Tara’s roommate left one day not long before Tara’s 34th birthday to go back to her hometown in Louisiana.
When Tara got back from meeting with her caseworker there was a note from her roommate:
“You will do well. I’m sure of it,” she wrote. “Don’t let anyone rent free space in your head, okay? I really like your photo album you made for your baby and I’m sure you’ll find more than enough to fill all the pages. I hope you find peace in your own adoption. Thank you for all of your support and love.”
Tara was really going to miss her. Suddenly she felt the void and moped around the rest of the night. They had really connected and Tara didn’t let many people in that way. She wondered if she’d ever hear from her again.
The Washington Times reporter came to Gladney for three weeks to cover a birth mom’s journey. The birth mom featured was a 19-year-old Mormon who was due that month. During her stay a tornado hit the city and all the residents huddled in various bathrooms for protection. Although it almost demolished downtown Fort Worth, it flew right over the home, causing no damage, save for a few uprooted trees and stray branches.
The birth mom was afraid she’d go into labor during the tornado.
The artistic resident, who’d helped Tara with the dorm newsletter, was having dinner with her APs, meeting them for the first time with their two sons. As they sat at the table watching the boys remain uncannily calm, the safety glass on the front window by their table shattered to the ground. Another group of residents was stranded at the bookstore with the activity director and one of them got hysterical and screamed, “We’re going to die!”
The tornado traveled right down the street.
This birth mom came to Gladney just after the first of January. She had just finished her first semester of college at a small Catholic university where she ran cross-country. She was 18 and six months pregnant.
She said she was proof you could walk away and still be “okay”:
“I didn’t know I was pregnant until the middle of November at 16 weeks,” she said. There was never any morning sickness and I hadn’t gained any weight. When I was home from school one weekend I went to my family doctor because I felt tired all the time. He later called me at home and told me he thought I was pregnant. I hung up, said goodbye to my family and drove back to school like nothing happened. Later I cried till I threw up.
Things started happening very fast from there. Back at school I had the pregnancy confirmed and thought about all the directions I could take. Only after I decided on adoption did I feel like I could deal with it and had some peace. Knowing I couldn’t stay in my small hometown, I began looking for places to stay.”
She found Gladney off their Internet site.
“It sounded like just what I needed,” she said. “That thought of telling your parents just seems too much. I come from a very close, traditional family; this had to be the worst thing I could come to them with. But after telling my parents, I had never felt so lucky to be their daughter. They were heartbroken, but from the start they were right there with me.
My first few weeks at Gladney I spent mostly alone in my room, scared to death. My parents called every night, scared for me. With no job and no car, days lasted forever.
I made lists of things I could do to fill up time: take walks, make a scrapbook for the baby, even learn French from a little book! As I opened up, things got much better. My favorite times were late at night when a small group of us would stay up and make brownies or play board games.”
Her best friend there was a pretty cheerleader from West Texas who, like her, came after her first semester at college. Another close friend was a girl from southern Louisiana who came down with her little son. While she was at Gladney she got her GED, completed several courses in accounting, and really got her life on track.
“I met so many amazing girls and I think about them all the time,” she said.
“Life there is still tough though. The dorms are a houseful of scared, irritable, emotional pregnant girls. There are girls who get kicked out for all sorts of things, rules we thought were silly, and we cooked our own meals and had “dorm jobs.” But it’s not a prison. You can make a life there.
I began to see how much adoption has changed. I was able to choose my son’s family, how and where I wanted Placement and how much time I got with the baby beforehand. Looking through profiles of adoptive parents was stressful – it’s a huge decision but also interesting. More like “finding” the parents your baby was always supposed to have rather than picking and choosing. I fell in love with my adoptive parent family before I even met them. They are incredible! He (my son) has two older brothers, a stay-at-home mom, and a dad who will be there for him, all things I couldn’t give him. I got to know them before his birth and they promised to stay in contact with me through pictures and letters (a promise they have certainly kept)!”
She said when it came time to deliver her son she felt prepared. Her son had a family and a name, she had been through prenatals twice and her mom had come down to be with her.
