Friday, December 30, 2011

What I've Learned This Year

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Because this is my last post of this year, I’m taking time to reflect on what I’ve learned.  This year, I’ve learned that language and terminology is important.  As I’ve gotten increasingly involved in the adoption world as a whole and more connected online and off as a result, language has made a huge difference.  Many of you who know me personally would not be surprised by this.  I tend to be very obsessive about people using proper grammar and spelling, especially in ad campaigns.  This obsession has very easily encompassed adoption terminology as well, since this is a subject about which I’m highly passionate.

I believe I’ve blogged previously about terminology in the form of a mention of using “adopter” instead of “adoptive parent” or simply “parent.”  Not being an adoptive parent myself, I’m certain you’re wondering why this irritates me.  I’m irritated by this because I not only have friends that are adoptive parents, but I have a good relationship with my daughter’s adoptive parents and feel this insults them as well.  I’m also irritated by the fact that this term is usually used by the same birth parents that expect to be treated with respect in terminology or otherwise and yet they can’t provide others with that same respect.  Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Many people who have not placed their kids with adoptive parents like to use the term “given up” instead of placement.  I, along with a lot of you I’m certain, need no explanation for the irritation and hurt that use of this term can cause.  To use the term “given up” implies that we gave up on our children.  To some people, this may be an accurate assessment, especially if they’re adoptees that feel abandoned by their birth parents for a “better life without them.”  However, I personally don’t know a single birth mom that has abandoned her child, at least emotionally.  She may have no control over whether she gets continual contact with her child and therefore that child might feel like his or her birth mom doesn’t care about him or her if that birth mom is not allowed contact.  I also know birth parents that have been cut off from contact with their children, and those birth parents have done everything but abandon those children.

We’ve carefully chosen the parents that we feel will raise our child with the things that we feel we cannot provide, whether physically, emotionally, or a combination of the two.  Even if we’re not able to communicate with our placed children on a regular basis, we still made that careful decision at the beginning to place them for adoption.

Another term that can cause hurt is “keep.”  This is especially relevant when a birth mom becomes pregnant with a child subsequent to her placement of another child, or in discussions between a birth mom and those who know of her placement about whether she will “keep” future children instead of use of the term “parent.”  I would argue that support, even emotional, of your child’s adoptive parents is a continual parenting choice and so wouldn’t only apply to the choice to parent future children instead of placing them.  However, use of the term “parent” instead of “keep” is a much less hurtful term.

There are quite a few potential pitfalls of terms, and I know that I haven’t been immune to use of a potentially damaging term in reference to either myself or others.  It’s still a learning process, and I’m glad that this past year afforded me opportunities to learn and grow.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Blue Holiday

This used to be the time of year, every year, that I would start sinking into despair. It wasn't fast, mind you. It was more like quicksand. After Thanksgiving, I would cross over that magical line of time from where there was no return. And throughout December, January, and February I would get lower and things would get darker. It happened every year, whether I meant for it to or not.

Getting to my birthdaughter's birthday in March was actually a relief. It meant that my life could go on. I could start smiling again. The dark days were behind me. Well, until the next time.

Grief is so like that. It has a mind of its own. I didn't plan to start sinking into depression after Thanksgiving. I didn't write it on my calendar so I wouldn't forget. In fact as the years went on, I didn't always recognize it at first. I would be just moving forward and then something would break or go wrong and I would just LOSE IT. And then, in my broken state, I would ask 'what is going on with me?' Then I would look at the calendar and it would dawn on me that it was early in the year and I was already dreading The Birthday.

So what's different now? I can't really say. I guess the years have given way to a busy family and I don't always have time to stop and look at the calendar. This has been a different sort of year for me as my birthdaughter's own family is growing. While reflective, I'm not sad. Not like I used to be. Time has helped. God has covered those places in my heart that are tender and he protects them for me.

I promise you that life will go on. You won't always grieve and be sad at holiday time or any other time. For me, the grieving time got shorter and shorter. I guess I'm still touchy around The Birthday. But now that I'm sleep-deprived most of the time, that day seems about like any other day.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

We know that Christmas is a hard day for many of you but we hope you are able to find some moments of peace today. 

