Thursday, September 17, 2009

From One Mother's Arms...

I was reading The New Social Worker's blog this morning and her post brought back an old memory that I thought I'd share.

It wasn't my case, but because of the small size of my agency, everyone knew every case. This family was one of those "worst case scenarios" from the moment we got the case. Three little boys, a long history of involvement with the Department before actually being brought into care. Abuse, extreme neglect, domestic violence and substance abuse. And a "no-contact" order (absolutely no parent/child visits, phone calls, etc) from the judge - something that almost NEVER happens. We had the two younger children in foster care and the oldest (7 yrs old) was in a group home. The case hadn't even moved towards termination yet, but the parents were only participating in services sporadically.

Then their biological mother gave birth to a new baby. Because of some extenuating circumstances, their caseworker wasn't able to go pick up the baby at the hospital and take her to the foster home. So, I volunteered.

I knew the foster parents - they were hoping to adopt and this was an "ideal" placement. A newborn! And the chances were high that this baby would not return home. The foster mother accompanied me to the hospital - though she couldn't come up to the unit - and chattered along the way about how excited she, her husband, and young daughter were. I was excited too - a brand new baby, a loving home, minimal trauma - seemed like an easy task!

I left the foster mother in the lobby of the county hospital. I'd never been there before, and couldn't help but think to myself that this is NOT where I'd want to be giving birth. I had to ask multiple security guards and desk clerks before finding my way to the newborn nursery.

Finally, I found the right floor and pushed the buzzer to be allowed access. I spoke to the head nurse, showing her my badge and our court orders granting the Department custody. I signed some paperwork and received multiple instructions and documents about the baby. Then I was led back to the nursery.

When I walked in, there was the mother nursing her baby in a dimly lit room. She was rocking in a rocking chair and the father sat next to her in another chair. I quietly introduced myself, as she lifted the baby up on her shoulder to burp her. The father nodded at me in response to my introduction, the mother didn't look at me.

I stood back and just watched as the mother stood up and took the baby to the changing table. She checked the baby's diaper and put an extra layer of clothes on the baby. Everything was gentle and careful - not wanting to jolt the sleepy baby. After the baby was dressed, she swaddled the baby carefully and then turned and handed her to the father.

While he rocked the baby in the rocking chair, the mother picked up a few things from around the room and put them in the diaper bag that the hospital had provided. I still said very little - there just wasn't anything to say.

Finally, there was nothing left for the mother to do or pack or straighten. She walked over to the father and took the baby into her arms. The father immediately got up and left the room. I don't know where he went - but I didn't see him again before I left.

The mother stood there holding her baby, staring at her face and stroking the one little hand that peeked out of the blankets. Then she gave her daughter a few light kisses on the cheek ... and then handed her to me.

She immediately turned around and walked away, went to sit in the rocking chair and put her face in her hands.

I turned an walked out the room with the baby. It only took a few moments to put the baby into the car seat that I'd brought. The nurse helped me tuck the blanket that the mother had swaddled her with around the her as I left.

It took me only moments to get back down to the hospital lobby. There was the foster mother, pacing the waiting room. As soon as she saw me, she rushed over and peered into the car seat as I set it on a chair.

She quietly exclaimed over how pretty the baby was and stroked her cheek lightly. On the car ride home, she sat in the backseat with the baby, unwilling to even be a couple feet from her. She kept talking in a whisper to the baby and at one point the baby opened her eyes - the foster mother was so excited and cooed even more.

I helped her get the baby and all their things into the house. The foster father was there and was just as excited. They also had a daughter, about 5 years old, who had been waiting all day for her "new sister".

They asked me take pictures of them - they wanted to document their first day together for the baby's lifebook. I complied and then at their insistence even got in a picture with all of them. As I left, they thanked me profusely for all of my help. The joy radiated throughout each one of them as they all tried to hold the baby at once.

I got back into my car and felt numb. I was glad that the baby was in a safe and loving home. But there was no real joy like I had expected. I couldn't ignore the memory of the mother in the hospital.

