Thursday, September 29, 2016

Stereotypes

It's 2016.  Adoption has been portrayed in the media in several different positive lights in recent years, and adoption stories have become less taboo.  Everywhere you look you can see adoptive families, with their radiating smiles singing the praises of the "selfless woman who placed her child with us."

So why is it still so hard to "come out" as a birth mother sometimes?

I am pretty open about my birth mother status.  I tell everyone as we get to know each other, because it is a part of who I am.  However, it isn't something that I shout from a rooftop for every stranger to hear, mostly because of one experience, and one stereotype:

I placed my middle child.  I was a young, struggling, single Mom, and I was in no place to successfully parent two children at that time.  After my adoption decision, I went on to get married, buy a house, and have a planned pregnancy.

When my youngest was born, she wasn't in the greatest of health so she was sent to a larger hospital with a NICU.  Every family was assigned a social worker to help them with whatever was needed, and (apparently) the social worker does an in depth review of everyone's files before even meeting with you.  She asked me about my family, and when I responded that we had one older child, she pushed me, and pushed me, and pushed me some more.  When I told her of my middle child's adoption, she immediately (seriously, there was no hesitation) asked, "Was CPS involved?"

And that, everyone, is the problem.

In this modern society. there is still the long held stereotype that birth moms are somehow unfit.  That we are incapable, and that we are women who have not come to the decision of adoption because we wanted to, but because we were forced to, or else risked having our children placed in foster care.

I want to fix this, but I just don't know how.  I want to scream from a rooftop that, "I am here!  I'm not unfit!  I loved my child, and I wanted the best for them!  I was realistic about my situation and realized that I wasn't the best!  That's it!"  

But no matter how loud I scream, it seems like the long held idea that I am somehow irresponsible is louder.

I made a great choice when I chose adoption, but I feel like sometimes society is punishing me for doing what was best, and that's a real injustice that is done to birth moms every day.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Respecting Boundaries

Sometimes I feel like being in a semi-open adoption is just more complicated than it needs to be. Since I moved once my birth son was born, I live halfway across the country from him. The agreement since birth has been that I can send letters and gifts whenever I want and I see pictures of him and keep in touch with his parents. However, they want to wait until he's older to do visits. While I don't really like this arrangement, I appreciate what I do have, I respect it, and would never do anything to cross any boundaries, something that I work very hard at.

But sometimes that gets tricky. In a few weeks, I will be traveling back to where I grew up and to near where my son now lives. I'm so excited to go back and I'm so excited to see my family and eat foods I haven't been able to since I left (I can taste the bagels and the pizza now...), but I also have an overwhelming sense of anxiety about it. What if I get triggered by things I'm not expecting to, or worry the whole time that I'll accidentally run into them? I doubt I will, but still. 

Respecting the boundaries that his parents have set is something that I always take to heart and always something that I try to do. While it is something I want more than absolutely anything in the world, I will not ask to see my birth son while I'm there, and I will do my best to avoid accidentally running into them.

But something that I don't understand is why I can't see his parents? I don't know why the 3 of us can't just catch up and grab lunch together or something. I've brought it up with them before and they told me that they don't know if they'd be comfortable with that. I respected and accepted their decision, but it still hurts. Maybe they thought I was asking to see my birth son, I don't know. It's so important for me to try to still feel connected to them. I hate feeling a sense of disconnect or distance. We'll see what happens, but I won't push and I won't ask again. 

Adoption is something that will never be easy, and it will never be fun. But it is doable, and it is a blessing. This has been a difficult season for me, but I know it will change and I know it will get easier to deal with soon. I'm so grateful for his parents, they are truly great people and I do have so much respect for them. I guess I just wish I didn't miss them all so much.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Hard Words to Say

Trigger warning: This post deals with post placement pregnancy.....

For the past few months, I find myself to be in familiar territory. Yet at the same time, very new territory. Instead of being cryptic about it like I have been with everyone lately, I’ll just say it – I’m pregnant. These past 12 weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for me.

                Despite the fact that this pregnancy was “planned”, and that I am now married, because of the situation I was in just 2 years ago when my son was born, it feels somehow like I’m doing the wrong thing by being pregnant. It has been so confusing for me dealing with all of these emotions. I feel like I’m betraying my son, I feel like I don’t really deserve to parent this baby, and I’m terrified that something is going to happen to take this baby away from me. Some days I feel so scared to connect with this baby because my connection with my birth son was so immediate and so fierce and that has led me to become vulnerable to a lot of hurt and pain. This baby is no more or less wanted than my birth son was, and will be no more or less loved. But I’m not going to lie, it’s almost scarier this time.

                Going to doctor appointments is scarier. Now I have to answer questions like “is this your first child?” or “and how is your other child, is he healthy?” Well, I’d assume so, haven’t heard otherwise! Telling my family was horrifying in a different way this time too. When I first told my parents, I had to say it all very quickly in one sentence so they wouldn’t ask questions that I didn’t want to hear. It came out something like “we’re pregnant but it was planned so don’t worry and this needs to be a good thing so I need you to be happy about it”. I think I was more nervous telling them this time than I was last time (granted, last time I did tell them in an email). Facing the public is scarier. People constantly assume that this is my first pregnancy. They like to give me advice on what to expect, and tell me things like that my baby probably won’t be too big because I’m very small. Oh really? Because my son was 8lbs 12oz, so I’d say that’s pretty big! But I don’t say that. I don’t correct them. It hurts too badly to go down that road. I hate the fact that I'm terrified of telling people because I'm afraid of their reaction.

