Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Desiring Motherhood

My cute little sister-in-law, as a Christmas Eve gift to the family, announced that she is expecting a baby in July. My husband and I were actually informed a few weeks ago, though sworn to secrecy. My sister-in-law had a miscarriage earlier this year, which was devastating in and of itself, but made even worse by the fact that she had already told family, friends, and Facebook. Anyway, James and I are delighted for my brother- and sister-in-law, especially because we know how earnestly they desire to become parents.

This desire has been a focus of my thoughts for awhile now. It is a desire that I myself have, but which I cannot fully express on our family blog, where my adoption experience is not public. And it is a desire which I truly wish to express. I wish these thoughts didn't come from comparing myself to my sister-in-law, though that is indeed the root of them. I love her to pieces, and I have no wish to belittle her as a person or a mother. Please bear with me as I attempt to make sense of my thoughts on this topic.

I long to be a mother.

I have watched as many of my friends have become mothers, and though I am not privy to their innermost thoughts, I have what I believe to be a fairly accurate gauge on their anticipation levels. When I think of my closest female friends, I come up with quite a range. Friends who have been excited to become moms, friends who have approached it rather nonchalantly, and friends who have been terrified.

And then there is my sister-in-law. She is 20 years old, been married for a year, no college education, a part-time job she enjoys, but would/will easily sacrifice to become a full-time mother. And there is no question as to where she stands--she eagerly, almost desperately wants to be a mom. She used to be far more vocal about her desire, actually, before the miscarriage toned down her dialogue somewhat. But I have no doubt that her longing remains.

It is my sister-in-law who brings this question to my mind most often: What makes me long to be a mother?

When I first knew my sister-in-law, her over-the-top, incredibly vocal desire to be a mother actually bothered me a great deal. It seemed so...vain. It seemed to me as though she believed that she wanted to be a mother more than anybody else wanted to be a mother. And frankly, it rubbed me the wrong way. How could a then-19-year-old girl with no real life experience have any understanding of this desire, which had such a deep and fierce place in my heart?

I think that if I had gotten married at 19 (as was my plan at the time) and gotten pregnant shortly thereafter, I would have approached the event with naive excitement. When I think back, I can't really remember what my thoughts were on motherhood at the time. I know I wanted to be a mom, though it certainly wasn't my primary focus.

But then my life happened. I got pregnant. My boyfriend abandoned me. I went through nine months of spiritual torture in addition to "normal" pregnancy awfulness, culminating in the single hardest moment of my life -- placing that beautiful, wonderful baby in the arms of another woman, and declaring that she, and not I, was his mother.

Afterward, I went back to my life and tried to forge onward. I finished college. I worked. I dated and enjoyed deep, lasting friendships. But placing a baby for adoption changed me in ways that I still don't fully understand. I had become a mother, and yet I wasn't a mother. I understood the otherwise unfathomable love for another human being that had grown under my heart, and yet my arms were empty.

In the years that followed, I watched as my closest friends married and started their families. I watched their excitement (or their nonchalance) as their babies' births approached. I have held their newborns, and watched them grow into darling toddlers. I love my friends' children, and dote on them often. But all the while, my arms have silently ached.

Eight years. Almost. This February, it will have been eight years since I looked into my baby's face, felt so much love for this boy-creature that had grown from nothing inside of me, and then parted with him.

Eight years! During most of that time, I remained alone. It's another post entirely, my single-hood. But anyone who has spent time as a single adult knows how hard it is. Especially in my Mormon culture, where so much emphasis is placed on home, family, marriage, and children. It is impossible to feel like a fully functioning member of this society as a single adult. And it only gets worse as time goes on. I never went through a period where I did not desire marriage and children. But I would get asked, "Are you dating?" My own mother: "Are you trying to get dates?" As though I was turning the guys away! She could not imagine why it was taking me so long to get married. And all the while, I was battling self-doubt, fearing that I was "broken" because of my previous pregnancy. Fearing that I would never marry, that I would never have children of my own....

I have matured more than I thought was possible, eight years ago. I have gone through other trials, and though none have been as devastating as my unplanned pregnancy, each one has taught me, and strengthened me. Through it all, my desire to be a mother has only deepened. With each passing year, the silent ache within me has grown steadily stronger, until at times it has seemed unbearable.

The joy I experienced when I (finally) married was all the sweeter, for the time I spent preparing (I don't like to think of it as "waiting") for my husband. And I believe that my joy will be even sweeter in motherhood, for much the same reason.

I guess the reason it bothered me so much at first when my sister-in-law expressed her desire to be a mother was because I could not imagine having so strong a desire without experiences like I have had. How could a 19-year-old year with so little life experience truly know this desire? Yet what I am coming to understand is that we can never truly know another's life experience. We can never truly know another's thoughts and desires. And we can certainly never compare ourselves to anyone else when it comes to these things. To do so is unfair to them, and to ourselves.

It's a relief, to be able to let go of my resentment. When my sister-in-law told us that she is expecting, I felt true joy for her. In that moment, I realized that I didn't have to compare or compete with her -- I could rejoice for her, for this is a desire that we share. It no longer mattered where the desire came from. I no longer questioned the validity or depth of the desire, on either of our parts. I simply recognized a kindred spirit. We both desire to be mothers, and it is our greatest joy to see that desire fulfilled. At last.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Everything's normal 'til BAM it hurts

My poor husband probably won't appreciate this post, but this blog is my therapy, and I need it today.

I had a prenatal appointment this morning. It didn't start off very well, and didn't really have any redeeming moments. (I've been very seriously considering changing care givers, and today's appointment was like the last nail in the coffin.) So you could say I was already on edge by the time the CNM finally came in to see me.

I came to the appointment with a couple of concerns (which the midwife did not really resolve...grr...) besides the normal measuring and heartbeat listening routine. Through it all, James played on his phone. Although I know he was listening, he just seemed so utterly unengaged, and it really upset me.

