Friday, April 17, 2009

FSA national conference!

Last night I attending a planning committee meeting for the birthparent portion of this summer's Families Supporting Adoption national conference. A more concise way to say all that was: I love adoption! =)

We spent several hours debating about which classes we want to share with birthparents. In the end, we doubled the number of birthparent sessions from last year (which was the first time birthparents had their own sessions at conference). I can't tell you the enormity of my excitement for this.

First of all, I am an organizer. I started out life as a stage manager, after all. I LOVE this kind of thing. Totally in my element. I don't need a spotlight, but I do enjoy a position where I can take charge--quietly--and keep things on track. This is my natural state of being.

Secondly, of all the things I could apply my skills and passion to, this is IT. I feel so incredibly passionate about adoption. I believe in it 100%. I believe in open adoption, I believe in support and communication and love, for everybody. And I believe that birthmothers hold a unique place, both in adoption society, and in the eyes of God. I cherish my fellow birthmothers.

I can't wait to continue this work. I can't wait for this conference! I can't wait to meet and talk with and listen to other birthmoms who care as much as I do, who want to improve lives, including their own. And strangely, I'm excited to share my own successes, and to give back what I can to my fellow birthmoms.

Adoption: It's About Love.

I seriously just cried my way through three-quarters of this book. Couldn't put it down. I'm going to have more thoughts about it later, but it's now a quarter after three, and I'm going to bed.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Birthing plan

I got talking to another mother today about "birthing plans." This concept never fails to make me laugh, despite the fact that it's a serious and important topic for expectant mothers to address. Something about planning for that madness just amuses me.

At any rate, I was thinking about it, and I think that birthing plans are actually really important for birthmothers. If you think about it, that time--birth, and a short time following--are the culmination of the entire process. Firstly, because birth itself is a culmination of nine months of pregnancy, and secondly because this is the time the baby and the birthmother have to meet each other. Every placement is different. But this time is indeed the birthmother's.

I don't think I really thought a WHOLE lot about my birthing plan before I had my son, but there were definitely things that I wanted to have happen. First, I wanted Jen there. This was the birth of her son, too, and it was important for me to have her there. Later I also decided I wanted my mom there. They both lived three hours away from me, so part of the process was getting them to where I was. And that turned out to be part of the fun.

I wanted a natural birth. I guess it's because I'm stubborn. I can't really explain the why of it, except that women were made to have babies, and I wanted to have mine the way God intended for it to happen. I wanted catharsis through the pains of birth. I suppose I felt the pain would somehow cleanse me of all the pain I had endured through my pregnancy.

I also decided to take my baby home for three days after he was born. Now, this wouldn't work for some people. But it's what I wanted. I wanted that time to meet my son, to spend time with him, to let my parents spend time with him. I wanted him to know that I loved him before I placed him with his family.

Realistically, everything went according to my plan, even if my birthing plan in no way encompassed the enormity of my son's birth. When the labor pains began and I knew they were for real, I called my parents. My mother--who'd been stressing herself silly for weeks--was in the car even before we hung up. And actually, Jen and her husband called me even before I had the chance to call them. I was sitting in church, exulting in the regular contractions, and when I got out I had a voicemail. I went into labor on my due date, and they were calling to check how I was doing. I called them back and told them it was time. I'm not entirely sure that Jen believed me at first. But eventually I convinced them that it was time to come down.

When everybody arrived, I was so overjoyed. Actually, we have pictures of me making a snow angel in my front yard. I was SO happy. It still wasn't time to go to the hospital, so I joined them at my parents hotel and we played Settlers of Catan and Racko through the evening. It was getting late and everybody was tired, so they decided to go to bed. But no sooner had I laid down then I decided I definitely wasn't going to be sleeping--so we went to the hospital.

I was still high. I walked loops around the maternity wing with Jen and my mom while Joe and my dad took naps. I called my social worker, and I called the birthfather. When the contractions got too intense, I got to enjoy the jacuzzi tub in my room. I tell you--if you're going to have a natural birth, have a jacuzzi tub. Seriously.

By the time I got out of the jacuzzi time, it was almost time to push. My midwife arrived--she was upset that I hadn't called her earlier to help! But we got ready, and started pushing.

Yeah, it hurt. Not gonna lie. But when my son was born, I wept with pain and joy and relief and a million other emotions all at once. Jen admitted to me that she had peeked as he came out, and I just laughed. "That's what you're here for, silly," is what I told her.

