Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Next I will be Raphael

Today, I Google-chatted with my son's adoptive father (gosh I hate those distinctions...I want to just say "Ian's dad" except when I do that sometimes people think I mean Ian's biological father, and those rare days when I talk to him are always a little strange...suffice it to say that I mean Ian's father).

We talked about Christmas. He asked how mine was. I asked how his was. He told me what Ian's most favorite presents were (and they made me laugh...Ian is an odd child sometimes). I asked Joe what his favorite presents were--it included an extension cord, which is very Joe. He asked me what my favorite presents were, and I told him that I had gotten weapons for Christmas, so I can start taking the weapons class at Taekwondo.

Joe asked me which Ninja Turtle I will be next.

I had to confess that I've never really watched the TMNT so I had no idea. He promptly sent me a picture of the ninja turtles baring their weapons and we consulted over their names. After settling on which weapons I will be studying next, we politely discussed when our next video chat might be and went on our merry ways.

I just have to tell you...I'm glad that Ian has a daddy like Joe. =)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas adventures

Over at my other blog, I wrote a post complaining about the more stressful aspects of Christmas. One of these includes finding the "perfect gift" for certain important people in my life.

Adoption complicates this again.

(Dear Jen...I'm talking about you. You might want to stop reading.)

First of all, there's nobody more important in my life than my son. There will one day be people of equal importance--my future spouse and children. But for now, I have Ian. So obviously I want to do something really special for him each year on Christmas and his birthday.

However, I struggle. Because while I have an open adoption, I still don't have a parent-child relationship with this young boy. I don't know him all that well, really. I am told of certain of his likes and dislikes, but our relationship is still mainly at a distance. Which makes it difficult. (Also, not know what he already has makes it a challenge.)

Furthermore, I have a deep love and appreciation for his parents, and an honest friendship as well. So obviously I want to do something special for them as well. However--and Jen will admit this, I think--they are not necessarily the easiest people to shop for!

What do you give people with whom you share this kind of bond? Honestly, adoption is such a unique and fascinating relationship, unlike any other. How do you decide upon the perfect gift for such people?

No idea.

However, I still hope to come up with something--if not perfect--at least special and heartfelt. Mostly, I just want them all to know how very much I love them. I guess that's what Christmas is really about, right?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Guest blog

Life has been so crazy lately! Busy busy busy. Work. Taekwondo. Boyfriend. Life. You know how it goes. I haven't been blogging as much as I normally do, as much as I would like to. But--life is good, and adoption still rocks my socks. ;)

I had the great priviledge of writing a guest blog about my keynote address from the conference in October. The chapter of FSA in Virginia had many members that weren't able to attend, so they asked me to share some of my experiences. After some consideration, I decided to recreate as closely as possible my keynote address from the conference. I felt as though the impressions I had might be of some value. If they are of interest to you as well, the post can be found here. It's pretty spiritually based, but the message is founded in my love of open adoption.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

From a conversation yesterday

I think adoption suffers the worst bad rep from people--adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents--from closed adoptions. Not all of them, of course. But I think some of the worst adoption experiences out there come from closed adoptions, and I think we're still paying for them.

I talk about adoption a lot. Last night, I talked to a man whose 15-year-old daughter is pregnant. She doesn't want to consider adoption because her aunt placed a baby [in a closed adoption] and has regretted it her whole life. Naturally, she has been swaying her niece against placing, for that reason.

That mentality frustrates me. Does the aunt understand why she has regretted her choice? Is it because it was the wrong decision? Or was it because she has dealt with all those unanswered questions ever since? Was it because she should have kept her baby? Or was it grief that she was never able to process?

Adoption is an individual experience. Each person goes through an adoption experience in a unique and different way. But I have met a lot of birth moms over the last year and more, and I can tell you--almost invariably, the birthmothers from open adoptions are more complete, better healed, and more at peace with their decision.

Adoption doesn't have to be agonizing. It doesn't have to be horrible. It doesn't have to be a terrible sacrifice. There is grief, there is pain. But there is also a sweet, wonderful joy. There is the peace and satisfaction, knowing that we have made the right decision--the best decision for that sweet baby.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pieces of who I am

Adoption is part of who I am. It is part of my self-identity, part of how I define myself. My name is Valerie. I'm a writer. I'm a black belt. I used to be a stage manager. And I'm a birthmom.

Each of those parts has its own complications. For instance, I have trouble talking about being a writer, especially admitting that I write science fiction and fantasy. I have a long-standing judgment (maybe I should work on this!) against people who claim to be writers. Maybe it was just how I grew up. At least half of my friends in junior high and high school claimed to be writers. They had stories in their minds, sure. But IF they managed to get them onto paper--which was rare of itself--the writing was usually crap. In the adult world, things are rarely any different. There are lots of people who have stories in their minds. But that doesn't make them writers. It's that class of wannabes that I don't want to join, especially in the mind of someone I respect. So usually I just don't say that I'm a writer at all. I have no more visible claims than the pretenders--I certainly haven't been published. In the eye of the world, I am no different. So I bluster.

Being a black belt is an interesting conundrum. If you look at me, you don't see a black belt. I'm not quite 5'3", I'm "cuddly" as my friends like to say. Of course, in the sparring ring that plays to my advantage, because my opponents never fail to underestimate me. However, when I say to a friend or a coworker or a church member, "I'm a black belt" they have one of a couple of responses. Either they bluster and say, "I could take you" or "show me your moves!". Or, if they're a martial arts nerd, they start talking about martial arts like they know something, trying to prove themselves. Or they get intimidated (in my case, this is rare). Or they simply say, "Wow, that's cool" and walk away dismissively. Or they say "Wow, that's cool" and actually do think it's cool. Sometimes, rather than deal with these reactions, I just don't mention that I'm a black belt. I'm starting to talk about it more now that I'm teaching and working toward my second degree, but sometimes it's still easier just to omit that part of me in casual conversation.

Talking about being a stage manager is hard because I have to explain why I don't do it anymore. Don't get me wrong, I love the theatre. I majored in Theatre Management for my bachelor's degree. I have never felt the full throes of academic-mental-emotional passion as I have done in the theatre. But I could not live the life I want for myself while doing theatre. I couldn't be who I want to be. So I stopped looking for theatre jobs, and settled down in a 9-5 job that I tolerate. Kind of hard to explain. So sometimes I don't.

Being a birthmom, though, that's probably the hardest one of all. I don't ever bring it up in casual conversation, not with people that I'm going to see again. I mean, I've spoken at conferences, but that's different. Those aren't people I interact with on any other stratum. Those are friends of adoption. The average person, though, that's not someone I want to talk with about adoption. I'm just not that open with it. Because there is judgment attached to it, especially in a religious setting. I honestly had a friend/ward member tell me that he was disappointed by me, to find out this part of my past. Disappointed. I was disappointed in him, disappointed by his lack of understanding.

It's hard to talk about adoption for a myriad of reasons. First of all is that judgment. In my religion, you DO NOT have sex outside of marriage. So to say, "I placed a child for adoption" is saying, "I broke the number 2 rule (after murder) that you do not break". Secondly is the misconceptions that people have regarding adoption. You should read Tamra's post over at United by Love. It's perfect--because those are the misconceptions that I face every time I talk to the uneducated about adoption. Sheesh, sometimes I get those comments from adoptive couples. They are emotionally taxing to deal with. Thirdly, it's hard to talk about adoption because I don't want the people I tell to look at me differently afterward. I don't want to change in their eyes. I don't want to be Valerie, the girl who placed a kid for adoption. I just want to be Valerie. There's a time and a place for me to be Valerie the birthmom, just like I'm sometimes Valerie the writer or Valerie the black belt. But they are all ME. And when I tell someone about placing a child for adoption, I always worry that the Valerie they see will change, twist into something that I am not. Being a birthmom is just one part of who I am. In the end, I am simply me.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable #9

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You can find out more over at Production, Not Reproduction. The new prompt is in response to a criticism of open adoption. "That direct contact during early childhood between birth families and children placed for adoption may not be the best idea. Adopted persons should be free to initiate relationships with their first families--or not--on their own timetable. The parents (first and adoptive) in an adoption shouldn't make such an important and personal decision for them." What is your response? Do you agree or disagree? Why?

I'm taking a [brief] break from NaNoWriMo. I haven't yet my [self appointed] daily quota, so I will need to be brief.

In response to questions like this, I have to first say, we always do what is best for the child. We--all of us--adoptive parents and birth parents alike. I will always always always follow the lead of his PARENTS where my son's well-being is concerned.

But with regards to this question, I'd like to propose that birth parents stop getting treated like invaders in the life of their birth-children. While we are not the child's PARENT, we are nevertheless invested in them, their family, their success, and their happiness.

Look at it like this: say that I am a child. I have an aunt who is really close to my family. Maybe she has a really great relationship with my parents. This means that she's going to be a part of my life from a very young age. At first, I'm not really going to have a choice whether she's in my life--and I'm probably not going to care. However, it's still my choice whether to have a relationship with her. I still get to decide--whether consciously or un--whether I like her or not. My parents may dictate how often I see her as I grow up, but that doesn't mean I'm going to go out of my way to talk to her or bond with her. It's my choice. And as I get older, the choice becomes more and more my own. If I like her and I want to talk to her, I will. If I don't, I won't. And that relationship may change and flux over time--maybe when I'm 10 I couldn't care less about my crazy aunt, but when I'm 17 suddenly she seems really cool and I want to talk to her every week. Regardless--it's always up to me.

