Halves and Whole

 “And you know I ain’t never wanted no half nothing in my family.” ~Fences quote

Best line and scene in this movie and one that brought tears for me.

I am also a family of halves with no full biological sibling while my other siblings (three sets) that I grew up with each had one of theirs.  And yes, we said your dad and my dad and your mom and my mom.  Even our halves had halves.  Our family is convoluted.  And I didn’t want that for my kids or my family.

Growing up, my siblings often reassured me that they didn’t think of me as a half sibling but the facts were there.  We didn’t always do things together as whole.

The family pics were split.  Some with just the whole siblings and some by ourself/myself and some together with the halves.  As a little girl, I didn’t always understand.  I didn’t know why I had to get out of the picture.  Our mom would tell us, this was for their dad or their grandparents, but at the time, I was 4 or 5 and I was the only one being excluded.  I didn’t always understand why “they” (whoever they were), didn’t want me in their picture.  I remember once, our mother letting me and my half sister take a picture together.  It was clear it was to appease me and my insecurities.

Some of the moms, dads, or grandparents were actively involved and some were not.  That’s hard to explain to children and a hard pill for them to swallow.

When my brother died and made his will, I was the only one left out, while his full blooded sister and our shared father were both included.  It did hurt.  I didn’t care about the money.  He could have left me $20.00 or a family heirloom.  But it was the fact that there was no mention of me at all.

Sadly, it didn’t turn out as good as I had hoped for my boys.  I still grapple with the intent of my family to sever my ties with my youngest son.  But at least my sons have a full-blooded sibling.  They have the same biological mother and father.  And they have each other.

I know if anything happened to me, that Noah’s parents would adopt Jaren into their family as well.

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Think You Want To Be A Birth Mother? Think Again.

I met Maureen at work.  A growing bank chain had begun to acquire some other banks nationwide.  Maureen, who was from Long Island, was asked to move to Texas.  She had worked for her bank 15 or more years when she relocated to Texas.  She had experience, expertise and vast knowledge.  She was well respected, attractive, and witty.  She was an asset and the new purchasing bank wanted her on their team.

Maureen knew about both of my sons.  I had pictures of them on my desk.  And I had even brought up Noah and his family to the office one time.  Jaren had been up there many, many times.  I had talked about both of my sons in the office.  So I wanted my coworkers to meet Noah and I wanted Noah to meet them.  It was a proud moment for me to have both Jaren and Noah at the office.

I always wondered who was judging me.  It was a mind game, whether real or imaginary and I am certain it was a little of both.  I felt like my diverse family made others feel awkward.  My family was not neat and tidy.  There were complicated pieces.  This contributed heavily to my emotions and imbalance at times.  It’s why I understood that sometimes it’s easier to just move on as best you can and put the birth and the adoption behind you.  And when I say, “behind you,” I mean to not speak of it.  Birth mothers can never totally forget or put giving birth nor their child behind them.  They keep it reserved in a portion of their mind and their heart, hiding it carefully as if they are protecting a small child from a scoundrel.

After Maureen began to reconnect with her lost daughter, I learned she was a birth mother too.  She and I had other things in common.  We were both from the upper east coast, both raised Catholic, both with Irish roots.  So finding out that she too was a birth mother made me feel closer to her.  Besides that, her New York accent reminded me of my grandmother, especially when she said my name.

Previously, she was private about her adoption experience.  Maureen was regal and conservative.  She was not at all open about her choice to relinquish her daughter.  I say choice but I doubt she had many options or choices.  She was young, Catholic and not married; the perfect recipe for the adoption industry.  But when she reunited with her daughter, things changed.  I don’t think she confessed to everyone about finding her daughter.  But she felt safe with me and another birth mother who also worked in our department.

Maureen, who never had any more children, was so happy to meet her daughter.  She proudly showed off her pictures.  Her daughter looked so much like Maureen and just as beautiful.  They began to connect on Facebook.  Then, they arranged to meet; secretly at first.  Her daughter didn’t want her adoptive parents to know.  She didn’t know how they would take it.  Maureen flew back to the east coast.  Her daughter was recently engaged.  So Maureen got to meet her daughter’s fiancé as well.

After their first meeting, they stayed connected.  It was not always easy.  Her daughter was having a difficult time with the reunion too.  Maureen felt her daughter would retreat from the relationship sometimes.

Maureen would talk to me about her feelings.  I would try to share as best as I could.  Although she had been a birth mother much longer than me, I seemed to have more experience because of  my open adoption relationship with my son and his family.  Maureen was unprepared for the emotional toll this new birth/adoption/reunion was about to take on her.  While my situation was a little different than hers, we were both still women who gave birth to a child and relinquished our parental rights.  We have a similar experience.  That, in itself, is enough.  I had gone through with the reconnecting and disconnecting a couple times.  That’s what it felt like whenever Jaren and I got together with Noah’s family.  I had to say good-bye over and over again.  It’s a very strange feeling because you don’t know who you are to your own child.  Or who they want you to be.  You don’t want to be too aloof and give the impression that you don’t care.  But you also don’t want to overly show love and give the impression you are trying to take over.  You have this natural instinct and need to mother and to protect.  It can feel as if your every move is being judged and nothing will come off as appropriate, as if you are on trial without a character witness for a choice you made and nothing will erase what happened and there is a consequence that every person amidst you will consciously or unconsciously bestow on you.  It’s an emotional tight-rope.  And you feel as if one wrong move could end drastically and possibly severe the relationship for good.