Friends came to visit us in the hospital. I called one of my professors and asked her to spread the word that I'd be out of classes for a week. Jen and Joe brought me flowers and Ben & Jerry's. And then I took my son home to my parents' house for three days, just as I had planned.

I wouldn't have done it any other way. Those three days gave me a chance to meet my son, and to heal just a bit before placement three days after he was born. We held placement in my home. We exchanged gifts. We signed papers. I changed his diaper one more time, and then sent him home with his parents.

I spent a few more days at my parents', and then I returned to school. It was good for me to keep busy, that helped me to process and to heal. Everyone heals differently.

I think that it's important for birthmothers--for ALL mothers--to prepare in advance, to know how they want things to happen. That way, when the insanity of childbirth takes place, at least part of life will be in order. And with that stability, we can move forward with life.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


This afternoon, I had something I wanted to talk to Jen about (this is my son's adoptive mother aka one of the dearest and funniest people I have in my life). I pulled her up on the instant messenger and whipped off a quick "hi!" Now, unfortunately Jen was sick in bed, but fortunately, I got to say hi to Joe and Ian, who were eating "man food" aka PB&J. We didn't talk long, but it was sweet.

It occurred to me later how totally cool open adoption is. Seriously, Jen and I talk all the time on Google Chat. And we email. And I read her blogs (maybe she reads mine, I'm not sure. She's a busy lady). We've even talked about starting up phone calls, though that's likely to be limited, because talking on the phone just isn't my thing.

Open adoption makes life so good. Of course there have to be boundaries. Of course there are limits. But they're set between the birthparents and the adoptive parents and the child, whatever everybody is comfortable with. After that, it's just all good.

I just have to tell you that I think open adoption is the shiz. That's all. =)

Stand up against the Policy of Shame

I grew up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I love my church, I love my faith, and most of the time, I love the people of my church too. But I have to admit sometimes that there are a lot of stigmas and prejudices associated with our way of life. Most of the time, I just live with them. But sometimes, there are stigmas that I want to fight.

One of these is what I am coming to call the Policy of Shame, especially in regards to adoption.

I was talking to a friend of mine who works for LDS Family Services, the adoption agency that I was adopted through and through which I placed my son for adoption three years ago. We were talking about the changes happening for the new website (which you can see if you follow the link). I see these as purely good and wonderful changes. Necessary changes. My friend mentioned that the strongest advocate against the change really disliked that all the videos on the website are of real birthmothers, telling their own stories. I couldn't comprehend, at the time, why this could possibly be a problem. It all came back to the Policy of Shame.

In the LDS Church, we are not supposed to have sex before marriage, and then only with our spouse. This is one of the most heavily emphasized doctrines. In the case of birthmothers, clearly we have disobeyed this doctrine. In the old school/closed adoption days, unwed mothers were encouraged to get married, and where that couldn't happen, they were encouraged to place their babies for adoption, and then pretend like it had never happened--at least in public. Read: The Policy of Shame.

This advocate against the change protested against using real birthmothers because of the influence of this mindset. According to the Policy of Shame, birthmothers should not be exposed publicly like that. They should keep their shame quiet, and private--especially if there are others who look up to them.

But it's just not that way anymore! Adoption has been opened, and people are telling their stories of success. We can't stop people from making mistakes. There will always be unwed mothers and fathers. That's part of life. But by opening up the adoption process, we are able to show what wonderful joy and blessings can result from what otherwise can be the darkest time in someone's life.

I think we are the better for it. We=birthparents, adoptive parents, and especially adoptees. Open adoption has created a new and healthier way of adoption-life.

Don't get me wrong. I don't blab that I'm a birthmom all over the place. There is a time and place (like this!) to talk about my adoption story. I struggle with it more in person than I do in the semi-anonymous computer world. But I am not ashamed. Frankly, I love the fact that I have this huge, endless family. And I love my son. I'm so proud of him. And I love his parents; I count them among my closest friends. No matter how I regard the circumstances of his birth, I will always count it among the most significant and wonderful parts of my life. And the wonderfulamazingness of open adoption is something that I want to share with everybody. Read: EVERYBODY.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Blood calls

I'm pretty tight with my birthdad, which is pretty unusual. When you think of birthfathers, you usually don't think of them in the present. You think of them as some jerk who runs off as soon as he finds out there's a kid. Unless you know a birthfather who DOESN'T conform to that image, anyway.

