Adoption, birth mom, family, mom, teen pregnancy, Uncategorized

Cassidy…birth mom

 

Cassidy1

I met Cassidy this past year at a support group we both attend. It is for birth mothers and adoptees. Her story touched my heart so much. Her strength and life changing decisions left me in aw. She took some tragic moments in her life and changed things for the better…for her daughter…the daughter she would be placing for adoption. Her story is truly beautiful…

Introduce your self! 
Hello! My name is Cassidy and I am 26 years old from Waconia, Minnesota. I am a birth mom as of January 4th, 2018. I graduated in 2010 and quickly made the decision to run far away and go to school in Arizona. (Go Wildcats!) It was a blast and a fabulous school, but I quickly turned around after that first semester and came back home to Minnesota. It just wasn’t for me. I spent 3.5 years up in Moorhead at MSUM (don’t ask how I went from Tucson to Moorhead) and was lucky enough to be able to continue my dance career dancing on the MSUM dance team. I am big into hockey (Go Wild!), coffee, healthy foods, yoga and meditation. Barre is my latest workout obsession as well. My happy place is up north along Lake Superior (Lutsen area to be exact). Seriously, just plop me in the woods for a weekend and that is all that I need. I also love writing and speaking about adoption and the plan I made for my daughter. I am sober as of June 4th, 2017 so that is a huge part of my life as well. Recovery is hard, but completely worth it.

Describe to me what a typical day in life of Cassidy was like before you knew you were pregnant…
Well honestly, my life was quite depressing before I found out I was pregnant. I was living alone in St. Cloud and working full time as a waitress. I was off and on seeing a guy that I had worked with at the same restaurant as well, and it was an incredibly tumultuous relationship. Mainly, my drinking had a lot to do with that as well as his mental health issues. I have not spoken to him since April 24th, 2017 as there is a no contact order. He is aware of Grace, but I have not reached out to him. That’s what happens when you decide to get physical with a woman, and she finds out a month or so later she is pregnant. I hope he can get his life together, but in the end he made things like this.

I moved to St. Cloud June of 2015 to live alone, be independent, work, and go back to school. Instead, my life started to quickly spiral out of control. Within 4 months I got a DWI, found myself knowing what the inside of the Stearns County Jail looked like too well, without a license for over a year and commuting via the bus lines to work at a restaurant downtown. My life revolved around work, riding the bus home, and drinking myself into oblivion every. single. day. I knew I needed to make a change, because everything alcohol had promised me was not happening. Everything kept getting pushed off and it was always “next time” or “tomorrow”. When they say that alcoholism is a progressive disease, it is seriously no joke. It was a pathetic way of life, which is why my daughters name is Grace. She was my saving Grace out of that lifestyle I was living, and for that I am forever grateful for that child.

When did you find out you were pregnant? How did you feel? What was the FIRST thought that ran thru your mind?
It was June 4th. I met my best friend at Granite City and she knew. She said she could tell all along cause I was always tired and not as up to go out and drink. (ha) So after two cocktails full of tequila, I got the liquid courage to take a pregnancy test. We left the restaurant and stopped at Cash Wise right near by. She pushed me to take it right away, so here we were in the Cash Wise bathroom taking a pregnancy test. (Classy!) I couldn’t look at it. I shoved it back into the bag, but as I did I caught a glimpse and could already see a line forming and knew. When we got back to Ally’s I made her look and tell me. She just sat there and said “Well we know what it says”. I honestly felt even more numb. I wanted to get drunk, but now I couldn’t? Which then made me feel suffocated. So I just sat and laid on her couch staring at the ceiling. I laid there for about an hour. Initially, I googled the nearest Planned Parenthood because I thought “I have to get rid of this!! This needs to go away!”. But as I laid there, I became more calm (shockingly). I knew it was going to be a mess and a hard road, but things in the end were going to be alright, and an abortion was not going to happen. The next day I called the Pregnancy Resource Center and met with a warm, friendly lady who educated me on each option and listened as I explained my fears. That Thursday June 8th, I left for inpatient treatment for the next 34 days.

Cassidy 4

Once you found out you were pregnant, what plans did you have in mind? What were the feelings? Thoughts?
For most of my pregnancy I was in pure shock, major denial, and had tremendous amounts of shame. I found out I was pregnant 4 days before leaving for treatment. I already felt like a total piece of crap because I couldn’t get my life together and the only accomplishment I had on my list was out drinking most people at the bar. I went to treatment and told my nurse at intake I had just found out I was pregnant. I was going to tackle the treatment experience and go from there once I was discharged. I was so scared because I honestly did not know what to expect. I was never a baby person, never got baby fever or wanted to hold newborns when they came around. I hardly babysat when I was younger, so I really had no experience around little ones. I never imagined being a single mom, newly sober either. So I had tossed around the idea of adoption in my head, but it seemed like it would be impossible to find a family that I would actually like and trust. I honestly just kept getting through each day hoping for a sign from God. I had kind of planned on raising Grace on my own and making it work, because I really didn’t see how any other option would play out. All the good things that work out perfectly only happen in the movies.

