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.