Sunday, June 30, 2013

Quote of the Week: Conquering Ourselves


"It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves"
                                                                                            Photo Credit

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

You Are Strong


In my Facebook newsfeed the other day, I saw a picture with the quote:

"You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have."

Since I'm always on the lookout for blogging inspiration, this quote really reminded me of a comment often made by those in response to birthmothers: "I could never do that." Sometimes it's meant genuinely, as a compliment of strength for doing what was right. Other times it's meant to degrade, from judgment of what sort of person you must be to abandon your child.

Usually, I've heard it from the former intent, though the person is often unaware how saying they could never do that or they just love their children too much could be offensive, because of the implication that the birthmother must not have loved her child as much.

I've written on that before so we won't get into whether or not making a decision to place your child for adoption is difficult.

Instead I'd like to focus on the quote above. Birthmothers aren't uniquely strong people, somehow born with the ability to do things the average person can't. Truthfully, we all deal with our difficulties, and tragic things happen to tragically average people who have no special training in how to cope with the situation. Families of all backgrounds have had to deal with unexpected loss of spouses, children, family members. People of all ages and experiences have had to deal with serious diagnoses, have been permanently disabled by accidents of all kinds. Sometimes I read the news or memoirs and just cannot imagine how I would get through some of the things others have had to get through.

And just like each of those people who have to deal with an unexpected hardship, women who find themselves in a position where they have to consider adoption simply find their strength out of necessity.

And we can all relate to that basic principle: sometimes we have to do very hard things in life, because it's what is right, or because we have no choice, or because the benefits of that decision will ultimately outweigh the pain. Childbirth itself is one such thing, though I was the girl crying "I can't do this! I can't do this!" at the hospital (before my epidural), I still decided to have more children. Why? Because the temporal pain is worth the outcome.

Likewise, sometimes circumstances mean that adoption is ultimately the best decision, that the rewards outweigh the incredible pain for the child, the birthmother, the adoptive parents.

And when you know the truth about a situation, you'll find the truth itself will repeatedly give you the endurance and strength to get through the tough times.

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear." - Ambrose Redmoon

Monday, June 24, 2013

Music Monday: Words I Couldn't Say by Leighton Meester

"What do I do now that you're gone
No back up plan, no second chance
And no one else to blame
All I can hear in the silence that remains
Are the words I couldn't say"

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Quote of the Week: Integrity


"Living with integrity means: Not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationships. Asking for what you want and need from others. Speaking your truth, even though it might create conflict or tension. Behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values. Making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe."

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Grandchildren as a Reward?

If you know me at all, you know context matters. I hate things that are taken out of context. I will spend my own time making sure I fully understand a situation in history, for example, which many times means understanding the time period, culture and economic conditions surrounding said situation.

Context matters.

Well, most of the time. Not today though. Last week I heard the following words come out of a professional speaker's mouth: "Grandchildren are our reward for not killing our children." I did manage to listen to whatever else he said that evening. But those words have really stuck.

Taken on the surface for a regular parent, that can be seen as a joke. The weeks are long but the years are short is one of my favorite sayings as a mommy. Some days just seem like they will never end and some phases just drag on and on. But then one morning I wake up and the babytalk is gone or the phase is over and I feel as though I've missed it.

My littlest one is such a handful that I used to tell her that she's lucky she's cute. Everyday thoughts like that are so normal in the parenting world. Sure, in the beginning we may think, "I would never say that about my child," but mix sleepless nights with cranky children and you get... well, parenthood.

Now take those words in a birthmom's context. Whole different deal. We didn't choose abortion, therefore we allowed our children to live. Due to that choice, we have experienced many rewards and one of those is, yes, grandchildren.

But hold on there... not so fast. While many would agree that grandchildren are a blessing, a birthmom's perspective is a bit different. Let's say a woman gives life and a new family to her child, watches that child grow up from afar and then watches that same child get married and have her own babies.

Now that birthmom has whatever relationship she has with her birthchild and now has a whole new relationship to negotiate.

My one friend is about to become a birthgrandparent for the first time. She is invited to the shower. She has a place in that family.

I, on the other hand, found out about my birthgrandchild six months after he was born from an announcement. I was not included in the pre-celebration ceremonies nor have I met him in his two short years.

Yes, grandchildren are a reward for not killing our children. But for birthmoms that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Photo credit

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Let's Discuss!