After the CNM left the room, I talked to James about it. He was immediately apologetic, but I couldn't stop the tears coming to my eyes. He asked me if I wanted to explain why this upset me so much. And I admitted, "I don't want to feel like I'm going through pregnancy alone again."

James, of course, wrapped me up in his arms and was perfectly sincere and contrite. And I forgave him immediately, though I was a mess for a little while after that. It's weird moments like this when the emotions of my previous pregnancy strike. Most of the time, I feel completely at peace and emotionally healthy. But every once and while something will happen that makes it feel like I've been suddenly stabbed with the terrible emotions--grief, anger, fear, anguish, loneliness--that I faced the last time I was pregnant. I deal with them as best as I can, thankfully with the help of my sweet husband.

Monday, December 9, 2013

This is getting harder

Saturday, I told my sister-in-law that I placed a baby for adoption. (And maybe my brother-in-law? I really don't know if he was listening or not at the time.)

This is the first member of my husband's side of the family whom I have told. Not because I haven't wanted to tell them, but simply because I've been terrified to do so.

I think sharing my adoption story is getting harder. Or maybe it's just different than it used to be.

When I first placed my son for adoption, everyone around me knew the situation. After all, they'd watched me go through pregnancy. Friends, classmates, professors, ward members...they'd all been around. So even if they didn't know specifics of my situation, at least it didn't feel like I was keeping secrets.

Then I had several years of adoption volunteer work, where I was sharing my adoption experience on a regular basis. But even then, it was mostly strangers whom I was speaking to, or other members of the adoption world. I did not fear their judgment.

But these days? First of all, I work with children and teenagers. I am very conscious of my position as a role model. In four-and-a-half years of working at my studio, I have told one parent about placing my son for adoption, and not a single student. My silence there comes not from fear, but from my desire to be that good example for my students.

My in-laws, though, are something else entirely. Part of me wishes that I had told them (my parents-in-law, at least) while James and I were first engaged. Because at least part of my concern now comes from my fear of disappointing them. I don't want to watch them change the way they look at me. I don't want their opinion of me to lower. It's gotten to a point where I don't even know how I would go about telling them. And so my silence has continued.

Until Saturday, when I blurted it out to my sister-in-law. We were talking about childbirth, how I want to deliver my baby, and she was saying something about how important it was to make my first childbirth experience perfect. And I blurted out that this wasn't my first. My sister-in-law was, understandably, completely stunned. I stammered out a few more details, while she just stared at me. She said she didn't know what to say, and I awkwardly changed the subject.

I feel absolutely no relief, having told her. Maybe it will never come up again. I don't know. But it definitely doesn't make me feel any more confident in having this conversation with, say, my mother-in-law.

However, I have to remember that open adoption is a part of my life. My sons will know each other, even if it's only at a distance. And what happens when my Baby J is talking to his Nona a few years from now, and starts talking about his brother? If I haven't explained my situation well before then, it could lead to some pretty awkward conversations!

I've always believed in openness. Somehow I'm just going to have to get past this part, and make the best of things.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Private thoughts

My Facebook status this morning reads:

"Experiencing heartburn for the first time in my life. Yet another bizarre pregnancy symptom I'd never known about. Thanks a lot, Baby J."

If my adoption were more widely known, I suppose it would read something more like this:

"Experiencing heartburn for the first time in my life. Yet another bizarre pregnancy symptom I'd never known about. Guess I lucked out last time!"

Sometimes keeping things private is weird.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Holidays and Adoption

Everyone expects the holidays to become a little more complicated once you get married. "Who will we spend Thanksgiving with? Where will we have Christmas morning?" As a newly-married couple, if both families are close by, it seems generally expected that you split time between his and hers. Once children come along, maybe it changes a little. If family is at a distance, it becomes more challenging. Do you travel, or do you stay home?

You're with me so far, right?

I got a little of this feeling long before I was married. When I reunited with my birthparents in the summer of 2005, my birthfather immediately expressed his eagerness to include me in his family. He, his wife, and their daughters came to celebrate my birthday with me that fall. They sent me care packages at college. And when the holidays rolled around, they invited me to spend Christmas Eve at my birth grandparents' house, which is one of their big family traditions. Fortunately, my [adopted] family didn't really have any Christmas Eve traditions, so I eagerly agreed. I have spent every Christmas Eve since with my birthdad's family.

Then my husband came along.

We were engaged during the holidays last year, and it made for some interesting moments. You see, my husband's family does have Christmas Eve traditions. My husband was a little reluctant to miss out on them. And his family made no allowances for us--coming from a family of 10 children, if somebody has something else going on, then they just miss out.

I was very grateful to my soon-to-be-husband for making that particular sacrifice. Christmas Eve is, most years, the only time of year that I see my birth grandparents. And as I don't see my birthdad & fam nearly as often as I would like, it's an important occasion with them as well. I know that my husband could tell how much it meant to be. And this year, as we were discussing how to spend our holidays, he treated it as a given, that we would spend Christmas Eve with my birth family. Between you and me, the excellent presents we received there last year probably helped!

Adoption complicates life. There can be no denying that. Yet I continue to feel that adoption makes my life a fuller and more richly rewarding experience, for me, and I hope, for my own little family.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Open Adoption Bloggers Interview Project


I'm thrilled to be participating in the Open Adoption Bloggers Interview Project this year. OAB is one of my favorite adoption resources, and I have made many wonderful connections through their blogroll. Participants of the Interview Project are assigned into pairs, who over a period of a few weeks read through each other's blogs, then interview each other. The interviews were divided into three groups, and my partner and I are participating with the third group. You can read other interviews from our group here.

My interview partner is LisaAnne of Living Through Today. This is her public blog; through the course of our interviews, she also invited me to view her private blog, which helped me to get to know her even better.

