Thursday, July 31, 2014

Boundaries are hard work!

I know I’ve been on a boundaries and limit-setting path lately but only because that’s where I am in my life. While I don’t want to beat a dead horse, after spending the weekend with my mom something very important came to me and I had to share it with you. I’ve talked about the types of boundaries and who to set limits with. We’ve also talked about moving the line when needed and how to reinforce those limits.
But I have neglected the obvious and it’s this: Keeping boundaries is h-a-r-d work. A week with my mother has served as a good reminder. It’s hard work to be ok with constant discomfort. My whole weekend with my mom was awkward because I refuse to give in to her demands that I live a certain way and speak a certain way. It is uncomfortable to constantly watch someone you love bang their head against your boundary.

Furthermore, it is painful to feel the distance between you and that family member or that person you love because you refuse to give in to whatever they want you to do or say or be.
Why am I telling you this? Because if you feel this way, then you are doing it exactly right! Yay for you! I can tell you after a week of living in this constant state of being on guard I am exhausted to the point of tears. I am sad that I feel so far removed from my mom. But I am proud of myself for holding my ground. I feel excited that I am healthy enough to stand up for myself with someone who says she loves me acts that way.

You are not alone. You can do this. You may not get it right the first time. Or the sixteenth. But keep trying. Don’t give up. You can do it!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Music Monday: I'm Already There by Lonestar

"I'm already there
Take a look around
I'm the sunshine in your hair
I'm the shadow on the ground

I'm the whisper in the wind
I'm your imaginary friend
And I know, I'm in your prayers
Oh I'm already there"

If you have any suggestions for songs to use, feel free to email me or post a comment!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Quote of the Week: Solving Problems

“‘I must do something’ always solves more problems than ‘Something must be done.’”

If you have any suggestions for quotes, feel free to email me or post a comment!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Weird Conversations

In the four years since my child was born, I’ve had some weird conversations.  I don’t mean having the conversations one does about my experience as a birthmother.  And I don’t mean having to patiently explain that this isn’t a divorce, this isn’t a custody thing, and this isn’t temporary.  I signed away my rights and my child is gone from me.  But conversations that I simply never expected to have.  And sometimes, I had those conversations because the people who came to me didn’t know where else to go or who else to tell it to.

Several months ago, a friend of mine came to me in tears.  Her first words to me were, “I wish I had placed my daughter for adoption instead of keeping her and giving her this life.”  My friend is a single mother.  When we talked about my son and all the choices made, she told me she had considered adoption, but just couldn’t.  She was in a very different situation than the one I had been in so I didn’t fault her for her choices.  When she came to me with this sudden statement, I calmly reminded her that while she is a single mom, she is keeping a roof over her child’s head, her child is happy, well fed, and doing quite well as far as I can see.  Then I asked what prompted this.

As it turns out, her daughter, who is now seven I believe, is starting to figure out that not everyone just lives with mom.  Most people live with mom AND dad.  Her father has never been an abusive or bad influence in her life, just a very absent one.  And because she is seven, she just doesn't understand everything right now.  I assured my friend that this was not a case of her being a bad mother or making the wrong decision when her daughter was born.  This was simply a matter of a bad day and a girl who is growing up.  And as every child grows up, they want to fit in.  She bemoaned not giving her child a normal life which I had to counter with,

“Hon, MY kid isn't going to have a normal life either!  Yes, he has a mom and dad who are at home and care about him.  But he also has a birthmother he gets to see a lot, a birthfather that I hope he will see more of in the future, and sooner or later he’s going to have to reconcile all of that in his little brain and fit it together so that he understands.  His life isn't normal, no one’s life is normal.  The best you can do is be the best parent you can for your kid.  And I already know you are doing your very best.”

Then recently, I had another conversation that I never expected to have.  I was showing a long-time friend pictures of my son from the birthday party earlier that day.  That was when she told me she’s had a long-held desire to act as a surrogate for a couple at some point in her life.  I've known her a long time, and while I was slightly surprised by her confession, it didn't really shock me.  What kind of shocked me was what she said next.