That mother never saw her baby again - never attended a scheduled visit, never requested a picture, rarely even asked about her daughter in the many phone calls that followed with the caseworker.

It would be easy for others to say that she didn't really love that baby. If she loved that baby, why didn't she visit? Why didn't she call? Why didn't she fight for her?

I don't have the answers to those questions.

But I know that mother loved her baby.


  1. Well... I have something to say.

    As a birthmom who relinguished in open adoptions, I wish that more people would understand we REALLY DO love our babies, even when we know that they can't be our babies. We would give anything, but sometimes, we know it's best for them to be with someone else and raised by someone else.

    Some people think that birthparents can simply move on. Well, news flash, we don't. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think of my child. There's not a day that goes by that I don't miss. However, I know the decision I made was the right decision and the best decision.

    Thank you for understanding.

  2. I, for one, think birth mothers are the most courageous people. I would never once think that women who goes through this are not somehow affected.

    I just started my first experience in the field (getting my MSW) and I'm interning at an adoption agency. I will be involved in this one case where both parents are incarcerated, and the baby will be born soon. I will be going with my supervisor to the hospital to retrieve the infant. I don't think you can ever prepare yourself for what you will experience in that moment. And just think, you're not the birth or adoptive mother...

  3. I can't wrap my head around it, but I know it's true.

  4. Thanks for reading my blog, and I am especially grateful to hear from Growinguplost.

    Puddles, lakes and rivers...

    ~Ms. T. J.

  5. This is my job...every day, all day. I wish there was some way to get across to people that no matter what the circumstances- I have NEVER met a mom that didn't love her baby. Sometimes doing what this mom did is the most loving gift of all...

  6. She did love that baby. It is not easy to be part of that. Our foster baby was taken at the hospital. I felt grief for the mom, I cannot imagine. Compassion for these situations is important. Those parents loved their children, but they couldn't parent them.

  7. I don't doubt the love this Mother has for her baby.

    It is amazing that the sadness she had paved the way for the great joy of the foster family. I wish I knew why life worked that way.

  8. such a bittersweet reflection, it's sad to think about the pain the mother is left with but also a relief to know the baby is in a home that can more fully provide for its needs. the role of a social worker truly is a challenge and reward all at the same time as well-and our roles aren't always easy-but necessary.

  9. This is why I always try to go to the hospital when the birth mom is still there. I try to sit with her a while if I can. I bring a few outfits so she can chose what baby comes home in and I try to take a picture. I want to remember her holding and loving her baby. I want to be able to say to that child (if I have opportunity)or write in their lifebook,"I know your mama loved you so much. She held you so gently, she chose what you wore home from the hospital. She never wanted to let go of you because she loved you so much."

  10. There is no doubt that she did love her baby. She knew that the baby was going to have a better life with other parents.

    That is the same way I feel about my Cherubin birth mother and he will know that his birth mom loved him too.

  11. What a beautiful post! Thank you for this!

  12. I often think of the birthmother of our adopted 10 year old daughter who held our hand crying as she relinquished her rights in the courtroom. She realized what was best for her 3 year old little girl and made the hardest decision ever. We never understood why she didn't make more of an effort while she had the chance, but no matter what- the decision she made in the end was brave and selfless.

  13. So bittersweet. I'm working on an MSW right now and I'm hoping to do some research on first moms and attachment. Sadly, there is not much research out there and most people seem to think these women don't really care. There's a whole other side to relinquishment that most people don't even consider - a mother without her baby. It's un-natural anyway you spin it.

    Thank you for you post.
    PS - I'm Hazel! Hope you don't mind me reading :)

  14. This is an excellent post--have you published it in any journals?

  15. I, too, am a birth mother. I relinquished my daughter at birth in the hospital. Relinquishment day is the hardest day of any birth-parent's life. It is a day that one will never forget. I am sure these birth parents knew this was the best thing for the baby despite all the circumstances. They may feel as if it is too hard to visit their children full well knowing what they could have if their personal stuff was in order.


Join in the conversation! Please leave a comment!