Of course we don't FORCE the child to have a relationship with his birth family. But we are FAMILY nonetheless. There is a genetic as well as an emotional bond. But if that bond isn't initiated by the adult in the relationship, it may never happen. A child won't see the value of knowing his birth family. A child won't instinctively know that he would be happier growing up with them in his life. It's up to the adults--his parents and his birth parents--to guide him until he is ready to determine those things for himself.

And speaking for myself, my son's parents have told me that they believe A) that he is more well-balanced and self aware because he knows he is adopted and B) that he is more secure in his self-identity because he can see my face and hear me tell him that I love him. That's the beauty of open adoption--none of us are left with questions. We take each day, each month, and each year at a time, always keeping the child's best interest at the forefront of our relationships.

Adoption Walk This Saturday!

It's National Adoption Month, and if you happen to be in the Salt Lake area this Saturday, you should go to Liberty Park and walk for adoption! Here's all the info:

The Adoption ‘Walk with Me’ is intended to gather people together who have been touched by adoption. We want to help raise awareness of the positive outcomes of adoption in our community.

We will meet at the Rice pavilion in Liberty Park and start with a welcome/ introduction to the event. Next will follow the walk which will begin at the pavilion and follow the paved circular path around the park (1.7 miles) After the walk we will gather again at the pavilion and award prizes and conduct a closing to the event.

9:30 registration/ mingle
10:00 walk
11:30 prizes awarded
12:00 closing/ event finish

Make sure you wear plenty of orange! Orange is our theme color for the Adoption Walk With Me. Orange is cheery, uplifting and boisterous. It is also made from mixing two primary colors together...red and yellow. Hmmm... kind of like adoption!

'Orange' you glad for adoption?!

If you have any further questions, please email Alison.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Regional conference experiences

I wrote a guest blog about the regional conference for United by Love, and I'll post it below. You're probably already familiar with some it, but I'm not writing it all again. =P


I'm excited to share a few of my experiences at the FSA Northeast Regional Conference in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. It was so interesting! I'm actually from Utah, but my birth-son and his parents live in Boston, and it's really their fault that I got to go out for the conference. But it certainly wasn't a free ride--I was more than a little surprised when they (the regional committee) asked me to be their keynote speaker for the conference, as well as presenting two breakout sessions. It was very humbling, and I'm grateful that I was given the opportunity.
The conference began Friday. We actually started out in Hershey, Pennsylvania, for a tour of the Hershey factory and then some chocolate taste-testing. The tour was designed for small kidlets, but it was still amusing. This was the first time that I've seen my son in over a year. You can imagine that living 2000 miles apart cuts down on visits. So it was fun to tour Hershey hand-in-hand.

That evening was the keynote address. I was proceeded by a beautiful musical number by a local adoptive couple. I'm going to see if they have a website, and then I'll see if it can get posted here, because the song they sang about their son's birthmother was incredibly touching.
My keynote address was based on the scripture 1 Corinthians 2:9-11. The main point which I drew from this scripture was that we never know what God has in store for us. Ever heard the saying, "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans." But I also tried to impress upon my audience the perils of adversity as well as the power of unity within the adoption triad. That evening was supposed to be the most spiritual portion of the conference, while the remainder of the sessions were dealing with the more technical issues. You'll have to ask any of the attendees if it was any good. =P

There was a little social/dessert afterward where I first began talking to some of the attendees (mostly adoptive parents). I had been forewarned that things would be different than in Utah--but I didn't realize how this mentality really pervaded these people. Over and over as I talked about my experiences or my thoughts, I heard some variation of "Well, it's different out in Utah."

Furthermore, I was treated as an oddity, a rarity. These adoptive couples honestly didn't expect birth parents to be well-balanced, mature, sane individuals. So the fact that I displayed those attributes (I think!) meant that I was an odd one out, certainly not the norm.

As we moved in Saturday's sessions, I tried to--lovingly and respectfully--convince them otherwise. It helped SO MUCH that there were other birth parents present! There were only a few, but it was great to have them add their agreement to the fact that the majority of birthmoms are NORMAL PEOPLE, who aren't going to come in the night and try to steal the baby away wearing a ski mask. (We almost brought a ski mask for a demonstration, but decided against it.)

The first session, I co-presented with my son's parents, Joe and Jen. It was called, "Communication: The Secret to a Successful Open Adoption." I actually feel like this was the most important session that I was involved in. We played 'Mythbusters' and talked through common adoption myths that adoptive couples go through. I think it was incredibly powerful to have all three of us up there, together, laughing, agreeing, and talking about our own experiences. My second session was by myself, "What Birth Parents Wish Adoptive Couples Knew", and it was just a rehash of the session from the national conference. Still successful, and I hope it was helpful to those who attended.

What I really gained from this experience (besides hugging my son lots and lots) was the knowledge that there's still a lot of work to be done in the adoption world. There's still a lot of talking and convincing and really showing that we need to do. Those of us who HAVE found success and joy from open adoptions really need to keep talking about it, keep showing other people what has worked and how wonderful it is. Not every adoption is perfect, but not every relationship is perfect either, and that's what this really is--we, adoptive parents and birth parents, have a relationship. And in some cases, that relationship is more like an obligation that you feel like you have to fulfill. But in the best circumstances, it's a real relationship, a real frienship, and a real source of joy. This is a relationship worth having! And I hope that it's something also worth sharing.

Friday, October 23, 2009

One down, two to go

Tonight I gave a keynote address. It went by far more quickly than I had imagined. It felt kind of fluffy to me, like it didn't really have any meat in it. I let myself get emotional, which always is a struggle, of course. Don't get me wrong, it was a decent talk. I just don't feel like I have a connection yet. Tonight was the sugar. Tomorrow we'll get to the spice.

On a side note...Ian is adorable. Just sayin'.

More to come.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hel-looo Pennsylvania!

Travel log:

Woke 6:30am, thought about going running as planned, hit snooze button, slept again.
Woke 6:55am, showered, dressed, finished packing.
Departed house 7:35am, best mom EVER drove me to SLC Int'l Airport. Got thru security w/o a hitch, waited. (plane supposed to leave at 9:41am)
Boarded plane 9:32am
Plane takeoff 9:55am
Slept for the first hour or so
Woke up when the guy next to me tried to apply lotion, but in the plane, it kind of exploded everywhere. Gave him my napkins and helped him clean up. Then talked to him for 10min.
Worked on my keynote address for an hour.
Finished a scene in my novel.
Slept again.
Landed 4:00pm EST/2:00pm MST.
Waited. (really had to pee, too!)
Disembarked--and couldn't find a bathroom! The whole freaking airport's being remodeled. Finally found one by the baggage claim, and it was way nasty.
Took the shuttle to Hertz, 4:25pm
Rented a car for the first time, 4:40pm. It was supposed to be a Hyundai, but it turned out to be a Mazda 6. Pretty pleased with that one.
Tried to get to the Reading Terminal Market, 5:00pm. Incidentally, I would advise against trying to navigate downtown Philadelphia at rush hour. After being muy frustrated, I gave up and headed out. (Have to admit that I have mad driving skills that after getting lost trying to find Vine St, I was still able to get myself back onto I-76 and headed in the right direction.)
Got stuck in traffic behind a wreck 5:30pm
Stopped for food, 7:00pm. I had eaten breakfast at 7:00am MST, drank some Fresca and ate a biscotti cookie on the plane...and that's it. I debated seriously about just waiting til Lebanon, but couldn't stand it anymore, so I stopped. Had a roast beef gyro at Arby's--decent, too.
Arrived at hotel, 8:00pm.
Started playing on the internet, 8:25pm.
And here I sit.

Tomorrow morning I'll be working on/finalizing all my presentations. In the afternoon we're going to Hershey for a taste-testing tour/trick-or-treating, where I get to see Ian for the first time in over a year. Then tomorrow evening is my keynote address. Eeek!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable #8

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You can find out more over at Production, Not Reproduction. The new prompt is: Write about a blogger (or bloggers) who influenced your real-life open adoption, and how.

Blogging is not new to me; I've been blogging since I was a junior in high school. But back then, my blog was an isolated thing--I wrote it for myself, and for a few very specific friends whom I wanted to share thoughts with. That mentality persisted with me for a long time. It's only been in the last year or so that I've started to recognize and crave the blogging community--particularly when it comes to adoption.

During my pregnancy, my real support came from Jen, my son's adoptive-mother (to be, at the time). She and I wrote emails constantly. I also received support from my social worker. That was about it--I didn't have a group, I didn't have online friends with whom I could talk about being single and pregnant or placing a child for adoption. I look back, and I'm still a little amazed with myself, frankly. Knowing the kind of support that exists, I'm not sure I could do it again, alone that way.

However, in the last year or so, I've really come to enjoy and cherish the online adoption community. It's something that I'm trying to spread! There is an immense level of support available through blogging and online communities like Adoption Voices that can help uplift birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees alike.

