Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Tale of Two Supergirls


When I finally realized that I wanted to work with young ladies in unplanned pregnancies, I was out of college and working my first office job. After securing a position at a maternity home, I resigned  and was off to change the world. While working in the development department was not my end goal, it taught me the inner workings of such a large organization. When my car was stolen, I got an even bigger education.

Being young and single, I had no place to go. The home graciously let me move into the apartment behind the chapel. Yes I said chapel. The maternity home was housed in what was once a monastery. Beautiful to look at, creepy at night. But I digress.

Part of my room and board included being on call at night for any resident who needed transportation to the hospital. One fall night in particular sticks in my mind and is the real point of this post. It was late when the phone rang. The caller told me that Sandy* was in active labor. Staying with her most of the night, it was early morning when I finally crawled back into bed.

Then the phone rang again. This time it was Amber* who was in active labor and needed transporting to the hospital. Now I knew Sandy from being around, but I was actually Amber's labor coach. But since I was so tired, I asked someone else to go in my place. A choice I have regretted for many years.

You see, Amber was pregnant not by choice but by rape. Yet her attitude and her example throughout the entirety of her pregnancy was like nothing I had ever seen. She wasn't bitter. She didn't complain. She smiled and sang of God's goodness to her and impacted those around her, staff included.

This year marks 18 years since that night. Sandy and I tried without success to continue a relationship after she left the home, but Amber and I were connected for many years. Although quiet about the circumstances surrounding her pregnancy, she has continued to be very outspoken and confident about her decision.

I'm inspired by women who can remain so positive and so devoted to God in spite of their circumstances, aren't you? May it be so for me.



* names have been changed to protect confidentiality




Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Moving On


Moving on.

I've had an aversion to that phrase up until recently. I felt that by saying I had "moved on" or was able to "move on" in relation to my decision for adoption, I was somehow hurting my son. As though it meant that I was happy because he wasn't here or that I was forgetting him or replacing him.

In the beginning, I never even felt the need to use the phrase because that was simply not where I was. I was defined by my birthmotherhood and for the first few years, it still felt too fresh.

But I noticed strength building as the updates came and as I started focusing on my spirituality and other things in my life. I still needed a shoulder to cry on occasionally, but it was no longer a daily struggle. I was finding normal.

I married and anticipated the end of our updates, feeling content with my progress, though expecting hardship when that first year of silence came.

Our son was born shortly after our last update on R and so yet another chapter in my life began. I was taken by surprise when I felt twinges of heartache, holding my son, seeing how my life had changed, how I was an able mother now, and wondered what it would be like to have my five-year-old with me as well.

All in all, though, I knew I couldn't be here if it weren't for that decision. And life went on. I found purpose and happiness in parenting and in my marriage and involvement at church. I became more outspoken about my adoption, something that I had been too shy and insecure about for many years.

Sometimes we have a tendency to self-sabotage: if things are rough and hard and unsure, we doubt and hurt and wonder if we'll ever see the daylight. And then when the sun does rise (and it will), we are filled with new doubt and guilt and insecurity.

We know being a birthmother is hard. It requires healing and recovery. You need support groups and counseling. It involves loss and grief.

And as much as we need to prepare for that, we need to know that one day it will in fact become manageable and someday we will find peace...and it's okay. Scary. New. But good. Okay.

There's no time-limit on grief, so be gentle and patient with yourself. But don't self-sabotage and get stuck in mourning-mode when you know you've reached a new phase in the process. When you feel that peace and when you find your emotions have reached a calming balance, embrace it! You've given joy to a family, and happiness and opportunity to your child, and after much grieving and burden, it's your turn to find comfort for your decision, enjoyment in your life.

How are you doing with your healing? Are things still bleak, or can you see the sun rising in the distance?



Photo Credit

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hard Love

One of my main goals for telling my story is to change the perception of adoption. Unfortunately, unplanned pregnancies happen. Why is the main stream so tied to Parenting vs Abortion? Why is there so much shame and stigma towards Adoption?

I believe I knew in the beginning, while still pregnant that I was not equipped to parent my son and provide for him as he deserved. But, I fell into the trap thinking that my choices were parent or abort to be accepted by those in my life. If I had an abortion no one had to know. And, well, if I parented then “I stepped up”.

I tried. God knows, I tried. I parented for 2 years, 6 months, and 5 days.

I think my life would have turned out differently had I felt confident that adoption was a viable option from the beginning. I believe the healing process would have been easier had the shame and guilt not hung over me like a cloud on a stormy day for so long.

We, as birthmothers, do not love our children any less. We, as birthmothers, are not looking for a way out from responsibility. This may sound a little self-righteous, but when people look at me in horror when I tell them about the adoption and say things like, “I could never GIVE my child away, I love him too much.” I want to answer back, “Maybe I loved my son MORE than you and that is why I did everything I had to, to make sure he had the best life possible.” It is not that I truly feel that way. I just cannot grasp why others believe that is what adoption is about.

I was excited when the movie Juno came out. Finally a movie about a birth mom. They did a good job, overall. But, I was angry. I was angry that they did not show an accurate portrayal of the roller-coaster this teen mom would go through. I had not heard of the movie that Natasha just reviewedLike Dandelion Dust, but I'm disgusted with the portrayal of that movie as well. 

Adoption is HARD, but it also BEAUTIFUL. Adoption is not weak, it is BRAVE. Adoption is not selfish, it is SELFLESS. Adoption is not shameful, it is INSPIRING. Adoption is not indifference, it is LOVE. These are the key words that need to be used when discussing adoption.

No one wants to find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy. None of us want that for our children, family members or friends. But it happens. It will continue to happen. I wish everyone who found themselves in that situation immediately thought parenting or adoption. I may be pro-choice, but I do not believe anyone should feel that is their only choice if they are unable to parent.

I want to educate others to be pro-active regarding adoption. I want the media to build adoption up, not tear it down. I want us, as birth mothers, to be able to hold our head high, not be tempered by shame or guilt. We chose good things for our children. We planned more promising futures for our children. We should NEVER feel bad for that.  




