Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Journey Of A Birthmom: Susan's Story

My name is Susan - I am an FLS birthmother - and here's my adoption story...I was dating someone on and off for about 2 years.  We were NOT a "healthy" relationship.  We both insisted on being hateful, inconsiderate, and stupid.  To make things worse, my parents did know about the relationship because they didn't approve of the race difference.  March 15, 2012, is the day both of our lives changed forever.  
I knew, from the moment it happened, I made a huge mistake; however I had no clue what I had really gotten myself into.  I had 5 months of not telling anyone, I was in complete denial.  I considered abortion but I couldn't do it after seeing how much joy my nieces and nephews brought me.  I knew that I had to make a different choice...and, from that moment, my adoption journey began. 
I had to quit worrying about myself and had to work up the courage to tell my parents so I could get to a doctor to check on my baby.  I told a couple of friends looking for relief and, even though they were understanding and supportive, I knew I wouldn't feel relief until I told my parents.  I sucked it up and gave my mother the dreaded note I had written months earlier.  It was the note no mother wants to receive from her daughter.  I immediately went to work and was scared to death to come home.  She was in the shower so I walked in and asked, "Are you okay?".  Of course she wasn't okay, she was devastated.  "No," she replied. I hung my head and continued to sob.  She cracked the door and looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "But I will be."  Those words filled my heart with relief.  I told my father three days later and saw his anger and hurt.  We waited three days for everybody to gather themselves before we all sat down to talk.  We talked about the possibility of going to the Liberty Godparent Home, but didn't feel like that was the right option for me.  But, I made the decision to contact Family Life Services to begin working with an adoption counselor.   A few weeks later, my mom and I met with Rachel.  It was amazing and I had a peace about connecting with FLS - she made me realize I would be okay and I'm so grateful for that.
I went to the doctor at 32 weeks and discovered I was having a healthy, beautiful baby boy.  That made everything so much more real... it wasn't a plastic baby doll or a puppy but instead a REAL baby boy.  That same day I went to the agency to do what I was so excited to do...choose an adoptive family for my son.  That is a huge pick the perfect family for my baby about pressure! The first family I looked at captivated me.  They had one son and were so excited to adopt again.  The baby kicked in my tummy the entire time I read about them and, somehow, I felt like it was God's destiny.  I continued to look at other families but didn't feel that connection with anyone else.  I called Rachel the next day to let her know "they" were the family for my baby.  The next week, I went to meet them.  The birthfather was unexpectedly unable to go with me so I was on my own.  I was so nervous, I couldn't stop shaking.  As soon as we started talking I was immediately happy and relaxed.  They really were perfect for me!  They were so in love with their first son, I knew my baby would fit into their family perfectly.  The birthfather and I met with the adoptive family one more time before I had the baby and it was just as amazing as our first visit together. 
My due date was December 1, 2012 and I was scheduled to be induced on December 3rd.  After about 25 hours of waiting, it was time to push.  During my entire labor experience, I looked at a picture of my son's "soon-to-be" big brother and focused on how genuinely happy he was.  On December 4, 2012, Elijah Jayden was born.  I had worked so hard not to become emotionally attached but, as soon as he was born, I just wanted him in my arms.  He was perfect, a gift from God.  I instantly loved him so much!  I felt the best love I've ever had holding him in my arms.  He was born on a Tuesday and the reality of how painful my adoption decision would be settled in on Wednesday.  My dad had to leave the hospital and it was time for him to say his final goodbyes.  He cried while on his knees and prayed for him to have a good life and for him to know how much we love him.  He and I were both devastated.  That night, the birthfather came to see the baby and sign his papers.  I secretly prayed that he wouldn't sign the papers. I didn't want to lose this amazing love and feeling of my son being in my arms. He, too, however, signed his papers and said his goodbyes. 
That night was my final night with Elijah.  I played "Find Your Wings" by Mark Harris all night and cried, begging God to take my pain away.  I knew in my heart he was theirs, but the emotions were so hard to deal with.  I came home and tried to act like everything was normal.  Friends came over and were happily surprised by how great I seemed to be doing.  I went to visit the baby with two friends before placement day and it was amazing to see him.  Then placement day came - which was the 2nd best day of my life.  Although it broke my heart, I saw the future my son had ahead of him with his new family.  That made the suffering and pain worth it.  It was the most beautiful experience I've ever been a part of.  Sure, I had people say nasty things to me, but I've learned they don't child is what matters.  I get to see my beautiful baby grow up with two amazing parents and a sweet big brother who loves him so much.  Of course, my heart is still full of hurt - healing is an ongoing process, but with good friends and my parents I am getting through it.  Most importantly, I have chosen an adoptive family who is constantly sending me pictures and emails and genuinely cares for me too, which makes the pain easier to bear.  Adoption is hard, so hard.  There is no "easy" part about it, but the love in adoption is stronger then anything I've ever felt before.  I have no regrets about my heart is too full...too full of love for my son, love for the adoptive family, FLS, and this opportunity to share my "real life" story in hope that it will impact others.
This isn't the end of my story. I have new stories ahead that I will have to deal with as I process the pain and the hurt of this decision.  It is a constant battle.  But I've already learned that God is the only thing I need to get me through this battle and the future battles ahead.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Few Things Birthmoms Want Adoptive Families To Know...

We hosted our first Birthmother Retreat last month and took the opportunity, while we had such a powerful group assembled, to ask these young ladies for some things that they wish they could tell adoptive families about themselves.  The nuggets of wisdom that we gleaned from that simple exercise are priceless and we want to give a platform in this post for them to be shared.