For the first time, Maureen’s emotions began to show.  This very cool, collective, admired soul began to show insecurities and self-doubt.  The beautiful woman, who walked with her head high, began to take a second-class position.

Maureen got invited to her daughter’s wedding.  Maureen took her mother, the birth grandmother, to the wedding.  And they even stayed with her daughter’s adoptive parents.  Maureen shared some of her feelings about that experience.  I understood.  We shared our stories and our feelings.  I wanted her to know that what she was feeling and experiencing was very normal.  Birth mothers don’t always know that unless they talk with other birth mothers.  We can feel as if we are weird or strange for feeling a certain way.  And if we are not careful, we can have family or friends convince us of the same.  It never seizes to amaze me how many people will try to counsel another person without having a similar experience, no education or degree in the field, no work experience, nor any research done on the subject matter.  And yet, they will speak as if they are the expert.  If we are not careful, we can lead a person down a deadly path.

After the wedding, Maureen and I got a little closer.  She gave me a Willow Tree Angel, called Friendship.  I treasured it.  We went out for happy hour a couple times with some co-workers.  And we even made plans to go to the movies.  We saw October Baby.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_9l7lEe-AA

However, Maureen, who now had almost twenty-five years of service, seemed to be changing more.  I had worked with Maureen for nearly five years so I knew her work behavior fairly well.  She had begun to appear intoxicated at work.  I never knew for certain.  It was a feeling.  I thought maybe she was taken some medication.  Her eyes and her speech were sluggish.  I wanted to help her but I didn’t know what to do or say.  I mean, what DO you say?  “Hey, Maureen, are you drunk?  Is everything okay?”  I didn’t want to make false assumptions or offend her; especially during this difficult time in her life.  But I also didn’t want her to feel alone.  At the time, I didn’t know of any birth mother support groups.  I didn’t find one myself until 13 years after my son was adopted out.  That’s a long time to go without any counseling or support.  I had to figure it out on my own, as did so many other birth mothers.

I ended up resigning from that job.  I lost contact with mostly everyone.  However, I did send Maureen a link to my blog in hopes it would help her.  And a year later, when I found the birth mother support group, I tried contacting her to see if she wanted to go with me sometime.  I don’t think she ever responded.  Four years came and went, and I decided to check in on her.  This was last year.  I sent a text.  No response.  Then just recently, I decided to send her another text.  She had been on my mind.  I still worried about her and wondered if she was healing.  When I got no response, I thought maybe she changed her number.  So I sent a text to another coworker that I keep in touch with about once a year.  I thought maybe she knew how she was or had contact information.  I told her that I had been trying to contact Maureen.  She told me that Maureen had gotten fired and she believed it was due to the drinking.  Then she said, “Sorry to be the one to tell you, Maureen passed away from Liver disease.”  Maureen had passed in 2015.

I was shocked.  And deeply sadden.  She was only 49 years old.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. – Psalm 147:3

Angel

GPS – Plan B

I am in awe sometimes at how the universe works its way in and out of our lives.  I use “universe” as an all-inclusive way; Father-Mother God, angels, spirit guides, transcended loved ones.  I think they all move in and around us, guiding us, showing us, and speaking to us in unorthodox ways.  Sometimes some of us may get caught up in the literal and not fully comprehend when someone is being led by some unforeseen guide.  The spiritual words and lessons are more like codes and it is up to us to pay attention to the details.

Let me give you some examples.

I’ve had some pretty amazing synchronicity experiences or coincidences over the years.  And after I met Brian, my children’s father, things really began to kick up a notch.  I always felt as if we were being drawn to each other.  When we met the first time, I felt as if I knew him, as if we had shared worlds and lifetimes together.  When he looked at me it was as if he could read my every thought and feel every emotion inside my body.  I wasn’t always comfortable with that.  Out of that deep connection and passion we felt for each other, came my first born son, Jaren.

The first time I remember something extraordinary at work in the universe was about six months after Jaren was born.  We were still living in downtown Dallas at the time.  There were four malls that were about the same distance from us; one to the east, one to the west, one to the north, and one to the south.  We’d been to all of them.  This day, I drove to the one west of us which was in Irving.

It was close to the holidays so the mall had extra vendor booths set up in the center of the passageway selling their specialty items.  These booths are seasonal.  Some only come for a day or a weekend.  With Jaren on my hip, I strolled through the mall.  Soon, we came upon a booth that had four rectangular tables in a box formation with two ladies in the middle and binder folders with clear sleeves lying out on all the tables.  Their sign showed they had biblical names with poem meanings.  As I walked closer to look, one of the ladies asked me what my son’s name was.  I told her that I was pretty sure they would not have his name, especially since they were pre-printed inside the clear sleeves.  So she asked me again.  I told her, “Jaren.”  She smiled confidently and pointed to a binder book with the “J” names.  Then I told her she probably had the original spelling of his name.  So she asked me how I spelled it.  I spelled it for her.  J.A.R.E.N.  She again reassured me that they did in fact have it.

