A beautiful hospital experience
Susan Tompkins, LCSW
Domestic Adoption Coordinator
Journeys of the Heart Adoption
Recently I was part of a beautiful hospital/adoption experience, something we all want but don’t always get. I don’t mean that the birth mother didn’t experience grief and loss but considering the difficult circumstances , she felt surrounded by the love and tender loving care.
How do I know this was a beautiful and loving experience? Of course, I have my own feelings and observations but numerous nurses validated this and social workers stopping the adoptive parents and me and saying something like, “this is the most loving and caring adoption we have ever experienced.”
One has to start with a birth mother who was open to receiving the love and TLC and adopting parents , in this case Layton and Sean, who had it in their hearts to give it. In this case, we had that openness and receptiveness on both sides.
The hospital did not have an extra room for the adoptive parents so the Layton spent two nights in the room with the birth mother and sweet baby. The first night the birth mother wanted to hold the baby most of the night. She did and when she really needed to sleep, she handed him over to Layton, who was more than ready to hold the precious bundle. Sean was in with everyone during the day and at a nearby hotel at night, getting his special time with the baby when it seemed appropriate.
The sharing went on throughout the hospital stay with the Layton always checking in to see what the birth mother wanted and then made sure she got it.
We all met at the hospital early in the morning. Layton handed over a medium sized black bag to the birth mother saying it was full of things she had packed that the birth mother might want or need during hospitalization. While we waited to be admitted, the birth mother looked through the bag and was she surprised. Clearly, Layton had put a lot of thought into the ingredients.
Here is a list of what was inside:
- Stool softener
- Water bottle
- Snack mix
- Facial wipes
- Make up remover
- Journal and pen
- Nail polish
- Hair bands
- Uber and iTunes gift card for a ride/meal/music
The birth mother was so grateful that such a bag was put together just for her and it set a nice tone for the whole stay.
Add in a phenomenal hospital staff who supported the birth mother in every way and often stopped by just to give her a hug or word of encouragement. Add in a complicated birth that Layton helped with, bringing she and the birth mother closer. It also didn’t hurt that Layton was herself adopted and understood the importance of birth family in the child’s life and who very much wanted the loving relationship that she didn’t have until much later in adulthood.
All the ingredients were there for the best adoption experience possible. You may be this fortunate when it is your time to be at the hospital with your child’s birth mother. However, if not, think of some ways that you can replicate the caring. For instance, you can have the care bag ready to go and maybe add a few things that are specific to the birth mother’s liking. (Pay attention to what she does like during your time with her or ask the adoption coordinator).
Alternatively, come up with your own ideas about what will make her feel like the special person she is.
For the last ten months I have been the adoption coordinator at Journeys of the Heart. At first I was thinking about being at hospitals in the middle of the night and all the paperwork that would have to be done. I knew, though, since I had been the coordinator in the beginning of Journeys, that there were aspects of the job that would be difficult emotionally and some that would be sheer delight.
What I’ve found this time around is that the diversity of the women who are placing their babies for adoption is so great and it’s been an incredible honor and an education to help them when they’ve needed it. Several of the birth mothers have been homeless which presents unusual challenges for them, the agency and adopting parents. Usually prenatal care has not been received so we never know how the baby is going to be at birth. Where will they go after the placement is another challenge. Sometimes they make it clear that they don’t need any help from the agency and they will go back to their homelessness.
Drug use can be an issue with marijuana being used by many. The nurses at the hospitals say, “everyone is using it these days.” Not always true but often. Methamphetamines has long been a problem in the Pacific Northwest and it continues. The outcome for these babies can be good depending on a variety of variables. Many of these women will at least consider treatment after the baby is born.
Another category of women placing for adoption is one we haven’t seen in such numbers before – those that do not tell their families about the adoption plan, at least initially. This is done because they believe they will not be supported and may be judged and berated. Some have shared after they get home and the reaction has been upsetting, particularly when they are feeling their own grief and physical depletion.
What has happened with these placements is that the family and I become their support system at the hospital. We’ve gotten to know the women so well and the bond that is forged there is a wonderful precursor to a rich open adoption experience for everyone.
I can say that getting to know the women has been the best experience – I no longer worry about the late night hospital stays or the paperwork. I am all in emotionally and I have loved being there to support and advocate and connect. Bring it on!!
