a birth mother’s story: Jacqueline

I had to feel my heart break in order to piece it back together. My name is Jacqueline and this is my adoption story.

adoptionweek

Before I had my wonderful experience with adoption I would never in a million years have guessed my fate as a birth mother. For the confused, naiive twenty year old college student, my pregnancy was definitely unexpected and at first seemed like the end of my world; in some ways it was. The scared girl I was prior to my pregnancy and the strong, independent woman I blossomed into after seem like two different people. Adoption wound up being one of the most pivotal life lessons to define who my character really is, a character that continues to grow and learn every day.

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The day I found out that the reason I was so sick for so long was not some exotic stomach flu and in fact was a nine week old fetus, I knew immediately that the road ahead was filled with tough decisions and running away from them was not an option.
The first and scariest was coming forward to my parents with the truth. I am very fortunate to have a loving and supportive family and I knew it better than ever when my parents braced me with loving arms.
Second was figuring out what to do: keep my baby, love him or her with everything I’ve got and struggle to make any kind of home for him or her with the nothing to either mine, or the birth father’s name (depending greatly on our families for every kind of support), fake a miscarriage to my parents and secretly get an abortion or give up my child for adoption.

Even if I had tried there was no way I could ever have gone through with aborting my unborn child, speaking from a personal point of view, so that was out of the question. Though the “quick fix” was tempting I just knew I couldn’t go through with it. Adoption seemed like the soundest choice one could make in my position. Even though my baby looked like an alien at this point with no real defining characteristics yet developed, I loved it already and I didn’t have the heart to let my child always question in the back of his or her mind if he/she were a burden or anything of the sort. I had such a happy childhood in a big family, I didn’t want my child to be born into a broken family filled with insecurity and misplace, and suffer the consequences of MY actions, that’s just not fair and in a world where so little is fair to begin with. I wanted to change the tides for once. I knew I had no business raising a child, I could barely take care of myself, and the same goes for the birth father. With a little convincing he too was soon on board.

Though I originally planned on going my separate way entirely, a closed adoption meant I had absolutely no say, and there was no way I was going to put my child’s future in anyone’s hands but my own and the family that I saw fit to raise them. I was impressed with how easy it was and convenient to look up couples and families and read all about them. Almost instantly I ran across Tim and Niccole’s picture. The minute I read about their awesome life in sunny Southern California I was in love; we all had so much in common and they just looked so down to earth and cool. Nicc and I share a love of fashion and girly things and Tim and the birth father had similar interests in music and skateboarding. They just seemed perfect to stand in our place.

The reality fell heavy on my heart, however, and being so early in my pregnancy (my stomach looking flat as ever from all the morning sickness) I decided to give myself some time to avoid making rash decisions on excited whims and really pick the right people. I avoided looking for another month or two before my stomach slowly became more firm and my jeans got harder to button, and Then I finally contacted the Johnson’s. I sent an email through the website knowing it had to go through a screening process. To this day we have no idea how or why it happened but my email instead went straight to their inbox and when they responded back it went straight to mine. From then on, Every day I was excited to check my email. I felt like we’d known each other for years and we never even met! I talked with Nicc like I would my girlfriends and Tim was just as down to earth and excited to get to know me too. They told me the story of how they met, I told them all about me and the Birth Father. It was full of excitement, joy and tears and it confirmed I was making the right decision even though every passing day my heart broke a little more knowing the hardest day of my life was right around the corner.

From then on we continued to email back and forth everyday. I told Nicc about the different phases I was going through in my pregnancy and the symptoms (she was very sympathetic), and the day I found out I would be giving birth to a baby boy I immediately sent them an email with the happy news and asked about name ideas.  Niccole confessed to me that she had had a dream two weeks prior to the first email I ever sent them of a baby boy. That was one of the biggest confirmations that this was meant to be and that no matter how much it may hurt it would be worth it and I would survive it. Around six months along, when I was finally beginning to noticeably show my parents and I agreed it would be nice to stay in California with my brother to avoid any negative reactions and misunderstanding from acquaintances. I was still ashamed of myself and incredibly embarrassed and now that I was showing I couldn’t pretend any longer so off to California I went.

 

While there I got to meet with my social worker for the first time, Jennifer, who wound up being one of my biggest cheerleaders and motivators. She seemed to think so highly of me and said she saw so much in me. Even when I caved and cried she said I was a graceful, beautiful crier which made me a little less embarrassed by my abnormal emotions. And of course I finally got to meet Tim and Niccole in person. It really was like we’d been friends for years from the get-go.

