When Marikathryn Hendrix was 23 her life was a mess. She and her husband were separated and divorce was looming: she had been juggling raising her child, going to school and working.
Then she found out she was pregnant.
So, like many women who find themselves contemplating adoption, Hendrix had a difficult choice to make.
"And I really had to think about what was going to be best for both of my kids — the one that wasn't born yet, and the one I was raising," she said.
She knew that this choice would change her life. She opted to pursue an open adoption, where she would have some contact with her birth child. Hendrix, herself, was adopted when she was just a baby. It was a closed adoption, and because of that she was left with many questions growing up.
"I wanted to know what the story was," she said. "Who are they? Why did they decide on adoption? Back in my era of adoption, the social workers told all adoptive parents that their birth parents were young and in love and going to college. And unfortunately that wasn’t always true — or fortunately, whatever. So I just wanted to know more than just the sort of superficial glossy story."
And It’s because of these experiences that people seek her out for answers.
Hendrix co-founded and currently serves as the director of Adoption Choices of Northern California, a nonprofit program that matches birth moms and dads with prospective adoptive parents. Adoption Choices is part of Women’s Health Specialists, which provides women’s health services at their offices in Redding, Santa Rosa, Sacramento and Chico.
Even now, birth and adoptive parents are still victims of misconception, like that birth moms don’t care or love their child.
Eric Hoiland and his wife Katie worked with Hendrix and Adoption Choices to adopt two children, Addie and Callan.
Eric Hoiland said that even he may have suffered from some of those same misconceptions:
"I’m sure that I thought that if you adopted children, you’d never really be able to love them as much as your own," he said. "I had, believe it or not, a lot of people ask me that — ‘Well, don’t you want to have kids on your own?' And before I wouldn’t have thought that was a weird question. But once you have a child from adoption and you get that question, it’s really odd because you don’t see it that way.”
Hoiland says that Hendrix made sure that she represented all sides of the adoption equally and made sure they understood the difficulty of giving your child to someone else.
"I’ve worked in adoption for 22 years," Hendrix said. "I've never met a birth mom that didn't care. Ever. Birth moms, they love their baby. No one looks forward to it. Like, 'I can't wait to place my baby for adoption.' They do it out of an act of love, thinking that it's going to be the best for their child."
For Hendrix, that’s exactly what it came down to.
"At the very end of the pregnancy, about two months before I was due, I realized I really can't do this, it's not what’s best for both of my kids. It was a very hard decision, but once I made that decision, I never looked back."
When she was set to meet Steve and Nancy — the prospective adoptive parents — in Sacramento, she recalls being very nervous. But the meeting went well and she came away confident in her choice.
"And I turned back to look and they were walking one way and I was walking the other, and Nancy had a little skip in her step and it was the sweetest thing," Hendrix said. "It really meant something to me because I could tell she was so excited. And that's what you want as a birth mom. You want that these people are going to treasure this child. And that this means so much to them, because it means so much to you as a birth mom. To be giving your child to somebody — I can't really think of anything to compare that to."
She says that even with that galvanized sense that she was doing the right thing, leaving the hospital without her baby was one of the hardest thing she's ever done.
Come January, her birth child Hannah will be the same age as Hendrix was when made her choice. And they’ve maintained contact through all of these years: scheduling visits with Hannah’s adoptive parents, exchanging emails with pictures and, now, messaging on Facebook.
Hannah has now graduated from University of California, Berkeley, and for Hendrix, that was a significant affirmation that she made the right choice.