If you are not already doing this, I encourage you to sit down each year around your child's birthday and write him or her a birthday letter.
I actually started this tradition with Noah, the son I am parenting. His first year of life had so many ups and downs because of medical issues stemming from his prematurity that a few days before his first birthday I sat down and wrote a letter to him briefly recapping everything that we had been through in that first year of his life. When his second birthday rolled around I did the same and it just became a tradition. I’ve put them up for him to read one day when he is older.
Around Charlie’s first birthday as I was thinking about what I wanted to do for his birthday, Noah’s birthday letters came to mind. It seemed only natural to sit down and write a letter for Charlie each too.
I usually do include a little bit about something that happened during that year of Charlie’s life, such as a field trip to the apple orchard. Last year I decided to make the letter more scrapbook style and added a few pictures in with the letter.
A birthday letter is a tradition that would work with any type of adoption. If your adoption is closed, instead of sharing things you’ve done with your child, share things that have gone on in your life in the current year and then include a picture or two of yourself and other children if you have any. Hang on to the letters in a special spot and when you and your child are reunited you’ll have a great stack of letters as tangible proof that you thought of him/her each and every birthday.
So, if you are writing your child a birthday letter, what do you include in the letter each year? And if you are not, why not start this year when your child's birthday rolls around. It doesn't matter what age he/she is - it's never too late to start a new tradition!
Our children's birthday is an emotional time for most of us. In open adoptions, you may be given the opportunity to attend your child's birthday party. Like many moments in open adoption, birthday parties can be bittersweet. You are excited to be there celebrating your child's life but you may feel a little sad at the same time.
When Charlie's first birthday party rolled around, I was a bundle of nerves. What should I wear? How should I act? How would other people respond to my presence? What if I cried or things got too tough for me emotionally while I was at the party? Many questions and scenarios floated through my head.
Now, eight years later I have a few birthday parties under my belt and feel that I can share a few tips with you on how to make attending birthday parties a bit easier.
Go early or stay late -Try to schedule a little bit of one on one time before or after the party so you (birthmom) can spend a little bit of quiet time with your child. Parties can get crowded, noisy, busy, and overwhelming pretty quickly so you may not actually be able to have much one on one time with your child, so going a bit early or staying late remedies this.
Take a break – If you get overwhelmed emotionally (and you might) take a quick breather. Excuse yourself to the bathroom, step outside, or busy yourself with a distraction.
Offer to help - Parties can sometimes be difficult to get everything ready and done by a certain time so your child’s Mom may appreciate the help (either before with preparations or after wards with clean up) and it will make you feel more involved and useful. This can also be a distraction if you are feeling overwhelmed emotionally.
Bringing guests – If you wish to bring other people with you (aside from people who are already assumed to be coming with you like husband or boyfriend and parented children) check ahead of time and make sure it is ok.
Activities for Parented Children – Depending on the age of your child there might not be much for your parented children to actively participate in at the party. Unlike older children’s parties where there are typically games and activities that your parented child could participate in, some of the early years birthday parties (first and second birthdays in particular) typically do not have games or activities as everyone just sits around and watches the birthday boy or girl be cute, play in the cake, and open presents. This could leave your parented children antsy after a little bit, so bring some small toys or books to occupy them should they become antsy.
If you are invited to your child's birthday party and just feel uncomfortable or too emotional about attending, I suggest that you don't force yourself to attend. Suggest an alternate activity such as getting together for cake and ice cream or meeting at a park and doing your own birthday celebration there.
If you have attended your child's birthday party, how did it go? Do you have any tips or suggestions on how to make it easier and a positive experience?
Somewhere in the third trimester of your pregnancy (or the end of your second trimester if you just know you are going to go early like I did!) you probably should go ahead and think about packing a bag with the items you will need to have ready so that when you do actually go into labor, you are prepared and do not have to fumble around packing your belongings. It’s also a good idea because you are able to choose the personal items that will make you feel more comfortable, not have someone else do this for you which could happen if you do not have a bag packed and have to head to the hospital rather quickly. But what should you take to the hospital with you?
