I know that not everyone has such a good experience with adoption but I have been very blessed. I placed my daughter for adoption when I was 18. She is now four and has always known she is adopted. Her name is Ellie.
I was a typical 17-year old girl, I was never home, always with friends; and I was in a partying phase. I looked forward to the weekends so that I could hang out, do some drinking and have some fun. I thought life was great until I discovered that I was pregnant. Big surprise huh? So from that point on I was faced with a very tough decision, adoption.........parent......... Probably the most important decision I would ever make in my life. My first thought was, could I really handle the responsibility of raising a child without the father? I came to the difficult conclusion that I wasn't in a position to become a parent. I wasn't married, I didn't have a steady job, and the father had no interest in parenting. I was just starting out on my career and didn’t want to stop just at the moment.
I thought about raising my baby and I knew I could do it. But, for me, that wasn’t the most loving choice I could make. I wanted her to have a devoted, involved mother and father whose careers were at a point where they could spend lots of time with a child. I couldn't give her that. I was just out of polytechnic where I had finished training to become a chef. I had so many things I wanted to do and places I wanted to see. I couldn't picture doing them as a single parent.
On the morning of August 13 my mom and I were out shopping and she asked me to take a pregnancy test. I FREAKED out!!! I did not want to have to face the consequences. I took it anyway and of course the test results were positive. I was soooo scared. My mother made an appointment for me to get a scan to check how far along I was. I had an ultrasound and I was sooo scared. The tech looked at the screen and determined I was 35 weeks...THIRTY_FIVE WEEKS, I thought...that is...SEVEN MONTHS!!! I was freaking out!!! The next scariest thing was telling my friends about what was going on. I remember lying in bed at night wondering what people were going to think of me and how they were going to judge me because of my decision to adopt.
I went alone to meet with a mid-wife and explained my situation and my interest in adoption. She had a friend who had placed her daughter for adoption and she soothed my fears. It was then that I heard my baby’s heart beat. The previous week I had started to feel movement, but hearing her heartbeat pulled at my own heart. We made an appointment and started my prenatal care.
I went to the Yellow Pages searching for an adoption agency. I found many abortion clinics and some pregnancy hotlines but nothing more. One pregnancy hotline did help me get free medical help, but I was still clueless. I finally found out that Child, Youth and Family (CYF) deal with adoptions. I called the number, and explained my situation. I got support from the stranger on the other end of the line, she was understanding, caring, and she gave me hope. Things moved quickly after that.
They sent me a package with forms to fill out on family history, information about me, and told me to set up my first appointment. I knew nothing about the wonderful "open" part of adoption at that point. Being able to choose the couple to adopt and where the baby would grow up sounded more appealing than closed adoption. One of the hardest things to deal with was the unknown future. There were just so many “what ifs” regarding adoption.
My social worker was very helpful in guiding me through the steps of the adoption process and was always there to lend an ear. She was available to answer questions and counselled me on what to expect once the adoption was final. She made me feel at ease about my decision. I remember being very determined about the decision I was making and nobody was going to talk me out of it although she did ask me many times if I was sure I wanted to go ahead.
The support they offered me was more than wonderful. From that moment on I never ever wondered if I made he right decision or not. Never has something been so clear in my mind.
I chose my adoptive parents about two weeks before she was born. I was shown five profile books. That was the first of many amazing experiences. I narrowed it down to a couple named Sue and Simon. Their full detailed profile just seemed so down to earth. I felt like I could really get along with them. They had everything that I was looking for. They didn’t have any kids yet, they went to church, liked to go camping, they were very close to their families, and they lived in the country. I felt that it was important for me to meet and get to know the people who would raise my daughter. They had so many qualities about them and their family that reminded me of mine.
I woke up on the 12th September with a funny feeling in my tummy. I rang my aunty at work and she told me to write down the times of the pains. Once they started to happen regularly we contacted my sister who drove up to the city to be with me. My parents and other sister overseas were being kept updated.