  • I made an adoption plan because I was mature enough to know that I wasn't ready to parent a child
  • I don't want you to look down on me because I got pregnant before I was ready to parent
  • Love me for who I am - I am not perfect and will make lots of mistakes and so will you
  • The months and years after an adoption are a healing process, I still have good days and bad days.  If I back away from the relationship for a short period of time, please respect that it is part of my healing process and try to be understanding
  • I didn't choose adoption because I am selfish; I made an adoption plan because I knew that an adoptive family could give my child the life that I can't give him or her right now
  • Although my child has already been placed with you, their forever family, I still think about them every day
  • I love my child, and always will, but I also love the you and your family.  You are family to me and I hope that you view me and my family as a part of yours
  • I might not get to be a "mom" but I am still a mother
  • We are not going to steal our birth children - we want them to be happy and secure in the family we chose for them and not traumatized
  • Please acknowledge us on Mother's Day - you might be the only ones who do
  • I place my child for adoption out of love and sacrifice, it wasn't because I didn't love my child or wanted the "easy way out" - adoption has been the most difficult decision I have ever made
  • I want to be included in the big things and milestones in my child's life but it means a lot when you include me in the little things too
  • My child will always have a special place in my heart
  • As we talk about our relationship, I want the you to be honest about what you really want
  • My greatest desire is for my relationship with your family to grow through the years
  • You don't have to pretend that you're perfect, I know that I am not and my family is not.  It would make me feel more "normal" if I knew some of the things that were not perfect in your family too.  Share with me your challenges, dysfunctions, and about your "crazy" family members
  • I hope that you don't feel threatened or overwhelmed if my family wants to get to know you too
  • I want you to be comfortable enough to ask me the hard questions about the birthfather or the situation, but I also want you to be respectful if I don't have the answers
  • Stay strong and hopeful if you are seeking adoption and haven't been chosen.  There is a birth family who is looking for the qualities that are found in your family
  • Take as many pictures as possible - there will never be too many.  We want to see pictures of everyday activities, not just posed pictures.  Send us pictures of him or her throwing a fit, covered from head to toe in pudding or paint, and doing other activities.  We also want to see pictures, not only of our child, but of you too
  • I am the only person who will be just as excited as you about the mundane details of the child's life, so ramble away in as much detail as you can share
  • We chose you to raise our child, so we want to have updates about you and not just updates about the child
  • Now that I've placed a child with you, we are all family
  • We love you so much

Monday, June 17, 2013

Adoption Book Review: All Bears Need Love

Children's books, written with age appropriate adoption themes, are an absolute essential item in any adoptive parent's toolbox.  They easily and comfortably introduce adoption language, invite questions from children to their parents, and provide opportunities for discussion about a family's adoption story.  Not all books need to mimic your specific adoption story, in fact, I believe it is beneficial for all families to incorporate adoption books into their libraries, whether children were adopted into the family or not, to promote understanding and awareness that families are formed in different ways.
All Bears Need Love is a little gem that I was recently introduced to and will be adding to my own family's collection.  Written by Tanya Valentine and illustrated by Adam Taylor, this adorable and charming story talks about a polar bear in a zoo who became "mama" to a little brown cub.  Various animals make inquiries about where the cub came from, how they can become family if they don't look similar, and whether the cub will "fit in" or not.  The kind, caring, and reassuring answers, from the polar bear mama, to these expected questions reinforce the theme that love is what makes a family.
This story, appropriate for even the youngest children, fills a gap in adoption literature with a straightforward tale addressing issues of transracial adoption, past history of an adopted child, and a parent's capacity to care for more than one child with various needs, backgrounds, and stories.  All Bears Need Love will be included in my recommendations for adoptive parents seeking domestic or international adoption and would make an excellent gift for new adoptive parents - head over to Amazon to order your copy.  

Friday, June 7, 2013

How Adoptive Parents Can Help Birth Parents Tell A Positive Adoption Story

It's no secret - adoptive parents are usually strong and outspoken advocates for adoption.  When someone shares that they have either adopted a child or placed a child for adoption, it usually opens up a window of previously undisclosed information leading to a lengthy exchange of experiences and stories.  The conversation typically begins like this - "I have a friend who has a neighbor who had a sister who..."

In the age of technology and advanced tools for advertising, the strongest "advertising" still comes from personal experience that is passed along by word of mouth. 

Did you know that adoptive parents can be extremely influencial in whether their child's birth parent is a positive advocate for adoption or not?  From talking with hundreds of birth parents over the years, it has come to our attention that the happiest and most secure birth parents have been treated with unconditional love and respect from their child's adoptive family while the birth parents who have had the most difficulty accepting their adoption decision have been connected with adoptive families who didn't follow through with their initial promises and expectations.

I'm not naive enough to think that there will never be a situation, in either the birth family or adoptive family, that will cause the frequency of visits or contact to change, but it seems that the most damage is done when these issues are not discussed and the adoptive family retreats from contact with no explanation.  The conversation may be difficult, but we, as adults, are not promised a life without difficult and honest talks.  A lack of explanation introduces a whole new group of unanswered questions for birth parents that leads to insecurity, worry, and uncertainty.

So, how can you best advocate for adoption?  Treat your child's birthparents with unconditional love, respect, and honesty and they will have a positive story to tell the next time someone begins an adoption conversation about their friend's neighbor's sister...

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