Suggested items include:
* Birth plan or hospital action plan * Pajamas/Night Shirt, robe, and slippers * A few pairs of socks to keep your feet warm * Telephone numbers of family and friends (may want to bring a calling card as well) * Camera and/or video camera (Check with the hospital staff on their policy regarding videotaping in the delivery room) * Barrette, rubber bands, or scrunchies if you have long hair * Stop watch to time contractions * Insurance card and other needed medical information (If you pre-register through the hospital they will probably already have this on file, but it’s a good idea to bring it just in case.) * Toiletries (shampoo, toothbrush, tooth paste, hairbrush, etc.) * Snacks as hospital food can be yucky! * Hard candy or lollipops (Your moth will get dry during labor, but check with the hospital staff on their policy of food and candy during labor.) * CD Player and soothing music to help you relax * Chapstick for dry lips * Outfit to leave the hospital in
Once your bag is placed, stick it in an out of the way place such as a front closet so it will out of the way until its d-day!
Today's post is written by guest blogger, Alicia M.
Being the birthmother of a daughter in a closed adoption is on a good day tolerable and on a bad day very hard. Your child’s birthday, Mother’s Day, and other holidays are probably some of the common hard days birthmothers experience but there are ways to make it through and cope on those hard days.
A big part of how I cope is to focus on the possibility of a future reunion with my birth daughter. I keep a journal and a photo album just for her. In the journal, I tell her what is going on in my life and tell her of my love for her and how much I miss her. On her birthday and Christmas each year, I get her a special card and sign and date them. I keep the journal, albums, and cards for her and hope to one day be able to give them to her. Sometimes I write poems for her or about her and will share these with her one day as well.
I try hard to think positive that one day we will reunite and I will get to see her again and that she will get to see and meet her sisters.
Other birthmothers I know will light a candle in honor of their child on important dates like birthdays or holidays.
I pray for my daughter and her adoptive family on a regular basis. I also pray for the strength to get me through the days without her. My faith has gotten me through a lot of hard days.
I also share how I feel with other birthmothers. I get a lot of love and support from all of the women at BirthMom Buds. I do not know where I would be without them. There are women there who are going through what I am going through and we have laughed and cried together. I’ve also learned that when you need to cry, let yourself cry and lean on your family and friends as needed on those hard days.
I know it is not easy and some days are harder than others, but just try to take it one day at a time.
Charlie will celebrate his eighth birthday on Sunday. It sounds so cliché but it’s hard to believe he is going to be eight! It seems like only yesterday I was holding a tiny baby in a hospital bed preparing to do the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life while at other times it seems like a lifetime ago.
Most birthmothers will agree that their child’s birthday is a hard day for them. Personally speaking, in the days leading up to Charlie’s birthday are very emotional. I find myself reliving all those last little moments Charlie and I had together. I relive the excitement of meeting my son for the first time and spending time with him. I relive the kind thoughts, cards, and gifts from friends, family members, and other visitors. I relive preparing to say goodbye and sign the relinquishment papers just a few days after his birth.
A question I get asked many times by new birthmothers is if the birthdays get easier as the years pass. I have to honestly say no, they haven’t for me.
I expected Charlie’s first birthday to be hard and emotional. As I was able to spend time with him both on his actual birthday and at his birthday party a few days later, it was also very bittersweet. I was glad to be celebrating with him but sad at the same time since I wasn’t the one throwing the celebration.
I thought his second birthday would be easier. But it wasn’t. Third birthday, I thought the same thing. When his fourth birthday rolled around, I was prepared. I’ve learned that none of Charlie’s birthdays will probably ever be easy for me. They will probably always be emotional and bittersweet.
But now, I do have feel like I have the upper hand in some regards because I know to expect they are going to be hard and I know to be prepared for that. (If one can ever really prepare for emotional situations, but I at least attempt it.
When I got home from the hospital and unpacked, I ended up with bits of "C stuff" all over my room... a pacifier he used, his umbilical cord clip, the blanket and hat he wore at the hospital, various paperwork and documents, etc. For a few months, I was almost scared to touch any of this stuff, but stumbling across it unexpectedly brought up a ton of emotions.
After a couple months of this, I decided it was time to gather all these items into a single location. I got a really nice project box with a lid and handles (it's about 20"x20") and collected all these precious items together.