The one thing I have really gained from a fellow blogger is the idea of adoption advocacy. Talking about adoption in a positive light, opening thoughts up to other bloggers, and just offering love and support and understanding. I really have Mrs. R (Lindsey) of The R House to thank for this. She is a dynamic blogger, and I've come to love reading her. She is fearless in her advocacy, and tender in sharing the trials she and her family have faced through the adoption of their children. She's not afraid to discuss the issues, and that openness has really inspired me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I have to admit that I'm nervous. It's a good kind of nervous, but nervousness nonetheless. Is it weird to be nervous about seeing a 3-almost-4-year-old child? Well, I guess if you're the birthmom to that child, it might be somewhat understandable.

I think I've mentioned before that Ian and his parents live several thousand miles away, which means that we don't get to visit very often. The last time I saw my birth-son in person was over a year ago, for about an hour. Since that time, we've had a couple of video chats, which has broken the ice some. But it remains that this young person and I hardly know each other.

A very strange kind of nervousness, hoping to make a good impression on a preschooler.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Conference butterflies

So, it occured to me last night that I'm counting down about two weeks until the FSA Northeast regional conference. Remember that one? Yeah, the one where I'm the keynote speaker with two breakout sessions besides? Yeah, that one.

My roommate gave me some great insights last night, as I shared with her the scripture I've been given for my keynote address. [The scripture, in case you are curious, is 1 Corinthians 2:9-11.] I intend to set hard to work on that address on Sunday. The keynote is in fact supposed to be the most 'spiritual' part of the conference, so I think it deserves some quiet meditation and prayer. Did anyone see my FB status the other day? I think it's appropriate, if jocular--"Want to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans."

As for the breakout sessions, I'm slightly less worried, though I do need to get my thoughts and notes together. The first session is a revamp of one I co-presented at the national conference, though I will be by myself. It's about what birth parents wish adoptive couples knew. That particular session was probably the best one in which I participated at the national conference, both in attendance and response. I'm excited to do it again, because I learned a lot at the national conference and I can apply it here.

The second session is still a curiosity to me. It's called "Communication: The Secret to a Successful Open Adoption" and I'm co-presenting it with Jen and Joe. In true fashion, we opened a Google Doc for mutual notes and whatnot. They've upload some really great points to talk about. What's interesting to me is the audience. The presentation similar to this that I participated in at the national conference was specifically geared toward birth parents. However, our audience here will be mostly (if not completely) composed of adoptive couples and LDSFS caseworkers. The presentation therefore must be rather different.

Anyway, I'm going to keep brainstorming and preparing. I get little nervous butterflies when I think about it. I haven't seen Ian, Jen and Joe since last summer. A little boy does a LOT of growing in 14 or so months. It will be interesting!!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable #7

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You can find out more over at Production, Not Reproduction. The new prompt is about privacy, blogging and open adoption: Where do you draw the lines--on your blog and in your personal life--and why? What, if anything, don't you tell?

Very interesting. This is something that I've debated about for a long time, to very little conclusion. I've thought about asking Jen for her thoughts, but it's just never happened. Maybe I should!

I've noticed that a lot of birth parents and adoptive parents use nicknames on their blogs--rather than naming anyone outright, they protect the children and sometimes even adults by referring them only by a nickname. That's something I've thought about doing--but first I'd have to come up with clever nicknames for everyone I mention. *sigh* If you start seeing nicknames retroactively applied, you'll know which direction THAT decision leaned.

I don't post pictures of Ian [insert new nickname here?] on this blog. I have my one profile picture over there, but it's over three years old and I hope it's safe enough. But I've made it a point not to post pictures of him here. Jen has a blog for Ian--which is private--and I respect her decision as a mother to protect pictures of her child. Besides, that's not what my blog is for--I'm not a proud mother showing off her baby. I'm a proud birth mother, talking about adoption in my life and general adoption issues.

I also try--on my blogs and in real life--not to discuss too much of their personal life. Sometimes I talk to my mother, but she's Ian's birth-grandmother and cares about him very deeply. But other than that, I pretty much keep it to myself. Maybe I'm just selfish that way--I treasure each tidbit of news about Ian and his parents.

But as far as other forms of privacy, the line is vague. I feel like I have a sense of what is appropriate. I don't talk about inherently private issues on my blog, but I couldn't say specifically what those things are. I think there are a few times I think to myself, "Would Jen object to me posting this?" If I think she would, I don't post it. If I think she wouldn't mind, then I go ahead and post it. I just have to hope that I have a good judge on what Jen finds appropriate.

I guess that's the measure I hold to, then--the adoptive mother's level of comfort. Because she is his mother, I think she has the right to decide (even implicitly) what level of privacy we'll all hold to. The protection of that little boy, and their whole family, is determined by her. I simply try to do my part to protect them all.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My baby is growing up

I've been looking at some recent pictures of Ian, and I simply can't believe how much he's growing. I expressed this to Ian's dad Joe the other day, and he agreed with me. We're watching the transition from todder to little boy. For me, it just seems...odd. The transition from baby to toddler wasn't a big deal. It was fun to see Ian's personality develop. It still is, of course. What a charmer! But now this transition feels different. He'll be four in February. Four! I can't quite wrap my head around it.

Being a birthmom is accompanied sometimes by a weird sense of disconnect. Let me try to explain. On the one hand, I'm not Ian's mother. I'm his birthmom. But being a birthmom is an individual state--no two birthmoms have exactly the same relationship with their children. Some are very distant, whether they have a closed or open adoption. Some are a LOT closer. Being several thousand miles apart dictactes a certain amount of the contact being Ian, his parents, and I--if only in the fact that we don't get to visit in person very often.

But more than that, the relationship is...nebulous. For a three-and-seven-month-year-old, Ian seems to have a good grasp on who I am. But our relationship is still distant, and still mainly through his parents. Right now, I connect with Ian mainly through photos and his mom's stories about what he's up to. Video chats are making it possible for Ian and I to connect more, and hopefully that will stay true as he gets older.

What is a birthmom? I've heard some birthmoms compare it to being like a favorite aunt or cousin. An extended relative, but one who cares and who's involved. There's a certain element of that, for sure. It doesn't quite cover the depth of the caring, though. It's not something that necessarily has to be expressed often or ever--it's understood that I care very deeply about Ian. Hopefully Ian understands it too, eventually.

I guess that's the real crux of it--as Ian becomes a little boy, with more independance of thought and action, as he goes to school, as he continues to grow--he and I will be able to form our own relationship. Certainly, his parents will still be involved, will still be present. But as Ian grows, my relationship with him will no longer be solely based on my relationship with his parents. It will be subject to the moods, interests, cares and lack thereof of a young boy.

It's new. It will be different. I'm a little nervous. I'm nervous for the time where Ian doesn't just listen when his parents tell him (in their own words) to like me. I'm nervous about whether he'll actually want to know me, whether he'll even care. I know it will be a roller coaster ride. Every relationship is. But I hope that as Ian grows, I'll still be able to have a relationship with him. Mostly I hope that he'll always know how very much I love him. And of course I hope that he'll love me in return.

What an adventure.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Last night, in a conversation with two of my roommates, I started talking about something that happened during my pregnancy. My one roommate's eyes opened wide and she said, "Wait, what?"

I thought she knew. She moved in later than the other girls, and I guess I told them before she moved in, and just somehow never talked about it around her since she moved in. Seems a miracle to me--since I talk about my volunteer work and stuff all the time.

But suddenly, in the middle of a conversation with the three of us, I was explaining that I had a baby three and a half years ago, and placed him for adoption.

I moved on, let her absorb that. But she brought it back up again after a few minutes, asked a few questions--more educated questions than I usually get, actually. And then the conversation moved on again.

Perhaps I shouldn't have made the assumption. Honestly, I didn't even stop to think as I spoke--it's become more natural, these past months, for me to talk about it. For her, it probably was far more awkward. I kinda sprung it on her. She handled it rather well, all things considered. But I wish I could have told her in a better light!

I'm also facing another conversation soon. I've been seeing a guy. (Okay, friends, don't flip your lids, it's still in the very early stages.) If he's a Facebook stalker at all, he may have already been here. Even on my other blog, I make mention of being a birth mom. I'm not secretive about it. It is slightly awkward, not knowing if he knows or not. But either way, I will need to talk to him about it before long.

The thing is, I've never had this conversation before. I've talked to roommates, I've talked to other friends, I've talked to strangers and reporters and adoptive couples and social workers. But those are all very different from talking about it to an interesting guy who you really really hope won't freak out. All the guys I've dated since placing my son for adoption have already known, or the relationship didn't progress far enough for me to feel like it was necessary to talk to them about it. But now I'm starting to feel this little nudge, like I should talk to him about it. I hope that he'll take it well. But there are no guarantees.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

This is NOT a brag fest. Just thought I should clarify in advance

Please read the title. Now read it one more time.


I have some news. I've been sitting on it for a couple of weeks, because it still didn't feel "official" to me. And I didn't want to seem like I was bragging.

Ready? Here it is.