Monday, May 27, 2013

Music Monday: Lean on Me by Bill Withers

 
 
This one isn't so much about adoption per say, but about the wonderful people who have held me up, especially in recent events.  This life isn't easy, but the friends that hold you up at your worst are key.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Quote of the Week: Determination



 
 
"Determination gives you the resolve to keep going in spite of the roadblocks that lay before you." 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Like Dandelion Dust Movie Review



Like the Dandelion Dust is based on a book written by an adoptive mother Karen Kingsbury.

The movie opens up with a scene involving intimate partner violence on a woman, Wendy Porter. Her husband Rip goes away to jail for abusing her, and while he is away Wendy finds out she is pregnant. Judging by the house alone, it seems like she does not have very much financial resources, living in a working class neighborhood. It is implied that Wendy relinquishes custody of her child while Rip is in jail.

A few years have passed and Rip gets out of jail and returns home to Wendy who tells him about the pregnancy and their son. Rip is devastated by the news and wants to obtain custody of their son. Legally, he is able to because he never signed relinquishing papers.

The adoptive parents, Jack and Molly Campbell, are disturbed by the news.  In the story, the social worker thinks it is best to ease the son Joey into the home of the Porters slowly. “The first visit they are friends, the second visit they are the other mommy and daddy and the final visit Joey will be told the truth” Seriously? I really hope no social worker in real life would think that lying to a child about where they came from would be a good idea. Someone please explain how that would be in the best interest of the child?

Overall, the movie perpetuates the fear that adoptions will go horribly wrong after the placement of the child, that the birth parents will come back to ‘steal’ the child away from the adoptive family. It also uses negative language towards first/birth parents including ‘giving away’. Birth parents whom make an adoption plan do not give away their babies. By saying that they do, it insinuates the lack of value they have for the child. Mothers/parents make adoption plans for their babies (unless the state gets involved and takes them away, but that is an entirely different story) because they are not able to parent for a variety of reasons.

The misrepresentation of birth mothers in films about adoption are insulting to the mothers/parents who make difficult decision for their families.

Like Dandelion Dust attempts to dig into the emotional aspects of having no control over the disruption of one’s family. After Joey has visited the Porters a couple of times and the Campbell’s are fighting to keep custody of them, Wendy acknowledges the pain of Joey’s other mother Molly, “Somebody’s got to lose, and it’s not going to be us this time… we are his parents and it’s right for him to be with us”.

And of course, there has to be a scene between the fathers physically fighting after Jack tries to use his monetary power to buy out Rip. This scene also shows Jack’s vulnerability in the situation.

At this point, when both parents have met each other, I start to wonder what open adoption would look like for these families. With an open adoption arrangement Joey could stay with the Campbell parents -- the parents whom he has grown up with -- while maintaining contact with the Porters. And the Porters would be able to feel comfort knowing Joey’s well being and stay in contact with him. At the very least, the filmmakers could have shown them discussing it.

In the end, Wendy finalizes the adoption with the Campbell family, knowing it is what would be best for Joey. Before they depart, Wendy tells Molly,“I want Joey to know he has two mothers, one who loves him so much she couldn't let go. And one that loves him so much she had to“.

The DVD of the movie had several additional interviews from the filmmakers and writers. The author of the book which the movie is based on, Karen Kingsbury’s message about what she hopes viewers will walk away from the movie made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. She wants people to be interested in adoption to support orphans from other countries or ’suddenly’ for the first time be invested in the idea to adopt their own child.

Mrs. Kingsbury also shared her own adoption story. She and her husband adopted three sons from Haiti. She said, ”God always answers the financial prayer - that is never the reason not to adopt”. Really? What about those parents who don’t have the financial resources to financially provide for their children, whom ultimately end up in orphanages? What happened to their financial prayers? How fortunate Mrs. Kingsbury is to be able to afford to adopt 3 boys in addition to the 3 biological kids she already has. It doesn't take much reading about adoptions from orphanages to learn that not all children in orphanages are truly orphans (whose parents are deceased). Mrs. Kingsbury gives us no light into the story of her Haitian sons’ first families or how they became orphans - a crucial part of their story is missing.

Mrs. Kingsbury also says that she thinks everyone should consider adoption, she of course means everyone should adopt a child or three, like she did, but she doesn't seem to show interest in where these children come from. “Everyone has a role in adoption”, while she clearly ignores the birth/first families of the children.

One of the film producers, Kevin Downs shared his adoption story in an interview in a DVD extra. He says his wife didn't care where it comes from, she just wanted a baby. And that he and his wife ‘rescued’ the babies from the orphanages. Upon hearing that I shook my head in frustration. I really wish that people interested in adopting children get out of the mental framework that children in orphanages need rescuing. By doing so, I think they are feeding into the supply and demand of keeping orphanages grim. Read more here Good Intentions Are Not Enough.




(cross posted from http://invisiblemothers.wordpress.com/)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Recent Disasters



All the recent disasters both natural and personal have got me thinking; how can we know our own way? How can we understand our situation in light of the 'big picture'? What is the meaning of it all? And what the heck is really going on?

This post talks about the Bible, so consider yourself warned if you continue reading. The book of Proverbs has been of considerable interest to me over the years, but specifically this past year. While being considered a 'wisdom book' it is also very practical. I'm a practical gal. I need to be told what is right, what is wrong and what I should be doing. I don't need fancy words; short and sweet works for me. That's why I like this book.

On Monday morning, I read these words: "A man's steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand his own way?" Later that same day, a tornado devastated the town of Moore, Oklahoma. I bet there were many people that day wondering what the heck was going on and why.

Incidentally, the cross-references for this verse includes Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." The Bible is actually asking me to put all my eggs in one basket regardless of whether or not I know what is going on. Regardless of what the future holds. Regardless of what my present holds.

I think this is a pretty brazen request. I think this life is hard. Actually, I know this life is hard. And so often I don't want to trust; I don't even want to think; I just want to act. I want to fix it, and if I can't fix it, I at least want to do something to help.

My heart has been broken this week over another natural disaster, yet there's nothing I can do about it.  




