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.

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Relinquishment

Pregnant woman in the shadows (BW image)

Pregnant woman in the shadows (BW image) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been thinking about the adoption evolution and revolution here lately.  How the adoption agencies and their clients have changed so much in their approach to the modern day pregnant women who is considering adoption as opposed to how they spoke to and about our baby scoop era sisters before us.  The modern day pregnant women considering relinquishing her parental rights are shown compassion, respect and admiration with phrases like:

“You are courageous, wonderful, and selfless.”

“You are giving your child a chance at a better life.”

“You are giving some family a precious gift.”

Now a day’s society understands that women have clear choices.  We basically have two more options that the baby scoop era women didn’t have.  So naturally, adoption agencies and the adoption community have changed their approach to the unintended pregnant woman.

We’ve gone from “You have to give up your baby,” to “You can choose open or closed adoption when you place your child.”  But the truth is, women don’t give up or place their children.  We have chosen to relinquish.  Society doesn’t like that word.  I don’t like it either.  But that is the truth.  Often times, it’s an ugly truth.  Ask any mother (or father in some cases) who has signed a legal document entitled Relinquishment of Parental Rights.  Once the ink makes contact with the paper and the strokes of the pen slowly inscribes your name, it soon becomes very apparent just how real those words are.  And it is done.  Relinquished!

I think back to the times when my (birth mother) sisters who were forced and coerced to leave their babies in a hospital.  The ones who never got to see their child leave their womb and enter the world, the ones who woke up after giving birth to an empty crib and empty arms, and the ones who reluctantly believed a bias society.  Although these women may have signed relinquishment papers, most of them had no other choices.  There was no Roe vs. Wade; only illegal abortions.  There were no single parenting options; only a cruel disapproving society.

Don’t get me wrong, society still has their way of getting into the psyche of vulnerable modern day females.  Family and romantic partners still use coercion tactics on defenseless pregnant women.  Adoption agencies and hopeful clients refer to expecting mothers as their birth mother while her baby still rests within her womb, (and in most cases) warm and safe, surrounded by the love of a mother.  How can a woman who hasn’t even given birth yet or relinquished her parental rights be referred to as a birth mother?  That’s society’s way of psychologically preparing her for what they hope she will choose.  Since they are unable to use the old scare tactics, the shameful tactics, the bad girl tactics, the “you’re inadequate” tactics, they have found new ways to subliminally prepare her for their anticipated choice.  So they call her by the name that labels her as a future candidate for the adoption industry.

Birth mother agreement.4

Birth mother agreement.5

I couldn’t imagine telling someone they should give up, place or relinquish.  I couldn’t imagine telling someone they should abort their child and yet people do both of these things every single day.  I wonder how these people feel about their own selves, after coercing a woman or teenage girl to abort or relinquish.  How does one live with themselves knowing that their persuading or forceful ultimatum created a decision that separated a child from his or her first mother and father?

Personally, I don’t think we appropriately prepare women for the truth of relinquishment.  Adoption agencies like to use nice words, fluffy words (placed, adoption plan, gift, loving choice) to conceal the truth.  I can tell you from personal experience, the word relinquish never came up in conversation once during my pregnancy when I met with my adoption counselor prior to the birth of my son.  The first time I remember seeing and hearing that word was when I went into a meeting room to sign the “adoption” papers.  When the relinquishment papers was placed before me, I remember saying the title out loud with a raised brow as I swallowed uncomfortably and looked over to my counselor.  She tried to offer a slight constellation, stating that that is what it is legally called.

We should ask ourselves why an agency feels the need to hide such an important word that goes hand in hand within the adoption industry.  Without relinquishment, there is no adoption; unless it is through the foster care system.

I wonder how many women would choose to relinquish if they were not persuaded in any way and if they knew all the facts beforehand of post relinquishment despair.  I’m not saying adoption is wrong.  There are some cases where adoption is necessary.  But what I am saying is that first and foremost, a woman should be free to choose with no outside influence.  No adoption should be legal without the consent of both biological parents.  More importantly the adoption industry needs to be truthful in every way.  They need to do a better job at preparing mothers and fathers of the repercussion of choosing to relinquish.