The months passed and my belly grew and grew and little Ollie (a name the Johnson’s picked but I wish I’d thought of myself because it’s so perfect) kicked and shoved harder every day, ready to come out running as we liked to all laugh about. I was torn apart internally more so by overwhelming emotions from the fierce hormones but never did I second guess my decision, even when everyone kept telling me I didn’t have to go through with the adoption if I didn’t want to. To this day, people have a difficult time grasping that I came to the decision myself. The rest of my family and all of my friends (including the birth father) were back East but I had a strong support system in the Johnson’s, Jen and my brother both emotionally and physically, and a few weeks before giving birth my mother flew out to help me through the hardest part as well.

There was a LOT of paper work. Jen came by to see me often and every time there were more papers for me to sign off on. There are hospital plans to fill out, signing in with the hospital, hospital tours, so much I didn’t know. Pregnancy isn’t quite how Hollywood makes it out to seem. The scariest of all was the Hospital tour. Suddenly all of my fears were materializing before my eyes in the form of an empty delivery room and happy mommies and daddies so excited about their bun in the oven and I just looked down at my bulging belly, sweet little Ollie further bruising my ribs, and it was all I could to remember to stand tall and proud and try not to let anyone see me tear up, because the minute they did I knew I wouldn’t be able to control my emotions anymore.

The closer it came to the due date the harder it was for me to ignore what I was going to go through; The physical and emotional pain I was about to endure. I would set my phone on my belly and play music for hours to soothe both of us, music being a bit part of my life, it has meant so much to me that Tim and Niccole incorporate so much music into little Ollie’s life and already encourage him to get involved. And then the morning came where I was a little more uncomfortable than usual. Ollie was a big baby for my small frame, in the last week my hips were pushed out and I was living with constant growing pains in my legs, my ribs, my back. It was miserable. This morning I didn’t even know what I was experiencing were contractions, it was just uncomfortable, and as the pain gradually increased we realized it was Go Time.

Originally I had hoped for Niccole to stand next to me and be a part of the delivery but when the day came I was in such excruciating pain I couldn’t bear for the Johnsons to see me breaking down like that so I asked for them to wait until after Ollie was born.
Nine hours of labor and Oliver Axel was born into this world a strong, healthy baby boy. I still can’t even believe I did it. I look at beautiful little Ollie today and I often question incredulously, “Did I really do that?!” He is perfect! The Johnson’s did come into the delivery room as soon as everything was cleaned up and we all took a family photo together. The first of many to come. They respected my short time in the hospital with Ollie and I clung to those 48 hours for dear life. The Johnson’s would visit during the day and I would puff up with pride at how much they loved him already, too. I let other people hold him when my hospital room was full so I got used to the idea. I can’t think back on that last night with him, however, without becoming a blubbering baby myself. Ollie was gassy and couldn’t sleep and whimpered anytime my mother and I put him in his cradle to sleep.

The only thing that seemed to comfort him was holding him on my chest. The hospital had a strict rule that you couldn’t sleep with the baby in the bed so I lay there the entire night awake, in tears, as little Ollie rested peacefully and nestled his little nose into my neck. It was the first time I ever even grasped the concept that this little human being could possibly love me just as much as I loved him.

Come morning I was so emotionally and physically exhausted I could barely speak. Again, I didn’t want Tim and Niccole to see me like that so I asked that the hand-off be done after I left. Most of that part is a painful blur for me. I will never forget the moment I finally stood up with Ollie in my arms and hobbled over to Jen to place him in her arms. When she had him in her arms, I stood up straight, closed my eyes, turned around and walked out. As per proper protocol I was wheeled out of the hospital. I just stared at my feet to avoid all of the curious glances. After two days of not showering and crying I didn’t even want to know how awful I must have looked.

Jen said she was so impressed with little Ollie for being strong and not breaking down when I left, she said he was just like his momma. She also later told me that the entire maternity ward staff was in tears as they watched me being wheeled away. She said they all went over to her and cried their eyes out for me.

My mother tried to get me to eat on the way home but since I was no longer pregnant I finally lost my appetite and it felt nice for a change; I was no longer a slave to my cravings and the hardest part was done. I remember looking out the window at how beautiful the day was. It was sunny and green and the flowers were in full bloom, even for September and it was so beautiful it hurt. My family respected my silence, I had to feel my heart break in order to piece it back together. When I was in the safety of my room at my brother’s house I finally cried like I’ve never cried before. It physically hurt to not be able to hold my baby boy and I kept crying out “it hurts, it hurts!” I have never felt so empty in my life, but my mother was there to hold me and reassure me that I am not alone and what I did was a beautiful, brave thing. And then I fell into an exhausted sleep, though my body did everything to fight it; a part of me was afraid I would never be able to wake up again, that I would die of a broken heart and then I drifted to sleep and it was all finally over.