I've been asked to present at the FSA Northeast Regional Conference. It's taking place in Lebanon, Pennsylvania at the end of October. Adoptive couples, LDS Family Services employees, and hopefully some birth parents will be coming from all over the Northeast to attend.

Shall I be honest? -- I'm the keynote speaker. Yeah...THE keynote speaker. I'll be speaking to all the attendees for an hour. Just me, myself and I.

AND I'm presenting in two breakout sessions. One is just me, a rehash of one of my sessions from the national conference, talking about what birth parents wish adoptive couples knew. The second I'll have two FAB co-presenters--Jen and Joe, my son's adoptive parents. We'll be talking about communication in open adoptions.

Can I tell you how EXCITED I am??? Nervous, sure. I need to start the back-of-my-brain-thinkings that will eventually lead to awesome presentations. But really, I'm just so excited. A) to have yet another amazing opportunity to talk about adoption, share my story, and hopefully improve adoption for other people. And B) I get to see these most precious members of my family! I haven't seen them since last August. So even though our time will be very limited, I'm still super thrilled to spend time with them. AND I get to see Ian in his Halloween costume. =)

So, expect more posts as we get closer and I start freaking out. I'm not too worried about the breakout sessions, those are low-stress after the national conference. I am FAR more worried about an hour at the pulpit by myself. Just sayin!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

OAR#6: Epilogue

I just wanted to mention that I have another name--the name that my birth parents gave me at birth, the name they thought of me by for 19 years before we met. The first name is a name I have always loved. It's a name I might give a daughter of mine someday. It's like my secret-code-name. I am V, but I am also A. It's just a part of me--a part I don't think about all that often, but still a piece of who I am. It's a tangible sort of connection to my birth parents. In those short few days after my birth, I belonged to them, and they named me. So it's not a name that I go by, but it's still mine.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable #6: Naming

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You can find out more over at Production, Not Reproduction. The new prompt is: Write about names/naming and open adoption.

This prompt comes from a post by Heather a while back, talking about the naming of her adopted children. I found it so interesting! At first I didn't quite know what to think, but it's been rolling around in the back of my brain for awhile now.

My son's adoptive parents named the baby while I was still pregnant. They asked for my opinion, and for the father's opinion, but then THEY chose the name for the baby.

I didn't realize until reading Heather's post and the comments on it that there was another way to do things.

A few days ago, I went through and read the journal I kept through my pregnancy. I haven't read this journal since I closed it three and a half years ago. It was overwhelming, the emotions contained therein. I had forgotten a lot of things that happened--probably repressed a lot of them, in fact.

One interesting entry was about this very issue. I wrote about how Sean--my baby's father--was really agitated about the naming issue. He wanted so badly to have some say in what the baby's name was. I wrote how I felt similarly, though less strongly than Sean. I wrote how Jen and Joe consulted us on what they had decided to name the baby, and how I felt just the slightest bit of regret that they hadn't listened to the names that Sean and I liked.

Please don't mistake me. Jen and Joe chose a wonderful name, and it fits him perfectly. Looking back, I certainly wouldn't change his name just to suit what I liked and preferred at the time. I think they did try to include us--but in the end, he is their son, and it was their decision to make.

I guess the conclusion that I have come to is that how WE did it worked for US, but I can see how others would want to go about it differently. I appreciate the love and respect that many adoptive parents show to birth parents by including them and honoring them through the naming process. I am grateful to all adoptive parents who seek to treat birth parents in such a manner. And in the end, I believe that was the intent of my adoptive couple as well. Regardless, I love them to pieces. =)


Suddenly, abortion is all around me. Yesterday, I dealt personally with a crisis situation. This morning, a guy friend and I were talking, and he told me he was really upset yesterday because he was talking to a girl who is planning to get an abortion today.

He really upset me. He said that he told this girl that she needed to grow up and be held accountable for her actions. And soon he refused to talk to her at all, and said, "i didnt want to talk to her anymore about it, i was fed up with her and her foolishness and told her not to talk to me any more, i cant have peolpe like that in my life"

And other people told him he did the right thing.

I'm so confused. Deeply, morally confused.

I jumped to the defense. It was my natural instinctual reaction. I felt like this girl needed to be cared for. That she needed another opinion, guidance, wake-up call. That he should have convinced her to talk to someone--a bishop, a counselor, a therapist...me... I was offended by his rejection of her.

But am I so right? I'm not a specialist, a social worker. I have absolutely no authority to speak in this matter. Why do I think I know anything about how to help these women?

I placed my baby for adoption. I believe in that decision more than I believe in anything not gospel-related. I know, from that self-same gospel, that adoption was the right decision to make. I know from personal experience that it's NOT a decision I could have made alone. So it seems pretty natural to me that someone who is considering abortion may desperately need counsel, support and love. But who am I to say? I never considered abortion. It went against the very fiber of my being. So how can I possibly presume to empathize with someone in this situation?

I still feel so strongly that his rejection helped nobody. But what do I know? I wasn't there. I don't know her, I don't know the situation. It is not my place to say. But I still feel this deep, terrible uncertainty. I want to help--I ALWAYS want to help--but I need to make sure that I'm doing so to the best of my ability.

Monday, August 31, 2009

New Birth Parent Blog

Families Supporting Adoption now has an official Birth Parent Blog! And you can see Yours Truly featured in the Ask a Birth Mother portion! Please check this out, I think it's going to be great!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Video chat

Last night, we attempted video chat #2. Unfortunately, technology was working against us. We had a few good minutes of video chat, but the feed kept freezing or breaking up. Eventually we settled just for an audio chat, which was still nice, though I wish I could have seen their faces! It was a great moment for me to hear Ian say, "But Daddy I want to SEE her!"

As it turns out (more details on this later) I'm probably going to be having a VISIT with them in October...it's been a year now since I've seen Ian, Jen and Joe, so I'm definitely eager! We MIGHT be spending a day together at an amusement park, so I MAY be taking Ian on some of the rides. =)

It's just family, guys. I wouldn't say it's quite like having a favorite nephew, but it's akin to that. I'm not his MOM, but I still love and care about him, and I love to see his little face, I love to hear him tell jokes and sing songs. It's just fun, and it makes me happy.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable #5

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You can find out more over at Production, Not Reproduction. The new prompt is How has open adoption changed you? In what ways are you different because the presence of open adoption in your life?

As an adoptee myself, adoption has always been an intrinsic part of my life and my self-identity. Growing up, it was a "cool fact" I would share about myself. "I play the piano, I'm adopted, and I like to read." It was just something that was slightly different about me, something that I liked, but didn't really understand.

Since meeting my birth parents, I have changed. The differences in that regard are subtle. However, my relationships with them, and with my birth father's family, have once again affected my self identity. Primarily, I no longer view myself as the child of a nuclear family. While my family hasn't been changed by divorce or remarriage or anything like that, the way I define my family is no longer simple. When asked how many siblings I have, I often have difficulty answer--when I don't just say, one brother and three sisters (my adopted brother, and my birthdad's three other daughters.)

But what's more is my open relationship with my son and his family. That has changed me in more ways than I can even comprehend. Being a birth mother is life-altering. It is impossible to remain the same person you were before. But open adoption has made it possible for that to be a positive and uplifting change.

My very thought processes have changed. Motherhood awoke in my bosom, and though I am not the caregiver of that child, I still have the instincts that strike me at odd moments. And I AM able to care for my child, if not as a mother. I care for him as a birthmother. I care from a distance--I am always there to make sure HE knows that he is the most loved little boy in the world. =)

It's hard for me to put into words. Basically, I am a completely different person than I would be without open adoption. Adoption has blurred the lines of "Family", and it's made me more accepting. My heart didn't break when I placed my son for adoption--it grew, swelled ten times bigger and gave me just that much more room to love. That's what adoption means to me. It means more people to love the child, more love to go around for everyone. It means accepting that things might be awkward at times, that there might be uncertainty, that there might be worries. Open adoptions are not simple, and they are not necessarily easy. But they ARE good. They provide the opportunity for so much love. And now that I have them in my life, I can't imagine living my life any differently.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A better lifestyle

This is kind of a random post (it actually comes from my other blog) but I wanted to share it anyway. As we talked about at the conference session "Letting Go and Moving Forward," part of being a birth mom is moving forward in life with energy and vitality, and just living. This post is a dedication to that.

My taekwondo master always encourages us to strive to be our best possible selves. Today during meditation, we repeated to ourselves the mantra, 'it's amazing being me.' I am trying to take these lessons to heart, and I am striving to improve my life and my lifestyle. It is a constant work in progress. But as they say, writing down goals helps me achieve them. So here are a few of the changes I am making.

First of all, I'm eating better. I've started adding a lot more fruits and vegetables to my diet, and cutting out the processed foods. This is huge! Real food does take more time to prepare, but I think that time is worth the good health and how much better I feel about myself. Also, and this is VERY hard for me, I'm trying to cut out more sugar. Very hard for me. But I'm trying. Maybe I'll set more specific goals soon.

The next step is my cross-training. Of course, I do taekwondo, which I love, but I'm only there a few hours each week. So I'm cross-training. Right now its cycling, because it's helping me to strengthen my bad knee. My goal right now is 30 minutes three times a week. So far I've only been managing one or two times a week, but I am going to improve.