I was in awe for many reasons.  First, I didn’t know that Jaren’s name was biblical.  I had not seen it in any bible and when we think of biblical we think of names in the bible.  The second thing is the name Jaren was derived from Jaron, a Hebrew name meaning, he will sing, he will cry out.  And thirdly, I had not seen or heard anyone with the name Jaren or Jaron for that matter so it was an uncommon name.  How often does a person with an uncommon name find their name spelled the way they spell it on something that is already pre-printed or pre-made, not a specialty item made uniquely for them?  I can tell you that I have not since ever seen Jaren’s name pre-printed on anything in any store that I have shopped at.

When we name our child, we want it to fit them.  It’s such a powerful thing to give your child a name.  It becomes a part of them and we want it to say something special about who they are.  I thought long and hard about the name I chose for my son.  This confirmation gave me reassurance that I had listened to my spirit guides and chose the name that was meant for my son.

A year later, our office moved from downtown Dallas to Irving, which I talked about in another post.  Jaren’s daycare was also located downtown a few miles from our downtown apartment.  I would drop Jaren off at daycare and then drive to work in Irving.  Well, about a year later, the downtown daycare closed at that location.  However, the teachers were moving to another location located in a large office building for a well-known, world-wide corporation.  This daycare was designed to serve their employees.  Want to guess where they moved?  Yup!  Irving.  Of all the cities this daycare facility could have been relocated to in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex, they moved to Irving.  Sure, I could have found Jaren another daycare in downtown Dallas and had considered it but I thought if I moved him with his current daycare at their new location, he would at least have many of his same teachers.  I thought that would be better than having a new building, new teachers, and new classmates.

I began to see a trend.  Something was drawing us to Irving.  And while we didn’t move right away, it wasn’t long after we did move to Irving.  Now, while that is pretty awesome in itself, there is still more to the story.  I would later learn that Brian’s sister worked for that well-known corporation, in that very building that the daycare moved into.  Just to put that in a little perspective:

DallasFort Worth, by population, is the largest metropolitan area in Texas, the largest in the South, and the fourth-largest in the United States.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dallas%E2%80%93Fort_Worth_metroplex

These messages were clear to me and I was able to easily see the path.  All of these choices guided me and my family to our highest good.  I felt optimistic and confident after making these choices.  I didn’t doubt my decision nor felt regret or remorse because the way was clear.  I felt the universe guiding me.  However, I will tell you that has not always been the case.

Example, when I was pregnant with Noah.  My vision was clouded, my ears had a hard time deciphering the truth from all the noise, and my mind was filled with images of doubt.  It’s hard to make a clear choice in this environment.  It’s like sitting on a cliff and people are yelling at you to do this or do that and your mind is filled with chaos.  And any move could be dangerous.  Each person has their reason or motive for wanting you to make one choice over another.

People often simplify adoption and try to sum it up as better or worse, selfless or selfish, brave or weak.  The positives are focused on the relinquishment, implying your child will have a better life and the negatives are fixated on parenting with false unforeseen assumptions that your child’s future will be bleak or worse off.  So, what choice do you think a mother will lean towards?  Something negative or something positive?  Fear can lead a person down a dark path.

The choice that separated me from my second born son was a devastating one, one that I sometimes wondered if I would ever recover from.  I was not at peace, although I acted and thought I was and tried to convince others that I was good with that choice.  I believe it was the denial, the numbness that took over.

When we are no longer able to change the situation – we are challenged to change ourselves. – Viktor Frankl

So here is my take on divine intervention and what is meant to be will be.

Anything that God has intended… is for our highest good.  And I personally believe that if a choice or decision gives you doubt, despair or a negative impact, then it probably was not the path that God had planned for us.  That’s not to say that some choices won’t be challenging or have challenges.  Our daily life has challenges.  Work can be challenging.  The bible is filled with stories of people overcoming challenges.  But something that gives you a bad feeling inside is different than something being challenging.

Jaren and I were talking about this and I said it came to me like this.  God always has a Plan B.  When I mentioned this at a women’s group, one of the ladies said that God has the “Master Plan”.  Well, that’s true.  However, humans do not always follow the master plan.  It’s called free will.  I certainly would not think that God’s master plan is murder, or rape, or child abuse, or slavery.

After watching the movie Lion, it instilled this knowledge deeper within.  Saroo made some choices that separated him from his family.  After deep despair and the point of no return, he had to rely on his choices and fate.  At a very young age, he learned to follow his gut instincts along with his survival instincts.  He was listening to the voice within.  At the same time, God was putting His Plan B into place.

I have a Garmin GPS.  I put in the address and it is pretty good about getting me where I need to go.  Usually I follow it but there have been times when I chose another route.  And what happens when I do that?  It says, “Recalculating.”   The GPS then recalculates the next best direction from my altered direction.  Sometimes when it is really cloudy outside or there is a bad signal, the GPS will go blank and then recalculate.

When I think back to that time with Noah, I don’t believe it was God’s plan one way or the other for me to parent or relinquish my rights.  God gave me free will.  I also don’t believe it was God’s intention for my children’s father to abandon his kids and me during a time we needed him most.  But God gave Brian free will also.  However, I do believe that God was putting into place a family for Noah in the chance that circumstances and choices would prevent Noah from remaining with his original family.  God was preparing for Plan B.  I truly believe that God’s Master Plan is not designed to hurt one to benefit another.  That plays into the whole chosen one mentality.  God is much bigger than that.  Humans hurt.  God loves.  And love does not hurt, despite that old popular 70’s song.

