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  I become withdrawn and sometimes unapproachable.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.

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.

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 Is Not a Universal Alternative to Abortion, No Matter What Anti-Choicers Say

Adoption Is Not a Universal Alternative to Abortion, No Matter What Anti-Choicers Say

“Needless to say, this is different from the narratives frequently trotted out by the anti-choice movement of women placing their children for adoption and feeling, as one website put it, “good and positive about [their] choice.” No matter what the reason was for placing a child for adoption, all of the women I personally encountered did so with a heavy heart. They expressed enormous sadness and guilt, having exhausted every other path. Many had no one they could turn to for help; the social services available to them were so paltry that raising a child seemed impossible.”

Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll

Jaren is a junior in high school now and is starting to become more independent, which makes me somewhat nervous.  This is such a crucial time in his life and soon he will be entering adulthood.  He will be face to face with choices that I will not always be able to assist him with and I trust that I have given him the tools to make those decisions.

I remember once, after bringing Jaren to my job for “Kids Day at Work”, one of my co-workers said to me, “You know what I like about Jaren?  He is a kid.  He acts like a kid.  And I mean that as a compliment.”  My co-worker, who did not have children, went on to explain to me that she felt parents tried to make grown-ups out of kids instead of allowing them to be kids and act like kids.  She was right.  Jaren was a kid, an innocent kid in every sense of the word.  He was a challenging kid at times but nonetheless, still a kid and I liked it that way.  I wanted Jaren to be a kid and enjoy his childhood.  After all, our childhood is so short as compared to our adulthood.  Jaren would have a lifetime of opportunities to be an adult and act like an adult but he would only have one opportunity to act like a kid and feel like a kid.

When I think about all the things that I was allowed to do and experience at such a young age and how different Jaren’s childhood experience has been compared to my childhood experience, it makes me wonder sometimes what my parents were thinking.

At the end of my third grade, we moved from a small rental home in a quaint neighborhood to a newly built home out in the country.   Our closest neighbor was a mile away and the closest convenience store was four miles away.  One would think this would have sheltered us kids from the corrupt neighborhoods.  Surprisingly, I would learn and experience more than most kids my age.

On the weekends, my mother would be busy with our new little brother from her second marriage, my step father would be out drinking with his buddies, and my siblings and I would enjoy normal kid friendly activities, roaming around on our property riding our quarter horse, our mini-bike, and our bicycles.

Shortly thereafter, our new cousins by marriage and some friends formed a rock band.  They drove out almost every weekend to practice in the barn where we lived.  I was nine, my sister was eleven and the oldest cousin was seventeen.   Let me repeat that last sentence.  I was nine years old… and I was the youngest of the whole group, who’s ages ranged all the way up to eighteen years.  At first, everything was innocent but I would soon become witness as to why the 70’s is remembered as “Sex, Drugs and RocknRoll”.

First, I started smoking cigarettes.  My sister started smoking and drinking before me.  She tried to keep me from following in her footsteps but eventually I would make threats to tell our parents, and then bribes would be offered to me.  Once we both were guilty of the crime, neither one of us could rat on each other.   Mind you, all of this is going on just a few hundred feet from our parents’ home.

My mother would tell my sister to keep an eye on me.  My sister really did  try to look out for me.  But she was only two years older than me.  That was a heavy load for her, a young girl herself, to carry.

Soon, my sister and I began hanging out more with this older crowd, riding around in cars and going to Rock concerts with our cousins and the other band members.  I think I went to my first rock concert when I was around twelve years old.  It was a Black Sabbath concert at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, PA.  I can’t remember if I had smoked pot before this time or not but I remember smoking it that night.  It looked like every person in that arena was smoking marijuana.  When you walked into the arena, it was one big puff cloud.  Even if you didn’t actually drag on a joint, you could get high on the second hand fumes.

Everyone that we hung out with was drinking, smoking or doing drugs except for one cousin who was the oldest cousin.  He didn’t smoke cigarettes or do any drugs.  He just drank.  But the legal age was eighteen back then so he was legally able to drink.  The rest of us were not legally of age to drink.  I wasn’t much of a drinker.  Still to this day, I don’t drink alcohol much.  But I smoked a lot of weed.  Funny, because I never had any money to buy weed, everyone else was always offering me theirs.