Cassidy2

Open adoption seems to be more popular these days. You are part of an open adoption…how does that work? Is it enough? Is it hard? What are the pros and cons of open adoption?
So I knew from the start of looking into adoption that I would only do an open adoption plan. Closed was completely out of the question. For someone who was really contemplating raising her own child, I just couldn’t imagine placing my child with a family and never knowing anything for over 18 years.
We have an agreement (sort of like a contract) and in that agreement I have certain things put in place that I knew I wanted. At least once a month visits, updates (via text, email, social media, etc.), gifts from my family to Grace would be okay, things like that. Basically a relationship and connection to her! It works out great. Wendy is friends with myself and family via social media so we can all see updates on Grace there. Ben and Wendy are really good about texting and updating me on things. I still have this excitement, and maybe it will never go away, that whenever Wendy texts me I get giddy like a little girl and jump to grab my phone. I’ve never gotten like that over a guy texting me!

Open adoption is great and amazing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But it has that side of it that is hard. Being able to watch Grace grow, but also watching her grow and bond with her family. It can be hard at times when I go to visit and she may be getting hungry or tired and starting to get fussy. She cries and reaches for her mom or dad, and it honestly tears at my heart.
I know more at the beginning when I was adjusting to being a new mom with no baby at home, when Wendy would post a picture of Grace and all of the comments would flood about how beautiful she was, what a gift, etc. The comments are amazing, but there’s that side of me that thinks “these people are talking about MY child!” “She wouldn’t be theirs if it wasn’t for me”. It is incredibly negative, but also incredibly honest coming from a birth mom. I don’t know if that will ever go away.
Open adoption takes a lot of work, communicating, and understanding. You have to understand that you made that choice for someone else to be your child’s parents and that it is NOT co-parenting. That has been the most helpful piece of information or advice, I suppose, I learned from the agency I placed through.

I think being open and honest from the start with the child about their adoption plan is a total game changer. I know I chose parents for Grace that will follow through with that. They talk about it at a young age with her older brother, who was also adopted. I am also prepared for when Grace will want to ask about her birth father and that story. She deserves to know and it is her right. My hopes is that she will have enough of what she needs from her adoptive family and my family being there for her as well. I definitely wouldn’t blame her for wanting to know where she comes from, because I would want to know as well.

Cassidy3

What keeps you moving forward emotionally? Support groups? Self care?
I have to stay busy. Once I have that free time, lingering thoughts come in. I work two jobs and am big on attending support groups. I go to two different adoption support groups and I recently went through the adoption speakers training through Bellis. November 15th is my first classroom I will be speaking to about my adoption plan! I am also big on fitness. I have a membership at YogaFit and all of my time, outside of work and support groups, is spent at the studio. I also recently just completed YogaBarre Teacher Training, where I became certified to teach YogaBarre at my studio. I plan to audition to be a teacher at YogaFit before the end of the year. Self care is huge for me, too. It’s learning to say “No” and taking time for yourself. I do things that make me feel good–manicures, pedicures, facials and peels. I spent years not taking care of myself while I was drinking, so it’s fun to be able to take pride in taking care of my skin, body, and health now.

Support is another big thing for me. I have a huge support system of people that honestly keeps me going. Granted, I do have family who do not speak to me or have yet to reach out regarding my adoption plan, which makes it difficult and frustrating. But truthfully, I know what I have done for Grace was right for her and if you have negativity surrounding MY decision for MY daughter, then that’s on you. Understanding that toxicity is not worth it! I have zero time for that.

Ten years from now- where do you see your relationship with the adoptive family and your daughter? 20 years from now?
This is hard for me because I live by “One day at a Time”. Once I look into the future it usually starts to make me panic. HOPEFULLY things are still well and visits are still a thing. I am aware that my life will change once I am ready to have a family of my own and monthly visits might be hard. Who knows where I’ll be at in life?! But I plan on never leaving Grace behind. She will always know who I am and I can only hope that she will understand how incredibly difficult this was for me. I did it all for her out of hopes that she will have a fantastic life. When I think of down the line when I’m in my 40’s+…I hope that I have a big family who are close with and love Grace as much as I do. I picture the holidays and having all of my children under one roof celebrating. Grace would never be treated differently, she would be as one with the rest of us.

If you could give any advice to a young girl facing an unplanned pregnancy, what would it be?
Take a deep breath. Weigh your options. Take your time. Do your research and look into what is best for YOU. Not for the birth father, your parents, your teacher, grandparents, siblings, etc. I was very pleased with the Pregnancy Resource Center and the information I received on each option. It helped me to take a moment and truly think about the 3 options us women have, and what really would work for me. In the end, it is YOUR decision. You are the woman and the one growing the life inside of your body.

 

Thank you Cassidy for sharing your story. The more different sides of adoption and situations we hear about – the more understanding we all have about the topic 

 

 

 

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Adoption, birth mom, cancer, family, gay, Uncategorized

meet Rachel Garlinghouse…

 

Rachel profile pic
Rachel Garlinghouse

Let me introduce you to Rachel Garlinghouse. I met Rachel (online) when I was promoting my book. She interviewed me and since then we message and email back and forth. One of these days I hope to meet her in person! She has a big heart and so involved with adoption.

Tell me a bit about yourself: 

I’m a mom of four via domestic, infant, transracial, open adoption. My husband and I have been married 15 years, and we live in the St. Louis area. I’m a former college writing teacher turned work-at-home-mom.

What lead you to the decision to adopt? Was your husband onboard with adopting?

