My Choice

If there is one thing that concerns me more than my own personal feelings from my involvement with adoption, it is how my son, Noah (an adoptee) may feel from his experience.  If I hurt as a result of my choice, then that is my punishment.  But if my child hurts from my choice, then that is my fought and often times, that is the root of a birth parent’s anguish.  It’s called guilt.

I fully understand that no matter how abandoned I felt from my children’s father, or how isolated I felt from my family, and how much pain I experienced as a result of my choice, it still doesn’t compare to the feelings that adoptees may experience at some point in their life, especially since they were not involved in the decision making.  The choice was made for them.

Another thing about adoption that troubles me is when I hear the term “gave up”.  I’ve read comments from followers on Facebook, blogs and community groups say things like, “She gave up her baby,” or “My mother gave me up,” or “I’m thinking about giving up my baby.”  Yes, believe it or not, unintended pregnant women still say this.  It’s an old term that some human being coined the phrase “gave up” as an appropriate term within the adoption industry many years ago.  I wish I had a copy of the legal documents from the 50’s – 60’s so I could see if that term actually exists in the legal papers.  I assume that what they meant is that the biological parent “gave up” their parental rights now more commonly known as relinquished their parental rights to their child.

Actually, per my legal documents, the birth parent(s) signs a “Placement Agreement of a Child” prior to the delivery and then after delivery, signs an “Affidavit of Relinquishment of Parental Rights to Licensed Child-Placing Agency.”

It does sound heartless for a parent to be able to choose to agree to give up or relinquish their parental rights to their child.  And often times it gets misconstrued as the parent “gave up their child” as if the parent did not want their baby boy or baby girl.  How else can a parent just sign away and terminate their rights?

You see most often, it is not about the child.  It’s about the parent feeling they are inadequate.  Often times, they have been told verbally or subliminally that they are not capable to parent this child.  As for me, I was parenting my first born son, Jaren.  I understood all too well the time, expense, energy and emotional toll it takes to parent a child.  Moreover, I had no relatives nearby and the biological father and his entire family who did live nearby showed no interest in helping me in any way support Jaren, so I expected more of the same response when our second child was conceived.

I remember watching the local news and seeing a story about some mother who killed her offspring’s as if a trigger went off inside her.  Unlike most people who were hateful and judgmental, I wondered how a woman, who had loved her children so much, could turn around and brutally kill her offspring.  What could have set this mother off?  What pushed her to her breaking point and made her mind snap out of control.  And that’s when I considered my options.  As much as I didn’t like the adoption option, I surely did not want to push myself past my limit and risk losing emotional control and possibly harming my kids.  No, I may have actually killed my children but I may have abused them.  And that is not a risk that I was willing to take.

Adoption is never easy for anyone.  I like being a single mother a whole lot more than being a birth mother.   That doesn’t mean I dislike being a birth mother to Noah.  It means that society is more socially accepting of single mothers than they are of birth mothers.  And I’ve shared with many women within the birthparent community and at my birth mothers support group who are filled with grief and sometimes guilt that it is an unnatural experience for a woman to let go of her infant.  For many of us, it goes against every grain in our body.  I imagine it is difficult to lose your child at an older stage as well, whether the parent was neglectful or not.

But what I can tell you for myself, I didn’t choose adoption because I didn’t want to be a parent to my second born child.  I chose adoption because given my circumstance at that present time, I wasn’t confident I could parent both of my children adequately as a single mother, the way they deserved to be parented.

Who knows if Noah’s life is better or worse than if I would have chosen to raise him with Jaren?  Personally, I don’t like to think in terms of better or worse.  I like to think Jaren and Noah both have had a good life but only they can say for sure.  I am certain once they have grown and matured into men, they will look back on their life and analyze it.  And I can only hope that when they do, they will look back fondly on the memories we have shared together as a family.

Most of all, I hope both of my sons understand and know that they are always loved and were always wanted.

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Courage

As parents, we have so many decisions, choices and responsibilities that not only affect our own life but every person we are raising.  Whether we play full-time parent or part-time parent, we become the Corporate CEO of our family; see what has worked in the past and what can be improved upon, what new methods have been invented, throw out the old procedures, introduce some new technology blended with proven techniques and you have the makings of a well-intended, optimistic parent pursuing a positive and colorful future for their family.

