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Adoption News

When the Phone Rings

Written by Christina Styles, Expectant Mother Coordinator at Zoe’s House Adoptions.

Anytime that phone rings with an unknown number my heart pounds and a lump forms in my throat. I take a breathe like a prayer and press that button, choking out a greeting that I hope sounds less nervous than I feel.  “Hello, this is Christina with Zoe’s House….” and most of the time the response deflates me like a balloon. It’s a doctor, a social worker, a friend from a local pregnancy resource center who has a question or someone wanting to donate maternity clothes and all of those calls I can answer with ease.

But when it’s the other call, the “Hello……(pause)… I’m pregnant and want to talk to someone about adoption?” Those times, that lump grows larger, my breath catches and for a moment I draw a blank, every time. The significance of that moment and what it costs her to ask that question is never lost on me.

I ask her name and call her by name through the phone call. It’s the first thing I can do to communicate to her that SHE matters to me, and I’ll ask about how she is feeling and how her pregnancy has been going. She’ll ask questions that I’ll do my best to answer, and if she want’s to talk more I’ll find out where she is most comfortable meeting because establishing trust from the beginning is imperative and she needs to know that she is safe with Zoe’s House regardless of wether or not she decides to place her child for adoption. Those first conversations are always difficult and I remind myself to speak slowly and gently, to ask questions rather than making assumptions and to try to listen and learn as much as I can about her and how she found herself in this unplanned pregnancy. And then I may never hear from her again.

Often I’ll have that first contact over a phone call, text message or email exchange where I’ll do my best to give as much information as that woman needs and then never hear back from her. That’s ok, because sometimes all she needs is to have someone listen, to hear herself voice the things she’s afraid of and to hear how the adoption process works in order for her to feel confident about parenting her baby. If I can help her to come into that confidence then I am satisfied that I’ve served her well.

To me this decision is always about confidence, whoever the woman is on the other end of the phone and whatever her story is I want her to feel confident and supported in her decision. If that decision is to parent, I want to help connect her to whatever resources she needs. If that decision is to place her child for adoption I want her to feel confident in whatever her personal reasons are and to believe that she’ll be supported by us at every turn.

Confidence isn’t a lack of fear, it doesn’t mean that all of the questions have answers because that’s not how life works. When it comes to an expectant mom, surprised by the life that is growing within her, confidence means that though she can not see all the steps of the road before her she believes in herself, that she can do what she’s set her mind to. Those are the first ways that I show her the love of Christ. Simply listening without judgement communicates safety that I only know through Him, that I only offer to her because of Him. She matters to me because she matters to Him and in a scary time, I get to show her that both she and her baby are safe and cared for.

This week I looked at the numbers and I’ve had that conversation now with 25 mothers. 25 women with a life growing inside of them made of their own DNA, 24 women considering the heart-wrenching possibility of entrusting that life to the home of another, to the arms and the heart of another mother. 25 women, all completely different than each other, having different strengths, different stories and different reasons for considering adoption but I’ve started to find some similar threads that weave through those unique stories. I’d like to share with you a little of where those women are coming from and how we are able to serve them right where they are.

She didn’t expect this pregnancy.

Not because she’s unaware of sexuality but because for any number of reasons she did not anticipate being pregnant. Not right now, not with that person’s baby, because she was made to do something she didn’t want to, because she thought she was unable to conceive, because it was one time. There’s no way to summarize why because it’s different every time but the point is: She didn’t expect this pregnancy but she recognizes that there’s an undeniable life inside of her and it’s going to change her life forever. We meet her in this place doing everything we can to communicate to her that she is strong enough, capable enough and able to do whatever she decides. That like every other unexpected thing that will happen in her life she can go on, she can gain ground, she can grow and no matter how hard this is she can make it. I try to help her to look at the bigger picture of her life, to see how she came to this place and where she wants to go and then help her to make decisions and choices to get her there. This chapter of her life is hard but it doesn’t have to define the whole story.

She doesn’t know if she can parent.

I think most people are scared when they find out they’re expecting but her “scared” is different. It’s different because she is afraid of being judged, she might not know who the father is or maybe she does but doesn’t know how to contact him, is no longer dating him or has removed herself from him because he wasn’t good for her. Her scared is different because he may know about this pregnancy and has told her to have an abortion because he won’t support her or has denied that he’s the father. She is sometimes alone and trying to figure things out without him for countless reasons and she can’t conceive how she’s supposed to stay in school or keep her job and pay for a baby that she doesn’t think she can raise by herself. Her scared is different because he may be with her, he may be supportive of her asking questions and together they don’t know how they’d provide for a baby, how to co-parent when they don’t feel like they have their own lives together or when they came from single parent households and know that their mother or father did the best that they could but they want for their child to have more than what they had. We meet them in this place by being there, by not judging their stories and by giving them a safe place to be open. We meet them in this place by offering to connect them to resources that will help them to parent and by giving them all of the information about adoption that they need if they decide not to. We meet them by educating them about adoption so that they know that making an adoption plan is not shameful or abandonment.

She doesn’t feel supported.

Whether at home from her family, parents, friends, significant other or community, she doesn’t feel that she can parent alone and that there’s a support system around her that can fill in the gaps. Those people are not supportive of her pregnancy or consideration of an adoption plan due to ethnic culture, family culture, religion, personal stories of single parenting or of negative adoption stories they’ve heard. They disapprove of her decision and don’t understand why she doesn’t feel like she can do what they themselves did or because they simply don’t understand. They disapprove because they want to help her or they want to adopt the child themselves and don’t understand when she says that it would be too hard to watch her family members raise her baby.

When her support system won’t listen to her heart about considering adoption and not feeling like enough, she feels more alone. She feels cut off and less capable and she knows that she will need more support than ever if she follows through with the plan she’s deciding. This vulnerable place that she is in requires MORE empathy, more support from her community. We meet her here and ask God how to support her individual needs. I may go with her to her doctors appointments, meet with her once a week to talk about how she’s doing and what she’s thinking, help her as she works through paperwork like applying for medicaid or jobs.

We meet her here by helping her to think about her life as bigger than this chapter and not hiding her from the grief that will come with her adoption plan, but by staying with her in it, every step. 

And then we stay there, for all of her pregnancy.

We are there as she is choosing a family, to listen as she processes and is making her decisions about what kind of contact she wants to have with the family before and after the baby is born. I help her to talk to her doctor and hospital about her adoption plan and when the time comes to have the baby I am at the hospital in whatever capacity is most supportive to her. And when she goes home, as long as she needs us the door is open. Some of the moms we have worked with do not want much interaction after the adoption but some of our moms are in touch every week. They let us know when they need prayer, if they’re making big life choices and want to talk, when they’ve had a good day, a hard day or are feeling things they need to process.

Our desire is to show them the love of Christ with every interaction, that they would feel genuinely cared for and see His love through all that we do. 

 

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