I was sick for 1.5 years. One day, I was breathless and very tired. My husband rushed home from work and took me to the ER where I was diagnosed with Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA), meaning, my body was toxic and shutting down. This was a result of undiagnosed type 1 diabetes. During my hospital stay, a diabetes nurse educator came into my room to discuss diabetes management. The subject of children came up, and I knew that we would adopt…just like that! My husband took about a year to come around to my easily-made adoption plans. We spent that time doing a lot of research, including meeting with adoptive families. I’m thankful for our research phase as it prepared us to become parents.

Being a mother of two daughters from a different country, I often wonder what the thought – if there even is one – behind adopting a child from a different country or race. Can you chime in on your thoughts on this topic?

I talk about this in my writing all the time. That colorblindness isn’t real and that race should be celebrated, not ignored. Because adoptive parents who have children of another race didn’t grow up sharing their child’s race, parents need to work very hard to instill racial confidence and competence in their children. Things like having a mentor for their child, making sure to live/work/play in a diverse area, having books, magazines, films, art, and music in the home that reflect the child’s race, etc. It’s a DAILY commitment.

Rachel holding hands

How were your experiences of adopting different with each of your children? Was one harder than the other? What did you learn from each that helped the next one be easier?

We waited the longest for our first child, and the wait was torture. Then one day we got a phone call for a baby girl who had already been born. Two hours later, we were chosen and packing to go get her. Our second adoption was far different. We waited ONE DAY for a child. (I’m not kidding.) We waited four months for our third child, and about five months for our fourth child. It doesn’t get easier with each adoption, because each adoption is unique. And, in fact, in some ways it gets harder. We were already parenting three adoptees when we were matched with our fourth child. We had to explain to our three kids that this was our “maybe baby.” We wouldn’t presume the baby would become ours.

What are you top three myths about adoption and the process?

1: You can “just adopt” if you cannot have biological children.                                          There is no “just” in adopting.
2: Adopting a child isn’t a charity cause. A child is a person.
3: Adoption is always expensive. Foster care adoption is free.

 

Having children of a different race…what are your top 3 pet peeves that you have encountered?

1: People asking if my children are “real” siblings.” Of course they are real!
2: People assuming things about birth parents of color (they were young, drug users, sexually promiscuous, poor).
3: People trying to touch my children’s hair. My children are not pets! Hands off!

Rachel hair beads

You have had quite a road with your health….how does that affect your parenting – if at all? 

Yes! Our adoption journey started with my type 1 diabetes diagnosis. I’ve been type 1 for 12.5 years now. Then last summer, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, and I elected to have a bi-lateral mastectomy. I also have anxiety. I think what my health has taught me is that my choices matter, and taking care of myself is critically important. It’s cliche but true: you can’t give what you don’t have/you can’t pour from an empty cup.

What are your relationships with the birth mothers (and/or fathers) like today? They are all open adoptions? correct? what are the pros and cons of open adoptions? 

Openness in adoption should always be about the child and what is best for him or her. So our open adoptions are ever-changing. Some of our relationships are more solid than others. Some are easier. Some have a longer history. I will say, open adoption requires empathy, grace, forgiveness, and commitment. It’s not for the faint at heart, it’s not a magical healer for all adoption related issues, and it can be very, very beautiful.

It’s 10-15 years from now….what do you want your children to know about adoption and how do you see their birthparents fitting into their life at this time?

I’m open the possibilities. I have learned not to predict the future. However, I hope that the foundation we have laid, that of openness, means our kids have positive, healthy relationships with their birth families forevermore.

Rachel quote

 

Thank you so much Rachel for letting us get to know you, your adoption journey and sharing your website with us!

Rachel has a wonderful blog, books she has written and other resources!

Check out Rachel via her website: Rachel’s website

 

 

 

Adoption, birth mom, family, infertility, marriage, mom, teen pregnancy, Uncategorized

The Lingo Ate My Baby….

  It is funny how the choice of words people use can make a huge difference in what they say or ask. I have been humored, hurt and angered by the the wording and questions people to choose to use.  All along this journey of teen pregnancy, infertility and adoption, I have come to realize language and the way we comment, ask and label situations is so important. Some people really have no idea that what they are saying is hurtful or even not politically correct. I would like to address some of these.

Lets talk teen pregnancy, shall we? When you learn of a teen (or even a young girl surprised with pregnancy) do not say “oh. eeh. geez. wow. what are you going to do!?” with a face that looks like you just ate something terrible. A young girl is already scared and feeling as tho they did something wrong and let down people. You do not need to be one of them. A simple “You are? Are you ok? Is there anything I can do?” or a simple “I’m here for you” is plenty. A hug doesn’t hurt either! If this girl chooses to keep the baby after weighing options and thinking it over, then be supportive – offer advice or even resources that can help. Don’t be “You ARE?! You are so young! It is hard work – blah blah blah”.  If she chooses adoption for her baby, the words “gave up” “giving up” are not favorable. It is not an old out of date sweater that is going to Goodwill. It is not chocolate they are giving up for lent. It is a young human being that is loved and the choice to choose adoption was carefully decided. You mourn the loss and are equally happy for the couple that will be this child’s family. It is a very emotional time. the comment “Oh, you’ll be fine! You will have other children when the time is right.” is NOT OK. You can’t replace that baby. It is a part of you that will always be.

