Hurricane Harvey and Lessons Learned

A few weeks ago, I was with my family in Frisco, TX escaping Hurricane Harvey. That week was a whirlwind of emotions. Every day we were bombarded with images that reminded us of how very uncertain our future so often is. That deep and ongoing uncertainty is an emotion I am all too familiar with; as a birthmother blessed with an open adoption, the feelings were very similar.

Open adoption is a long and uncertain path into the future. This path is often riddled with “what if’s” and “if only’s.” I have learned in grief recovery ministry that one of the hardest stages is bargaining, which I have referred to as the “if dilemma” stage.   We are constantly revisiting this stage in various seasons of life.  However, we don’t have to be friends or slaves to this stage.  We can choose to write our own stories instead of allowing the “if dilemma” to write our story for us. There is great power and freedom that comes with making up your mind to be the keeper of future dreams, hopes, and desires as they pertain to an open adoption story.  Just like the people of Texas have chosen not to allow the storm to break their hope for a brighter future, a birthmother can do the same in an open adoption.

As many who love me know, cooking is not just the career path I have chosen, it is in my blood. I love to feed people.  It is my love language.  If I love you – I want to feed you.  And I love a lot of people it seems.  As I watched the images of empty grocery store shelves on the TV, I was overcome with a need to provide food for others.  My husband said jokingly on that day in Frisco, “By the time we get home, Heather, you will have given our two months of food supplies away.”  (I always have a significant supply of food on hand – because I just don’t know when I will need to feed a bunch of people who need a good meal.)  As I heard about the food needs of family who stayed in the Houston area,  I directed them to our house – which still had power – and told them to take whatever they needed from the pantry and the freezer.

This act of generosity brings me to the second thing Harvey has shown me about open adoption – generosity always begets more generosity.  I have said over and over again in my life, a child can never be loved by too many people. On this topic I have a special message to birthmothers:  write a story that starts with generosity.  Share the few hours you have with your sweet baby with his or her adoptive parents.  Make a stand from the very start of the adoption, to say that you all are in this together as one family.  Many times, I encouraged my son’s adoptive mom before I delivered, to embrace her new role of mother.  I made sure to invite both her and her husband to ultrasound appointments.  I asked for one delivery room where we all stayed together.  I even had my son’s adoptive grandparents there, because every mom should have their mother there when they become a mom.  Now, don’t get me wrong, none of this was easy.  As a matter of fact, it was all very painful.  However, here is how I see things: my son’s adoptive parents will get him for far more days than I will and if I was willing to share what little time I had with them at his birth, then maybe, just maybe, they would share their lifetime of days with him, with me. So be generous –it’s never a choice that will leave you empty handed.

This brings me to the third thing Harvey showed me about open adoptions–things can change quickly.  I remember the moment like it was yesterday, when I saw two sweet pink lines on a stick of joy. My sweet husband and I had made a baby.  WOW!  I was overjoyed to share the news with my son’s parents, and they received the news with great joy as well.  I don’t believe any of us ever knew how a little baby was going to change our open adoption and just how quickly my baby girl would do so. The best way I can describe it to you is to tell you a story.

My husband and I took our daughter to meet her brother for the first time.  As we left the visit my husband turned to our daughter and said, “You just built a bridge between our two families.”  It was in that moment that I realized that our sweet bundle of joy had upped the stakes in my open adoption.  To this day our sweet baby girl has continued changing the landscape of our adoption.  Siblings of shared DNA and memories create a new formation of family.  Much like the new formation of landscapes and neighborhoods in flooded areas post Harvey, we were reforming and building anew a landscape of love between families, which is joyous.  This event reflects the willingness of families to share in the divine love of our Christian faith and to honor God by loving His children as He loves us.

Harvey, you left your footprints all over us here in Houston.  Jesus, you leave your footprints on our souls, while babies, shared by families, leave footprints of memories and happiness that are beyond measure.  I am thankful for the courage to choose adoption for my son and thankful that our daughter, his sibling, has built a bridge to joy for us all.

Author: Heather Rodriquez. Heather is a birth mother who lives in Houston, TX.  She is the inspiration for Sharon Fox’s book Reframing Adoption.

Published November 9, 2017