My recovery was surprisingly quick, mostly because I knew I did the right thing, even after all of that. That night when I woke up I almost felt normal again. I texted Tim and Niccole that I loved them and they said they were so worried about me and loved me which was surprisingly exactly what I needed to hear. I was grateful they respected my space until I reached out to them to let them know it would be alright first.

The days passed and my stomach went flatter and flatter and I was becoming a new person that I didn’t even know. My body was completely different, my voice, everything about me. I had plans for when I got home, I had a new found drive and ambition to chase the dreams I was always afraid to own up to and all of it was inspired by the sweet, innocent Ollie so many already loved.

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Today I am still driven towards success. I am still working towards finishing my degree as well as building up a career in modeling, singing and hopefully some day writing. Anytime I feel discouraged I think of my happy little boy, so far away and I find the strength he gave me all over again. I have my second chance to do something with my life and everyday I tell myself I owe it to him, and I owe it to me.

The Johnson’s and I are still close. I call them my California family. We call each other at least once a week for updates. I lived in CA briefly and they invited me over all the time. At first I was weary, afraid of over stepping boundaries but it really isn’t like that at all for us. Ollie is a perfect mixture of his birth parents, physically and in temperament, he is our flesh and blood, but he is a Johnson at the same time.

When I think of it from a third person’s point of view “he is mine, but he isn’t” sounds sad but in a way I can’t fully explain it isn’t sad at all, but the total opposite. I get to watch Ollie grow up in the Johnson family from afar and it is one of the greatest joys of my life. Seeing pictures on Instagram everyday fills my heart with happiness and further endearment and I am so proud of how loved he is by every soul his beautiful face touches; I am so proud of the strength I had to make such a hard decision and to never waiver or doubt it.

Yes, giving up a child for adoption is difficult, And that’s putting it lightly, But it is also equally rewarding. In the end I gained more than I lost. We are all one big family. More importantly, I don’t know that I ever would have otherwise found the strength to stand up tall and be myself. I found self-esteem in being broken down. Yes, the day I had to say goodbye to my baby I broke, but I would do it over again any day if I had the chance to feel the fulfillment and sense of reward I feel today.

JACQUELINE’S ADVICE:

To every couple looking to adopt, my best advice would be to take heed to the Johnson’s example in being a nurturing support system to their birth mother, and never forget the emotional and physical sacrifice that young woman makes for you. To every young woman out there struggling to make the same decision, know that it won’t be easy but nothing really worth it EVER is. If you don’t feel well enough equipped to take care of your child, giving up your child is the most loving, selfless and motherly thing you can do. I would never tell anyone what choice to make, but I will say that choosing to let my child live was also one of the best decisions I made, had I not I never would have been able to

fall in love with my beautiful boy and he would never have been able to touch so many lives in such a profound and beautiful way. At the end of the day you are giving everyone a chance, yes you’re giving your child the biggest and best chance, but you’re giving yourself an equally great chance to go out and take the world by storm.

My name is Jacqueline and this is my coming of age; my adoption story.

Thank you for letting me share it with anyone willing to know.

Sincerely,

Jacqueline Southerland

Comments

  1. on April 17, 2013 at 7:37 am said:

    What a touching story! I read it with tears in my eyes as I rubbed my own baby belly. I can’t imagine the pain of having to give away your child after bonding with them for so long in the womb. It was lovely to hear an adoption story from the perspective of the mother. Thanks!

  2. Jenae:
    on April 17, 2013 at 7:51 am said:

    Such strength and beauty. Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. on April 17, 2013 at 8:23 am said:

    What a beautiful story of sacrifice, strength and love. Thank you for sharing!

  4. on April 17, 2013 at 8:31 am said:

    Wow. Bawling! You are an amazing woman. Your story especially touched me in that I was in the same position. At 18, my senior year in high school, I was faced with the same decision. I chose a different route but I I often wonder my life as the latter. Such a strange feeling .
    Thank you for sharing your story. You are strong, courageous, selfless and a beautiful birth mother!!