Photo credit

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

It's A Process


One thing that is so obvious is that every situation surrounding adoption is different, which means the healing process is experienced differently by each birthmother.Thankfully, in the midst of variety, there are several things that any birthmother can benefit from. Here are some things that helped me:

Counseling Ideally, finding an adoption counselor can be so important and it's especially something to consider even before placement. The lawyers we went through provided counseling. This was my first experience with another birthmother, and because I was never told what to expect post-placement, it was continuously relieving to hear that my feelings and experiences were normal and would get better in time.  Even if you can't get a counselor, do seek out another birthmom that you can confide in, which leads me to the next suggestion:

Support Whether it's through BirthMom Buds, the On Your Feet Foundation, or another other support group that meets up in your area, get involved! Even birthmothers who are fortunate enough to have supportive family and friends have all shared that having the support and friendship with other birthmothers has been essential in their healing. Some things we'll feel and think won't be things that can be understood by those who haven't been in our shoes.  Also, often organizations will offer opportunities like retreats, speaking, support groups, Birthmother's Day dinners and ways to help other women. These can be empowering, comforting outlets that have various benefits depending on where you are in your healing.

Acknowledgment Whether it's privately, known only to yourself, or with a significant other or trusted friends and family, find a way to acknowledge big days like birthdays and Mother's Day or Christmas and holidays that you find important. If you have a semi-open or open arrangement, send gifts and do thoughtful things for the family. Even if you have a closed arrangement, I've heard many helpful stories of private boxes full of cards, scrapbooks, and other mementos dedicated to children.  Often women find comfort in memorializing their children, whether with a tattoo or special piece of jewelry.

Writing Feelings are going to change, memories will fade and recording these things can be extremely therapeutic as well as valuable in the future. Some agencies also allow a letter to your son or daughter explaining the circumstance of their birth and things you would want them to know. Even if you're not able to send a letter, writing one and keeping it safe can help and may also be useful in the case of a reunion.

Patience (with yourself) A big part of getting through the rough patches is cutting yourself some slack. It's okay to be angry. It's okay, even if it hurts, to be depressed. It's even okay to be okay. Let yourself feel. Also, we're all different, and depending on how long ago we placed, we either may be very passionate about telling our story and helping others, or we may be very drawn to privacy. It's important to give this thought and decide what we're comfortable with. There is just no right or wrong answer, and it's okay to change your mind multiple times.

What have you found to be essential in helping you find your way as a birthmother?



Photo Credit

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Oklahoma Tragedy Hits Home

The tragedy in Moore, OK hits home for me as a birthmother in a closed adoption. How many of those children lost are adoptees? How many birth-parents will never have the opportunity to know their "lost" children?

On Easter Sunday in 2009 my son's Birth Father passed away. My first thought was relief. He could no longer threaten me. I was know longer scared that he may actually follow through with the promises he had made. However, seconds later, I was devastated.  I was devastated that my son, that Frogger would never have the opportunity to meet his father if he chose to. I was devastated that he would never have the ability to hear his fathers voice. I was devastated that Frogger would never have the chance to make his own determination of who his birth father is. Everything he will ever know is what others felt of him and remembered of him.

These are the types of things that make me feel so strongly that open adoptions should be the norm. I understand there may be certain situations where open is not an option. But, we are mothers. We love our children. We worry about them. Most of us have the utmost respect for the parents that are raising our child. But, just because we chose adoption, or perhaps were even forced into adoption due to tragic circumstance, is it really fair that we don't get to know that they are safe? Is it really fair that they don't get to know where they come from?

In spite of a closed adoption, I know more about my son and his life than most in my situation do. I am so grateful for a tiny slip up on the adoptive parents part by including a picture with their last name in one of the very first communications I received when our adoption was semi-open.

I know Frogger is alive. I know Frogger is safe. I know Frogger is loved. I also know that he is a Jr. Firefighter. This makes me proud. But, it also scares me. What would I do if I never get to know if he wanted to meet me or not. How would I feel knowing that opportunity was lost forever.

My heart goes out to all of the families that lost loved ones, their homes, their feeling of safe. But, most of all my heart goes out to the mother's that will never know their children. Not because of choice, but because of tragedy.

We choose adoption so that our children can thrive and grow. A tragic tornado is just a ruthless reminder that we have no control over the life our children will have.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Quote of the Week: Rise Above

Photo Credit

 
 
"Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them."

Saturday, May 18, 2013

2013 Retreat: A Superheroine's Recap


2013 Retreat Attendees
Well, it's 2013 and another wonderful BirthMom Buds retreat has passed.  This bloggers first actually!  The theme this year: Super Birthmoms Unite!  It was a chilly one this weekend, however full of warmth and love!

The weekend kicked off Friday with lunch and some sightseeing.  I arrived a bit late, but from what I hear there was some awesome exercising going on by some of our ladies.  I'm fairly certain we gave some of the residents of Charlotte some smiles and good laughs.  Then we all sat down and had a wonderful lunch, getting to know one another.  We then split up for awhile, some of us shopping, some of us sightseeing and getting to know Charlotte!

Friday night was the Super Hero mixer, which was a lot of fun!  Sandwiches provided for us for dinner by Jimmy Johns of Charlotte, which were pretty delicious!  We also had some yummy cupcakes provided by Gigi's Cupcakes. After dinner and desert, we launched into some icebreakers to get to know one another, which were fun.  I personally liked the forced choice game, in which we were asked questions and had to go to a side of the room (one for agree, one disagree, indifferent in the middle) where we really learned a lot about personal choice, and how everyone's view is different but we can all coexist with those beliefs.  We dressed up in our Superhero gear for this, and afterwards a few of us went to Buffalo Wild Wings (some of us still IN our gear) which was a blast!
Tablescape


On Saturday, we started our day off with another icebreaker, which was a sunshine picture where each person at our table wrote a positive affirmation about us.  Very sweet!  Then we headed into the breakout sessions.  We have two time slots and offer two different sessions during each time slot and attendees choose which sessions they’d like to attend. This year’s breakout sessions were:  There's a Hero in All of Us with Leilani W., Letting Go of a Broken Adoption with Melanie M, Tools for Grief with Britney P, and How to Share Your Story with Others with Michelle T.