Lisa is the birthmother of Brit, a darling little girl with the curliest hair I think I've ever seen. Lisa and Brit's birthfather placed her in what was supposed to be an open adoption. However over the past couple of years, and the past several months in particular, the relationship has changed significantly. My interview of Lisa is as follows:



What would be your ideal relationship with Brit (your daughter that you placed for adoption), if you could work things out with her?

I wish that Brit’s family would treat me, BF and our boys as if we are extended family.  I would like to be able to have phone conversations with them.  I would like to be invited to celebrate special occasions with them or them with us.  I wish that they would allow Brit to Skype with us.  Basically, I wish I was like a special aunt to her and her siblings.

I wish that Brit knew who we are to her.  That she is not only part of her adoptive family, but that we consider her part of our family too.

It would mean so much to us if Brit’s parents would facilitate a relationship between Brit and us.  It would be amazing to get a card from them with a picture colored by Brit for us.  It would me meaningful if they would send us pictures of the kids playing with gifts that we have sent.  I long for anything that indicated a personal thoughtfulness with regard to us.

We have never received a birthday card, holiday card or a note of any kind from them.  It is hurtful to know that we do our very best to be thoughtful about them and their children and it seems that they don’t have the same consideration for us.


Along the same line, what would your ideal relationship be with Brit's adoptive family? Could you see yourself becoming friends again, as you were before Brit's adoption?

Fortunately, I am one of the “quickest to forgive” people I know.  I would do whatever I could to repair a relationship with Brit’s parents if the opportunity was ever available.  I guess I answered the question to this with the above answer.


How do you think this adoption experience, with all its ups and downs, has affected your other children?

My adoption experience has destroyed who I was before the adoption.  I feel terrible that my children have to bear that consequence.  Now any time I cry their immediate response is “This is about Brit, isn’t it?”  They know that the last four years of tears have generally been because of the adoption.  The boys don’t understand why we have been treated like we have.  They tip toe around the subject of their sister.  They too feel betrayed.  It breaks my heart to think I am the cause of that.


Obviously, from reading your blogs, your adoption has taken quite a turn this year. If you were to meet another birthmother in a similar situation, what advice would you give her?

Well, it depends on what you mean by a mother in my situation. So I will take the approach of what I would have told myself if I could go back and talk to the LisaAnne of 2011.  I would definitely let myself know that trying so hard will only hurt the adoption situation, not improve it.  I would definitely not have blogged publicly, because that has been the number one thing used against me.  And I would just give myself a big huge hug and tell myself that unfortunately it won’t get better any time soon, so just cry it out, because the loss is deep and profound.
 

You have received some pretty harsh and negative comments on some of the blogs that you've posted. How have you dealt with these comments? What advice do you have for other birthmothers who might also face that kind of backlash?

I try very hard to approach negative comments from the perspective of ‘if I was in their shoes’.  Often you can tell the perspective of the person commenting.  Other times I could tell it was an extended member of Brit’s parent’s family or a close friend of their family, and there is no reasoning there. I am obviously a threat to them and Brit’s relationship with her parents.

There is an anonymity that blogging allows which causes people who would never be so rude in real life to say things that are just over the top.  Those comments I disregard.

But there are some who make me stop and think.  Most often it is comments from adoptees.  I believe that adoptees are the ones who ALWAYS have a right to an opinion about how adoption has made them feel.

Truthfully most of the comments on my blog are kind and supportive and I am thankful for the love and virtual embraces I have received from so many since I began my blogging.

As for advice to other birthmothers, I would say “TELL YOUR TRUTH”.  The world needs to hear that adoption is not just love and a better life for the child.  There are so many things I wish I would have known before placing Brit.  I want more birthmothers and adoptees to speak loudly so that society can hear the reality of adoption, not just the fa├žade that has been created.


In some of your older posts, you talk about drawing comfort and inspiration from the blog of others (adoptive moms, birthmothers, etc). What is something you have read recently that gave you hope or comfort, as you have struggled with your adoption experience?

I love, love, love my adoptive mom friends who embrace fully open adoption. They give me hope for a new generation of adoptees.  I have been encouraged by those women. Each has offered to reach out to Brit’s family and help them understand the beauty of a fully open adoption.

When I see the relationships that these families in open adoption have between the biological family and the adoptive family, it warms my heart.  It makes me so glad to know that there are children who are getting the very best despite the fragmented lives that they have being an adoptee.

I consider many of these women my real life friends.  It is unfortunate that I was forced to make their acquaintance because of my loss and grief, but I am thankful for their friendship anyway.  They are all amazing women who believe providing the best for their children, even if it is hard.


What do you hope others will gain when they read your blog(s)?

I hope that a mother who is faced with an unplanned pregnancy will stumble across my blog and it will cause her to consider that what seems like the best solution at the moment, may not be the best choice in the long run.  As I have often quoted, “Don’t make a permanent decision based on temporary circumstances.”

I hope that adoptive mothers will read my blog and realize that there is another mother who may be longing and aching to know the child that she relinquished.  I want to be a voice.  I hope the words from my heart speak to adoptive mothers so that they might have empathy for their child’s birth family.

If an adoptee were to read my blog, I hope that his/her take away would be that birth families do not just move on and forget about their children.  Most of us are forever changed when we place a child.  And none of us ever forget.

***

Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your thoughts and your story. I am grateful I had this opportunity to get you know you better!

Be sure to check out the Interview Project at OAB for more interviews! You can also view Lisa's interview of me here.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Wax and Wane of Birth Parent Involvement

A couple of years ago, I was very involved in the adoption scene. I was a volunteer on several different fronts--I was working with expectant parents via email, I was serving on the national board of a large pro-adoption organization, I helped to organize that organization's annual national conference, and I was speaking regularly at local adoption seminars and workshops, as well as a few not-so-local events.

