By Leah Outten
Exactly seventeen years ago I was the young pregnant mom with a distinct watermelon shaped belly in the seat across from a case worker. I was seven months along and had spent my entire pregnancy painstakingly and thoughtfully weighing my options in that same chair, and at home with my parents. At seven months I finally knew my answer– a deep and peaceful knowing that adoption was the best choice for us. Though tears fell and my hands shaked, I knew.
Adoption is never an easy choice but feeling supported through pregnancy and after placement matters in how a Birth Parent moves forward in life.
We never will “get over it and move on” but we can move forward in HEALTHY ways.
As an expectant mom, I felt unbiasedly supported by my social worker, my parents, and even my teachers at school. I had counseling from the first trimester to process all the things racing towards me in my life. Thankfully, I was never pressured into one path or the other, just encouraged to make an informed decision.
I like to say because of the support and counseling I received, my post placement healing started even before placement happened. How can that be? Because I was being taught to work through all my emotions and truly think through my options with full support for whatever path I chose. Those tools were invaluable to coping after placement.
My support system was my safety net. I could “fall” in any direction with them being there to catch me. That gave me the empowerment to make my own choice. It gave me peace.
I am so grateful I had not only adoption professionals advocating for me every step of the way, but my parents, and eventually my daughter’s adoptive parents as well. Back then social media didn’t exist. Groups and retreats were not a thing yet. Birth Mothers were often silent and unseen. I did, however, find a Hotmail group to talk to other Birth Moms and Adoptive Moms to walk alongside with virtually. Because of my safety net of a support system, I was able to heal and flourish while maintaining a healthy open adoption with an amazing family so willing to embrace me into their lives as well.
However, as a Birth Mother immersed in the Birth Mother community, I know this isn’t always the case for moms who have placed. Or, perhaps they felt supported during pregnancy, but once the relinquishment papers were signed, they felt discarded. Promises of services weren’t kept.
Just when they really need people to lean in and love them in the most painful parts of adoption separation and grief, many Birth Parents are alone and forgotten.
This is why I am so passionate about helping others in adoption. Because I was so well loved throughout my pregnancy and after placement through multiple people, I hope that I can equip others to do the same for those touched by adoption. Whether as professional, a church member, the family of an expectant parent, or the family who is chosen to adopt. I believe that’s where lasting change to the heart of adoption in our society resides.
Loving big and well is a theme here at Abiding Love and I admire how serious that command of Jesus is taken within this organization.
And now…I am honored to step into a role at Abiding Love Charities as a Post Placement Advocate to help others in their own journey! This is a dream job to use my experience to help others have support and be a small part of showing others how to love well in the adoption triad.
My heart is especially for Adoptive Families to really prep their hearts for the reality of adoption for all sides of the triad and how to love the Birth Parents who will be in their life in some way, forever, simply because their child is a piece of them.
Because I love to advocate for the Birth Parents and Adoptees by starting from the inside out in the ones who hold most of the power after placement: Adoptive Parents’ hearts.
I believe if Adoptive Parents can embrace open adoption and Birth Parents, that love will trickle down to better care for Birth Parents, and that in turn will help their child grow up more secure in their adoption story.
Birth Parents need someone to cheer them on. They need someone to help them create goals and gain life skills. Someone to guide them in the next steps. They need someone to validate all their feelings– from the deep aches and worries to celebrating the joys. Birth Parents need a grace-filled safety net to know they will be okay and have support no matter what, even if she makes a mistake again. That can and should be so many people in their lives, but I believe that can be beautifully special from the agency and adoptive parents a Birth Parent chooses to walk with.
Pregnancy, birth, the home study, and placement are just the prep work for the lifelong journey for everyone involved. That’s just chapter one. Now, the real work begins! That’s where post placement support really should be showing up for all sides of the triad. Not just for three months, but for a lifetime as needed. There are so many milestones, seasons, and chapters to work through together.
I am now in the place to be another person’s safety net, and what an honor it is. I look forward to working towards big goals that we have here to cast a big and wide, grace and love filled safety net within the adoption community.