Ok, let’s talk infertility, shall we? I remember when Mike and I were trying to conceive, it seemed as tho EVERYONE around us was getting pregnant. People would ask all the time “When are you two going to have kids?” Little did they know we were trying and failing. (wait, let me clarify….we knew HOW, just those pesky sperm and eggs didn’t want to do their part).

* insert sound affect: Needle screech across a record album……WAIT! Let’s back up a bit. After people get married, not all of them WANT to have kids and a family. So why assume they do. When you think about the question “So when are you two going to have kids?”… you are asking quite a personal question that really is none of your business!

Ok…back to infertility… our first doctor we saw after months of trying said “Ah, relax! Light some candles…it will happen”. Gee, ok. We never thought of that one. (eye roll) Then we moved onto charting my temp EVERY morning, Mike getting his sperm tested, getting shots, taking pills and having mandatory sex. Let me just tell you – sex on command is not as great as some of you think. Sure we would giggle and laugh at first. The thought of a literal nooner was hysterical. But 6 years later…there was no laughing. So when a couple is going through all that and crying every month when the test comes back negative… a person asking “When are you two going to have kids?”  may get a punch to the throat – so don’t be surprised by it! Especially once we found out I was the problem and couldn’t get pregnant. I actually had people ask me “So are you going to find the baby you put up for adoption?” …to those people I say “Are you on drugs!?!?” Because why on earth would I disrupt a plan that I carefully chose and had a hard time coming to terms with? Not to mention being so selfish to disrupt a young child’s life because of something I couldn’t have.

If you do know a couple is struggling, always asking how it is going is really just a reminder of how long and painful their journey is. Remember, that the couple is different from your aunt’s niece’s friend who went through infertility…Trust me, WHEN there is news to share, that couple will be the ones screaming it from the rooftops, skywriting it and will be so excited to share the news. It is their news to share… not your question to be answered.

Adoption. This area of conversation has SO MANY things to address. Grab a cup of coffee, have a seat and let’s educate! First thing right out of the gate when we told people we were adopting was “Oh, you’ll get pregnant now for sure!!” To these people asking I say “No, we have medical proof we wont and I am not the Virgin Mary” and “We closed that painful door we struggled with for 6 years, made some closure and moved forward by opening the door labeled ADOPTION – why would you rip the band aid off that wound we are finally healing from!?”

We chose to adopt from South Korea. (That means they are ASIAN, not oriental. Oriental is a type of rug people!!) We didn’t need our child to look like us. To us, that was not important. To some it is. But we would get comments like “Oh. why wouldn’t you adopt from here and then your child might look like you?” During the process people would comment/ask “I heard it is expensive! How much does it cost!?!?”  – first off all, adoption fees are usually on a sliding fee. So it is different for everyone. And, WHAT BUSINESS IS IT OF YOURS?! That is just a rude question…period. Unless of course you are asking because you too are thinking about adoption and want advice.

This is a good one too. Once we had our daughter – who again was Korean – 5 months old. People would constantly ask “Will she speak English?” Ok, let’s stop and think about this. A.) She doesn’t even speak yet and B.) We know maybe 2 words in Korean.  We would also get “Is she adopted?” Well, first off all I do not walk up to a mother in Target an just randomly ask “Did you give birth to your son?” – I must say tho – 90% of the people asking that particular question were adopting or had an immediate family member or friend that was. So we had an immediate connection about it. But remember, still a strange question to ask.

Oh here is a good one!! Once we adopted our second daughter we would get the age ol’ favorite question “Are they sisters!?”…. Let’s step back and look at this. I am at Target (yes I do shop there a lot) and I approach a mom with two boys (or girls) and just randomly ask “Are they brothers?”… the mom would probably look at me and slowly say “ummm, yeah?!” – and stare at me like why on earth are you asking. Ok, back to me now. When people ask this question I know what they want to know is: Are they birth sisters? I get it. But again, why is it someone’s business? And to our family and to each other…YES they are sisters.

“Will they ever find their REAL moms?” – I assume people mean their BIRTH mothers. We are both REAL moms. One of us gave birth and one of us raised and loved unconditionally. Maybe someday my girls will want to meet their birth mother and make the emotional journey and I will beside them sharing all the beauty of it with them.

“They are so lucky you saved and adopted them” – um, no. We are the lucky ones. They made our family whole. WE decided on adoption because WE wanted children and WE wanted a family. We are not fostering a hurt and sick animal here.

The bottom line with all of this is, be mindful of the comments and questions you ask. Be educated on the language and terms you use. You don’t always know what people are going through.

Adoption, birth mom, depression, family, mom, Uncategorized

The Playbook…

playbook

There are playbooks for all sports, directions for electronics, assembly instructions for put together furniture and even instructions on how to use shampoo.  During my journey with being a birth mother and an adoptive mom I have seen so many books and articles about how to adopt, what to tell your kids, reunion stories etc.  But when you reunite with a birth child after 22 years of placing him for adoption…then what? Where is the playbook? When I first found him we stumbled our way through the words and emotions of it all. Took it one day at a time…slowly and steadily. Now 4 years later we – me, my husband, daughters and him – have a wonderful relationship that keeps on growing. He has met the rest of my family just a handful of times – which seems so strange because we all live so close and are so close.   So why is it so hard to cross the line and bring the rest of them on in? Is it they don’t want to? Not sure how to? Not sure how to feel? What the “relationship” will be – such an unfamiliar territory. My sister said you can’t just Google “Reuniting with a birth son while he meets his sisters that were adopted from Korea and the rest of the clan”. There is NO PLAYBOOK.

