Interview with Gloria C., Birth Mother
The day my daughter was born, she went directly to the NICU to be monitored for methadone withdrawal. I know what it’s like to feel sick with withdrawal symptoms, and it felt awful to know my past substance use had placed her there.
I’d been taking methadone to treat my addiction to prescription pain pills. As soon as I learned I was pregnant, I wanted to get off the medication. But the nurses at the clinic warned me that stopping it in the first trimester would increase my risk of miscarriage, and they increased my dose. Each day, as I walked the hour and a half from to the methadone clinic, I’d worry and pray, Please don’t let this affect my baby.
Plans to prosper
In 2013, I was in my late 20s, recently divorced, and staying with the baby’s father, who was also using drugs. When I learned I was pregnant, I asked him, “What are we going to do?” His first thought was about money. He said his grandmother would help, and I knew then that he planned to leverage the baby for money he could use for drugs. He handed me $25 and said nothing more about the pregnancy.
From there, I went into a deep depression. One day, as I was driving around aimlessly, wondering what to do, I used the GPS to find the closest abortion clinic. When I pulled into the parking lot, everything slowed down. Even the air felt thick. I looked again at the GPS, and every hair on my body stood up when I saw the next direction on the screen: “Make a U-turn.”
Next to the abortion clinic was the pregnancy resource center where I found out I was pregnant. I went inside and asked if I could please talk with someone about my options. A pregnancy counselor listened as I told her all the reasons I couldn’t have a child right now: I’m on this medicine. I’m basically homeless. I can’t take care of a baby.
I asked if they could give me the Plan B pill, but at nearly three months along, it was too late for that. Until that day, I’d always thought abortion was simply removing some tissue. But then the counselor handed me a rubber model of a baby at the same level of development as mine. When I saw that my baby had eyes and hands, it broke me. I asked, “What do I do?”
She gave me a card for Bethany and said, “I believe they can help you think things through.”
Before I left, she said, “Wait, let me give you something else,” and she handed me a card with the verse Jeremiah 29:11 on it—“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you ...’”
I kept that card in my pocket and held it close. When I left my boyfriend and moved into a shelter, I put that verse up on the wall where I could see it every day.
Plans not to harm
I’d heard the shelter wouldn’t let me stay if they knew I was on methadone. The recovery program at the clinic required participants to come in person for the daily dose of the red, liquid medication (as you got closer to full recovery, they’d allow you to take home additional doses over weekends and holidays). I didn’t have a car, so I’d get up before dawn and start the long walk to the clinic so I could be there when they opened. Eventually a woman working at the shelter noticed my routine and asked why I was getting up so early, and I told her the truth. She said, “I’ll have to review it, but I don’t think you can stay.” I didn’t know what I was going to do.
I set out on my walk to the clinic, feeling alone and just done with everything. I took out my phone and called my dad. Honestly, I’m not even sure why I called him; we weren’t on the best terms then and hadn’t talked in a while. I told him I couldn’t do this anymore, and I wanted to end it. I was still on the line, walking along a busy road, when I felt the urge to jump out in front of a passing car. The force of wind threw me back, and I thought, I can’t even do this right.
I saw a truck up ahead, but as soon as I started to step out, a horn blew. The truck pulled over, and my dad got out and ran toward me. He was in his work truck, driving his daily route. When he answered his phone that day, he had no idea where I was walking. He told me later he knew God had placed him there at that exact moment. From then on, he prayed specifically, asking God to show him how to help me with everything I was going through.
I still had the card with the phone number for Bethany. I called and talked with Caitlin, a pregnancy counselor. She said, “Come in, let’s talk. You can decide what you want to do.” I came to the office and met her in person, and she talked with me about both parenting and making an adoption plan.
I was about five months along by then and was staying with my dad. I thought I would probably choose adoption, but I hadn’t made a final decision. The thought of parenting overwhelmed me. If I chose to parent, I would be starting with almost nothing. Where would I even begin? The unknowns started to make me feel depressed all over again.
Plans to give hope
Over the next several weeks, Caitlin sent emails to prospective adoptive families to try to find a match. She also sent me profile books of potential adoptive families, and I paged through them without really reading; there was so much to consider.
I appreciated that Caitlin gave me lots of space. When she called, she always asked about me—How are you doing—never pressuring me with What have you decided? One day she called to say another couple had responded to her email. Did I want to see their book? I said yes.
A few things caught my attention. I noticed they raised chickens and bunnies. That’s good, I thought. I like animals. I noticed a brief mention that they weren’t able to have children. And when I flipped to the back of their book, I noticed the verse they chose to highlight: Jeremiah 29:11—“… plans to give you a hope and a future.”
The more I learned about them, the more confident I became in choosing this couple for my child. He was a firefighter, and when she was going through chemotherapy for cancer, all the firefighters in his district shaved their heads in solidarity. For them to have that kind of love and support, I knew they must be good people. I told Caitlin I wanted to meet them.
My dad came with me to that meeting, and it felt right to begin an adoption plan with them. I invited them to my prenatal appointments, and I asked the adoptive mom to join my mom and me in the delivery room. When my daughter was born in 2014, my dad and Caitlin were there too, waiting at the hospital. In so many ways, I wasn’t alone.
Plans for the future
One thing I remember about that day was that all of us were crying, but for different reasons. My doctor, who knew the circumstances, asked everyone to leave the delivery room. He said, “Your care is important to me; you don’t have to go through with the adoption if you don’t want to.” I thanked him and confirmed this is what I wanted to do.
Another thing I remember was the NICU nurses asking me how many milligrams of methadone I’d been taking. They were surprised that my number was so high compared to the low levels in my daughter’s system—they’d seen babies come in with levels lower than hers who had a harder time in withdrawal. I thought of all the times I’d prayed along that long walk to the clinic. God heard me, and He answered my prayer. That gave me the confidence I needed, knowing that if this little baby could wean off the methadone, I could too.
My daughter will be 6 this spring. I’m happy to see how her parents have raised her, singing in the church choir and playing soccer. I talk with them and we text, and I can meet with them anytime I want to.
Today, I am substance-free. I’m married with two biological children and two stepchildren. And I still have thoughts and emotions to process about that difficult time in my life, including my decision to make an adoption plan. That’s an experience most people just don’t understand. Recently, as I was going through a wave of emotions, I wanted to talk about my experience with other birth moms who would understand. Caitlin had told me years ago that I could contact Bethany at any time, so I gathered my courage and contacted Bethany. I’ve been working with Lizzie, a counselor at my local branch, to get connected with a support group.
When I was pregnant and pursuing an adoption plan, people told me I needed to ask forgiveness for “abandoning my child.” They wanted me to feel ashamed, but Lizzie helped take the sting out of their words by reassuring me I had no reason to feel shame. I’m glad my story has so many “coincidences” where God showed up in ways only He could. The people saying those things didn’t know the whole story, but I knew what God had done—in my life and in sparing my daughter’s life. Now my vision is to keep telling this story so other birth moms know they’re not alone.