Not Giving Up, Giving Life – What Birth Mothers Should Know


I just handed my baby off to a stranger.

Well, it was somewhat of a stranger. She was the daycare worker at my son’s new daycare. We’ve met twice before, but I still call that a stranger. Today is day one of daycare for my four month old, and, although, he is my third child, and I have been through this before, I still cried when I left his smiling, giggling, never-happier-to-be-with-a-stranger face. As I drive away, counting down the hours until I pick him up, I reflect on the one thing I have reflected on numerous times over my 30-some years:

I am adopted. My birth mother handed me over to a stranger knowing she wouldn’t be back a few hours later to pick me up.

birth mothers
That’s me, in red, with five of my six siblings.

My siblings and I were adopted in the 70’s and 80’s, at which time adoptions were mostly closed – meaning no birthparent information is shared with the adopting family and vice versa. This is unlike today, where most adoptions are open, and birth parents are not only known but part of the child’s life. For those of us with closed adoptions, once we turn eighteen, we are able to petition the court to open our closed records. Once opened, if there is no information, the court appoints a mediator to try to locate our birthparents.

I recently went through this process. My adoption agency had no records, so I was appointed a mediator. He found my birth mother and acted as the middle man, letting her know I was interested in meeting her, until she agreed. This is because many birth mothers have different reactions. One of my sibling’s birth mothers wrote a birthday card to him every year on his birthday, which the agency held for him until he petitioned to open the records. Another one posted on one of the many DIY adoption websites where birth parents and adopted children try to find each other on their own by sharing information like gender, location, birthdate, etc.

My birth mother was shocked. After thirty-some years of living her life, she gets a call about me, pulling her back to that day she handed me off to a stranger.

My mom and I

She was a teenager at the time, in a small southern town. She had unforgiving parents, one off of work on disability, with no extra money to go around and two siblings in the mix. Scared and confused, she told one friend. That friend helped her find an organization, which placed her with a family in another town until she had me. She dropped out of school, telling her parents she wanted to work instead, and moved in with an unknown family. She gave birth and handed me over, hoping I was going to be better off. Returning home, she told her parents, and her father threw her out.

All of this for someone she would never know.

I recently read an article where a birth mom said she felt people looked down on her for giving her child up for adoption, and I was shocked. My six sibling and I are all adopted, and never once in our household were negative emotions or thoughts associated with our birth mothers. Our parents were very open about the fact that we were adopted and didn’t hide it or treat it as a “bad/sad thing.”

So much so that once, when my brother was visiting the doctor, the doctor said, “Oh, you’re adopted,” and my brother said, “I am?!!” The doctor was mortified that he spilled a “secret,” and my mother was mortified that my brother was acting like he didn’t know. My mom said, “You know you’re adopted,” to which my bother said, “Oh, yeah, I thought you said I was a ‘doctor!’” My parents always spoke of our birth mothers in a positive light, thanking them for giving us life, so we could be a fun, connected, loving family of nine.

Perhaps the words “giving up” are the problem. I think we should change the language from “giving up” to “giving life,” because that’s what these women are doing.

Me, living the life

I have never been resentful, mad, sad, or looked down on my birth mom for handing me over to that stranger. I have, instead, always been in awe of her ability to be so selfless as to go through morning sickness, bodily changes, putting schooling on hold, facing anger and alienation from family members, dealing with the fear of the unknown, and halting life plans to grow me and give me life.  And, because of her and this one decision, I was able to give life to my chunky, smiley, four month old (hopefully still smiling adorably at that daycare worker!).

Even if she didn’t want to communicate with me after searching and finding her, I just wanted her to know how thankful I am for her selfless choice, and how proud I am of her strength and bravery. If that is all we get out of finding each other, I am okay with that. I don’t want her to be one of the birth moms feeling like the child she gave life to had anger, resentment, or ill feelings towards her.

And now, it’s finally time for me to go pick up that baby of mine, who, over time, will not only know how much I love him, and how much his grandparents love him, but also the unconditional, truly selfless love a birth mom had for his own mom, and how thankful I am that she handed me to that stranger all those years ago. The alternative would have altered our story in ways too painful to think.



Sarah is a Wisconsin native (Go Packers!), who moved to San Francisco almost 10 years ago, and now calls the Bay Area her home (just don’t tell her mother, who is still waiting for her to move back to the Midwest!). She works full-time in Human Resources, having her Masters Degree in HR and Labor Relations. Sarah and her husband have three young kids, four years and younger, and are big fans of coffee. When she’s not having a dance party, talking about horses, or breastfeeding, Sarah enjoys the outdoors, spending time with friends, attending new Bay Area events, traveling or visiting her large family, and dabbling in writing. She is passionate about living life to the fullest. . . but, also, really wants more sleep.

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  1. Sarah, thank you for writing this! I am also adopted and I went through a roller coaster of emotions when I went back to work after having my baby. We chose to have him go to a day care and the thought of leaving him with someone else brought up a flood of emotions for me regarding my own adoption. I wish there was more information/support out there for adoptees as parents. Thanks for recognizing the selfless act of birth mothers giving life to their relinquished babies!


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