I asked a friend of mine for her thoughts on this.  While her situation is a little different, I thought she could add real perspective.  Kim, her best friend and twin brothers were in a fatal car accident while on a double date during our freshman year in high school, leaving one twin and one friend alive, and one twin and one friend dead.  It was a very traumatic event that shook our small town.  This is what Kim said:

Well you know I’ve thought a lot about that. And of course people told me that I was spared to go on and do great things…which of course didn’t turn out that way. My life is wonderful, but quite ordinary. But I’ve wondered why God spared Ricky and I and how different the world might have been had the outcome been reversed. And you know what? I’ve come up with zilch, nada, nothing. When I think about it from God’s perspective it seems like a Sophie’s Choice. I don’t know why I lived and Linda didn’t. My gut feeling is that she would’ve gotten married and had kids and grandkids just like I have. But who really knows. But I do know that God is omnipotent. Perhaps God saw in that brief moment something in the future that made a difference to the world. Perhaps one of my descendants will work on something that alters the course of humanity. Or maybe one of Ricky’s descendants does something game changing. I have to have that faith, because anything else just seems too random. And given the complexity of life on this little Rock of ours, I just cannot believe in serendipity. I have to believe that God’s purpose for the outcome of that accident wasn’t just chance, even if it remains a mystery to me.

 These are the great mysteries of life.  But one thing that I am certain of, is that God and the universe are truly active in my life and whether I am following the Master Plan or God needs to put Plan B in place to recalculate my trip, I am glad I have God and my guides to navigate my journey and guide me to my highest purpose and good.

Setting Privileges

In ONE week at work, yes in one week, I heard comments that would make my jaw drop and leave me stumped for words.  Some comments were directly against the Ethics Code of Conduct.  Others fall somewhere in between.  The comments came from various people; male, female, Black/African American, Latino, and White.

The first comment I heard was during our department’s holiday dinner at a local restaurant.  As we were waiting on our meals, one of the ladies began to throw shade at the employee who was in charge of organizing our holiday celebration because she wrote “Holiday Party” instead of “Christmas Party” on the email invite.  I was surprised.  Especially, because Hanukkah overlapped with Christmas this year.  Did she assume that everyone at our table was all of christian faith, that we all celebrate Christmas?  Or did it not matter to her?  I wondered if she ever looked at our corporate holiday calendar in Florida where they have off for Rosh Hashanah and other Jewish holidays.  While we don’t have those holidays off in our state, our corporation does recognize and honor the importance of other religious holidays besides christian holidays.  I wondered if she knew that my department has an employee who is Muslim, who does not have any paid holiday leaves for his religious holiday.  In addition, his religious holiday comes and goes without much to-do as I am almost certain that many do not even know what spiritual holiday he celebrates or when.  On the other hand, those of us who celebrate Christmas have at least a month long nationwide celebration and some still feel the need to complain?

The next comment was about adoption.  While in the ladies room at work, I ran into a coworker that I used to sit across from.  I asked her about the kids and her baby that she had given birth to a couple years prior.  She said the kids were all good and that the baby was now three and then jokingly said he was handful and bad.  We both laughed, knowing the challenges of toddlers.  Then she asked me if I “wanted him” because she was about to give him away for adoption.  That comment left me speechless.  I was at a loss for words.  She does not know my story, that I am a birth mother who relinquished her parental rights and gave my son away for adoption.  And while I know she was joking, her comment was no joke to me.  I thought about my son and all adoptees.  I wondered if he was in that room and heard that comment, what message it was saying to him.  That a child who is bad will be given away because their parents don’t want them anymore?  I certainly did not choose to relinquish my son to adoption because I didn’t want him.  And sadly, when I shared this experience with a coworker she confessed that she has made that exact comment about her adolescent son and has heard others say the same.  I agree.  I heard that statement thrown around jokingly in my younger years.  But now it’s different.  I can’t help but think how careless our words can be or how unthoughtful we are to make jokes about children who are surrendered, orphaned, abandoned, and fostered due to unfortunate circumstances.  None of which are because they are bad children.

Next, the topic was about the criminal justice system.  My supervisor was talking about her upcoming jury duty.  This began much chatter on the floor.  Coworkers began laughing and making jokes.  One coworker said they [the person on trial] were guilty and that our supervisor should give them “the chair”; so much for the fair trial theory, for an unbiased jury to gather the information and deliver a fair verdict.  On a personal level, my coworkers do not know about my father, his crime, or his imprisonment.  While my father may have been very far away in a prison cell, he was alive.  I wonder if my life would have been different if he had been executed for his crime.  As a child, would that have impacted me differently?  I don’t think people can understand what that’s like to be the child of a convicted felon and truly comprehend how the general population views your convicted parent.  Although they were not talking about my father directly, they were speaking about his actions.  I have very mixed feelings about this topic.  While it was difficult to not have my father around, I am glad he served his prison sentence.  While I wish he would have never got involved in this crime that caused tremendous emotional impact on our whole family, I am glad he was not sentenced to death.

