I Gave My Daughter Up For Adoption At 18, Then Adopted Her 18 Years Later

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“The hospital clock indicated time had run out.

‘Goodbye sweet girl,’ I said through muffled sobs. I began to swaddle my infant daughter one last time; careful to study her tiny fingers and toes, her soft belly that moved up and down like ocean waves with each breath, her little nose that crinkled when she yawned, and her spiky black hair. I captured these pictures in my mind, hoping the images of her would become forever engrained in memory. Memories of my baby girl would be all I’d have as I prepared to leave the hospital without her.

Months earlier, I’d watched as a set of skinny pink lines appeared on a pregnancy test and I wilted onto the bathroom floor. I’d always dreamed of being a mom one day. Just not yet. I was a junior in college. I was in a committed relationship but there were no plans for marriage. I didn’t have a steady income. I had no way of providing the kind of life I felt my baby deserved. After months of agonizing over my choices, I made the heart wrenching decision to make a semi-closed adoption plan. I poured over adoption books in search of an adoptive couple. The process was excruciating. I remember thinking, ‘How can I really know which parents are right for my child after reviewing a set of polished family photos and perfectly worded letters?’ During my final months of pregnancy, my boyfriend and I selected a couple who lived out-of-state. In the end, I’d choose to sacrifice my dreams of motherhood, so my daughter could have hers.

At the hospital, I kissed my swaddled infant on the forehead and whispered, ‘I will always love you.’ Her cheeks glistened under the hospital lights, wet from my falling tears. My boyfriend stood in the corner of the room, his head down and hands stuffed in his pockets.

Courtesy of Adrian Collins

‘I didn’t know it’d be this hard to say goodbye,’ he said. His voice broke as he spoke, and he quickly wiped away another tear using the back of this shirt sleeve. There was a soft knock on the door. Our adoption social worker stepped inside our hospital room, her face somber as she spoke in low tones. ‘The adoptive parents are on their way to the hospital.’

I looked at my daughter’s sweet face one final time and said, ‘Someday, I hope we meet again.’ My boyfriend steadied me as we walked down the hospital corridor, fearing I’d collapse in a heap on the tile floor. I clung to him with all my might. ‘Am I doing the right thing? Or have I made a terrible mistake?’ I cried out. ‘We are doing the best we can for the sake of our daughter,’ my boyfriend said, trying to reassure me. I wanted to believe him. All I knew for certain was my dreams of motherhood had been shattered. Only I didn’t realize dreams could be rebuilt, and emerge as something brand new and, one day, beautiful.

As my boyfriend and I drove away from the hospital, I touched my soft belly that had carried my baby girl only hours earlier. Broken and weeping, I wondered if I’d ever see her again.

Courtesy of Adrian Collins

Hundreds of seasons would come and go after I’d said goodbye to my daughter. As the years passed, my home filled to the brim with children. I’d married my high school sweetheart and birth father to my daughter and given birth to three boys. I began volunteering as a mentor to birth moms. I wanted to offer support; answering questions and offering insight as they navigated the adoption process. One of the birth moms I mentored was a family friend who had encountered an unexpected pregnancy. Our connection was immediate. I held her hand and listened to her cry over her decision to make an adoption plan for her sweet son. I shared my story as a birth mom and told her I’d support her in any way possible. During one meeting, she turned to me and asked softly, ‘Will you adopt my baby boy?’

Time stopped. I broke into a smile and said, ‘Yes!’ My husband and I had both wanted to expand our family and were nervously delighted to take on the role of adoptive parents. I’d never dreamed by becoming a birth mom and then a mentor for birth moms, would lead me to becoming an adoptive mom. At first, I felt confident I could handle all the responsibilities that came with adoption since I’d made an adoption plan for my daughter years earlier. I understood the hopes and dreams a birth mother has for her child. I understood her heartache and healing. But as the birth drew near, fears began to take root in my mind. ‘What if I fail as an adoptive mom? Will I love him the same as my other children?’

At the hospital, when his birth mother placed her son into my arms, I stared at our new baby boy with both awe and wonder. ‘Please tell him how much I love him,’ she said through tears. He melted into my arms and I stared at his sweet face and tiny fingers and toes. Memories of my daughter came bursting forth and I thought I might crumble. I remembered my own dreams for my little girl and the day I’d said goodbye. I held our birth mom’s hand and made a promise, ‘Our sweet boy will know how much he is loved.’ I embraced her and we cried together. Before leaving the hospital, the birth mom handed us a brown stuffed monkey she’d bought as a baby gift and said, ‘Something for him to remember me.’ To this day, our son still cuddles with his stuffed monkey at bedtime.

We brought our son home and showered him with abundant love. My biological boys, then ages 3, 5 and 7, embraced their newly adopted brother, smothering him with kisses and taking turns feeding him a bottle. While I reveled in motherhood, my thoughts often wandered to my daughter.

