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.

I sent a message to Patti, my coworker at my current job and told her the story.  She knew that Maureen’s death shook me.  She could feel it in my typed words.  She offered condolences and said, “She died of a broken heart.”

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

Angel

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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.

Adoption Awareness 2015

November is Adoption Awareness Month and I sometimes wonder if mainstream America really wants to know the truth, the whole truth or the facts surrounding adoption.  Or can we even handle the truth?  It is truly hard to believe that the ones who have been speaking out for the Adoption Awareness Campaign over the last few decades have been adoptive parents and non-adoptive colleagues (counselors, educators or adoption officials), leaving out two very important voices; adoptees and birth parents.  Without the latter two, there would be no such thing as adoption.

We should ask ourselves, how can we truly bring awareness to the topic and authentic nature surrounding adoption when we leave out two of the three voices in adoption?

What does adoption awareness mean to us? 

First, we must understand the word awareness.

AWARENESS; knowledge or perception of a situation or fact

If we look at most other awareness campaigns (example: Suicide Awareness, Cancer Awareness, and Disability Awareness) we are provided with an array of scenarios.  We are given real life accounts of those experiencing such afflictions.  We are provided with the positive and negative effects, the miraculous recovery cases and the ones whose life ended because of the disease.  We learn about treatments and survival rates, determination and discrimination.  We learn about prevention and even about failures and misdiagnoses.  We hear from doctors, nurses, parents, siblings and extended family members each sharing their experiences.  But most often, most often…we hear from the person who experienced the condition first hand.  That is awareness.

Adoption is multi-dimensional.  Many people not directly impacted by adoption view adoption from one side.

Example:  While at work recently, my supervisor was standing in between my cube and my co-worker’s cube.  I heard him talking about someone who was hoping to adopt.  He said that she (I don’t remember how he referred to “her”- the woman/mother giving birth) was at the hospital about to give birth.  Then he made some off handed comment about her signing papers.  He spoke about this event as if he was talking about his kids’ sport games or school activities.  He had no concern or care for the mother who conceived and was about to give birth to her baby.  It didn’t matter to him.  His focus was on the couple who wanted that baby.

My supervisor does not know my personal experience with adoption.  And I have no intention of telling him.  But I was surprised at how this conversation immobilized me.  I was unable to focus on my work.  I was emotionally transported back to that very moment in my life when I was faced with the most demoralizing time in my life.  I felt deep compassion for the woman in the hospital and wondered if she had any idea what her future will be like if she chose to relinquish her parental rights.  I wondered if anyone had explained to her the possible side effects associated with relinquishment?

For me, since that time, I have become more distrustful of people.  I have a much harder time making friends and maintaining healthy relationships.  I have become claustrophobic and I have panic attacks.  I am not the same person I was before I chose relinquishment.  A part of me died on that day.  I not only mourn the ability to parent my child, but also for that part of me that was lost.  I lost a piece of my innocence that day.  A piece that was pure and good.

My social status changed in that one instance.  I lost credibility and a level of respect as a woman and a mother.  And in return, I lost faith in humanity.  It’s a catch 22.

This is why we need adoption awareness and why we need to look at all sides of adoption to get a clear picture of the true nature surrounding adoption.  It’s like surgery or drugs.  By law, doctors, surgeons and pharmacist have to give all the different scenarios, the negative or worse case outcomes or side effects (it could cause this or that) even if the percentage is less than one percent.

It seems somewhere in our past, some believed Adoption Awareness was about highlighting and promoting adoption.  Adoption Awareness was used to parade orphans in need of a home.  The supporters and promoters believed that once the adoption was complete, the problem was solved.  Child needs home.  Child finds home.  End of story.  All is good.

I am not entirely against using media outlets to find homes for orphans.  If we have children that need homes than we need to use all means possible to find them secure homes; but when we use all our focus on this one facet surrounding adoption that is a problem because we fail to recognize all the other factors (loss, grief and trauma) surrounding adoption, the causes that create this epidemic, and the long term effects.

Without the voices of the adoptee and the birthparent(s) we continue to have assumptions and negative stereotypes.  We continue to enable the pattern of the cycle which causes mothers and children to be separated.  We continue to ignore the impact on our children, our families and to a greater extent, our society.  Without these voices, we ignore the least and vulnerable and enable others to extort and manipulate them in the name of love.