Susan Tompkins, LCSW
Text or Call me anytime
In order to understand all of this…we have to take it back to the beginning.
It started around May of 2014, I was sitting in 6th period, staring at the clock, wanting the class to end. I was finishing up my freshman year in high school. I had barely a month left. I was daydreaming and staring at the clock when I noticed the date my science teacher had written on right hand corner of the board. That date that is blurry in my mind even to this day will be the day that everything changed.
I was in my high school, in the bathroom stall, in the locker room. I was reading the directions on the box while my best friend sat outside the stall waiting for me. I guess the reason I was reading the directions even though I knew how to pee on a stick was because I was scared of what it was going to say after I took it. I guess I was stalling.
Millions of thoughts were running through my head like how this isn’t the first time I have had a scare. Him and I were careful but we had our slip ups. It had been 10 months since we started sleeping together and even though it wasn’t the first time I had had a scare…something about this time just felt different.
“You okay?” my best friend had knocked on the stall. I didn’t realize that I was taking so long but 3 minutes is a long time. You don’t realize how long 3 minutes is until you are sitting there waiting for some lines to show up on a stick. I’ll never forget walking out of the stall and just freezing. My best friend just looked at me and asked me what it said. I can’t remember exactly what I said to her or even if I said anything to her. I do remember handing her this stick with the results on it.
Two very distinct lines that read:
Finding Out You’re Pregnant As A Teen
Millions of things were rushing through my mind when I saw those two lines on the pregnancy test. Millions of things run through your mind no matter how old you are but as a teen, the things running through your mind are a little different. I can’t speak for everyone but for the most part you’re shocked, you’re scared, you can’t believe this is happening because you never really thought it would.
The first thing I knew I had to do was tell the father. Of course that’s hard to think about because you never know how a teenage boy is going to react. Would he make a scene? Would he tell you to get an abortion? Would he laugh at you and accuse you of sleeping around? These questions run through your mind and at the same time other things are as well.
Another thing was how you are going to tell your parents. Would they throw you out? Would they tell you that you were done with school and you could kiss your dreams goodbye? Would they make you keep your baby even if you didn’t want?…
What about school? What were people going to say? What were they going to think? It’s not easy when you’ve been the student that a lot of teachers respected…I felt like I let everyone down. I had dreams and I wasn’t supposed to let this happen but I always knew what I wanted to do when I found out I was pregnant.
Millions of things are always running through your mind when you’re a teen and you find out you’re pregnant but out of the million things I was thinking about when I saw those two lines on that stick that would determine everything for me…I knew I couldn’t keep this baby.
LET’S CLEAR THE AIR…
June 2, 2016
Let’s clear the air. There are reasons why people make the choices they do. Some choose them on a whim, other people think hard and carefully about the decisions they are going to make but nobody is perfect…to anyone that thinks they are I suggest you stop reading this because this isn’t some happily ever after story and at just 17 years old I’ve learned that real life is never that way and it will never be that way.
Adoption is hard for some people to understand. If you are a mother then you know it is hard to imagine handing over your child to a complete stranger, leaving everything up to faith. People think that it’s crazy and when you think about it, it kind of is. Half your DNA runs through this little person, you carry this person for 9 months, you feel it kick, you see its tiny fingers on the sonograms, you go through painful labor to give birth to this wonderful, little baby, only to hand that baby over and go home like you never went through any of that. It changes a person…how can that not?
Let’s get one thing straight though…adoption is not a bad thing. At my age, a lot of people doubted my ability to know what I could possibly want or to know that I was making the right decision. They could never understand that my decision wasn’t because I wasn’t ready to have a baby. Yes, I was only 15 when I found out I was pregnant (we’ll get more into that) but that wasn’t what scared me…it was how that child was going to grow up is what scared me.
I didn’t want to go through a lot of that because I wasn’t simply “not ready to have a baby”. I wasn’t being selfish. I didn’t care if my future was ruined or that everything I was “suppose” to experience as a teenager would be over. It was because I wanted better for my baby. I wanted more. If that meant that I couldn’t be there to stay up all night with him, be with him when he took his first steps, or missed out on his birthdays then I would. I would sacrifice my reputation and the very chance that he could end up hating me for the decision I made as long as he got the life I couldn’t have possibly given him. He deserves everything and that was something I didn’t have at the time and still don’t.