I’ve shared some difficult experiences that I had while growing up, on this blog.  And while those experiences impacted me greatly, my parents also provided a good family structure, like chores and a bedtime curfew, having dinner at the kitchen table almost every weeknight, and sitting around the living room watching All in the Family or Good Times.

Manners were important to my parents (mom and step father).  They implanted a strong sense of responsibility in their kids to show respect for oneself and for others.  They had rules and lessons that helped instill good values in me from which I have added many of the same lessons to my own parenting practices.  However, there was one rule that I felt didn’t produced positive results and I needed re-evaluate it; fighting.

Fighting was not tolerated by our dad.  To him, it didn’t matter whether we started the fight or not.  No fighting.  Period!

This was not a difficult rule for me because I feared fist fighting greatly.  I did not once during my twelve years of high school, tell someone who was bullying or criticizing me how I felt, no matter how mad or hurt I was.  I felt insecure and lacked courage.  I would allow my family, friends, love interest and acquaintances mistreat me.   My self-doubting personality led me to feel victimized, as if I had no control over my circumstance or outcome.  Maybe I didn’t feel worthy enough to defend my position or maybe I felt those who were supposed to protect me failed to do so which left me feeling somewhat undeserving.

My son, on the other hand, was born with an assertive personality and wasn’t shy about expressing his thoughts.  He had strong convictions and had enough bravery to back them up.  I wanted to be sure I cultivated these qualities in Jaren that were lacking in me.

Naturally, parents want to protect their children.  But we can’t provide protection 24/7 from the outside world.  We have no control over what others may say to our kids, or what happens when we are not there.  I felt like Jaren may be faced with different obstacles than I had growing up.  For one, I was somewhat concerned that he may come face to face with racial issues.  I wanted to make sure that I appropriately prepared him and assured him that he has every right to stand up for what he believes to be right and ethical.  I explained to Jaren that there will always be someone who won’t like you for “some” reason.  You’re too tall, too short; too thin, too round; too dark, too light; too smart, too slow; too rich, or too poor.  I told him to not get hung up on that “one thing” someone might say or criticize you about.  If they didn’t like you for that one thing, then they would find something else about you they didn’t like.

Jaren got in his first scuffle during pre-school on the playground one day.  One of the boys was pestering one of the girls in their class.  The girl told the boy to stop repeatedly but he kept doing whatever he was doing.  Jaren went over to see what was going on and then asked the boy to leave the girl alone.  The boy pushed Jaren.  Jaren in turn pushed him on the floor and then began to punch him.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  -John 15:13

I was happy that Jaren protected his classmate and happier when Jaren’s teacher said that he didn’t get in trouble because Jaren didn’t start the fight.  But at the same time, I knew I needed to have a talk with him.  We needed to lay down some ground rules.

I told him how proud I was that he wanted to protect the little girl.  I told him that he should always try to use his words first.  I said, “If someone says something to you that you don’t like, you have every right to tell that person how you feel and you may ask them to stop.  If they don’t stop, tell them that you will go to the teacher.  Always try to handle it yourself first.  If you can walk away from a fight, then do that.”  Lastly, I enforced, “I better never EVER hear of you starting a fight but if someone hits you first, you have EVERY right to defend yourself.”

Jaren came to the defense of a classmate once again, when he was in middle school.  A boy (that Jaren didn’t know) was being teased by several other schoolboys for being overweight.  Jaren walked by and overheard them.  The boy was nearly in tears.  Jaren knew some of the schoolboys and asked them to stop.  They walked away and as a result, no fight occurred.

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”  -Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

But the first time I witnessed Jaren stand up for his self is one that will forever be ingrained in my heart.  Jaren was only three years old.  I was still in the mourning stages from relinquishing my parental rights to my second son, Noah, who was placed for adoption.  My emotions were weak and my tolerance level was rather low towards my young energetic baby boy and at times I would spout off at him for every little annoyance.

Standing in my bedroom, I chastised Jaren for several minor things.  My son looked up at me with his heart full of sadness and said, “Mommy, you’re not being very nice to me.”  My heart dropped.  I felt awful.  My child was speaking the truth.  I sat on my bed as tears quickly filled my eyes and called my son over to me.  I hugged him and apologized.  I wanted to assure him that his thoughts, feelings and opinions mattered.

