Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's ok to cry

Simply said, I am going to school to be a therapist. I have one semester left until graduation! Can I just take a moment to sing "HALLELUJAH!" This school year was the first year I have actually been doing formal counseling. I mean the just you with the client sitting on a couch telling you their problems kind. I remember my very first day with my second client ever. She came to begin the grieving process. After the session when my supervisor read my notes she commented that she was impressed with my ability to handle the situation as well as the comments and advice I gave. I told her that was probably because I am well acquainted with the grief process and have been doing a sort of grief counseling for years. (She knows I am a birth mother).

The fact about grief is that it is hard. Grief that comes when you have lost something or someone so important is a life long journey. You will experience times of grieving that loss for the rest of your life. That does not say you will be sad all the time for the rest of your life. What I mean to say is immediately after the loss yes, it is normal for you to be sad. And possibly for a very long time. But eventually the pain begins to dull. That happy face you've been faking is not so hard to fake anymore. And sometimes you aren't even faking it. You develop the strength to get up and keep going. You don't move on from your loss. Moving on implies that you are leaving that loss and subject of that loss in the past and in a way, forgetting about it. Lets be real people. You never forget about it. You never forget about that person who means so much to you. That person, the loss, is a part of you. So rather then "moving on" after you feel your world has been shattered, you pick up the pieces, and I mean all of the pieces with that loss included, put one foot in front of the other, and move forward.

After you feel like the days have allowed you to breath again and you are doing ok, it is so common and normal to be sad and have hard days. It's ok to take out that blanket or those pictures and cry again. Even years later. I have found that happens most often at the hallmarks in life. I mean at births, baptisms, graduations, weddings. That person was supposed to be there. Your father was supposed to be at your wedding. You were supposed to be baptizing your child. You were supposed to have children before your younger sister. Sometimes you are sad and you don't even see the connection. You are just sad. It's ok.

As a birth mother, and actually with all types of grief, it feels like NO ONE but some one who's gone through the same thing can understand your pain. No one but a birth mother can understand. Other people don't know what to feels like to go through life knowing your child is taking his or her first step, saying his first word, and going to school for the first time and you aren't there to see it. You aren't the mama he is referring to when the name first crosses his lips. It's hard sometimes to feel that alone. Especially when you are in the middle of grieving...and grieving hard. You want to share that burden with someone else, but when you look around there is no one to share it with.

Something that I tell birth mothers and I told my client on our first day is that it is ok- It's very important actually- to let yourself feel. It's okay to feel whatever you want to feel. Don't worry what other people say. Don't listen to them when you get the, "But think about the wonderful gift you gave! Think about how happy you just made Bob and Jane". If you want to think about that and be happy, do it! If you want to be sad and hurt even though Bob and Jane are happy, that's ok! Do it! Other people may put time limits on you. Don't let them. You might hear, "You are still thinking about that?" or "It's time you stop being sad." Don't listen to them. You get to be sad and think about it for however long you want. And after five years when you feel like you have healed but suddenly you begin crying for that person again. That's ok.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Adoption Interview Project!

I am a pretty lucky girl! I have been about to participate in an adoption interview project. Basically bloggers from all members of the adoption triad are paired up to interview each other about their adoption experiences.

I was paired with Dana from Life Unexpected. It was wonderful! I love Dana and Chris's perspective on adoption. I especially love their thoughts and concerns for birth mothers. Many people talk about how much they love and care about birth mothers and how they feel, but I feel like this family really means it! Their thoughts about birth mothers are not empty words. I was so grateful and impressed as I read through their blog and learned about the experiences that brought them to adoption and the heart breaking experiences they experienced as they went through two failed placements. My heart hurts for them when I even think about it.

Seriously Dana was so great to work with! I appreciated her prompt responses and patience with me as I tried to participate and keep up with darn grad school. You can read my responses to her questions on her blog. I highly suggest you visit their blog and learn more about them and their wonderful views on adoption.

You can visit Production, not reproduction to read more adoption interviews.

Enjoy reading the thoughts of my wonderful adoptive mother partner.

1.     Tell me a little about your family and what brought you to adoption.
My name is Dana and together with my husband, Chris, and our 5 year old daughter Addison we are a family…a family hoping to grow through open adoption.

