Friday, June 15, 2012

Spotlight Blogger: Meet Rachel

Rachel with Reed at their last visit

Today's featured blogger is Rachel of "The Great Wide Open."  I love to read her story as she lives a nomadic lifestyle and I've always wondered how that would feel and work out.  Let's all read about Rachel...

First, please tell us a bit more about yourself (name, age, where you live, what led you to making an adoption plan, and anything else you feel comfortable sharing

My name is Rachel. I’m currently 35 years old, and I’m an American living in Singapore (no, that’s NOT in China!) and working as a teacher. My son Reed was born in December 2009, but to understand why I decided on adoption, I’ll have to begin much earlier.

I grew up in Small Town Texas, and went to University in a suburb of Dallas. I lived there happily through my college years and beyond for 10 years, surrounded by loving family (I’m the middle child of 5) and close friends. I had been working for a few years during the summer at a summer camp in North Carolina to escape the Texas heat, but one summer, the summer of 2005, I guess you could say things were stirring in me, and every time I thought about going back to Texas to look for a job and jump back into the way things were, I would start to feel a little sick to my stomach. I hated the idea of leaving everyone I loved so much, but I decided to explore my options and see what else would come up.

What I ended up with was going to Zion National Park in Utah. I was waiting tables in the lodge in the national park, and even though at the time I felt that it was a step backwards career wise (after all, I did have a college degree, people with education aren’t suppose to be waiting tables… right?), I knew as soon as I woke up my first morning there that I had made the right decision. I stayed there 4 months, living and working in the bottom of Zion Canyon, surrounded by gorgeous red brick walls, incredible vistas, and even more incredible people who had chosen, for whatever reason, to escape the “real world” for a time and live in a place most people only have on their screensavers.

After my short time there, I went back to Texas, held a huge yard sale, sold everything I had in storage and in the house I was still paying rent for, and was left with two duffle bags of my favorite clothes and necessities. I took those bags and left one week later, excited to start my new adventure on a cruise ship in Hawaii. I haven’t stopped since then. Since I first left Texas in the summer of 2005, I have lived in the canyon in Utah, a cruise ship in Hawaii, Denali National Park in Alaska, a ski resort in Colorado, the beach in San Diego, the rain forest in Washington, and have traveled in between jobs. It was always in the restaurant business, and I quickly moved from waiting tables into management, being the general manager of seasonal resort restaurants in Alaska and in Colorado. I never lived in one place more than 5 months, had nothing to my name other than what would fit into my 2 suitcases, and I loved it. The nomadic lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but it fit me like an old pair of jeans the moment I tried it on.

In the winter of ’08-09, I was working at the ski resort in Colorado. I was skiing to work every day, working with wonderful people, loving my job and loving my life. Bill was the chef at the restaurant, and since we started from scratch together to get the restaurant open and running, we were around each other literally every day and quickly became close and got into a relationship. At the end of the season, we knew our lives were going in different directions, so we parted as friends with him going to work as a private chef on a ranch in Colorado and me going to Thailand for a month of travel before I started my next job in Alaska for the summer.

I was in Thailand when I found out I was pregnant. It started in Bangkok, the day after I arrived, and I got sick. After not feeling good for almost two weeks (but still trying to make the most of my vacation), I woke up one morning and thought, “Oh my God, I’m pregnant!”

No, surely I couldn’t be! Bill and I were very cautious about that, there’s no way! But I knew it was true. What would I do with a baby? What would Bill do with a baby? How could we provide for it? Everything in my life would have to change. I mean Everything. My job, my career, my lifestyle, my plans, my home. I had nothing, no stable job, no insurance, no home, no stability, and though Bill was still a good friend and I knew I could count on him, we weren’t in a relationship and I didn’t want to be, so I also had no partner. And what’s more, I didn’t want any of those things. I was nomadic and minimalistic and I loved it. Plus, having a family hadn’t been in my radar at all, at the age of 32 I didn’t feel my biological clock ticking away like most women do.

Yet, I loved this baby from the very moment I knew of him. One night I was sitting on a beautiful beach, toes dug into the sand, all alone looking out into the ocean, and I chatted with my little one. I had thought about all of my options. I didn’t want to terminate his life, he was already special to me. That wasn’t even an option. I thought about keeping him, but it didn’t seem right or fair, to me or him. I felt we were so connected, and that what would be the best thing for one of us was what was going to be the best thing for both of us. I had an overwhelming feeling that he was suppose to be here, he was meant to exist and I was a vessel for that to happen. I had thought about adoption, but I couldn’t bear the thought of letting him out of my life. But something told me that he already belonged to someone else, that someone else had loved him and longed for him and has been preparing for him long before Bill and I had ever even met. That night on the beach as I was having a heart to heart with him, I knew what I was going to do. I told him with all the conviction in the world, “You have NEVER been unloved, undesired or unwanted.” And I told him that there was no way I was going to let him out of my life, and I told him that he was so special to me.

It wasn’t until a week later that I could get my hands on a pregnancy test, which of course proved true. I went down from my hotel room and polished off an entire pizza by myself, and then went to an internet café to email Bill. “I hope you’re sitting down for this…”

A week later, I flew from Thailand straight to Alaska, where I jumped into working 80 hours a week to get the large restaurant at the resort up and running. There in Alaska, I really started my quest for adoptive parents. I had contacted a handful of prospective parents, but when I found Doug and Maura’s profile, it was like someone turned on the lights and calmed the waters. I knew from the moment I first saw their profile that I was carrying their child. They made plans to come meet me in Alaska, and when they did they were able to take me to the nearest hospital in Fairbanks (2 hours away) for my first ultrasound, where we found out I was carrying a boy.

