Staying open to adoption
As her baby grew inside her, Tasha Tomczak worried and wondered what she should do. The Duluth woman was in her mid-20s and already had a 2-year-old daughter. The thought of being a single mother to two children was overwhelming. Tomczak turned f...
As her baby grew inside her, Tasha Tomczak worried and wondered what she should do.
The Duluth woman was in her mid-20s and already had a 2-year-old daughter. The thought of being a single mother to two children was overwhelming. Tomczak turned for help to Kjerstin Larson, who offers pregnancy and birthparent services at Lutheran Social Service in Duluth.
Larson doesn't try to sway the women who come to her; she and the women discuss the options. If a woman is considering adoption, Larson helps see her through the process.
"Whatever she decides, I want to make sure she feels good about the decision forever," Larson said.
Adoption once was shrouded in shame and secrecy, but in recent years open adoption has become the norm in domestic adoptions. In an open adoption, the birth mother chooses the adoptive parents and both sides come to an agreement about such things as visits and sharing photos of the child.
Tomczak liked what she learned about open adoption. "I found out I could still be a part of [the new baby's] life without going through the trials and tribulations of having two kids," said Tomczak, 26.
Last December, Tomczak and her mother paged through profiles of about 60 couples waiting to adopt through LSS. They chose three couples to interview.
Tomczak met the first couple, Jake and Megan Seltz of St. Paul, in December. They visited, looked at each other's photo albums and agreed to talk again. Tomczak called Larson the next day to tell her the couple was the right one.
Tomczak said it was like in the movie "Lilo and Stitch" when Lilo picked out Stitch in an animal shelter and said, "This one's good. I can tell."
Jake learned the news first, then called Megan. She was walking home when her cell phone rang. She screamed for joy in the middle of the street when she learned she would soon be a mother.
During the final weeks of her pregnancy, Tomczak talked by phone with the Seltzes a few times a week and they got to know each other better.
On Jan. 18, Tomczak gave birth by Caesarean section as the Seltzes waited in a nearby room at St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth. Minutes later, Tomczak's mother brought the baby to her new parents and the Seltzes beamed with happiness as they held their daughter. The Seltzes and Tomczak shared in naming the child. The Seltzes chose Norelle as her first name, and Tomczak gave her the same middle name she has, Renee.
Before going to the hospital, Tomczak had written down all the reasons she chose adoption for herself, her daughter, Alice, and the baby. She brought the list with her to the hospital, but she didn't need to look at it. She never wavered in her decision.
On Jan. 21, the Seltzes took Norelle home with them.
Before the baby's birth, Tomczak and the Seltzes had worked out a cooperative agreement, which is voluntary, and a contact agreement, which is legal. The agreements say they will talk to each other every two months and send pictures every six months, but they have visited and exchanged photos more often than that. "We do what feels normal to us," Tomczak said.
Jake Seltz said he and his wife chose an open adoption because they wanted to parent a child from birth. They feel blessed to have Tomczak and Norelle in their lives, he said. "We've gotten to know [Tomczak] and develop a trust, respect and friendship," he said.
He wants people to know that open adoption is not as scary as it might seem. Some people asked him and his wife if they were worried the birth mother would change her mind, take the baby or show up at unexpected times, he said. None of that happened, he said.
Seltz said he believes the openness of the adoption will be good for Norelle. "She'll know we're her parents, but it's also important for her to know her biological mom and dad," he said.
Tomczak and the baby's father are no longer a couple. He has a separate cooperative agreement with the Seltzes.
The Seltzes invited Tomczak to Norelle's baptism. Although it was a happy occasion, it was hard for Tomczak to see that Norelle had grown so much in the two months they had been apart. But seeing Norelle with her adoptive parents showed Tomczak something important.
"They do care for her and love her. They are her family," she said. "I wound up with a wonderful adoption."