Monday, May 30, 2016

Quote of the Week: New Beginnings


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Next Baby

When I was getting ready to place my second daughter for adoption, I never gave my future children much thought.  In fact, at that point, I would have been perfectly content to never deal with pregnancy again, as both my pregnancies had been pretty dramatic and ridiculously emotional, mostly due to the volatile relationship I was in.

However, shortly after my birth daughters second birthday I got married to a wonderful man, and by the time she was 3 and a half my youngest daughter was born.  This pregnancy wasn't a surprise, she was meticulously planned.  Yet, for some reason, when I told my family, I was afraid.  I had nothing to be afraid of, I was 23 and married with a mortgage, a job, and a 401K.  I was an adult, in every sense of the word.  I struggled with the idea that this pregnancy would be joyfully embraced though.  I felt that, even though I may have been more prepared, my newest baby didn't deserve more fanfare than my older children.
 
As my pregnancy progressed, everything terrified me.  If I hadn't felt my baby move for a few hours, I immediately thought the worst.  I couldn't shake the feeling that something terrible was going to happen, even though things were progressing completely normally.  I genuinely felt that, after everything I had been through, there was no way I would finally get my happy ending.

Fast forward a few months and a week long NICU stay, and we were finally able to bring our perfect 8 pound 9 ounce baby girl home.  I was immediately struck by the amount of love I felt for such a tiny little stranger.  When I placed my second child, I spent most of my pregnancy avoiding much of a connection with her.  This time, I embraced the connection fully.  I immersed myself in every piece of Motherhood, from the sleepless nights, to breastfeeding, to diaper changes, and everything in between.

I was in newborn heaven.  I was also completely overwhelmed by the demands of two children.  Although I had quite a age gap between my kids (my oldest was almost 6 when my youngest was born), I still struggled meeting the demands of both my children, while still providing the basic necessities for myself.  My husband was extremely helpful during this time, as he took a month off from work to be with us at home.

This is when it really hit me that my decision to place my second child was the correct one.  I always knew it was, but after I had a taste of parenting multiple children it became even more clear.  I struggled with the demands as a 24 year old married woman with a wonderfully supportive partner.  I have no idea how things would have been if I had attempted this feat as a 20 year old single Mom who had just exited an abusive relationship and was working part time at a pizza place while struggling to afford a single wide trailer.

Since my youngest daughter's birth, ever milestone she has reached has served as another reminder to me that adoption was the best choice for my second baby.  Adoption was the best choice for  my newborn, my crawling baby, my teething baby, my toddler, and every stage that has and will still come.

Has anyone else had a baby after their placement?  What has surprised you about the experience?

Monday, May 23, 2016

BMB of TN

BirthMom Buds is very pleased to announce our newest chapter: BMB of Tennessee.

Let me introduce you to Lexi, who will be running the BMB of Tennessee chapter.


My name is Lexi Allen, and I am a birthmother from Knoxville, Tennessee. I placed my son in a private, closed adoption 12 years ago. I walked my journey as a birthmother completely alone for 10 years until I found BirthMom Buds. The support, love, and empowerment I have received since being a member of this organization has helped me tremendously. I only wish it hadn’t taken me a decade to find these amazing women. Therefore, I am starting a chapter of BirthMom Buds in Tennessee in order to provide birthmothers of all walks of life with the support that I wish I had received much sooner.”

For now, there is a private Facebook group and once there is some interest, live meet ups will begin. Send us a private message on Facebook or email Lexi for more information.

Friday, May 20, 2016

My Name Is...


     
 The definition of the word identity is "the fact of being who or what a person or thing is".  Usually, the first identity that we learn about each other is our name. But, we are so much more than just our names, aren't we?  What I have learned in my short, yet very long, 21 years of life, is that usually, people aren't ashamed of their first identity, their name. When we introduce ourselves, we lead with something along the lines of "Hi, I'm ______. Nice to meet you!" We take ownership of it. So, why then, are we ashamed of our other identities? We all have that one identity that we just keep locked up in the closet, or hidden under the bed. We feel a certain sense of shame about it. But we don’t have to. Everyone has got a past. Everyone has got a story. Yes, some identities may hurt, and some you may wish that you didn’t have. But you have to own it. Each and every single thing that you identify as, whether you are proud of it or try to hide it, has helped to shape you into the beautiful and incredible person you are. So, here is who I am.

