Sydney Syverson is a birth mom, social worker and new friend! Her open, independent and warm approach to adoption is inspiring. Read on for thoughts from this week’s most inspiring person.
In just a few sentences, can you please set the stage for us? I met you a few weeks ago at a filming of an adoption episode on the Ricki Lake Show. I know why I was there (they were in need of a spastic asian-type. serendipity!) But how did YOU come to be a part of the taping?
Sydney: Well, I was in an episode of Oxygen’s show ‘I’m Having Their Baby’…so basically oxygen contacted me and told me RLS was doing an episode on adoption and wanted to know if I might be interested in doing it. I love Ricki Lake—particularly because of the documentary “The Business of being Born”. It pretty much changed my view on birth in America and she produced it so I was pretty stoked.
When you were prego, did you have an AHA moment that led you to placing your child in adoptive care?
Sydney: I never really had an AHA moment because I knew from the second I peed on the pregnancy stick that if I were pregnant I would do adoption. I was under no illusions that I was, in any way, ready to be a mom. I’d pretty much already made my mind up before I had even taken the pregnancy test. I remember driving in a car with my friend about a week before I took the pregnancy test and already honestly knowing I was pregnant and having an entire conversation with her about adoption. I can’t explain why I was so sure from the beginning…but I was.
I say “placing your child in adoptive care” instead of “giving your child up for adoption” because you made it clear when we met at the taping of RLS that they are two very different things. Do you mind expounding on that?
Sydney: I think there’s a lot that goes into language, especially as a social worker. We are constantly reframing our own thinking and how we communicate with other to make it as comfortable as possible for everyone. I personally like putting positive spins on the way in which I classify and name things. “Giving your child up for adoption” is negative. I didn’t “give up” on my child or “give her up”. I decided to find the most awesome family for her and lovingly place her in their care. It’s rare that people mean anything negative by it…but as a birth mom there is a huge difference and when you meet someone who uses the appropriate adoption language you know you have found an ally.
I’ve heard that some bio-moms choose not to name the children growing inside of them, for fear of attachment thus making adoption a particularly painful experience. Was this something that you ailed you? Or did you call her something special?
Sydney: I called her Bean throughout my pregnancy because early on I was reading one of those what to expect websites and they compared the size of the fetus to a bean. It just stuck…it’s what I still call her. Tinujei and Jesse chose the name Greta. They asked my opinion of a few names once they had them narrowed down to make sure I didn’t have really intense awful feelings towards one of them. Ti and Jesse chose not to share their name choices with any friends and family other than me. People have their own biases of names and they didn’t want anyone else’s opinion to sway how they felt about a certain name. Her middle name(s) are Miel—pronounced Mee-ell—which means “honey” in Spanish (Tinujei’s family, on her dad’s side, comes from Oaxaca, Mexico) and Serae—which is a combination of my first name, Sydney, and my mom’s middle name, Rae. Ti and Jesse created the combination. I did give her a name of my own when I was about 18 weeks pregnant, just before finding out if she was a girl or boy. I just knew she was a girl and the first time I felt her move I gave her a name. I’ve never shared this name with anyone. I’ve never even said it out loud. Maybe someday I’ll tell Greta.
Please fill in the blank: I would have been lost during my pregnancy if it weren’t for my BLANK…
Sydney:… wife, Juliet. Juliet is one of my very best friends. In April, of our senior year of college, we had a friendship committment ceromony. It was like a wedding—we even recited our own vows to one another. We had had this epiphony earlier that year of “why don’t we marry our best friends???” So we did! She was my biggest support throughout my pregnancy and still is. She came to every single doctor’s appointment with me, the childbirth classes and even cut Greta’s umbilical cord. Ti and Jesse lovingly refer to her as Greta’s birth father.
You’re part of an open adoption equation, a familial structure that’sgaining popularity in the US. To the families of open adoptions who want their children to be acquainted with their bio-roots and yet, don’t want the relationship to be an overwhelming experience - what is your advice for striking a healthy balance?
Sydney: Be honest and communicative. That’s really the only advice there is. Don’t pretend you’re something you’re not, birth moms or adoptive families…because the truth always comes out. When matching with a birth mom don’t tell her what you think she wants to hear or try to be what you think she wants…be yourself and be honest about the amount of openness and kind of relationship you are looking for. You will find a birth mom who wants the same relationship but it may take a while…and that sucks…but it sucks a lot less than not being honest and having a tumultuous relationship. Ti, Jesse, and I had no idea what our relationship would turn into when we first met, or even after I chose them to be Greta’s parents. We knew we wanted an open relationship but they degree of openness we had no idea about. After forming a relationship with each other we figured it out. It’s a lot more open than most adoptions—we’re friends on facebook, we text often, and see each other usually at least once a month. I consider them to be my friends…and not just Greta’s parents. When Jesse saw on my facebook that I got into a relationship he immediately texted me wanting to know everything…we’re friends. They care about me and I care about them and we all care about Greta. It’s pretty wonderful.
When/If people learn that you are a bio-mom, do they immediately treat
you differently? Do you have a go-to line that you drop on them like a
LAY-OFF-ME-IM-STARVING! hammer? (AH-PAHZAAAAM) If so, what is it?
Sydney: I havn’t really noticed people treating me differently when they find out I’m a birth mom…or maybe I just don’t give a shit if they do! It’s part of who I am. I admit I did struggle for a while about how much of a part of my identity I wanted it to be; would I tell everyone I met? What if someone asked me if I have kids? What should I say? Then I got over it. I got over caring what other peoples’opinions are; particularly if they are negative. I find that most people are genuinely curious about what being a birth mom means…or they are super supportive about it. I have had SO many people reach out to me about my experience; people I went to college with who were adopted, family friends who sent me emails to say how awesome what Idid is, and just a million people who have been affected some way byadoption. Which btw—-soooooo many people are! So many people want to connect about adoption..it’s an awesome community.The first guy I started hanging out with after I had Greta disappeared as soon as he found out about it. He thought I was damaged goods. That was rough. It was hurtful that someone would chose not to be with me because of something in my life that has been so positive and I am clearly very passionate about. Then I realized- screw him. He doesn’t deserve the awesomeness that is me and DEFINITELY never deserves to be any part of Greta’s life. I’m now in a relationship with an incredible guy who grew fonder of me when I told him about Greta. Telling him was one of the scariest things…I just assumed all guys would feel the same as the first one—that I had way too much baggage to even be given a chance. When I finally told him, I thought for sure he’d bail. But he didn’t. And this gives me faith for the male species.
Sorry to be a lame-o, but can you sum up your birthing experience in a haiku?
Morning sickness blow
But Greta is sweet as pie
Wow! I birthed a kid!
THANK YOU for sharing, Sydney!
For Sydney’s clip on RLS’s episode of ‘Life Changing Adoptions’, click HERE
For Sydney’s clip on Oxygen’s ‘I’m Having Their Baby’, click HERE!