Letter From a Birth Grandmother
I am sending this letter in hopes that it will be received by someone who is in a similar situation.
Last July, my daughter, Shelly, informed me that she was pregnant. She had just graduated from high school and had received an incredible scholarship for this school year to a prestigious college. She also suffers from a chronic medical problem and the concern about her ever going through a pregnancy had been with me for years. I knew that even if she went through with the pregnancy, she'd have to quit school and give up her scholarship in order to take the extra precautions she'd need to take because of her condition. I was devastated and could only see one option in my mind. One that I never thought I'd consider, but my daughter's health and future were the utmost in my mind and I was so scared for her. She told me my option was not hers and that she was going to go through with the pregnancy and have the baby adopted.
I had always thought the emotional pain of having a child and giving it up for adoption would be worse than any emotional trauma one could suffer. I thought she was crazy. Shelly had a good friend who'd had a baby in high school and kept it and a friend who'd done an open adoption. She realized that the one who had been able to make the best decision and go on with her life was the one who had chosen the open adoption. She decided that it was what she was going to do. Her friend had told her that the most important thing was finding a good agency that only did open adoptions, could help her find the best parents and who could provide the counseling, legal help, etc. that she needed.
When I knew Shelly had decided what she wanted to do, we decided we'd get on the Internet and see if we could find any information about open adoption or agencies. We were surprised to find so much information and so many links to agencies. We found the Independent Adoption Center home page and felt like it was very reputable and would be a good place to get information. We also started looking through some of the profiles of prospective adoptive parents.
This was not an easy task for me. It felt like looking through the Sears catalog and "shopping" for parents of my grandchild. However, as we browsed the profiles and looked through profiles that some other agencies had sent her, I felt more positive about the kinds of couples who were interested in this kind of adoption. Shelly asked me if I'd e-mail some of the couples she was interested in and do some initial screening for her. She said that anybody who would adopt her child would have e-mail or they weren't technologically advanced enough to have her child and that it would be a good way to get some anonymous communication going at first.
The profile that stuck out the most in both of our minds was that of Jan and Steve. We were impressed by the fact that it was different than some of the others, focusing more on their family, their values and some of their interests. Since that first e-mail we sent them and received back, there was never any doubt in our minds that we had found the best parents we could find for this child.
We met Jan and Steve on Labor Day Weekend. It took some serious long-distance travel for most of us, but we were able to arrange a common location that was easy access for us all. We talked to them for three hours and could have stayed for three days. The things they'd tell us were almost word-for-word some of the things Shelly and I had discussed about what were important to us. Shelly kept communicating with them on almost a daily basis after that. They flew her to California where they live at the end of October. They made a commitment to each other at that time, but we had felt like we were already committed since our first meeting.
Jan and Steve were so supportive to Shelly throughout her pregnancy. Although they were on different sides of the country, they'd share every aspect of the pregnancy. I could feel that they were genuine and really cared about her, not just about the child she was providing them. We feel now like we didn't loose anything, but that we gained new members of our family.
On February 16th, Matthew Aaron was born by cesarean section. It was quite a gathering in Memphis that day. I flew there from another part of the country. The birthfather was there and took a week from his rigorous schedule at college to support her. Most of all, Jan and Steve, the baby's parents were there. Shelly told me in the beginning that she remembers all the times she asked us to tell her the story of when she was born and that she knows that story backward and forward. She wanted her child's mother to be able to tell him the story about when he was born. What a special story for a child to have. Shelly said she thought the delivery room experience would be hard, but when she looked up at Jan and tears were rolling down her cheeks, all she could do was smile.
It never felt like anyone other than Jan and Steve were Matthew's parents. The hospital was wonderful to accommodate our situation; in fact, they went overboard because they were so impressed and excited for the adoptive parents. Jan worked with a lactation specialist and had decided to try to breastfeed the baby using a supplemental nursing system. She put the baby to the breast as soon as he was born and he knew exactly what to do. It gave them a special bonding experience, a chance for Jan and Steve to be alone with the baby right after birth to feed him and a reason for Jan to be the one who had to feed him.
The hospital put a bed in Shelly's room for Jan. Shelly was bedridden because of the c-section but the birthfather was there with her to help her. Steve was there with Jan to help her with the feedings and the nursing system. Matthew was never in the nursery. We all took turns holding him. Steve, his father, gave him his first bath and seemed to be the one who knew how to calm him down and exactly what to do for him.
Jan and Steve stayed in an extended-stay hotel in Memphis for a week. Shelly and Dan (the birthparents) went to court 3 days after the birth and the interstate adoption review took a few more days to be completed so Jan and Steve could get clearance to take Matthew to California. They returned to California and their new home that week.
We have zillions of pictures of Matthew and those special few days and our new extended family. I know we'll always be connected with Jan, Steve and Matthew. We know he has a loving family and extended family. We know they'll always be special to us and that they'll make sure Matthew knows how special his birthmother is and what a brave and loving thing she did. He'll know why she chose adoption and why she chose those two special people to be his parents. The distance between all of us will prevent us from being involved in Matthew's life on a personal basis and we feel like that is a good thing in a lot of ways. It gives Jan and Steve the room to be their own family get on with their lives.
Shelly has already recuperated faster than anyone ever expected. She's ready to go back to work and has received a new scholarship to University of Memphis for the next school year. She has assured us that she's not one of those people who have to learn things the hard way twice. She knows that because of her medical problems, she cannot have very many children and knows that the next time she goes through this, the situation will be the right one. She, and the rest of us who love her will always have the knowledge of knowing that she did absolutely the best thing she could with the situation she was faced with. When we were at the hospital and watching Jan and Steve with their beautiful son I thought back to last July when I found out about Shelly's pregnancy and thought the world had come to an end. If anyone had told me then that I'd ever feel any joy and happiness coming out of that situation I'd have told them they were crazy. The joy of watching those two special people and sharing in their happiness was one of the few moments in my life that I've felt such warmth. It was a bittersweet moment. I knew we'd miss Matthew even after the 2 short days we'd spent with him and it wasn't the experience I had always dreamed of going through when my first grandchild was born.
I want to thank the IAC for their work and the people who have helped Shelly through these past 7 months. They also helped her find an agency in Memphis who provided the counseling and the legal support for the adoption to be able to take place. They couldn't have been more wonderful and supportive and I know they will continue to be supportive and provide Shelly with counseling during the "coming down" phase that all women experience after childbirth, and especially the separation grief that she may deal with.
Please feel free to contact me at any time and to give my email address to any other mother of a pregnant teenager who may need to talk to someone who's been in their position or answer any questions that they may have about the open adoption process. I just want to spread the word that there are other options and that it can be a good and wonderful experience. I will be able to do that through the associations I have with other people in letting them know of our experience.
Thank you for reading this letter and letting me share this with you.
Please feel free to email Merilynn at Merdean@aol.com