  5. chelsea:
    on April 17, 2013 at 8:57 am said:

    your story is incredible. what a selfless, courageous and loving person you are! you have given the johnson’s the greatest gift they will ever receive. i think many people would like to think that they would be able to do the same thing in your position, but the truth is most of them wouldn’t be brave enough. congratulations on your new life! ollie is beautiful- both you and the johnsons get equal credit for that!

  6. Heather:
    on April 17, 2013 at 8:59 am said:

    thanks for sharing your side of the adoption story! what a strong and selfless decision you made. we just adopted our second baby and we have such love and respect for our birthfamilies. you have no idea what an amazing gift you have given! we like to say that birthfamilies (lovingly) PLACE their babies for adoption, rather than giving them up…

  7. Heidi:
    on April 17, 2013 at 9:03 am said:

    These stories are so inspiring, beautiful, and heartbreaking at the same time. What incredible women you’ve highlighted: birth mothers and adoptive mothers alike. I’ve had friends who’ve been on both sides of adoption and it seems they all have had equally beautiful experiences. Every morning this week I’ve started off my morning with a good cry from these posts! 😉 Thank you for sharing all of these beautiful stories.

  8. mardi:
    on April 17, 2013 at 10:04 am said:

    I, too, am a birth mom. While my story is not exactly the same, I can truly relate to all of these feelings. I firmly believe that I was the alternate route for bringing a beautiful boy to a beautiful family. It was the hardest experience of my life, but I would not give up who it has made me today. I am also an adoptive mom, and I know the joy that this brings on the receiving side. Birth moms and adoptive moms are some of the most amazing and strong women I know.

    • Small Fry:
      on April 18, 2013 at 4:21 pm said:

      you are so brave!
      lots of love to you & thank you for reading Small Fry.

  9. on April 17, 2013 at 10:17 am said:

    this is such an amazing story of strength & love. i cannot imagine being in her situation, she is so brave.

  10. christian:
    on April 17, 2013 at 10:39 am said:

    Simply amazing. Bawling right now. Your Strength…..there Are No Words.

  11. Ani:
    on April 17, 2013 at 10:49 am said:

    I am so thankful you were willing to share so open and honestly your story. You are truly an amazing woman. Little Ollie is the sweetest little guy!

  12. Polly McRae:
    on April 17, 2013 at 12:22 pm said:

    What a beautiful selfless girl. X

  13. Lisa:
    on April 17, 2013 at 1:39 pm said:

    More than touching. I can’t help but shed tears. The way you told this story put me there. And although I have NO IDEA what it’s like to give up your precious child, the pain in your story was palpable i felt like i was there. I’ve never looked at it quite the way you do and it’s amazing. Thank you for sharing. This is a subject that is just recently becoming intertwined into my heart. Small Fry thank you for making this part of this week. Your timing was perfect!!! as always.

    • Small Fry:
      on April 18, 2013 at 4:20 pm said:

      lisa thank you always for reading and loving small fry!
      your comment meant to much to us.

  14. on April 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm said:

    Wow, this blows me away. I pray that K our sons beautiful birthMama feels the same xxx

  15. on April 17, 2013 at 3:19 pm said:

    Jackie I love you so much! It was amazing to read the story even though Ive heard it and even lived it for a bit with you! You are and always have been an inspiration to me.

  16. elena:
    on April 17, 2013 at 4:04 pm said:

    Wow. I can’t even understand her story yet it moved me so much! Thank you for sharing.

  17. elena:
    on April 17, 2013 at 4:04 pm said:

    Wow. I can’t even understand her story yet it moved me so much! Thank you for sharing.

  18. on April 17, 2013 at 5:03 pm said:

    I loved this! Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. I just texted my son’s birth mother with the link and told her how much we love her. Adoption is a wonderful miracle! We are so grateful for an open adoption as well.

    • Small Fry:
      on April 18, 2013 at 4:19 pm said:

      love this! glad you are enjoying reading this week.

  19. on April 17, 2013 at 5:05 pm said:

    I loved this! Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. I just texted my son’s birth mother with the link and told her how much we love her. Adoption is a wonderful miracle! We are so grateful for an open adoption as well.

  20. Heather:
    on April 17, 2013 at 6:47 pm said:

    Your story is so beautiful and really hits me in so many ways I can’t explain. I wish I could have been brave like you. You and the Johnsons are an inspiration. I respect you so very much.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  21. Beth:
    on April 17, 2013 at 7:03 pm said:

    you are a brilliant writer, and a strong, amazing person. you really made the best choice for everyone involved, and i absolutely love how you have woven a beautiful family for ollie. adoption can be redemptive for all. you did it beautifully.