“Also we have a spectacular doctor and nurse who take care of us. But you cannot be prepared for the moment your child is born,” she said. “You will love that child beyond anything. The pain started right then. I saw he had my nose and mouth, that he recognized my voice. Those were precious days: my time with my son. All I wanted to do was stare at him. Over the next week I tried to get my life in order some and nursery visits were the highlight of my day. I got to tell my son all the things I was thinking and feeling, how much I loved and wanted him, and how much I would miss him. My heart broke over and over again that week but I felt it was the only way to give him what he deserved.”
She was tempted to change her mind about her adoption plan after her son was born. She wasn’t prepared for how strong her emotions would be the first time she held her new son. She kept him with her in the hospital the whole time and stared at him all night long, thinking, Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½Wow, this is so incredible.’
She would’ve been all alone trying to raise her son and that’s not what she wanted. He wouldn’t have a dad and she wouldn’t be home to raise him because she’d have to work. She decided that was no life for her child. Luckily her family supported her throughout the pregnancy and adoption. But since she lived in a small town, she only shared her news with a few friends.
She loved the whole adoptive family and thought they were so neat. She knew her son would have a real full life with them. Now she wanted to help educate others about adoption so every time the public relations rep from Gladney asked, she volunteered to speak at panels, forums; etc. and to talk to future birth moms and adoptive parents.
She wasn’t even nervous, but proud. She didn’t want it to be a dirty little secret. She had done nothing wrong, she knew, despite what some people imposed on her.
She had her placement in a garden in Fort Worth. She said it was a perfect day. The adoptive couple brought their sons; she invited her family and a few of the many people at the center who were special to her.
“That way it was more of a celebration than a negative thing,” she said. “That day is a beautiful, tender memory for me. I helped make a family that day. I won’t lie and say the months ahead were easy or even just Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½a little hard.’ I had never felt grief that strong. It was like someone had died.
I think of my son now and smile. Time has helped lessen the pain some. Today I would never think to change any one thing,” she said. “From the mistakes I made with his birth father, to signing the papers releasing my son into his adoptive home, I have no regrets. He has a wonderful family ready to take care of him and I am back in school getting my life together. Most of all I know he will grow up knowing I made the choice to place him for adoption because I loved him.”
Amy, a highly intelligent 17-year-old resident who had various talents including playing the piano and Danish cooking, had her journal published on Gladney’s website toward the end of her pregnancy. She received first place in the High Point Arabian Country English Pleasure riding contest (another of her passions).
She found out she was pregnant during spring break from high school. She was on vacation with her then boyfriend and his parents skiing. The week before she had taken a pregnancy test and was not sure of the results. While she was in Colorado skiing she took another test and that one was positive.
“I just remember thinking to myself, Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½It must be the altitude,'” she said. “Three more test all said the same thing; Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½I’m pregnant.’ My first decision was abortion. Mainly because I didn’t want anyone to know I was pregnant and I also didn’t want my life to change. The night before my abortion I started bleeding and was rushed to the hospital. My best friend came with me. We were there for five hours and I finally received a sonogram. In the sonogram I could see the baby’s heartbeat and right at that moment I knew I couldn’t go through with my abortion plan.”
Amy was seven and a half weeks pregnant at that time. She told the birth father that she couldn’t go through with the abortion and was surprised how fast she lost his support and her job.
She was crushed.
Tara wished she had the discipline of the artistic resident, a very mature 18-year-old, mature beyond her years.
The reporter and photographer from the paper were ticked off that after spending three weeks in the dorm following the featured birth mom’s every move that she changed her mind when her baby was born March 31st, Tara’s birthday. Still, to salvage the story, they followed her progress as she left the home – for a short time anyway – and included other interviews with some other residents in the story.
The subheading read: “As single moms shake stigma, women who choose adoption get little support.” The headline screamed “Forgotten Choice.”
The front-page picture was of the childbirth teacher demonstrating a doll serving as the newborn baby still in the womb up against the featured birth mom’s chest. The birth mom said no one could have prepared her for the pain she felt after leaving the hospital without her newborn baby girl.
“When I went home, the only thing I could say was, Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½I want my baby.’ I cried all night,” she said.
A week after her baby was born; she couldn’t sign legal papers terminating her rights.
It didn’t help that society preached about how selfish adoption was.