“Would you-since you ended up being an unwilling surrogate essentially-would you be angry with me for doing that?”

“No!  No, I wouldn't be mad at all.  I would caution you.  It is a very taxing thing on the mind and the body and the emotions and even knowing the child isn't going to be yours, you’ll still have a connection to that child and you will still have something growing inside you and it’s going to have an effect on you.  But no, if that’s something you want to do for a couple, I would not be mad at you at all.  And if you wanted me to help you out with the emotional aftermath, I will be there for you.  If you want me to be around before that, or just keep away, or whatever you want me to do, I’d do it.”

She nearly cried.  I nearly cried.  But I was, once again, speaking in all honesty.  For some parents, that’s the route they want to go, and I understand it completely.  I think my friend was really worried about coming to me to complain about her aching back, her swollen ankles, the emotional aftermath, and how easily I could turn and say to her, “You asked for it.  Don’t complain to me.”

I could do that.  But I can’t.  Even if she did ask for it and I didn't, I couldn't be that mean to someone who is doing a truly wonderful and beautiful thing for someone else.  I try very hard not to compare people and their lives and situations to each other.  What one person can survive, others may not be able to.  Our situation is one that most can’t understand unless they have had to make the choices themselves.

What weird and strange conversations have you had with those in your life who know about your kids?  Has anyone else had weird conversations like this?  Or am I the lucky only one?  Ha ha!  It won’t bother me if it’s true.  I’ve been privy to many facts of my friends’ lives that others will never hear of.  Mostly this is because I’m known for my non-judgmental stance to almost everything and my ability to be a secret keeper.  But I know I never would have had these conversations were I not a birthmother.

Friday, July 25, 2014

BMB Reform Blog: Coley's Thoughts

Our Beautiful Coley
    Hello again readers!  I am sorry it has taken me a bit to put my second blog up.  It has been one crazy hectic month over here!

    For this blog, I thought I would start with a question and answer session with none other than one half of the founders of BMB...Coley!  We all know and love her, so I thought it would be a great idea to get inside her head a bit and see why adoption reform is important to her!  


1.  Please tell us your name and a brief intro to your story.
Well, I’m Coley and if you’re reading this blog, you probably know who I am! In one sentence, I placed my son in an open adoption directly following his birth twelve years ago. Since then, I co-founded BirthMom Buds with Leilani and I have been active in the adoption community writing, speaking, and educating others about the bittersweet turmoil an expectant mother considering adoption and birthmothers face. If you’d like to read my adoption story in its entirety, you can do so here.

2.  Are there any aspects of adoption you would like to see changed?
There are so many issues in adoption that need to be changed that I could write multiple pages on them but the one that I think doesn't get enough air time so to speak is singing relinquishment papers in the hospital. I think signing papers in the hospital while recovering from childbirth needs to be outlawed. Signing papers to terminate your parental rights is a HUGE decision one that deserves to be treated with somber importance. Divorce papers or even papers to buy a house are signed in offices or court rooms and in my opinion treated with more importance than signing relinquishment papers cross legged in your pajamas sipping a soda on a hospital bed. At the very least they could be signed in an office or conference room in the hospital.

A couple of other issues I find important are separate (from the adoptive parents) legal representation for placing mothers, open adoption contracts, more uniform adoption laws from state to state (to eliminate state shopping), access to birth certificates for adoptees, and better rights for biological fathers.

3.  What does adoption reform mean to you and why do you think it's important?
Adoption reform means working together as a community of birth parents, adoptive parents, adoptees, adoption professionals, and anyone with a heart or passion for adoption coming together with a common goal to improve adoption for all involved.

Also, I think it’s important to keep in mind that just because one is passionate about adoption reform doesn't necessarily mean they had a bad adoption experience or they are angry. While my adoption experience has been mostly positive, through this vast community of birthmothers I have learned that positive experiences are not always the norm. There is much work to do, my friends.

