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, 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.