Open adoptions ease pain for birth moms
BY LEIGH BELL World Staff Writer
Thursday, May 10, 2007
5/10/07 at 8:48 AM
Maintaining contact with adoptive families is a benefit, an adoption official says.
Heather Harjo surprised herself recently when she cried while discussing her decision to place her two children for adoption.
"There's still some pain there," Harjo, 33, said about the adoptions that took place in Tulsa four and two years ago.
Jessica Westfall placed her daughter for adoption at birth in March 2006, and a year later, she sometimes still aches for the infant who was adopted by a family in Edmond.
Most birth moms harbor a hole that almost nothing will fill.
Only one-fourth of women who place a child for adoption are teenagers, according to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.
Westfall, 26, has a college degree, but she could hardly support herself, much less a child, when she was pregnant.
Harjo said she and the babies' father wanted to focus on their recovery from drugs and alcohol.
Like many adoptions -- some experts estimate as many as 90 percent -- the Harjo and Westfall adoptions were open, meaning the birth families have some kind of contact with the adoptive families.
Harjo receives pictures of her birth children, nearly-4-year-old Tashi and 2-year-old Matthew, who were adopted by a local couple, the Mossburgs.
She sometimes meets them at McDonald's for a visit.
Westfall saw her birth daughter last Christmas.
The women agree that watching the children grow, even from afar, helps.
Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, said: "For generations, we acted as though women could give up their kids and not have grief about it. We thought that you could create a life, give it up and forget about it. That's not humane. That's not real."
MaryLee Ingram, director of adoption services for Catholic Charities, said the ability for a birth mother to choose and meet the family who will raise her child is empowering, said.
"It gives them much more confidence about their decision, so there's not just a black hole there," she said. "The birth mother isn't wondering what happened to their child. Those questions aren't there."
Catholic Charities does not require that adoptions be open, but many agencies do.
The Mossburgs adopted Tashi and Matthew at birth from Harjo and her boyfriend. The two families share phone numbers, photos and milestones.
"Originally, we would have started off with a closed adoption," Teresa Mossburg said. "But as we learned more, and because we love our children, we wanted their birth parents to be a part of our family. We love their birth mother and birth father.
"By loving them, we are loving our children. She (Harjo) could have terminated the pregnancies, but she gave them life."
Leigh Bell 581-8465
The Birth Mothers Mass
honoring women who have placed children for adoption
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: St. Thomas More Parish, 2720 S. 129th East Ave.
For more information: Catholic Charities, 585-8167
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