After she learns she is pregnant, Mitchell and her boyfriend plan to marry and raise their child. Her parents are overjoyed--she is 24 or 25, after all, she is not a teen. But things go bad between the couple after he learns that he may not be the father, and that she has lied to him. She thinks about adoption, calls an agency,
Graceful Adoptions, talks to a counselor Karen Nissly, who makes her feel that adoption for her baby is normal, but then Mitchell changes her mind. In a video and written essay posted on The Daily Iowan site, she writes:
July 25: "Today, I have decided I am going to keep my baby. I never wanted to give my baby away. I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I want to look at him every day and tell him that I love him. I can feel him fluttering around in my belly, and I want to meet him so badly. I can’t wait to see the amazing boy he grows up to be. Already, I’m so proud of him, so proud to be his mom. I have so much love for this little being. I can figure out a way to make my schedule work so that he is the center of my life. I can still work part-time. I can take online classes so that I can be at home with him more. I’m not telling the adoption agency yet. I want to get everything set up and be absolutely sure I can keep my baby."'A KID SHOULD HAVE THE BEST UPBRINGING'
But the boyfriend continues to push for adoption. They argue, she resists for a while, but eventually gives up. Back to adoption, where she already has a relationship by phone with Nissly, someone she thinks of warmly, someone not critical of her decision to give up her baby, someone she can joke around with. Before you know it, Mitchell is reading "parent profiles" (sent her by Nissly) of couples who are trying to adopt. She finds one--apparently in Ohio--and after that the process moves forward. Mitchell and the prospective parents, Kristen and Brian Doud, talk on the phone. Mitchell feel comfortable with choosing them. She says in the accompanying video:
"No one ever wants to say, ''I'm giving away my baby and people were like, Why would you do that, why wouldn't you just keep it and take care of it? People like, think you need to keep your baby just because you had it, but that's not necessarily true. I feel like a kid should have the best upbringing and the best opportunity and if I can't give that to him and there is a family that can't have children, that want children, that want one really badly, and that can provide everything that you can't."Well, there you have the nut of what the message we--first mothers from all time--felt was engraved on our consciousness. Someone other than you can be a better parent, because of stability of the home, financial resources, a mother and a father. What is ignored here is the significance of the biological connection of mother and child, and what it will mean to that child if the bond is not interrupted by adoption. This is what adoption counselors do not talk about. This is what perspective "first mothers" are not told. Mitchell does not talk about her parents' involvement in this decision at all.
Before the birth she is crying all the time. Then, in December, she gives birth, thinking..."what it was going to be like hearing my son cry for the first time. What would it be like to not have him anymore?" After the baby was born, she says the baby was taken away and taken up to the Doud's room so they could hold him first. Later that day, she says, "I got to see Leo." At another website, I found a picture of the couple with the baby. Of course they look happy.
At that point, my heart sank for both baby and mother. Well, I said to myself, babies at risk go directly to incubators, no one holds them at all, and a mechanical heart beat is turned on. But still. Adoption is so wrong on so many levels--for the natural mother, for the child--even in cases like this. Mitchell felt it was right that the adoptive parents hold the baby before her. Suddenly the new parents--and they do sound nice, I'm not going to say they don't--are the ones holding this brand new baby. Yet despite all I know now, I remember the scared young woman I as after I gave birth and was facing adoption of my child. I could understand Mitchell's reasoning--she was convinced that she was doing the "right" thing, and so maybe this made a certain amount of intellectual sense. I was having such a damn hard time with my daughter's surrender, I myself chose not to see her. She was in an incubator for two weeks. Following my wild woman reaction immediately after birth, I kept dry tears inside. I did not want to be shot up with some drug that put me out again. And I knew I had to find a way to break the bond with that baby that I felt so strongly, and, right or wrong, not seeing her was a way to begin the process.