Occasionally I have the opportunity to speak with other birthmothers to a class of prospective adoptive parents. It's called the Birthparents Perspective Class and serves to show adoptive parents the other side, the birthmother's side. We each spoke about our stories, about the pregnancy, the hospital, the adoption, and everything after the adoption and then we were also are able to take questions such as what we looked for in a family, how to address boundaries, and anything relevant to their own situations.

Personally, I love participating in these events, just as I love blogging about being a birthmother, because it isn't something the general public or even those stepping into the adoption process know much about. So, any chance to educate, to provide a glimpse into the other, oft-forgotten side of adoption is one that I try to take advantage of.

One of the birthmothers wrote such an insightful list of "things every birthmother wants adoptive parents to know". I wish I could share it with you, but instead I'd like to prompt some discussion:

As a birthmother, what are some things you wish every adoptive parent, or everyone not acquainted with adoption, could know?

Step up onto your soapbox ;)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Music Monday: If I Could Only Fly by Merle Haggard

"I almost felt you touching me just now
I wish I knew which way to turn and go
I feel so good and then, then I feel so bad
I wonder what I ought to do"

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Quote of the Week: Born Again.

Photo Credit
"Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

You Are Ever-Present

On May 9th this year, my husband and I went to the annual Birthmother's Celebration Dinner, hosted by Adoptions of Indiana.

Speaking that night was the man who had given a speech the very first year I attended, six years ago. He stuck out in my mind because he is unmarried, travels extensively, is from South Africa and has adopted two boys, one of which  was with him this year and who we had the pleasure of getting to know.

He of course didn't remember me, which makes sense because I probably spent that evening so long ago in tears and hiding behind my hair and mom, but I remembered him.

I remembered him because he was the first adoptive parent I ever heard talk about birthmothers in such a beautiful way. His speech was a letter he had written to, I believe, his sons' birthmothers and spoke of how he always remembered her and how present she was in their lives, how grateful he was to her.

When we got to talking recently, I told him how I remembered him and then I mentioned that days after that dinner he and his sons had come to Steak 'N' Shake for Mother's Day, where I was working at the time.

"You're the Steak 'N' Shake girl! I've told that story hundreds of times! All over the world."

I had recognized him immediately and spent time talking with him/bawling as my coworkers and customers stared at me and he offered beautiful words of encouragement. I can't remember everything said but I know I ran to the bathroom afterwards and cried for awhile.

I don't know what all he has said about that story, what angle he's told it from.

But I wanted to share what he said at the dinner this year.

He shared something he had written about mothers - about his mother, who has passed, about his boys' birthmothers. He spoke eloquently about the 'imprint', the 'influence', the 'reach' each of them has in their lives. He spoke about how he sees and talks to them every day; his mother through her approval and delight in his efforts as a father, or her disapproval of their odd habits and daily fumbles; his son's mother through his relentless persistence, his strength, his smile. He talked extensively about the characteristics his son had inherited from his mother, and then at one point said that he didn't deny the separate, distinct and unique personality his son has, "but," he said, "you didn't get that from me."

And in closing, he said that when he sees birthmothers, he sees his sons' mothers. Whenever he meets a birthmother or an adoptee, there's an immediate bond, he says. We're all connected. There is understanding, empathy, respect, gratitude(maybe tears flooding in the middle of Steak 'N' Shake).

I appreciated his message so much and I wanted to share his verbal embrace and affirmation and encouragement with any birthmother out there who may need it today.

You are ever-present, you are appreciated, you are strong.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Stop the Stigma
My grandma sent me a newspaper clipping about the stigma surrounding adoption.

"Birth mothers choose life, and a family, for their child. But this choice is rarely celebrated. Women routinely face family, friends and even health-care providers who think that adoption equals abandonment, according to researchers and conversations with birth mothers.

Birth mothers in the United States each year number in only the thousands, compared with approximately 1.2 million abortions performed annually, according to Guttmacher Institute estimmates, and 1.4 million unexpected unwed births each year. Women bucking the cultural tide generally do not publicize their choice. They are much more willing to admit they have terminated a pregnancy, adoption advocates say, than to say they have placed a live newborn with loving parents."

Now, I'm not here to open up the abortion can of worms. 

And I'm not here to say choosing to parent your child is a lesser decision.