Lastly, I asked a new co-worker how she liked working for our company.  She shared with me her thoughts and then she began to share with me about her previous job and the reason she left.  She talked about her old boss and then called him a “fag”.  She quickly followed up by saying she didn’t hate gay people but…

I was trying to gather my thoughts and grapple for words in this conversation.  I have family members who are gay.  More importantly, this person does not know me well enough to know whether or not I am gay.  It never ceases to amaze me how people who have been discriminated for their gender, their religion, their race can then turn around and use such discriminatory words or actions towards another group.  How can we ever move forward if we cannot see outside our bubble?

setting-privileges-2

I recently had to call into the IT department.  When I did so, the tech asked me to find “Setting Privileges”.  Then he began to inform me what I needed to do for my computer to recognize which privileges I needed in order to perform my daily task.  I thought about that and how that related to the human population.   Are we born and programmed with certain privileges?  And, do those preset privileges enhance or diminish our social status?

Our country?

Our race or cultural?

Our economic class?

Our religion?

Whether we were born gay or not?

Whether we were born with special needs or a disability or not?

Whether we were born into our family or adopted into our family?

These are just some.  There are still more that can factor into our privileges and human experience.

But, should our privileges give us the right to make fun of others?  Should they give us power, control, or a sense of entitlement?

In computing,privilege is defined as the delegation of authority over a computer system. A privilege allows a user to perform an action. … Users who have been delegated extra levels of control are called privileged.

Privilege (computing) – Wikipedia

(Guest Post) Noah’s Mom Shares Her Adoption Story

It’s that time of year again.  As each week gets closer to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I find myself feeling a little bit mistier and mistier.  It’s been 17 years since we grew our family through adoption.  Our younger son came into our lives toward the end of December of 1999.  How does a family living in Central Wisconsin connect with an adoption agency and family from Texas?  The story itself is a long one, but the short version is, it’s a “God thing.”

We were a family of three.  My husband, Paul, and I had been married close to seven years before we had our oldest son, Alex, in 1991.  He was our first little miracle.  I had wanted to adopt children since I had been in high school.  After a few more years of trying to have a second child, we continued to have no luck.  It was then, that my husband and I decided to look into adoption instead of continuing down the road of having another biological child.  We prayed about the decision.  Paul and I were getting older and we did not know if adding to our family was God’s plan, but we felt drawn to go through with the application and the home study.  We felt if we didn’t take this step, God couldn’t answer one way or the other.

Shortly after deciding to go forward, our family met with a local agency that specialized in foster care and adoption.  The actual process was quite complex.  Each of us needed to complete large amounts of paperwork as well as be interviewed.  A long series of events took place and time went by, but finally, in June of 1999 we completed our home study.  We were so excited and filled with anticipation.

One day during that summer, I was taking a walk with a very good neighbor friend of mine.  We walked and talked and chatted about everything under the sun.  Somewhere in the conversation, the topic of completing the adoption paperwork and the home study came up.  My neighbor was surprised since she didn’t know our family was looking into adoption.  She mentioned that she had several sisters living in Texas and one of her sisters had a close friend who had adopted several special needs children through an agency in the Dallas, Texas area.  My friend wondered if she could give my name to her sister and have her give me a call sometime.  We hadn’t heard much from the local agency that we were working with, so I said sure.  I didn’t expect that it would necessarily lead to the adoption of a child from Texas, but I was always on the look out for more insights and information about adoption in general.  I thought it would be great to talk with someone who had been through this process.

My friend’s sister called a couple of weeks later.  She asked if it would be ok to have the family friend who had adopted these children give me a call.  A few days after that, I spoke with this “friend of a friend” who had adopted special needs children.  This entire string of events eventually led to contact with the adoption agency in the Dallas area.  One of the first things that went through my mind, and that of my husband, was to make sure this agency was valid.  We contacted our local agency and filled them in.  They made some contacts and assured us that all was good.  Our next steps included making a book about our family and completing more paperwork.

It wasn’t long, after all of these events occurred, that the adoption agency in Texas contacted us with a potential expectant mother and wondered if we would be interested.  We said that yes, we were interested.  Our anticipation began to grow.

A series of conversations and events took place over the next several months.  At times, things were “on again, off again” with the expectant mother, Karen and her baby.  As December grew closer, Paul and I spoke with our respective places of work “just in case” we would need to be gone.  Since this would be an inter-state adoption, it required staying in the baby’s home state for a specific number of days.  The caseworker also let us know that since this could be taking place during the holiday time, there might be some extra delays.

One December day, while at work, I received a phone call from the adoption agency in Texas that this baby boy had been born.  My husband, Paul, and I were elated!  We shared a little bit with our son, Alex, but didn’t want to say too much since we knew how quickly things could change. The caseworker said it was ok to go ahead and make plans to come to Texas.  Much excitement and planning took place very quickly as the three of us (Paul, Alex, and I) worked to make flight arrangements and ensure everything was still in place with our paperwork and home study.  Two days later, my husband and I received another phone call from our caseworker.  She called to say that Karen decided to take her baby home and to cancel our plans to come to Texas.  Our hearts broke; my heart shattered into a million pieces.  For all of us, our emotions were all over the place.

