Fourteen years ago, Gina Crotts placed a beautiful baby girl for adoption. As her daughter has grown, so has Gina. This Spanish Fork mother uses her heartbreak as a platform to support birth moms.
Gina Crotts was an unmarried, 19-year-old college student when she found out she was expecting a baby. When she told her boyfriend, he had only one suggestion: Get an abortion. For Gina, that was not an option and she started exploring adoption.
She made a list of all the reasons to raise the baby on her own and all the benefits to placing the baby for adoption.
“I realized all the reasons for keeping the baby were things that were beneficial to me, not her,” she says. “Showing her off to my friends or dressing her in cute clothes was not what was best for her.”
She decided to move in with her brother and sister-in-law in Arizona to get away from Utah and focus on the adoption process.
Shedding the Shame
“Adoptions are so much more open than they used to be,” Gina says. “Even from when I went through the process in 2000, the Internet has changed everything!”
Gina says she regularly has women in their 40s and 50s reaching out to her about their adoption experiences.
“These women have felt so much shame and it feels good for them to finally be able to talk about it after all these years,” Gina says.
While in Arizona she started looking at adoptive parent profiles through LDS Family Services.
“I liked the couple I chose because they were a little bit older and had been married for a while,” Gina says. “I felt really good about them.”
After Gina selected the couple, they scheduled a face-to-face meeting. The wife soon found out she was pregnant after years of trying. Gina met with the couple and decided to go ahead with the placement.
Gina returned to Utah where she would deliver the baby, and she didn’t care what anyone thought about her or if they judged her for getting pregnant.
“I felt good about my decision and I didn’t let myself get caught up in what anyone else said about my situation,” Gina says. “That is a battle a lot of women have to fight with adoption.”
Right after delivery, the baby had complications and was quickly taken away before Gina had a chance to spend any time with her. When the baby was ready to leave the hospital, Gina decided to bring her home for just one night.
“I remember sitting there holding her and trying to memorize her face,” Gina says. “I loved her so much but I also remember having the distinct feeling that she wasn’t mine to keep. When it came time to actually hand her to the social worker, I remember thinking, ‘If I don’t do this right now, I don’t know if I can do it.’ I went home and cried all night long.”
After Gina’s daughter was placed, the agreement was that Gina could send letters on the baby’s birthday and that the parents would occasionally send Gina pictures and letters. When the daughter turned 5, the adoptive parents continued to send Gina updates, but they asked that she stop writing letters.
Gina got more devastating news when the adoptive dad told Gina the couple was getting a divorce.
“I was so sad because one of the biggest reasons I wanted to place my baby for adoption was because I didn’t want her to have a life split between two parents,” Gina says. “I was pregnant when I heard about their divorce, and I was super emotional.”
Since the adoptive parents split up, updates on Gina’s daughter became few and far between. Now this birthmother hopes that when her daughter is grown they can have a healthy relationship.
Gina has taken her heartache and put a positive spin on it by creating Birth Mother Baskets. The non-profit organization started out as a Christmas service project. Gina wanted to make a basket filled with donated items and a letter from her to birth moms delivering at local hospitals.
“I remember feeling so empty when I left the hospital with empty arms,” Gina says. “These baskets are not meant to replace the baby — nothing can do that — but they are a gesture with the message of, ‘You are not alone.’”
She started with the goal of delivering 20 baskets, but in the years that followed she began sending out hundreds of baskets.
“Even though my daughter might never know about it, sending out each basket was a way for me to give a piece of my love for her and know that she wasn’t forgotten,” Gina says.
In Other Words
A few months ago, Gina assisted in an online campaign to change the language used when talking about adoption. Instead of saying someone “gave up” their baby, Gina prefers to use the word “placed.” Many in the adoption community posted photos of their son or daughter with the hashtag #placed.
Being married and raising three kids has filled Gina’s schedule, so she has handed the organization over to an adoptive dad in Florida who is working on getting it back up and running.
Gina says one of the only ways she has been able to deal with the emotional process of adoption is the support of her family and friends.
“Today my parents are so proud of me and the work I’ve done with adoption, and that makes me feel so good,” Gina says.
They recently saw her receive the Community Excellence Award for Outstanding Contribution to Adoption in Utah from the Utah Adoption Council. She also regularly speaks at adoption conferences and works with adoptive parents, birth mothers and high school students.
When Gina was going through her own pregnancy and adoption process, she met her husband. He was extremely supportive and wanted to date her, but she told him she needed to focus on her pregnancy and adoption. After the placement they started dating, got married and now have three children together: JD (12), Evie (9) and Jett (3). As Gina’s children have gotten older, they have more conversations about adoption. And even though they have never met their biological half-sister, each year they celebrate their older sister’s birthday with candles and cake.
More than a decade after making the decision, Gina still has moments where she wonders if she did the right thing. She wrestles with those emotions, but in the end she always comes to the conclusion that is was the right thing for her to do in that moment and for her daughter.