I am a birth mom. I am a new wife. I am a step mom. I am a daughter and a sister. I am a student studying physical therapy. I am a little crazy and a little broken sometimes, but that’s okay because I think most of us are. I have made mistakes, but I am not defined by my mistakes.

The best “mistake” I ever made was getting pregnant 2 years ago, when I had just turned 19 days before. The birth father made it clear that parenting was not an option, but other than that, the decision was mine to make. I still laugh about that. I felt very alone in my pregnancy. Even though I was in a relationship with the birth dad, lets call him Paul, I still felt incredibly alone during my pregnancy. Paul and I had just moved to the very center of Philadelphia so that he could go to school. I basically gave up everything and followed him there so he could be my support system. I guess the idea was better in my head than it ended up being in real life.

By early October of 2013, when I was just a few weeks pregnant, I was feeling really alone and desperate for answers. I hadn’t told anybody but Paul at this point, not even my parents. I was in a dark place and just had no idea what to do. I didn’t have insurance, I didn’t have a doctor, and I really couldn’t afford to be pregnant without those things. Since day 1, I wanted the very best for my baby. I hoped that the best could be me, but without the support from Paul, which he refused to give me, I knew I wasn’t enough. That night, I just felt so stuck. I needed something to click, to make sense. I just laid in bed thinking for hours. I needed some kind of sign for what to do next.

I got my sign. Weeks before this day, I was scrolling through Facebook and remembered seeing something that my cousin had posted. She posted a link to a website and said that one of her coworkers was looking to adopt, and she was helping him get the word out. I didn’t think anything of it when I saw it at a quick first glance, I don’t even think I comprehended it. I really never considered adoption until that exact moment, on October 1st, 2013, when I remembered what I had seen. I immediately called my cousin and said “don’t worry, this isn’t about me, but I was wondering if you knew who these people personally who are looking to adopt”. She told me she did, and told me a little bit about their family and how great they are. So I spent a long time looking through their website. It was now pretty late in the evening, but I sent them an email telling then who I was and about my situation. I prayed that they would contact me back somehow that evening, because honestly, that was our last hope.

They did. Days later, they drove to Philly from their home in Manhattan and sat with Paul and me in a local park for hours. It was the most uncomfortable “first date” in the world at first, but it quickly became very natural and I think we all fell in love with each other. After that day, I felt relieved. I knew my child would be okay. I honestly had the thought of “wow, I wish these guys were MY parents."

I think we all have moments in our life when we can pinpoint a change. The moment I met the future adoptive parents, everything changed. I didn’t feel so alone anymore. I was still terrified, but now of different things, things that I could handle. That day, I stopped being an “I”. Now it was a “we”.

My adoption story is far from perfect, and I feel sad about it very often. But as often as I’m sad and hurt by it, I’m so incredibly grateful for it. Before my son, I was lost. I let my mistakes and my pain define who I was. I have learned so much from striving to be great for him. He is my motivation, my courage, and the reason I’m a fighter now. One day, I’m going to meet this beautiful boy that I created through more than just pictures. I will be able to stand up before him, and tell him all that I am now because of him.

Now, I am strong. I have determination and drive. I am his birth mom. I am a wife to the best husband I could have dreamed of, and a step mom to a crazy but beautiful little girl. I am someone who has big dreams and never gives up hope, even when it’s hard to find. These are my identities. The good ones and the bad ones. This is who I am, and I’m proud of it.

My name is Jackie and I'm a new blogger here at BirthMom Buds. 




Thursday, May 19, 2016

Living in Fear

I live in a constant state of fear and anxiety.

When my phone rings, the anxiety leaves. When I receive pictures, the axiety leaves.