Is Adoption a Good Thing?

I’ve been really mulling over this.  I guess in my mind it’s like asking if war is a good thing.  Depending on who you ask, you could get a variety of answers.  I sometimes ask myself, “What would God say about adoption or war?”

The bible shares an adoption story very early on in The Book of Genesis.  And this was no ordinary adoption.  Moses’ mother didn’t intend to abandon her son for good.  She merely wanted to temporarily hide Moses from the Egyptians who feared that there were too many Israelites.  They thought that by killing the first born son of each Israelite family, they could reduce the Israelites’ future population.  As a result, Moses’ mother was caught in a desperate moment.  This was the only way she knew how to quickly protect her son.  This is what I call an unnecessary adoption.

Then what happens?

The very people she is trying to protect Moses from, the Egyptians, have now found the babe in the river and claim the child as one of their very own.  Afterwards, Moses’ mother knows that she will not be able to get her baby back.  Why?  They have power, she does not.  They possess great wealth, she does not.  The events that led up to this were the cause of power and greed.  The bible has a lot to say about power and greed.

98 Interesting Facts About Adoption

Adoption was not uncommon in Egypt or Ancient Rome as well.  Power tribes would adopt and rear up a child from local tribes so they could learn the ways of the power tribe which in turn helped to strengthen political ties, and foster allies.  The child, who later was returned to its original tribe, would be familiar with both tribes, his own that he was born to and the one who raised him.

But the one thing that was missing from the ancient adoptions were Adoption Agencies.  Nowadays, depending on whom you talk to or ask, Adoption Agencies and their associates can be an Angel or a Devil.

scared and pregnant2

I think some of us who have grown the product for the adoption business got bewildered by the promotion and the advertising that lured us into the Adoption Agency’s doors.  In many cases, we walked in alone, frightened and pregnant without a true “neutral” ally or even our own lawyer or legal counsel.  We were led to believe that the Adoption Agency was there to help us and in many ways they did.  They called us brave and selfless.  But there was also an expectation and price to pay; at the end of the process, the Adoption Agency would acquire one precious little human being, our baby.

Excluding the baby scoop era and homes for unwed mothers, catholic charities and many other religious orders who were trying to mask their financial greed at the expense of the scorned women, often times, abandoned by their sexual partner and their own parents, I’ve wondered why some of us women would be angry at the modern day adoption agency after the adoption is complete.  I mean the name says it all.  Right?  Yes?  I include myself in this mixed of discernment.  I’m like, the sign was right there on the door.  ADOPTION AGENCY.  Am I that naïve?  It’s a business like any other business.  When we go to McDonalds, we expect to get food.  That’s what they advertise.  When people go to Adoption Agencies, they expect to get babies.  And while both businesses have a need for a product, babies and Big Macs are two very different things.

Newborn adoptions2

Personally, I would say adoption and war are not good effects but are sometimes necessary effects.  Both are a result and a response to something that occurred previously.  For example, the Civil War was a necessary war.  However, if America never participated in the slave trades, there would have been no need for a Civil War.  How can we call this a good war when so many slaves suffered at the expense of the white man’s greed?  How can we call war good when so many men and women died fighting for what they believed to be right and just?

Like war, adoption has one side celebrating a gain and one side suffering a loss.  Too often, adoption is the cause of a woman being abandoned by her sexual partner, his parents, and her own parents.  The abandonment starts before the child is even born and the cycle is put into motion, causing the pregnant women to wonder into strange territory and seek guidance and support from strangers.  Appallingly, somehow society has been okay with that.

Most mothers would like nothing better than to give birth and then love and parent their child.  But more often the forces are against single, unwed or teenage mothers and we become desperate.  Like Moses’s mother, we make a choice based on our current circumstance.  How can adoption be good when a mother feels the need to relinquish her parental rights based on a lack of financial and familial support or fear from a disapproving society?  How can adoption be good when the child grows up to feel abandoned?  Many say even Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, grew up feeling abandoned.  How can adoption be good when we put a price on an infant?  How can adoption be good when that price is sometimes based on marketability (depending on race or mixed ethnicity)?

What will you say when the adoptee comes to you as an adult and ask you, “How did you help my mother when she was pregnant with me?  What were you willing to do to support her?  Did you do everything within your power to preserve my family?”