                Around week 6 or so, the baby is the size of a lentil. During that week, I sent my husband a picture of some lentil soup and told him how I really wanted to eat it, but told him I couldn’t do it because it felt like cannibalism. I was half kidding, but waited to eat the soup. Ever since then, we call the baby The Lentil. I hope that loving the Lentil won’t make my birth son feel betrayed in the future. I know how very much and how very strongly I loved my birth son from the very beginning. I’m almost scared that I won’t be able to love the Lentil enough. I have missed my birth son more in these last 12 weeks than I expected to, and there have been a lot of emotions come up for me that I didn’t anticipate.

                I hate the fact that whether a pregnancy is planned or not matters, but it does seem to matter to other people. Yes, my husband and I planned to have this Lentil (although we did think it would take us a little bit longer than…immediately), and no, my birth son was not planned. But you know what? Both of my babies were wanted. And both of my babies are loved. Mom, birth mom, step mom, all of my titles aside. I will always love all of my children more than they can possibly understand, something my own mom used to tell me, and now I do understand. I hope they know that. I hope I will always be a positive person in their lives, someone they can look up to. I may not have it all together, nobody really does. But what I do have is an endless supply of love. And hugs to give. Just ask my husband. I’m sure it drives him crazy sometimes.

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Friday, July 8, 2016

You are Entitled to Your Feelings

             
Two years post placement, I still find myself suprised when I'm faced with certain triggers and get upset by it. I try to put on a strong face for my family and friends and act like I'm not affected by things or act like certain situations don't upset me when they do. 

 I think a lot of us do this. We act like we’re doing okay. We try to stay strong and we put on a brave face. I hope that we all feel safe enough in our lives and within our support systems to be real with ourselves and with the people close to us. It’s okay to have a bad day. It’s okay to feel sad if we see something that reminds us of our birth children, when we were pregnant with them, or any other memory or trigger that we have. It’s okay to feel it and it’s okay to express it.

                Adoption is a huge part of my life and hiding how I feel on my sad days doesn’t do anyone any good. I’m not being “noble” by swallowing my emotions. Yesterday was an unexpectedly difficult day for me. I was triggered by something that I didn’t expect to be and my negative emotions took me by surprise. But I know I didn’t handle the situation right. What I should have done was talked to my husband about what I was thinking and feeling and just talked it out with him so he could understand what I was going through at the moment. But that isn’t what I did. Instead, I tried to “get over it”. I tried to swallow my emotions and act like it wasn’t a problem. But it was a problem, and because I ignored it, it got bigger and bigger. I ended up redirecting my emotions in the wrong way and picked a fight with my husband over him going to the dentist. It was ridiculous and unnecessary, and could have been prevented by me being honest in the first place. Of course shortly after that, I realized that I was being ridiculous and was honest with him about what was going on and what I was feeling.

                This next season in my life is going to be filled with triggers that will probably make me think of my birthson more and I know I will be more challenged by unexpected hard days than I have been recently. I hope that you know that it’s okay, and necessary, to feel what you need to feel and be open and honest with yourself and those around you. You deserve it. You deserve your good days and you deserve to be able to express yourself on your bad days. Don’t feel guilty for having either of those days. Whether you are feeling happy or sad or anything at all in between, I hope you never feel alone.

                Two years post placement, I still find myself to be so grateful for the fact that good days will always follow the bad days.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Social Media and Adoption

When looking at the world today, it seems like everyone is connected to everything.  It might seem completely natural for some birth families to be connected to adoptive families on social media, but for others it can feel like walking on thin ice.

When I placed my daughter for adoption, the agency that I was using advised that adoptive families and birth families not 'friend' each other on social media.  After placing, I adhered strictly to that guideline for several years.  After my daughter's Mom served as my maid of honor in my wedding in 2013, we both felt as though we had become comfortable enough with each other to engage in social media.

I was excited by this turn of events.  I was looking forward to seeing the everyday happenings on my birth daughter, and I was glad that my daughter's Mom felt comfortable enough with me to do this, even though our agency didn't generally recommend it.  The friend request came in and I eagerly accepted, looking forward to seeing extra pictures of my sweet baby girl.

Then I saw them.  Every. Single. One.  I knew when she was going on vacation, I saw photos of her going to preschool, I saw pictures of her with her family.  I immediately felt a pit on my stomach.  I was barraged by their happiness and my loss.

I was committed to remaining 'friends' on social media, since I didn't want to jeopardize the openness that I had been so excited to have.  However, after several days of being barraged by photos, I chose to 'unfollow' my daughter's Mom on Facebook for quite some time.  We were able to remain friends, but I struggled with the lack of control that I had when my birth daughter would pop up on my newsfeed unexpectedly.

It took my several months to acclimate with the idea of being friends on social media once I had a taste of what it was like.  After some time, when I felt more prepared, I 'followed' my birth daughter's Mom again.  We have now been happily 'friended' for several years, with no issues.  The first few months though, our social media interactions served as a bit of a trigger for my grief, which was unexpected.

I know not everyone has the opportunity to be "friends" on social media with their child's family
If you are friends with your birth child's family on social media, how has it worked for you?

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