Much thanks to Coley for participating in this!  Wonderful answers!!

If you or anyone you know would like to be interviewed for this section, or if you have an important reform topic you would like discussed, please feel free to email me!  I look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Disapproving Friends

How do we express our boundaries when a friend disapproves of our actions? Recently I was having a conversation with a rather good friend. She has been supportive of my writing endeavors and I told her about some recent events. She then asked me if I had told my mother about all I was doing. I said no and was shocked by her disapproving look. I started to defend myself but then thought better of it. Shouting at her over the roar of the bowling alley is not my style, so I chose to wait until I got home and link her to some of what I've already written about that most difficult relationship.

Later that night as I was reflecting on the day, I started writing in my journal. Apparently I had a lot to say! My reasoning goes something like this. The closer I grow to God, the more myself I become. It's not about being anything other than who God made me to be. My friend thinks I'm wrong to do the blogging that I do without first talking to my mother. I guess I can either live what's left of my life for my mom or I can live it for God. I'm trying my best to honor her, but I won't let fear dictate how I live or what I say or do. I feel like I kept my mouth shut for so long because she didn't want me talking about 'it'.

But that's not who I am anymore. I have a brain and a mouth and I know how to type and as long as you, God, give me words to say and an audience, I'm going to keep talking and writing.

So who is it in your life that is holding you back? Who is it that despite all your efforts and hard work still calls you names? We've been talking about boundaries a whole lot here, and I believe this is more of that same theme. Because she is my mom and I love her, I continue to fight to find a way to have a relationship with her. But I can't do that without knowing what my limits are and how to express them in a way she can understand.

This life is exhausting girls. I'm so glad I am not on this path alone.

Photo credit

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tell Your Story

Historically, birthmothers have been a population of women who have been bullied into silence.  And there were always reasons that at least seemed important at the time.  Mostly they were attached to how the community and society would see the woman and her family.  Women were supposed to be good and pure and polite.  Talking about an unplanned pregnancy at tea time would mostly likely make the older women in the room faint.  Even if that pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, there was still shame and fear heaped upon the women in these impossible situations.  While today unplanned pregnancies aren’t met with anywhere near the shame and societal pressures they were once met with, somehow, when one is a birthmother, we are still expected to keep silent.

I’ve been thinking about this a good deal of late; mostly because I've gotten more comfortable with telling my friends and co-workers about my son.  For a time there I only spoke to family, the small handful of friends I had who knew, and the birthmothers that I met through a support group run by the adoption agency I placed through.

My family didn't know really what to say.  My parents were also trying to understand why I had made my decision and what it meant about them.  I had to tell them at one point that in the end, this wasn’t about them.  This was about me, my boyfriend, and our son.  I had to make this decision for the three of us.  My parents’ age and health was a factor.  But it was not the only, nor the deciding factor.  It took us a couple of years before we could get to a point where we could talk to each other about it.  For a time there, it was painful on both sides and it was easier at times to just not talk about it.

My friends also didn't really know what to say.  I didn't expect them to.  I had suddenly apportioned myself off from everyone my age.  Anyone I knew who had gotten unexpectedly pregnant before had either terminated the pregnancy, had a miscarriage, or chose to give birth to and parent the child.  What I was going through, none of them ever had.  No one was sure what to do or what to say to me.  In the subsequent years, I have told others.  I have found a couple of birthmothers and a few adult adoptees who have helped me and have made me feel less alone.  My current circle of friends knows everything there is to know.  These friends have been the closest friends that I've had in a while.  We've gotten good at reading each other’s tone and each other’s mood.  And they know that I am going to my son’s birthday party tomorrow afternoon.  And I've been invited to one of the circle’s birthday party tomorrow night.  He’s declared that if I don’t feel up to it, he won’t be upset or insulted if I don’t appear at his party.  I told him I would let him know one way or the other.  Right now, I think I can do it.  But this kind of empathy I don’t find with every one of my friends.  So I count myself lucky when I do.

