Thursday, July 29, 2010

On the eve of conference

Tomorrow begins the 2010 FSA International Conference. I am strangely calm and nervous at the same time. I am speaking twice--the first is a presentation all on my own, on the topic of "Finding the RIGHT Adoptive Couple". This class is specifically for expectant parents who are in the process of making their adoption plan and choosing an adoptive couple. I expect it will be a small class, as there are far more birth parents in attendance than girls who are pregnant right now. But I have had the impression that I am supposed to teach this class, and so I feel that even if there's one person in the class, I am meant to touch that one person. My second session is a panel of adoptees, which should be a piece of cake. What makes it awesome is that my birthdad Jason will be there. He's presenting on a panel of birth fathers. AND my parents will be there! So I'll be in the middle of my own adoptive triad. The only thing that would complete it more is if my son and his parents were there too. Alas!

I have to be honest, dear reader, that I have been kind of out of it for awhile now, as far as the adoption world is concerned. I mean, I've been planning this conference, which is time consuming (though not as bad this year as it was last year), and I still do a fair amount of volunteer work. But I just sort of feel disconnected. I've heard that a lot of birthmoms go through this back and forth thing, as far as their involvement and passion for adoption activities. It's weird, hard to explain. With this conference, I feel like I'm going through the motions. And I'm sure it will be a great conference. But I'm also sure I could have done a lot more to make it even better.

Adoption is important to me. My adoption experiences are a critical part of my life. And I never want my passion for adoption advocacy to fade. I don't really understand what it is that I'm going through at the moment. Honestly, I'm hoping that the conference will revitalize me.

Beyond anything else, though, I am excited for the conference as a whole. I'm looking forward to a great weekend! And I hope to see many adoption-world friends there as well. =)

Friday, May 28, 2010

FSA National Conference

I can't believe it's almost this time again. It feels like last month we were up in Layton for the Families Supporting Adoption National Conference. But almost a year has gone by and we're getting prepped and PUMPED for this year's conference. It's going to be July 30-31st, again at the Davis Conference Center in Layton, UT. We are broadening the spectrum even further than last year, with more classes for birth parents and several classes specifically for birth grandparents.

You know, it really is something special to me, to be as intimately involved in this conference as I am. I love my volunteer work. It is one of the most fulfilling things I do. Planning this conference is, of course, right up my alley, with my event(/theatre) management background. I love fitting all the pieces together.

This is going to be a great experience for everybody--adoptive couples, birth parents, birth grandparents, adoption workers, we'll even have a class with adoptees that should be fun. It was a phenomenal experience last year. I'm hoping that even more birth families hear about it and decide to come this year. Spread the word!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ian's a big brother now

Just thought you should know. =)

I was thinking about it the other day, how complicated adoption can seem. Because Baby B. is not adopted...and there's a bunch of schtuff that goes along with that. But that's what I love so much about my relationship with Ian's family. Jen and I had this conversation months ago--and frankly, I'm pretty content to be "birthmom" to both these little boys, my own flesh and blood, and Jen's own flesh and blood.

Things are pretty quiet on the adoption front. But things are good. All I have to see are pictures of Ian's big grins looking down at Baby B. to know that things are good.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Open Adoption Bloggers: Interview Project

Thanks to Heather of Open Adoption Bloggers, I had the chance this month to interview a fellow adoption blogger, Emily (aka Mama2Roo) from Letters to a Birthmother. I read a fair number of adoption blogs, though few of them with any consistency. I'd read a few of M's posts in the past and found them very interesting and well-written. I'm glad that I had the opportunity to go through her blog front to back--I found it a fascinating read.

Emily and her husband adopted a newborn boy four years ago this month. Their adoption started as semi-closed--they met their birthmother "N." in the hospital, and were told they could keep in contact with her family. However, about a year after baby "Woob" was born, they started pushing those adoption doors more open. Now they have an open, ongoing relationship with N., her two daughters, as well as her father and his family. Emily has an incredible desire to have an open adoption, for Woob's sake more than anything. I have been most impressed by the deep respect, found in her writing, that she has for Woob's birthmother N. As a birthmom myself, it brings me great comfort to know people like Emily.

