Tara started attending Gladney’s support group for residents for grief and loss to prepare for her baby.
Staff gave the residents a lot of materials and activities to do to deal with the adoption.
Among them was a “Guide to Making Your Own Ritual” regarding dealing with memories and ways to honor their birth child. They each got a box to make memory boxes full of mementos such as a copy of the birth certificate, letters, birth diary, lock of hair from the child, hospital bracelet, pictures; etc. Boxes were decorated on the outside however residents wanted to decorate them. Some made scrapbooks instead. Some made both. They suggested using decor that would last for safekeeping.
Tara made both.
The residents were told that they would use the treasure box as a part of their ritual to honor the birth of their child.
“Even though you’re making an adoption plan, this child will always be a part of you and this part of you can be honored throughout your life,” one of the counselors explained to the group.
Another suggestion was to decide what the resident wanted to do on her child’s birthday. One birth mom she knew made her little girl a cake. Residents were encouraged to keep in mind when and why they chose adoption.
Some ideas suggested included: keeping a candle in the box and only lighting it on the child’s birthday, buying flowers for yourself on that special day, saying special prayers, looking through the box and remembering the time of the child’s birth and why adoption was chosen, creating a special dance or song to perform in honor of the child, having a special place to go for the ritual or just remembering this time, and making a donation to a children’s fund in honor of the child.
Residents were encouraged to make their way of honoring as open or private as they wanted to. Family members could also help or residents could make it their own private time of remembrance.
Residents were told that when they are remembering the birth time and a ritual is too difficult and they become depressed, to do something for them that’s very special. They could make special plans with others that are supportive of their decision for adoption, for example.
Then residents could brainstorm for ideas as to what to do for a yearly (or more often) ritual to honor their child.
Some residents visited the placement location through the years, or wrote about their child. Some sent letters, cards, and pictures to their APs.
Residents were encouraged to plan for shared time with trusted others. They told them that they might really need their own mom now, like a little kid. They were told to choose their friends selectively to be their sounding board, to listen to them ramble, and work out their feelings. They were also told to forget about people who said, “How could you?” She hoped she could deal with them later when she was stronger, as the counselors claimed. They were instructed to talk with other trusted people like the baby’s father (maybe), clergy, their o.b., favorite nurse, or hospital social worker.
Most residents didn’t take advantage of the advice to join a birth parent support group for that special understanding they could only get from another birth parent. They were also told to be sure to make appointments with their counselor because she really understood the process they were going through and had the professional skills to help them work through their grief.
Those who had concealed their pregnancy were told that their counselor would be very important, as was the
hospital staff where they gave birth because others in their life would be ignorant about what they were going through.
Talking it out was a key factor in grief work.
For busy time, residents were advised to take action, do something, and be productive.
If Tara didn’t have a job, she felt she’d go insane.
A ritualization of a goodbye to the baby from the birth mom was also needed. Tips included talking to the baby and explaining why the birth mom was making an adoption plan, expressing her love, and saying goodbye. Some birth moms did this in a letter and included a picture of themselves, the birth father or their family or his. Some kept keepsakes like pictures, a hair lock, blanket, cap, ribbon, wristband, feet and handprints, and birth record. Some made photo albums or a memorabilia box for themselves – something to do as a tribute to their baby. Some sent birth announcements to close friends and family including a statement like: “Melissa joined her adoptive parents, Bill and Sue on August 1st.” Some sent a family heirloom to their baby, made a gift, or bought something special.
Residents were also encouraged to heal physically to heal emotionally. Hormones were swinging back to their pre-pregnant state and “baby blues” tears were a normal part of post-partum recovery.
Writing was also encouraged through keeping a journal and recording thoughts and feelings. This served as a release now so later when
read over; the birth mom would supposedly feel a sense of accomplishment, seeing how far she’s come.
Tara wrote up one-liners as suggested for responses to questions or comments from outsiders. She was supposed to use positive adoption language like “I made an adoption plan for my baby,” not “I gave up my baby.” She was supposed to say things like “I’m lucky I found my baby such great parents.” One birth mom said, “Anyone can get pregnant by mistake and have a baby. But I’m special. I made an adoption plan for my baby and I DID IT.”
Residents were encouraged to not be defensive but be proud. Tara hadn’t gotten the hang of that yet. She planned to educate others on the positive aspects of adoption planning.
One day she hoped she’d feel the self-respect she’d seen in others. Others were supposed to learn from her.
To rude questions it was suggested she say something like “Now why would you ask a question like that?”
Center counselors told residents that they didn’t owe anyone answers and that by writing up responses to questions asked or expected to be asked, that they’d be better prepared.
Residents were also encouraged to set goals for the next twelve months after the baby was born, beginning with the month after the birth.
It was God who had carried her through these things: being abused and neglected, health problems, institutions, foster care, being a ward of the state, being an outcast, high school, rehab, college, pregnancy, dating, marrying, her wedding, relapses, sex addiction, moving, codependency, her first relationship, putting her dog to sleep, jobs, her former best friend’s betrayal, therapy, isolation, volunteering, money problems, Asthma, car wrecks, not feeling a part of, loneliness, lost writing opportunities, traveling, family, relationships, service work, her father, memories, depression, being suicidal, chairing meetings, amends, fear, her friends’ problems, deaths, and various losses.
May 3, 2000
The residents had group that day at the center and Tara showed her collage for her baby, which depicted her personality.
The Self Magazine reporter came to interview some of the residents for a story on Gladney.
May 7, 2000
Some of the residents went to dinner with an adoptive parent who was a Gladney volunteer. Many of the APs (adoptive parents) were volunteers with the center. This parent had adopted two kids from Gladney.
She was almost done with her baby’s scrapbook. That kind of made her sad. She wanted to see what her daughter was going to look like.
She wondered what, if anything, she was thinking at this point.
Earlier that night Tara, her boss who lived at the dorm with her, and one other resident went to speak to a group of prospective adoptive parents in another city. They each told their stories of how they chose adoption, how they chose Gladney, and what the experience had been like so far for them.
Tara went last and as she spoke her voice shook which it always did when she was nervous. She injected humor into her story and drew a few laughs from the audience.
Afterwards the gratifying part was when several parents went up to the birth moms and complimented them on their courage.
Tara was humbled by their attention. She really didn’t feel she was doing anything that special. The two other birth moms accepted the compliments with grace and confidence.
On the way home Tara and the birth moms talked about their decision and how they enjoyed talking to the group.
“It was nothing like I thought it would be, much better,” Tara’s boss said. “I thought they were going to be confrontive.”
“Yeah, me too,” Tara agreed. “It was refreshing after what I’ve been hearing at work.”
“I’d like to do it again,” Tara’s boss said.
“Well, I admire you all so much,” the house parent driving the car said. “I think it’s great what you are doing.”
May 8, 2000
Tara’s favorite house parent was going to Placement Day with her at the playground/park Tara found.
Tara’s baby did a big karate kick that night in her belly.