I get a ton of questions from birthmothers who want to know how I was dealing with my open adoption (x amount of time) afterwards. Any woman who places her child for adoption will deal with her experience differently, but something about comparing experiences with other birthmothers can be sort of comforting. So I figured I'd share the condensed version of my progression from the adoption to where I am today.
The first few weeks after I signed the adoption papers I was a complete mess. I held it together in front of other people, but behind closed doors I cried and cried and cried...and cried. I was depressed, sad, and I felt like the past nine months were just a blur. I also couldn't believe I actually went through with the adoption. Robbie and his family were so incredibly supportive, and I leaned on them to make it though. I knew that Deanna would be fine with her family, but I wasn't so sure about myself.
A month after the adoption, I began my freshman year in college, and I had a terribly hard time adjusting to being in a new state, at a new school, and starting at a school where I didn't know anyone. I was excited about starting college, but the reality of having to make new friends and to completely start over was terrifying. Not only did I have to worry about the typical problems and issue that every college student has, but I also had to deal with the sadness and depression that went along with the whole adoption experience. I got to visit Deanna often, and that made me feel better, but I still found myself struggling to cope with everything I had been through. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, and although my doctor had written me a prescription for anti-depressants, I felt like they were merely placebo pills. My loss felt like an open wound, and nothing seemed to make it better.
Six months after the adoption, I had a terrible encounter with a faculty member at my college. I wrote about this in a previous blog post, but in case you missed it, here's the shortened version. I was contemplating going into either communication or teaching, and I couldn't decide what I wanted to do. I met with an advisor in the School of Education, and she grilled me about my desire to become a teacher. She implied that if I didn't care enough about children to make the decision to become a teacher, then I should probably just move forward with communications. I lost it. I was in disbelief. I ran out of her office, sat on the bench outside of the building and just bawled. It was the lowest of low points in my life. That's when I numbly stumbled into the Counseling Center, and I met the counselor who helped me to get through the next four years of my life.
A year after the adoption, I transferred to NC State, and I began my sophomore year. I also decided that I probably shouldn't attend any of Deanna's future birthday parties because I couldn't hold it together during her 1st birthday party when everyone sang "happy birthday." Aside from that emotional breakdown, I was doing better. I had made lots of friends, and I joined the club swim team. I got involved with 'Real Choices," a student organization that helps pregnant and parenting students. I also got involved with lots of pro-life organizations and events in Raleigh. For the first time after the adoption, I felt like I could really make a difference in people's lives because of what I had gone through. And that was a good feeling.
I continued going to my counselor (who coincidentally transferred to NC State's counseling center) until my senior year of college. It was a long and difficult progression, but four years after the adoption I felt like a different person. My senior year at NC State I become president of Real Choices, and I also became president of an honor society for the top 12 seniors at NC State. I was planning social events for student moms, teaching Sunday School to a class of rambunctious 8th graders, interning at a local television station, having a blast with my friends, and visiting Deanna and her family often. I finally felt at peace with my decision, and I was humbled and amazed at the impact Amstel Life was having on so many people in the adoption world. I thought to myself, "this is what open adoption is supposed to be."
Today, it's been more than 5 years since Deanna's adoption, and I sometimes have to stop and remind myself what I've been through. There are times that I am still in disbelieve I have a daughter. Seriously, sometimes I can't believe I created such an amazing human being, and I am so proud of that. I had a lot of help and support from my family and friends, but most of all, I believe it was my faith that carried me through. The night before I signed the adoption papers in the hospital, I prayed long and hard. I remember making an agreement with God. I said, "God, if I go through with the adoption, please just don't let me regret my decision." And 5 years later, He has not broken our agreement. I started my open adoption journey by putting every ounce of faith I had in God. And today, my trust has only gotten stronger.
Sometimes I stop and think about everything that I've been through. I am still completely amazed at how our open adoption has turned out. I don't think anyone could have imagined a story this good. If you ask me, it's not just a coincidence; it's a God thing. With time, a strong support network, and lots of faith, anything is possible. For all of the birthmothers out there who are in the beginning stages after adoption, there is hope! Trust me, I have been where you are. Yes, it is going to be incredibly difficult, but it does get better. And when you finally make it to the point where you are at peace with your decision, it will make every sacrifice you made completely worthwhile.
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. -Jeremiah 29:11