But sometimes my phone doesn’t ring and no pictures come in.

Visit delays, excuses, visit delays, excuses.

I have no control.

Communication is my everything.

I just want my phone to ring again.  I want to see his face again.

Friday, May 13, 2016

On the Outside Looking In


I believe all birth mothers feel like they are on the outside of their child's lives at one point or another. As my son has grown older I have come to accept this constant feeling that envelopes me. I'm not exactly sure how we go through different phases on our journey or what makes us move into these phases, but I have noticed very clearly a change in these kind of feelings within the past year. 
Siena WindowWhen my son was a baby our connection was undeniable. It is still very much a special connection, but he had lost someof the innocence that comes with being a baby. He didn't have to deal with titles or what other people (including his adoptive parents) felt about our relationship. He wasn't confused by anything, nor did he worry about anything other than what he felt. It was clear he felt a comfort in my arms that he did not feel so fully anywhere else. He spent countless hours sleeping in my arms, or just looking into my eyes. It was as if nothing else mattered and he felt safe, and at home close to me. While I still believe this is true, things have become a little more complicated with age. 

Now my son considers the feelings of others. He wonders about the different names people call me, my daughters, my parents, and other family. He worries about how his feelings will change things. While he is still too young to fully communicate all of this, as his birth mother I have no doubt these things are going on. I see it in his eyes. I can feel it in his heart. He wants to be everything I know he feels for me, but he is hesitant at times because of these things. I have had to reflect a great deal on this to understand what is going on, but for me, this explains why at times I feel like I am on the outside looking in. 

There are other obvious reasons, given that I do not live in the city where we visit him. It is not my home that we spend our time in. I am not the parent who makes daily decisions for him, and I do not take part in each and every aspect of his life. However, I feel that as the years go by the fact that this is the way adoption is, should not change the fact that I gave everything so that he could have this life. I gave my heart. It is painful to feel as if I am simply an onlooker into the world of a family I have nothing to do with, when the reality is that without my love, they would not be a family. 

As holidays and milestones approach, I think of the pictures I receive each year and the stories I hear. I await these again this year and the bittersweet feeling that follows. I am beyond blessed to have these stories and see these pictures, but they are real reminders that I am on the outside looking in. I will not experience these things with him, and my daughters will miss another special event with their big brother. What hurts even more is knowing that if we were to spend a special holiday together, we would still be there on the outside looking in. 


We have so much love in our relationship and my son is an amazing gift. Him and I share a special bond. I see it also with my daughters. The pain I feel is never by anything he has done, but rather the circumstances that surround our relationship, most of which is entirely outside of my control. So I will carry on! I enjoy all the moments we share and choose to not let the painful ones hurt me too much. While there is often sadness within my joy, I would not trade it for a world without the love of my little boy. 


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Building Friendships through Adoption

People who hear about my adoption say, "Wow you are so strong!" The truth is, I was only able to get where I am today with the online and in person community of birthmothers who have supported me from my sons first breath to now.


I found out early on in my pregnancy that there was not many people who could give me advice on what to expect after the adoption because well, they weren't birth moms.  Once I found my therapist, who has been a birthmother for 40 years, I felt so much more at ease knowing what to expect after the adoption, ways to cope, and it just felt amazing to talk to someone who had been there.

Not long after having Noah, I attended the BirthMom Buds retreat as well as in- person support groups at a local adoption agency.  Needless to say, I had met a huge group of strong, intelligent women who I could now talk to about everything I had been holding back from my family.  I love my family and friends but it's hard for anyone to relate to someone who has not been there.  

Having a friend who is a birth mom is unlike any friendship I have had.  When I talk about my son, I don't feel like she is looking at me and pitying me or holding anything back because she doesn't know what to say.  When I talk to my support system of birthmothers, I feel listened to and know that they can relate to my situation.

Having a strong support system to lean on is key after placing! There are so many online support groups and retreats in all different parts of the U.S. for this reason.  

Surround yourself with people who get it!



