Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day (I need to repent a little)

I've written in the past about my dislike of Birthmother's Day (celebrated the day before Mother's Day). My reasoning was always that celebrating on a separate day felt like it lessened my motherhood, and that even though I wasn't Ian's parent, I was still a mother.

I'm feeling a little different this year. I still haven't sorted out if I feel differently toward Birthmother's Day or not, but I definitely feel differently about myself. And thus the title of this post--I feel I've been terribly prideful.

What I am experiencing now with my own son is so incredibly different than what I experienced with Ian. Yes, I gave birth to Ian, and that is a powerful connection. I love him, and I care about him. But I am realizing all over again, with an entirely new depth, just how different being a birthmother is from being a mother. Not that I thought they were equivalent before, I'm not saying that. I guess I just have a new appreciation for motherhood.

Mother's Day is very special to me this year. I finally get to celebrate it wholly, instead of in a wistful, almost painful manner. It is real to me at last. In a profound way, I feel complete. I am a mother. And it feels like this is what I was always meant to be.

It also makes me incredibly grateful for Ian's [adoptive] mother. I put the [adoptive] in there for clarification, but I'll restate now: I am incredibly grateful for Ian's mother. She is his mother, in this complete way that I am now Joel's mother. I am grateful for the bond that I have with Ian and his family, even more so today than ever before.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there, no matter if you are a birthmother, adoptive mother, a hopeful mother, or any other way you classify yourself. We are all connected by our love of children, and our desperate hopes for their welfare. Today is a day to celebrate that love.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Becoming a Mother

My son Joel was born on the 15th in the most wonderful birth experience ever. I've been thinking for a couple of days of writing this post, to comment on some adoption-related things that came up during his birth, thoughts which I didn't feel like I wanted to share on my family blog.

1. Another reason for home birth

When I get asked why I chose to give birth at home, my response varies, depending on whether or not the person asking knows that I placed a child for adoption. If not, I usually talk about the comforts I was seeking, the [significantly] lower cost, and my general dissatisfaction with intervention in hospitals. If they do know, I might talk about the aforementioned items, but also reference Ian's birth--with Ian, I labored in a jacuzzi tub from 5cm to 9cm, and the hardest part was getting out of the tub. I didn't like so many people coming in and out. I didn't like one of the nurses. It was cold.

Yet there's an even deeper, more elemental reason that giving birth at home appealed to me, which took me some time to identify. You see, at some point, I realized that there was a part of me that feared that if I gave birth at a hospital, my baby would be taken away from me.

It was an irrational fear, I know. Nevertheless, having my baby at home gave me a sense of control that I would not have felt anywhere else. I felt safe, and felt that my baby was safe.

 2. Stitches

This was not so much adoption-related as simply related to my first birthing experience, but seeing as how that experience isn't really public knowledge, I might as well address it here.

When I gave birth to Ian, I tore and had to have stitches. It was honest-to-goodness the worst part of that whole delivery. My guess is that they didn't let the numbing agent sit long enough, or something, because I felt everything. My memories of contractions and pushing and tearing have faded, but the memory of getting stitched up afterward has stuck with me for eight years, that's how bad it was.

Needless to say, I was pretty nervous about the possibility of a repeat experience, and I told my midwife so at one of my prenatal appointments. I did tear again with Joel. As my midwife prepared to suture, I found myself in a state of unreasoning panic. I had faced an unmedicated delivery with aplomb, but the thought of these stitches sent my emotions spiraling out of control. It was wretched.

Fortunately, my midwife was amazing. She made sure that I was completely numb before beginning to suture, I didn't feel a thing. She was calm, and between her and my husband, I made it through. (Barely.) Still, I vote next time, no tearing!

3. Breastfeeding

I couldn't help but feel like a BTDT (been there done that) mom through a lot of my pregnancy and labor. (I say a lot, though of course not everything, because every pregnancy is different!) Much of it was fresh and new, but more on the emotional side than the physical side. Physically, much was familiar. Emotionally, this pregnancy was entirely different, thanks mostly to my wonderful husband.

Postpartum, the thing that has been entirely new has been breastfeeding. I don't know why it's so remarkable to me, but it is. I nursed Ian once; it was a decision that I made because I'd been convinced that even one feeding from me would benefit his health. It was a hard decision for me. I feared making that intimate connection with him would make it that much harder to let go and move forward after placing him for adoption. I think it was this fear that made me disconnect--during that one feeding, I didn't really let myself feel or experience what was happening.