The other birthmothers that I have met and have become friends with are the ones who have almost understood everything I am going through and everything that I am saying.  Now and again a situation will come up that no one has faced before, but they make me feel less crazy when they say, “Oh honey, I would have no idea what to do either.  I’m so sorry.”  One birthmother in particular, K, has been a good close friend and a great support to me over the past few years.  Her daughter is several years older than my son.  Thus things like my sadness over missing the first steps, the first words, and the stake to the heart that is hearing him say “Mama” for the first time to someone who isn't me, were always met with understanding and kindness from her.  I saw her for the first time in months last week and it was a relief to speak to her since my son’s birthday was coming up so soon.  Hopefully I will be seeing her next month.

I have told my story and talked about being a birthmother in one other venue, and it is almost always to a room that is at least half strangers.  I have told stories.  I have read poetry.  I have called attention to the fact that birthmothers are out there and have stories to tell.  We shouldn't be ashamed of what we did and we shouldn't let others make us feel ashamed.  There are those who are shocked by my story.  There are those who gain a better understanding of me.  There are still others, I’m sure, who judge and dismiss me.  They wish that people like me, and the other birthmothers I know, would be quiet and keep shameful things like what I did to myself.  I’m not ashamed of what I did.  Most days I’m at peace with my decision.  Some days are harder than others.  I know that my son is where he needs to be in order to have the best life that he can.

My hesitance to share my story at times comes solely from my fear of how others will treat me and how they will react to my story.  While I know I did the right thing for my child and no one can tell me different, it does still sting when someone tells me that I abandoned my child.  It does still burn when they stare at me like a monster who left their kid on some street corner to be picked up by God knows who.  And it does make me feel about two inches tall when they tell me that surely with my family and my boyfriend and his family there was a way to make it work.  There was.  But that way would have been extremely difficult for everyone involved and my boyfriend and I knew better.  We knew that our son would suffer.  And that was something that we could not allow.

Our stories are stories that need to be told.  Our stories are important and should be acknowledged for their importance.  All of you have a story to be told and everyone’s is unique.  I encourage all of you, tell your story.  Write it, talk it, act it out, whatever you have to do, but please, tell your story.  Don’t be scared of it or ashamed of it.  It’s part of who you are and you should honor it.  If people judge you for it, that’s their problem.  There will be so many others who will love you for it and still others who will gain bravery and strength from it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Remember the Journey

There are some days after placement that you will never feel whole.  However, there are the other days where love and peace surround you.  Those days are very rejuvenating and necessary for the soul to replenish itself.

Remind yourself how blessed you truly are for how far you have come in your life's journey.  Even if you have just five minutes, close your eyes and mentally walk through the steps you slowly took to get you where you are today.

Don't forget to express gratitude for those who supported you and helped you when you couldn't walk one more step.  "Gratitude is the key to abundance."

Relax and enjoy these moments.  Write about them and re-read them when you are having a rough day.

I listen to this song to remind me of my own path.... Reach for the Light by Steve Winwood.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Music Monday: Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men

"And some days I can't even dress myself
It's killing me to see you this way

'Cause though the truth may vary
This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore"

If you have any suggestions for songs to use, feel free to email me or post a comment!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Quote of the Week: Voice Inside Your Fears

"If you listen closely you'll hear a small voice hidden in the dim shade of all your fears that whispers, 'this isn't real.'"

If you have any suggestions for quotes, feel free to email me or post a comment!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Word about Encouragement

I have had a very good lesson on encouragement recently. Those of you that know me don't laugh, but I joined the summer softball league at church. No, sports are not my thing. But I felt like God wanted to grow me somehow through the experience. So I joined and toughed it out.

Growing up, I was the dancer in the family and my sister was the athlete. So the laughter that spilled out of her when I told her about signing up was understandable. But I'm not afraid to try new things, so I was not deterred.

