Patricia Dischler placed her son, Joe, for adoption nearly 30 years ago and, as we talk, I recognize that time has not healed the pain of that decision.
She explains, “I tell the story of walking out of the hospital all the time – probably thousands of times over the years – and I ALWAYS cry. It’s hard.”
I hear emotion in Dischler’s voice as she continues, “I’m 100% sure I did the right thing, but that never takes the pain away. Birth mothers never, ever forget the pain.”
Patricia’s story, the story of thousands of mothers who have made the agonizingly courageous choice to place their child for adoption, is too often forgotten.
In her book, Because I Loved You, Dischler gave birth mothers a voice when she published her story in 2006.
In 2016, during National Adoption Month, these stories should be revisited.
As a 20 year-old, Patricia agonized over what to do about her unexpected pregnancy – eventually seeking help from a counselor at Catholic Charities. “I was so fortunate to have a counselor that was a bit ‘rogue’. She helped me push for an open adoption – which was unusual in the mid 80’s.”
With her counselor’s support, Patricia found a family that was a perfect match for her unborn child – a family that would give her child the home she could not while allowing her to be a distant piece of their lives.
As Patricia puts it, “Even 30 years later, I feel so fortunate for them. My situation is really the best case scenario. We were on the same page from the start.”
The concept of open adoption is different for everyone.
In Dischler’s case, she would exchange letters each year and had fidelity that her son would understand who she was and that she would always love him. Her son’s adoptive family had no worry about her being part of their lives.
Patricia’s voice is warm as she talks about the family she’d chosen so long ago, “90% of the success of my open adoption is on the shoulders my son’s family. They normalized his adoption, it was part of Joe’s life all along. It was not ignored. There were bumps in the road but we kept each other on track.”
Patricia Dischler’s successful story of open adoption can teach us several larger lessons.
(1) The power of talking openly about all parts of adoption.
“Most adoption stories leave out the birth mother while putting the adoptive families on a pedestal.” Dischler continues, “That shouldn’t be. No matter what side you’re on, you should welcome the questions that come. If we don’t, adoptive families are missing opportunities to bring others in.”
Helpful resources are plentiful for exploring adoption – a simple Google search of local agencies can give you that information.
More powerful, though, are the stories of families that have been there and are willing to share those experiences openly – both the good and the bad, the painful and the jubilant pieces that unite all families impacted by an adoption process.
(2) The concept of family is limitless.
Patricia explains an exercise she has her speaking audiences participate in:
“I give each person in the room a piece of paper and ask them to write down the number of people allowed to love their children. It does not take long before they are all looking at me as if I’m crazy. There is no number, right? It’s infinite – that is an adoption lesson. The definition of family should extend to anyone that loves your child.”
This message is profound. The concept transcends the need for categories for families – permanently shedding the notion of “real” versus adoptive parents.
For Patricia, and for all birth mothers, the pain of their courageous choice never leaves.
In November, during National Adoption Month, we are all charged with remembering the stories of the birth mothers that, like all parents, yearn for their child to thrive and to be loved.
This is the lesson from Patricia Dischler and her son, Joe. Her courage nearly 30 years ago continues today.
Her story, and that of all families of adoption, is framed by the last lines of “The Hymn of Joy” – the song that Patricia, her son and his parents sang together on the day they first met –
“Ever singing, march we onward,
victors in the midst of strife;
joyful music lifts us sunward
in the triumph song of life.”
About Patricia Dischler:
Patricia Dischler is a nationally recognized speaker and author who inspires audiences with her creative ideas and inspiring presentations. Her personal story of placing her son in a ground breaking open adoption in 1985 and the lessons learned apply to all adoptions. Her book Because I Loved You has been hailed as a “roadmap to open adoption” and endorsed by five national adoption agencies including the Adoption Institute.