Balloon Release
Next came Craft Time with Coley, where we made little picture/note holders, which were adorable!  Afterwards, as any Super Hero knows, we needed to refuel.  So we had a delicious gyro meal complete with an amazing cake fit for Super Moms made by the Charlotte Cake Man. And then we had the balloon release, in which we wrote notes or wishes to our children, or whomever and released them on balloons.  Very touching!


After we ate, it was time for the speakers.  First up was Dr. Carmen Teague, an adoptive mother.  Next came adoptee Annie Lewis, and last but certainly not least, birthmom, author, and fellow BMB blogger Terri Gake.  I personally thought Terri's story was amazing.  Can that woman be more inspirational and sweet?  
Candlelight Ceremony

Lastly, we had our slideshow
followed by our candlelight ceremony.  As each woman lit the candle next to her, we each said something for our children, or for each other.  I don't think there was a dry eye in the room.  Our love for our children, and each other, was very evident.

Saturday night we went to a wonderful restaurant in Charlotte called BlackFinn.  We sat back, ate, and talked the night away!  It was a lot of fun!

I had to leave early on Sunday, but the women who didn't all had breakfast together before saying see you next year!  And this blogger WILL be seeing them next year!

Looking forward to 2014!



Friday, May 17, 2013

The Retreat

I posted this on my own blog yesterday, but Coley asked me to share it here as well, so if you follow my blog, I apologize for the repeat!

Nearly two weekends ago, I had the opportunity to spend some time in Charlotte, NC, at the BirthMom Buds retreat. This is an annual event, and in my opinion, well worth any suffering endured to get there. If you're a birth mom reading this, I would strongly encourage you to make every effort to go next year! The retreat will be held the weekend before Mother's Day weekend, and I believe the general location, Charlotte, will be the same.

Before I have only vague recollections of the weekend's festivities, I wanted to give a short recap for those who might be interested in reading about what went on. Every year, our fearless leaders (Coley Strickland and Leilani Wood) pick a theme for the retreat. Last year was Fiesta! and the year before was Breakfast at Tiffany's. I haven't gone to any more retreats than that as I didn't attend my first one until my daughter was over a year old. But BirthMom Buds has been hosting retreats every year for nearly as long as they've been in existence! BirthMom Buds was created in 2002, and this coming year will be the 10-year anniversary for the retreats.

This year's exciting theme was superheroes. I have to say of the retreats that I've attended, this was my favorite theme. The slogan was "Super Birthmoms Unite!" Perhaps this year's theme appealed to my longing of the fun dress-up days of childhood more than the other themes have. Whatever the reason, it was a fabulous execution of the theme.

The "main event" was Saturday and Friday night was the mixer. My favorite part of Friday night was the ability that I had to dress up in costume. The idea for the mixer was that people should come dressed up as their favorite superhero, but I made up my own. I was "Scarlet Shimmer Girl", sort of a take-off of Glitter Girl, who was supposed to attend the retreat but had a last minute conflict. Glitter Girl was definitely missed and will be expected to attend next year's 10-year anniversary bash, as are the rest of you that may have attended retreats in past years.
Scarlet Shimmer Girl!
Scarlet Shimmer Girl!


As an aside, there are many birth moms, me being one of them, that dislike being called heroes for the choice we made for our children. However, Lani, in one of the breakout sessions on Saturday, made a great point that I'd like to reiterate now. She said that people who choose to be policemen, firemen, and the like are often called heroes. She doesn't mean to say that they're not doing a wonderful and amazingly admirable thing. But they're also just doing their job when they put their own lives on the line to rescue us when we have need. I've often seen firemen or policemen being interviewed after a rescue and I can't remember any one of them saying much other than the fact that they were just doing their jobs. I know that when I say I don't like being called a hero that I want to take the focus off of me and the choice I made. I usually respond with a comment that I was just doing what I felt was best for my daughter as her parent and that many parents make choices every day that may hurt them but they feel it's best for their children. Of course usually the people calling birth moms heroes are people who view the recipients of our heroism as not our children, but our child's parents. However I suppose when viewed through the eyes of the definition of hero as it applies to our "everyday heroes" (policemen and firemen), being called a "hero" isn't quite so bad.

After a quick grab of breakfast foods in the hotel on Saturday morning, the main event got underway. The morning was spent in various breakout sessions. Melanie Mosberg led a session on letting go of a broken adoption and Lani led one on finding hero qualities in ourselves and others around us. We had a short break and then there were more breakout sessions to attend. Britney Parcher led a session on tools for dealing with our grief, and Michelle Thorne, author of her own published story on becoming a birth mother, led a session on each of us telling our own stories. I attended Michelle's session and Lani's session. I think that of the two I was able to attend, Michelle's session was inspiring because at least a couple of the people that attended are now being more vocal about being birth mothers and their own stories. Michelle and I both pointed out during the session that there is a lot of shame surrounding birth mothers and the decision to relinquish a child, both societal and self-imposed. Owning one's own story has the amazing ability to release some of the self-imposed and societal shame attached to being a birth mother. Though I did not start my own blog to accomplish that, it has had exactly that effect. I personally enjoyed Lani's session as well because it really helped me focus on the good in people in my own life, and the qualities that I want to emulate.

After lunch, the balloon release, and the taking of group pictures, we had the chance to hear a few speakers: Annie Lewis, an adoptee, Dr. Carmen Teague, an adoptive mom, and Terri Gake, a birth mom, published author and blogger for the BirthMom Buds blog. Though I enjoyed every speaker, and in fact hearing Dr. Teague talk about the moment her son was relinquished to her brought tears to my eyes, I got the most out of listening to Annie. I do plan to interview her on my blog, so stay tuned for that. Due to the fact that my daughter is an adoptee, I crave knowledge about the experiences and feelings she may have so that I can give her parents tools to deal with any issues that may arise. It is my fervent hope that she never has any issues directly related to being an adoptee. But if she does, then it is my job to understand those issues so that Nick and I, along with her parents, can help her process them.