Through my volunteer efforts, I met several hundred birth mothers, and quite a few birth fathers. I heard their stories, I got to know their circumstances, and probably a lot more about this one part of their lives than many people ever get to see. The experiences of my fellow birth parents had a great impact on my own ideas about adoption and life as a birthmom.

One thing (among so many) that I picked up on was the wax and wane most birth parents experience in their desire to be involved in the adoption scene.

I met many birthmoms during a period in their lives when they wanted to be involved. I have found that many birth parents experience times like this, when they feel especially passionate about adoption, when there is a fire inside of them that they must share. During times like these, many seek out volunteer opportunities, either working with expectant parents, supporting women who are going through placement, speaking about adoption in the community, etc.

Yet there are very few birthmoms, in my experience, that exist in this period for long periods of time. Some stay involved only for a few months, while others last a few years. Eventually, however, involvement wanes. Those high-energy volunteers slowly fade back and disappear entirely, melting back into the others parts of their lives.

I feel that this is a healthy rhythm, going back-and-forth between periods of high adoption-involvement. Here's why:

1. It mirrors the way many adoption adoptions work. Most birth mothers have times where they crave a lot of communication and interaction with their children and families, and times when they back off and get involved in their own lives. Though the birth parents' involvement in adoption advocacy does not always happen at the same time, the process is similar.

2. Being involved in the adoption scene as a birth mother can be emotionally taxing. Sharing your adoption story, as a birth mother, is nearly always an emotional/tearful/heart-rending experience. As a volunteer, you end up going through this again and again and again. It's the most powerful tool most birth mothers have--sharing their own, very personal, very emotional, and in many cases very spiritual, experience, in the hopes that it will have an effect on the listeners. But over time, this can be very taxing on the birth mother.

3. There are other parts of life to be lived. Many birth mothers, during their involved-periods, are exceptionally passionate about what they are doing, to the point where this becomes their #1 time investment. I have found this to be especially true of recently-placed mothers, who are still in the throes of emotion regarding their placement. But while it is wonderful that they share their passion and their fire, life goes on. Birth parents will never forget, but they do (or at least should, if they are emotionally healthy) move forward.


On a personal note, this topic has been on my mind because I am in a waning-period. After several years of great involvement, I would say I am no longer involved at all. What's been interesting to me is how invested I still am in the adoption world. I watch events pop up on Facebook, and even though I decide not to attend, I still comb through the pictures and the comments and the conversation. I still read adoption blogs. I still "think adoption" even though I don't "do adoption." Adoption is an ever-present part of my life, and even though I am living the other parts right now, it is still an intrinsic component of who I am.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Differences So Far

It's hard not to compare this pregnancy with my first. Pregnancy is, of course, an enormous undertaking, on all levels--physical by and large being the most apparent, but it certainly affects mental and emotional (dare I say hormonal?) levels as well. Today, I was thinking about the differences between my two pregnancies (thus far).

1. My husband

It is amazing to me how much of a difference my James makes. I knew it would be huge, but I didn't realize just how huge it would be. My husband is here for me, in a way that Ian's father (the putz) never was. My husband loves me, cares about me, and just as importantly, loves and cares about our baby. My husband loves me through the morning sickness, the aches and pains, the uncontrollable weeping, the midwife visits, and I'm certain that I will rely on him even more in the months (and years) to come.

2. I'm sicker

It's kind of bizarre how much sicker I have been over the past three months than I was through my entire first pregnancy. This has my mother convinced that I'm having a girl. My belief is that I'm sicker because I'm older (see #3). I was 19 when Ian was born. I am now 27. You can't tell me it doesn't make a difference.

3. My body is changing in different ways

The most noticeable, pardon me, is my breasts. I mean, I have big boobs, I always have. But, honest to goodness, they didn't grow at all with Ian. They also didn't hurt (until after he was born) like this. But this time around, they have grown, they have given me new stretch marks, and they are super tender. It makes James grumpy sometimes. (It makes ME grumpy lots of times.)

On a serious note, I am coming to the belief that my non-growing, non-tender breasts last time were the manifestation of a tender mercy of the Lord. I think that my body did not prepare to feed Ian. Whether it was my own subconscious telling my body that this baby wasn't mine to keep, or whether there was more direct intervention, I don't know. But I do know that I was blessed in that regard. (Not so this time--my body is getting prepped to be a milk machine, I guess!)

4. I'm happier

This is obvious, I suppose, but it's very profound for me. When I think back to my pregnancy of Ian, and even more when I read my journal from the time, I remember how desperately miserable and angry I was through most of it. I was constantly angry with the birthfather. I was terribly lonely--even though I had friends, I felt very isolated from them. I was spiritually disconnected (see #6). I was physically strained. I was embarrassed by my situation. I was stressed and overwhelmed with trying to balance school, work, and planning for Ian's birth and subsequent placement.  And I was just sad, so sad, dealing with placing this baby for adoption.

It's such a difference. I have a wonderful marriage. I have friends and family who are excited with me. I am in a strong place spiritually. The physical is still challenging, but it feels different, now that I don't have to bear those burdens alone. I am proud and excited to become a mother. My life is in balance. And this is my baby.

6. It's my baby

This is one of the most significant differences. I do not have to face every day of this pregnancy with the knowledge that the child inside of me belongs to someone else. This is my baby. The little alien growing inside of me is mine. I get to make all the preparations. I get to have a baby shower. I get to prepare the nursery. And when I get home from the hospital, there will be no goodbyes. This baby will be mine forever.

7. I'm spirituality healthy

If you are not spiritual/religious, this may not have a lot of meaning for you. But for my LDS friends, you probably have some understanding of what I say when I describe being spiritually cut off. When I got pregnant, the feeling was instantaneous. I immediately felt the Spirit depart from me. It was, in a subtle way, one of the most terrible experiences of my life. To spend nine months wracked with my sins, unable to partake of the sacrament, unable to receive forgiveness and engage the Atonement...it was devastating. And I associate those feelings very strongly with that pregnancy. To be absent that grief and torment, to feel the light of the Spirit every day, to be able to hold my head high at church and know that I belong there, is a world of difference.