From his job in Colorado, Bill was as supportive as he possibly could have been. He sent me packages of home-baked cookies, books and special pregnancy teas. When our summer jobs were up, we both moved to North Carolina to be with Doug and Maura for the last trimester. My best friend Shelley also moved there to give me support, and Bill, Shelley and I rented a 3 bedroom house not far from the birthing center in Chapel Hill.

The five of us all went to birthing classes together, which made up almost half of the participants in the 7 week course, so when the time came, we were ready. It was a group effort: Maura and Shelley were rubbing my shoulders, Bill was rubbing my back and never left my side, Doug was making sure I was drinking water, my sister Kathryn who had come up from Texas for the birth was snapping pictures, and I was in a bathtub of warm water pushing. Suddenly I heard Maura gasp, “There he is!” and before I knew it I was lying in the tub with my son Reed in my arms. After a while, Bill cut the umbilical cord and held him, then Doug, and then Maura took him and breast fed him. He was born at 9 in the morning, and we stayed at the cozy birth center all day resting, enjoying each others company, and ooohing and ahhhing at the one who had brought us all together.

When and why did you begin blogging?
I started blogging when I got to North Carolina during my third trimester. When I had decided on and open adoption, I had never heard of it before. I thought I was crazy for thinking someone could ‘adopt’ me into their family along with my baby, but I knew that’s how it had to be. When I found out that I wasn’t crazy for wanting that, and that there were actually several cases of successful open adoptions, I tried to read all I could about it. Maybe I didn’t know where to look though, because I couldn’t seem to find any resources from actual birth moms. I found lots of articles and interviews from adoptive parents and adoptees, but I was hard pressed to find any accounts from a birth mother who had been through it. So, I decided to put my own account out there. I did it because it’s good for me to get my thoughts and feelings out, like therapy. And I also did it because I strongly believe that open adoption is something that should be more accepted. So often adoption is looked at as a shameful thing; the birth mother is expected to feel shamed and humiliated, the adoptive parents are hailed as saints, and the child is to be pitied. I hate that. Why can’t a woman be proud of the decisions she’s made, why shouldn’t a child feel proud of where he/she has come from? The world is full of double standards, and the realm of adoption has a plethora of them in stock. I wanted to be a small crack in the mental walls that people have formed through generations of closed adoptions, with the hopes that women (and men) will be able to see it as a viable and healthy choice.

Tell us more about the title of your blog. Why did you choose it?

I chose “The Great Wide Open” for the title of my blog for a number of reasons. Ok, to be honest, my love for Tom Petty may have played a little part in it. But mostly, it accurately reflects both my life and my open relationship with Reed and his family. I try to keep my thoughts and plans open. I love the thrill of not knowing where I’m going to be 6 months from now, or even a week from now. I love looking into the future with all the possibilities laid out before me, not even having to know what they are. The unknown is a treasure to me, the journey- not the destination- is life giving. I see all of those things working out in my relationship with Reed and his family. From the beginning, we all wanted to be open and honest with each other. I told Doug and Maura that they had to adopt me into their family as well, and they have joyfully stepped up to the task. It takes a lot of trust to do something like that, and it’s scary letting someone into your life like that. There are risks on both of our sides. But we have been able to see our relationship as being wide open. Of course there are healthy boundaries, but there are no boundaries on how much we love Reed and each other. I feel I have truly been adopted into their family and accepted as one of their own, and even their extended family has done the same for me. Our openness with each other is what has made this adoption work so far and we are convinced that it will continue to work.

Has the response to your posts been mostly positive, mostly negative, or a mix of both?

Positive, by far. It’s funny, I can remember being in Thailand when I first found out I was pregnant, and even though I had this surreal sense of calm, I still had moments of, “What am I doing? This is crazy! What will people think? What will I say to them? I must be nuts!” Even though I knew I was making the right and only choice for me and I had this intense inner peace about it, I still dreaded the reaction from others. After I had been in Alaska for a couple of weeks and felt things with my job there were getting to a point of settling down a little, I wrote a note on facebook announcing the news and my decision to place for adoption. The response was amazing, I was blown away by the amount of support I received. Now when I post on my blog, I always get encouraged by friends or even people I have never met who have happened to stumble across it. There are only a few rare instances where I have not felt supported in my decision.

What post on your blog do you consider a “must read” for people visiting your blog for the first time? Or what post(s) from your blog is (or are) your favorite(s) and why?

One of the entries that meant a lot to me was “Revisiting Thailand” posted on October 6th. It was after I had visited Thailand again in the same spots I was when I had found out I was pregnant, and it became very emotional for me. I asked myself some questions I’ve had for a while, about loving someone that you don’t want to keep. I don’t know that it even makes a lot of sense, but emotions often don’t.

The other posts I really like are my Christmas posts from 2010. I posted every day during the week I was there, and I feel it really gives a picture of what my visit was like and how we are all forming a relationship together. The links are here: day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, and days 5 & 6.  I wish I had done the same thing this past Christmas during my visit, but time got away with me.

Do you have any advice for someone thinking of starting their own blog?
My advice: DO be open and honest, DO write often, and DO find a layout that properly holds all your videos and pictures (mine doesn’t… I really need to change it!). DON’T try to make things sound rosy just because other people will read it, DON’T water down your emotions, and DON’T be too self critical about what you write. When you’re putting yourself out there like that, especially about something as emotionally intense as adoption, it’s important to just get the feelings down, regardless of if they make sense or not. I am preaching to myself here; there is not a single day that I don’t think about Reed, but when I don’t write for a while about him, my thoughts about what to write about become so many that I don’t even know where to begin. My schedule this year has been extremely busy, but now it’s starting to settle down a little so hopefully I’ll use that time to catch up a little on my blogging.

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