On Christmas Eve morning, the caseworker called again. I called my husband in from the garage where he was unloading 2 x 4’s to build storage shelving in the basement.  I handed him the phone because my heart just couldn’t take more news right then.  The caseworker spoke with my husband and said that Karen was going to come in to sign the paper work that day.  She asked us if we were still interested and if so, would we be willing to speak with both of them, the caseworker and the birth mother, on the phone later that afternoon after all of the paperwork was completed?  We said, “Yes, we would,” and made only a couple of phone calls related to the new possibility of traveling to Texas.

It was the longest few hours of my life.

Finally the phone rang; Paul and I each got on different extensions so we could all be included in the conversation.  We spoke with Karen, along with the caseworker for a couple of hours.  When we finally hung up, we were so very excited!  As was our family tradition, we ate our Christmas Eve meal and then went on to church for the Christmas Eve service.  One of the hymns that was sung near the beginning of the service was “For Unto Us a Child is Born, Unto Us a Son is Given.”  My husband and I nudged each other with tears in our eyes as the congregation sang this song. At this point, we were the only ones who knew we would be on our way to Texas in another day to grow our family through adoption.

A couple of days later, we were in Dallas.  We met the caseworker and Karen, along with her mom.  We were also introduced to our new baby boy’s 20-month-old biological brother, Jaren.  After all of the waiting and excitement, my eyes met with the face of this tiny baby. My heart jumped and skipped as I held our new little boy, Noah, in my arms.  We all stood around the room, feeling a bit unsure of things, visiting and getting to know each other.  Karen and I made our way over to the couch and took turns holding this precious little one.   Karen shared with all three of us a photo book that she put together with pictures of our little ones first days, some poems, and a letter to her son.  My husband and I were beyond excited that we were adding to our family, yet it was hard.  When we left, I felt both joy and sadness. My husband and I wanted to be happy; we were happy.  It was a joyful time for our little family of three that was now growing to four.  But there was also an underlying sadness that took place.   We knew that our joy was Karen’s heartache and sorrow.

We stayed in Dallas for several days before returning to Wisconsin.  Since it was an inter-state adoption, we had been told earlier that it would take awhile for the proper paper work to be completed by each state.  A few days later, before we left, the caseworker made arrangements for us to meet with Karen and her son, Jaren, again.  We met at a restaurant and had a good visit, all six of us together.

Shortly after that, we returned home, back to Wisconsin.

We kept in touch with Karen, Jaren, and their family through cards, pictures, email, and phone calls.  We try to get together once a year.  Over the years, the relationship has grown into more than a great friendship.  It is now more like one big family.

God brought our two families together even though we lived half a country apart.  Through every step, God’s hand has been in this relationship.  God knew more than anything we could ever see ourselves.  He not only grew our family through adoption, He brought two families together to offer support and friendship to each other and to raise this child.  My love and gratitude is never-ending for this relationship, friendship, and family.

 

(footnote)

My story, One Woman’s Choice, is a true story.

While the agency led Paul and Rebecca to believe that I was “on again/off again” about my intention or choice, I was never sure and never made any empty promises.  

This is what I wrote, 

“Even though I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go through with the adoption, I had to at least try. I contacted the agency and made arrangements to meet with one of their caseworkers named Kristen.”

Going Back in Time (Adoption Awareness)

This is always a hard time of the year for me.  It is coming up on the anniversary of the relinquishment to parent my second son.  I am not alone in feeling this PTSD.  It is a known fact that birth mothers suffer during the anniversary of their child’s birth or relinquishment date.

The Damage to Relinquishing Mothers

Without fail, this time every year which is a joyous time of the year for many, I get emotional without warning.  Tears fill my eyes unexpectedly and without immediate cause.  I get irritated easily and anger quickly.  I become withdrawn and sometimes unapproachable.

In about one month, my office is moving to another building in the same city as our current office location.  Late last year, our management began talking about moving to another building.  They wanted it to be somewhat close to our current location, within 10 miles or so.  They looked in nearby cities and also in our current city for a new place to call home for our Service Center.  Employees waited impatiently at times curious as to where this new office would be.  Many worried if their drive would be longer while others hoped their drive would be shorter in this very populated metropolitan city with hefty rush hour traffic patterns.

So we waited and waited while our management team looked for a new office building in the Dallas/Ft Worth area, assuring us every few months that they were getting closer and closer to a final decision.  Needless to say, the possibilities were endless.

The city is the main cultural and economic center of the 12-county Dallas–Fort Worth metropolitan area—at 6 million people, it is the eighth-largest metropolitan area in the United States. – wikipedia.org

Earlier this year, the management narrowed it down to office space they had found in three different cities.

In April, during an all-employee meeting, they finally announced our new location.  An exterior frontal building picture flashed on the projector and I couldn’t help but notice how familiar this building looked.  As I continued to listen to our VP speak, I kept staring at the picture.  I was pretty sure I recognized this new office space but waited patiently to be certain.  Then the new address of our new location popped up on the screen.  I was stunned.

I quietly told the person next to me that I had worked at that building before.

The VP gave the projected date, which was initially scheduled for November.

At first, I think I was surprised and somewhat shocked by the synchronicity of it all.