The Land of OZ

wicked_witch

I’ve been contemplating writing this blog about the story of the Wizard of Oz and how it relates to adoption for over a year now.  I just didn’t know how I could correlate the symbolism in the movie and verbally express the metaphysical aspects of the deeper meaning.  I will admit, I am not the first person to take this movie and create my own unique theoretical version.  I’ll explain more.

I’m sure like all of you; I’ve seen this movie many times over the years.  I’ve matured with Dorothy and her child-like ways and began to see deeper meanings every time I watched it year after year.  And each time Dorothy wakes up, I wonder again, was it all real or was it only a dream.  That’s creative writing and film making at its best.

A few years back, I was introduced to a new Wizard of Oz story by a Unity Minister, Rev Ellen Debenport.  A friend of mine, Tori, who I knew from another Unity church, had told me about the OZ series that Rev. Ellen, the associate minister at the time, was doing at our sister church in Dallas.  It sounded very interesting and I had a thirst for more.

After the first night, I was hooked.  Rev Ellen explained the Wizard of Oz movie and each character in a way I had never contemplated before, which left me with a number of “ah-ha” moments.  Of all the sermons I have heard over the years from the many different ministers, this is by far my favorite.  Here is the link, if anyone would like to hear more about Rev Ellen’s series. OZ: Over the Rainbow

They’re really so many ways to interpret the Wizard of Oz.  While my version is quite different from Rev Ellen’s, who I truly believe is far more talented and skilled in the field of writing and speaking for that matter, I found my own theories with uncanny similarities between this movie and adoption.  Ones that kept creeping into my mind.

So what does the Wizard of Oz have to do with adoption?  Well, we know Dorothy is an adoptee.  That’s the obvious.  But here are some other things you may not have thought about while viewing this epic movie.  Let’s take a journey into OZ…

At the very beginning of the movie, Dorothy seems to be in trouble.  After a brief spat, Dorothy runs away from the people who love her.  She senses their disappointed.  After she cools off a bit, she tries to return home but now a storm (turmoil) has ascended upon their tiny town and Dorothy along with Toto are whisked away and transported into an alternate universe.   When she awakens in the Land of OZ, the munchkins, who are singing with great joy, are very pleased with Dorothy.  Her house has landed on the Wicked Witch of the East who had apparently wreaked havoc on their community.  They feel as though Dorothy has just saved them.

Symbolically, the munchkins could represent children in an orphanage who were used for labor or trafficked for money.

Within a few minutes, we have a good witch, a dead witch and a wicked witch.  One witch is there to help Dorothy and one is there to destroy her.  The Wicked Witch of the West looks wrathfully at Dorothy and asks, “Who killed the Witch of the East?”

If we look at unplanned pregnancies during the time of this movie (the beginning of the Baby Scoop Era) we see the innocence of the young Dorothy as she tries to explain, “It was an accident.”  She did not intend for this to happen.  The Wicked Witch of the West is unsympathetic towards Dorothy and tries to shame her for what has happened.  But interesting enough, not everyone agrees that this incident is a bad or shameful event.

Doesn’t that sound like life in general?  Especially when an unexpected pregnancy occurs?  I can tell you from personal experience, I had both fans and foes when my unplanned pregnancy was made known.

After the accident, Glenda, the Good Witch, quickly places the ruby slippers on Dorothy’s feet.  Dorothy has been given a precious gift.  Metaphorically, the ruby slippers could represent a conceived child.

Now even angrier, the Wicked Witch of the West tries to take the slippers but the shoes zap her.  She is unable to forcefully remove the slippers from Dorothy’s feet.  This is the part of freewill and choice.  Dorothy has to freely give up the shoes.  Coercion is not far behind, as we listen to the Wicked Witch of the West impart fear and doubt into Dorothy’s mind when she tells Dorothy to give her the ruby slippers because she is the only one who truly knows how to use them.

If you listen closely, you can hear how similar that sounds like an adoption agency rep telling a frightened pregnant woman that the agency is better equipped to decide the future of this expectant child or that someone else is better equipped to parent her child then she is.

What’s interesting to me, that I never really noticed before writing this, is how neutral the Good Witch, Glenda is.  She is neither happy nor angry.  She shows little emotion of approval or disapproval of what has occurred.  She is almost God-like.  She acknowledges the power of the ruby slippers and tells Dorothy how special they must be.

Isn’t every child truly special, no matter the circumstance?

