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Birthmother: An Interview

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Tara LeBlanc is the proud Birthmother to her son, Thomas. She placed her son on Valentine's Day 2000. Tara and Chad, Thomas's Birthfather, have an open adoption and an ongoing relationship with Thomas and his Adoptive Parents, Jeff and Susan.

First off, please tell us about your open adoption situation.

When I found out I was pregnant, Chad and I decided on adoption. We started working with a great agency and started looking at 'Dear Birthmother' Letters. We read over many letters and finally chose Jeff and Susan.

They had adopted their daughter Emma (age 4 at the time) and had a wonderful relationship with her birthmother, Leigh. This was the main reason why we picked them, because of their commitment to open adoption, they were also great parents.

We met a month before Thomas was born and they were at his birth. He was born February 13, 2000 and was placed on the 14 of February. After his birth we visited almost every week. This became a little awkward. We re-evaluated our visits and decided to visit every two months. This has worked out very well.

What is your relationship with your son's adoptive parents?

It is so good. I consider them to be not only my son's parents, but also our good friends. Our relationship is built on trust, honesty and a mutual love and commitment to our son Thomas.

What advice would you give to a woman who has just placed her child in an open adoption such as yours?

That's hard, but I think I would tell her to be honest and open with her child's adoptive parents. It is also really important to really grieve the loss of her child and of her role as a mother.

What advice would you give a woman who is six months along and considering adoption?

I would really encourage her to consider open adoption. I would tell her that adoption is very hard and requires a lot of work, but to remember all the rewards - knowing that your child is okay, loved and happy.

What one thing do you know now, that you wish you knew before placement?

I guess, although I do not regret my decision to place my son, I really wish I would have looked more into parenting.

What, in your opinion, makes an open adoption work?

For me the key is open and honest communication. Although it is very difficult to do this at times, it is so essential to successful relationships.

How do you respond to people that judge you because of your choice to place your son?

It really makes me mad. It is really easy to say that you wouldn't do or couldn't do something, but when you are placed in that same situation everything changes. I have just learned that I do not have to explain myself.

Is there anything you do to help yourself deal with your grief or any other emotions since placing your son?

Talking, crying (a lot) and writing in a journal have all helped me in working through my grief. Thomas's Birthfather has been involved from the beginning.

How important was his support during and after the adoption process?

It was so good to have his support before Thomas was born, but after Thomas was born it was a lot harder. I say this because we were both dealing with our grief and trying to work through it, and trying to be supportive was very hard. I was so very much centered on myself at that time that I don't think I was a support to him.

How have your friends reacted to your placing Thomas for adoption?

Most of my friends have been very supportive. Many of my classmates just don't understand open adoption or the grief I experienced and so many of them just didn't want to talk about him. I just needed so much to talk about him.

What took you surprise, as in grief or emotions, after placing Thomas that you were not expecting?

I guess just the intensity of my grief and the emotions. I really feel that I prepared myself before hand, I had a pretty good idea of what I was going to experience, but the intensity of these emotions just blew me away!

What is one thing that is stained on your mind from the time you had with Thomas in the hospital?

I was just so numb. I just was truly amazed that he knew my voice and I could sooth him. I will always remember that time. I was his Mommy. This time was so special and I only wish that I could have had more time with him, either in the hospital or taking him home.

Has your relationship changed with Chad, Thomas's birthfather, since the placement?

We have definitely gotten closer and stronger. The time after Thomas's placement was very hard. I was grieving and so was he. I was so selfish and could really only focus on myself. I wasn't much support for him.

Do you remember how you felt about women who placed their children up for adoption before you became one yourself?

Laughs Oh, I was one who always said, "I could never do that!" I think I thought they had so much courage, but also that they must have been heartless because they "gave away" their children.

How has your son's adoptive parents made Chad and you feel like a welcome part of the family?

They have introduced us to part of their family and have always made their house open to us.

Do you have any regrets?