Quote of the Week: Christmas

"At Christmas play and make good cheer, for Christmas comes but once a year.
- Thomas Tusser

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Birthmother's Christmas

This is one of my favorite poems written by fellow birthmom and friend, Shonna K. 

She eloquently expresses the fact that Christmas is a hard time for birthmothers and that Christmas just isn't the same once you become a birthmother.........

A Birthmother's Christmas
by Shonna K. 

It was the night before Christmas
and all through the world
Birthmothers were praying
for their precious boys and girls.

One certain Birthmother
Was trying not to mourn
For this Christmas was the first
Since her baby had been born

Knowing her decision
Was one for the best
She lights a candle in memory
Then sits down to rest.

The wick of the candle
flickers with light
The wind outside is howling
She finds little comfort on this lonely night

For this is the first of many
She will feel this great loss
For her child reaps the benefit,
She simply pays the cost

She takes out an album
And gently dusts off the cover
It is all she has left
To feel like a mother.

She treasures each photo
of her little one
They are her only ties
To her precious son.

Silently a tear
Slips down her cheek
She wipes it away quickly
So she doesn't appear weak.

Christmas will never
be the same again
She will always be thinking
of her little man.

She knows through her pain
For him this was right
But her unselfish deed
Gives little comfort that night.

Her arms are still empty
Her heart is still breaking
He is with somebody else
And she is left aching.

Her heart sits on each page
Of that photo book
In his eyes, his little face
The way that he looks.

The clock strikes midnight
It is officially Christmas morn
The first that he's had
Since the day he was born

She can't hide her pain
She can't hide her tears
This is the first of many
Long, painful years

But the light that she sees
At the end of all this
Is the smile on his face
He is truly blessed

With that thought
She slowly readies for bed
To sleep all night
Dreams of him in her head

She slowly lays down
And heads off to sleep
Knowing his memory
She will always keep.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Spotlight Blogger: Meet Joniece

This week's featured blogger is Joniece of "'Mistakes' Becoming Miracles."  Let's find out a little more about Joniece...

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).

I'm Joniece (john-iece) and I am 22 years of age, and I live in the United States of America... I say that because I don't really reside anywhere due to my job (I am a Flight Attendant), but you can find me mainly in El Paso, Houston, or Newark. I got pregnant at 18, and at that time, my son's birthfather and I were on less-than-ideal terms. I wanted a specific life for my son, one I could not provide single handedly. I wanted one where he had two parents who were married and loved each other, who could provide an amazing, loving, life for my little boy. I can honestly say (3 years after placement) it was the best decision I could have made. Read my blog for more :)

When and why did you begin blogging?

I began blogging I believe in 2009, so about 2 years ago. I think I began blogging primarily because I wanted to share my story. I am a very honest person, I typically don't sugar coat things and I felt that on a sensitive subject such as adoption and placing, people had the right to hear sensor-free experiences. Not to mention it's a journey that Gavin can one day read and an outlet for me to express my feelings.

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

The title of my blog is "Mistakes" Becoming Miracles... It's pretty self explanatory, but regarding adoption although my son was definitely not a mistake... making the choice to participate in the act of creation before I was ready certainly was... so it's more about something that is frowned upon or has a negative connotation becoming something beautiful and miraculous.. ie. Gavin 

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

Definitely mostly positive, I have had a few negative responses hear and there WHICH I LOVE let me tell you, because it gives me a chance to see where other people are coming from, and I love the fact that not everyone has the same opinion as me... but I address those accordingly, and move on. I have been lucky though! I adore my readers :)

 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?

Well since my blog is a "journey" I consider all of them a must read, but if I MUST pick one haha, I definitely think it is the blog called "My letter to you,", which addresses young expectant mothers who have found themselves in the same or similar situation I found myself in some 4 years ago... if there is any post that reiterates the purpose of my blog it is that one.. it's more saying "Hey you aren't alone in this!  I know."