Once the speakers finished, we segued right into the slideshow and then a candle lighting ceremony. For me as well as many other birth moms in attendance, these are the most emotional parts of the day. During the candle lighting ceremony, we start with one lit candle in a darkened room. Then the first person lights a candle and says a few words about their child and passes the light along to the next person who does the same thing. By the time everyone around the room has a lit candle, the room has gone from dark to nearly light. I like the significance of that, because although we light the candles for the children we relinquished, the fact that we light our own candles off the candle of another passes along a shared love and a shared support of one another. We as birth moms all deal with pain and loss due to our decision, no matter the shape of our relationship (or not) with those children. Acknowledging the pain of one another and sharing it helps lighten our own loads much as the room gets lighter as we pass the candle flame. The candle lighting ceremony officially ended the retreat though we had the opportunity to have dinner together that night and breakfast in the hotel the following morning to say our goodbyes.

It was an exhausting weekend, both physically and emotionally. But I wouldn't dare miss it. The love and support, and the renewing of lifetime friendships formed through our shared pains and joys as birth moms make this yearly tradition one I know I will continue as long as I am able.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wholeness or Holeness?



Ok, maybe "holeness" is not really a word, but ever since writing last week's post, I've been bothered by something that came out. Writing for me is oftentimes stream of consciousness and I will write something on the page before I put it together in my head. I'm weird like that.

Anyway, I made the comment that meeting some of you at the BMB Retreat healed me in ways I didn't know I needed. And that continues to bug me; that I  didn't know I still needed healing. Thought I was good - not perfect - but good. I've spent lots of years in counseling, writing, speaking, sharing, trying to work it all out. I can see now that I'm not done.

Maybe I'll never be done.

But back to the point of the post. What heals you? What makes you whole? A lot for me has been rooting my faith deeply in the God of the Bible. I have found that having my own children to parent fills me and heals me. And sharing with other women parts of my journey. And meeting other women like me.

My sister came for a visit this week. She knows me like she knows herself. Although we talk frequently, this was the first time I'd seen her since the BMB Retreat. After a few hours together, she looked at me and said, "Something's different about you. I can't put my finger on it, but you're off."

Maybe so. Somehow I feel more like myself than I ever have before. So tell me, what heals you? What makes you whole?


Photo credit

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Biology

 


"Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother"

I came across a pendant on Etsy inscribed with this quote, which I believe was originally from Oprah Winfrey (though I don't know the context in which she said it). The piece of jewelry was obviously targeting mothers who were adopting, but it left a sting and a desire to write about it.

Mothers who fall outside the traditional definition of motherhood often need a lot of comfort and support, whether they're stepmoms, birthmoms, adoptive moms, single moms, etc. As a birthmom, I needed to hear the opposite of what this pendant proclaimed: I am a mom. My decision was not loveless or selfish. And there is a love, motherly love and mother-child bond that is significant and should be acknowledged.

I understand that this thought is often voiced when we look at biological fathers and mothers who were absent in their children's lives emotionally, physically. There are so many unfortunate cases of both fathers and mothers who abandon their children, not in the context of adoption, but with cruelty and disinterest. Or perhaps more subtly, providing for their children physically and financially, but never showing their love or support, never truly developing a relationship.

But this is hardly the story I've heard when I talk to birthmothers. They don't choose to carry their child, often with social and familial shame, find a stable, loving family to provide for him, and choose to bear the burden of loss so that both they and their child can have a better chance at opportunity and change, because of neglect or selfishness. Birthmothers don't abandon their children, and they don't need to to be further shamed by others who belittle the importance of biology and what the mother of that child endured.

Adoptive parents are wonderful, special, essential people. I am beyond grateful for my son's parents, and so many adoption stories of those I know just warm my heart because of the genuine love and care and desire they have for these children in need. They are absolutely mothers and fathers - biology doesn't exclude them from that significant name.

And I recognize that because of the limited understanding of many in our society, they unfortunately run into hurtful comments that seem to segregate them from "real" parents. They certainly face many hardships from others due to ignorance, much like birthmothers.

So, what I wish I could see more of is support for both sides, education for both sides and comfort to both. But, not at the expense of others.

I don't wish to magnify birthmothers over parenting mothers or adoptive mothers or to cruelly crush the importance of someone else in order to make a case for whatever role I identify with.

And adoptive mothers, or stepmothers, don't have to degrade biology to prove the legitimacy of their family and their role.

Let's educate, let's use facts, show a loving example of who we are - whether a family brought together by love or a parents getting on their feet after choosing adoption - without crushing those opposite us.

Have you heard comments that you found hurtful as a birthmother? How do you react?



Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Dump Trucks of Love


Sometimes life gets in the way... The last several days have been a whirlwind of unexpected road trips, ER visits, and simply trying to catch up and prepare for some things on the horizon. For this reason I simply have not had a chance to sit down and write a proper blog post. 