I am here to simply educate about the option of adoption. The article goes on to describe the fact that many women don't consider adoption because it's just never presented to them as an option. Many times women may think parenting and abortion are their only choices. Of those who are aware of adoption, many hold the old prejudices that adoption is abandonment, is selfish, is damaging and therefore don't consider it a legitimate choice.

And as the article said, and as some of us know very intimately, birth mothers often don't go publicizing their decision because of that stigma.

But it may be that they only way to slowly turn that stigma around and to inform expectant mothers of the third route is for birth mothers to make their voice known - about the benefits of adoption for all involved, about the reality of the difficulties after placement, about the many stereotypes and misinformation that is spread about birthmothers, adoptees and choosing to place a child.

How do you feel about being a voice for adoption? Have you met any of this stigma? What have you done to educate others about the third choice?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Music Monday: My Wish by Rascal Flatts

"My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you're out there getting where you're getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish."

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Quote of the Week: Suffering

Photo Credit
"We are healed of a suffering only
by experiencing it to the full."

Friday, June 7, 2013

Spotlight Blogger: Meet Kadie

Today our featured blogger is brand new to the world of writing a blog. She's only been blogging for a few weeks at her blog, Letters For Brody, so be sure and stop by her blog to show your support!

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 Kadie Ballentine. I am 25 years old, and I live in Birmingham Alabama. I had a son on February 27, 2013. I knew I couldn’t be the mother he deserved or provide a good life for him, but I knew I HAD to be a part of his life. That’s why I wanted to do an open adoption.

When and why did you begin blogging?

My blog is very new. I started it about 2 weeks ago, but I had been planning it for a while. I wanted to start it because I know I was completely lost when I was facing adoption. I didn’t know anything about it or what my options were. I would have loved to have known some of the journeys other women in this type of situation have traveled. I wanted to make my story available; I hope it inspires others and gives women hope. Also, I want to build relationships with people who have gone through this. I figured this may also be a good way to do that!

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

I had a few things that I wanted going into my open adoption. I wanted to be able to have Brody in the hospital, receive pictures and updates often, get to see him on occasion, and I wanted to be able to explain to him why I gave him up for adoption. The adoptive mother allows me to write him letters. I have a notebook that I will give him when he is old enough to understand the situation. That way he can know why, and what this journey has been like for me. These letters will also confirm that I think about him all the time and I love him so much. Although my blog contains my story, it also contains letters I have written Brody. It just seemed like a fitting title.

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

Well, my blog is still new, so most of its exposure has been to friends and family. So far everything has been positive. I have had people who have known me my whole life express that they are getting to see a whole new side to me through it. Everyone seems to enjoy it and they say it’s inspiring, so I am glad for that.

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? 

That’s hard to answer. Every post is so personal and has its own message. However, I think one of my favorite posts is the very first letter I wrote Brody (entitled March 1, 2013). It was my first day away from him since the day I had gotten pregnant, and the emotions are so deep and strong. It’s the first letter he will read from me. It contains so much of my heart, and I think every birthmother’s heart a little bit. Some of the circumstantial aspects may be different, but the core of message is the heart of every mother.

Do you have any advice for someone thinking of starting their own blog? 

Don’t think about it too much; just let your heart flow onto the page. The great thing about blogging is that there is no wrong format or structure. It’s okay if it is scattered or spontaneous. It’s good to let it out, however suits you best!

Thursday, June 6, 2013


One of the crazy things about this common experience is that it binds us together across race, faith, age, hair color, cultural background, education, etc. Birthmothering is a sisterhood of gigantic proportions. Or at least that's what I feel and believe in my heart. So last week, I acted on it.

A gal I met at the BMB Retreat lives near the place my husband and I were planning to visit. He had some meetings to attend and I had some downtime, so I took a risk and asked her out for the day. Kind of like a date. Maybe more like a blind date.

We didn't get lots of time to visit at the Retreat, so I wasn't even sure she would agree, but she did with excitement. Since we were to be in a bustling city, I wasn't nervous about what to do. There was plenty to do while we talked. Or not. I was hoping it wouldn't be awkward, but you just never know.

Anyway, it wasn't awkward at all. Not in the least bit. We talked about anything and everything. We walked around the city and a museum and beautiful gardens. Sometimes we were quiet. Sometimes we talked so much we missed our train stop.

I'm so glad I have birthmother sisters in my life. We have more that binds us together than separates us. Let's remember that in our dealings with each other.