Our parents rarely ever showed up at the barn.  My parents were the only ones who lived on the property until our grandparents moved out there a few years later.  But since there was loud rock music playing, they stayed as far away as possible so they wouldn’t damage their ears from the loud music they hated.  I, being the youngest, was instructed to listen to the older siblings and cousins.  And apparently, they trusted the older cousins to watch over the younger ones.

Later, the oldest cousin built a small apartment in the barn.  Lots of things changed then.  I had experienced the RocknRoll, I had experienced the drugs and now I was about to learn about sex.  I witnessed the oldest cousin go into the his bedroom with a much younger cousin, while the rest of us were out in the living room.  Sometimes my cousin would tell the other band members to start practicing and he would be out in a minute.  We all knew what was going on.  The band members even chuckled about it.  I never liked it much.  Even in my innocence, I knew something was going on.  When they came out, they acted as if nothing had happened.  They were not “a couple”.  They didn’t act like a loving couple.  They were secretly having sex.  This continued for a few years.

Seeing this must have created some mixed feelings inside me.  I was a kid in elementary school.  Is this the right message for a young girl?  Is this how a couple acts?  Is this what love is?  It also made family gatherings very awkward.  I had to maintain the secret or else.

The ironic part is there were times when my sister tried to leave the house without me.  My mother would tell her she couldn’t go unless she took me.  I don’t know why my mother was adamant.  My sister got angry and would grit her teeth and tell me to come on.  Once we left, she would tell me she didn’t want me there.  She’d warn me, more like bullied and threatened me that I better not tell our parents anything.   I was trapped in a world of chaos and there was no way out.

I saw many things over the next few years.

Then, one day, the summer before I entered high school, my sexual knowledge would change in a big way.  One of the band members who was four years older than me and my cousin by marriage, made a proposition.  He knew I was a virgin.  Not only was I a virgin, I had not hit puberty yet.  I was flat chested, looked several years younger than my actual age, and had not had my first period, which did not arrive until three years later.  I was a girl in every sense of the word.

He asked me if I wanted to learn how to “give head”.  I nodded and told him yes in an unsure way.  I didn’t fully understand the proposition.  I had never had oral sex.  I looked up to my cousins, like most younger cousins and siblings do.

He said he was willing to teach me.  We were standing in my parents’ front yard.  I guess they were out to the bar or the horse races that day.  He pulled his pants down and told me to get on my knees.  I did.  In broad daylight, in the middle of the afternoon, with my knees pressed against the dirt, him standing tall, looking down on me, he began to instruct me how to give a proper blow job.  As time got closer to the climax, I heard him begin to moan and he began to grab the back of my head and thrust it, gagging me at times.  He wanted to ejaculate in my mouth and I had no choice.  He did.

At the end, he chuckled and arrogantly said, “How was that?  Now you know how to give a blow job.”  And that was that.  No love, no compassion.  He could have cared less about me.  My first sexual encounter was cold, unloving, and an uncaring experience.  And of course, I was told to not tell anyone and that it was our “secret”.

Afterwards, I felt something was very wrong about this experience.  I felt used and degraded.  With my troubled relationships with both my bio-father and step-father, this left a bad taste in my mouth for men in general.

When I got to high school, I began to experiment with all sorts of drugs; pot, uppers, downers, crank, cocaine, and acid.  It was probably my way to escape reality and deal with what happened.  I was rarely home on the weekends.  I stayed with friends and we partied the whole weekend long.  My parents didn’t know what I was doing over the weekend except that I was staying with a friend.  My parents rarely questioned me.

Looking back, I couldn’t imagine putting my son in these situations.  My sister and I were expected to make appropriate choices at such a young age with no adult supervision, being strongly influenced by older cousins and siblings who were supposed to look after us and protect us not sexually take advantage of us.

Why would a parent allow vulnerable pre-teens to hang out with older teens and legal adults who were four, five and six years older than them is beyond me.

Life has taught me some hard lessons over the years.  I was put in situations beyond my control.  I was forced to make choices with an innocent, uneducated mind in the prime of my childhood.  These choices changed me in enormous ways and would set me on the path for adulthood.

Quinton School, 4th grade

4th grade, 9 years old

You Might Be a Single Mother…

I had worked for my employer since 1996 and I had accumulated a good retirement as well as a beneficial 401k which allowed me to take a year off from work in 2012. Since having my son, life has been a whirlwind.  Being a single mother, life was non-stop, always going somewhere, and doing something.  I didn’t realize how busy my life was until I took off that one year.  I began to think about what makes a single mother.

