At eighteen, Tamra Hyde made one of the hardest choices any person can ever make. She chose to place her son for adoption. Tamra explained, “There are so many misconceptions floating around about birth-mothers. People think we don’t want our children. Placing my son for adoption was the hardest post painful thing I’ve ever done. But it was also one of the sweetest. It was the right thing for us.”
It all started in high school. She had been dating her boyfriend for about a year when she found out she was pregnant. “I was in shock,” she explained. “He was the first guy I kissed.” Tamra described feeling numb and emotionally dead. For a long time she had been in a depression where she hadn’t felt a lot of concern for her life or the inevitable consequences of the choices she made. For Tamra, getting pregnant was a gradual awakening to feeling alive again. “It was the first time I’d cared about anything in a long time. The baby was giving me something to work for. Something to get myself right for.”
When she first told her parents about her pregnancy they guided her to LDS family services (an arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that helps teen mothers). From the start of the pregnancy, Tamra was opposed to adoption, but agreed to talk with a counselor. After her boyfriend (the baby’s dad) proposed, Tamra told their families they were going to parent the baby. When she called to let her caseworker know of her decision, the caseworker invited her to take a six week vacation away from her current living situation. The caseworker said that the distance might give her increased perspective about the relationship. It might give her time to really ponder about what was the right decision for her and the baby. After some deliberation, Tamra decided to accept her caseworker’s invitation. She had been really struggling with knowing what was best, and she hoped by having time away she could feel peace with whatever she chose.
At the end of her first trimester, Tamra arrived in Atlanta, Georgia, nine hours from her home in Memphis. She stayed with a kind host family who had opened their home to her. She knew the choice was hers- and she wanted to make the best one. She wanted to look back in the years to come and feel peace and confidence about her decision. In this new environment, away from the turmoil of her family life and the co-dependent relationship she had with her boyfriend, Tamra began to notice a change within herself. “I started to realize how unhealthy my relationship with my boyfriend was. I was thriving away from him and then he would call and I would regress back into these negative patterns. I realized that if we got married the marriage would likely be unsuccessful. More importantly, I couldn’t convince myself that this father and the person who I was with him, would be what my son needed.” She shifted her energy to preparing to be a single mom, and she decided to remain in Atlanta past the six week trial period.
The weight of the decision before her was pulling her toward a relationship with God she had long since forgotten. She knew she needed wisdom and perspective beyond her own. And so one morning she found herself on her knees- asking- desperate to know the answer. “I had been praying desperately over the course of the pregnancy. I wanted inspiration and guidance. I was terrified of regret and of making the wrong choice. I knew I couldn’t see where the respective paths led. I had been coming to God, but I had been counseling Him- waiting for Him to give me the answer I wanted. That morning in Atlanta was the first time I had come to Him really wanting to know what HE wanted me to do.”
And finally the answer came. Tamra describes it as a sequence of clear impressions. “Tamra, give me your will. Do you really want what is best for your son? More than ANYthing else? Enough to break your own heart?” And in that instant she knew, as if a scroll was unfolding before her, she could see so clearly what she needed to do. It seemed impossible (she had no idea how she would do it) but she knew it was what was right for her and her son. She got off her knees and headed downstairs. “Bonnie,” she told her host mom, “I am going to place my son for adoption.”
With her mind firm on her choice, Tamra set out to find the perfect adoptive family. “I wanted a couple who could give him everything I couldn’t.” Her list was rigorous and her standards high. Tamra, who describes 1995 as just beginning to come out of the dark ages of adoption- still carries sadness about the process. “In the internet age, the relationship between birth-mother and adoptive parents is like online dating. You can learn anything about each other and have tons of interaction and communication. Adoptions now are usually open, with information shared back and forth indefinitely between adoptive family and birth family. Twenty years ago, when I was going through the process, we were less enlightened.”
As a starting point, Tamra was given five adoptive parent files. “It was so overwhelming and intimidating. I had gone into the selection process very prayerful. If I was going to place my baby I needed to be sure it was with the right family. I wanted a sign.” As Tamra opened the first file a feeling filled her she couldn’t deny. “Despite the fact that they matched so little of my criteria, that file was like a magnet. I couldn’t get them out of my head, but I said to myself, ‘This is the first file I am looking at. What are the odds it is them! This is not the type of family I had in my mind for my son.’” Tamra looked at the other applicants–all who matched her list of criteria exactly–but she could not shake the feeling about the first family. Eventually, she called her caseworker and told her how she felt. “I am so glad,” her case worker said. “I knew that couple didn’t match any of the criteria on your list, but I felt really strongly I needed to include their file.”
Tamra and her baby’s adoptive parents were only able to meet one time in person. It was a formal process. Tamra came in her best clothes. She was praying so hard that she would make a good impression. “I had one chance to win their good opinion. I wanted so much for them to think well of me. All my son would ever know about me would be from this one meeting I had with his parents.” Though Tamra felt great peace about her choice, she was secretly hoping for another confirmation that this was the right family. “The Lord was so good,” Tamra stated. “As soon as the baby’s adoptive parents came in the room I was filled with the most incredible sense of love and peace. I knew this was right. He was THEIR baby! He came to them through me because I needed him too. He had been my intervention- my angel and rescuer from a path of self-destruction but he had not been for me to keep. On this day, I realized, that I wasn’t sharing him with them, THEY were sharing THEIR son with ME.”
Tamra described the two days she had with her baby before placing him for adoption as the two greatest days of her life. “I have never been as fulfilled as I was the two days that I was a mother. The time I had with my baby was the most sweet and significant of my life. I had insights flow into me about who he was, and the great mission he had in life. It was the most sacred experience of my life.” In retrospect, Tamra realizes that time was a gift to her from God- something that has allowed her to weather her deepest sorrows. “It was only this great love that could enable me to place him for adoption.”
Tamra’s story has taken her many places in the years since placing her baby for adoption. She has become prominent in the adoption community – working on every angle of adoption- from advocacy to education to mentoring and community outreach. She has dedicated her life to encouraging women like her to make informed decisions they can have lasting peace about. “Motherhood has changed me. It saved me. I wouldn’t given up the experience for anything.” It is Tamra’s love for her baby that allowed her to choose life and adoption.
One of the most important parts of her post-adoption life has been reunion with her adult son, Justin, and his wonderful family. They were able to find each other at a time in Justin’s life where he needed her influence, and have since developed a close friendship. Tamra marvels at who he is and her role in his life as an adult. Though she could never take the place of his adopted mother, she has come to see the wisdom in the roles we play in each other’s lives at different times and seasons. “I wish I could have been there for his first twenty years, but I am so blessed that I can be there for him now.”