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

Honesty and knowledge. If you want to start your own blog, it should probably be about something you have experienced or are knowledgeable about, that way you can be of some benefit to your readers, and anything you write about should be typed or said in the up most honest way possible. I am a very opinionated individual and some of them aren't always pretty, but I try to be as raw and as honest as I can be about the ups and downs of adoption, and I think most people should do the same regarding whatever their blog is about!

*Photo used with permission

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dear Myra

Dear Myra,

Remember me? Your old roommate?

I can't believe it's been 25 years already. You have just celebrated a big milestone. I'm curious: are you reunited? Is he a part of your life? What's he like? And most of all, do you regret your decision?

Remember the couple years after when we kept in touch? You came to visit me in Branson one summer and we had such a good time. At a time when I didn't feel like I had a friend in the world, there you were.

And when we went to visit your dad? How fun was that! I remember strolling the beach handing out gospel tracks and talking to people about Jesus. Fueled by our common experience, we were so on fire!

I'm curious. Do you still love God?

Thank you for being such a friend to me. I'm so sorry we lost touch. I look for you every year about this time hoping you have appeared on some forum somewhere. So far, no luck. But maybe someday we'll cross paths again. Until then, know that you are in my prayers and I am indebted to your friendship.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday Heartache

The holidays bring up sadness and heartache for me as they do other birthmothers when they should bring happiness and joy. I'm not saying that I'm not happy but there is something missing, something that my heart yearns for. It yearns for seeing my son, to see him open his gifts on Christmas, to see him get so excited over being with family, and eating ham and sugar cookies.

During these times I tend to pull away, I tend to be non-communicative. I just want to be able to hold him, to tell him Merry Christmas, to tell him how amazing he is and that the miracle he is will never go unnoticed, even from Santa. But at this time of the year I know that isn't possible. I hope in the future that I will be able to see him and be with him on Christmas. I know that I shouldn't complain because I got to see him on his 1st birthday, and be there to celebrate with him, but I just can't shake the feeling that I want more. And that's hard to ask for since he lives 2,000 miles away.

I know that he is going to be surrounded by his amazing family, friends, and parents that I could ever ask for, but I always think to myself..."does he wish I was there?, does he think of me? does he know I'm missing?" And I know that is something I shouldn't be thinking of because well, he's 18 months old, but I always wonder if him as a child of adoption that he knows something is missing.

I feel like something is missing, I know something is missing and I feel it every single day and unfortunately this time of the year just exacerbates those feelings. I guess it's even more apparent when my sister-in-law is due to have her baby this month and my baby fever will just get worse. Seeing my family and friends having their babies during Christmas makes me wish that I could have him around just to know that I am with him. And I know that I have two other children at home that I am so very grateful for, but unfortunately this time of year makes my heart ache worse then ever.

And my heart seems to be aching so much more, now that he's getting older. In 6 months he will be 2 and I will no longer be considered a "new birth mom" I will just be well...I will just BE.

Why is it that there is never a day of rest? Or a day where I don't wish to kiss him? to hold him? to snuggle him? or to see his face? I see him in my children, because he is a part of me, and sometimes that makes it worse.

How do the holidays make you feel? How do you cope?

Quote of the Week: Learn, Live and Hope

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning." - Albert Einstein

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Importance of Ornaments

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The tree is a Christmas icon.  If you celebrate Christmas, you most likely set up a tree.  What do we put on those trees?  Why, lights and ornaments, of course.  We all have our preferences for ornaments.  Some of us like to have a particular theme, say all balls of one color with tinsel to match, or a couple of different colors.  Maybe you collect a certain type of ornament.  You could collect all Star Trek ornaments, birds, nutcrackers, angels, or snowmen, to name a few.

I personally have a lot of different ornaments on my tree.  I love Mickey Mouse, so now that Nick and I are combining our ornaments on our tree, I like to add at least one Mickey Mouse ornament each year.  I also add an ornament to the tree for each year Nick and I have been together.  This year it was a Mickey Mouse picture frame ornament, though I’d already selected a Hallmark Mickey Mouse ornament as well.  Two Mickey Mouse ornaments are always better than one!