Taking into consideration for me and my single mother friends, here are some things that are common to single mothers or single parents.

If you are the only parent who has changed your child’s diaper, you might be a single mother.

If you are the only parent who taught your child how to talk, walk and ride a bike, you might be a single mother.

If you are the only parent who shows up for your child’s parent teacher conference, you might be a single mother.

If you are the only one who takes your child to the doctor, or stays home with them when they are sick, you might be a single mother.

If you’re a one income family and you’re the sole provider and protector for your household, you might be a single mother.

If your kids get new clothes (though maybe not in large quantities), while you haven’t bought anything new for yourself in many years, you might be a single mother.

If you shop at second hand stores, you might be a single mother.

If you use coupons, shop sales and sale racks, and buy marked down meats at the grocery store; you might be a single mother.

If you have ever wondered how you were going to pay the bills, you might be a single mother.

If you get paid and your paycheck is already spent on bills, daycare, groceries, lunch money, gas, and you only have $5.00 to last until your next paycheck or zero money or already have a negative balance in your account after just getting paid, you might be a single mother.

If you have ever called a utility company and asked for a payment plan, or an extension, you might be a single mother.

If your phone or your electric has ever been turned off since becoming a parent, you might be a single mother.

If your child hears the ice cream truck and ask you if she can buy an ice cream and you tell her no because you don’t even have one dollar in your purse to give, you might be a single mother.

If your child wants to rent a Redbox movie and you tell him you can’t afford it this week, you might be a single mother.

If you go to a fast food restaurant and tell your child that she can only order from the dollar menu, you might be a single mother.

If you go out with friends and you tell your child beforehand, do not order anything too expensive.  Then get to the restaurant and your child ask you if he can order a menu item that is pricier than the other menu entrees and you give him a dirty look, you might be a single mother.

If you’re going to a friend’s house for a BBQ and they ask if you can pick up some soda’s or chips or deserts and it’s during one of those times when you have spent all your money on the bills listed above but you don’t want to tell your friends that you’re broke, you might be a single mother.

If your pantry and refrigerator are bare, not because you don’t cook at home but because you don’t have enough money to buy groceries for the upcoming week, you might be a single mother.

If you have a thousand ways to use leftovers, you might be a single mother.

If your child asks you if she can eat something before getting it out, because you have told her that the food (cereal, Ramon noodles, Hot Pockets) all cheap single parent foods, needs to last until next payday, you might be a single mother.

If you drive an older car or have no car at all (use public transportation), you might be a single mother.

If you’re coworkers ask you to go out after work for happy hour and you decline because you don’t have a babysitter, nor can afford a babysitter, and you don’t have enough money to buy even one drink for happy hour, you might be a single mother.

If your child gets invited to a birthday party and you don’t have enough money to buy a birthday present, you might be a single mother.

If you have ever made a homemade Halloween costume for your child and tried to get them excited about the creative process because you couldn’t afford to buy a store bought costume, you might be a single mother.

If you’re long overdue for a haircut, not because you don’t want one, but because your child’s needs come before yours, you might be a single mother.

If you feel like you are rushing all the time; get up, get kids ready, make breakfast, drop kids off at school, drive to work, get off work, pick kids up, get home, cook dinner (some of us still do this), clean dishes, take kids to sports or other activities, help with homework, get them ready for bed, and do that for 52 weeks of the year, you might be a single mother.

If you have ever felt stressed and overwhelmed and wondered about your role as a parent, praying to God to help provide for you and your family, you might be a single mother.

If your weekends feel as stressed as your work week; catching up on cleaning, laundry, bills and paper work, and spending time with your kids, you might be a single mother.

If taking a weekend nap or getting pampered with a manicure, pedicure, or a massage is worth more than a million dollars, you might be a single mother.

When your kids go everywhere you go and there’s no such thing as, “Honey, watch the kids while I run to the store real quick,” then you most likely are a single mother.

And if your ex (husband or child’s father) has never gotten up in the middle of the night to feed, change or comfort his crying baby, nor dropped off or picked up his kid at school, nor showed up at his child’s school functions, stage performance or sports game, nor cooked his child a meal, nor helped his child with homework, nor carried his child on his insurance, nor stayed home with his sick child, nor has provided any physical or emotional support to his child or you, no Daddy weekends, monthly or bi-annual visits, and no financial child support, then you are not a single mother, you are a single parent and you ROCK!

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.