Open adoption not always easy, but allows New Orleans birth mother, adoptive parents to share love for daughter _lowres

Advocate photo by CHRISTINA GACHARNÁ—Anna Barrouquere takes a photo during a weeklong cruise with her birth mother, Melanie Moore. Anna has two birth certificates. On the first, her birth mom named her 'Bridget Ann' after the patron saint of unwed mothers, Moore's confirmation saint. The second bears the name Anna Barrouquere, given to her by her parents.

Melanie Moore enjoyed a weeklong cruise with her 15-year-old daughter, Anna, to top off the summer before school resumed. They explored Central America, laughing, talking, snapping selfies and bonding.

As the cruise ship docked back in New Orleans, Moore returned Anna to Anna’s parents — Anna’s adoptive parents, that is.

Moore is Anna’s birth mother. Anna’s adoptive parents, Jim and Cathy Barrouquere, have raised her since birth in an open adoption arrangement with Moore.

“It’s just always been part of the way it was,” Jim Barrouquere said. “In the beginning, it was a work in progress, but we’ve gotten to the point where we’re really comfortable with each other, and Anna is really comfortable with her birth family.”

Cathy Barrouquere explained that their arrangement isn’t something that happened overnight.

“A lot of work went into this on both sides, as far as developing and nurturing this relationship,” she said. “Placing a child up for adoption is probably the most difficult thing a young woman could do, so that was a difficult place for us to start.”

Their story began when a 16-year-old Melanie, a student in a local all-girls Catholic school, found out she was pregnant.

“My life was pretty chaotic,” Moore said. “I was a dramatic, hormonal teenager; I could barely keep up with my emotions. I couldn’t even begin to think how a child would fare in that type of environment.”

Moore said she knew within the first month what she wanted to do, and that led her to Volunteers of America, the organization that facilitated Anna’s open adoption.

“It was very emotional,” Moore remembered. “It’s like a death. My body was reacting as if I should have a child with me, but I didn’t, so it was a constant reminder. It was hard because even though I knew I was doing the right thing, my emotions were telling me that I’m not. I just wanted to be in my bedroom by myself.”

Although there was a waiting period in place for the adoption, Moore says she never changed her mind because she wasn’t making the decision for herself — she made the decision for Anna.

“If it was for me, I would have kept her,” Moore said. “And that’s what’s so hard for people to understand.”

After the adoption, she returned to her high school, where she was instructed to never speak of her pregnancy, but rather explain her absence as illness. She graduated and attended college, where she joined a sorority and earned a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree, all while still being able to be in Anna’s life.

“I’m not going to say there’s not hard times,” Moore said, “but how would my life have been? More important, how would her life have been? She is thriving. She’s wonderful.”

Moore said she hasn’t always been this open about her situation, but she would like for there to be increased awareness about open adoption as an option.

Cathy Barrouquere said one of the questions she is frequently asked is how are they able to share.

“I’ve just never felt like she was mine to own from the get-go,” she said. “Part of that comes from the Father, that we’re all God’s children and we all belong to God, so I don’t feel at all like we are ‘sharing’ her.”

Cathy Barrouquere said she and her husband feel blessed with the privilege of being Anna’s parents.

“Melanie has given us that blessing,” she said.

“It’s a benefit to Anna to have more people who know her and love her,” Jim Barrouquere said, “and that’s the bottom line: You can never have enough people to love a kid.”