Thirdly, I'm just trying to be more active. I spend FAR too much time parked in front of the boob tube, and I'm trying to cut back on that. Whether its my cycling, or walking, or practicing TKD in the living room, I'm striving to be more active all the time.

All these things work together to improve the quality of life. I'm far from perfect, and I have a VAST amount of improvement lying before me. But I DO feel better, and better about myself.

I challenge you to make a goal this week that will help you to be better in some way! Let me know how it goes. :)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Foster care/transracial adoption

It was interesting me to see so many classes about transracial adoption on the program at conference. I wish I could have gone to some! It's something that just hasn't been within my frame of reference before. But at conference, I was able to see lots of family with African American or Hispanic children, with white parents. I have realized in a very short time that this is a major part of the adoption world.

Also, as I've been reading more adoption blogs, foster care has come to my attention as a similar (and still vastly different) entity. For example, see Mrs. R's Matching Mondays.

I find it fascinating. I've never really considered adopting children for myself. But that thought has definitely entered my mind of late. Regardless of whether I have children of my own (and I've proven that I'M capable!) I know that my heart has room for many.

Just thoughts that have been rolling around in here. Do you have any thoughts to share?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


It's been a few days, I've been able to sleep a bit, and now it's time to blog about conference. At length. Forgive me...but I must. I am a novelist, and it's naturally hard to be concise. Besides, in this situation, why would I want to cut short my opportunity to share with you?

Mostly...it's my blog, and I can ramble if I want to. ;)

The national conference of Families Supporting Adoption was an amazing experience. For me, it started Thursday evening when I arrived with most of the national board to help set up the conference store. I have to tell you, that I love moments like these. Standing with half a dozen people folding cute onesies that say "Adoption: It's About Love" is a bonding experience that you just don't get any other way. It was the perfect marker of the entire conference: a bonding experience.

Friday morning started with me feeling like an idiot. I had been given my national board shirt, but nobody actually told me that I was supposed to wear it. I should have put it together, but I sure didn't until I entered the conference room Friday morning, and everybody else was wearing their shirt! Yep, I felt like an idiot. But I quickly shoved it aside. I still looked cute, and at least people wouldn't be asking me silly questions all day. ;) We dispensed schedules, gave last minute notices, and said a prayer. Then we were off and running.

I think that I should have been an actress. I have found that I'm surprisingly successful at projecting an air of confidence even when my stomach is practically cramping because of butterflies!

We started off with a session called "United by Love," which I think we would do differently if we choose to do it again next year (Melinda has already laid claim!) It was still a great kick-off. But then it was off to the first of my own presentations. It was a session for adoptive families called "What We Wish Our Adoptive Couple Knew." There were two of us, and I wish now that we had had a moderator to direct the session better. But overall, it went quite well. There were lots of questions, and the audience seemed quite engaged--even though there were over 100 of them!!!

Lunch was on our own, and I went back to my hotel room to take deep breaths and think about nothing for a few minutes. Then it was back into the game. After lunch, the birth parent sessions split. We had "Being a Birth Mother is Just One Part of Who I Am," which I hear was phenomenal. I had the fortune to be in "Adoption Advocacy: Sharing Your Passion for Adoption."

Let me pause to explain: each member of the National Board was given a set of responsibilities each hour (some people had free time. some people had hours off. I will let you conjecture on whether I was one of those people.) Basically, between Melinda and I, we had to be in each of the birth parent classes each hour. The problem with having so many classes is that you miss really great ones!!

Anyhow, the next hour was "Husbands of Birth Mothers", which was easily one of our most popular classes, and "Navigating the Difficult Conversations." I was in this one, and it turned out to be a particularly fascinating class. It was taught by an adoptive mother AND a birth mother, and we discussed many of the difficult conversations that come up in an adoption relationship, and how to handle them. I loved the dichotomy between these two groups, and I think it would be great to include more of both groups next year.

The last hour on Friday was "Step by Step through Pregnancy and Placement," which was a wonderful session for many of our expectant parents--of whom there were a LOT more than I expected to see! It was fun to have so many cute pregnant bellies wandering around. Part of the reason birth parents were not included for so long was the fear that there would be weird/negative interactions between them and the adoptive couples--the "baby hungry" adoptive couples. But as far as I know, there has been nothing of the sort.

Also there was "What Adopted Children Need From Their Birth Parents," which did not turn out as expected. If we do the session again (and I think we should), we would include a lot more adoptees and parents from open adoptions. That is the way the world is trending, and we needed that voice to balance things out in this session.

Friday evening was the Awards Banquet. It was fun to see the birth families and adoptive families mingling, chatting, talking about the day's sessions and just about life in general. It was also great to see the first birth parent presented with a "Friends of Adoption" award! I love the growing impact that we are making in this circle.

First thing Saturday morning Melinda and I were dealing with missing panelists--one was there the whole time, one was reunited with her adoptive couple for the first time since placement, and one had misunderstood the time and came late. But we got them all together, and then it was time to start!

We started with the general sessions, which included EVERYONE at the conference. First was our keynote speaker, Troy Dunn. He was a wonderful presenter! He made me laugh. I'm glad the session was recorded, and when it becomes available, I heartily recommend watching it. He told the story of a birth mother that made me cry! Such a good presentation.

Then it was time for the birth parent panel. Somehow, I was totally in my element, and yet it was not overpowering at all. I was there, helping to make sure everything was ready, particularly for Melinda, who moderated. I took her cell phone, I found her people she needed, and I made her spit out her gum. I encouraged Taneil, who was freaking out, and gave Martina a good-luck squeeze. Those are the moments I thrive on, I tell you.

The panel itself was great. All four presenters were wonderful. I was particularly pleased by Ian, the birth father on the panel, who was a lucky find!! He spoke articulately about the needs of birth fathers, and birth parents in general. It was wonderful to hear that point of view presented. In general, I loved the questions that were addressed, and the different points of view that our panelists were able to share. Diversity rocks!

Lunch followed the panel. I was on pins and needles, A) because I needed to find a new faciliator for one of the sessions, because our faciliator had been hospitalized for swine flu the night before, and B) because I was presenting the hour after lunch. I couldn't even tell you what lunch was that day. However, I did get to talk to an adoptive couple briefly who are from St. George, and whose birth mother came from Cedar City. Small world!

From lunch it was off to the next breakout sessions. In the other room it was "Uniting as a Birth Family," our class designed with birth grandparents in mind. Apparantly it was quite the cry session! But I was busy with "Deciding Who, When and How to Tell," with my lovely co-presenter Martina. We were recorded, which is always an adventure. To be honest, my favorite part were the eggs.

We were talking about telling boyfriends (or really anybody) about placing a child for adoption. I had a dozen (boiled) eggs. I held one up. "This represents one part of your adoption story." Then I tossed it to Martina, who caught it easily. Next I held up two eggs. "These are some pieces of your adoption story." Tossed to Martina, who caught them. Then I grabbed half a dozen eggs. "This is your whole story!" Naturally, when I tossed half a dozen eggs to Martina all at once, she didn't catch a single one. The point being, whenever you're telling someone, you don't have to share everything all at once. You share one piece at a time, and give them a chance to adjust before you toss them another egg. Once they have a chance to catch and set it down, they'll be ready for more.

The next hour was a particularly good one. In the first room was "Telling Your Children Your Adoption Story," which was really popular. A lot of birth mothers are reaching the point where they want or need to tell their children about placing a child for adoption. Some are just nervous, anticipating it someday in the future. So this session was an incredible resource. I'm glad it was recorded--cuz I was in the other room!

In the other room was "Desires, Expectations and Disappointments," taught by my own caseworker from Cedar City. This was an amazing session. In every experience, in every situation, but particularly an overwhelming experience like adoption, you are going to have desires, and you will have expectations for what will happen, and what the relationship will be like. But there will always be disappointments. The result of the discussion was fascinating. We narrowed down a LOT of the disappointments that we as birth mothers have faced directly to our relationship with our adoptive couple. Not with the child--with the couple, most often directly with the adoptive mother. We want to be friends. That was what seemed to be the consensus--that we do not want a relationship just for the sake of the child, but that we crave an honest-to-goodness friendship with the adoptive mother, and that so much disappointment comes when we are relegated to the role of "just" birth mother. This was a room full of amazing women, I'm just sayin'.

The last hour of the conference saw a consolidation once again of the birth families for a session called "Letting Go and Moving Forward." Once again, I'm glad it was recorded. This session was all about moving forward from our placement, and becoming the best we can be. It was wonderful.

We joined the rest of the conference for a closing session and raffle. I joined the rest of the national board (once again, all in their shirts but me!--but I'm not stuck on it or anything ;) in passing out the raffle items as people won them. Then I was given the opportunity to say the closing prayer. As I did so, I could literally feel the approval of our Heavenly Father radiating throughout the room. I felt a powerful confirmation that he approves of the work we are doing.

This conference was so powerful. I was impressed to see how many connections were made, the networking and bonding that went on. I can literally see the benefit that it offers. Birth mothers NEED each other, they need this kind of support system of other birth mothers, and people who love birth mothers. It will be my ongoing goal, particularly as a member of the national board, to see that birth families are given more and more opportunities like this, to reach out and lift each other up, and to reach a hand back to those who are going through our ordeal even now. Adoption is about love--love of the child, first and foremost, but now a love of one another.