Mostly I have held my own during our games, but two recent games really stand out to me. In the first, I had my kids there cheering me on and a teammate who was constantly giving me positive messages. In the second, I had neither. Consequently, the first of those games I played very well and connected with the ball several times. In the second, I struck out every time I was at bat.

This has reminded me how important it is to encourage one another. The Bible says it this way in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 "therefore encourage one another and build each other up...".

This group is so good at doing that. I love the way we can share our joys and our struggles with each other and instead of judgment, we receive encouragement to stay in it, to fight the good fight and to have hope.

Thanks girls for being here for each other. That encourages me this day.

Photo credit

Monday, July 14, 2014

Music Monday: 1000 Years by Christina Perri

"I have died every day waiting for you
Darling, don't be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more

And all along I believed I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me
I have loved you for a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more"

If you have any suggestions for songs to use, feel free to email me or post a comment!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Quote of the Week: Key to the Universe

“The bad news: there is no key to the universe. The good news: it was never locked.”

If you have any suggestions for quotes, feel free to email me or post a comment!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Searching for Normalcy

Currently I am sitting at a sandwich shop with eleven other women.  I’m typing on a laptop.  They are whittling away with knitting needles and crochet hooks.  This is my once-a-month knitting group.  Every second Thursday of the month we get together, knit, crochet, and talk to each other on just about every single subject under the sun.  I've had conversations about cheese, alpacas, politics, religion, Star Wars, Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who, and shopping for yarn while hanging out with these ladies.  About half of them know about my son.  The others have probably just never been here when I've told one of them about it.  There are regular members of the group.  But there are others who come and go from month to month.  As I was walking into the sandwich shop tonight, I thought about how knitting has played a major part in my life after placing my son for adoption.

For the last two and half months of my pregnancy, I was unemployed and living in my parents’ house.  Once you’re unemployed and find yourself mostly sitting around the house, you realize that 24 hours is actually a very very long time.  I spent a good bit of my time on Netflix.  My mother did get me to make a pair of blankets with her that we gave to my son’s adoptive parents when he was born.  But mostly I didn't want to do anything.

After my son was born, I was once again spending much time on Netflix and pain killers (I had to have a C-section in the end).  But as happens, the pain killers had to be put down and now the hours I had spent in a narcotic haze had to be filled with something.  So I turned to knitting.  My mother taught me how to knit and crochet when I was young.  To this day I am comfortable with either a crochet hook or a pair of knitting needles in my hands.  My mother had given up knitting due to developing arthritis in her hands.  But she was happy to buy me a pair of needles and some yarn.  After a few days of watching me knitting, she started digging through her old stash and pulling out old needles and projects.  We started searching through patterns.  That which I picked up to try to fill the time and maintain my sanity, was starting to repair my connection to my mother that had been damaged over the past few months.

We found out about a nearby knitting group that met at a coffee shop every Saturday.  The first time we showed up, we were far too early.  But after an hour of waiting we found out the correct starting time of the group and we began going every week.  We got to know the people who were regulars.  We shared patterns and talked about life in between the stitched that we were working onto our needles and hooks.  Slowly I began to trust them and many of them know about my son now.  The group does still exist, although it meets at a different coffee shop now.  I don’t live in the town anymore, but I do still drop in when I visit my parents to see them and talking about my current projects and my life.  I am forever grateful to that group because they provided a temporary escape from my parents’ house.  For a couple hours, I could get away from all that had happened in the last few months and just go knit without people asking me if I was okay or watching me like a hawk.  I felt like a human again there.

When I moved, I found my life was in a kind of upheaval yet again.  I was now living closer to my son and was trying to carve out a life and come to a kind of balance.  So I went looking for a knitting group again and found one.  Over time they learned about my son and my life and have been accepting and loving to me.  In fact, four of the women in the group are in the picture at the top of this post.  They graciously allowed me to take their picture tonight.  Thanks again ladies!!  You are wonderful people!