When the Wicked Witch of the West tries to threaten Glenda, she quickly responds without fear, “Rubbish, you have no power here.  Be gone before somebody drops a house on you.”  That statement always made me feel good.  She was fearless.

Dorothy must have felt safe standing by her side.  Wouldn’t it be great if we all could tell anyone who tried to bully or threaten us to “be gone, you have no power here.”

However, the mood quickly changes just before the Wicked Witch of the West leaves, as she threatens Dorothy one more time and tells her that she will get Dorothy and her little dog too.  She makes it clear that she will not stop until she has possession of those ruby slippers.

I wonder how Dorothy would have made out if she didn’t have Toto or Glenda when all that occurred.  Would the story have turned out the same?  We’re pretty certain that the munchkins wouldn’t have been much help since they were cowering down the whole time the Wicked Witch of the West was there.  Would Dorothy have been strong enough to fight against the Wicked Witch of the West alone?

Dorothy makes her plea to Glenda that her only wish is to get back home to Kansas.

The story takes a very interesting turn and becomes focused on two primary things; the ruby slippers and getting back home to Kansas.  Everything else is based around those two primary themes.  Dorothy wants to get back home and the Wicked Witch of the West desperately wants the ruby slippers.  The Wicked Witch of the West has to get those slippers before Dorothy leaves OZ and returns to her loved ones because she knows that once Dorothy leaves OZ, she will have no more chances of getting those ruby slippers.

Likewise, an adoption agency’s goal is to get the mother to relinquish before she leaves the hospital because they know that once a mother leaves the hospital with her child, she is less likely to willingly relinquish her parental rights.

Let’s face it.  While most adoption agencies claim their clients are the vulnerable women who come to them with an unplanned pregnancy, their real clients are the paying customers.  Really.  Who are you going to accommodate in your business; the non-paying customer who also gets free services or the paying customer?

Glenda sends Dorothy on a new path alone down the yellow brick road,  Although Glenda remains mostly out of site, she appears to watch over Dorothy while at the same time allowing Dorothy to make her own choices.  She knows it will be Dorothy’s determination and faith that leads her back home to Kansas.  But before Dorothy leaves, Glenda warns Dorothy to never let those ruby slippers off her feet or she “will be at the mercy” of the Wicked Witch of the West.  That’s a powerful statement.  Why would Dorothy be at the mercy of the Wicked Witch of the West when the only thing the Wicked Witch wanted was the ruby slippers in the first place?

That sounds like a warning to a birth mother to me.  Ask a birth mother what happens after she relinquishes her parental rights.  She is at the mercy of the adoption agency, sometimes the adoptive parents and of her choice.  Most often she is at the mercy of her secrets, her emotions, and a lifetime of stages in grief and possibly regret.

At this point, young Dorothy with her ruby slippers is all alone with the exception of her dog, Toto.  She is without her family’s support.  And she is lost.  But…the story has only just begun.

Yellow-brick-road-copy

Adoption 101

Here is my two cents for what it’s worth.

First, saying you “have a birth mother” is inappropriate. You don’t really have her right? (like you have a child, a dog, a car, a house?) She is not yours. You might say, ‘an expectant mother has chosen us,’ or ‘the agency has matched us with an expectant mother.’

Secondly, if the expectant mother has not given birth yet nor has she signed relinquishment papers, she is in no way a birth mother. Once she gives birth (hence the term “birth” mother) AND if she proceeds with the relinquishment, than she may be a birth, first mom, or the biological mother of the child.

Lastly, open adoption takes on many meanings. If you are uncomfortable, unsure or not enthusiastic about an open adoption, then you should find someone who wants a closed adoption, although I am not a big fan of closed adoption at all. But you shouldn’t agree to an open adoption unless your heart is in the right place and you feel this is the right path for you and your family. In other words, don’t just agree to an open adoption because it seems like the trendy thing to do or because it may help you become a parent easier or faster. And especially if you don’t plan to follow through with your open adoption agreement, promise and commitment.

I am a birth mother. I have an open adoption with my son and his family. And while I will agree that at first, our relationship was awkward only because it was new and we were exploring new territory, our relationship has evolved. Each year I grow to love them more and more. We have become one big family. We share a mutual respect and honor each other for our role in our mutual son’s life. My son knows he is loved by his first, birth, original family and his adoptive family.