Adoption rocks my socks!

Friday, July 31, 2009

United by Love

Very soon here, I am going to walk over to the Davis Conference for the start of "Letting Love Lead", the national conference of Families Supporting Adoption. We've dubbed the birth parent portion "United by Love", and I couldn't think of a more appropriate name.

Birth parents are no longer isolated. They're no longer told to shut the door after placement and pretend like this never happened. They're no longer taught to be ashamed or reclusive with their experiences.

In the modern, expanding world of adoption, birth parents are being given the chance to help each other heal. We have a unique experience. Others can sympathize, but only another woman who has gone through this process can truly comprehend what we've gone through.

We are united. Today, birth mothers have gathered, united by love of children, adoption, and each other. We have gathered to strengthen and teach one another, and to offer our newfound support to other adoption advocates.

This morning, I am presenting a session for adoptive couples called "What We Wish Our Adoptive Couple Knew." This is OUR chance to truly give back, to protect future generations of birth mothers from preventable mistakes, misgivings, and uncertainties on part of the adoptive couples. Don't get me wrong, I have a wonderful adoptive couple. But this is a wonderful forum, a wonderful opportunity to affect people whose ears are already open, who are ready to learn. And this is just the very beginning.

I am so excited. I wish you could be here with me. This conference is going to be an amazing experience! Wish me luck. =)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Focused on the goal

This weekend, July 31-August 1, is the Families Supporting Adoption national conference.

I have been working on this conference for over four months. I got asked if I wanted to "be involved" and "help out" (such innocent terms), which quickly involved into a full-fledged planning committee, of which I quickly became a co-chair.

Last year was the first time birth parents were invited to attend the conference. There were a total of six classes offered for birth parents, only on the second day of the conference.

Our planning committee (which didn't exist last year either) quickly decided that this wasn't nearly enough. As we brainstormed ideas for sessions and presenters, we quickly expanded to fill both days of the conference. We more than doubled the size of the birth parent portion (which is still barely a fifth the size of the adoptive-couple side).

All of our hard work and time has come down to the wire. The conference starts Friday morning. Of course there will be hiccups, as there have been constantly over the past weeks. But I am so excited.

This conference represents the culmination of my passions. Firstly, I love adoption, I advocate adoption, and I love talking to people about adoption. And this is two whole days of talking about adoption. Secondly, I love organizing things. This conference has let me off the leash, and I have been able to organize and facilitate and detail-out to my heart's content. It's the utmost use of my stage management and administrative abilities.

It's going to be awesome.
It's going to be inspiring. (except maybe for MY presentations!)
It's going to be the adoption event of the year.

And I can't wait for it to be over. :P

If you are interested in the conference, please click here. If you are interested in Families Supporting Adoption, you can visit their website or their national blog (which I recommend).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Knowing the decision is right

A friend of mine has this great quote: "Adoption is not a breaking of trust, but a keeping of faith. Not an abandonment of baby, but an abandonment of self for baby's sake." (thanks Amanda)

I hear it all the time. People accuse birth parents (or expectant parents considering adoption) of selfishness. Of putting themselves first. Of not loving their child. "If you loved your baby, you'd be a real parent."

This is an utter falsehood.

A mother wants what is BEST for her child. A mother loves her child to the point of self-sacrifice. What loving mother would not starve so her child could eat? Motherhood is the ultimate selflessness.

Adoption is an extension of this loving sacrifice. A mother who loves her child, who wants what is best for her child, will look at her own circumstances with a steely eye. What does she see there? Does she see the ability to care for the child? To provide for him? To give him the love and affection and attention that he deserves? Does she see her own knowledge--innate or learned--necessary to parent this child? Does she see the ability to provide him with all the opportunities another child would have? Will her child be able to go to a good school, have toys and clothes and good food? Will he be able to play Little League or take piano lessons? Does she see her ability to give this child a good life?

In the case of a birth mother...no, she doesn't see those things. She sees her own lack of experience, money, good circumstances, and a loving husband to provide balance and stability and to take his share of the load.

Of course the birth mother loves her child. She is a mother. She loves him more than she loves himself.

So much, in fact, that she is willing to endure the agony of parting with her child in order to give him that good life she wants so much for him.

Placing my son for adoption was the hardest thing I have ever done. But I look at his happy, smiling face, and I know that I could not have given him everything he has. I listen to his sweet voice singing me the ABC's, and I know that he is where he should be. He has all those things that I wanted for him. I love him so much, and I am happy for him. Because I placed him for adoption with a sweet and loving family, he can have the life I could not have given him. I know it was right.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable #3

Today, I'm speaking as an adoptee. I speak as a child of an adoption that should be open. An adoption that I wish were open.

The prompt for the roundtable is this: Share your wish list for your open adoption. Talk about the future. Talk about how you wish things were.

I've talked quite a bit about my birth father in these posts. My birth father and I have a great relationship. He always makes me feel loved and wanted. He and his family have completely embraced things. Even when times are tough for one or both of us, I know that he loves me and cares about how I'm doing. He is a great father.

I don't mention my birth mother quite so often. Realistically, there's not that much to say. I have met my birth mother once, the same day I met my birth father the first time. It's been almost four years now. I can count on my fingers the number of times I've heard from her since then, though I've emailed her many times.

Here's my wish list for the future:

I wish my birth mother would open up to me. I wish she would email me. I wish we could meet again. I wish she would tell my siblings that I exist, so that I could start talking to them too. I wish I knew their names. I wish that I could meet them, to discover our similarities and our differences, to find out if we have interests in common, to know if they struggle through things that I could help them with. I just want to know them. My family. My flesh and blood. In the future, I wish this adoption really could be open.

This is a mentality that I have difficulty understanding, though it's fairly common. I can't imagine tucking away the memories of a child given up for adoption, and refusing to process and face those feelings. I mean, I feel like it's rejecting motherhood itself, in a way. Motherhood is to care and love and nuture a child. While the nuturing is limited in an adoption situation, being a birth mother means you still love and care about that child. Doesn't it? That's what it means in my head.

Adopted children have ongoing needs that can only be met by their birth parents. Questions, fears, doubts...there are certain concerns that will always exist within the mind of an adoptee, and those concerns can only be soothed by a birth parent. Responsibility for the child does not end at placement. It is ongoing, whether the adoption is open or not. I wish that more birth parents--including my own--would remember that responsibility, and show that love and care that their children so desperately need.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Video chat rocks my world!

Jen and I have been talking about doing a video chat since before Mother's Day, and (like many things) it just didn't happen, didn't happen. It came up again this week, and then out of the blue, Jen asked me if I wanted to do a video chat--now!

I got to talk to Jen and Ian for over half an hour. It was fantastic! Ian sang me some songs, and I applauded. I asked him about his favorite foods, colors, toys, and animals. It was wonderful just to see his face. We have the same teeth, which I just never noticed before.

Talk about open adoption! This is it, and it is wonderful. I love my son, I love his parents, and I am happy as a clam. What a great evening.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Day in the Life

I want to tell you a little about what living in an open adoption is like.

Yesterday morning, I talked to Jen (my son's adoptive mom) on Google Chat for awhile. She had just finished uploading some pictures and a video of Ian on his blog, so I immediately popped over to check them out. So cute! I love looking at pictures of Ian, he is SUCH a ham, I can't even tell you. Jen and I were laughing at some of the ridiculous things he had said recently.

I went on vacation recently to New York City, and while I was there, I first mailed them a postcard, and later I mailed Ian a little package with a note and a 'I love NYC' t-shirt. Jen told me that when they got the postcard, he grabbed it and ran full-speed to his bedroom, where he asked his mom to hang it on his wall. When they got my package, he did the same thing with the note, so they're now both tucked in a frame on his wall. And she said he's WILD about the t-shirt, she doesn't have the heart to tell him it's too big!! (I have to confess...I was SO worried about the size, because I had no idea what size shirt he wears!!)

Jen and I talked about ice cream, and I told her about my awesome date on the Fourth of July. We talked about writing about about TV shows and how we both despise video games. We talked about Ian's habits and his growing ability to spell and shared some brief opinions on pre-school.

We don't have long conversations like that all the time, but it's great when we do. When we don't, I keep up with them via Jen's and Ian's blogs. Obviously, I'm a blogger. So is Jen. This has worked out perfectly for us.

Here's the thing. Open adoptions are an individual relationship. They're a unique relationship, but it's still a shared committment between people, just like any other friends and family. The bond, instead of being shared genes or shared circumstances, is the even greater bond of shared interest in a child.

If you're in an open adoption, or thinking about an open adoption, it really is up to you, and that other person or people, exactly what kind of relationship you want to have. Maybe you're the phone call type, and that's how you like to keep in touch. Or letters, or emails, or whatever. You can make it work for you.

But in any case, open adoption is really about love. It's about maintaining an open relationship with the child, the birth parents, and the adoptive parents. It's about that child growing up knowing that he or she is loved by a LOT of people. It's about healing and life for everyone.