We arrived at the hospital around 8pm and were put into a room. My family was sent home for a few hours. Once they were back I remember the nurse telling me I would give birth at lunchtime the next day. Contractions kept coming fast and hard. I was very uncomfortable and scared about the birth. I didn’t like the gas they gave me at all. I felt like the baby was going to fall out. In a matter of 30 minutes I had dilated from 5-10cm. I gave birth to Courtney Leigh (birth name) at 6:40am with NO DRUGS!!!! She weighed 7lbs. 5 oz. and was 61.5 cm long.
What an experience!!! It was such a crazy experience!!! But such a wonderful and memorable one!! My hospital stay was made to be a very comfortable time with the nurses being very helpful. I had my daughter in my room with me the entire time along with constant visits from my sister and aunty and my best friend right from the time I arrived in my recovery room. I changed her, fed her, woke up with her, and went to sleep with her.
Leaving the hospital was extremely difficult. The nurses were fantastic as they let me stay there for six days. The nurses gave me a copy of the nametags and we took footprints and handprints from her. Before she was born I made a little box to put her keepsakes in. I have her first bottle and nametags in it and the first dress she wore.
While I was in the hospital, I was experiencing a lot of different emotions that I had not ever felt before. I cannot even really describe these feelings. I was so happy to see Courtney Leigh in my arms and yet I was sad at the same time. I knew that in just a couple of days she would be going to a foster home, rather than home with me. Every time I was alone in the room with her, my eyes would start to fill up with tears.
When we left I was allowed to take her out for the day before we dropped her off at her foster house. Once she went there she stayed for two weeks. My bestfriend and I went every morning and Sue and Simon went every afternoon. I decided not to sign the adoption consent form until my parents were back so they could meet her while she was still mine. Those first few days were extremely hard!!! I felt so confused and sad. But after a few days I started getting up and moving around and doing things slowly but surely.
The first mediation with her birthfather went very well. This was the day that we would meet Sue and Simon for the first time. I was so nervous and sick to my stomach. I told Iwi that I didn’t know if I could go through with this. She just told me that it was just my nerves and that I would be just fine. The moment I walked into the mediation room at CYF all of my nerves went away. I knew that Sue and Simon were the people to take my daughter. I didn’t actually meet them until 7 days after she was born. We shared pictures of our families and told each other about our hobbies and aspirations.
We arranged a contact agreement between the four of us. I decided I wanted to have pictures sent to me, the ability to email and call, and the chance to make some visits. We knew that we would probably have more contact than this although we needed a basic agreement for legal purposes. I think the birthfather found it all a little much to take in but he has visited Ellie and he also receives information from her parents.
During that first week of being home, I went in for my first grief counselling with my social worker at CYF. At that session she and I sat and reflected about what had happened the past weekend. I told her that it felt like a very surreal experience. I said to her; “You go to the hospital being pregnant, do all the work, but do not end up going home with the prize.”
A couple weeks later, someone asked me how I felt on the day that I signed the adoption papers. I told them that it was very hard to explain. A while later, I was talking to another friend who had been through the same thing as me and she said, Its like having someone stick a knife in your heart, slowly turning the knife, while patting you on the back telling you that you are doing the right thing. I could not believe it! She nailed it on the head on the emotions that I had been feeling! It was just amazing!
A month after Ellie was born I had a visit with her family. That opened up the relationship between us. My mom and other family members also visit Ellie. As well as visits there are phone calls, e-mails, cards and all the normal family stuff. Ellie is now four, and so far, things are going better than I expected. It is something you have to work at. It is a relationship that is fragile. There is so much happiness that sometimes you forget, until it sneaks up on you, that it does still hurt a little. But with respect, love and consideration, we go on. Ellie is a joy. I am very lucky. I found two people who have kept their promises to me, have included me in their life, and have allowed me the joy of watching Ellie grow up. The most important thing is that they are great parents - the best, and I love them for that. I do not regret my decision, even now. I think that it has helped me in many ways. And I wouldn't trade having them in my life for anything. Ellie is growing up knowing her birth family, too, which is very special for all of us.