Remember, adoption is about the children.1999 Momma and boys

Adoption is supposed to satisfy the needs of the child, not the needs of an adult.

What Some Intended for Harm, God Intended for Good, Part 2

I got pregnant with Noah eleven months after Jaren was born.  And like Jaren, this pregnancy was unexpected, certainly not planned and once again unintended.   However, this time, I was not as confident as I was when I became pregnant with Jaren.  Rather, I was somewhat fearful, uncertain and wary about my future and our future as a single parent family with the two kids.

After nine months of turmoil as whether or not to have an abortion (something that my children’s father and members of my family wanted), or adoption, or parenting, I was finally ready to give birth to Noah.

A few months earlier, I had talked with my mom and sister about coming to Texas so one of them could take care of Jaren while I was in the hospital giving birth.  Neither one of them was that thrilled about the idea.  It wasn’t so much about taking care of Jaren.  That was the least of their concerns.  Knowing the task at hand and the choice that was laying heavily on me at the time, they both pointed to the other as to say, ‘I think you should go’ or ‘you would be better at this than me’.  The question arose between my mother and sister, “what if she doesn’t want to go through with it?”  My mother was convinced that they would have to find a way to talk me into proceeding with the adoption plan.  This is the moment where coercion subliminally exposes itself.  After they deliberated awhile, my sister made some comment about not being sure she was comfortable with that and finally said, “She’s your daughter; you should be the one to be there.”

After having Jaren, I had lost some family members because of their view of what a family should look like.  Now that I was about to give birth to Jaren’s younger brother, other family members were giving me new ultimatums.  They warned, keeping my new baby may result in losing the rest of my family.  One family member even threatened that if I chose to parent my second child, that I would no longer be welcome in his home.  No mother should have to choose between her child and her family.

I’ve speculated over the years why my family was so headstrong about me not keeping Noah.  Some of my friends jokingly said they had one black child in the family, they didn’t want any more.  But seriously though!  I had been providing a good home to Jaren.  I lived more than a thousand miles away from them.  They weren’t babysitting for me.  I wasn’t asking them for anything.  Nothing!  So why were they so concerned about me parenting my second son about to be born?  It’s mind boggling.  Here I was pregnant and giving birth for the second time and my family was unwilling again to support me, accept me or my family, or my kids.  What should have been a beautiful time for me and my family turned into a dreadful, self-seeking motive for them.

For those who wonder about my adoption intention, this was something I did consider seriously.  However, I knew there was no way that I was going to make that decision while I was still pregnant.  Lots of things can change in nine months.  I understood that all too well.  The following was my statement five months before I gave birth to Noah:

“I understand the above (legal document) and will enter into this agreement only if I am absolutely sure that this is the best decision.”

After I gave birth, I had decided that I couldn’t leave my newborn in the hospital.  It just felt wrong to leave behind my baby boy in the hospital alone. Apparently, unbeknownst to me at the time, my friends and my mother were at odds.  Mom adamantly believed and voiced her opinion that I needed to “give up” this baby.  My friend Sheila (a birthmother), said that was not her place to make those demands.  So when Sheila and mom came to pick me up from the hospital and saw that I had my baby in my arms and I was bringing him home too, mom was very upset.  In fact, I hadn’t seen my mother that upset since her father died.  I could tell she had been crying.  Her face was red and her eyes were swollen.  She wouldn’t look at me.  I had made a choice that she didn’t agree with.  She was sad and mad.  She managed to put on a straight face for the hospital but once we got in the car, her eyes were heavily fighting back tears.  It was a gloomy ride home and I was torn.  I mean, who wants to see their mother crying?  And knowing that you and your choice is the reason she is sad and crying.  It’s a heavy burden to carry.

