ST. JOSEPH COUNTY. Ind. (WNDU) -- Days after someone placed a newborn in a baby box at a Michigan City, Indiana fire station, many people question why a woman would give up her infant.
Mellisa Lathion of South Bend, Indiana faced the difficult decision in 1999, when she became pregnant.
"Abortion was the first option that was suggested by the birth father, but my beliefs -- I don’t believe in that personally. I dismissed that idea pretty quickly," said Lathion.
Instead, she teamed with the Adoption Support Center, an Indianapolis-based agency. The group paired the 19-year-old woman with a husband and wife who couldn't conceive. They reminded Lathion of her parents. While she revered their strong marriage and financial stability, Lathion felt the inner strife, placing her soon-to-be-son for adoption.
"This was definitely the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life," she admitted.
When the baby was born in October 1999, Lathion held her son, fed him and changed his diaper but also shared the experience with the boy's adoptive parents. Still, she felt time ticking.
"Adoption is as bittersweet, as it’s been it's been a beautiful journey," said Lathion.
As the weeks passed and Lathion tried to find normalcy, she heard the faint cries of a baby in her sleep. However, she awoke to mementos in the mail to ease the sorrow: pictures, letters and eventually the locks from her son's first haircut. Over the years, the adoptive mother has sent scrapbooks and cards, including one celebrating Birthmother's Day -- the day before Mother's Day.
"They’ve never stopped supporting me and believing in me," Lathion praised.
Lathion agreed to an open adoption, meaning she is allowed to see her son. However, these days, she considers the situation to be "semi-open," since she last saw her birth son 12 years ago.
"I miss him. I really miss him," she expressed. "I think, though, that we're forever connected, and I look forward to that day (I see him again). I hope to be in his life -- continue to be in his life -- even if that means I'm on the outside. That’s totally fine because he has his mom and dad."
Mellisa's message, raising adoption awareness
Lathion believes stigma surrounds adoption.
"We hear about the horror stories, adoptions that fail, or the birth mom’s changed her mind," she recounted. "I’m not one of those stories, and I just think there needs to be more awareness about it, and that it is a very positive option for young women -- or really a women of any age that isn’t quite sure what she wants to do."
Married with two additional children, Lathion is a registered nurse at an area hospital, working in the Mother and Baby Unit. She says she has leveraged her experience as a birth mother to help patients. Meanwhile, she leads a birth mother support group at the Women's Care Center, located at the corner of Notre Dame Avenue & LaSalle (near St. Joseph's High School).
"Now, looking here 18 years fast-forward, I feel like it's my mission to support other women that are going through this whole process and also more importantly, to be there afterward because the support post- placement is huge," voiced Lathion.
To women considering placing their babies for adoption, Lathion said:
"You're not alone. There are other women who have made this decision. We will embrace you, and I feel like it’s a sisterhood."
Mellisa said the birth mother support group meets the last Thursday of every other month. It is open to pregnant women and birth mothers, regardless when they placed. For more information, she recommends women contact the Adoption Support Center or the Women's Care Center.