Sunday, July 24, 2016

Quote of the Week: Hard that Makes it Great


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?

Photo Credit

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Love From His Far Away Family

                
Throughout my journey through adoption, I try to incorporate my birth son into everything I do. I guess it’s my way of keeping him with me and in my heart, even if he isn’t here physically. I never want him to feel like he wasn’t loved, or that we forgot about him, and I want him to always feel as if he has a place in his far away family.
                I have pictures of him in my house, and whenever my step daughter sees one, she gets excited and says his name and says “cute baby!”. I tell her that I think so too. I keep a picture of him in my binder for school, too. That way, every time I get frustrated or overwhelmed, I can remember my motivation and my strength for why I try so hard every day to be the best person I can be. Every day, I wear a bracelet that I made and put on the last day I got to see him and spend time with him. During my wedding, I pinned that bracelet to my bouquet of flowers and kept him with me that way. I also had a few pictures of him in the bridal room. I also have a necklace with his footprints engraved into it that I wear whenever I’m missing him just a little extra.

                I will never be his Mom in the way that I wish I could be, and that’s just a part of my life now. But just because I can’t be there with him every day, that doesn’t mean that I can’t love him and think about him every day. We are all entitled to love and miss our children. Wherever they are, whenever the last time was that we saw them, we are entitled to how we feel about it. Whenever I’m feeling down about it, it always makes me feel better knowing that I’m doing everything I can to make sure that he will one day know how loved he always was. I always remind him in letters, that I hope he’ll read when he’s older, how lucky he is to have two families who love him so much. Adoption will never be easy, but it has taught me how to love in ways I never thought I could have before. And for that, I am grateful.

Photo Credit

Friday, June 3, 2016

Adoption is like the Weather

Adoption is like the weather. It's a constantly changing adventure, and you can always count on it to not be stagnant. Perhaps that's the best and worst thing about it. For some of us, we pray for a change. We beg for things to be different, or better in some way. For others, we're terrified for things to be different because we're so comfortable with how things are now. 

For me, I think it’s both. I have wished for things to be better for as long as my son has been alive, but now I guess I’ve just become so used to the way things are that I’m scared of what a change would mean. I know I want more, I’ll always want more. But right now I don’t think that’s possible. And I’m learning to accept that that’s okay, because nothing is stagnant about this crazy life we live in.

If there’s one guarantee in life, well, I guess it’s that there are no guarantees. Always hang in there and never give up. Don’t give up on your children, don’t give up on your family and friends, and don’t give up on hope. But most importantly, don’t give up on yourself. Things can always get better, just like the weather will always change. It might rain for a week, but the sun always comes out again. The stars are always behind the clouds, even if we can’t see them. I really believe that’s the best thing about life. We can always count on things to get better, and if we hold onto hope long enough, they will.


I’m so grateful for every single picture or small update I get. Those little things give me my motivation to keep going. I may not be able to visit him yet, but one day I will. Even if it takes me 16 more years, I know that reunion will come. That is what I wake up each day and fight for.

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!