I love Ian, and his family, and I am very grateful to have had the experience of placing him for adoption. It changed who I am. And I have been incredibly blessed for the sacrifice that I made.

Still, I cannot help but revel in this pregnancy of my own. It really is a whole new experience for me. Even with the morning sickness and the other discomforts, I am happier than I have ever been. I am excited to be pregnant, and even more excited for our sweet baby to truly enter this world.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Secrets

I'm getting ready to announce later this week to the general public that my husband and I are expecting. Of course, we are very excited. You can imagine my joy when we first found out we were pregnant, something that I have longed for most of my adult life. We've told a handful of close friends and family so far, and it's been a little interesting.

A lot of people in my life do not know that I placed a baby for adoption. Almost no one at my work knows, but for those who were friends of mine during my pregnancy. I haven't told anyone at church. I haven't even gotten up the gumption to tell my in-laws (something I mean to remedy very soon).

So, when I've talked to the handful of people I've told thus far, I've gotten several comments that make me shrink a little inside.

Advice for first time pregnancy. Or things like, "This is your first, and your first is always..." or "My first was like this, but my second was like this, so just wait until you get pregnant the second time..." Or worse, a friend of mine trying to talk me into joining her participating in a first-time mothers study. How do I say, I'm sorry, I can't. You see, I'm not eligible, because of an illegitimate child that I bore seven years ago that I never told you about...

Although, I don't know, maybe this is worse: I had my first prenatal visit a few weeks back, and I knew that I was going to have to discuss my first pregnancy. I was prepared for it. When the nurse took my initial information, she asked about any previous pregnancies, and I gave her the stats. But she got nosy, so I ended up telling her that I had placed the baby for adoption.

Then the CNM came in, with a grad student accompanying her. They both talked to me for awhile, and again, I was asked about my previous pregnancy, and again, I explained about placing him for adoption. It wasn't pleasant, but I was prepared for it.

But then, a week later, I had to call the on-call nurse with a concern. And I had to go through it all again, over the phone. That time, I wasn't prepared to have to talk about it, and it really upset me.

I intend to ask if someone will put a note in my file, hopefully just to stop the nosy-ness.

I know that it's going to continue. We're planning to make it public knowledge in the next day or two. More people will gush, and more people will unknowingly say things that sting a little. Not because of what they're saying, but because this isn't my first pregnancy, this isn't the first time I've gone through this. It's different, of course, so incredibly, awesomely, different, because this time it's my baby inside of me, not someone else's. This time, I have a loving, wonderful, supportive husband at my side who is just as excited to become a parent. I am stable, and happy, and prepared. It's all different.

But it's still not the first time I've gone through this. Most of the people around me don't know that, and that's the way I prefer it, at least for the time being. It just means that I get to live with the unknowingly insensitive remarks. Secrets present their own kinds of challenges.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

10 Questions Birth Moms Hate

This post originally appeared on http://www.musingmonika.com/ on April 29, 2013.

10 Questions Birth Moms Hate
by Monika Z.

There have been a lot of blog posts recently about questions the infertile community hate as well as questions adoptive parents hate. Someone in one of the birth mom groups of which I’m a part asked us to give feedback about the questions we as birth moms hate to get, inspired by the “hate posts” circling around the internet right now. This in turn inspired me to write a post of my own.

Image credit
1. What are you going to do with future children?
This one’s my “favorite.” Amanda Argyriadis, a fellow birth mom, says that she likes to answer this particular question with snark and sarcasm. “Oh you know, I was just planning on getting knocked up so I could go through the trauma and heartbreak of separation cause I don’t want my membership to incubators-r-us to be called into question.” She then said she likes to follow it with a raised eyebrow “and, if you can get away with it, a smack upside the head.” I particularly like the “smack upside the head.” This question rather brings to mind a “Here’s Your Sign” moment, coined of course by Bill Engval.

2. Is it co-parenting?
This question probably gets asked of adoptive parents in open adoptions more than birth parents living the same, but it bugs us as well. I suppose if you look at the word in the most literal sense, it is “co-parenting.” I retained my motherhood when I relinquished my daughter to adoption, therefore I am a parent just as her mom and dad are parents. However, I do not have input, nor do I expect it, in the way that my daughter is being raised. If her parents ever ask Nick or me for input on a specific situation, we will provide it. But we would no more expect our advice to be followed than any other friend or family member should expect in the same situation.

3. Don’t you love your child? Didn’t you want your child?
Yes. We love and want our children. If it was simple desire and love that were motivations for relinquishing or not, we would all be raising our children.

4. Aren’t you glad she/he is in a better place?
Ugh. Our children are not “better off” without us. When we place our children, we hope that their adoptive parent(s) are more prepared to parent our child than we are at the time, but it is not “better.” It is different, obviously. This terminology causes me and other birth moms to feel as if the person asking the question is implying our children are dead and in heaven.

5. The decision is done. Why don’t you move on?
A birth mom will never “move on.” We will never forget, nor should we. Whether we have open adoption relationships with our children and their parents or not, being a birth mom means that we have a lifetime of grief. We should move forward with our lives, but moving on implies something completely different.

6. Aren’t you happy you made your child’s adoptive parents happy?
Like I’ve said repeatedly, mothers who make the decision to place their children with adoptive parents do not do so to make those adoptive parents happy. We do so for the benefit of our children. While I’m personally happy that my daughter’s parents are happy with my daughter, this question implies that their happiness should have been my sole reason for placing. This is simply not true.