Here's a bit of what I've got in my "C Box":
hospital Birth Certificate
receiving blanket (complete with spit up... I've got it in a separate bag)
hat and shirt
pacifier and umbilical cord clip
my hospital bracelets
the card from the bassinet
the termination of rights paperwork
H&L's profile book
hospital discharge paperwork
hearing screening certificate
deflated balloons we received in the hospital
cards I was sent around the time of his birth
I've also added the church program from his baptism and a copy of the newsletter of an adoption group I go to that has a picture of us on it. I plan to add any memorabilia I collect over the years.
Having a "catch-all" kind of place for all things C-related is nice. I don't have to worry about misplacing things, and I always know right where it is if I need to spend a little time reminiscing over his tiny t-shirt. It also keeps me from happening upon these items on days I can't deal with them.
I will say, though, that putting the lid on the box was very difficult... it seemed somehow final, but I think it was a step in the healing process. It was a physical way of showing some level of acceptance. It's place in my seems somewhat representative of C's place in my life. Like the box, he's no longer always in the center of every thought... but he's always there. I know exactly where the memories are if I need to pull them out. I cleared out a special area in my room for the box, and C will always have a very special place in my heart.
The box is also a reminder that there is a piece of C's story that only I can share with him. I look forward to someday pulling out the box and going through its contents with C.
Do you keep some sort of memory box? What do you keep in it?
Today's post is written by guest blogger, Alicia M.
As a birth mother who is part of a closed adoption, I look forward to a reunion in the future with my biological daughter. I look forward to it with cautious anticipation though, because I want to do everything right, and I hope she wants to see me too and be a part of my life. I have put a lot of thought into how I can make the possible reunion a positive experience for the both of us. I do have some ideas that I believe will help make adoption reunions have a better chance of being a positive experience.
Be honest- You may think this goes without saying, but tell your birth child about why they were placed for adopion and any information you have about their biological father.
Be patient-Don’t expect a loving relationship to happen right away with your birth child. Good, loving, and trusting relationships take time to develop and grow.
Don’t bombard your birth child with gifts and things- I have heard this is a classic mistake in adoption reunions. Some birth mothers think that they need to give their birth child gifts and things to make up for lost time and for not being able to give them things over the years.
Don’t be pushy-I know you will have a lot of questions to ask your birth child about their life and their upbringing, but let them volunteer what information they feel comfortable with when they are ready to share it.
With these tips, I can not guarantee a wonderful reunion, but they will definitely set you on a positive path to a successful reunion.
Recently an expectant mother making an adoption plan asked me if she would be allowed to have the keepsake items from the hospital stay when her baby is born and I realized that this may be something other expectant mothers making adoption plans are wondering about too.
By keepsake items, I am referring to all the items from the hospital, like the little birth certificates with your baby’s footprints on it, hospital bracelet, the little hat, the hospital blanket, crib card, etc.
I’m sure older birthmothers from the closed adoption era were not allowed to have these items, but nowadays things are changing. You are allowed to have these items and it is YOUR choice then to decide if you want to share them with the adoptive parents. Nowadays, many hospitals will even make duplicate copies of the birth certificate with footprints if you ask them to.
A lot of birthmothers do keep these items. I did and they are all safe in my “Charlie box” which is full of various things related to Charlie and our adoption. I don’t look at these things often, as it brings up a lot of emotions and tears but knowing that I have them, knowing where they are, and knowing that I could look at them anytime I want to is comforting to me.
One last piece of advice regarding this subject, the hospital experience is such an emotional and overwhelming time, that it might be wise to ask someone you trust (like your support person) to make sure you leave with the keepsake items that you want.
A couple months ago, I noticed that I often had the urge to tell C something. "I love you" or "I miss you" or "You're really just TOO cute!" Since I don't have the everyday option of snuggling him and telling him these things, I came up with another plan.
I scoured the $.99 card aisle at my local Target for cute, kid-friendly cards in themes like "missing you", "thinking of you", "love you"... or just blank notecards. I also got a nice box that was made for DVDs... which happen to be about the same size as standard gift cards.
Now, when I have those feelings, I grab a card from my bookshelf. The notes have ranged from serious to silly, depending on what I'm feeling at the time. It offers me an outlet to let out whatever emotion is welling up inside me, and it will provide C with some tangible evidence of just how often I think of him! It also keeps me from having to remember all the little things I want to share with him at some point... I know they are all written down and available to him when he's ready.