Since my daughter was born, it’s also become very important to me to put an ornament on the tree each year for her.  If I were raising my daughter, I’d either allow her to choose an ornament for herself every year or I’d select one for her if she was too young to select one herself.  I also strongly believe that putting an ornament on the tree for her every year is a way of not only honoring her, but honoring the choice I made to place her.

Some people might argue that placing an ornament on the tree for my daughter every year when I’d do it anyway is rather like allowing a fantasy to continue where I’m raising her myself.  Fantasies and what-ifs are a valid grieving mechanism to relieve ourselves from the pain, even temporarily.  Other people might say that putting an ornament on their trees for children that they’re not raising only serves as a reminder of what they’re missing every year.  Both are reasonable arguments, and I agree with both.

This holiday season has been particularly rough for me – more than it was last year.  I have no idea why, there’s no logical reason.  But it is what it is.  I’ve made ornaments previously for my daughter (Christmases 1 & 2), but this year’s ornament is still not finished.  All I have to do is put the printed picture in the ornament ball, put some “foliage” in with it and I’m done, but I cannot bring myself to complete it.  My AWESOME secret sister made ornaments for not only me & Nick, but our daughter too.  When I opened the box and saw those, I started crying.  Maybe I subconsciously knew that finishing the ornament for my daughter would cause me to cry and I’ve been avoiding that aspect.

Since Christmas is next Sunday, my goal is to have the ornament that I’m making for my daughter completed by the time this post is published.  I’ve already cried over an ornament for my daughter, so hopefully I won’t cry again.  It is okay to cry, I know, but it hurts too, and I’ve been trying to concentrate on the joy of the season instead of the grief.  I know that completing the ornament and putting it on the tree will be healing for me too, even if it causes me to cry again.

I leave you with a challenge: start a tradition of buying or making an ornament every year for your placed child.  I think you’ll find that even though it can be painful, it can be healing too.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Gingerbread Man

Ooooohhh I just love this time of year! I love everything about it. I mean seriously, what other time of year has its own food, its own stories, its own movies and its own soundtrack?

One story that really has our attention this year is The Gingerbread Man. For those not familiar, let me quickly recap what happens. A mother is making cookies with her son. She thinks it would be fun to make a cookie in the shape of a boy. After putting the cookies in the oven, she runs out for a quick minute but before she does she instructs the boy to look after the gingerbread man. “We do not know what he may do.”

Well, the boy quickly tires of watching the cookies and steps away from the oven. As soon as he does, the gingerbread man leaps to life, hops out of the oven and runs away. The rest of the story is about all the people trying to catch up with the little man. Run, run, run, as fast as you can, he taunts, You can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man!

Such a silly little story, but a good reminder that I can’t outrun who I really am. Warts and all, Christmas is still coming. It doesn't matter if I’m ready or not. It doesn't matter if I feel up to it or not. There is no denying the fact that Christmas is just around the corner.

So how do I cope? Do I run through the holiday season like the gingerbread man, only stopping after the first of the year? Or do I saunter through the next month only to be devoured by the wolf at the end? (Oops.. spoiler alert too late!)

Neither actually. As a wife, a mommy, a birthmom and all the other things that I am, I do what I can do. I enjoy the season and participate as much as I can without wearing myself out. I recognize that this is a tiring time of year and I allow myself breaks, naps and times to just watch a movie or read a book. There are so many options right now on top of my regular responsibilities. It’s still okay to say ‘no’ to some things.

How are you getting through this season? How are you enjoying Christmas while still taking care of yourself?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Quote of the Week: Strength

"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will." - Mohandas Gandhi

Friday, December 9, 2011

Spotlight Blogger: Meet Alli

Alli with Samantha, her placed daughter*
This week's featured blogger is Alli of "I'll Be Loving You."  Let's find out a little more about Alli....

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).
Hi! My name is Alli Rutland. I am 25 years old and from Utah. In 2005 I was 18 when I learned I was pregnant. My boyfriend and I had just broken up and I knew we weren’t meant to get married so I was led immediately to adoption.

When and why did you begin blogging?