However, I thought I would share a letter that I wrote to Frogger 4-5 years ago about his placement day. I know I have searched out they way others felt on that day. Birth families, adoptive families, even family and friends. 
Next week I promise I will be back with "fresh" material! Until then...
Dear Frogger, 
March 15, 1998 you became a part of your new family. This date holds so much more significance for me than your birthday, or mother’s day, or all the days you are in my heart and on my mind. 
For some reason this year seemed harder than it has been in a very long time. I’m not sure why that is. The day replayed over and over in my mind as if I had gone back in time. I remembered things I had been afraid I had forgotten. I remembered things clearly that have become fuzzy with time. 
You were 2.5 years old. We had made it that far. We had a bond that was beyond most simply because it had always been just you and me. I want to share that Sunday with you. 
I had taken every step imaginable to make the transition as easy as possible for you. I tried to pretend that everything was good. That I was happy. That the changes that were going to take place were normal. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing to be upset about. This was going to be a happy time for you. A time that you were being given the gift of a mom AND a dad. A time that would erase any memory of hardship and having to do without even the basic necessities. I made sure you were excited. I never let you see me when I was feeling the loss that was about to occur for me. 
On Saturday at 7:30pm, just as we had every day for the past 2.5 years. I tucked you in. I told you that tomorrow was the big day that you would go to your new house with R and P. I told you how it would be a big day, an exciting day and to make sure you got some “big sleep” (You always insisted it was big sleep, not good sleep). We said our prayers, we said goodnight to the moon, the trees, and about 25 other things. We had a routine and we stuck with it. 
You were always a good sleeper. You never woke up in the middle of the night. But that night you did. You woke up and called for me. It’s as if you understood that it was our last night together. The last night we would ever be considered mother and son to the world as a whole. When I walked into your room you asked if we could sleep together on the futon. We had never slept together and neither of us had slept on the futon. I told you no, that we both had to sleep in our beds just like always. You cried. You never cried over something so seemingly silly. You insisted that we “camp on the futon, Mummy, PLLLLEEASEEE”. So we did… 
You snuggled up to me and never let go of my hand. You woke me up on Sunday morning staring at me nose to nose. You didn’t want to get up and play like you normally did. You wanted us to camp some more. We had breakfast, we played, we did everything that we normally did. 
When it was time to go meet R and P, you happily put your coat on, you got your blanket and started out the front door. 
All of us met at PaPa’s office. You loved PaPa’s office… You ran around and laughed. You took turns giving all of us rides in PaPa’s desk chair. It seemed just like any other day all in all. 
I want to tell you more… but its too difficult right now. It’s to difficult to put my feelings into words. But, most importantly I want to tell you about that last moment that is so remarkably clear right now. I put you in your car seat in R and P’s car.You asked for an Eskimo kiss. Then you took those chubby hands on both sides of my face and pulled me down. You wiped the one tear that escaped in spite of my using every once of strength I had to not cry in front of you. You then said the words that will never leave my memories… 
“No cry Mummy! I love you fiffy building dump trucks every day Mummy.” 
I love you 50 Billion Dump Trucks each and every day too, Frogger! I hope that all my dreams for you come true. 
Love Always, 
Mummy
Please, share your experience of Placement Day! I would love to hear from each and everyone of you.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Music Monday: Everybody Hurts by REM

 
 
Everybody hurts
Take comfort in your friends.
Everybody hurts
Don't throw your hand. Oh, no
Don't throw your hand
If you feel like you're alone, no, no, no, you are not alone

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Quote of the Week: Sparkle!


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

Photo Credit

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day Weekend

You'd have to live under a rock to not know that it's Mother's Day weekend with all the commercials, displays, etc. It's a hard weekend for many birthmothers.

Try and be extra kind to yourself this weekend. Do something special for you such as take a long bubble bath, paint your toe nails a fun color, bake a yummy treat, buy yourself some flowers, or take a long walk.

No matter what anyone else says - you are a good Mother - you put your child's needs above your own feelings and that is what any good Mother would do.

Do something special for yourself - you deserve it!

And Happy Mother's Day!

Photo Credit 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Only


Hello girls! I could not wait to post this week. I'm still flying high from the weekend retreat, from traveling and from meeting so many of you. If you did not make it this year, consider putting it on your calendar for next year. You won't be disappointed.

Not really sure what my topic is today but I'm feeling the need to recap some of the weekend. I'm a slow processer, so I'm still going through conversations in my head and discovering more connections among us.

When I got back and friends started asking me how the weekend was, I found it difficult to assign a word to it like "fine" or "great" or even "awesome". Those singular words just didn't do it justice. So here's what I came up with when asked:  It was the first time that I wasn't The Only. I wasn't The Only:

  • mommy
  • wife
  • college graduate
  • birthgrandmother
  • friend
  • sister
  • homeschooler
  • daughter
  • one who was kicked out by her parents
  • one whose parents still don't discuss my birthchild 25+ years later
  • birthmom
The list goes on. And although we are all so different and our stories are as varied as we are, we have this common bond. This sisterhood. I described it to a couple girls at Sunday breakfast like this: "I feel like I've come to a family reunion of 35 sisters I didn't know I had and now I have lots of catching up to do."

For those of you that were there, thank you for sharing your hearts, your stories and your time.  You amaze me, inspire me, and heal me in ways I didn't know I needed.

For those sisters that weren't there, I hope you know you are truly not alone. It's not just a phrase to make you feel better. It's really true.

Love you Super Girls!



Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mother's Day

Seven months after the placement of my birthson, I was sitting in a chair next to my mom at church when the preacher called for all mothers to stand up. It was Mother's Day.

My mom stood and I was caught in a mental and physical trap, starting to stand, starting to sit. Yes, I gave birth...but am I a mom? What would everyone think, knowing I had no child to mother?

My mom looked at me and pulled me up.

Decision made.

Mother's Day is one of the most difficult days for most birthmothers that I know, myself included, especially in the beginning. Mother's Day forces us into a corner, which can be especially uncomfortable for those of us who haven't quite figured out where we fit, and who maybe haven't told and don't wish to tell those outside our close friends and family. Despite that decision to have a level of privacy, it can be heartbreaking and a source of insecurity if Mother's Day comes and goes, and no recognition is given to the birthmother, the mother without her child.

What may be on our minds all day and the day before and the day after, may never even cross the minds of those on the outside, simply because they haven't been in our shoes and don't realize the impact of such a day. We can't blame them, but that doesn't make it any easier.

Personally, this is why Birthmother's Day, the day before Mother's Day, and the celebration dinner offered by our adoption counselors was/is a much-needed escape and comfort to me. I know there are conflicted feelings, I know it would be easier if we could just be recognized as mothers and join in with everyone else on normal Mother's Day, but for me this was the outlet I needed to get through Mother's Day as I navigated the tumultuous and unfamiliar waters of healing. As the years go on, many feel comfortable celebrating Mother's Day - and that's great, that's something I desperately wished I could have found the strength and courage to do many years ago.

Recognition, acknowledgement is what is important. Support is necessary. My heart hurts to imagine the pain of so many birthmothers who lived during the era of unwed mother's homes and silence surrounding adoption; mothers who had to return home, never to speak of what happened again. Every day would have been Mother's Day to them; uncomfortable, unnoticed, painful, confusing, gut-wrenching.

So, whether it's on Birthmother's Day, whether it's a celebration specifically for a group of birthmothers, or whether it's Mother's Day and with your family or significant other or close friends: find that recognition and support. Lean on those who care for you, whether it's people who have always been there for you, or a handful of new women that have been brought into your life because of their life-changing decision that you can relate to so well.