I put a date on the outside of the card and mark any special occasion it relates to. I also keep notes of dates that contain sensitive information. That way, if he's still pretty young and needs some evidence that I love him and think about him a lot, I can pull out any that might be inappropriate for his age and let him open all the cutesey ones. There are also a few that I think would be great to give him on special days later- his baptism, graduation, etc. I'm sure I'll write a new card then, too, but I hope this will be something special to share!
Do you have anything special you do to let your children know you're thinking about them?
Today's post is written by guest blogger, Alicia M.
Take a teenage girl who gets pregnant, an over protective single mom, and a younger sister who feels out of the mix when her older sister gets pregnant and that is the situation that Jacey Jeffries (played by Danielle Panabaker), her mom Terry Jeffries (played by Mercedes Ruehl) and her sister Macy Jeffries (played by Clare Stone) find themselves in, in the Lifetime Original Movie, Mom at Sixteen.
Jacey gets pregnant at 15 years old by her boyfriend Brad, (played by Tyler Hynes). During her pregnancy, Jacey and her mom decide the best thing to do is place her baby for adoption. When Jacey is in the hospital with her son, she bonds with him and decides she can not place him for adoption. Jacey’s mother decides that they will keep the baby, whom they named Charlie, as long as she (the mom) tells everyone that Charlie is her son so Jacey can go back to school, go on her with her life, and fulfill all the dreams she has for her life.
They move to a new town where no one knows that Jacey had a baby. Jacey and her sister attend a new high school full of gossipy teens, where sex is as free wheeling as candy. She slowly starts to befriend her health/sex education teacher, Donna Cooper (played by Jane Krakowski). Mrs. Cooper and her husband Bob (played by Colin Ferguson), who is a coach at the school, have been trying to have a baby and even had a failed adoption. One day, Jacey faints at swim practice and has to go the emergency room. Mrs. Cooper goes to the hospital to check on her and finds Jacey holding Charlie while waiting on her Mom to finish the hospital paperwork. She talks to Jacey for a while and figures out that Charlie is Jacey’s son. .
Jacey and her Mom argue often and Jacey decides that she can handle being Charlie’s Mom – she doesn’t need her Mom to do it but Jacey struggles and turns to Mrs. Cooper for support learning that they (the Coopers) had a failed adoption placement and were struggling to have a child.
Jacey is beginning to realize that her Mom being Charlie’s Mom is not working and is still considering her options regarding placing Charlie for adoption. Jacey decides to join a group for young mothers and talks to the girls and learns more about open adoption versus raising their babies.
Time passes in the movie, and Mrs. Cooper excitedly runs into the gym telling her husband that she has just received a call from the adoption agency and that they have been chosen by a birthmom! At the adoption agency, they are told the birthmom has already had the baby and wants an open adoption. They agree and are anxiously waiting when Jacey walks in with her mother and Charlie. Jacey tells Mrs. Cooper that this is the hardest thing she will ever do.
In the last scene of the movie, Jacey is visiting the Coopers’ in their living room and Mr. Cooper is video taping them. He is asking Charlie, who appears to be about 5 years old, questions about what is new in his life. He says that he has a new baby sister and Mr. Cooper said "Where did she come from?' .Charlie tells him that his sister came from his mommy's tummy. And then Mr. Cooper asks Charlie where did he come from? And Charlie says, "From my Jacey's tummy." Mr. Cooper asks him, "Who is Jacey?" Charlie goes over to Jacey and hugs her. Mr. Cooper asks him, "What is so important about Jacey?" He says "I am the only one who knows how much she loves me." And Mr. Cooper says, "How is that?" Charlie says, "I am the only one who knows what her heart feels like from the inside." The movie ends with Charlie giving Jacey a big hug.
Mom at Sixteen is a touching, yet complex movie, which shows teenage pregnancy and open adoption in a very positive light. The birth mother and the adoptive family love each other deeply and they share their love for the child. I left out many endearing scenes and would recommend this movie to anyone who has not seen it, but be sure to bring a box of Kleenex.