I am learning so many things through all of this. I know how I feel through all of this – but how does the other family feel? The REAL family – the one that raised him.  I truly believe that every person’s life is one big jigsaw puzzle. At times we feel complete and at times we feel a part of something is missing. That missing piece could be the loss of a family member, a wrong spouse, a bad job – whatever – but sometimes it is a person, a person that they have never met. I believe that people who were adopted (most people) it is a curiosity thing… wondering what the missing link is. What does the other part of the DNA look like, act like – etc. I do not believe that is a lack of love from the adoptive family – or that there is something wrong. I believe it is a natural curiosity. As an adoptive mom I look forward to taking the journey with my children if they want to find their birth families. But I also realize I have half a world between her and us. I find security in that. My daughter who is 11 thinks about her birth mom a lot and often we talk about it. I don’t ever doubt that I AM her real mom…but I also know the wondering because as a birth mom, I have always wondered about my son. It doesn’t mean I love my daughters any less or they don’t complete me – but my birth son has always been in my heart. I know that I am my girls mom.period. But I do know they have a whole heritage and birth family a world away that they must wonder about – especially as they get older.

I think about Mike – how does he feel? I know he loves Joshua and has welcomed him always into our family. He stood by me when I would be sad on his birthday and wonder about him. He held me when I would cry at night after I found him on Facebook and all I could say was “This is so big – so emotional”. There were no words to describe how wide open my heart became – but he got it and would just hold me and love me. Yet I was the one who couldn’t give us belly babies.

My close girlfriends have been by my side through every step of this journey – encouraging me, supporting me, listening to me talk about things and share the excitement of it all. They always ask about him and how he is doing. These woman have supported me every step and have helped me sort out feelings with love, laughter and occasional glass of wine!

So why is it so hard for those closest to me?? There are no defined roles, feelings or rules. It is fly by the seat of your pants and hope that it all turns out okay. I have had 4 years of feelings building up and finally felt they came free today. It was a hard conversation to have…but one that never had taken place. All in all I think it was a good thing. I feel like I can move forward and have two special worlds mesh together with a common ground, me.

Life can be so difficult and hard sometimes. I realize communication is key. I can’t assume how people feel or think. There are paths we go down in our lives that come with no playbooks. We learn as we go and we become stronger because of it.

Adoption, birth mom, family, mom, teen pregnancy, Uncategorized

Teen Moms…

Teen Pregnancy  When you discover your pregnant, you should be excited! You share the news with your significant other and family. There are baby showers, gifts, decorating a nursery and waiting with anticipation for that glorious moment when you hear your child’s first cry. The first cry that says “I’m here!” – you are my momma! Unless you are 17 and its the very last thing you planned on. I never got to experience the excitement of being pregnant, just the unexpected, scared and unknown of it all.  I was that scared 17 year old. I am now a 45 year old woman with a birth son who is almost 27 that I met 4 years ago and two young daughters just entering the teen years… who are adopted. I love all my children beyond words.

I think of my daughters and someday they will have boyfriends. I want to say “Don’t have sex until your married!!” – but we all know the reality of it all. I will say “Don’t have sex until you are old enough to understand the magnitude of it all – make sure you are in love and it is with the person you want your life to be with”. It is not an act to become popular, to make a boy like you more or even to prove you are someone you are not. It’s not just something you do because everyone else is doing it – it doesn’t mean anything or it’s no big deal. Even using birth control of any sort doesn’t guarantee you will not get pregnant.

I was fortunate – in that my parents were there for me. They helped me with important decisions. They didn’t shun me, kick me to the curb or make me feel shamed. Were they thrilled their 17 year old daughter was pregnant? absolutely not. It was something that we went through and got through. It was life changing and emotional. Many emotions that I am experiencing NOW 27 years later. Because the “plan” I had knowing my son would have a better life with a couple that was READY to be parents got me through it. I knew that he would be loved, taken care of and given everything he needed – everything I wasn’t capable of at 17. Knowing my decision made sense and that my love for him would give him a better life, I was able to cope emotionally.

Some young girls are not so lucky. I am currently reading a book now about woman back in the late 50’s and 60’s that we shunned, sent away and were told there was NO OTHER CHOICE but to relinquish their rights to their child. No one talked about it. You were considered a “bad girl” or “used merchandise” – who on earth would want to marry a girl that had a baby out of wedlock. Thank God times have changed. But have they changed too much?? Now you can watch a show on MTV called Teen Moms…REALLY!?!?!?  A show that glamorizes it all – they get paid to show their loves on TV – get covers to magazines ??? Don’t get me wrong, some young woman (and men) choose to keep their babies at young ages and it works out – they DO survive and have a wonderful life – my son had that with his father and his father’s wife…my child’s mother.  But most teens do not.They have no job, quit school or rely on the grandparents to take care of the child. They struggle.

