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.

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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.

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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, 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!

 

 

anxiety, anxiety in kids, depression, mom, Uncategorized

Evil Twin…

Image I have an evil twin. She looks just like me, talks just like me, has same mannerisms as I do and most people are fooled that it is me. I don’t like my evil twin. She comes in out of nowhere – usually in the winter. She comes in and yanks the rug out from under me in a slow unnoticeable way. She makes me feel so tired and always craving sleep. She takes my creativity and stomps on it til its dead. She takes my energy and tosses it out the window like a dead limp cat. She swats away my patience and self esteem with the ease of shooing away a pesky mosquito. She takes my love and thoughtfulness towards my family and turns it into annoyance and dislike. She makes me want to eat and drink away my feelings, so yes I blame her for weight gain. She turns me into a no good,lazy, helpless, worthless pile of sadness. She makes me just get thru the day just barely and sends me to bed early, crabby and spent. She takes a day full of possibilities and opportunities and turns it into a day I just need to get through. She makes me grind my teeth at night, toss and turn and get bad sleep. She puts me into hiding and gives me the “poor me” syndrome. She keeps me away from my friends. This evil twin has a two names;  Anxiety and Depression. She is always with me – but in winter she is the annoying guest that never leaves. When you take the depression checklist quiz at the doctor and check most of “severe” column, it makes you think…maybe there is a reason I am feeling this way. I know we as a nation think people are over medicated blah blah blah. But I AM on medicine now and this is the best I have felt in a long time. I have the spring in my step back, my creativity is bursting at the seams, I have joy again. I am fun with my children and husband again. I embrace each day happily instead of dreading it and wondering how may hours til I can go home and nap…then when can I go to bed? I no longer have thoughts of not being good enough. I no longer want to say :screw you!” to anyone that crosses my path or upsets me. I am happy to see my kids and hear about their day. I feel happy when my husband comes home from work instead of dreading it because it meant I had to have an idea of what to make for dinner. Each day flows smoothly and the bumps that come get worked thru instead of being coated over with food or wine. I never really knew how anxious about things I was until I wasn’t. I didn’t realize what a depressive funk I was in until I wasn’t. To always feel exhausted, overwhelmed and anxious on a normal day isn’t right. I shouldn’t have to breakdown because I need to unload the dishwasher. Yes, we do have days in our lives that can be tiring and overwhelming…that is not depression/anxiety. Anxiety is when you worry all the time about things you would normally not be so consumed with, worrying all night if your teenager will have a successful day at middle school or worry that you aren’t taking care of your family….then throw in the depression piece and all those things you still worry about, but you don’t care. All you care about is being left alone to sulk and sleep. The house is a mess, dinners are less than thrilling and your family annoys you. It is not fun having this evil twin – but my medicine gives her a one way ticket out of here. It feels good having her gone. ADIOS! And don’t let the door hit you in the ass!