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” -Winston Churchill Image

The Magic Show

Jaren has always been a unique and entertaining child.  There was never a dull moment in our household.

As a youngster, he had an inquisitive and peculiar mind which spawned him to say things that many times left me literally questioning his thought process.   When I brought an avocado home, he wanted to save the large round seed in the middle so he could plant it and grow avocados.  When we went to a craw-fish broil, he asked the host if he could take one home for a pet, which we did.  We named her Lulu.  Jaren also enjoyed singing, being on stage, and never minded being the center of attention.  He had a spiritual knowledge and insight far beyond his young years.  But all that creative energy sometimes left him restless and he went looking everywhere to exercise his mental interest.  On top of that, Jaren had asthma and allergies.  The medications he took to manage these conditions also contributed to his hyperactivity.

Kindergarten was a challenge for Jaren.  He suffered from some behavior issues that were mostly related to him not being able to sit still, focus, and follow directions.  And he was a talker.  At the beginning of the school year the students had a weekly chart that was marked daily with colored mood faces expressing each child’s behavior, that ranged from green(good), yellow(fair), orange(warning) and red(bad).  The charts were sent home daily so parents could acknowledge and initial the behavior noted for that day.   After the first couple weeks, Jaren rarely brought home a happy green face.  His charts mostly consisted of yellow and orange (with green and red being more rare).  It was somewhat discouraging.  Then I got the dreaded notice.  I needed to go to the school for a special parent/teacher conference.

Honestly, I was on defense at first.  I wondered if they were singling out my child for some social, political reason or if there was a real concern for my young son.

I drove to the school to meet with Jaren’s teacher, the counselor, and the vice principal.  I felt outnumbered.  I walked in sheepishly, trying to preserve my self-confidence and was ready to fight on behalf of my child.  Jaren’s teacher had all the examples that she recorded on paper of Jaren’s bad behavior moments.  The vice principal asked how Jaren was doing academically?  His teacher said he was a good student when he was capable of getting his work done.  Then, we were re-directed back to the issue of his class behavior.  They suggested I take Jaren to one of the local offices to have him tested for ADD/ADHD but maintained that it was my choice and that Jaren was still young and could very easily grow out of his challenging behavior.

Although I know ADD/ADHD is a real medical issue, I felt like the school was looking for an easy way out to help make their job easier.  Jaren was so young.  I thought it was too early to assess or label him as having ADD/ADHD.

I was hurt and mad and tried very hard to hold back my emotions.  As I was leaving, I walked with Jaren’s teacher down the hall.  I couldn’t hold back my tears any longer and told her that I was sorry.  I further explained that I had tried everything at home; talking to Jaren, punishment, taking privileges away, but nothing seemed to be making a noticeable or permanent impact.  I said, “I feel like a terrible mom.”

As single parents and working mothers, it feels like we do so much and no matter how much we do, we still can’t do enough, and our best isn’t good enough.  We have stretched ourselves to the max with little or no reserves for unexpected disruptions.  We are trying to uphold a family balance and sometimes the slightest breeze can throw us off course.

My child’s teacher’s response surprised me.  “You shouldn’t feel that way.” she said. “You are a good mom.  You’re here trying to help your son.  Think about all the parents who don’t show up.”  She put her arm around my shoulder and assured me that she and the school would work together to help Jaren.  I immediately felt comforted.

The counselor and Jaren’s teacher formed a new plan for my son.  From that day on, instead of Jaren getting daily charts and weekly rewards, they began giving him progress updates throughout the day.  He could look at his chart that was taped to his desk and see his behavior progress.  It gave him a goal to work towards.

One day, Jaren asked his teacher if he could perform a magic show for his class.  Jaren’s teacher thought it was a great motivational opportunity and told him that he needed to get a certain amount of good behavior reports.  If he did, he could perform his magic show for his classmates.

Jaren worked hard on his class behavior at school and practiced his magic skills regularly for me at home and all that hard work paid off.

To prepare my son for his magic show debut I bought him a cape and a top hat.  As I beheld Jaren standing in front of his animated audience, I watched a problematic kid be transformed into a charismatic star pupil that day.  He was focused and poised.  His classmates were truly entertained by his magic.Image

Thank goodness for teachers like this, the ones who allow all their students to shine in unique ways.