Photo credit

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Girls Who Went Away


A while ago, I read an extremely insightful, moving book called The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade by Anna Fessler.

The book highlights stories of women who were pressured or forced by their families to relinquish their children, in a time where much shame was associated with unwed mothers. I can in no way represent these personal accounts properly, I can only recommend you read it.

These stories gave me a deeper appreciation for my own situation, and a passion for educating expectant women considering adoption, and educating families on the importance of leaving the choice up to her.
Recovering from the natural pain and grief that comes after choosing a better life for your child and recovering from the pain and grief that comes from having your child taken away from you are two entirely different things.

I've often cited a huge reason for my ability to move on and heal properly being that I've never regretted my decision. There was pain and depression and mourning, but never regret, never anger at that choice and wishing I could go back and change it. I know some who have felt that regret and dealt with that pain and my heart hurts for them. How much longer and more complex their mourning is. Sadly, I've heard the stories of older women who have found a way to live despite that regret, but have in no way recovered or accepted or moved on from it.

I'm not saying every parent that makes an educated decision about adoption won't feel regret. I am saying that every parent that is pressured or forced because of an outside assumption that it is the best decision, will feel regret, anger, bitterness, brokenness. And contrary to some beliefs, they won't be able to come home from the hospital and forget what happened to them just because it was the "right" decision, on paper, according to those who were not actually carrying the baby.

It is very important that the expectant mother makes her own decision, whether to parent or pursue adoption.
""It’s funny.  The whole time I was carrying my daughter, I told myself that I wasn’t her real mother.  I really believed that.  I knew that I was carrying her but, you know, that was the party line, that’s what they told you.  The social workers said that you were carrying the child for someone else.  And I really went along with that in my head.  I guess in a way I was less tormented because most birth mothers didn’t have that kind of detachment. They knew that they were their child’s mother.  They knew what they were losing, and I was just totally out to lunch in that department.  Until my daughter was born.  I realized at that moment, that’s not the way it works.  She was my daughter.  I realized that fully, in every way, she was my daughter."-Ann" - The Girls Who Went Away
What are your thoughts or experiences?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Broken Can Be Beautiful

I read a blog once about a young mother whose newborn had died shortly after birth. She was racked by grief and loss. At some point in her story she felt compelled to shatter a water pitcher that she had and slowly glue it back together. To her, that pitcher is more beautiful now. It will still hold water, but now the light shines through the cracks. That pitcher is a representation of her life and her healing.

You can take something broken and make it beautiful. Adoption is broken. There is coercion. There are unethical lawyers and social workers. There are adoptive families that believe they are entitled to your child. There are birth families that are not supportive. There are even birth parents that are selfish.

My attorney was unethical. My agency was non-existent in all the ways they should not have been. I remember the social worker coming to my house one time before the placement. She asked a few questions and was on her way. After 5 minutes with me she gave the green light on my placing my son. The lawyer, the most dramatic thing she did was insist to me that the post-placement agreement was legally binding. That if it was notarized and we both signed it was now a legal contract. Each page of that agreement is initialed. The document is notarized. It's not legal though. Not even a little.

I met with a dear friend, a lawyer, several times. I was so angry. How could she lie to me like that? Did she not see how important that agreement was to me? That agreement was my sanity. That was how I made it through those first few months. My friend started attacking me with questions. Asking about all these personal things. About my son, finances, my job, my friends, where I lived, my family. He was relentless. Then he asked about the adoptive family. He asked about my choice to place. He asked about my feelings. It was one of the longest evenings of my life. I cried until I could cry no more. Then he asked me one last question. "Do you want Frogger removed from R&P?" I was horrified. Of course I didn't. I just wanted my lawyer to pay for her lies. I wanted my lawyer to burn in hell. It was then that I realized what he had done.

The defense would have torn me apart. I was a grieving mom that changed her mind. Oh no, wait, I wasn't. I was just bitter and angry and out for blood. I didn't pursue going to the bar. My wounds were to too raw and too deep.

This is why I say we, as birth mothers, need to speak out. We need to change the way adoption is handled. If it wasn't so hush-hush then the laws would be known. Open adoption would be the norm. Everyone would know what an ethical, moral, upstanding adoption looked like.

Take something broken and make it more beautiful then it was meant to be. Fix it. Don't trash it. Someone may need it one day.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Quote of the Week: Light from Within

"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within."

Saturday, June 1, 2013