Here are the results of our interview:

You mentioned early on that your adoption was originally semi-open (ie pretty closed) with N. How did it become open? What made that transition?

Well, we spoke over the phone on our first contact and my hubby and I just really liked her. He had originally not been comfortable with open. After we talked, and even before we were chosen, we were left feeling like N. was someone we really liked and felt like we wanted to know. Later when Woob was born and we were at the hospital but before we met her, we were getting to know her parents in the lobby (they are divorced). We didn't yet know how N. felt about anything, but mentioned to her mom that we'd like to continue to know one another, and the feeling we got was that, NO, that wasn't going to happen,and that mom was kind of guiding her away from that. At the same time, we were getting a really strong vibe from her dad that YES he wanted to stay in touch. We really connected to him from the beginning. And later after sharing hospital time together for a few days, we learned from the social worker that N. really thought it best not to keep in touch, but gave her blessing for us to send pics and letters to her dad through the agency. We would send and send and send and once we got a letter from him back and it indicated that he gave all the stuff that we sent to her and she was making a scrapbook, etc. And he indicated that she wanted to reach out, but didn't really know how. So...we kind of started addressing things both to him and N. separately, knowing that she would likely be receiving them anyway. Still never heard anything back. I wrote letters indicating that we would welcome her contact, we left our phone number and email address in our letters as well. And eventually, a little before Woob's first birthday, we got a call from her dad, followed by a call from her and an invitation to meet at her house. From there we've had visits both places, email, facebook and phone calls. She lives about 2 hours away. So, all those words to say that we got pushy ;)

What has been the most challenging part of open adoption for you personally?

The ebb and flow of it is VERY challenging to me. There are times when we feel more connected and then it is as if she drops off the face of the earth, no response, no nothing. We're going through one of those phases right now and it makes me second guess things, did I do something wrong, is something bad happening on her end, etc... So the first few years as that happens, it really only affects me because Woob didn't know any better. But now? Woob knows her and his sisters and has some relationship with her. He knows, as much as he can understand, about what adoption means. Now, my fears turn to thinking about what if she backs all the way out, or thinking to times when her inconsistency will definitely be noticed.

And what has been the very best, most rewarding part?

That Woob has a face and a name and a story that is tangible and helps him to understand himself better and make sense of our explanations. Those people arent' just ideas, they are real to him. He knows who two of his bio grandparents are and he has pictures with everyone. He has the opportunity to have relationships with blood relatives into his adulthood, long after we're gone, if things work out well. And, you know, we really do like her and her family, so its a win that way too.

Personally I'm really curious about your work. Non-profit? I'm just interested to know what you do and what you enjoy most about your work.

I shy away from talking too much about my work on here because I don't want people related to adoption to pre-judge me because I'm a social worker. I work in middle management at a small NFP counseling agency--family preservation programs, at risk youth, family education, lifeskills, etc all fall under my bailiwick. Additionally, I prepare families for adoption and complete home studies. And "all other things as directed by my supervisor" which at times includes unclogging toilets and loading the soda machine. We ARE a notforprofit, you know.

Along the work lines, how did/does your own adoption experience affect you as a social worker?

Its had a huge effect. At the time we adopted, I was not doing so much of the home study work, just getting into it really. So my adoption affected my perspective at work as I learned more and saw more of what agencies did poorly (like the agency I went through), and made decisions about how I wanted to practice within my own agency. And I took every opportunity to get training, read, talk learn and learn some more to get the best, most balanced perspective I could so that "my" families would receive the best information they could to help their kids when they brought them home. My thoughts have changed incredibly over the past several years and probably will continue because for me this is a never ending process...

How did your social work training affect your adoption experience?

