In January 2020, I received a call through Barker’s 24/7 Crisis Pregnancy Hotline around 11 pm. At the other end of the call was Elyse, an anxious expectant mom in active labor. She was determined to speak with an adoption agency before heading to the hospital. Elyse expressed tremendous relief that someone answered her call, and by the end of our conversation, we agreed that I would meet her at the hospital first thing the next morning. She felt reassured that she was not alone and that in the midst of her crisis, someone was there to answer each of her questions.
Upon walking into Elyse’s room the next morning, I was greeted by both Elyse and her newest baby girl! Although it is common for expectant mothers to feel some ambivalence at this stage, now holding their babies in their arms, Elyse remained steadfast in wanting to make an adoption plan for her little girl. She was already parenting two children at the time, ages 3 and 13, and felt wholly unprepared for this unexpected pregnancy and birth. She did not want her family to struggle and did not believe that she had the capacity to add a new baby and meet all of their needs adequately.
Elyse was counseled on her options, asked if she had familial or friend support, and informed about the adoption process. She remained committed to her adoption plan and completed all the necessary paperwork. A defining moment in this process is choosing a family. Elyse reflected on all the qualities that were important to her and thought of the life that she hoped someone would be able to give to her daughter. She chose a wonderful family who, at Elyse’s request, came to the hospital the next day to meet her and the baby. They immediately bonded over common interests, their family stories, and their love for this precious little girl and discussed what an open adoption would look like between them.
Once Elyse signed her adoption consent to relinquish parental rights, she was entitled to 30 days by Maryland law to revoke her consent if she chose to parent. During this time, Barker’s Cradle Care family -an interim licensed foster home- cared for this baby girl as Elyse processed her life-changing decision. Cradle Care is designed to afford birth parents a neutral space to consider all of their parenting options and receive assistance as needed, including parent-child visits, with the knowledge that their baby is being nurtured and loved. Elyse leaned on me to talk through the more difficult times and talked almost daily with the Cradle Care mom, who provided updates and photos of a baby girl. Elyse eventually gathered the courage to share the news with her mother and children and began to rely on them for support and assurance that she was indeed making the right decision. Each passing day weighed on Elyse as she considered her future self and her children’s feelings. She acknowledged that it would be difficult but leaned into her strength and wisdom and ultimately made a decision she felt was best for herself and her family. After 20 days, Elyse decided to parent.
Elyse’s decision did not come lightly, as she had to evaluate why she had initially sought out adoption, whether or not these reasons still remained a barrier, or if she could make things work. In the end, she felt empowered to parent her new little girl, and as she held that assurance in view, all the struggles and barriers seemed to fade away. Though this was the right choice for Elyse and her baby, she did feel some disappointment about letting down the family that she chose for her baby. I reminded Elyse that she made a fearless choice for her family, and my role as her counselor was to provide education and create space for her to consider what was right for her – and this was indeed right for Elyse.
Today, Elyse remains in touch with me as well as the Cradle Care mom through picture updates and meaningful notes of gratitude. She has been a wonderful gift to her family. We continue to feel very inspired by Elyse’s story and are reinvigorated with these simple reminders that the work that we do is not without impact and will reverberate throughout time for all the lives impacted.