Thursday, May 5, 2016

2016 BMB Retreat Recap

We had an amazing time at the 2016 Birthmom Buds Retreat from April 29th-May 1st in Charlotte, North Carolina.  This year's theme was Sole Sisters: Never Walk the Journey Alone.  Every table decorated at the retreat represented a different kind of shoe.  It was definitely loved by the ladies witha BIG shoe space in their closets!!




We kicked things off with a Mixer on Friday night at the NC Music Factory where we caught up, ate barbecue, and played "Minute to Win it"! All of the ladies were separated into two teams and one at a time, each team had to send one person up to complete against one from the other where they played ridiculous games for 1 minute against each other.  I felt bad for the people in the next room because we were definitely NOT quiet, haha! It was hilarious and a lot of fun!

Saturday morning, we kicked the day off with an activity in which a stack of cards was passed around the room, with each card having a different shoe.  Each lady picked out a shoe that she believed represented her the best.  We all then went around the room and explained why we chose the shoe we did.  Next, we headed out into our breakout session!  This year, Amy Schumaker led a session titled, "Identifying your Support System".  Betty Phillips  taught others some helpful strategies she has used to get through the holidays.  Jennifer Abbe shared how vision boards helped her picture her future and helped others make their own boards to be a reminder of their dreams and goals for the future.  Leah Outten and Amy Schumaker led a discussion with others on adoptions down the road to help navigate topics such as relationship changes and maintaining boundaries.  After breakout sessions, we moved on to craft time where everyone made their own ...yes....shoes!!  Next, we all moved to a yummy italian bar complete with salad, garlic bread, and two different kinds of pastas.

We started the afternoon portion of the day with a balloon release where attendees wrote a prayer, wish, or dream for their child on a slip of paper, tied it to a balloon, prayed, and then released it.  Leilani shared a devotion she wrote describing the different friends in your life and relating them to different types of shoes. Amy Schumaker, fellow birthmom, shared her story. Next, local adoptive mom, Ginny Chole and her daughter, Lindsay Smith (also an adoptive mom) spoke beautifully, sharing their hearts and love for the birth moms of their children.  I can personally say that everyone in that room was touched by their words.

We then watched the 2016 slideshow Coley created and afterward held the candlelight ceremony.  We ended the day, by announcing the 2016 Buddy of the Year.  Congratulations to Leah Outten!

   

That evening, we went to Mellow Mushroom for dinner as a group.  This was a time in which we reflected on the weekend, laughed, and got to know more about each other!  We ended the festivities on Sunday morning with a bittersweet farewell breakfast.

We want to take a moment to thank everyone who played a part in making this year's retreat a success.  Thanks to all the birth moms who attended, the sponsors and contributors who helped pull off this event, and the many people who donated items for our gift bags.  Special thanks to Melanie Mosberg, our event coordinator.

This event would not have been possible without each of you!


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Noah's Box

I have a special box for Noah.  This box contains everything I have of him.  In it is the scrapbook I made for him, letters to him from my family, the photo album that made me choose his adoptive parents when I was pregnant, his footprints and hospital band, and letters I have written to him.

Where do I keep this box? 

In my bedroom closet.  Does does that mean I am ashamed of my son and don't want to share his pictures? Not at all!

I love, love, love sharing pictures of him growing up with anyone who asks, he is my pride and joy! 

However, Noah's box has more than that.  It has hospital pictures, letters, things from the hospital...it is a box of painful, beautiful memories that I have to take a deep breath before looking at.  I have to prepare myself before opening his scrapbook, before reading the beautiful letters, and before holding the hospital band he was wearing when I gave him to his parents.

It is a painfully beautiful box of memories.  It symbolizes the beginning of this journey, which has not grown to be much more beautiful than painful.  Is it still painful?  Absolutely, depends on the day.

This is a long road, but with each day that I know my son is being loved by two parents, I feel stronger.  With each photo or visit, I feel happier.


Every time I get to add a new memory with Noah to the box, I feel stronger.





    

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Moment I Knew

Some of you may have read this title and assumed I would be writing about when I found out I was pregnant, but that involves a not so classy CVS bathroom with my best friend that isn't my favorite thing to share, haha!