I started blogging a few weeks after my daughter Ava was born in 2010. I was experiencing motherhood for the first time and with a very colicy baby I realized how difficult motherhood is. Even WITH a husband! I wanted to write honest posts about how I felt about my adoption now, as a married mother. I want people to KNOW that it WILL BE OK and adoption is often a beautiful option for everyone involved.

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

"I'll Be Loving You" is from a song I heard while I was pregnant. The full lyrics are “I’ll be loving you, love me.” Samantha is living her own life with her own family but I’ll always be loving her.

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

I can’t think of any negative comments that have come through my blog. I have had a few mean ones in life though.

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?

I would suggest "You Will Be Okay."  It talks about how being sad is normal, but life does go on and things do get better. It is so important to me that girls know that adoption IS an option and a good one!

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

Be honest, think of how others will read what you are writing and DO IT!

*Photo used with permission

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Almost a Birthmother

I know I've said it before, but if you throw out the word adoption anywhere, you are likely to get a response.

Sometimes it's visceral. Sometimes it is someone who whispers their story to you in secret. It's almost always surprising.

Today was no different.

I was just going about my day catching up on emails on totally unrelated matters when a friend's response was about the business at hand. But in her second paragraph she started, "And by the way, I've been reading your blog...." She then delved into her own painful story of unplanned pregnancy. She told me about her own decision to parent her son with lots of family support.

But then she sent a second email. That email told about how just a few years ago, she had learned that if she would have been any younger, her parents would have forced her to place her child with an adoptive family.

She definitely feels like God's timing was perfect in that situation. And now she cannot imagine life without her son.

The decisions we make today affect our tomorrows. In the case of any pregnant lady, the decision affects ALL of the tomorrows. Just one more story for the books.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Quote of the Week: Live

"Life is short; live it. Anger is bad; dump it. Fear is awful; face it. Love is rare; grab it." - Unknown

Friday, December 2, 2011


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With the holidays all around us many of us, including me, struggle with feelings of sadness, anxiety, and depression when we’re “supposed” to be happy.  We may go through the motions and even have moments of pure joy.

Though my daughter is still young at just over 2 and therefore I haven’t been on this birthmother journey for very long in the whole scheme of things, I’ve felt recently as if I shouldn’t be sad.  After all, I have a great relationship with my daughter’s parents, talking to T via email approximately once a week.  We haven’t had a visit since the beginning of October, but that’s to be expected.  We’re all very busy, especially in the midst of the holiday season.  I already know that T has ordered us some pictures and is planning to send us their Christmas card as well.  Also, this isn’t my first time through a holiday season without my daughter.  I did this last year and survived just fine.  Technically I’ve been through 2 holiday seasons without my daughter, but the first one was rather unique as I was also dealing with my man’s deployment.

There are birthmoms who will read this and say that they’ve been on this journey for much longer than I have, and those who may be encountering the holidays for the first time after placement.  The grieving process is much newer for those birthmoms, so I tend to give them a pass, so to speak.  I look at myself and think, “Why am I sad?  I shouldn’t be!”

But recently I’ve realized that it’s okay to be sad, no matter how new or old your placement.  It doesn’t matter if you placed 23 years ago and are hopefully in reunion or if you placed 2 months ago and the wounds are still acute.  Certainly we don’t want to be stuck in that sadness if at all possible especially if we’ve gone through several of the grieving stages already, but it is okay to revisit those stages more than once.

I have a birthmom friend who is experiencing her first holiday after placement, though she placed at the beginning of this year.  She has sent me texts acting puzzled as to why she might be thinking of her daughter more than usual and being sad about it.  I’ve told her that it’s okay to be sad, and especially the holidays cause us to think more about our children than usual and that’s okay too.  Apparently I have issues listening to my own counsel.  No more!  It’s okay to be sad.   I don’t have to have a specific reason or trigger to think about my daughter and be sad or miss her more than usual, and neither do you with your own placed child.

I will give myself a break this holiday season.  I will allow myself to grieve when the feelings come, and I will not be ashamed of them or try to change them.  Will you?