Growing up, I can remember listening to my parents tell me about their experiences, thoughts, and feelings of different big events in history such as the day President John Kennedy was assassinated. While this was something I learned about in school, it was also interesting and neat to me to learn about it outside of a text book, to hear the personal experiences of my parents and other relatives as well.
Something I started doing about five years ago for both my children is journaling about my thoughts and feelings on the big events and days in our country, on the days that will one day end up in text books.
I started doing this right after the September 11th attacks in 2001. I was still pregnant with Charlie at this time, he was born 9 days later but I still thought it would be neat to record my thoughts and feelings for him as well. Sure, he is going to learn about this in school and I’m sure his parents will tell him how they felt but this is a way for him to learn how I was feeling at that time.
Let me share how and why I do this using one of the more recent big events in our country, the Inauguration of President Obama……
Regardless of your political views, January 20th, 2009 was a big day in American history because not only is President Barack Obama the first African American president to lead our nation but also because he is the 44th President as well. January 20th, 2009 will be in text books for both of the reasons.
After watching the Inauguration on TV. I sat down and wrote about my thoughts and feelings as I watched the Inauguration and watched President Obama be sworn in as our new President. My plan now is to scrapbook that journaling along with a headline from today’s newspaper and place it in Charlie’s scrapbook. Since I am not raising Charlie, this will be a great way for him to see where I was, what I was doing, and how I felt on the important days in history.
Are you searching for the perfect family for your child? Many times I have heard expectant mothers making adoption plans comment that they are searching for the perfect family to adopt their child. I have seen some mothers choose families pretty quickly as they find a family that meets what they are looking for easily while others may struggle, take a long time looking through profiles of prospective couples, interview and meet with multiple couples, and have a harder time finding a family that meets what they are looking for.
What constitutes a perfect family? Is it two parents? Is it a couple who is financially stable? Is it a family where one parent can stay at home with the children?
Let’s be realistic; there is no perfect family. While we want the absolute best for our children, a perfect family just doesn’t exist whether it’s biological or adoptive. When I was pregnant and thinking about what type of family I wanted for Charlie, the word “real” kept coming to mind. I’m not perfect, I make mistakes, and I wanted a real family for Charlie.
It is a good idea to make a list of attributes or qualities that you wish for the adoptive family to have but you should also keep in mind that all of those variables could change. Later on, one of the parents could lose their job making them unstable financially, the stay at home Mom you wanted could decide to go back to work, or the two parent family becomes a single parent family through divorce. If you want a very open adoption and are purposely choosing a family that lives near by for that very reason, keep in mind that the family could move.
Just as with life, things change and the circumstances and situations of the adoptive family you choose could change too so don't concentrate so much on finding a picture perfect family as finding a good family that meets what you are looking for.
For a list of possible questions to ask prospective adoptive families, check out this link.
Coley asked if I was interested in writing a weekly post here at the Birthmom Buds blog in addition to my own, and I said yes! So, let me introduce myself:
My name is Britney, and I'm birthmom to an adorable 4-month-old little boy I call "C". I have an open adoption with his parents, H&L.
I'm a 24-year-old native Texan. I am studying non-profit administration through online courses and working for a local talk radio station. I go to a great church and volunteer in the nursery on Sundays, and I enjoy staying pretty politically involved.
I found out I was pregnant a little over a year ago. I decided to place C for adoption very early in my pregnancy but, as most of us did, vacillated between parenting and placing several times before I made the final decision. Originally, I thought I would be placing him with friends, but ended up meeting H&L through the agency I worked with about four months before C was born.
I found Birthmom Buds while searching online about a week after my pregnancy was officially confirmed and got an e-mail from a mentor later that week. I've also had the opportunity to know several birthmoms "in real life," and I am so grateful for their support!
Since placing, I've become involved with a local group called Adoption Knowledge Affiliates, which has monthly meetings where all triad members (adoptive parents, birth parents and adopted persons) and adoption professionals gather and share our experiences.
If there's anything else you'd like to know about me, please feel free to ask! I look forward to sharing a bit of my journey with you!
We're looking for someone to write about closed adoption and the search and reunion process. If you are interested or if you'd be interested in writing a weekly post, guest blogging, or if you have a great idea for a topic we should cover, please comment or email us!