I got a phone call from Dawn on my 41st birthday; she was young, pregnant and scared. And she had chosen us to parent the child she was carrying.
Our very first conversation lasted two hours. Dawn said she was sure about making an adoption plan. As I got to know her over the next several months, I would see that she was wise for her years, unwavering in her decisions and strong in her convictions. There was something so calm and self-assured about her; her certainty about her plan was almost disarming to me since it seemed like SUCH a huge decision and an even bigger sacrifice.
Soon all of us — Dawn, her Mom, my husband and I — were all squeezed into a cramped exam room with an ultrasound technician. I held the hand of this impressive young woman whom I had just met a couple of hours before. The technician pointed out in the pictures that we could see the baby was a girl. Suddenly it didn’t really matter to anyone in the room what sex the baby was, as long as she was healthy.
The technician tore the first strip off the machine and handed it to Dawn saying, “This is for you to keep.” Dawn reached to her right to accept the strip of photos and, without missing a beat, turned to me on her left, handed me the pictures and said, “No, these are for you, Terri.” All my effort to remain strong and calm went out the window as I reached for that paper like someone was offering me the most precious gift I had ever dared to dream of.
A week later, on a Sunday morning in mid-May, Dawn called us and my husband handed me the phone as I laid on the big queen in our bedroom. I’ll never forget clutching it with a white-knuckle grip as I held my breath and waited to hear why she had called. Was she backing out? Had she found another couple she liked better? Had she decided to keep the baby? WHY was she calling??
My voice quivering, I quietly said ‘hello’. Dawn’s ever-calm voice addressed the panic in mine as she told me that it was only going to be a few months until ‘my baby’ was born. She had called to wish me a ‘Happy Mother’s Day’!
Dawn was remarkable in the way that she shared her pregnancy with us. I saw her at least once a week to join her for doctor appointments, shopping, lunch and later in the summer, Lamaze classes. She ate well, exercised, got enough rest, didn’t smoke or drink. She did everything she could to ensure that the baby would be healthy. My husband and I made audio tapes of our voices, talking to the baby, reading stories and nursery rhymes, and Dawn played our tapes to her belly so that the baby would recognize our voices when she was born.
I was in awe of this courageous, loving young woman, and was falling deeply in love with her and with this baby at the same time.
I saw Dawn as much as I could during those four months while we waited for her due date to roll around. Finally, Dawn’s Mom called us on a sunny August morning, saying it was time. We got there about three hours before Sydney was born. I will be eternally grateful for the opportunity to be in the delivery room with Dawn, and to actually see Sydney enter this world. What an experience. What a gift!
That night, Dawn said that she wanted to keep Sydney with her in her hospital room. She glanced at me, expecting my agreement, but I hesitated, wondering if that was a good idea. In answer to the question on my face, Dawn said, “Terri, I just want to keep her with me tonight, and you can have the next eighteen years with her. Deal??” Of course, it was a deal.
The next day, there were lots of tears as we all left the hospital. Words could not express the depth of emotions we were all feeling, but the love Dawn showed for this precious infant, and the love I felt for Dawn, were indescribable. Dawn’s mature, self-sacrificing decision would forever change all our lives.
Over the next decade while raising Sydney, several of my friends battled infertility and wanted to adopt but told me there was a shortage of healthy newborn babies in our state. I thought, ‘How could that be?’ So many teens get pregnant each year, that seemed odd to me. So I did some research and learned that these teens were choosing between abortion and (often single) parenting because they didn’t even realize there was another option. Adoption never even crossed their minds. I started thinking, ‘That needs to change’. And I kept thinking about the need to get adoption on the radar of pregnant teens and their parents. I thought for years about starting a non-profit to get the word out about adoption – and I thought I had the skills to do it with my career in marketing & communications combined with my own story of Sydney’s adoption. Somehow maybe I could make a difference. I continued pondering the idea.
In February of 2010, I went on a trip to the Holy Land. We stopped in Nazareth at the Church of the Annunciation, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and I went inside. At the very moment I entered the church, a Priest was just starting his sermon and began with, “Imagine how difficult it was for Mary, about 14 years old and unwed at the time, to discover that she was pregnant. …”
The only time in my entire life that I can say I actually heard God speak to me was then, and He said, “Terri, I’ve called you to do this. Get moving”.
I could hardly breathe as I left the Church. When we got home from Israel, I filed for incorporation and started the IRS paperwork to create a tax-exempt 501 c 3 organization, Unplanned Good.
Over the last decade, Unplanned Good has grown in reach: our web site is now a resource for information on open adoption. Through our partnership with pregnancy centers, young women facing unplanned pregnancy are told about adoption as one of their options. They are now directed to our site to read the first-hand testimonials of women who’ve placed and today describe their decision as both the bravest and the most difficult thing they’ve ever done. I speak at national conferences to raise awareness about adoption as an option. We also offer support and encouragement for birthmothers who’ve placed for adoption, celebrating them as the brave heroes they are.
As for me, the term ‘adoption’ had never had much meaning or context in my life before Sydney, and now it is the most important and beautiful part of my life. Dawn didn’t opt for the “quick fix” our society typically demands and expects; she didn’t take the easy way out. Her path required wisdom, courage, patience and a huge amount of love. It was a brave and difficult decision. Placement was the hardest thing she ever did, no doubt, and it was followed by a period of grief and sorrow that she had to walk through. But now, Dawn can look at the family she created and be proud of herself, her decisions, her strength.
As a result, my heart is overflowing with love both for Dawn and for my smart, funny, clever, and spunky now-19-year old college girl. I’ll be forever grateful to know first-hand the magnitude and fervor of a mother’s love.
Terri Marcroft is Founder and Executive Director of ‘Unplanned Good’, a non-profit that strives to make adoption one of the top options women consider when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. Terri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408.656.1876 (cell)