Janelle asks “What’s his label?”

Janelle asks what's his labelMeet Janelle. In 1993, she found herself facing the many burdens and decisions that accompany an unplanned pregnancy.  Feeling as if she needed extra support, she chose to move into the Liberty Godparent Home for the duration of her pregnancy.  It was there that she decided that adoption was the best option for her child and made the brave decision to pursue a placement plan while working with Family Life Services Adoption Agency.

Now, 20 years later, she enjoys open communication with her daughter and is confident that she made the right decision. We’ve been lucky enough to get to know her recently. She’s a mom, a wife and and a new friend of BraveLove’s! She posed this thought-provoking perspective that we wanted to forward along to you:

This last weekend, I attended an adoption conference. For the first session, I chose “Adoption Reunions.” Really… can you ever hear enough adoption reunion stories? As I took my seat in the second row, I couldn’t figure out the dynamics of the panel in front of me. Two younger women, two older women and an older man. As the session started, they were introduced… adoptee, birth mom, adoptive mom, birth mom’s husband, and birth mom’s daughter. Hold on… husband of the birth mom? I have watched enough Montel shows to know that they usually do not include the birth mom’s husband in this kind of discussion. What could he possibly add? Each did a wonderful job sharing a five minute intro of who they were and how they fit into the story…..until, it was Geoff’s turn.

“Who am I?” he said. “I am Geoff. I am married to the birthmother. I am Elizabeth’s (adoptee) half-sister’s dad. I have no biological connection to Elizabeth at all. In fact, I have no label like everyone else at this table.”

Ouch! I was shocked at that comment. After a moment of silence, he went on to share his role on the process…and he is the one I learned the most from.

To give you a visual, Geoff is in his mid 50’s, a shorter gentleman that had little hair on his head… but what hair he did have was white. When he smiled, his nose scrunched up and his entire face lit up. This man had my full attention. Geoff shared that for years he listened to his wife when she needed to talk about the adoption, watched his wife cry after giving birth to his daughter, and sometimes walked on eggshells trying to figure out how to fix the situation. Once the letter from the office came that the adoptee wanted communication, he helped his wife juggle the thought of communication after 23 years of knowing nothing, worrying about expectations, trust issues and I am sure much more than he chose to share.

I sat in awe of this man who obviously loved his wife. He went on to share about attending Elizabeth’s wedding and introduced himself to people as the birth mom’s husband. He said that everyone in his family has a biological tie to Elizabeth—except him—and I think in some ways that disappointed him. As he spoke of Elizabeth and the relationship that they have, he beamed with pride and the love that he had for her was so evident. How amazing that this young lady was loved by so many people… even those not biologically linked to her!

During the next few hours, my mind kept wandering back to what I had heard and questions started running through my own mind. What were my expectations from my own husband in regards to the adoption? Did I assume that just because he married me that he would be comfortable with my past? Did he want to be part of K’s life as well—or was it just a job that I threw on him? Did I just assume that he knew his label and fit comfortably within it?

When I got home, I told him about Geoff and the way that he doesn’t have a defined role in the adoption. As I sat at the bottom of the bed, I watched as a huge smile came across his face. “I’ve been trying to figure it (the label) out for years.” Readers, please know my hubby is amazing when it comes to my adoption and because of my profession, it isn’t something that I am shy to talk about. It’s just something that we never had to talk about.

Janelle's family

For the first time, I listened to adoption from my husband’s perspective. What he shared with me made me love and appreciate him even more—and I gained a newfound level of respect. No, he has no connection to K biologically but he loves her because she is part of the person that he loves. We had a great…no, fantastic talk about how he feels and it was exactly what I had hoped for. What a true picture of unconditional love…not only of the love he has for me, but also for the daughter I placed. It is almost as if he had to adopt her in his heart in order to love me and the person I am.

Janelle Basham lives in Lynchburg, Va with her husband of 16 years and two children, Carson (14) and Emma (11). She has dedicated her life to helping other young ladies facing an unintended pregnancy… first working for the adoption agency that she used for the placement of her daughter and now is the Director for the Liberty Godparent Home.

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