At 26, Danielle reflects on a choice she made at 15 – to put her baby up for adoption. One of the scariest times in her life turned out to be one of the most fulfilling. This is her story in her own words.
I found out I was pregnant when I started to feel ill. Not typical morning sickness, which I never experienced, but my body was sore. Some body parts more than others, but I definitely felt a change going on. I was in a relationship with a boy at the time and he was pretty emotion-less about the pregnancy. I took a pregnancy test at home after telling my mother that I was possibly pregnant. We took the test together and it came out positive. I remember her saying to me, “Oh, Danielle.” And she gave me a big hug and told me it would be ok. I immediately started to cry and panic. My mom told my dad, who contacted the father and his family. My dad called me later on that night and simply said, “You absolutely cannot raise this child.” I knew he was right. We began to talk about my options. At the age of 15, I only knew so much. I did not know what it was like to have a steady job, health insurance, how to cook, give proper advice, make healthy financial decisions, etc.
At first, mostly because I was panicking, I thought to myself, “What is the quickest way to handle this?” So, abortion was definitely on my mind, but only as a “quick fix. My father and I discussed adoption, but so many things were running through my mind. Where would the baby live? Could I see her? Get updates? Will she know who I am? How well will I even handle this? What if I pick the wrong people?
It wasn’t until I researched adoption more that I found out I had a say in everything; open or closed, who my daughter ended up with, where she ended up, whether or not I chose to get updates, etc. It was all very surprising how involved I could or could not be. I was on a mission to pick the perfect family and so I started to make a list of everything I would want her to have if I was able to provide it. It was very strange making that list – I kept thinking that so many others my age were concerned about other things like their education or how they would spend their weekend.
Once word got out in my family that I was going to put the baby up for adoption, one of my distant family members came forward. She had been looking to adopt for quite some time. I immediately called my dad to talk to him about it. We set up a call and agreed to meet.
Side note: I got pregnant in Alabama, but my father who lives in Chicago decided to pull me out of Alabama to live with him, in Chicago, so during the entire adoption process I was living in Chicago. The family member and her family lived in Alabama.
Once we all talked on the phone, my father agreed to send me down to Alabama for a week to visit with Ruth* and her family. She is married with 1 young son. Once I arrived, Ruth and I began to talk about everything. We went shopping for clothing, literature on birth and adoption, and she even helped me with my late night cravings! I was able to learn a lot about her past and why she wanted to adopt, and I think that really helped influence my decision. Ruth was patient, loving, honest, and very motherly.
I decided on an open adoption for many reasons. I wanted to be able to live a normal life through my teens and beyond. I didn’t want to be a single teenage mom. I didn’t want to hold back on anything in life because I had a child. Yet, I still wanted to see this child blossom into a well-rounded, intelligent woman. I just thought it would be strange to carry this child for 9 months and then have her entire life be left a mystery in my mind. I had grown so close to Ruth and trusted her. I knew she would make the transition easy for me and it made me feel like I was being the best mother I could be, to give my child to such a wonderful woman who was clearly born to be a mother.
When it came time to have the baby, Ruth was in Alabama and I was in Chicago. Some “changes” started to happen and I would openly discuss them with Ruth. Once we knew labor was upon us, she packed the family up in the car and drove through the middle of the night to be here with me and my family in Chicago. My water broke that very night while I was sleeping. I got to the hospital and immediately called out for Ruth. I needed her support and she never left my side. She was there holding my hand through every contraction. I knew the baby was coming soon so I urged her to “get where she wanted to be” – so that she could witness the birth. She was able to see the birth and I just remember her crying. They asked me if I wanted to hold my baby and I said no, please give her to Ruth. The nurse handed the baby girl over to Ruth and the look in her eyes when she held her and looked at her made me feel like I had done exactly the right thing. Ruth, her husband, and their son took turns holding the baby and everything came together. They were so blissfully happy and I knew that she was in the right hands.
The great thing about adoption is that your child not only has their entire adoptive family, but their birth family as well! That child is loved 2,000 times over. I was able to get updates and photos all the time. I was able to visit when I had the chance. As my child gets older, I am able to sit with her and talk with her about my decision. She is only 11, but definitely has a lot of questions! Again, the birth mother can choose to be as involved to non-involved as she wants to be. Personally, I like to give the adoptive parents as much privacy as possible, and I get really excited when they do choose to send me updates.
Adoption is not the right answer for everyone. Please make sure you know / have all the facts before you decide that this is the right decision for you. I made this decision for a number of selfish and unselfish reasons. I knew I wasn’t ready to spend my money on baby clothes and diapers. I didn’t want to spend my part-time job paycheck on babysitters and daycare. I had much more on my mind like where I wanted to go to college and who I wanted to be when I grew up. When I was 15, I was in a position where I could comfortably be pregnant and give this baby up for adoption. Overall, my experience was incredible.
Want to know more about the adoption process? Get some no-pressure information from Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
*Not her real name.