African American women have a penchant for being mother hens. Our nature is to prepare an extra space at the dinner table for the neighbor’s son or take in the wayward cousin who needs more guidance. But lately there seems to be a different trend emerging. As we increasingly become heads of households and more career-driven, single Black women aren’t waiting for the traditional husband-and-wife team to start a family. Instead, we’re choosing adoption as the preferred path into motherhood. Trudi Bryant-Williams, who is in her late 50s and single, decided to adopt her daughters Autumn, 6, and Amber, 5, after already raising her 25-year-old biological daughter, Jennifer. She talks to ESSENCE.com about the decision to fill her empty nest and why she believes more Black women should consider following in her footsteps.
I was born and raised in Tennessee in a family of seven children. I’ve always thought about adopting, so when my oldest daughter was away at school, it just felt like the right time. I started the process in 2000 and began attending classes, but I didn’t follow through. My friends were encouraging me not to go through with it, telling me I was unmarried and didn’t need this extra responsibility at this point in my life. So, I dropped it but I always felt like this was a calling from God. In 2002, I took the classes again and this time I didn’t share any information with my friends. This was something that was important for my life. They found out when I brought the baby home.
I raised my older daughter alone and I did okay. There are a lot of people who think you have to be married or you have to be a certain age to adopt. The agencies want qualified people without a criminal background who are basically stable and healthy. They’re not really caught up about age because many times you have grandmothers who want to adopt their grandchildren. But being an older, unmarried woman was not a problem for the agency or for me.
I adopted my daughter Autumn when she was 6 weeks old. Then when she was 13 months, social services called me again and said her birth mom had another baby and asked if I would consider taking her home. My life has always been about family, love, and commitment, so there was no way I could turn away my daughter’s birth sister.
They’ve always known that they are adopted. They’ve asked about their birth mom and I told them that she was sick, addicted to drugs and unable to take care of them. I would welcome the relationship with her if she were healthy because I have a great respect for birth moms who say, “I can’t do it. I need help.” It’s our responsibility as a community to do just that. If we don’t support these babies and just leave them in foster care, they’ll simply age out of the system and end up homeless, with no one to love them.
Adoption is like the reward God gives to you—it’s love. When I pick up my girls after work, they’re so excited to see me. They run to me, hug me and just give me the greatest gift you could ever have. You think you’re doing this for them but your reward is so much greater. They are pleased to be my children. When your child is glad to have you as a mom, you just can’t beat that.
If other single Black women are considering adoption, I would say don’t worry about being unmarried or not being rich. Talk to someone who has done it. Also, realize that anything you do is bigger than you. It has to be about the children. If it’s right for you and your family, then it is more than worth looking into. It’s important for us all to think about what you can do to help our babies.