Magic Show

Thrift Store

You know times have changed when a song about shopping at a thrift store (Thrift Shop, by Macklemore) wins Billboard’s rap song of the year 2013.

I am a big fan of thrift stores.  I don’t get embarrassed to shop there.  And after becoming a single parent, I have shopped there whether I could financially afford to shop elsewhere or not.  My first memory of a thrift store was when I was a kid.  My mother, a single mom of three at that time, didn’t have a lot of extra money.  I remember one winter, us kids wanted to go ice skating.  Mom took us to the Goodwill Store to shop for ice skates.  They had a black pair that fit my brother but had only one other pair that my sister and I could fit into.  Mom said that my sister and I would have to take turns.  No problem.  We were just happy to be able to go ice skating.

My mother continued to shop at thrift stores all my years in school and still shops at them to this day, although she surely does not need to shop there.  She loves a good bargain.  I’ll admit there were times when I was in high school I was a little embarrassed for someone to see my mother shopping at the Salvation Army.  After all, my mother had remarried and although my parents weren’t rich, they weren’t poor enough to necessitate shopping for second-hand merchandise.  What would people think?  Teenagers are so self-centered.  Well, some of us.

Earlier this year, my son wanted to go to the Lady Gaga concert.  I had treated him to the Nicki Minaj concert six months prior and informed him that I wasn’t able to afford another set of concert tickets.  One concert ticket purchase per year was more than fair.  His response, “Then I will try to win them.”  He just knew he was going to win those tickets somehow.  I love his optimism!

The weekend before the concert, I went online to search the local radio stations so I could verify if and when they were having Lady Gaga concert ticket promotions or contest giveaways.  Most of the radio stations were doing the usual “10th caller” contest.  My son listened all weekend, calling every time the DJ announced, “Tenth caller wins Lady Gaga concert tickets,” with no luck.

One station did their contest a little different.  They were having a drag queen contest.  The contestants entered online and described to the radio station how they would dress up in their best drag queen costume.  I submitted my idea:  mobster pin-striped suit, a gangster hat and high heel shoes.

One day before the concert I got a call from the radio station.

I answered, “Hello.”

“Hi, this is Nick from i93.”

He told me they liked my idea and invited me to come down dressed in my drag queen outfit for a chance to win the Lady Gaga concert tickets.  I was overjoyed.  However, there was just one small problem; I didn’t have a pinned stripped suit hanging in my closet.  I also didn’t have the money to go out and buy a new one.  I mean heck, if I could’ve bought a pinned stripped suit, then I could’ve bought the concert tickets in the first place.

Luckily we have a local thrift store that I have visited many times over the past few years.  I prayed to God that they would have the item I needed on one of their racks.  It seemed like it was a lot to ask.  I mean, really.  I needed a suit, a pin-striped suit, a suit that would fit my size, and be priced reasonably.  But I was faithful.

I walked into the store and went right to the men’s section.  I figured I would have a better chance of finding the suit I needed in the men’s section than in the women’s section. Since this was more for a theatrical costume rather than for an evening out on the town, I didn’t need it to fit exact or perfect. A little big and roomy was fine.  Actually that was the style I was going for anyway.

Thanks be to God, I found the perfect pin-striped suit for $5.00. But wait, then I get up to the register and they inform me that the suit is on sale and was marked down. What? You are kidding me! How wonderful is that?

Not only did Nick from i93 hand me two Lady Gaga concert tickets for the first level, the DJ’s even interviewed me on live air for my unique drag queen costume.   All the while, my son had a look of amazement and an endless smile on his face.

As parents, we don’t get opportunities like this often.  At that moment, I felt like a great mom.  I’m reminded of that old credit card commercial:

Pinned striped suit, $3.00

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Gansta Hat, $12.00

Lada Gaga concert tickets, Free

 

Look on my son’s face, Priceless!

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UNWANTED

A pregnant woman

A pregnant woman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I find the whole Pro-Choice, Pro-Life debate frustrating at times. I don’t believe there are any other political issues in this day and age that draw greater polarities of opinions than this political topic. But this post is not about the debate, nor is it about the adults who are arguing over the debate but rather the children. They are the ones in the cross fire.