After the reality of relinquishment sets in, a birth mother’s heart breaks in a thousand pieces, her mind fills with images of regrets and what ifs, and if she feels she cannot bear another day without her offspring, she may try to rescind her choice.  However, society could care less about this birth mother now.  There is no going back.  There are no second chances.  Just listen to any mother (or father) who has tried and you will hear an evil hiss among the masses warning her, berating her and making false accusation and claims to sway the general masses.  Never mind that just weeks and months before, she was this wonderful angel doing a selfless act.  Now she is no longer a women giving but a women taking.  The priceless human being that God gives freely to females has now become a commodity, a legal lawsuit, and sometimes, a human ransom.  And so, the lawyers, the courts, the adoption agency, the adoptive parents, and even large amounts of society are quick to point to a signature on a legal document that states, Relinquishment of Parental Rights.  The act of signing ones name, that took less than a minute to complete will now take a lifetime to heal.

I Dreamed of You…

You entered my womb without a sound,
Patiently waiting to be found.

Without effort, we bonded to each other
You become my child…I, your mother.

And I dreamed of you…

I provided nutrients, your living bowl
I became your life line….you, my little soul.

You snuggled inside, warm and tight
You became my courage, my inner light.

And I dreamed of you…

The time had come and you were complete
Our bodies worked together, we didn’t miss a beat.

I held you in my arms, thankful for my gift
You became my weight, I became your lift.

Noah's birthAnd my dream came true…

I hugged you… kissed you… and tenderly said good-bye.

I became your birth mother…you, my absent child.

And I dreamed of you…..

The Birth/Adoption Community

I’ll admit, before I entered into the birth/adoptive community, I was somewhat naïve, judgmental and probably insensitive to what individuals in this community experienced. Now that I have joined the ranks of millions maybe even billions of other birth parents, adoptees and adopters, I see this community in a whole new light.

When I was seeking my son’s new family, all I had to go on at the time was my instincts. I would be choosing complete strangers to whom I had not once previously met; to love, nurture, and parent my child for a lifetime. This in itself is a very daunting task. And then being the mother of a bi-racial son, added to my apprehension for my son’s wellbeing. I mean, just one year prior, members of my own family wanted me to place my first born child for adoption solely on the basis of his mixed ethnicity. I wondered how the families seeking to adopt my new son would differ in their views. Did some or perhaps most carry the same prejudices? Would they be more concerned about his racial background or would they just see a precious child created by God and be willing to love and honor his ethnicity?

I remember almost every detail on the day I reviewed the two family packets who wanted to adopt my son. Yes, only two. Most women (birth mothers to be) will have around ten or more families to consider for their unborn child. I had two. These two white American families were the ones who told the agency they were interested in adopting my baby. It does seem insensitive at times. After all, it’s not like going to a car dealership. I want this color with this kind of hair and these features and so on. But sadly, this is how some people view adoption should be. So naturally, I wondered if these families really wanted my baby or if they were just desperate for any baby. There is a difference.

I understand why some families may not want to adopt outside their race. They fear what others will say and they wonder how their new family will fit into a society. I can tell you from personal experience; at times, it can be more challenging to navigate in the world when your family is of a mixed race. It is what it is. Choosing to do what is right though is not always choosing to do what is easy. And it appears to me that those who are prejudice against other races or are against interracial couples are less judgmental and more accepting of families who adopt bi-racial children than those who conceive them naturally. However, if you are considering adopting a child who is not of your race, think it over long and hard. When someone gives you a stare or makes a comment, how will you respond? I know of one incident that didn’t go so well.

An adoptive mother was checking out in a store with her oldest, biological son and her adopted, bi-racial son. Her adopted son, who was a young toddler at the time, was sitting in the shopping cart. A lady behind them kept staring at them. After a few minutes, the adoptive mother annoyed by the stares barks, “He’s adopted, okay?” Now I know some of you may not see anything wrong with this but hear me out for a moment.

First of all, I am a white mother of a bi-racial son. I have had stares while checking out and not once have I felt the need to blurt out to a complete stranger that my son was biologically mine or that I conceived him.  The adoptive mother’s statement tells this stranger that there is a reason she has this bi-racial child. This is where the hero title comes into play. “You see, I adopted him. I am the good person. I didn’t have a relationship with a black man; I just adopted the child from the woman who did”.

Lastly, if this child was five years old, ten or fifteen years old, would his mother shout out, “He’s adopted,” in front of him? I wonder how that might make her “adopted” son feel? This was neither the time nor the place. Just because he is a baby, and cannot speak, doesn’t mean that he cannot hear or that he doesn’t understand. Trust me; he does understand even if he cannot verbalize his words.