We have always dreamed of having a large family, imagining years and years of watching life unfold through the eyes of our children.  After two difficult pregnancy losses, we came to the decision that trying to have more biological children was not in our best interest.  We love being parents more than anything in the world and so much want for more children to be a part of our family and our life.  We want Addison to experience what it is like to have siblings and also experience the joy of our family expanding.  After our losses, our family grew stronger and we realized, more than ever, how important having more children is to us and to Addison. 

From the time we met, Chris and I have discussed the possibility of adopting or fostering children.  Adoption seemed like a natural next step and a path that felt right for our family. 

2.     What do you imagine your relationship to be like with your future children’s birthmothers?
We imagine and hope that we will share a very open relationship with our child/ren’s birth parents.  We hope that our relationship will be supportive, honest and authentic.  We hope that love and respect will be at the forefront of our relationship and that we are able to share meaningfully in one another’s life.

3.     What do you see as the benefits of open adoption?
I see our adopted child/ren benefiting most from an open adoption.  Knowing who and where they came from and being able to experience a healthy relationship with the people and family that gave them life we see as a huge benefit. 

We also hope that our child/ren’s birth parents would benefit greatly from being able to see their child, talk to their child and watch their child take on life…having no questions about what he/she is up to, what they look like, what they like or don’t like and who they truly are. 

We also see that we, as the adoptive parents, would benefit greatly by having the birth parents involved to share in the love of our child, to answer questions, to become a part of our extended family.  We hope to not only grow through the child we bring into our lives, but also by way of his/her family. 

4.     What are some of your insecurities about an open adoption?
Most of my insecurities come from the unknown and are more like questions than insecurities.  Such as…Who are the birth parents that will choose us?  What if we disappoint them?  What if they don’t feel we are supportive enough?  I wonder if my “ideal” open adoption is unrealistic…if my “ideal” really is possible when dealing with so much loss, so much grief on all ends of the triad? 

5.     What are some of your insecurities about your children interacting with their birthmother?
I don’t really feel insecure about our adopted child/children interacting with their birth parents.  I do wonder how that may change when we have an actual adoption take place.  I think I will just be mostly worried about how our adopted child is feeling when we are all together, trying to create a space where we are all comfortable and are able to be ourselves.

6.     What are some of the things you do to cope with the emotional roller coaster in adoption?
Writing my blog has been one of the most helpful coping tools as we have moved through this process.  The support of friends, family and strangers has completely and totally helped us keep moving and pushing us forward.  I also listen to music that helps me “feel”, that makes me smile, that helps me cry, that makes me want to dance. 

I also try to very hard to stay focused on the fact that I know that we will share our lives with more children.  I imagine what it will feel like when we another child becomes a part of our forever family.  These thoughts help me to think positively and not give up.    

7.     Many families that I know who are hoping to adopt have waited many years for their baby to be placed in their family. Many begin feeling hopeless and feel like giving up. What advice can you give those couples?
I am not sure if I can offer great advice considering that I sometimes find myself in the same position.  The best advice I can give is to not ever, ever, ever give up on your dreams.  I feel it in my bones that this is the path that we are supposed to be on right now.  I know that it can happen and that we will welcome more children into our home.  I can’t give up.  I won’t give up.  I hope those who feel the same don’t give up either.  Lately I find comfort in the saying, “If there is a will, there is a way”.  I know that for those of us who have lost babies or experienced infertility there is not always a “way”, but looking at the bigger picture of having children, having a family, expanding a family…if there is a will, there is a way.     

8.     You talked about feeling hopeless in a post last July. What is the best thing a friend or family member can do to support you and be with you during this stage (the waiting stage) of your adoption experience?
The most helpful thing our friends and family can do is not give up hope.  If they are willing and able, we also welcome any and all thoughts and prayers…thoughts and prayers that our family will experience peace and comfort and that we are able to weather the storm we have been walking through.

The other thing that is very helpful is for family and friends to talk to us about what is going on.  Adoption is a very real and present part of our lives and acknowledging that fact is a huge help to us.

9.     Were there any hesitancies you felt before you decided on adoption? And if so, what were they?
We did not hesitate before deciding on adoption.  We certainly gave ourselves time to grieve the loss of our baby and spent much time researching adoption in general, but there was nothing holding us back from adopting.