As much as the debate frustrates me, there is one thing that bothers me even more and that is when I hear the term “unwanted.” This term seems to get easily thrown around by both sides of those debating Pro-Life and Pro-Choice with no apparent consideration of whom it may offend or hurt. I’m curious about these people who sometimes crudely debate this issue; who make their harsh judgments and careless comments about the “unwanted” kids? Who are they? Have they themselves ever felt unwanted? Were they born out of wedlock? Were they adopted? Were they raised by a single parent? Did they grow up poor or homeless? Were they abused or abandoned by one or both of their parents; or bounced around from family to family or foster home to foster home? I would like to hear from the voices of these children.

There are several birth mother groups popping up on the internet and Facebook, some of which are wounded, angry birth mothers who would like to abolish “newborn” adoptions as much as Pro-Lifer’s want to abolish abortions. They believe there are those who try to take advantage of the misfortune of an unplanned teen pregnancy and feel women are being used to supply the needs for the childless parents. At times, I do understand how they feel. As a woman, to have a society judge you for getting pregnant in the first place, then tell you that you are a baby killer if you choose to abort, to telling you it is unfair to raise a child as a single parent, to coaxing you into relinquishing your child; only to have society then tell the birth child he/she was “unwanted” by his or her first/birth parents.

People say it’s different now. For some, it is. But after reading the birth mother blogs, they say that the changes are not genuine but rather a marketing (open adoption) ploy by adoption agencies to get more birth parents to relinquish their parental rights, which turns into more dollars for them. Adoption agencies are playing match maker, representing both sides (birth family versus adoptive family) and will coach or persuade as they feel appropriate, sometimes beguiling one party to benefit another. I will say that my own experience with my birth son’s adoptive parents has been nothing more than positive, open, respectful, and loving for which I am very grateful. I do believe that we are the exception though and not the norm. I’ll let you make your own judgments on this.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 10 million single mothers raising children and 24 million children live in a biological father-absent home. These statistics are alarming and show us that too many women are facing their unplanned pregnancy independently. Men are abandoning women every day during the unexpected prenatal period and somehow we as a society accept this behavior. We allow men to go out and sew their wild oats and then walk away from their responsibility. Society tells women, “Well, you should have known better.” “A man is going to be a man.” Or my personal favorite, “Men can’t help themselves.” Really? Are we talking about children or are we discussing grown mature men. Do we need to remind men that sex was not created for just an orgasm; sex was created to produce life. When girls and boys become men and women, there is no “one” gender to blame for an unplanned pregnancy.

I have heard some men say, “She said she was on birth control.” We all know that birth control is not 100% effective. Even so, it’s not okay to leave the responsibility on one partner. If you do, don’t blame someone else for any consequences. Think of it this way. Your friend handed you gun. You decided to play make-believe Russian roulette. Your friend assures you that they removed all the bullets so you don’t have any worries. Do you aim and shoot? Do you consider the adverse consequence? Do you trust your friend well enough to risk your life?

In my memoir, One Woman’s Choice, I share that my own existence was based on an unplanned “accidental” pregnancy in 1963. My biological father went to prison when I was four years old and was absent for most of my adolescent years, causing my mother to shoulder the responsibility for my every need. I’ve had my fair share of teenage boys and adult men use me for their sexual hunger with no consideration for the unforeseen consequences of their sexual desires or deviances. Even my son’s father refused to take responsibility when he learned of our unplanned child, except to offer to pay for the abortion. And I’ve listened to countless women tell a similar story that resulted in abortion, adoption or single parenting because their male partner couldn’t handle the consequences of sex and walked away. Yes, you might say I am somewhat frustrated by how men can think about sex all the time without thinking about the consequences. Yet still, we continue to blame women for unplanned pregnancies. To borrow a line from the film, Philadelphia, “Can someone please explain this to me like I’m a five year old?”

I don’t know if society has brainwashed men for thousands of years or men have brainwashed women. Maybe a little bit of both. But brainwashing doesn’t make it true. Does society really believe that men are incapable of controlling their own sexual needs or that their desires are stronger than a woman’s desires? I don’t. I think this is an excuse. But that’s not the issue. It’s what happens after those desires are fed that result in an offspring that causes the debate which women and children seem to get caught in the combat zone while men sit on the sidelines observing from afar.