Birthmothers are mothers. We aren't parenting our children and we do stand apart from traditional mothers - it's okay to acknowledge that difference - but that doesn't mean we go back to who we used to be; that doesn't mean we're the same as those who have never had children. Pregnancy, delivery and the decision to give our children what we couldn't provide are things that will change us and will never leave us. In order to properly heal, it is just necessary that we, in our own time and on our own terms, open up about our experiences and feelings, hurts and progress, even if just to a handful of trusted people. It's important, especially in the beginning, to have someone else tell you that you belong, you're not alone, and what you did was important, what you experienced was big, and what you're going through is healthy, normal, and that you'll find your way out of the emotional chaos to the other side eventually.

So, don't be afraid to celebrate this Mother's Day in whatever way makes you comfortable, and brings your heart peace!



Photo Credit


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Twists and Turns


The journey of adoption is filled with so many twists and turns. There are many turns and forks in the road along the way.

One of the most difficult aspects of placement is that things change. The future you plan for your child is not set in stone. The expectations don't necessarily happen. The circumstances that led you to choose placement also, God-willing, change as well.

As I have stated before I made a plan for my son's future. I wanted Frogger to have a mother and a father. I wanted Frogger to not have a life defined by financial struggle. I wanted Frogger to have the stability that I was unable to give him at that time.

Almost immediately there were HUGE changes. Within a year of placement, I began my career. I immediately doubled my salary. Within two years, I was getting married. Three years and we purchased a house in a great neighborhood, with great schools. Not only were we able to not struggle financially, but we took vacations and had savings.

On the other side, the AP's adopted another boy within only a few short months of Frogger's placement. I was happy for them. Proud that Frogger would have a brother to grow up with. But, that was not in MY plan. I expected for him to be an only child for at least a year. I expected that he would have a chance to settle in and adjust to his new life before there was another massive change. My feelings were at odds with each other. I was happy, yet, I was disappointed. I had in my mind that things would go a certain way. It was a difficult adjustment to accept that expectations are rarely met.

Although R & P never mentioned it, based on the pictures I received in the beginning, they separated within a couple of years and later divorced. What? How could this happen? At this point my life was everything I thought I was giving my son with R & P. I felt overwhelmed with questions, with grief.

Although, I still did not regret my choice, I would be lying if I said this wasn't a difficult time to remember that. I had to remind myself over and over that I needed to remember the circumstance of then. Not now. I had to believe in myself. I had to trust that I made the best decision for that time. I had to believe that although things may not have been playing out the same way I planned, that I did OK.

When you make an adoption plan you find yourself in a fantasy world. The one where everything works out like you hope. The one where all your expectations are met. As you travel the road you realize you can't see what is around that corner up ahead. You don't know what fork in the road you will take or the adoptive family will take.

I choose to believe that Frogger is happy. That his parents continue to provide for him. That both of his parents continue to be a huge and positive influence in his life. I can not guarantee that. But, I hope. I believe. I have to. I have to believe in them. I have to believe in me. I have to believe that Frogger is living the life that was intended for him.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Music Monday: Carrying Your Love With Me - George Straight



"On a lonely highway stuck out in the rain
Darlin all I have to do, is speak your name
The clouds roll back and the waters part
The sun starts shinin' in my heart for you
You're right there in everything I do...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Quote of the Week: Happiness

 "Happiness is to be found along the way, not at the end of the road, for then the journey is over and it is too late. Today, this hour, this minute is the day, the hour, the minute for each of us to sense the fact that life is good, with all of its trials and troubles, and perhaps more interesting because of them.

Friday, May 3, 2013

10 Questions Birth Moms Hate

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This is a cross post from my own blog. I published the original on Monday, and Coley liked it so much she asked me to post it here as well.

There have been a lot of blog posts recently about questions the infertile community hate as well as questions adoptive parents hate. Someone in one of the birth mom groups of which I’m a part asked us to give feedback about the questions we as birth moms hate to get, inspired by the “hate posts” circling around the internet right now. This in turn inspired me to write a post of my own.

1. What are you going to do with future children?

This one’s my “favorite.” Amanda Argyriadis, a fellow birth mom, says that she likes to answer this particular question with snark and sarcasm. “Oh you know, I was just planning on getting knocked up so I could go through the trauma and heartbreak of separation cause I don’t want my membership to incubators-r-us to be called into question.” She then said she likes to follow it with a raised eyebrow “and, if you can get away with it, a smack upside the head.” I particularly like the “smack upside the head.” This question rather brings to mind a “Here’s Your Sign” moment, coined of course by Bill Engval.

2. Is it co-parenting?

This question probably gets asked of adoptive parents in open adoptions more than birth parents living the same, but it bugs us as well. I suppose if you look at the word in the most literal sense, it is “co-parenting.” I retained my motherhood when I relinquished my daughter to adoption, therefore I am a parent just as her mom and dad are parents. However, I do not have input, nor do I expect it, in the way that my daughter is being raised. If her parents ever ask Nick or me for input on a specific situation, we will provide it. But we would no more expect our advice to be followed than any other friend or family member should expect in the same situation.

3. Don’t you love your child? Didn’t you want your child?

Yes. We love and want our children. If it was simple desire and love that were motivations for relinquishing or not, we would all be raising our children.

4. Aren’t you glad she/he is in a better place?

Ugh. Our children are not “better off” without us. When we place our children, we hope that their adoptive parent(s) are more prepared to parent our child than we are at the time, but it is not “better.” It is different, obviously. This terminology causes me and other birth moms to feel as if the person asking the question is implying our children are dead and in heaven.

5. The decision is done. Why don’t you move on?

A birth mom will never “move on.” We will never forget, nor should we. Whether we have open adoption relationships with our children and their parents or not, being a birth mom means that we have a lifetime of grief. We should move forward with our lives, but moving on implies something completely different.