So I did proceed with relinquishing my parental rights to my new baby boy Noah when he was three days old on Christmas Eve.  On one of the most meaningful holidays of the year, while Christians and non-Christians alike around the world are gathering, eating, opening presents, singing, praying, celebrating with their loved ones, I was getting ready for a goodbye.  But God had different plans.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.  Genesis 50:20

I’ve had many doubts about my choice to relinquish my parental rights, both before I signed the papers and after.  And the biggest factor that I had the hardest time reconciling was separating my two sons.  If you asked me if I would have gone through with the adoption had my family or mother been less enthusiastic about the adoption of Noah or more supportive of my right to choose without any pressure, I don’t know.  I wish I could have discovered that path on my own instead of feeling like I was given a detour or road block with no choice. However, the one thing I never had any doubts about was the family I had chosen to parent Noah in the chance that I could not.  I felt something special about them.  And they would hold true to that inner quality that I connected with on a piece of paper several months before I gave birth.  For one, we had a verbal open adoption agreement which included sending pictures for 18 years.  However, Noah’s family invited Jaren and me out to lunch less than two weeks after they picked up Noah.  With my family long gone, without a worry or concern how I may be emotional healing or recovering, Noah’s family thought of me.  They could have left that day and could have honored or broke their verbal agreement and no one would have thought anything of it.  I had no legal rights.  My deed was done.  But they didn’t.  They didn’t!

Something in the universe was drawling us together by an action that is normally intended to tear a family apart.

I’ve pondered many times over the years, what if Noah was somewhere out there in the world and I had no idea where he was?  I couldn’t imagine.  And while I have experienced one of the greatest pains a mother can endure, I believe the “not knowing” would have greatly impacted my overall healing and emotional state.

I’ve wondered why Noah’s family decided to keep, increase and cultivate our open adoption agreement.  Despite my children’s father, his family and my family’s initial questionable intentions, Noah’s family has become part of our family.  We’ve made some great memories over the years.  I couldn’t imagine my life without my son Noah or his family in it.  I think for whatever reason, Jaren and I were meant to be a part of Noah’s life in some way.  Whether I was intended to be his parenting mother or not, only God knows.  It’s like the story of Moses.  His mother made a choice in despair.  Once Moses had been found by the pharaoh’s daughter, Moses’ [birth] sister petitions to have Moses’ [birth] mom be his nanny.  Now, was all that a part of the divine plan of God?  I’m sure Moses’ mother must have wondered about her choice to place her son in the river at some point in her life.

In the end, having this unique experience to grow has added another layer to my life’s lessons and has provided spiritual enlightenment.  God gave me two beautiful boys.  I am so proud to have been chosen by God to be their mother, whether I am the parenting mother or the birth mother.

The Many Faces of the Birth Mother

I’ve been thinking about this subject a lot lately. It seems that we birthmothers who at one time belonged to one social stereotypical group as in the Baby Scoop Era have now seemed to have morphed into several different categories. And I’m not sure that all of this a good or valid.

Riding in the car with my mom one day, we were talking about my adoption/relinquishment. Then somehow our old neighbors (very good friends of my parents who adopted a baby girl in the 60’s) came up. My mother said that the adoptee, after finding out she was adopted which was hidden from her until her teenage years, decided to search for her birthmother. Now my mother didn’t know all the details about their meeting but the next sentences that came out of her mouth would haunt me for years. My mother said, “She found her [birth] mother. The impression I got, her mother wasn’t much of anything.” And then she made some comment about how the adoptee was better off with her adoptive parents. All I heard was, “her mother wasn’t much of anything.” That sentence would continue to play over and over in my mind.

I’ve sat in a room with many birthmothers, women who were working in corporate America, women who were high school teens; women who were prostitutes and women who were drug addicts; single women, married women; women who were pregnant for the first time and women who were pregnant for the third time, women who were in open adoptions and women who chose closed adoption; women who relinquished because they feared raising a bi-racial child and others because they were abused by the father of their child. I’ve seen some women filled with emotion over their choice to relinquish their parental rights that tears flowed endlessly out of their eyes, other women who chattered endlessly about an update with pictures or a long overdue visit with her [birth] child, and yet another woman who never wanted to get pregnant, who said she felt no connection to the being inside her and had no desire to parent that child or any children, and who am I to judge any of them. For we all chose the same thing; to not parent the child that we conceived and delivered into this world.

I think most of us fight hard to dispel the myths of the “bad” birthmother. I mean, we already have a heavy load to carry just by the fact of the choice we made. We don’t want to carry the cross of the “bad” girl, “bad” woman, and certainly not the “bad” mother for the rest of our life. We don’t want to be too happy or too angry about our choice. We don’t want to be measured up against the women who are raising our children as better or less than. We don’t want to fit into any negative stereotypes. Many of us work hard on our image in hopes that society or more importantly, our offspring doesn’t return one day and think or say, “She wasn’t much of anything. I was better off without her.”

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