10.  From what I have read you have experienced two failed placements with in the last year. How has that affected you view on your adoption process?
We still believe that adoption can work and be a wonderful thing, but I would be lying if I said we weren’t a little more guarded now.  We now understand the legal process, in Michigan, much more clearly.  We also understand on a much higher level how incredibly difficult it is for birth parents to make this decision, and how important it is for women contemplating adoption to have adequate counseling, not so that they end up choosing adoption, but so that they receive the help they deserve during such a difficult and scary time.  Although these situations were extremely difficult we believe that we learned a great deal and still have very positive feeling about adoption.

11.  How have the failed placements affected Addison?
This question truly touches me.  I am so appreciative of others who understand that this journey has also affected Addison.  Thank you for asking about her.

From the beginning of our adoption journey we have been very open and honest with Addison.  We have explained to her that a baby may come and live with us while his/her mom decides if he/she will become a part of our forever family.  We have told her that she will not be a big sister until the birth parents make their final decision (termination of rights) that only then will the baby live with us forever.  I truly believe that by telling her this, we have caused her less pain. 

The first failed adoption was a bit easier on Addison.  The mom was still pregnant at the time she decided to parent.  We never met the baby, he never lived with us.  Addison did ask a lot about the mom, “How is she doing?” “When will we see her” and for months insisted that the baby was indeed going to come and live with us, also wanting know if we would ever see him.  She seemed more disappointed by this situation than sad, and as time went on Addison accepted that the baby would not be coming to live with us.

The second failed adoption was much more difficult.  We had the baby, Little P, with us for 10 days.  Addison visited him at the hospital and shared her life and her parents with him during that time.  She absolutely adored him and tried so hard to help out in every way she could.  She loved that he got to ride next to her in the backseat and would stroke is forehead.  She asked everyday he was here, “Has his mom decided yet?”  She was sad when he had to leave.  Although she knew it was a possibility, she was still very disappointed that Little P could not stay.  She sent him home with one of her books and brings him up often in conversation.  We feel that she is doing really well and have encouraged her to talk about Little P as she needs to.

After Little P went home we talked with Addison about how she would feel if we stopped trying to adopt a baby….how she would feel if we never had another baby come and live with us, if we decided that our family would be complete with the three of us.  She did not hesitate with her answer, “I want another baby to come and live with us”. 

12.  What has been the most difficult thing during your adoption process so far?
The most difficult, lowest point, of this adoption process by far has been the night that we needed to take Little P back to the adoption agency and the grief that followed.

13.  What do you feel has been the most helpful in getting your name out to expectant mothers.
Our Facebook page and my blog have been the most helpful so far.  We have received many calls, unfortunately nothing that has worked out, from friends and family who know someone who may be considering an adoption plan.  It is helpful to know that people are spreading the word that we are hoping to adopt. 

We also are now working with an agency that has more contact with parents who may be considering an adoption plan.  We hope that more birth parents will become aware of us through that agency.

14.  How does your family feel about your adoption plan?
Our family is extremely supportive of our adoption plan.  They are all also anxiously awaiting a new addition to our family…a new child, sibling, grandchild, niece/nephew, cousin…our whole family is waiting with open arms. 

15.  What advice can you give to those women (and men) who are just beginning to adjust to the fact that the family they had imagined and the way they will build their family is different than what they had originally planned for them selves.
I would tell them to take all the time they need to grieve.  To grieve such immense loss you need time.  Follow your heart and find people that you can talk to that have experienced your loss.  Connecting with others is so very powerful and can be so helpful in the healing process.

16.  Have you come in contact with anyone with negative views of adoption? And if so, what have your responses been?
We have not heard much negativity around the subject of adoption.  We certainly have heard people repeat myths and stereotypes that, when we can, we try to dispel.  Most often people are just really interested to learn about adoption and specifically open adoption.  People are curious and we are always happy to share what we know with those who are interested.