As any mother knows, when you leave your child with someone new, whether it is a new nanny, new daycare or new baby sitter, we worry and hope that our child is getting the best care possible until we pick them up. The difference is when a birth mother leaves her baby with his/her new caretaker, she’s gravely aware that she will not be picking him/her up later on that day. She knows it may be a lifetime until she sees her child again and for some, they weren’t even lucky enough to have that. They left this world not knowing if their choice to relinquish their parental rights to parent their child hindered their child’s experience or enhanced it. Many women took their final breath without ever having the opportunity to see a smile on their child’s face, to caress his cheek or to stroke her hair. I know some of these women and my heart weeps for them.

As for me, I am able to know my son through open adoption. I have touched his face, kissed his cheeks and I’ve seen his beautiful smile light up the room. I know that my birth son’s family has provided a good home to him. And I know they love him. The mere fact that they thought it was important to share their son with his original family says a great deal about their character and it shows respect to me as a human being.

We created our own version of the birth/adoption community and what it meant to us.

Who knows how our son will feel when he is grown. Only time will tell. I hope the fact that he has been able to know his birth family while growing up with his adoptive family has only enhanced his quality of life and that he knows that although I gave him to his adoptive parents; it doesn’t mean that I didn’t love him. I am still here, ever present with love and acceptance, watching him grow and expecting him to do great things with his life.

TO MY BIRTH MOTHERS

Last month, I went to my very first birth mother’s support group meeting.  It’s hard to believe it’s been thirteen years since I placed my son, Noah, for adoption.  My life was much different back then than it is today.  Not in ways one might imagine.  I mean, I’m still single, I still live in an apartment and I drive a ten year old Toyota.  But emotionally, I’m a different person today than I was thirteen years ago.

When I discovered I was expecting Noah, I was already a working single parent of my twelve month old son, Jaren.  This new pregnancy was unsettling to say the least.  I was very aware of the backlash I would get from my son’s father (who by the way was Jaren’s father), and my family, and friends, and co-workers.  To my despair, my greatest fear was realized when I confronted my son’s father and confessed to my family.

My first instinct was to hide this pregnancy from the general population and have an abortion.  I had had an abortion previously and I knew what to expect.  And my son’s father requested for me to have an abortion and even provided the funds to help guarantee his request.  But for some reason, when the day came for the abortion, I couldn’t go through with it.  I don’t know why.  Maybe because I had gone through the experience of growing a child inside me and giving birth to a heavenly human being, it somehow changed me.  For whatever reason, I decided to carry this new baby inside me and place him for adoption.  However, I would not be emotionally prepared for what was about to occur next in my life.

Any woman who has ever been pregnant knows our emotions are in a bi-polar stage as our body and hormones go through a variety of changes.  Add the fact that I was a single mom, no supportive partner or family, and then having to face the facts that I may need to let go of my baby boy once he is no longer attached to me would discharge any human’s beings emotional state off the charts.  Luckily, I was drug free because if not, it would have been very easy to escape into some kind of comatose reality.

After Noah was adopted, I went into a deep depression.  My eyes fought back tears daily, my face lay heavily on my skull and the mere sound of laughter sounded like hyena’s cackling.  Subliminally, I was thinking, “How can they laugh when I am hurting so much inside?

It seemed everyone around me was enjoying life but I was stuck; stuck in a world that no longer existed.

Now, thirteen years later, sitting in that meeting room, I realized I am in a much better place today, at least emotionally.  You see, I recognized the sadness that penetrated these birth mother’s eyes, I felt the sorrow they were trying to hide and I understood the heartache that drenched their body.  All those emotions lay heavily on the birth mother and we want so much to ring it all out of our body like a wet rag but we can’t.  We’re trapped in this state of helplessness.  We’ve been stripped to our core and our weakness is exposed and we become vulnerable to any attack that is thrown at us.  We are at the mercy of our choice and sometimes, our regret.

No, I didn’t know these birth mothers personally, but I already knew their emotions and their heart.  I know who they are.  They are amazing women who were forced to make decisions under turbulent conditions.  They are women who were willing to risk their reputation and public judgment for their sacrifice.  They are women who helped other women become mothers so they could experience motherhood through the generosity of a birth mother.

I wish I had a magic wand to erase all the birth mother’s sorrow but I don’t and I can’t.  And even though we share this experience, I know that each birth mother needs to grieve the loss of her child under her terms and in her own special way.  In the end, I hope my support and seeing me at thirteen years out, that these birth mothers could see that I am still standing and I continue to heal every day, and my quality of life continues to increase.

Life after adoption is not the end of a birth mother’s story.  But rather, a new life emerges, new chapters begin and our stories continue.  It’s a story of love, strength, perseverance and faith.  And hopefully, one day when her child is fully grown into adulthood, it will be a story of thanksgiving.  Thanks be to God.