7. Are you taking it okay?
Taking what okay? The fact that I’ve chosen a lifetime of grief and loss so that my child could have parents that were more prepared to parent her than Nick and me? I’m sorry, but no one can be expected to take that sort of loss and be okay with it, no matter how at peace one is with the decision that has been made. I am at peace. I don’t regret the choice of adoption or the choice of my daughter’s parents, though I do regret the circumstances that led me to make the decision I made. But I will never be “okay” again. I will never go back to the way I was before I had and relinquished my daughter.

The rest of these are statements, though there are implied questions with each of them.
8. At least your child’s needs are well provided and she (or he) is happy.
I know this is meant as a consolation for the grief. But saying this says to us that the person making the statement assumes our child wouldn’t have been happy staying with us or that his or her needs wouldn’t have been well provided.

9. Don’t worry, you can always have more.
No child, no matter how loved and wanted they may be, will ever or can ever replace the loss of a child, whether that loss is from adoption or if that loss is caused by infertility issues. This is why I firmly believe that counseling is necessary and time for healing needs to take place if there are infertility issues that cause someone to consider adoption or if there is a loss due to adoption before those people bring another child into their home.

10. You’re not that child’s mother. You need to let that child go.
Just no. I will always be my daughter’s mother, just like my daughter’s mother will always be her mother. Relinquishing legal parental rights does not erase my biological connection to my daughter, nor does it erase any birth mother’s biological connection to her child. We can let go of the fact that we cannot parent our children in the “traditional” way, and I would argue that it is necessary to do that. But we cannot and should not ever try to let our connection to our children go.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Be of Good Comfort

I'm having an interesting day.

A conversation that I had earlier this evening with my husband brought up some very strong remembrances for me. For the most part, we don't talk a whole lot about my adoption experiences. Upon occasion, one of us might mention something about Ian, but it's infrequent. But it came up today, and strongly.

James and I actually sat down this evening and watched a recording from an FSA adoption conference I was involved with a few years ago. The panel was called "Husbands of Birth Mothers" and the men on the panel discussed their experiences meeting, dating, marrying and raising families with someone who had placed a child for adoption. I don't really know yet what James made of it, though he said it interested him.

The video, along with our conversation earlier, has brought up a lot of emotion within me. I've been remembering what it felt like, when I was pregnant with Ian, and placing him for adoption, and afterward. There really weren't a whole lot of positive emotions at the time. Guilt, shame, remorse, anger, fear, sorrow, grief. Though I knew I did the right thing, it was by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. 

I realize, even more than I did at the time, how much I was upheld by the Savior throughout the entire process. I had sinned, and I felt clearly the lack of the Spirit with me. But how could I have done it without the Savior? He was with me every step of the way. He helped me find Ian's parents, and helped me to know that they were the right family for this baby. He helped me to know that I was making the right decision. He helped me make it through labor and delivery. And He was absolutely there during placement, and afterward, when I thought the world had come to an end.

The best feeling in the world was when, a week after Ian was born, I was able to take the sacrament again. I felt the Spirit, more strongly than I ever had before. I bore my testimony. I received a calling. I went to the temple again. None of which I could have done without my Savior.

My favorite scripture is Matthew 9:22. The Savior says to the woman, "Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole."

This verse has so much meaning to me. The Savior offered this woman physical healing, something we are all in need of at one time or another. But in addition, the Savior offers each of us spiritual healing. After placing my son for adoption, I read those words, and I knew the Savior was speaking them to me. I was made whole.

My adoption experience is a part of me. It shaped me, in part, into the woman that I am today. But it does not define me. I am not the same person that I was seven years ago. Sometimes, the memories of those days seem like someone else's story, that I have simply heard secondhand. I am not stained by them. As another birth mother once told me, "Who you are is not what you've done." I am left with the simple, humble gratitude that I have for my Savior, for the comfort and the healing that He brings me, like He can to each of us. Through His Atonement, we truly can be made whole.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Encounters

Today we had an unexpected visit with my birth son and his family. I got an email last evening. They were in town for a family reunion and wanted to know if we could meet up. Fortunately, we were able to find a time to meet! (James and I closed on our house this afternoon! Happy day!)

This was James' first meeting with Ian and his family. I asked him his thoughts, before and after, intensely curious for his reaction. All in all, things were much more laid-back than either of us were expecting.

We met on BYU campus for about an hour. Mostly, we just visited. I held their adorable new baby. Ian wasn't super talkative, but he did tell us his story about pulling his tooth. And that was about it. Very pleasant, albeit brief.

James said to me afterward, after expressing enjoyment for the visit, that he was surprised I didn't spend more of the time focused on Ian. And it's true, I didn't. But I guess I learned a few visits ago to let Ian set the terms. Sometimes when we've seen each other, he's been very talkative, other times very shy. And I am okay with it either way. I have the feeling that there will come a time when Ian and I will have a more personal relationship. Time will tell. Until then (and even then) I enjoy their family as a whole.

All told, I'm just glad we had the opportunity to see them while they were here! What a great day it has been!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Open Adoption Roundtable #48

 

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.
This roundtable prompt was:

Why has or hasn’t openness worked for you?
If you are in a healthy functional open adoption, why do you think it’s working? If it doesn’t work, why do you think it stopped working? Do you think the success or failure was about education and expectations going in? Do you think it was that your personalities matched or clashed? Do you think there is something you do or did during the relationship that kept it going or was there a certain point that it changed the relationship from bad to good? Was it a mixture of all of these things?
I have two adoptions (two and a half, really) to consider when answering questions like this, and I think I would like to address them all.

My birth-family

I have a great, very open relationship with my birth father and his family. My adoption opened when I was 18, and met both of my birth parents. Ever since then, my birth father and his family have included me in all their major life events. We talk frequently, though not as frequently as any of us might like, but that's due to busy lives and distance more than anything else.

My birth mother, on the other hand, has completely closed off. After meeting that one time, she has stopped all communication, and I haven't had any relation with her ever since. I know that she does, very occasionally, talk with my birth father, but that's about it.

