, I know that I made the right decision, but I am going to change my mind and I am going to think about it because that’s a big decision that I’m making.
Jennifer: Right. I think, Ashley, for you and for a lot of women in your circumstances, reevaluating your choice and questioning yourself is not only part of the process, but it helps you in the end when you do make this choice to know that you’ve made a very thorough, well-thought decision, that this is not a giving away, a giving up of a child for adoption, and so reevaluating that throughout the planning, at delivery, afterwards, prior to court, it’s a very normal thing to do and it’s healthy and good for you to do that. That’s an excellent point that you bring up here. Adoptive families can feel a little nervous, obviously, during that timeframe. That’s an important part for birth parents.
Ashley: Yeah. It’s also okay to talk to your birth parents and your birth mom about, “I’m having doubts. Not that I don’t think that you guys will make amazing parents, but I’m having those doubts,” and to have that conversation with them because then that also includes them in the process and understanding what’s going on, at least from my point of view.
Jennifer: Well, and when you give openness and honesty, then you receive that back from the family as well, so excellent point. What else? Were there any other things that you really wish adoptive parents knew?
Ashley: I don’t necessarily know. There’s so many things. It’s hard to pick down into one.
Jennifer: I think we may have lost connection with you there for just a second. I apologize for that. There was a bit of a delay. We’ve talked about a couple of different things here. Are you ready to move on to our next discussion?
Jennifer: Okay. So you and I were talking about this prior to today, obviously, and we all have so many titles and roles that we fill in and out of every day, if you will: daughter, sister, friend, student, employee. You are many of those things, but you now, Ashley, have a new position that you really maybe never imagined or dreamed that you would, and that’s a birth mother. You are someone’s birth mother now, and it’s not something that you’ve ever been ashamed of. I know that from being your case worker, and I know that you have some thoughts that you’d like to share on this topic as well. What is it you would like other women who may be pregnant right now and considering adoption to know?
Ashley: My biggest thing is, you are not a bad person or a bad mother for even considering and then if you make a decision going through with an adoption, you are not a bad person. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. I didn’t give my son up for adoption because I don’t love him and I don’t want him. I did it because I love him, and I hope that one day I can convey that to him and he understands that, but as you said, I have not been ashamed because I know that I’m making a choice for him and for me that are for the better.
People make comments when you’re pregnant, and if you decide to tell them, “I’m putting my child up for adoption,” they’ll make comments because they don’t understand. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You’re not wrong. People say, “Oh, I could never put my child up for adoption.” Well, they’re not in your situation and they don’t understand. Be polite about it, but at the same time, you’ve done nothing wrong. I want every birth mom out there to ever hear that, you’re not doing anything wrong.
Jennifer: Absolutely. 1000% agree with you on that, Ashley. I think that sometimes when we hear what you just described, someone saying, “I could never do that,” oftentimes that’s a lack of information that they have or that they’ve been given, inaccurate information about adoption. As you mentioned earlier, you knew essentially nothing, except for what you may have heard through the grapevine or saw on TV, which is not most of the time accurate. You didn’t know much about adoption when you entered into this, and you learned a lot through the process.
So I think oftentimes, that’s what we do hear, unfortunately, is that women just don’t understand the choices that are available to them and that this decision is a decision that women make out of love. I’m so grateful for you, for this, and I know that we have more here. What are some other things that are important for you, that you want other women who may be in the position that you were in to know or understand?
Ashley: That it is very much okay to ask for help. I am a person who does not ask for help very often, and I learned through this process that it’s okay to either ask you or ask family, or my pastor, or anybody, just friends, it’s okay to say, “I’m having a hard time with this, and I need to talk about it.” It’s okay to talk about being pregnant and what’s going through your head, and the emotions that you’re having. If you don’t have anybody like that, it’s okay to go talk to a counselor. I thought about doing that for a while, and I ended up having other people that I could talk to but it’s okay to ask for help.
You don’t have to hide what you’re feeling and what you’re doing, because there is a social stigma that being pregnant, unplanned, and going through the adoption process is a bad thing and you should hide that. That is very much incorrect and wrong. After going through this, just please, please, please, if you have any thoughts that aren’t pleasant, ask for help.
Jennifer: Right. That’s what we’re here for, not only adoption agencies such as ours, Ashley, but women such as yourself who have been through this. I know at one point early on, you connected with a former client, a birth mother who had made an adoption plan. You were able to talk to her and hear from her. We want women to be open and to talk, and to seek that assistance, and know that they’re not alone. I think you mentioned this at one point too, Ashley, it can feel like a pretty lonely place in the beginning, that no one really understands where you’re coming from or what you’re facing, but you’re definitely not alone. There are people available here all of the time to assist.
Ashley: Yes. The woman that you mentioned, my birth mom friend, she was a great help. We still talk to this day. It’s a wonderful community of people who, they get it. They understand where you’re coming from and what you’re thinking of. They do help you realize that you’re not alone, which is a big thing when you’re going through this process, to realize that you’re not alone.
Jennifer: Mm-hmm (affirmative), absolutely. That community of people is strong as ever, and they are a brave, powerful group of young ladies who we adore. So if there is anyone that’s listening, certainly know that we would be happy to put you in connection with Ashley or other birth mothers who are wanting to give back, so to speak, and to share their stories too, as you are today Ashley. What other things … Was there anything else, Ashley?
Ashley: I guess the last thing, it’s okay to change your mind. This is a very fluid process that you’re going through, and it’s okay to have those doubts and actually think about, “Well, is this something that I actually want to do,” and understand that even if you’ve chosen a family and have started that process, and then all of a sudden decide to change your mind, it’s okay because this is a decision that you have to make and that you have to live with. I understand that adoption is the end goal for most people, but it’s okay to do some soul searching and determine if that’s really what you want to do, because again, it doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a real person that you take the time to think about it and make sure that you’re okay with what you’re doing.
Jennifer: Yeah, absolutely. I couldn’t have said that better. I think that today, what you’ve done is you’ve provided some excellent food for thought for a lot of women. I do hope and expect that this will speak to a lot of people who are searching for information, who are searching for options, who just don’t understand that, “Will I be able to see my baby in the hospital if I plan adoption, and what are my rights? What will my child be told or know about me if I choose adoption?” There are just so many factors to consider, and so many things that we want to help women explore and learn about as they begin considering adoption as an option. Hopefully today is a starting place for that, Ashley. You’ve done a fantastic job of laying out some issues today and getting the conversation started, so a great big thank you to you, Ashley, for your time today.
Ashley: Not a problem. Thank you. One last little thing, to any potential birth moms or soon-to-be birth moms out there, you are not alone, and please, if you want to talk, get ahold of Jennifer, get ahold of somebody and there will always be somebody there to listen.
Jennifer: Thank you, Ashley. To reach Adoption Associates or myself, Jennifer, you may contact us at 800-677-2367. Again, the number is 800-677-2367. Adoption Associates can also be located on the web at adoptionassociates.net. There are many ways to connect with Adoption Associates including Facebook, twitter, and Instagram, so reach out for more information. We are looking forward to continuing the conversation about adoption live every Tuesday at 11 here on Adoption Focus, and we do hope that you tune in again next week as we’ll be talking about the agency’s upcoming fundraising galla in the Grand Rapids area. So please stay tuned for that. Again, much great appreciation today to Ashley. For now, this is Jennifer on Adoption Focus. I hope you all have a wonderful day. Bye-bye.