Breastfeeding with Joel has been all-new. In many ways, it has been the most challenging part of new motherhood, for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons, I have come to believe, is that everything else, I was prepared for by my previous experience, yet breastfeeding was completely foreign. Still, breastfeeding has become, despite the challenges, one of the most rewarding parts of mothering Joel.


Of course this birth experience has been completely different from my first, and the largest portion of that is simply because this baby is mine. Though I love Ian very much, I knew from very early in my pregnancy that he was not my baby. On both a spiritual and an intellectual level, I prepared myself to let go of Ian, and place him with his parents. As a result, he never felt like my baby. He was always theirs.

Not so this time.

I treasure my Joel. Mothering is hard sometimes--figuring out breastfeeding, surrendering my schedule, dealing with baby blues, getting covered in spit-up, and so on and so on. But holding my baby--MY baby!--in those tender moments, holding his little hand, looking into those beautiful eyes and seeing the implicit trust there...well, I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Truthfully, I think that placing a baby for adoption, as well as all the years waiting since, have made me more grateful for my opportunity now to be a mother.

I am truly blessed. I love both of my sons very much, and I am blessed to have them in my life. I hope to be the very best mother and birthmother that I can to each of them.

Friday, February 21, 2014


My son turned eight yesterday.

It was a hard day for reasons that had nothing to do with his birthday--for a few hours, I had to face the scary possibility that I could end up having another baby on the twentieth of February. Fortunately, everything turned out fine, just another pregnancy "adventure."

Needless to say, I didn't spend a whole lot of time yesterday in retrospective contemplation, given the other stuff going on. Still, I find myself thinking more about it today.

Eight years just seems like such a long time. That tiny baby who came into the world is now a young man, getting baptized tomorrow, which I find incredible.

So much has happened in my life. I have changed in so many ways. My world is such a different place. Recently I picked up the journal that I kept during my pregnancy with Ian. I haven't read the whole thing through, but I've read a few entries here and there.  It's been fascinating to recognize again and again just how different my situation is now from how it was then. Not only does it make me incredibly grateful for the wonderful life I have now, but it also reaffirms my certainty that Ian is exactly where he is supposed to be.

I know that adoption is not perfect. It's nobody's first choice. But it was the best choice for me and my son, eight years ago. I am grateful for the experiences that I went through, which have profoundly and eternally changed me. And I am so grateful for Ian--even though we are not very close, I love him dearly and seeing his happiness brings me great joy.  He will always be an important part of my life, no matter the distance.

Happy birthday, kiddo.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Sunday night my husband and I went to his parents house for dinner. Things had wound down a bit after dinner, and James and I found ourselves in the dining room visiting with his mother. Funny enough we were talking about adoption--we had been talking about genetics, and what the likelihood is of any of our children having blue eyes or red hair, which is harder for me to know, given my incomplete genetic history.

At some point during the conversation, James gave me a LOOK. I knew what he was thinking--I've been waiting for a "good moment" for over a year, and that look said, "this is it!"

Using the excuse of the rowdy dogs in the other room, James got up and closed the dining room door, giving us a little more privacy. Awkwardly, I began. "Since we're talking adoption..." My mother-in-law gets a suspicious look on her face. "There's been something I've wanted to tell you for awhile--"

And without any further prompting, she bursts out, "You had a baby you gave up for adoption, didn't you?"


MIL says that she knew, somehow (something that my James claims that she says about all sorts of things, so who knows). But we were able to talk about it for a while. She asked questions. I was able to have a dialogue about it. James talked about meeting Ian this summer. And as we talked, my sense of relief grew and grew.

It's not that I wanted to keep Ian a secret. It's not that I haven't wanted to tell my mother-in-law. But the fear of it has held me back all this time. The longer I waited, the harder it became, actually. I knew that I would need to have this conversation eventually. After all, our children are going to know about Ian. At some point, one of our children would start talking about Ian, and somebody would start asking questions. So much better to already have it out there!

Incidentally, MIL's response was perfect. Asking questions, being interested, and the sincere acceptance. All of it was better than I could have hoped for. What an incredible relief.

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.