In both of these cases, I believe it came down to their attitude regarding my adoption--something that was formed before I was even born. My birth mother "moved on" almost immediately after my birth--got married, started having children, and apparently shut her adoption experience into a dark, tight box that never got opened. Compare this to my birth father, who raised his daughters knowing about me, celebrated my birthday each year, carried a photo of me as a baby in his wallet along with photos of his daughters, and you'll see what I mean. My birth father always wanted to have a relationship with me, and that shows in the relationship that we have today.

My son

This is a little more complex. Before my son was born, his parents and I emailed frequently (almost daily, throughout my pregnancy). We agreed on an open adoption, but we did not specify what all that was going to entail, except that we would figure it out as we went. Looking back, I think a little more specificity would have helped, but I also have to acknowledge that I had no idea at the time what I would need or want six months, a year, five years down the road.

After placing my son, communication immediately dropped off. While I could logically understand--with a new baby in the house, sending daily lengthy emails would be impractical, if not impossible--emotionally, it was very difficult to deal with. And to be perfectly candid, there have been many times in the last seven years when I have craved more from them than I have received.

That said, we do have an open adoption. I can send them an email any time, and (hopefully) receive a response. And if my son or his parents ever needed or wanted to contact me, I would not hesitate to respond.

While it's not perfect, and not exactly what I envisioned when I placed him for adoption, it works. My thoughts on why it grew to be this way? I think part of it is personality, both mine and my son's mother. Part of it is the more general difficulty of maintaining long-distance relationships. There are other factors as well. But it works. While I always want to be there for my son if he has need of me, for the most part, I am content to see pictures of him on Facebook and know that he is well.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Blog Hop: What have I been reading?



The Open Adoption Bloggers thought it might be fun to also get to know one another in a more lighthearted way through a good old-fashioned blog hop! Each blogger answers a question, and we post our links. We then comment on at least three other people’s blogs. Fun! This hop's question is:

 What was the last book you read?
It's not uncommon for me to be reading several books at once, and such is the case at the moment. These normally cover a variety of topics and genres, but as you'll see from the forthcoming list, I've got something on my mind.

I just finished reading "Bitterblue" by Kristin Cashore. This is the sequel to a fantasy novel called "Graceling" which I read about a year ago. I really enjoyed "Graceling" except for one major thing--the refusal of the main character to commit to marriage because she felt like it would take away all her freedom and identity and make her beholden to her husband--despite the fact that the love interest never once displayed any traits to make that fear even remotely rational, and was clearly a fear of the author's made manifest. That kind of writing makes me crazy, so I was hesitant to pick up the sequel.

Finally doing so, I found Bitterblue an engaging read--but not for the light of heart. Bitterblue, made queen at the age of 10 because of the assassination of her psychopathic father, is dealing with issues far beyond what I thought I would be dealing with when I picked up the book. If you've read Graceling, you can imagine what kind of state Bitterblue's nation has been left in after 35 years of Leck's reign, and Cashore is not hesitant in dealing with the realities of that situation.

I picked up The Gift of Giving Life at the recommendation of my sister-in-law, and it's been...interesting. The book is all about pregnancy and childbirth, and I have enjoyed many of the thoughts and stories I've read so far. But a few of them have been very off-putting for me as well. The book is presented as a spiritual guide, but it is also very pro-natural/unassisted childbirth. Don't get me wrong, I believe in natural childbirth, but to a degree--for instance, my son was born at a hospital, but with a certified nurse midwife, utilizing no drugs. As I've been discussing these things with my husband, we will probably choose a similar route with our children. With regards to this book, I am all for women having the birth experience that they desire. But I'm a little leery of "all-natural = the only way to go" in order to have a spiritual birth experience. I'm appreciative of the sections that address how to have a spiritual birth experience regardless of circumstances.

I am still in the midst of Choosing Motherhood, which is a book about women with lucrative careers and education who each, through some remarkable circumstances, chose to become full-time mothers.

I strongly identify with the stories told in this book. Not because I'm hesitant to become a mother--something I've craved my entire adult life. But because of the choice involved. I don't like the attitude that motherhood is something to grit your teeth and get through, a necessary trial. I also don't like the attitude that full-time motherhood should be the choice for women of my faith and that women who choose, for whatever reason, to work while raising their children, are lesser mothers (a prevalent attitude in the area where I live). I'm in love with the idea of choice--of women who loved what they did before, but find even more, different, satisfaction in motherhood. That is what I'm looking for.

What have you been reading?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Can I tell you a secret story?

I took a pregnancy test today.

It was negative.

But it still made me really happy.

Here's the story: I've been joking with my husband for a couple of days, joking that maybe I was pregnant. We both knew this was virtually impossible, considering that A) I'm on the pill, as regular as can be, and B) I had my period like a week and a half ago. But as the joke continued, I remembered that we had a couple of pregnancy test kits lying around--courtesy of our friends/family decorating our car on our wedding night--and I jokingly suggested that I wanted to take a pregnancy test.

James humored me, as he often does, so I took the pregnancy test, fully anticipating that it was going to come out negative, which it did. And it made me happy--but not for the reasons you probably think.

I've only taken one other pregnancy test in my life. That day, I was terrified. At the store while purchasing the kit, I felt nervous. I shook while administering the test. Waiting for the results, I curled up and prayed that it would come out negative. And when I saw that positive line, I was first disbelieving, then completely, unbelievably distraught. My life turned upside-down that day, never to be the same.

I have nothing but negative feelings associated with that experience. Though I have many positive associations with my son and adoption, finding out that I was pregnant was one of the worst moments of my life.

As I have begun to prepare to start our family with my husband, a lot of buried emotions and memories have been stirring within me. The idea of getting pregnant is exciting--something I have been looking forward to for a long time, but especially since getting married. Yet I sometimes have to fight off these other feelings, the negative ones.