I live an open adoption every day. Two, in fact--my son's, and my own. I text my birthdad all the time, just to say hi, I love you, how's it going? And the same with Jen. When Ian gets older, maybe we'll have a similar relationship, it's really up to him. But he'll always know that I love him! He doesn't have much of a choice about that one. =)

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Scary Things

I believe in open adoption with all my heart. I think it's the most healthy choice, for the child, for the birth parents, and for the adoptive parents.

Does that make it easy? Definitely not.

I think that I have been very, very lucky when it comes to my adoption experiences. On the first hand, I had loving birth parents, and loving adoptive parents, and loving siblings. Sure, we've all had our hard times. But I've been very blessed in my family.

And then there was the placement of my own son. Again, I was very lucky. My parents, though they struggled with the situation, were supportive of my decision to place my baby for adoption. The birth father was similarly supportive. I had a case worker with LDS Family Services who cared and who guided me through the decisions I had to make, without judging me or forcing me to take any action I was uncomfortable with. He helped me to follow through the decisions that I knew were right for me and my baby.

But no matter how prepared you are, no matter how firm your decision is, placing a baby for adoption is still an act of faith. You have faith that the adoptive family are good people. You have faith that they will love your baby as much as they would love their own flesh and blood. You have faith that they will raise your child better than you could. You have faith that your child will be happy, and have a good life. You have faith that the adoptive couple will keep in touch the way they say that they will. You have faith that your child will grow up knowing that you loved him, even though you placed him for adoption.

I would never advise someone to place their baby for adoption unless they were sure it was the right decision. This is too big a decision to be unsure. But even still, I would tell you to have faith. Trust your instincts, and listen to the advice of counselors and good parents. Do your research, make sure you know--as much as anyone CAN know--what is coming. But above all, have faith that you will know what is best for your baby, and for you. It is scary, and it will be the most difficult decision you will have to make. But you will know if it's the right thing to do.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I am a member of the coolest club ever--you should join!

I've decided, once again, that adoption rocks.

Every now and then something I read or hear will strike me, and I'm just overwhelmed again and again by how cool adoption really is.

It makes me appreciate my family more.
It helps me understand myself better.
It means I have LOTS AND LOTS more people to love and who love me.
It got me two sets of really awesome parents.
It means I get to look at pictures of the cutest 3-year-old boy genius ever.
It has helped me re-focus and better understand what I want to do with my life...again.

Seriously, folks...adoption rocks my socks.

Giving back

I had a conversation yesterday with a fellow birthmom. She apologized for "sound[ing] corny", then expressed her deep desire to 'give back' to birthmothers, because she received so much help and support during her own experience. Of course I wrote her back immediately to tell her that I feel the exact same way, and that I imagine a lot of women in our situation feel the same.

The adoption experience engenders a closeness among birth mothers. Not all birth mothers, of course, but there is a select group who are touched, affected, and changed by these experiences. It's this group in particular who I have found come back a few years later and want to help, volunteer, and give back in some way. I see them a lot through my own volunteer work.

I think that we recognize how very difficult the experience is. Placing a child for adoption is--almost without fail--the most difficult decision and action any of us have gone through. I doubt any of us could have done it alone. We have the support of parents or counselors or friends or ward members or fellow birth mothers in group or other support forums. Most of all, we have the support of our Heavenly Father. Without that support, it would be even more difficult to go through with this heart breaking choice.

And so we come back. We recognize the help that was given to us, and since we've been there, we know what it takes, and we want to give back, share the first hand wisdom that is limited to this select group. I've started thinking of it as the sisterhood of birthmoms. I like to think of it as a very elite group. =)

As I've worked with other birthmoms, particularly during the last six months, I've come to really appreciate what an amazing group they truly are. These are strong women. These are truly selfless women. They give of themselves ceaselessly. On days like today, I just have to take a step back and realize how priviledged I am to associate with these women.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Four Fathers

This prompt comes from the Open Adoption Roundtable, found here. The prompt is: Write about the father(s) in your family's open adoption(s).

In my life, there are many fathers. Each of them holds a different--but still precious--place in my heart.

First, there is my Dad. My adoptive father, the only father I knew for most of my life. He's a quiet man, reserved. But he is a wonderful father. He cares about me and my brother, and he always showed us in his own way. He was always there to listen when I talked about my ideas for my next story. He helps me fix things, he makes sure my car runs well, he takes me on vacations. He taught me about respect, and integrity, and faith in God and in other people. He loves me, and I don't know what I'd do without him.

Next is my Pops. My birth father, who celebrated my birthday every year with his kids, who looked for me and was overjoyed when we found each other. He taught me to play Blackjack, he gave me every Nightwish album that I have, and he took me fishing for the first time. We don't see each other as much as I would like. But we still love each other, and I know we'll always have a relationship.

Now Joseph for a moment. Jen wrote their first email to me, but Joe insisted that he got the next turn. Throughout my pregnancy, Joe was invested in me and the baby, he was there at every meeting and every phone call. When I was in labor, it was he who asked me when they could come. And when he held his son for the first time, his face lit up in the biggest grin I've ever seen. He is a wonderful father; he eats breakfast with his son, they talk about cars and planes and engines, and laugh at Mama. Ian would not be who he is today if not for his father, Joseph.

And Sean. I don't give Sean enough credit. When I was pregnant, I blamed him for a lot of things, and I was unforgiving in my criticism of his every action. But I look back, and he was there. He cared about me, even if he didn't know what to do for me. And I can never deny that he cared about our baby. He came to the hospital when I was in labor, and when he held our son for the first time, he wept. Sean and I spent some time alone with Ian that day, and I had never seen Sean more tender. I can't say what their relationship will be in the future, but there is no doubt that Sean cares deeply about our son.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


The national conference of Families Supporting Adoption is coming up fast! On July 31& August 1, friends of adoption will gather from across the country for two days of education, discussion, and networking.

I'm particularly excited to announce the birthparent portion of this conference. It's grown a TON from last year's conference (the first time birth families were invited to attend) and there are going to be lots of great classes for birth parents in every stage. Here's just some of the session topics:

-What Adopted Children Need From Their Birth Parents
-What's Next: Living Life Post-Adoption
-Uniting as a Birth Family
-Deciding Who, When, & How to Tell Your Adoption Story
-Being a Birth Mother is Just One Part of Who I Am
-Navigating the Difficult Conversations
-Telling Your Children Your Adoption Story
-Sharing Your Passion for Adoption
-Letting Go and Moving Forward
-Husbands of Birth Mothers (Panel)
-Desires, Expectations, and Disappointments
-Step by Step Through Your Pregnancy & Placement
-United by Love

While Families Supporting Adoption is closely connected to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, birth parents of all backgrounds are invited to attend, for FREE! All the details are over at this blog: http://lettinglovelead.blogspot.com.

Spread the word! It's going to be a great conference, for birth families and adoptive families alike. If you have any questions, let me know!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Open Adoption Bloggers Roundtable

Much to my delight, Heather has opened up the Open Adoption Roundtable. Periodically, she will pose a question, to which we respond in detail at our own blogs. I think this is a great way to network and share ideas and stories about adoption. It brings so many perspectives together!

The question for this first round is: What one thing about open adoption would you tell your past self, if you could? (For more detail, I'd recommend taking the link over to Heather's post.) This is a little different for me than it would be for an adoptive mom, but here goes.

It was pretty early in my pregnancy that I decided I was going to place my baby for adoption. Getting married just wasn't going to happen, abortion wasn't an option, and I decided I wasn't going to single parent. So I started looking at profiles of adoptive couples. Even these are a lot more open than they used to be, and contact of some kind is usually encouraged. I read through a few, and even emailed a handful of couples. One of the most important questions (to me) I asked was, "How do you feel about openness?"

I got lucky. Or rather, there was more than a little divine intervention. I hear adoptive couples and caseworkers talk about networking, and it is SO TRUE. I looked through the profiles and emailed couples that seemed close to what I wanted. But networking found the true results.

Late in the summer, when I was about four months along, my friend Ashley hesitantly approached me. She told me that her sister knew a couple who were hoping to adopt. I told Ashley to pass along my email address. Lo and behold, I soon had a lengthy email from Jen, telling me about her and her husband, their lives, the cruise they'd just gone on, and how they wanted to know all about me.

Those emails continued. They were usually long (as were mine back to them), they were usually fairly casual, but they were always loving and always interested in me and how I was doing. They were perfect, and I loved them. To be honest, Jen became a HUGE support to me throughout the rest of my pregnancy. I knew that she cared about me, and I knew that she cared about my pregnancy. I shared with her the details of my discomforts and my joys regarding my pregnancy, because she was curious and excited for me. In some ways, Jen went through that pregnancy, vicariously! And by the time I realized that she was supposed to be the mother of our "little monkey", I realized that I wanted her to share those experiences with me, because she was his mother.

I know that adoptive couples often feel anxiety about openness with birth parents. Particularly if it's their first time adopting. Always there's just that edge of nervousness when you think of including another person in your little family. I cannot commend Jen enough for her compassion, her curiosity, and her open, honest engagement with me. That was what I needed. I hope I'm not making an assumption to say that she needed it too. And I don't think either of us had even begun to realize what we needed from each other before it just happened.