Ha! Well, of course, I thought I knew everything! And, of course, I didn't. But I think it helped me to be more open with my expectations of the process and will people. I am here to tell you though, that living it and working it are so different. We went through the same things every oter adoptive parents go through, and no amount of social work training really helps with that.

I read that you tried infertility treatments for a long time, but haven't read what made you choose adoption. What made you decide that adoption was the right way to expand your family? We didn't try as long as others out there. I was just so SICK of the obsessive nature of infertility at the time and just one day said, I'm not doing this any more and brought up adoption to the hubby. He wasn't really convinced and probably thought I'd lose interest at some point, but like so many other things, now that we are parents to the Woob, he can't imagine what he was so leery of to begin with!

With regards to some of the insensitive comments that others (like your mother) have said about N. Do you ever have questions yourself that you wish you could ask her but feel like you can't? (because they're insensitive or adoption-politically-incorrect?) How do you process your own questions?

That's a great question. You know, as far as CONTENT of information, like who is bdad, what is he like, thinkgs like that, we've been pretty successful/comfortable with asking and she's been great about giving us information. She's a very honest person and has always seemed "what you see is what you get." I admire that about her. The questions that become harder to ask for me are here-and-now type questions. I struggle with this every day (right now as a matter of fact). These are questions that would have been best asked in the beginning, but we didn't have the opportunity given the closed nature of the relationship that first year. Questions about boundaries in the relationship, what does this feel like for you, what parts of this are hard/easy, etc. For whatever reason, I really shy away from talking about the emotional aspects on her end. I'm not very assertive in that area, and don't want to rock the boat and scare her away or make her uncomfortable, so I don't ask. But then I don't know the answers which then makes me unsure of my actions. Bleh. A terrible cycle to be in. Also, our contact waxes and wanes and when its more consistent, my worries kind of fade, but when it wanes I get all unsure again, and don't trust that I have read her cues accurately.

What church do you go to? How has your faith been involved in your adoption?

I was raised and continue to be Roman Catholic. Quite honestly, I'm unsure how my faith has impacted the adoption directly, other than doing a lot of praying that something would happen with the infertility, or adoption matching. I know that my church does not condone artificial means of conception (IVF, IUI and beyond), so even when we were pursuing some of the earlier diagnosis and treatment, that was in the back of my mind. The ethical and moral considerations of all that really did make sense to me and became quite daunting, and led to us just stopping that route. I will say that my church community was so loving and welcoming of Woob when he came along, though.

Is N. religious? Has that played any part in Woob's story?

N. is not religious, and I don't believe she decided to place for that type of reason. I do believe that she is against abortion, at least for herself, as she's had opportunity to make that decision more than once. Quite honestly, though, in the case of her pregnancy with Woob, she was quite far along in the pregnancy before she even knew she WAS pregnant, so the choice for termination was out of her hands completely. What was left was the choice to parent or place. Funny, though, I think she likes the fact that I practice the faith that her mother was raised in, even though they don't practice themselves.

How do you think Woob's relationship with N. will develop as he grows older and becomes more independant? What do you see as your part as he keeps growing?

That's probably the least clear of all. I do hope it continues once he's old enough to make that decision, and even if he chooses not to actively pursue it, I hope that we'll all be able to continue to. What I do know is that if we don't set a certain foundation for this now, then it will become less likely, or harder, for him to have a relationship later.

As you can see, Emily is someone who puts a great deal of thought and heart into her adoption and all the relationships that come with it. It has been a great pleasure for me to get to know her better, and I hope that you will take the opportunity to jump over to her blog and do so yourself!

Monday, March 15, 2010

It's my blog, I can vent if I want to

If this blog offends anybody, I apologize, but not that much. I'm entitled to my own opinion, right? You're welcome to share yours in the comments if you feel so inclined.