Now I already know that some of the men reading this may be thinking I’m bashing all men. I’m not. I personally know a few good men who didn’t abandon their partner when an unexpected pregnancy occurred and I highly respect them. But you have to admit, even when this happens, we’ve heard some people blame women again and say, “She tricked him.” Just for the record, I’m not saying that all women are saints. But statically, more women are carrying the load and responsibility of an unplanned pregnancy from the time of conception. Society watches her every move, her every decision and is ready to fire back with quick accusations, assumptions and sometimes unfair judgments.

With the exception of forced sexual contact, I don’t think that an abortion or an adoption should take place without the consent of both biological parents. I hope one day it will be illegal for any parent to walk away from his or her responsibility once a child is born unless their parental rights are legally relinquished. I truly believe that if more men supported their partner during an unplanned pregnancy, we would see fewer abortions and adoptions because many, many women chose these options when all other hope is gone, as a last resort. If we don’t begin to educate our youth and re-educate our society, we will continue to fall into the same repetitive cycle over and over again.

But I’m getting side tracked. Back to the “unwanted.”

I can tell you from personal experience that although I have chosen abortion and adoption, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t want my children. Have you ever “wanted” a new car but couldn’t afford it? Some of us know to leave the dealership before we get cornered by some smooth talking salesman who begins to talk us into agreeing to something we know we shouldn’t be doing. Some salesmen can be very persuasive when it comes to getting what they want. Sound familiar? Somehow the salesman gets into our psyche and convinces us into buying a new car. We skip a few payments (you could replace this with “periods”) because of our financial hardship and now the salesman is no longer sweet or charming but rather standoffish and unapproachable. For some of us, our car gets repossessed. It still doesn’t mean we didn’t want the vehicle, it just means we couldn’t afford the vehicle. Some may ask their family or friends for help while others may ask someone to take over payments to avoid repossession.

My point is the vehicle was not unwanted. Just like children are not unwanted. I would say most parents “want” their children whether or not; emotional, physical, or financial hardships prevent them from carrying out their obligation and responsibility. Broadcasting that a youngster is “unwanted” puts the emphasis on the innocent child which is unfair.

No child (or human being) is ever “unwanted” because we always have God, whose love is boundless, endless, and timeless.

Single Mom

I was thirty four years of age and not married when I discovered I was expecting a baby. I was also heartbroken when my partner informed me that he did not want to be a dad. This is when I made the choice to become a single mom. But for some reason, I wasn’t stressed out about the notion. Little did I know at the time all that was required to be a single mother or in my case a single parent to my son.

After the first six weeks, I returned to work.  Life became a whirlwind. I got very good at multi-tasking. And mothers of my generation had a lot more set of rules than our mothers from decades before. We safety proofed our house from unforeseen accidents, we buckled up our child in their car seat, we didn’t leave our kids unattended in a car to run into the store to pay the cashier for our gas and in most cases we couldn’t let our children play outside alone or walk or ride bikes in the neighborhood without adult supervision. We had more rules to remember, more guidelines, and many times more consequences to consider.

Father’s Day was the toughest day for me. Jaren’s daycare had a breakfast with Dad every year and I would sometimes go into depression mode, feeling guilty and thinking that my son was missing out on something. A few years later, once I became known as a single working mother, my peers and friends began to wish me Happy Father’s Day. I thought, “Yeah, I do two jobs, so why not get two holidays.”

My child was strong willed, outspoken, and hot tempered at times. Trying to get Jaren dressed in the morning was challenging. Jaren wanted to do things his way and had no sense of time yet. Occasionally he would struggle to get his pants on, kicking his legs back and forth, trying to get his leg into the right pant leg. Seeing his frustration, I would try to help him. “No, I do it!” he would yell out to me. And he would repeat this over and over. On these days, I really had to learn “patience is a virtue.”

But even though being a single parent is double the duty and I’m not going to sugar coat it, a lot of work, the return benefit is so worth it. A child is pure love. It’s those unexpected moments that happen and touch your life forever, like the unexpected hug or kiss, the smile that says, “You’re my hero,” or the fresh daisy picked just for you.

