‘I think she knows we threw her away’: One adoption agency volunteer’s heartbreaking account

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“This is hard.

If my life were a soap opera, I would cry watching it. If I were watching the stories of the babies I care for and the families into whom they are born play out on a large screen, I would allow myself a moment to cry into my oversized tub of buttered popcorn, lip quiver and all.

But it’s not a daytime soap opera, and it’s not a blockbuster drama. It’s ‘just’ my life and I try to stay stoic and emotionally removed from the stories of the babies in my care. So I don’t cry.

Until today.

Today, ‘Lia’ had her first and possibly last visit with her biological mom and grandma. And that’s hard. They brought clothes to change her into so they could take pictures of her to remember her by.

Hard.

I left Lia with Mom and Grandma so they could enjoy some time alone with her. When I came back in, Birth Mom was holding a sleeping Lia and Grandma explained that she had only just fallen asleep, that she had fought the bottle and had fussed almost the entire time they were alone with her. Grandma said she thought Lia was mad at them. ‘I think she recognizes us and knows she saw us when she was born and that we threw her away.’

THREW HER AWAY?! NO! Does it look like you threw her away? Look how well I’m taking care of her! She’s safe. She’s well-fed. Look! I put her in a cute outfit so you’d see… you didn’t throw her away!

I want to comfort her.

I don’t say any of that, of course. Instead, I smile. ‘Awww… I bet she just wanted to play…’ But there’s truth in every joke, isn’t there? Grandma was hurting inside. She was looking for reassurance: placing her granddaughter for adoption was the RIGHT choice. The LOVING choice.

This is hard. 

As soon as I pick Lia up from Mom’s lap to get her ready to take her home, I see that she’s hungry so I sit to feed her. ‘You’re so good with her,’ Grandma says. ‘We don’t know what we’re doing. If we decide to take her home, we’ll need someone to come help us because we don’t know how to take care of her.’ If you ‘decide to take her home?!’ The purpose of your visit to the adoption agency today is for your daughter to SURRENDER her PARENTAL RIGHTS. There’s a family waiting for Lia! I saw their picture!

My heart starts to race.

This is HARD.

Their social worker comes back in the room. I really have to get home to my own kids. I’ve already been at the agency an hour longer than we had agreed to but I want to give them all the time they need with Lia. They stand to kiss me and the baby goodbye. That’s kind of hard too, to be honest, because I have a picture of what this woman who has been texting me every day for updates on this baby — to find out if she’s OK in my care — must be like, what she must think of me. But she embraces me and kisses me and thanks me for taking such good care of Lia. Then she kisses Lia on the head and asks her daughter if she’d like to kiss Lia goodbye. That’s when Mom cries. And I get emotional. Because this is HARD. And it’s the first time Mom has displayed any emotion. That’s not uncommon. Many birth moms protect themselves by being apathetic throughout the adoption process. That’s what makes questions like, ‘Why didn’t her mother WANT her?’ or ‘How could anyone not LOVE her?’ so baseless.

I take Lia home.

And I cry.

For just a moment, I give myself permission to cry.

For the young woman who gave birth but doesn’t feel like a mom.

For the mom who feels she’s failing her granddaughter.

For the parents waiting to hear if the little girl they were called about will actually be theirs.

And for that little girl who’s currently in limbo, but whose mama will one day tell her, ‘I just couldn’t wait to take you home.’

I just don’t know who that mama is.

So I cry.

Because this is hard.

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ann Lapin of Riverdale, New York. She has been an interim boarding care provider for a private adoption agency for almost seven years. Submit your story here.

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