Birth mom, child reconnect after adoption
By Brandon LaChance
November is nationally known for Thanksgiving.
But, the turkey-eating event isn’t the only reason to celebrate the 11th month of the year as November is also National Adoption Month.
For Christy Sawcedo and Brittany Carroll, the meaning of adoption is special and worth celebrating.
“When I was 17, I gave birth to a little baby girl named Brittany. She will be 34 in January,” said Sawcedo, who is 51 and lives in Pontiac. “The more I think of it now about what I was thinking at the time, I really can’t take the credit for my decision to go into the adoption process. I wasn’t making any good choices or any good decisions then. Somehow, I was able to make a good decision for her.
“It was an unplanned pregnancy with a guy who was not going to be good for me or for a child. I was trying to get away from him at the time I found out I was expecting. At first, I didn’t know what I was going to do. Then the more I thought about it, it was pretty clear, adoption was the best option for her. It was more important for me to protect her, more than being selfish and wanting to have her in my life.”
Two of the main factors behind Sawcedo’s decision to share Carroll were the guy who helped her conceive was bad news and she couldn’t support a child while still in high school.
After Sawcedo gave birth to Carroll, she had to wait 72 hours before she could sign off her rights to the child. The birth mom took every second she could to sing to her, pray with her and talk to her.
Sawcedo still vividly remembers her baby crying as they took Carroll from her arms and walked down the hallway.
“I want people to understand adoption. It’s terribly difficult,” said Sawcedo. “It’s the best thing you could do and at the same time it’s one of the hardest things you could ever do. It’s not about you at that point, it’s about the child. What was really hard is what I call, having empty arms. You come home from the hospital after having a child and you don’t have the baby to hold. From my perspective, it was really difficult.
“People didn’t understand it. People would say mean things like, ‘I can’t believe you gave your baby away.’ If I was upset, I remember people being cruel and saying, ‘Why are you upset? You didn’t care enough to keep her.’ It was just such a misconception of the situation.
“The truth is, some of the other options are not better like keeping a baby you know you can’t care for. In my position, I felt like I could be putting her in harm’s way with the father, who is currently in prison. He was always going to be in prison, but I didn’t know that at the time. People wanted to say I was being selfish and that I didn’t care, but really it was the opposite.”
Carroll, who is now married and has two children of her own, knows the decision was out of love and not quit or being unwanted.
The bundle of joy was taken in by Dane and his wife at the time, who also adopted three other children besides Carroll. After a split when Carroll was 8, Dane married Jacquie and she has become the woman Carroll feels is her true mother.
The parents collected letters Christy had sent over the years and when Carroll was 18, she was given the option to receive a box of her birth mother’s content.
“My parents got divorced when I was in elementary school. My dad wasn’t the one who was writing Christy for the first eight years or so, it was my mom. When my mom left the picture, that’s when the communication stopped,” Carroll said. “But my dad kept all the letters she had written to me. I still have all of the letters and the photos.
“My dad had always told me, ‘When you turn 18, you can have all of this information and do what you want with it.’ When I was younger it was for my safety to not give it to me because you never know what you’re walking into. Right when I turned 18, I got the box of stuff. I went through it, read the letters, and it was super emotional.
“It was cool to see that even though I was put up for adoption, my birth mother really did love me. She really did what was best for me at the time. I really saw it in the letters and I knew she was someone I definitely wanted to meet.”
In the box, a letter from Sawcedo’s father included a phone number. Carroll called the number after she was 18, but since it was the father’s landline Sawcedo was no longer connected to, Carroll was given the correct number.
They spoke and within two weeks visited each other for the first time since January of 1988.
“It was something I had always thought about. In my mind, I had my parents and I didn’t feel I had a void in my life,” Carroll said. “But, it was something I was curious about and I wanted to meet Christy. I wanted to know if I looked like anybody. Being adopted, I didn’t look like anyone in my family, so I was interested to see who I did look like.
“It was something in the back of my mind I wanted to do, but nothing I had to do. If Christy wouldn’t have picked up the phone, I think I would have been fine with it but it turned out really great for us.”
The two have found they have similar personalities, likes, and mannerisms.
Carroll also found out Sawcedo has three more daughters in Brenda (2 ½ years younger than Carroll), Leah and Jenna.
At first, it was tough to realize she had other people who could be family, but over time she has slowly adopted them into her circle.
“Meeting her for the first time was nerve-racking. It was a lot all at one time, which was my choice,” Carroll said. “I met her mom and dad, and her daughters. It was overwhelming. I had my own family, so in the beginning, it was like, ‘OK, this is great to meet everyone, but I have a family. If I see them again, that will be cool,’ but I didn’t have a longing to want to be with them all the time.
“Over time, the more I talked to Christy, I found we have a really good bond and that’s what I was looking for. We’ve grown our relationship and I’ve gotten to know her daughters. It’s been really cool to get to know her. I feel like we’re good friends.”
When asked about her current relationship with Carroll, Sawcedo slightly chuckles, takes a breath, and says, ‘It’s amazing.’
For someone who openly admits she wasn’t making good decisions when she was 17, she somehow found it in her to make one of the best decisions of her life.
“I really feel like God was with me through the whole thing,” Sawcedo said. “Even though I wasn’t really looking to him, I feel like he knew what the right decision was. He had to know we would reconnect and have the relationship we do now. I feel like it’s supernatural that I was able to make that kind of decision during such a cruddy time in my life.
“I do feel like it was still a good idea. It’s hard sometimes because I missed things, but she had a good family. Even those 10 years that I didn’t have any information, I thought to myself ‘I hope she doesn’t contact me’ because that just means she’s content with the life she has.”
This is another part of the bond Sawcedo and Carroll have almost 34 years after the adoption because Carroll backs the decision and is happy with how things turned out.
“I have a lot more respect for Christy that she was able to give up her child because I feel like it’s the most selfless thing you can do,” Carroll said. “I couldn’t imagine having to do that. I don’t fault Christy at all. I wouldn’t be the person I am if she didn’t put me up for adoption.
“I’m very grateful that I have the parents that I have and that I grew up the way I did. I know her intentions were for that.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at (815) 876-7941, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @LaChanceWriter.