As reality began to sink in, I began to process the impact of this move for me.  Moves are always somewhat stressful.  While many employees in the office were talking about this new place, both positive and negative comments, with their highest concern being about the commute, I was internalizing what this move meant for me.  I was pretty certain it was different.  It wasn’t just about packing and unpacking, or a new driving route, or a greater or lesser distance from home, or longer rush hour traffic delays.  For me, it was much deeper.  It was about a traumatic moment in time that I would much rather leave in my past.

The first time my office moved out to this building, it was back in the late 1990’s.  I was living and working in downtown Dallas.  I was a single mom to Jaren and pregnant with Noah.  And, I was on the road to making one of the most life changing decisions I have ever made.  Life was filled with uncertainty.  I was alone to care for my son and future son yet to be born.  I was castaway by many of my family and even some friends and my children’s father had abandoned us.  Life was challenging at best.

My employer at the time had scheduled our move to the new building at the end of that year.  I was also due to deliver Noah at the end of that same year.  And like my current employer, the move was set for November but then pushed back to December.  My delivery date was also set for December.

As the end of the year approached, I was released for short-term medical leave to prepare for my delivery and my choice.  I packed up my desk and went on maternity leave before the move occurred.

The next couple months would challenge my emotional resolve.  I did not have the luxury to worry or think about our new office space, my new cube or my office belongings.  My day-to-day was filled with taking care of my first born son Jaren and the future that I was considering for his younger brother.

After Noah was born, I signed relinquishment papers on December 24th of that year.  Within a week, I handed over my newborn baby to a couple that I had never previously met.  I trusted that the adoption agency had did their research and homework.

When my maternity leave was up and I was about to return to the office, I called my manager.  I informed her of my decision.  I asked her if she could send out an email to the office and inform them of my choice.  I didn’t want to have to answer those questions over and over again.  I also didn’t want to lie and say I lost the child.  But sadly, she refused.  She said it had something to do with policies.  Ironically, within a year, another co-worker returned from maternity leave.  Her child died.  This time, my manager did send out an email to the team to let them know what happened.

So after giving birth, saying hello to my newborn son, relinquishing my parental rights, kissing my baby and placing him in the arms of his new parents, I prepared for my first day back to work.

I walked into our new office space no longer pregnant and with one less child than what my coworkers were expecting.  I sat down at my new cube.  I began unpacking my material belongings while trying to box up my clouded brain, broken heart and my muddy emotions.

This is the place where I walked out to the parking lot during my lunch hour, sat in my car, and cried tears of sadness and hopeless despair.  Where I wrote letters to God asking Him to find a way to return my baby and heal my broken heart.  A place and time where I contemplated suicide just so I could stop the pain, had it not been for my son Jaren, who gave me every reason to live.

I was stripped down to my core and there was little left of me.

And now, after several move dates have changed, with one of the scheduled move dates being on Noah’s birthday and I was thinking, “Are you freaking kidding me,” we are finally moving to our new office building in less than one month.  I am bewildered.  How do I move through this?  What does this mean?  Is there healing in all this?

I’ll admit, in the early months, I was amused by the fluke of it all.  I joked about how God was playing a trick on me, all the while, reserving my anxiety.  But now that the move is less than a month away, it has become very real.

I talked to my current supervisor privately and told her my story.  I wanted her to be aware.  I explained how this is a traumatic time of the year for me and that I am not sure how this move will impact me because of all the similar details; the history of the building, the same time of the year.  I tried to make light of it and withheld my tears that were readily available to me.  We both chuckled at the synchronicity of it all.  I promised her that I am and will continue to do my best to move through this.  She did seem to understand.  She even said, “Well, this time you will be involved in the moving process rather than someone moving everything for you.”

I thought about her statement.  It resonated with me.

 

Can I Call Her Mom?

The first time my eldest son, Jaren and I went to visit my youngest son, Noah, six years after his birth, there were unanswered questions.  One was about my role and title.

Noah always knew he was adopted.  He knew that I gave birth to him and that I am his biological mother.  But he was wrestling about how all that tied into our relationship and the titles we should give to each other.  Who was I to him?  And who was he to me?

Prior to our visit, I was “Karen” to Noah when we talked on the phone and his parents referred to me as, “your birthmom, Karen”.

At five years old, Noah walked over, stood in front of me and said, “What should I call you?”

That’s a powerful question that deserved a thoughtful response; especially to an impressionable five year old.

Noah had already talked to his parents about his quandary.

I told Noah he could call me whatever he liked.  I didn’t want to seem presumptuous.  I also didn’t want to dictate or control his choice.  And I surely didn’t want to disrespect his mother.  I wanted Noah to find the right title for me.  So after a short pause, he decided to call me Birthmom.  Over the next few days, he was so cute in his greetings.  He would walk up to me, flash a big smile and say, “Hi Birthmom!”

The “mom thing” is one of the hardest parts in open adoption.  I wanted to be sure that I acknowledged my role the way that Noah needed.  But it is a balance.  I didn’t want to hurt Noah, or his mom, or his dad by my title.  I would wonder how to appropriately write my closing salutation on greeting cards; Karen, your birthmom, your other mom, your Texas mom?  This is something that could impact Noah’s emotional growth positively or negatively.