I don't think I have any regrets about placing Thomas. I will always wonder "what if", but I know deep down that I did the right thing. I have regrets about certain things after his birth. These things include not breast feeding him, not taking him home for a few days, not having more of my friends and family come and visit him in the hospital.

How were you feeling on his first birthday?

I was very sad, but also so happy. I mean, sad because I missed him, but so happy because his birth was the happiest time of my life and he makes me so happy.

What is the hardest thing about seeing your son at visits?

The hardest thing for me is seeing how much I am missing, especially all of his firsts - walking, talking, etc.

What is the best thing about seeing your son at visits?

Getting to see him, and see how happy he is. Getting to hear him laugh, have him smile at me, and to shower him with kisses!

When asked the question by strangers: "Do you have any children?" How do you usually respond?

I usually say yes. Often people leave it at that, but sometimes people ask if he is in day care or something, then I tell them that he was placed for adoption.

Did you have the support of your parents?

Yes I did.

How did that help you?

It was so good for me. My mom and I talked about things all the time and she was just so loving and supportive of me. I couldn't have done this without her.

If Thomas was to read this twenty years from now, what message do you have for him?

Just that I love him so much.

How do you feel when you see the horror stories on the news about adoption?

It bothers me because I know that for the most part adoption is good. Especially open adoption! It gives the public a bad view of adoption, and then girls who are in crisis pregnancies do not even think of adoption as an option because of what they have heard or seen.

What would you do if, at the age of twelve, Thomas gets into a fight with his adoptive parents and shows up at your door begging to move in. What would your response be?

(I get asked this all the time!) I guess that I would just have to sit down and have him talk to me about what is going on. I'd tell him no, I am his Birthmother and not his Mom. I am not his parent. My door will always be open to him and his family, but I do not want to undermine his parent's authority.

Do you find any comfort in seeing Thomas so well loved and cared for at with his adoptive family? Why?

I get so much comfort from seeing him happy and loved. It is at times hard because it just reinforces what I am missing. In the beginning I was very jealous of his parents, they had him and I didn't.

How do you think the placement of Thomas will affect you once you have another child?

I think at the beginning I will be so protective of my new child, and I think it will also reinforce what I missed with Thomas.

What is your advice to adoptive couples in waiting who are afraid of Birthmothers and open adoption?

I think I would tell them to read open adoption books, and talk to people in open adoptions. I often feel that sometimes when people are afraid of openness that they just aren't committed to their child, but I know that this isn't true. They are just afraid. Maybe talking to birthmothers would help to ease their fears.

What are your feelings toward older Birthmothers from the 1960's and 1970's?

I have so much respect and admiration for these women. I cannot imagine the horror of not knowing where my child was, if he was alive or anything like that.

How do you feel about the belief that open adoption is co-parenting?

It is not co-parenting. I do not go to visit Thomas and take on Susan's role. I chose adoption and his parents so they could parent him. I am there to enjoy him.

What is the biggest change needed in adoption agencies, in your opinion?

That's a tough one for me to answer because I had and still have such a good experience with my agency. I think there needs to be more honesty between all parties involved and I think agencies need to facilitate that open and honest communication.

How do you feel about women pretending to be expecting and hurting waiting families?

I get so mad when I hear about this! Not only are they hurting these families who are often so desperate for a child that they would do anything, but they are also giving Birthmothers a bad name.

How do you feel about adoptive families that promise open adoption, then once the papers are finalized they disappear?

Oh this makes me even more upset! I just can't begin to verbalize the anger and hate towards those adoptive families.

What are your first thoughts when you see Thomas after a month or two?

I always wonder if he will look the same, and just how happy I am to see him.

A Birthmother places the needs of her child above the wants of her heart. Do you agree with this statement?

Yes I do agree with this statement. I wanted to keep my son so badly but knew that it would be selfish. I was just lonely and missed him, but it wasn't the right thing to do.

What are your future hopes for your relationship Thomas?

That we can be friends.

The future relationship with his adoptive parents?

Just that we will be even better friends then we are now.

Credits: Skye Hardwick

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