Written by Sarah Toomey

Most of my job revolves around working with moms who are at-risk. Occasionally, however, I get the privilege of working with an Expectant/Birth Mom through the adoption process and beyond as their ‘person’. I do not come from a background of adoption through any part of the triad, so this part of my job was a learning experience from the beginning. Thankfully I do have the pleasure of working with my mom, who has been in the industry for years, and have spent many evenings sitting on her porch, discussing the ins and outs of adoption. I knew a lot of the language and the general guidelines to this process coming in, so I was not completely unprepared to serve these women.

What I am not sure anyone could have ever fully prepared me for, however, is how desperately these women would need me as a rock of stability during this time. All of the Moms I have worked with come from a place of trauma and heartbreak, and their choice of placement just adds to that. These women love their babies and want nothing but the best for them. Nevertheless the trauma of handing those infants, sometimes hours old, over to someone else will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Just existing in the heartbreak of making this choice and the logic that it is the right one is conflicting enough. Adding on top of that, however, these mommas have past traumas that are triggered by this new experience. They find themselves overwhelmed with negative self-talk, the desire to be ‘better’ so their baby could have stayed, and hopelessness because sometimes life isn’t fair. I am not a therapist (and tell them that regularly) but recognize that these women just need someone to weather the storm with them. That this trauma is happening Right Now and they are overwhelmed by it. That there are all sorts of support we can offer them as an agency, but the most important support of all is genuine connection. The knowledge that they are not alone and will survive this.

It reminds me of the time right after my father passed. I was 19 and helping to care for my grieving mother and siblings. All I needed in the world was my daddy, but he was not there any longer. While that type of grief never goes away, with time it changes (or maybe I changed?). Those first few weeks were the toughest, and I needed people. Real, living human beings to just exist in the same space as me so I could remember to keep breathing. I didn’t need them to do anything special (except for the friend who did my laundry for me the day of his funeral; Emily, I live my life trying to repay that kindness). I just needed them with me, close enough I could reach out to touch them and remind myself that this was all real. In time, I could remember to breathe on my own again and was able to return to my normal life. But in those first days… I had no concept of a ‘normal life’ that did not include my father.

As a mother who has carried her babies in her own womb, I could never imagine the emotional devastation of making an adoption plan. The hormonal outcry my body would have made if that infant was not right by my side constantly. The anger I would need to express when my milk came in and I had nothing to do with it. Just the idea of it makes me want to sob.

These women give up everything to ensure their babies have a stable, loving home. They are heroes. But even sometimes heroes need a hand. All too often, Batman needs Alfred, Spidey needs his Aunt May, Iron Man needs Pepper Potts. If I can just be that support to just one First Mom, I believe I will have done something right in this life.