My b-dad, or my "Pops", has been in my life for about three and a half years now. We found each other the summer before I turned 19 (when I was about 3 months pregnant with my son). I had always intended to seek out my BP (birthparents) when I came of age. This is a lot harder than it sounds--or it usually is, anyway. But when I finally started looking, I found him pretty quickly, because he'd already been looking for me. I think the appropriate term here is "dual registry" although it was nothing official, just the reunion pages on

Long story short (maybe I'll tell it to you later), we found each other, we confirmed that we were in fact who we thought we were, and later that summer, we met. My b-mom was out for Education Week at Brigham Young University, so I was able to meet her as well as my b-dad's wife and three other daughters. And, as he likes to say, I haven't been able to get rid of them since.

It's interesting all the things we have in common. Music. Food. Food we don't like. Books. Movies. Not to mention physical features.

On the flip side, I can count on one hand the number of times I've heard from my b-mom since our meeting three and a half years ago. She also has kids, who don't know I exist. I don't know their names, or anything about them. Contact is minimal where it occurs at all.

Most of the time, I just shrug it away. Yeah, it bothers me, but it's not my choice to make, and there's nothing I can really do about it. But there are times when I wonder what I'm missing, what they're missing.

Not all adoption stories have happy endings. But I'll tell you--I think the happier ones come from open adoptions. But that's another blog. =)

L to R: Samantha, Danielle, Valerie, Cydney Jo

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I am a Mother

I read an interesting blog post today, by a husband named Vic. These bloggers are complete strangers to me, family of friends. Vic was talking about his experience at his wife's baby shower, and he said this:

It was interesting to see all the women congregating thus, busily chatting, laughing, eating... There is definitely a certain camaraderie. I suppose it is the bond of motherhood. Pregnancy really is a big deal. I am fascinated by all the physical changes a woman experiences. To change shapes so drastically? The amount of energy it requires? The changes in hormone levels? And then to have another being inside, that moves and kicks and punches and gets the hiccups? Really -- its like something from a science fiction movie! Its like magic. "And now for my next trick, I will make a person; Ta-da!"

Women make people. I carved an eagle out of soap once, when I was in cub-scouts. My wife makes people. It makes sense that there would be this camaraderie. There is a camaraderie among lawyers - "you suffered through law school, passed the bar, are sworn to uphold the constitution and are an officer of the court? I can relate to you. I can respect your situation". For women - "you have the power to make people too? Yes, we are in a special club aren't we?" Making people. It really is amazing.
Full post may be found here.

Sometimes, as a birthmom, I feel excluded from this camaraderie when I know that I belong to it. People--women--who don't know about my son don't think to include me, when here I am, posing as a young single adult. I hear women talk about pregnancy, birth, motherhood, and I want to chime in, but the awkwardness of an adoption story often hinders me, and I remain silent.


I am a mother. This fact is beyond contestation. I bore and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, who is turning out to be a mad genius, as his mother will be sure to attest. I continue to watch him grow and learn and explore, albeit at a distance. I love him with all my heart. I am a mother. I will always be a mother. Motherhood does not end at the placement of a child.

"The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new." ~Rajneesh

So, to any lurking birthmoms out there, I hope that you'll step forward and recognize yourself for what you are. I know you have pictures of your baby cached in your wallet, I know that you find yourself thinking about that cute smile at random points in your day. I know that your arms ache for a snuggle.

I'm with ya.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Thoughts some people just don't have to think

Here's the thing.

Growing up, I always knew I was adopted. I can't remember having a talk about it, being sat down and told. It just was. Part of the very definition of myself. "My name is Valerie. I have blue eyes. I like to play piano. I'm adopted."

I never believed that I wasn't wanted. Not part of the makeup of this story. My parents always assured me that my birthparents had simply wanted me to have a better life, with two parents who could raise me right.

I guess that was what made me so sure that I wanted to place my own baby for adoption.

But there's always going to be questions. EVERYBODY has questions about themselves, their history, their roots, their genes. Adoption only amplifies those questions, because you don't have a lifetime spent around the same gene pool to answer some of the question instinctually.

So even though I have a relationship with some of my B-family, I still have questions. As I know my son will continue to have questions for me. Questions non-adopted people just don't even have to think about. This is just part of the life.

Friday, April 10, 2009

I am a birthmom.

I am adopted.

My family is endless.