BUT SOME 'OPEN' ADOPTIONS SLAM SHUT
That may be the huge and significant difference between Mitchell's relinquishment and adoption of her baby, adoption like that of Kim, who told her story here ( link below) and on the Huffington Post a few months ago. She too was ambivalent about terminating her rights and losing her child. She wrote us privately at FMF's email about her hurt and her pain, and wondered at first if she could get her child back. It was too late. She expressed her angst and regrets on a blog that the parents found. They freaked out and moved to close the adoption as much as possible. After she made the Huff Po video about her regrets, and continuing ambivalence, she received more negative comments from people who expressed a variation of the "You've made your bed and now lie in it," that most of us who write and speak up about adoption abuses and corruption hear at some point.
Maybe Mitchell will not go through the withdrawal and pain that most of us who read here have. She and Kirsten, the adoptive mother, apparently email all the time and she gets frequent pictures of Leo, way beyond what was in their open adoption agreement. Mitchell says she is planning a three-day visit in March. We occasionally hear from adoptive parents that they have a very open relationship with the child's birth mother. I've gotten emails from adoptive parents who are distressed that the first mother of their child has broken off contact. One was particularly sad because they had two adopted children, and one mother stayed in touch, and visited, and the other did not. How could they explain this to their child whose mother had disappeared? They expressed love and concern for the children involved. A few blogs back we heard from a women who used the moniker "1stmama" and left comments telling us how at peace she was with her decision, and that she was able to see her child often, and that we were out of touch with adoption today. One adoptive mother whose daughter is now married and in her late twenties told me years ago that she believes that if you want to adopt, you should adopt both the mother and child, bring them both in your home. However, I don't see that happening realistically. More parents want babies without strings, which is one reason international adoption has been so popular. (The other, of course, is difficulty in getting a baby at home.)
OPEN ADOPTION IS A GREAT MARKETING TOOL
However, we do hear of a great many adoptions where the adoptive parents went back on their word and terminated any openness between mother and new family with child. People move, change their phone number to an unlisted one, poison the well and lie about the birth mother to the adoptee, renege on their "open" agreements; one source that we have, said by a Bethany social worker, is that 80 percent of all open adoptions close. I wish I had a better source for this statistic, but only the agencies would have any idea how many open adoptions close, and they are not sharing the statistics because it would scare away the many women who chose adoption for their babies because they are promised openness. Open adoption is a great marketing tool used by the adoption industry to help convince mothers to give up their babies.
Yet maybe it is a different world out there. But what we know nothing of is how the child is going to feel one day when he comes to grips with the reality of the situation. I can hear children like my 10-year-old granddaughter asking, You didn't raise my mother because...? Perhaps frequent contact with one's biological mother--as Leo at this point appears he will have--will lessen the psychological impact of being given up and raised in a household of genetic strangers, and not lead to the kind of problems that many adoptees have. However, we hear that some children in open adoptions who are in contact with their birth mothers ask, when they are old enough to understand the gist of everything, that their mothers take them "home" with them. The natural mother then has to explain that she can't, and that she agreed to let his adoptive parents raise him, and that he has to stay there. What? is the astounded reaction--You agreed to this?
Nor does Callie Mitchell know that the son she is not raising will be a shadow in her life, all her life.
Adoption as it is practiced in America continues to be one large psycho-social experiment. Only time will tell how it turns out for this new breed of adoptee.--lorraine
My Baby, Not my Child
Heartbreak, hope and healing: Birth mother tells her adoption story
Kim's story: How an Open Adoption becomes 'Closed'
An Un-Open Adoption: Adoptive Parents Lie and Break a Mother's Heart
The Open Adoption Experience - A Complete Guide for Adoptive and Birth Families Two leading experts provide an authoritative and reassuring guide to the issues and concerns of adoptive and birth families through all stages of the open adoption relationship. One of the authors, Lois Ruskai Melina is the editor of Adopted Child newsletter and serves on the board of directors of the Donaldson Adoption Institute, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of information about adoption and providing guidance for practice and policy change in the field. Melina is also the author of Lois Ruskai Melina is the editor of Adopted Child newsletter and serves on the board of directors of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of information about adoption and providing guidance for practice and policy change in the field. Melina speaks frequently about adoption to professional organizations and adoptive parents throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia. She is also the author of Making Sense of Adoption: A Parent's Guide.