Navigating Open Adoption After TPR: A Birth Mom’s Perspective

Written by Jody Golston, mytangledlife_

Motherhood is a journey with no destination. 

For me, motherhood has been a path full of many twists, turns, dark valleys and beautiful peaks. Through it all, my love for my children has never wavered, however embracing a love for myself has always been the most treacherous journey of all. 

My life has been riddled with waves of trauma, pain, shame and guilt along the way. I swore vehemently to never repeat the failed patterns my own mother chose… but unfortunately when the time came I chose nearly the same route to dysfunction and despair as she did.

Repeated generational trauma at its core is what our family has long experienced. 

It has been ten years since I gave birth to my third and last child. 

In those ten years, a lot of life has been lived… sadly, all separately. 

It has been just over a decade since I left the maternity ward without my daughter who was placed directly into foster care. At the time of her removal, both her older sisters had also previously been removed from my care and were living with their fathers full time. 

I was 100% alone, and experiencing the absolute darkest time of my life. Being a mother was my identity, and I lost that when I suddenly became a childless mother. Without them, I truly didn’t know who I was. I became someone who didn’t recognize her own reflection in the mirror. I struggled severely to escape the damage and wreckage I had caused, and I faltered again and again trying to get well. I continued using drugs and manipulation to numb the immense pain that came with my children being taken from me. I engaged with Child welfare for 14 months before my case moved to TPR ( termination of parental rights.) I chose to relinquish my parental rights instead with the promise of an “ open adoption.” I signed the relinquishment paperwork in a boardroom of people, not a courtroom, and not in front of a judge. I quickly left and never heard from the agency again. 

The pain was too much. My drug addiction and self hatred spiraled out of control and I quickly reached my rock bottom, my lowest low which landed me in jail.
A week into my sentence, I was saved and found a faith of my own understanding.

I begged, pleaded and prayed. I bargained with God to forgive me and to relieve me of my temptations to use drugs and to give me another chance to be a mother. My end of the deal was to stay clean, walk in His will and way for my life, especially when I didn’t understand, and to only date Godly men in the future. 

My prayers were fully answered and I kept my end of our deal.   

Today, and for the past 7 years, I have had the privilege of having custody parenting my two eldest daughters, ages 14 & 20– a gift that I will never take for granted. However, our family still lives in the confines of an open adoption of my youngest daughter, their little sister. 

Navigating parenthood with multiple partners as well as the legal system brings its own set of challenges to say the least. 

After completing a 12 month intensive inpatient treatment program, I lived in a sober living house and started to rebuild all of my relationships. Starting with the most important ones:  my daughters and their families. They are the people to whom I owe everything for doing what I was unable to do at the time, which was to be a healthy and stable parent. 

Within the past 8 years, I have learned how to stay clean and be a full time parent again. I have been happily married for 7 years, I own a successful cleaning company and my most current endeavor is starting a mom to mom mentorship, a reunification revolution for families like mine. Our mission is to help Mothers feel worthy enough to parent, prepared to parent, and supported, rather than crumbling in the face of their current circumstances, giving in and giving up before they’re asked and/or prepared to do so. 

Open adoption has been one of the biggest challenges I have faced while being in recovery. No matter how far I move in the right direction, my choices have permanent consequences. My decisions changed our family’s directory in unimaginable ways. 

One of the hardest parts for me to endure is the questions, blame, sadness and anger all three of my daughters experience because of my choices. My choices, and the separation in our family, leaves permanent damage that all of them have to navigate through individually, and will continue to navigate for their entire lives. 

My youngest daughter, now age 10, is starting to ask a lot more questions, and again, I am the one that takes full responsibility for our situation. She has never known me under the influence, never saw me at my weakest, and I am abundantly proud of that, and proud of who I have become. I have fought hard to overcome tragedy and trauma, in order to become the mother that all three of my daughters’ need and deserve. 

Currently, my youngest’s adoptive parents and I speak on a regular basis about updates and possible visits. I am allowed to attend her sports events, to cheer her on from the sidelines and tell her how proud I am of her afterward. I take so many pictures every time, because it’s the most tangible gift that I can take with me. The moments together are short and leave us both wanting more. I truly believe as she gets older, she understands that every decision made is not mine to make, nor is it hers alone, but theirs as a family. So while apart, we yearn for one another, love hard when we’re together and make the best out of our current circumstances. 

The dark days and stretches of time living without my daughter have taught me that I was created for more than my mistakes, that I am worth far more than the shame and pain I have carried for a lifetime. I was created to be their Mother. It’s a gift, and a privilege that I will never again take for granted. I am far from perfect, but I know I was created perfectly to be theirs. In all my brokenness and beauty, today I can say confidently: I am a good Mother.

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