I want to say to teens that find themselves in this position that they have choices. That your child’s needs are so much more important that your wants. For some it is hard to understand that. But I am here to tell you, yes it is hard to go thru. You feel alone, scared and like your life may be over. There is always someone that WILL support you, help you and guide you. My hope that it is your family like I had. If it isn’t, then find someone who it is. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

To parents….No parent wants to learn their teenage daughter is pregnant. You bring up your child with love, morals, faith and it can still happen. Do you want to have a pregnant teen? Of course not….but if you do…you need to put your feelings aside and BE THERE. Again – putting the needs of your child first so they can do that for their child. Be the support they need – find them a doctor, a counselor and be the support they need – the love and support you promised to give then when you had them. Parents – it is ok to feel disappointed, scared and upset…but BE THERE for them…help them.

To the young teens that it worked out for to keep your baby and you could give it all that he/she may have needed – I am envious and proud of you for doing it. It… is…hard. My son’s father did that. At the time I thought my plan was so much better for him. But he grew up to be this amazing young man with parents who did give him what I couldn’t. they are my heroes – as corny as that sounds… I admire them, I respect them and I also feel saddened that I thought my plan was better. I believe that they raised him to be a loving forgiving person – which allows him and I to have a relationship now in life.

Adoption, believe, birth mom, family, infertility, mom

Finding Motherhood – My Messy Beautiful

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Ever since I was a little girl I knew that someday I would be a mom. (Well, except for the day I saw an After School Special on where babies come from – then I swore I would NEVER have kids.) My sister, neighborhood friends, and I would play house for hours out back in the playhouse we had in the old barn. We would be dressed in my mom’s old prom dresses getting married in the garden…stuffing dolls under our shirts waiting for the moment we would become a “mom”. Playing Barbies was no different – a mom, a dad and their baby. That is what was modeled to us by our grandparents, parents, relatives and family friends. Everyone was married with 1-3 kids. When you are a child and think about your future – you think that you will go to college, get married, own a house and have a couple kids…in that order and that simply. You never for a moment think that there may be a different order to your life and that things may NOT go the way you see them. That perhaps God has his own plan for you.

Most people spend their summer in between high school graduation and going off to college being carefree and looking forward to their new path in life as a young adult. For MOST. For me, the last month of summer vacation I spent worrying – worrying that I may be pregnant. A month went by – my parents moved me away to college, got me all settled and were on their way. All the while not knowing of my worries. Well into my first semester of college it was confirmed…I was indeed pregnant. Only a handful of people would know this life changing situation – the father, and a couple close friends. I admit that if I didn’t think about it and kept busy with my new surroundings, classes and living on my own that it wouldn’t be true. “Out of sight – Out of mind” – doesn’t really work well when your body starts changing….It wasn’t until spring break that it all came out. I was home over break – my sister first suspected it and from there my mom went on my sister’s hunch and we spent spring break figuring out what to do. I knew that adoption was the best choice – I was 18 and could barely take care of myself – how could I be a mom!? You are wondering where the “father” was in this – we had broken up – it wasn’t a big love affair to begin with – we were better friends. We both decided adoption was a good decision. So in the months to come, I spent my first year of college going to classes, seeing my counselor at Catholic Charities, looking at profiles of anxious parents waiting for a baby to complete their family and attending my OB/GYN appointments. While most people spent spring quarter laying in the sun, going to parties and making plans for summer…I was planning and thinking of the type of life this baby growing inside of me would have – not with me, but with that perfect family I picked out. Not the typical first year of college most kids my age had.
So the evening came that I went into labor. It all went so fast. The baby was breech so I ended up having a c-section. The doctors knew my situation and put a sheet up between me and my belly so I wouldn’t see anything – I did choose not to see the baby – figured it would be way too hard emotionally. A healthy 7 pounds/7 ounces baby boy was born. In the days to follow, papers were signed relinquishing my rights. This baby boy would soon be on the way to his new family where he would be loved and cared for and have the life I planned for him and dreamed for him…..
After the papers were signed, the father and I had 10 working days to change our minds…the baby’s father did. He came to me and said he wanted custody of our son and had a lawyer. I was devastated. I had this perfect family and life all picked out for him and my heart was full of love knowing I had made the best decision for him. After going to court and fighting for the plan I picked out – his father won and got custody.– I was too young to care for this baby and be a great mom to him – and thought his dad was too. The court basically said “If the mother does not want the baby, custody will go to the father”…DOESN’T WANT??? It had nothing to do with not wanting him – it had to do with what was best for him…his needs had to come first. So his father did get custody. He was married a year later and she legally adopted him. Funny how after 20+ years I realized he DID have the perfect life I wanted for him with two loving parents. Who was I to say, at age 18, that I had the better plan?? God knew.
I was 24 when I met Mike. The first time I met him I knew HE was it. Two years later we married. We were excited for our future – all our hopes and dreams. Especially the dream of being parents. We were happy, in love, had our first home and, after a year into our marriage, thought we would start trying to have a family. Who would have thought the word “TRYING” would imply blood, sweat and tears. We “tried” for 6-8 months (give or take) and wondered “what gives”? I told my doctor we had been ‘trying’ and nothing was happening. Now, my doctor was a male and of the “older persuasion” – dare I say a crotchety old man?? Maybe. He had some real profound advice: “Relax, light some candles…it will happen” – Gee, thanks – that thought NEVER crossed my mind. Isn’t that how it is as newlyweds anyway?!?! So – on to an infertility specialist nurse – who thought the doctor’s advice to us was ridiculous! The next few years were filled with all kinds of ‘fun’. Mike got to take a lovely test to see if “the boys could swim” – (yep – no problem there – Olympic swimmers) then I got to take my temperature every morning and chart it to see when I would ovulate. When I was, I had to get a hormone shot in my hip that made me crampy and crabby – not the best mood to “be intimate” with my husband within the next 24 hours. No pressure. First few months you think “oh this is fun” and there are a few giggles and the song “Afternoon Delight” runs through your head, etc. Months turned into years. The giggling stops; being intimate is now a CHORE and still no baby! We decided to take a bit of a break from doctors and in that year Mike switched jobs. We moved and found a new doctor who was awesome! He basically said “how aggressive do you want to be?” – and we were ready to start the process again. This time, we did a few painful tests – tests that determined I had some scarring in my tubes and the only way to conceive would be to have my tubes removed and then try IVF. We had a lot to think about. It takes a toll on a person and a couple….you want it so badly. And you have those people who are trying to be helpful by giving advice: “Oh, just don’t think about it and it will happen” “Once you relax it will happen” “My sister’s cousin’s friend went through that and ended up with cancer and died” “It will happen when it’s meant to be” BLAH BLAH BLAH. I was at the point in my life when all my friends (and everyone under the sun!) were getting pregnant! I pasted on the fake smile “Oh, that is GREAT news” hoping to God that I sounded sincere. Inside, I just wanted to scream and cry. I was beginning to question why things happen. Was God punishing me for the decision I made years earlier by not keeping the baby He gave me? I spent a lot of time being angry, hurt and longing so badly for a baby – we both did. At a time I couldn’t be the best mom, I became pregnant. At the time I was ready to be a great mom….nothing. We decided after almost 6 years to close the door with all the doctors and think about where to go next. It was a major relief to stop trying, stop going to the doctor, stop taking advice from everyone – and just enjoy being a couple again. Because we WANTED to, not HAD to…Again, God had a plan.