When did you know that you had met your son/daughter's future parents? I remember it like it was yesterday.

I had looked through a few books of families and honestly, I had a feeling they were the ones before I even met them.  They were a hopeful couple who had struggled with infertility and wanted a baby to complete their family more than anything.  The woman was a a 7th grade special education teacher who coached middle school basketball and the man was a police sergeant.  They lived in Savannah, Georgia, which was about 4 hours from me.

I remember worrying about how I would greet them, do I hug them? Do I shake their hand? This was so small but it was the first impression and I wanted it to be absolutely perfect.  And it was.  I was told beforehand that the lady from the adoptive agency would be prompting us throughout the meeting to keep it going nicely and allowing us to get to know each other.  I do not remember her saying one word throughout the meeting because with my mom, the future adoptive parents, and myself, she couldn't get a word in!! I had a list of questions I came in with and I remember asking them question after question and they said an honest response every time, not trying to give me the perfect answer.  In my eyes, it was the perfect response every time though!

We had so much in common.  

When they left, I remember them giving me their phone numbers, address, and emails.  This is such a rare blessing.  They both gave me long hugs, I think we both knew.  On the way home, I texted them ultrasound pictures of Noah.

 I couldn't wait to see them as a family.



Photo Credit

Thursday, March 31, 2016

First Quarter Newsletter

The 1st Quarter Newsletter for 2 016 is now available for your viewing pleasure. Check it out here

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Getting Through the First Year

My first year after placing Noah was excruciating.  Now he is only 16 months old, but I think the reason why the first year seemed to be so hard is because it is a year of the basic "firsts".  Any time he accomplishes something (ex. walking), I feel proud with a small pain in my heart.  It's just tough not being there to see it,

And if you are going through the first year, know that it WILL get better.  Although at times I felt angry and depressed, I also felt happy at others!  It's a roller coaster, but I have some suggestions of things below that I did during the first year that really helped me.  I hope they help you too!


1. Write to your child. 
I cannot emphasize this enough.  Writing allowed me to fully express my emotion and thoughts without holding back (thinking people were judging me).  I also can show Noah my letters to him when he's older so he knows how much I do think about him.  He will have these letters forever.


2. Make a scrapbook.
One word- therapy.  I had two visits with Noah, but got monthly pictures.  This was life changing because it was like I was actually there.  It was so therapeutic for me to just go through the process of picking up the printed pictures, adding fun captions, and placing them in there.  I was doing something for him, which I don't get to do that often.  I made this book with his footprints, hospital bracelet, our printed entrustment ceremony (the handing off at the hospital), and pictures from the time he was seconds alive on this Earth to his one year birthday.  I can't wait to give this to him.


3. CRY
Sounds weird, but crying was the most freeing feeling for me after Noah's birth.  I was so in shock that when I signed my rights away, I wasn't feeling anything.  It hadn't hit me what I was doing.  I had prepared myself for that moment, but I had no idea what it would feel like to be a mom.  I did not actually cry until 3 weeks after he was born.  There were just so many emotions going at once, so when I was finally able to process my loss- I literally just sat in my car and cried.  I found a safe place to cry because I didn't want my family to hear me.  I love my family to death and I just didn't want to upset them.  I also was able to cry when I wrote letters.  Holding all that grief is exhausting, and when I finally let it out little by little- I felt amazing.


4. Keep busy!
Hang out with your friends, watch dumb YouTube videos when you're sad just to laugh, go on road trip, apply for some of your dream jobs!  Just make sure that when you know you are going to have a tough day, surround yourself with positive people to try to lift you up.


5. Let yourself move forward
You placed your child for important reasons.  Remember why you placed him/her and live your life the best you can.  I know it is very hard to move forward with your life after such a loss, believe me.  I did this by applying for a teaching position.  This was moving forward for me.  Am I moving on from my son? No way! I will always want him in my life.  But I chose to place him to give him the best life, so now I want to have the best life I can too :)