Courtesy of Adrian Collins

A few weeks after adopting my son, the phone rang. It was my twelve-year-old daughter. After all these years, she hadn’t forgotten about me. ‘Would it be okay if I came to visit?’ she asked, ‘I want to see you and meet my brothers.’ My heart erupted in joyous celebration.

On the day of her and her adoptive parents’ arrival, I waited with anticipation to hold my daughter in my arms. When a car pulled up in our driveway and a petite girl with long flowing blond hair and light blue eyes stepped outside, I marveled at her loveliness. My husband and I ran to our daughter and held her tight. ‘We love you,’ we told her.

Courtesy of Adrian Collins

We spend a lovely weekend together. She played tag with her brothers and pushed them on the backyard swings. She held our newborn son in her arms. We drank lavender tea at a tea shop. We shopped for dresses at my favorite clothing boutique. I cherished every sweet moment with her. ‘Let’s promise to stay in touch,’ we told one another as we parted ways and she returned home with her adoptive parents.

For the next few years, we exchanged letters. We talked on the phone. We visited her hometown. She traveled alone to stay with our family. When our daughter turned 18, everything changed.

We learned her adoptive parents were no longer supportive of her relationship with us. She’d been instructed to choose between her birth family and her adoptive family. There was no in-between or chance of negotiation. I was baffled by the adoptive parents’ change of heart and immediately got on the phone, pleading with them to consider all of us a vital part of our daughter’s life. But they wouldn’t budge, removing all financial support from our daughter and stating they regretted the adoption altogether. They turned their backs on my daughter and disowned her. I felt betrayed. I had entrusted my daughter to them and now they’d abandoned her. The pain of watching my daughter endure loss was almost as unbearable as the day I left the hospital without her.

It was my husband who brought up the idea of re-adoption. ‘We can take care of you,’ he told her.

Courtesy of Adrian Collins

Since our daughter was eighteen, she only needed to give her consent for an adult adoption to take place. In essence, we would become our daughter’s legal parents. While an adult adoption was somewhat common between parents and foster or step children, it was rare at best between a birth parent and birth child.

After months of thought and prayer, our daughter decided to be re-adopted into our family. My husband made the announcement to our four boys while inside a pizza buffet they were about to gain a big sister. ‘Yay, we finally have a sister!’ they cried out in unison before excusing themselves to grab another slice from the buffet. To them, she was already a part of the family.

My daughter wore a bright teal dress while the boys sported collared shirts and khakis for the adoption hearing. I clicked my heels nervously outside the courtroom, wondering if I was doing the right thing for my daughter. When I turned to face her, my fears lessened. I realized my heart had been fastened to hers ever since I carried her in my womb. I promised to give her the best life possible and would do anything to make that happen. I couldn’t provide for her at birth, but I would grasp at the chance to take care of her as an adult. When our names were called to enter the courtroom, I turned to my daughter and smiled. ‘It’s time,’ I said. She smiled and said, ‘Okay, mom.’ The word, ‘mom’ had never sounded so sweet.

Courtesy of Adrian Collins

Today, as I sit across from my five children, I’m still in awe of the journey that brought us together. Sometimes our most thought-out plans can be tailored to something greater than we ever anticipated. Over the years, I’ve learned to embrace adoption as a beautiful part of my life:

I am a birth mom of one adult daughter.

I am a biological mom of three teen boys.

I am an adoptive mom of one adventurous eleven-year-old son.

I still recognize traces of hurt in my daughter. I wish I could heal her deepest wounds and erase the years of separation. Instead, I can only love my daughter unconditionally and tell her, ‘I’m here.’ I can walk alongside her during times of doubt and struggle. While I can’t re-create the eighteen years of her life I missed, I can enjoy the new memories we make today.

My adopted son continues to have a beautiful relationship with his birth mom. He loves seeing his birth mom, where they laugh and share stories with one another. We recently celebrated his half-sister’s first birthday this month, and my son enjoys spending time with his aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins.

My biological boys are protective and caring of their little brother, and also adore their older sister, where they each continue to build their own, unique relationship with her.

I’ve spent time in reflection about my decision to make an adoption plan and become an adoptive mom. Not everything turned out as planned, but that’s okay. I can only embrace the journey and discover how I was changed because of it. I grew in strength, perseverance, confidence and courage that led me to an unexpected and beautiful reunion with my daughter, and love-filled relationship with my son. I’ve given myself an extra measure of grace when things didn’t turn out the way I thought. I learned there are new mercies each morning. I learned to embrace, and be grateful, for new dreams.”

Courtesy of Adrian Collins

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Adrian Collins. You can follow her on Instagram and her website. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here.

Read more inspiring stories about adoption journeys here:

‘It’s a boy.’ I grabbed my husband’s hand and cried. I felt fiercely protective of his birth mom.’: Woman in her 30s told ‘You’ll probably never have children naturally,’ adopts son, ‘I love him with all my heart, for the both of us’

‘At 18, I hid an entire pregnancy all the way up to delivery. I refused to tell anyone. I was ashamed and afraid.’: Teen birth mom’s candid lessons learned after choosing adoption for her daughter, reuniting with her 18 years later

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