Today I'd like to briefly discuss Birth Mother's Day. I heard of this for the first time last year. It's celebrated the day before Mother's Day, as the same equivalent for birth mothers. Last year I knew a bunch of people who participated in a walk down in Provo to mark Birth Mother's Day. I've met a fair number of adoptive parents who really support and push this day, who encourage others to send cards and gifts to their birth mothers to mark this day in particular.

I don't like Birth Mother's Day.

On the one hand, I appreciate the efforts of adoptive parents who want to celebrate their birth mothers. I love that their birth mothers are prominent in their thoughts and hearts, and that they feel like we deserve our very own day to celebrate. However, by celebrating Birth Mother's Day the day before Mother's Day, by encouraging adoptive parents to celebrate this day and make a special event out of this day, I personally feel excluded from Mother's Day.

Now, I recognize that I am not Ian's parent, that I am not raising him, that I made the choice to place him with his parents. I acknowledge in full Jen's place as his mother. But I feel that this does not diminsh my own sense of motherhood. On Mother's Day, I don't make a big deal of things. But I still honor Ian in my heart. I still celebrate my own motherhood, and my decision to place him for adoption.

I don't need my own day. I don't need to be separate. I don't want to be separate. I don't want to feel like I'm less of a mother because I chose to place him for adoption, because he's not with me. My choices were made for the benefit of my son. I am a mother.

So on Birth Mother's Day, forgive me if I'm not there with you celebrating . I'll see you on Mother's Day.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

One of the best presents ever

This week, I received a very special package.

It's funny, because I'm actually not all that emotional of a birthmom. Sometimes I feel like I should be more sentimental. It was different right after placement. For awhile, I had pictures of my son all over my room, I slept with the quilt his parents made for a placement gift, and I frequently looked through photos I had of him. I don't really do those things anymore. It's not because I don't love him, it's just because I moved forward with my life and my adoption experience is no longer all-encompassing.

However, when I received this package in the mail, I was feeling VERY emotional for a while, in a wonderful, wonderful way.

I received a packet of Ian's arts and crafts from his preschool classes. Pictures he had drawn or colored, little paper crafts. And on almost every single one there's a post-it note, with a transcription of Ian's words explaining the pictures. Telling me he likes this dinosaur's long neck, or this is a dog with a pointy head.

I felt like a mom. Or maybe a proud aunt. I dunno. I've never gotten anything quite like this before, and it changed my perspective just a little bit. Suddenly it was okay for me to feel like that, to want to put my birthson's drawings up on the fridge (I refrained, for the sake of my roommates), to show off his accomplishments, to show off HIM. It was all I could do not to parade around with his pictures and pictures of HIM. I was overwhelmed with adoption-birthmom-love.

The pictures are sitting on my desk at home. Everytime I walk past that little stack, I smile. This was seriously one of the best presents I've ever gotten. I love being a birthmom!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Placement Day

The 20th is my son's birthday, where I celebrate him and his wonderful little life. The 23rd marks Placement Day, where I ponder adoption and the impact it has had on my life.

Placing a child for adoption is hard. I can't even express it. Any birthmother will know what I mean, and any parent will have some grasp of what I'm saying. Even being prepared for it only helps a little. But there is a deep, heartbreaking anguish that comes from parting with a child in this way.

Despite those emotions, however, I have fond memories of placement day. I am glad that I focused on it in a positive way, so that as the pain and grief faded, the joy could shine through the memories. I remember exchanging gifts, and feeling inadequate despite the fact that I was giving them a baby. I remember changing his diaper for the last time, despite Joe's offer to do it. I remember feeling stubborn and clingy for keeping some of the clothes he had worn that I liked best, but sending him in the cutest outfit that I had chosen for him. But I remember in particular the LOVE that I felt. I knew with all my heart that Jen and Joe loved Ian, and that they loved me. I knew that my Heavenly Father loved me, and that He was proud of me for being strong and moving forward with my life.