Back to my original thought as a child – get married and have a baby or two. Easy, part of life one should never take for granted. We never thought our easy “having a baby or two” would be adoption from a foreign country. I was now 32 and we dove in head first into the process of adoption. This process would take a world of patience, mountains of paperwork, FBI background checks, medical physicals, references, interviews, fingerprinting and a small fortune. I believe there is less paperwork buying your first home! I think it is funny – we hear all about these families or single moms who have an abundance of children, no money or means to care for them and high on drugs and they keep on having kids…..we had to go through all kinds of checks and balances to see if we were good enough – wow, what is wrong with this picture? We went through Children’s Home Society (awesome!!) and got all the information we needed to “start” the process. There were forms to fill out, copies of certificates to obtain, papers to be notarized and workshops to attend. We spent the next month organizing all the needed documentation. We could decide on the sex of the baby and the country we wanted. We chose South Korea and girl. We also got to “play God” – so to speak…we had a long form of medical conditions that were acceptable or not to us in a child. That was incredibly strange…but our social worker pointed out that if we were pregnant and expecting a child, we would want it to be happy and healthy – so why should this time be any different. My mom was a nurse so she helped us decipher all the medical jargon. Once we completed everything, our form went to the bottom of the waiting pile. So we waited and wondered when that call would come. We were told it could be up to 6 months to get a referral. So we both kept busy with work and life. Then one day I was paged with a call at work. I jokingly said to my co-workers “Ya never know when it will be THE CALL” – very tongue and cheek because it had only been 3-4 months of waiting. And sure enough – there was baby girl born December 27th. My husband stopped by Children’s Home Society and picked up the “packet” and photo of our new baby. Instead of a doctor handing us this newborn in the hospital saying “You have a girl” – we ripped open an envelope – read thru all the translated medical and background info – her birth mother was just 16. (How I could relate!) and finally the photo – a cute chubby cheeked little Asian princess!! Finally, the baby we had always dreamed of! We prepared the room, painted, bought the furniture, and got everything ready. That was the middle of March. Finally, May 18th arrived – ‘Gotcha Day’! At that time, we were still allowed to meet travelers at the airport gate. And there we were – the WHOLE family – watching with great anticipation as everyone got off the plane…Straining to get our first glance at our newest member. After what seemed like eternity, there she was! Riding in a Korean sling around her escort’s neck. All smiles and chubby little cheeks…our Maddie! Wow – what a wait. What a reward! My heart was overflowing with love. This beautiful chubby cheeked Korean little bundle was all ours. Three years later we did it all over again – and Olivia arrived February 26, 2004! This time we picked her up in the baggage area. Grab a bag and a baby and – voila! – instant family! Our family was complete!

God certainly works in mysterious ways. You have a plan in your head of how your life is going to go and BAM! Life takes you on a different path – an emotionally hard path. But after that path has been traveled you can sit back and find the brutifulness (brutal + beautiful) in it. I made a choice all those years ago to think about the needs of a baby that I loved so much. A choice to give him a better home and life than I could. God rewarded me on the receiving end of such a gift with my two beautiful daughters. The unselfish decision two young girls a world away made me a mother. I could feel firsthand the wonderfulness of their decision and yet understand the way they must have felt. God planned this.