I will relate an experience. It was late November. Jen and I had been emailing since August. I had prayed about it, my ex/the father had prayed about it, and I knew without any doubt that the little monkey was supposed to belong to Jen and Joe's family. I was planning to tell them over Christmas break when I met them for the first time. But out of nowhere, Jen and Joe got an offer: another birthmother had chosen to place her baby with them. Immediately.

I can't even begin to imagine what Jen and Joe went through during this time. It seems so brief, looking back, but at the time it seemed like an endless agony. Jen and Joe considered the offer, and my caseworker talked me through the possibilities, and what might happen if they decided to accept this other child, and not mine. Jen and Joe considered the possibility of taking both children. We all prayed.

We had a conference call--Jen, Joe, their caseworker, my caseworker, me and my ex. I was on pins and needles. I knew. I knew my baby was meant to be with them. And I didn't want to share them with some other person! I didn't want my baby fighting for their attention! It was just supposed to be us right now. Other babies could come later, but right now, it was about me and my little monkey.

Jen and Joe knew it too.

You can't imagine the relief I felt when they told me that their prayers had been answered, and that they knew they were supposed to have my baby, and that this other child was supposed to be with a different family. I wept. It still brings tears to my eyes to think about what might have happened, if they hadn't been in tune to the Spirit, if they had been tempted by the offer of a baby right now. But our Father in Heaven knew where these children were supposed to be, and He made it possible.

We still met over Christmas, and though it was no longer a surprise of any kind, I still gave them my gift--a stuffed monkey, to hold them over until they got the real little monkey. Over the coming months, our emails continued. I shared my ultrasound pictures. We met again. We talked about names for the baby. We discussed the birth plan. In every way, I tried to include them in my pregnancy, and then in the birth of their son.

I know that I've strayed a bit. But what I would tell my past self about open adoption is to trust. I would tell me to trust myself. I was so worried that I wouldn't be able to choose the right parents for my baby, but when the real time of trial came, I knew. And I would tell myself to trust them. Jen and Joe have been so kind and generous, through every step and every day of this experience. They continue to share with me, and they continue to tell their son about his adoption and his birthmom, who loves him. Open adoption works. It is about trust, and it is about love.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

It's About Love

I am THRILLED to announce that the new It's About Love website has finally launched!! The new site has been under construction for awhile now, but it's been approved and is now LIVE at www.itsaboutlove.org . Please take some time to look over the site. There are a lot of features here for everyone interested in adoption, and frankly, it's just a beautiful website. Huzzah!!


Monday, June 1, 2009

I don't like people who talk about things they know nothing about. Just sayin'

Secondhand stories are sometimes difficult to relate, so bear with me. Yesterday I was talking to my friend Melissa about a conversation she had with one of her other friends (we'll call her Christy). They had been playing Imagine If... and the question was what Christy would do with her baby if she got pregnant. Melissa automatically assumed that she would place it for adoption, but Christy protested that she would keep her baby, as if this were the only logical asnwer. She then proceeded to say that people who gave up their babies for adoption didn't love their babies like she would love hers.

This is a secondhand story. I do know Christy, though not well. But even secondhand from a friend-of-a-friend, it still kind of ticked me off. Of all misconceptions about adoption, this one rubs me the worst.

Birthmothers love their babies. Birthmothers usually love their babies more than anything else in the entire world; certainly more than they love themselves. I've met quite a few birthmoms in the past couple of years, and I've yet to meet one who didn't love her baby LIKE CRAZY. To say that a birthmother does not love her baby is to say that they could live without air or water. Just not happening.

You know what one of my biggest pet peeves is?
People who speak in ignorance.

Placing my son for adoption was THE hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Ever. I wouldn't be surprised if it's the hardest thing I will EVER have to do in my life. I don't regret my decision in the slightest. But that doesn't mean it was easy. And it certainly doesn't mean that I didn't/don't love him. I think about him all the time. I hope he's doing well. I look at his pictures and videos, and read his mom's blog. I'm not obsessed. But I'm still a mother. I still care and worry and hope for him. Because I love him. I will always love him.

I am not an incubator. I am a birth mother.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ongoing relationships in adoption

When I was adopted, nearly 23 years ago now, open adoption didn't exist. My birthparents selected my adoptive parents from a series of profiles. They did not get to see pictures or names. Because I was born through C-section, they got to spend 48 hours with me in the hospital before I was taken by a social worker to my adoptive parents. The adoption agency performed a checkup six months later. My birth parents received the report of that checkup--again, no names were used--along with a handful of pictures. The pictures did not feature my parents, only me. That was the last my birth parents heard or saw of me for 19 years.

Obviously life has changed a lot. Adoptions are now open. Adoptees are allowed to meet and know their birth families, even grow up with their birth parents as active participants in their life.

However, even with open adoptions there is a tendancy among birth parents to drift, in the years following the placement of their child. Birth mothers heal, and they are often encouraged to put their experiences behind them and move on with their life.

I don't want to say this is wrong, because I very much believe that moving forward is a healthy approach to the adoption experience. However, I think that birth parents sometimes lose sight of the fact that their child will always have questions and needs that can only be fulfilled by the birth parents.

I've experienced this as an adoptee myself. I spent 19 years in the dark. Wondering, questioning, doubting. There were many times that I wished that I knew my birth parents, so I could ask them things. As a rebellious teenager, I thought there was surely some genetic explanation for things that happened in my life. All through my life, I wondered if I had siblings, I wondered if my parents had really loved me.

There is no substitute for a birth parent. They will never replace the parent, the adoptive parent. But blood calls to blood. I have grown close to my birth father and his family in the last few years, and those relationships are invaluable to me. And I hope to have an ongoing relationship with my son and his parents.

I think that it is crucial for birth parents to remember the needs of their child, just like the parents themselves. Just because we have moved forward with our lives does not mean that we have no further obligation to our child. Of course we give what we can, when we can, and when it's appropriate. But we still give of ourselves, always.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Being a birthmom

I read this great post over at Heather's blog. It got me thinking.

I think the key thing that Heather said was this:
If there is anything that is true about open adoption, it is that it's about our kids, not ourselves. We meet them where they're at in any given moment.
Reading about Heather and Puppy's experience on Mother's Day, it made me ponder how I can be a better birthmom. How I can be more supportive of my son, and of his parents. I hope I will always be there when they need me. And I hope that they always know I love them. =)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Conference update

The theme for the FSA National Conference this year is "Letting Love Lead". However, the birthparent planning committee (that's a mouthful, I need an acronym or something) decided early on that we wanted our own mini-theme for the birthparent part of conference. And now, ladies and gentlemen, we have one.

United by Love

Our emphasis for conference this year is really about bringing birth families together--bringing families together. We are now in the midst of producing an awesome logo, and when that becomes available I will post it for general consumption. =)

I can't tell you how excited I am about conference. I feel so strongly that Families Supporting Adoption has a potential for growth that outpaces what any of us can imagine now. I am so grateful that they have finally let birth parents really become a part of this organization, and I hope that this growth is allowed to continue and expand into the wonderfulness for which it has so much potential.

To any lurking birth parents (or anybody who is involved in adoption!), this conference is for YOU. No matter where you are at in your story, there will be classes and connections for YOU. It's going to be amazing!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Am I Odd?

One of my biggest failings is the automatic assumption that my way of doing things is the best way of doing things. I have to work pretty hard not to let this fault get ahead of me, to stop and consider the views of others, to think about it from others' point of view.

The more I delve into the adoption world at large, the more I'm coming to realize that my views on adoption are NOT generally held, and that in many cases I am odd.

I read a great article on adoption today as provided by Mrs. R from The R House. The article has a positive view on adoption, but the comments are riddled with negativity and antagonism toward adoption in general. It made me rather sad. One poster in particular was adamant that the term "birthmother" is derogatory and that adoptive parents aren't really parents, just caretakers.

In response (because I didn't feel I could properly express myself in the forum of a comments section), I have some facts of my life to share with you.

1. First and foremost, I am adopted, and I LOVE MY PARENTS. That would be my adoptive parents, folks. They are my examples, my confidants, my friends, my mentors, my strength and my shelter. I will always love them dearly.

2. I also love my birthparents, but in an entirely different way. I respect them for the decision they made to place me for adoption. I love to see our similarities and our likenessess. And I love the opportunity I have to get to know them better, as well as their other children, my siblings.

3. I love my son, who I placed for adoption three years ago of my own will and choice. I was not coerced, I was not convinced, and I certainly wasn't forced. I wanted my son to grow up in a two-parent household, with a stable family who could provide him all the love they possessed. And he got it! But with open adoption, I get to stay in touch, to watch him grow, and I'm able to provide answers to questions as they arise. If I had to do it again, I would not do it any differently.

4. I am happy. My life is good. I went through counseling before and after placing my son for adoption, and I know I could go back if I needed to. But what's more--I've healed and I have fully accepted my decisions. I am at peace! And I continue to serve as an advocate for adoption because I believe that it is the best decision for many--if not most!--unwed parents, but more importantly, for their children.

Maybe I am odd. Maybe my views are not generally held. But in my pride and my failings, I believe that my views are the best--for everyone. I have personally witnessed the benefits and joy of open adoption, and I will continue to sing these praises until the cows come home. =)