Then a couple years later, Noah’s family came to Texas for Thanksgiving.  We were still getting to know each other.  Although we talked on the phone throughout the year and exchanged emails, we didn’t get to spend time with each other face to face.

This time, Noah wanted to call me Mom.  Many different thoughts and emotions began to flash forward.  I was surprised, not even certain if he was referring to me or his mom.  Then I felt somewhat undeserving of this title.  I think his mother sensed this so she quickly whispered over to me, “He asked me if he could you Mom.”  She wanted to reassure me that she was okay with this.

I was so deeply touched not just by Noah for his willingness to include me in this worthy title but I was astonished by the grace by which his mother was willing to share that title with me.  Not only that, but that Noah was confident enough and comfortable enough to go to his mom and ask her a question like this.  And then his mom, understanding her son’s needs to do this.

The last few years, I have been mostly Karen.  And I am good with that as long as Noah is good with that.

A couple years ago, when Jaren and I visited Noah and his family, I was greatly honored by his mother once again.  As we were walking out of the church service to greet the minister, Noah’s mom introduced me as “Noah’s mom”.  I was deeply touched.  I am sure the minister was a little confused.  As we made our way to the café area, she introduced me a couple more times as “Noah’s mom”.  Uneasy about my title, I smiled and said, “Noah’s other mom.”  I don’t know why I felt the need to say that.  It was out of sheer humbleness.  I knew deep within that all these people knew who Noah’s everyday Mom was.  I just wanted them to know that I knew that also.

I’ve read many stories about adoption.  I’ve read derogatory comments about what a birthmom is or isn’t.  The general American society can be very harsh in their uneducated perception.  I had no idea what my journey would be when I said good-bye to Noah and his new family, or if I would ever see my son again in our lifetime.

I’ve learned that adoption is not about replacing someone.  Noah loves his mother.  A biological parent can never be erased.  My mother lives on in me, I live on in my two sons (parent to one, birth mother to the other). In the end, love has no boundaries.

So today, I honor Noah’s mom for her love and generosity.

Happy Mother’s Day, Noah’s Mom!  I love you dearly.

1 Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Race, Price and Ethics in Adoption

When I came to Texas back in the early 1990’s, my boyfriend and I talked about having kids.  We lived together on a 100 acre property south of the Dallas/Ft Worth metroplex.  I remember having some blank note cards that had these beautiful painted American Indian/Latino children in a southwest desert setting.  They were so adorable.  In my ignorance, I said, “If we adopt, I want a baby who looks like this.”  I see now how these thoughts were and are unethical.

Sonny, my boyfriend at the time, who actually does have some American Indian ancestry along with European, has light hair and light eyes.  I too have European heritage.  So the chances of us producing an offspring with these characteristics were very rare.

The idea that I thought I could just choose whatever kind of child I wanted because I was adopting, as if children (especially vulnerable children who have been separated from their biological family) are cataloged merchandise and are there to please my needs sounds absurd and yet people do this all the time.

To be honest, I don’t know if I would have understood this prior to me giving birth and relinquishing my parental rights.

I have read many articles and have heard people say how they have always loved Asian children or Latino children and so forth and how they think they are so cute.  So when some of those people decide to adopt, they will often say similar phrases as the reason they chose to adopt outside their race.

Here is the issue.  More often, those same people have never dated anyone from that particular race.  And many would never even consider dating or marrying someone from that race.  So how is it that someone could have always loved “blank” babies but not like “blank” adults?  Babies grow up to be adults.

Saying you want to adopt an American Indian baby when you are not American Indian or making sure the baby you adopted has the ethnic or race that you specified to the agency that you wanted to adopt sounds privileged.  Could it be a deal breaker?

The other thing I have heard as a reason to adopt either outside of one’s own race or oversees was because it was cheaper.  I’ve heard adoptive parents say, “We were planning on adopting here in America but the agencies wanted to charge $35,000 to $40,000 so we decided to explore our options oversees.”  Likewise, I’ve heard similar comments made about adopting domestically from a minority race here in America.

Placing value and worth on a child is unethical especially when it differs due to one’s race, skin color, age, orphaned status or one’s biological background.

Saying you decided to adopt oversees because it was “cheaper” sounds like you are trying to get the best deal or a bargain basement price for something (a human being) that should never be dollar driven or as an incentive.  Cars have incentives.  Department stores have deals and bargains on merchandise.  Human beings are neither of those.  And adoption agencies are not dealers or retailers.

We understand when people want to adopt within their race.  It makes for less obvious scrutiny.  Adopting outside of your race can be more complex.  But when we adopt outside of our race because we decided to settle for something other than what we initially wanted, or we feel sorry for another race as if they are disadvantaged, or because the expense is cheaper, or because it is trendy, or because we want to prove we are not racist, or because we feel it is our right to buy whatever kind of child we want, what does that say about who we are and what we are willing to do to buy babies or children.

When someone has their heart set on adopting or they are acting out of desperation, we know that logic does not always trump ethics.  But that is no excuse for behaving unethically.

It is time to review unethical behaviors, thoughts and practices so we can improve the adoption experience and allow it to become a necessity only after all other options and avenues have been explored.  This is when we use adoption to link children with parents that are best suited for each other which should neither be driven by race or dollars.