  22. M wiseman:
    on April 17, 2013 at 7:06 pm said:

    Thanks for sharing your story. As an adoptive parent it makes my heart swell with gratitude for your beautiful sacrifice. I have tears as think of the heartache endured. Adoption is beautiful as it merges two families together as one.

  23. on April 17, 2013 at 9:12 pm said:

    What an amazing story. We are on the waiting list to adopt and will remember to embrace our hopeful birth parent with never ending love. We are hoping our day come sooner than later. So proud of you and all the birth mothers out there

    • on April 18, 2013 at 12:03 am said:

      Laura,
      Your sweet angel will come to your family & when that day arrives you will realize why it happened at that time. Remain faithful and know that our Father in Heaven has a plan for you, your birth mother and child.
      If you ever feel down contact me! I know the process is emotional and feels oh so long, but it is so worth it.
      Hugs,
      Niccole

    • Small Fry:
      on April 18, 2013 at 4:18 pm said:

      we are cheering for you laura!

  24. RAM:
    on April 18, 2013 at 3:33 am said:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! As a newly adoptive mom (our sweet baby girl was born 3.6.13) I am grateful for your perspective. We too have a open and healthy relationship with our BM but it is still fresh and we don’t want to push too hard. We have spoken numerous times…and have even had our first visit. Yet, hearing your heart help me understand a bit more what it is like from the BM point of view. Our BM is very much like u in strength and character (minus the supportive family) and she is already talking about how this experience has changed her life for the better. Anyway, it was just great to hear your adoption voice and to put to rest some of my fears (does our BM regret her decision, is she really as confident as she seems, could she really be in a better place than before the pregnancy????). You confirmed that all this questions can be met with a resounding yes. I’m sure in the future we will have conversations about these things with our BM. Until then I’m thankful you were so real and raw and that u shared from your heart. God bless you!

    • Small Fry:
      on April 18, 2013 at 4:17 pm said:

      congratulations on your new baby! what a precious time.

  25. Holly:
    on April 18, 2013 at 8:30 am said:

    It takes incredible strength and love to do what you did and it is an amazing thing that you did. It is a wonderful example of selfless love, and is truly inspiring. It’s not an easy story to share (especially in this blogging world), but it is extremely touching and such a wonderful experience to hear it from you. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful/hard/challenging/selfless and giving story.

  26. on April 18, 2013 at 5:18 pm said:

    Sobbed through this story. What an inspiration. Such a brave woman & caring mother. Thank you for sharing your story.

  27. Rachael:
    on April 18, 2013 at 8:29 pm said:

    Wow. I’m sobbing. Such an amazing story of pure love, selflessness, and inspiration. Truly touching.

  28. Alie:
    on April 18, 2013 at 9:05 pm said:

    Girl, you are one amazing woman.

    It’s kind of interesting because my husband and I had to give up a baby too, a baby that the entire pregnancy we knew wouldn’t live. I experienced so many of the same feelings you went through, but our experience was completely different. So for that reason, your story really resonated with me and touched my heart in the most bitter and yet happy places.

    Again, YOU ARE AWESOME, Jacqueline.

  29. J. MacNeil:
    on May 29, 2013 at 7:13 pm said:

    I am a birth mother I was only 15 when I placed my son it was very hard at the time but I have found him he is now 37 years old and I am now 52 just so glad to have found him it is not easy placing a child for adoption and wondering over the years how he turned out luckly he did well and had a great adoptive mom and dad and had a very good upbringing we now have a relationship after all those years just so glad that I have found him

  30. Jessica:
    on July 10, 2013 at 2:11 pm said:

    This was a beautifully written story of the birthmother perspective in adoption! Thank you so much for sharing this!

  31. tj:
    on December 30, 2013 at 9:45 pm said:

    Reading your story took me back to my experience! Today is my daughters 15th birthday! 15 yrs ago today my life changed! I am truly blessed to have had a similar situation! God gave me peace and a beautiful family for my daughter! Thanks for sharing!

  32. Julie:
    on February 8, 2014 at 1:35 pm said:

    I am a birth mom also! Reading your story took me right back. My daughter will be 11 in a few weeks. I am married now with four kids! Your so right about adoption making you who you are and giving you an inner drive. Adoption is so hard to explain, but it is a wonderful thing. Thank you for putting into words bits of every birth moms story

  33. amber d'amico:
    on March 19, 2014 at 2:57 pm said:

    I am an adoptive momma to a 2 year old boy… your blog blessed me and I have MUCH respect for you. May God bless you in all you do.

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