In the months after placing my son for adoption, I needed something normal.  I needed something that had been untouched by all that I had gone through in the last few months.  Knitting was one of the things that kept me sane.  It calmed my nerves, ordered my brain, and gave me a sense of accomplishment with every project that I completed.  What are some of the things that you did to bring normalcy back to your life after you placed your child for adoption?  I’d love to hear about anything you guys have to say, be it wildly creative or as simple as just taking a walk every evening.

Photo Credit: Elsa 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Open Adoption, Plan It

Open adoptions can be wonderful! I love receiving email updates about cute things my (birth) son has learned to do and the adorable photos which capture the smile I passed on to him. 

When adoption was decided on and the family chosen, I think the only thing we didn't have a plan for was how open the adoption could, would, and should be.  I knew that every open adoption was different and I could not mirror a single one. 

With my adoption situation, I thought it would be fine and I wouldn't have any problems.  The couple was very friendly and we became close during the remainder of the pregnancy and for the first six months of the child's life.  Then life slowly went back to normal for them and I kept on grieving. 

I thought they would just know how and when to communicate, but they didn't, and I ended up being disappointed many times.

Usually pictures and emails arrived two to three weeks apart, then gradually it started to slow down.  When I did receive anything, I would be caught off guard and I would break down sobbing, like placement happened all over again. 

The important thing that I have learned is to make an open adoption plan.  This would be an agreement made between the birth parent(s) and the adoptive parents and would include the following:

  • Methods of Communication (email, text, Facebook, snail mail, etc.)
  • Frequency of Communication (once a week, month, etc.)
  • Visits (where, how often, who can come)

One thing that I learned from not having a plan was that I should have had a plan!

(Editor's Note: We'd be remiss if we didn't add that adoption plans are not legally binding in all states and that sadly, open adoptions can be closed without a birthmother's permission or even knowledge. But when done right with the best interests of the child involved, open adoption can be a positive thing for all involved.) 

Do you have an open adoption plan? What are some things you have learned about having a plan for open adoption? What has worked for you?  And what hasn't worked for you?

Please post your comments, they may help someone else. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Life with Limits

As you know, I've kind of been on this boundaries kick lately. And you may be sick of it. But if you really want to know why, it's because boundaries, limits, or lines are not something I learned one time and then put into practice and never looked at again. I am constantly looking at my perimeters to assess if they are working properly or if they are too loose or too rigid.

Of course I'm talking about my mom again. That relationship has been the constant one in my life that I have had to keep a close eye on. And even this week, I find myself pulling my boundaries in a little tighter around me where she is concerned. Which is a very important point about boundaries: they can change. It takes time to figure out the right boundary or limit for each person or situation in your life.

Some of my friends know everything about me and have the freedom to question my actions or motivations. Other friends know what I want them to know and nothing more. With my mom, well, big sigh, I love her to pieces. I want us to have a relationship that we don't have. And maybe never will. But it is important to me to have her as part of my life. So in order to have her as part of my life, I have had to be very deliberate with my limits.

For example,  the strongest boundary I've had to draw between us is the situation with my birth daughter. Of course my mom was part of my life when I became pregnant unexpectedly as a teen. But I didn't find her to be very supportive of my pregnancy or life afterwards. While she continued to be my mother, I moved on emotionally to where I could find the help and the healing that I needed.

During those years after I moved out on my own, I figured out for myself how to cope and how to grieve and how to survive the loss of my daughter. I didn't do it alone; God put people in my path to show me how to live a healthy life and how to grieve but still go on. I do not consider myself to be a self-made woman by any means. But I am strong and I do know myself. I know what I need and what I don't need.

But because my mom missed out on those years when I was grieving, learning, healing, and growing, she doesn't understand those things about me. And now she wants to. And it's too late. And there is no happy middle ground on which we can meet. So the line around all things birthmom in my life is squiggly and may remind you at times of an electrically charged fence. When she just leaves that area of my life alone, all is well. But when she doesn't and I have to defend it, I do. And she doesn't like it.

I know I'm not alone in struggling with limit-setting in my life. What is your hardest area? How do you draw the line and defend it?