Not only did God bless me with two daughters, but he had more to his plan for me. I had always thought about and wondered about my baby boy. I use the word “My” because I gave birth to him. His REAL mom gave him his life. One random day I decided to enter his name on Facebook. Previously I had tried to find him or his dad online – but either a million names came up or nothing. This time was different. His Facebook page popped up – not a list, but HIS page!! I looked – a set of familiar eyes looking back at me. My heart jumped – I scanned his birthdate…IT WAS HIM! I froze, smiled, and cried. Then I realized we had a common friend – my neighbor – a young girl who I was very close with! Out of all the people we had in common – it was this young girl who had babysat my girls, confided in me about her boyfriends and life. A girl I could trust with the secret. She worked with him – and would keep the secret until I had a plan. What to do with all this new found information!?!?! It was SO BIG – how does one manage all the feelings associated with this kind of situation!? I sat down and wrote a letter to his parents. Explained my life, how I was not there to disrupt their family (I didn’t even know if he knew about me or not). I made it clear that SHE was his mom, I was his belly mom. Then I put a stamp on it and put it in the mailbox and trusted a perfect stranger to deliver it. I spent the next few weeks “stalking” his Facebook page – trying to read anything into his comments – to see if he knew?!?! One stuck out “I have a lot to pray and think about” – could it be about me!?!?!?!?! Then two weeks later – a quick scan on Facebook before I shut it down for the night….there was a new message….from HIM! I ran and got my husband – I was so excited!! He said he always knew this day would come…mixed feelings. Could we email for now because it was just so much. OF course I thought!! We spent the next few weeks emailing back and forth – then came the message saying he was ready to meet. We picked a local coffee shop. I don’t think I had ever been so nervous. I went early to get a spot – and he had same idea. He stood – we hugged and spent the next 3 hours talking and getting to know each other – all the while looking in disbelief at each other that this day had finally come. It has been 4 years now and he is part of my life. He spends time with us – and has become a wonderful part of our family. All the while respecting HIS family. I sit back in the awesomeness of it all. My journey to becoming a mother has come full circle. It wasn’t as easy as I once thought as a 10 year old playing house in the back yard. It was much harder, but I would not change the journey of it all. God had his plan for me and it taught me so much about my faith in him and I learned so much about myself along the way.

messy-beautiful-700b This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project – To learn more and join us, click on this logo. Also to learn more about The New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of embracing Your Messy Beautiful Life, just released in paperback!

 

 

Adoption, birth mom, family, infertility, Uncategorized

Still I Mourn…

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Funny how emotions of life events follow you throughout your life. They creep up and take your breath away when you least expect them to. Things you thought you had resolved and come to terms with suddenly hurt. Things that make you cry out of nowhere. Things that you have no control over. Things that God chose for YOU to go through. Somehow these things are supposed to make you grow and learn from them. Things that make you appreciate a new path – a path that never crossed your mind yet you can’t imagine not taking it.  Emotions that are buried so deep in your heart – that if you let them up and out for the world to see – you may not know how to stop them. So they stay tucked away neatly. The world sees your smile, silliness and positive attitude…not the sadness, frustration and anger that still resides deep down.

I got pregnant, shared the news, carried the baby to term and gave birth. All the joys a woman is blessed  go through. But I got pregnant (accidentally), I wasn’t married…wasn’t old enough to be a mom. I shared the news after 6 months along because my mom got it out of me. I carried a baby to term because I chose adoption. A situation that was unplanned. Did I love the baby boy – of course! More than anything…that is why I chose adoption…knowing I could not be what he needed. Today I know him – a wonderful 26 year old young man. We have so much in common and have a relationship. I AM blessed with that. I am thankful everyday that we met and are in each other’s lives.

What do I mourn? I mourn never having the chance to have a baby. I did have that event in my life – but because of timing and the situation I didn’t get to experience the joy of it – I had to remove the typical emotion so I could give him up. I couldn’t feel all the wonderfulness of it because I loved so much. After 6 years of infertility treatment – to receive the news – TA DA! – I will never get pregnant. Going through the anger and sadness of that devastating news – closing that door and moving onto our new path of adoption – which was beautiful and remarkable and loved every step of that journey. But I mourn that I will never get to see the look in my husband’s eyes when I tell him we are going to have a baby. I will never get to see the excitement in my family’s eyes – sure they were excited about my beautiful girls, but it is different. I will never know what it is like to have a baby that looks like me or my husband – or “Looks a lot like so and so when they were little” – No old family photos that resemble a child. It does hurt and still feels raw at times. Like another X on my list of failures…Would I want to be pregnant now at 45 – absolutely not. That door has closed. I just mourn the “what if” of it all.

I am sure to some it sounds like I don’t appreciate my two beautiful girls and what I DO have – I do. I love them more than anything. They are every bit my daughters as they could be. They are not and will never be the “consolation prize” – adopting them is a whole different area of life with different feelings and emotions than the loss part. How does one balance the sadness and the mourning and yet be grateful, happy and blessed with the gifts? I don’t doubt God and his splendor – showing me the receiving end of adoption – knowing how it feels to be blessed with a baby that was given up out of love – not once, but twice….just wonder why the sadness still lingers deep in my soul…..