Today, I took a pregnancy test, with no emotion except for excitement. The result was negligible--I knew it was going to be negative, but even if it HAD been positive, I could have faced it with (surprise, but also) excitement. I know it's not a big thing, but it was important to me. It was a stepping stone. This was the first step in overcoming the old, negative emotions that I still associate with pregnancy, and reveling in the joy and excitement that are in store for me when James and I actually start trying.

I will probably be posting more about this kind of stuff, in the months to come. I don't know if other birthmothers share these types of experiences or not. But it's definitely part of my journey as a birthmother.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Struggles of a birthmother around Mother's Day

I recently read an article about Mother's Day that resonated with me.

Mother's Day and I have a hit-and-miss relationship. Some years, I haven't really thought about adoption at all. Other years, Mother's Day has been terribly difficult. Unfortunately, this year seems to be one of the latter.

These are some of the things I struggle with, come Mother's Day:

-All the acknowledgment of mothers make me (selfishly) crave that recognition. But while I am not secretive about my placement, it's not something I speak of often. I work with children, and I don't find it appropriate to discuss in my workplace. I haven't told my in-laws. And in general, it's just not something I speak of on a regular basis. That said, when Mother's Day rolls around, I feel sadly excluded. I want to talk about motherhood. I want to celebrate the fruit of my womb. I want to be recognized for the sacrifice I made. But I remain silent.

-Mother's Day makes me miss Ian. Or rather, the idea of Ian. The idea of that child who I chose not to raise. I do not regret that choice. But my arms ache sometimes for the child I lost.

-It also gives rise to the intense, desperate craving that I have to truly be a mother--to bear and raise children of my own. I am hopeful that this desire will not be long in coming to me. But every year around Mother's Day, even now that I am happily married, I feel a terrible fear rise within me--the fear that I will not be able to bear any more children. That something will go wrong, that I am broken, that I will never experience the glorious gift of pregnancy and childbirth for my own sake, rather than on behalf of another family.

I know that it will be okay. I have felt the reassurance of friends, loved ones, and my Father in Heaven again and again. But every once and awhile, I feel like there's no shame in admitting (to the blogosphere, at least) that I am sad, and grieving, and afraid. I know that I will be okay--but for now, I am simply allowing myself to feel.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Aunt Valerie!

My sister had a baby this weekend.

My sister, who is the daughter of my birthfather and his wife.

I LOVE having a relationship with my birth-family. (My birthfather's side, anyway. My birthmother is still MIA.) I love that I get to meet my nephew and have a relationship with him. I love that I get to be there for my sisters' big life events. I love that I get to know them, and love them.

Open adoption is the best!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Dealing with the baggage I brought into my marriage

Back when I was single, I tried to imagine what part my adoption would play in my courtship/engagement and marriage. I had a few ideas of what to expect, having listened to other birthmothers and their husbands describe their experiences. Two months into my marriage, I've now had a few experiences of my own.

I told James about my birth-son and my adoption experience on our second date. That's pretty early for me. Once, I've told a guy on the first date. Every other time it's been three, four, five dates into the process before I've shared this deeply personal experience. But James and I had been friends for almost a year before we started dating, and I knew that I could trust him. Beyond that, things were moving pretty fast, and I felt like I needed to tell him before our courtship proceeded any further.

Telling James was, as it always is, incredibly nerve-wracking. I was afraid that our relationship would come to a screeching halt as soon as the words were out of my mouth. I was afraid that he would look at me differently. Being James, I wasn't really afraid that he would treat me any differently. But I was hoping and praying that he would be understanding.

He didn't say a whole lot about it that night. Two days later when I saw him again, he admitted that he had struggled, truly struggled, with what I had told him. So much so that he requested a priesthood blessing from his best friend. The truly amazing part was this--James didn't tell his friend anything, simply that he was struggling with something. And in the blessing, James was told that he would bear this trial for the sake of his future family. He describes the experience here.

That was it, for awhile. I rarely bring up the topic. Being a birthmom is not a present part of my life right now. It's on the back-back-back burner of my brain at the moment. But it has come up, a few times. Ian recently turned 7 and, as his birthday tends to do to me, I became a little reflective. Seven years old! I can hardly fathom it. Seven years feels like an eon ago. I was an entirely different person!

James once grew upset, as I was talking about Ian. I could tell that he wasn't happy, so I tried to figure out why. He erupted with emotion. We both got rather agitated as we tried to talk through it. (I cried, curse it all.) But for me, it all came down to one revelation:

Ian & adoption are separate from the act (sin) of his conception.

I do not equate them. Thinking about Ian brings me joy, pride, and occasional nostalgia for what might have been. I love him, I am happy for him, I like seeing pictures of him, I like hearing how he is doing, I like receiving pictures he has drawn, I like hearing about the crazy things he says.

Thinking about his conception makes me remember feelings of shame, loneliness, guilt, embarrassment, despair, uncertainty, and anger. Thinking about Ian's birthfather (which I try to avoid doing) makes me remember feeling sad, spiteful, and a terrible anger that rode with me for a very long time, until I was able to find forgiveness for him.

Thinking about Ian is sometimes a reflection of the past, but it is often a thing of the present. Thinking of his conception and his birthfather is always a thing of the past. I have repented. I have forgiven. I have moved on with my life. I do not like remembering that time. There is nothing to gain from it.

I realized that my husband was equating these two, very separate things. Whenever I talked about Ian, all my husband could think of was Ian's birthfather. And that realization allowed us to process our emotions--both of us.

I'm not saying everything is perfect. I know it's still something that James struggles with, which means I struggle with it too. But we understand each other a little better than we did before, and we're moving forward with the best of intentions. We love each other, and we are both committed to seeing our marriage succeed. That includes forgiving each other of past mistakes, and proceeding hand-in-hand through the future trials our life together has in store.