Photo Credit

Monday, July 7, 2014

Music Monday: Say Something by A Great Big World

"And I will swallow my pride
You're the one that I love
And I'm saying goodbye"

If you have any suggestions for songs to use, feel free to email me or post a comment!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Quote of the Week: Get Started!

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started."

If you have any suggestions for quotes, feel free to email me or post a comment!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

On Birthdays

 Happy Birthday
My son, J, was born on July 14th.  And right now it’s ten days until his birthday.  My emotions always run high around this time of the year.  And as you can imagine, the Georgia heat does not help.  I’ve been fortunate in that my son’s adoptive parents are always happy to include me in the birthday plans.  This year we are going out to a park.  He’s turning 4.  I’m still amazed every year at how much older he’s getting.  Still seems like it was only yesterday that he was a tiny baby in my arms at the hospital.  But that was a long time ago now.  Much has happened.

He’s learned how to roll over.  He’s learned how to smile.  He’s learned how to crawl.  He’s learned how to talk.  He’s learned how to walk.  He’s learned how to run.  He’s figured out how to work both of his parents’ smart phones.  He’s learned how to work YouTube.  He figures out how things work at a blistering pace.  He’s started making up stories and telling them to his parents.  He’s started playing practical jokes on his parents that are hilarious and wonderful.   This list is not necessarily in order or really complete.  But they are the things I typically think of when his birthday rolls around.

Every year at his birthday I start counting up how long it’s been.  And I also start counting up just how much that I’ve missed.  I try not to think about this at a constant rate, as you can imagine.  But when his birthday hits, I often can’t help myself.

His birthday is also an emotional journey that I take myself on once a year.  His first birthday was handled in a rather low key way.  I was moving from one city to another and it was actually taking me closer to him.  They were delighted about that since it meant that visits would be easier.  They were going out to a cabin for their summer vacation and would be there for his actual birthday.  So we met a week earlier.  We got together at a restaurant and had a lovely couple of hours together.

On his second birthday, I was invited out to their house.  This would be the first time I would meet my son’s grandparents.  It was also the first time I met his aunt and a few assorted friends of theirs.  I was introduced as J’s birthmother to everyone.  My identity was not something they felt needed to be hidden.  And all the extended family and friends were welcoming and happy to see me there.  I laughed as he played with his new birthday toys.  And I got to see the house and environment that he’s growing up in.  I have to say, it’s a great one.

On his third birthday, I was now invited out to his maternal grandparent’s house in the country near the cities where we live.  Once again, my identity was shielded from no one.  I met more friends and some kids his age that he plays with on a regular basis.  I laughed with everyone at all the funny things he did.  I delighted in his enthusiasm over books.  And we all had a great time.

His birthday has become a yearly sojourn back in time for me.  Every year when I leave, it feels like watching him go away from the hospital once again.  Every year I find I am amazed at how big he’s gotten and how old he is.  Don’t worry; I do see him more than once a year.  But it’s still a shocker every time I see him, especially when it’s his birthday.  I guess I expect to see him back to the tiny nearly 8 pound baby that I gave birth to on July 14th of 2010.  But that’s been nearly four years ago now.

As birthmothers, I often think we live in a weird kind of dichotomy.  We are a part of our children’s lives, and yet not.  We are part of the family, and yet we aren’t.  We get to watch our children grow up, but we miss so many things in between the visits that we have.  It is better than never knowing, but knowing is its own kind of pain.  We only get to see our children at certain points in time.  And, at least for me, on his birthday, I’m always counting back through time to all the times that I’ve seen him right back to the very first time I saw him when he was born.  I live in a virtual time warp when I see my son.  And maybe one day that won’t happen anymore.  But this is what happens now.

How do you all handle your child’s birthday?  Do you see them?  If you don’t, do you have a yearly ritual?  I know this time is worse for me than Christmas.  So I know how many of you feel.  I hope all of you who are going through this right now, very soon from now, or even several months from now, get through it with friends and family and laughter and tears and all the support that you need.