6. Aren’t you happy you made your child’s adoptive parents happy?

Like I’ve said repeatedly, mothers who make the decision to place their children with adoptive parents do not do so to make those adoptive parents happy. We do so for the benefit of our children. While I’m personally happy that my daughter’s parents are happy with my daughter, this question implies that their happiness should have been my sole reason for placing. This is simply not true.

7. Are you taking it okay?

Taking what okay? The fact that I’ve chosen a lifetime of grief and loss so that my child could have parents that were more prepared to parent her than Nick and me? I’m sorry, but no one can be expected to take that sort of loss and be okay with it, no matter how at peace one is with the decision that has been made. I am at peace. I don’t regret the choice of adoption or the choice of my daughter’s parents, though I do regret the circumstances that led me to make the decision I made. But I will never be “okay” again. I will never go back to the way I was before I had and relinquished my daughter.

The rest of these are statements, though there are implied questions with each of them.

8. At least your child’s needs are well provided and she (or he) is happy.

I know this is meant as a consolation for the grief. But saying this says to us that the person making the statement assumes our child wouldn’t have been happy staying with us or that his or her needs wouldn’t have been well provided.

9. Don’t worry, you can always have more.

No child, no matter how loved and wanted they may be, will ever or can ever replace the loss of a child, whether that loss is from adoption or if that loss is caused by infertility issues. This is why I firmly believe that counseling is necessary and time for healing needs to take place if there are infertility issues that cause someone to consider adoption or if there is a loss due to adoption before those people bring another child into their home.

10. You’re not that child’s mother. You need to let that child go.

Just no. I will always be my daughter’s mother, just like my daughter’s mother will always be her mother. Relinquishing legal parental rights does not erase my biological connection to my daughter, nor does it erase any birth mother’s biological connection to her child. We can let go of the fact that we cannot parent our children in the “traditional” way, and I would argue that it is necessary to do that. But we cannot and should not ever try to let our connection to our children go.

What questions or statements do you hate to hear?


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Easy Way Out?


Recently The Skeptical Mother posted a photograph on Facebook of a young woman with her newly-born daughter. Though I haven't been able to confirm the story, the photo was posted under the description that it was taken moments before the baby was placed into the arms of an adoptive family. And though someone accused the story of being a fake, and probably the "agenda of pro-lifers", I find that assumption kind of silly since, photo or no photo, birthmothers exist, and that moment before the child is handed to the adoptive parents is a very real one.
Thousands of likes and comments ensued and I tried to keep up, scanning for negative remarks before they were thankfully deleted by the host. It's always amazing to me to see the things people find necessary to say, but I only want to focus on one comment for today (though I really would like to gather up common negative attitudes and misconceptions so that I could address them here).

"Way easier to give up than brave the adversity" and hints of the birth mother "taking the easy way out" stuck out to me.

Though it's very easy to react out of pain and hurt, something important we should remember when addressing those who are critical is to have compassion; it's the very thing we wish they would show, so it doesn't make much sense to stoop to their level with anger and sarcasm.

From the outsider's point of view, I can see what would make someone jump to this conclusion: black-and-white, shallow thinking. One route requires raising a baby and the other doesn't, therefore choosing the second route must be inherently easier.

I'll have to say that it wasn't what would be easiest for me that prompted me to make my decision. Like I've said, we planned on parenting for seven months, and the one time we seriously sat down to consider adoption before that, we both felt physically ill and discontinued the conversation.

Adoption did not seem easy or appealing. It was gut-wrenching and the opposite of what we wanted. The thought of going on alone after the birth of our child was too much for our hearts to bear at that time.

But time went on and I started looking at everything as a mother, with consideration of my son. Our relationship was deteriorating ...what effect would this have on our son? We were living paycheck to paycheck, and disagreed on how to spend or save our money, how would we afford a child? Our families were completely at odds and full of drama and disdain, what would this environment do to a growing, impressionable child? What about the fights? The drinking? Abuse? Screaming? Broken lamps and holes in the walls? Irresponsibility? Distrust? Depression? Lack of goals in life? Selfishness? Immaturity?

How could we take the easy way out and do what we wanted, instead of what this baby needed?

So, what did that mean for me after I became a birthmother?
I changed forever. I didn't completely mature overnight, but I wasn't the same teenager ever again.

Going home without a child is not the same as never having a child or never being pregnant; your mind and heart are forever affected and unfortunately the "out of sight, out of mind" rule doesn't apply. For the first couple of years (for me, at least) that's almost all you can think about, dream about. It's lonely and painful. It's depressing and sometimes embarrassing. Personally, I was left longing to have children; it became my goal in life, whereas before becoming pregnant, I hadn't given thought to being a mother. There's the decision of when to tell someone you're interested in dating, whether to shed light on your odd behavior at work (running to the bathroom crying, withdrawing from co-workers, glaring at families with babies...) or to save yourself from the uncomfortable conversation.

As you're healing, sometimes being a birthmother defines you and you scrutinize every acquaintance, wondering if or when you should tell them. Sometimes telling others isn't an option, sometimes even your family never knows, and you're forced to deal with your grief inwardly. And there is grief. So much grief. Sadly, the grief may be disabling and destroying when there isn't support and guidance on how to heal properly.

And then someday you may have children again, and all you can do is compare to your last pregnancy. Sometimes you're overcome with unexplainable fear or feelings of detachment, as though you only know how to deal with a joyous pregnancy through coping strategies.

And on top of all of it, you get to deal with judgmental and inappropriate comments from people who have never been in your shoes or even heard your story.

Some people are supportive, and yes good things happen after an adoption: I took care of my education and cleaned up my act. Why? Because I told myself I never wanted to take advantage of the decision I had made. I wanted R to be proud of me. I wanted him to see that it wasn't in vain - not for him, not for me. 

Whether parenting or adoption is chosen, there will be hardship, there will be downs, there will be ups, smiles and tears, rewards and heartbreak. Neither of them are easy, both come with costs and hardship. Even as a birthmother, I still only intimately know my own situation, and I can't throw out the blanket statement that says adoption is always or never the answer. Truly, we cannot judge each other so blindly.

But I can say, placing your child with an adoptive family is not the easy way out.
Or, to quote The Happiest Sad: "It’s not easy and it’s not an out."



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