17.  Is there anything else you would like share about your feelings or thoughts on adoption?
Adoption, we believe, can be absolutely beautiful.  We know that it does not come without pain, without loss, without grief, but we also know that it can come with much, much more beauty, life and love. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Placing my son in the river

When I was pregnant I know that the Lord was always near me. I know that he carried me through the pain and sorrows as well as joys and comfort I felt. I felt like during that time I was reading my scriptures and praying constantly. I was trying to find guidance. I was trying to find peace with what I felt the best decision was. I did wonder how I would be able to do it. How I would be able to bear placing my sweet little baby in the arms of another to watch him grow? My heart was broken by the thought but I felt it was the best thing for B. 

I remember that one night as I wondered why and how I could do this, the spirit reminded me of the story of Moses. As I read and thought about his story I could not help but empathize with Moses's biological mother. It was that night I truly understood the fear, the heartbreak, and the love that she had for her child as she placed him in the river knowing, because of the pharaoh's commands, he would not be able to live if she tried to raise him. I also understood the great faith that she had as she delivered her precious son into the Lord's care knowing this was the only way she could give him life. I am sure the Lord guided her and directed her in decisions because he had something great for Moses to do. I am sure the spirit gave her comfort and told her that he had wonderful things in store for Moses and that her sacrifice of letting him go to be another woman's son would bring great things for him.

Then the spirit comforted me. I was able to move forward with faith and cling to the thought that I was, in a small way, like Moses's mother. It gave me strength when things got hard and my heart felt utterly broken. It is a scary thing to let go of your child, but this story gave me the ability to have faith in the Lord that HE would care for B and everything would be alright. If he did it for that woman in the bible, I knew he would do it for me. It gave me comfort to think that I was placing B with C and L so that he would be able to fulfill the great things in store for him like Moses did. I don't think B will free a nation, but you never know. One thing is for sure, I know he will do great things. I am sure he will save souls and bring joy to the hearts of many people. I know he has already done that for mine. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Adoption Awareness Month

Happy adoption awareness month!!!

The month of November is adoption awareness month. 

I wrote the first two sentences above fulling intending to write more like them to excite and build up this National Adoption Awareness month. Then, as I all too often do, I became distracted and randomly decided to take a blogging break to surf the web. As I was perusing the WWW looking for articles or videos about this month of national awareness I came across an article entitled, "Why This Birth Mother Will Not Be Celebrating Adoption Awareness Month". I originally thought it would be one of those adoption bashing blogs written by a birth mother who was feeling particularly bitter about her situation. I was wrong. Although I do not agree with some of the generalizations she makes in the article, it did make me think. She brought up good points, and I am a little embarrassed to say I Deborah Diane, a birth mother, over looked the fact that this month is possibly a hard month for many people.

It can be a hard month as pointed out by the author of that article for birth mothers (and let's not forget birth fathers) as they are reminded of their loss, but it can also potentially be a hard month for perspective adoptive parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees. Then I think about the birth families involved too. Like the birth grandparents and aunts and uncles. After thinking about all those who could be hurting during this month I am feeling much more solemn.

The author of the article made a suggestion that I think I will take. She said, 

"I can’t celebrate the thing that cause me the greatest pain and loss in my life.....

....And while I can understand that for many people adoption is cause for celebration because it brought something good to their lives, the fact is that ALL adoption is somewhere, someplace, somehow resting on a foundation of loss. That’s not a cause to celebrate. It’s a cause to honor. One honors a loss; one does not celebrate it."

I hope that is not to somber of a quote to add, but the fact is it is true. In adoption there usually is some sense of loss for everyone involved. I DO think that adoption can be a cause for celebration. It IS a wonderful thing that can bring about great JOY. As I have gone through my adoption experience I have chosen not to focus on loss. It is healthy to recognize it is there, however I fully believe that people see what they are looking for. When that pain you feel is so great it is hard to think of anything else. If loss in adoption is what you focus on then that is all you are going to see.

With all that in mind, this month I am going to change the focus of my blog. When I read what Claudia had to say about adoption awareness month I felt like I was stopped dead in my tracks. I was about to go down that path of celebration and talk of how absolutely wonderful and hunky dory adoption is. I was about to over look the very group of people who I am a part of. As I saw down the way I planned to go, I recognized it was a bit superficial. But not any more. I am going to make the posts this month a little more real. I do not plan to focus on the loss in adoption but I will not ignore it either. Rather then making my blog about celebrating adoption, I will be real. I will remember all members of the triad, and I will HONOR adoption.

Happy adoption blogging everyone! See you tomorrow.