By Vanessa Norton
In October, I had the opportunity to support a woman planning to adopted her baby out. This was the first and only time I’d doulaed an adoption birth. I knew there was a basic contradiction in what I felt should happen with Mama and Baby the first days after birth, and adoption. I would have to handle my feelings right. This was part of what appealed to me.
The birth mother is an extraordinary person. As she told me the story of her pregnancy, including her own birth family preassuring her to move back “home” and raise her baby in their community, I thought she was going to tell me she’d changed her mind. Instead, she told me that she’d come over 1000 miles to San Francisco with dreams of a different life. She didn’t do this so she could end up with the exact life she had worked so hard to leave. I admired her intelligence and will immensely.
We spoke so frankly about our intimate lives, I felt that we were meant to come together like this. I told her this at the meeting.
The adoption was open, meaning that Mama’s information would be shared with Baby, Mama chose the couple herself, they had met many times, gone out to dinner, and Mama would see Baby at least a few times a year. These are the basics, I’m sure there is a lot more to it.
The adoptive Dads attended the second prenatal meeting. They wanted to be involved in the birth as much as possible. I had my hesitations about so many people attending the birth, because I didn’t want Mama’s experience and feelings to be overwhelmed by the setting. It would be: me, Mama’s boyfriend, plus the two adoptive dads. I felt I stated this, but it was the Mama’s birth, and so everyone would be there.
The day of the birth, I arrived at Mama’s apartment and rubbed her back and gave her counter sacral pressure through some of her labor. Later, the Dads drove Mama and her boyfriend to the hospital (as they’d really wanted to) and the next day, baby was born. I felt very aware of the way the Dads would tell Baby his birth story, later in life. I imagined them telling him, “then we drove your Mom to the hospital…”
During the pushing stage, the Dads supported Mama’s legs and I stayed by her face, giving her sniffs of orange oil and spoonfuls of honey and the usual water.
Mama had told me initially that they were not avoiding bonding. She planned to pump breastmilk for three months, if all went well. I so admired her strength in doing this. She held Baby and nursed him at the hospital. After she returned home without him, things were tough. The little I heard from her and her boyfriend was excrutiating. Yet, if it weren’t excrutiating, there might be something worse happening. Extreme sadness was a healthy response (albeit there are many “healthy” responses) to such profound loss.
Part of me is not crazy about adoption, about taking a baby who is biologically connected to his mother and interrupting that early bonding, especially under the cluelessly bright lights of a hospital setting. But I know in some situations it is probably the right thing, and as always, it is Mama’s choice. It can and did also show human beings at their most loving and supportive, too. Everyone was trying their best to make Mama and Baby feel supported and loved through this experience.
I know women who adopted out their babies in the 1960s and their stories are a stark contrast to this one.
But I was only a supportive witness. I really don’t know how any of this feels to her.