I guess placement day is hard for me this year, not because of the placement, but because of the emotions. A relationship that I cherished ended last week, and so many of the emotions that are flooding through me ring back to placement. This week I have again experienced emotions of inadequacy. I have felt clingy and stubborn. I have felt a desperate, almost overwhelming sense of loss. But...I have also felt the wonderful and overpowering love from my family, my friends, and my Heavenly Father. I know that I'm loved, and I know that He is proud of me for standing strong and moving forward once again.

Placing my son for adoption has become such a wonderful blessing in my life. I love him, I love his family, I love the relationship that I have with them, and I love that I am able to help others who are now experiencing the same things that I did. So, even though it gets hard sometimes, life does go on, and I can continually seek to move forward and look for the better things to come.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

4 years

Today is my son's fourth birthday.

Four years ago today, this was us:

Now, he's a big, happy little boy who loves camping with his dad, cooking with his mom, traveling with his stuffed animals, and spending time with family and friends.

I am grateful to be a birthmother. I am grateful for open adoptions, that let me take part in my son's life. I am grateful for this wonderful little boy and his amazing parents.

Happy Birthday, Ian.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

some vague thoughts about moving forward

This month, my son will turn 4 years old.

It astounds me how time flies. I'm not sure I'm old enough for this. And yet I feel so very old at times.

Today I was chatting with my missionary-brother on Facebook (I LOVE that, by the way. Not sure it's actually allowed, but whatev!). And he was looking at some old pictures of Ian and saying how big he was, and I was like, "Those pics are over a year old. Want to see some from October?" I emailed him a couple of pics and he was amazed with how big Ian has gotten. Tell me about it!

Every now and then I think back to four years ago. It's not usually deep contemplation, but something will happen that makes me think about it. Like, right after black belt testing, all I wanted was ice cream, so Grady took me to the store and told me to pick whatever I wanted. And I picked out this one flavor that I really enjoy. The first time I had it was when Jen and Joe brought it to me in the hospital the day Ian was born. It's been a favorite of mine ever since.

Hospitals and childbirth in general take me back, as you might imagine. A friend of mine recently had a baby, and I went to visit them in the hospital. We talked about her labor and delivery. And I thought about mine.

I wonder sometimes if those memories will change or fade once I have more children. Will I always think of having Ian once I've also had ________ and _________ ? I think so. I don't think it will be quite as strong, or exclusive. But I bet mothers always remember, in some fashion, the bearing and delivery of their children, each one. Because each child, each experience, is different. Each one is significant. Each one is special.

As I move forward with my life, I want to be very careful to maintain Ian's very special place in my life. Other things are important, to be sure. As I have my own family, my children will certainly take precedence in my day-to-day thoughts and actions, because they will be my primary care and occupation. But Ian will always be important to me. Ian will always be my son, my birthson. I will always care about him and pray for him. I just want to make sure that he always knows that.

I want to be the best birthmom I can be. Normally I take it for granted, being a birthmom. But there is a special effort involved at times, and I'm just discovering how important it can be.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Season for All Things

When you hear people talk about communication with with birth parents, sometimes you'll hear people mention that it wanes. That there are periods in which there is more communication than others. That sometimes people get busy and have other things, and so they talk less, but that times come when they need that connection more strongly so they'll come back.

I have a similar relationship with my adoption blog.

I've been feeling guilty for the last month or so because I haven't been blogging about adoption very much. (United by Love has also been neglected.)I just haven't felt the urge...I haven't had anything to say about adoption.

It's not because I'm unhappy. It's not because adoption is no longer important to me. Adoption is always important to me, is always a very significant part of my life.

There's just a lot of OTHER good things going on in my life right now! This month I'm testing for my second degree black belt. I just started a new job. I have a boyfriend who drives me to distraction constantly. These things have taken precedence in my brain. Not because they are any more or less important than adoption. They're just taking up my brain capacity at the moment!

I thought I'd let you know, dear reader, what is going on to take my attention, so maybe I can feel a little less guilty for neglecting you. I promise, my wordy blogs about adoption issues will return in measure. In a different season, perhaps. An adoption season. =)