One Christmas morning, when Jaren was two years old, I had one of those unexpected moments. All but one of the presents under the tree was for Jaren. I hadn’t even thought about putting some presents under the tree for me to show Santa didn’t forget mommy. After opening only a few of his gifts, Jaren didn’t seem to understand why all the gifts were for him. Did Santa Claus forget about Mommy? My son walked over to the tree, found the one gift for me, picked it up and said, “Momma, here. This one’s for you.”

At two years old, my precious baby boy sat there and watched me as I unwrapped my present and then marveled at the gift I received.

Momma and Jaren 12.1998

It’s moments like this when you say to yourself, “I hope he learned this from me.”

My son is now a freshman in high school and I’m very proud of the man he is becoming. I know that parents are here to teach our children and help them become loving, responsible human beings. But I can tell you from personal experience, my son has taught ME so much more about love and life and what truly is important than what I had learned on my own.

I’ve also learned that as long as my son has a loving parent it doesn’t matter if he is being raised by one parent or two.

Abortion

Do I dare even attempt to discuss abortion in a radical sense? Or for that matter can any of us discuss abortion in a sensible debate? Those who openly discuss abortion are those who either have never had an unplanned pregnancy while others proudly display their ethical crown and openly express their hate towards those who chose to abort and maybe the ones who regretted their choice to abort then later lash out in a hypocritical protest. And then there are the ones who are afraid to speak out, some of which had an abortion and now fear the backlash and judgment that will be thrown at them hastily so they quiet their voice for fear of ridicule.

As many of you know who have read my book, I have had abortions. I am not proud of this fact. When I had my very first abortion back in the early 1980’s, I truly believed that my only two choices were to either single parent or have an abortion. Adoption never even came up. The thought never entered my mind and I don’t remember anyone bringing up the adoption option. However, to speak frankly, I can’t say that if someone would have offered this option, I would have chosen it. I had no idea what it was like to be pregnant or for that matter to be a mother. My maternal instincts were very immature.

In my book, One Woman’s Choice, I acknowledge that my own existence was based on an unplanned pregnancy in 1962. My parents didn’t have the option to abort me. Well, legally abort me. They basically had two choices. Keep me or leave me. They chose to keep me. But this choice didn’t come without sacrifice. And too often, I became the sacrificial lamb.

I remember when I was around four years old, my older brother and sister would get picked up by their father or by their paternal grandparents for the weekend; I was left behind with our mother. My father had recently moved to Florida and my paternal family had no plans of picking me up for the weekend. I was sad to see my siblings leave home without me and even sadder that my own father wasn’t coming to pick me up. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes it was great hanging out with mommy. No sharing attention with my older siblings; just me and mommy by ourselves was fun. However, other times, it was quite a different story, like when my mother was forced to take me on her dates. My mother made it very clear that the only reason I was going out with her and her date was because she had no one to watch me, no place to drop me off. Basically, she was stuck with me. I remember how this made me feel. I had strict orders to keep quiet and make no sound. It was very apparent that I was not going out with my mother and her date because they wanted me to join them; I was going as a last resort choice.

As a mother myself and a single mother at that, I couldn’t imagine making my son feel like he was a burden or an unwanted guest. And sadly, this is exactly how I felt; unwanted, uninvited, and unaccepted. My father didn’t want me, my mother didn’t want me at that moment and her date surely didn’t want me ruining his plans. Wow, now that’s a heavy load.

From the moment I arrived, my delivery into this world was based on lies and deceit. My mother was still legally married to her first husband when she gave birth to me and with the approval of her separated husband, led the hospital to believe I was his child so his insurance would pay for my delivery. And if that’s not enough, I overheard my mother on a rare occasion give the impression to an old friend that I was from her first marriage. Guess that’s because she was afraid that if they knew the truth, they would judge her. Does that mean I am a shame to the family?

At four and five years old, we can’t really decipher the entire scenario and make reasonable or for that matter practical judgments. At four and five years old, our heart and mind is developing and we are learning about the world around us. We learn from our parents how to love and honor each other; what is acceptable behavior and was is not acceptable. It was during these times, I was very confused about my place in this family, my existence to my environment and my worth as a human being.

I’ve confessed to my son about my abortions and he is aware that he and his younger brother were both unplanned pregnancies. He also knows what influenced some of my decisions. I told him that I myself was unplanned and at times, because my childhood pain was so deep, back then I “sometimes” wished that I was aborted. I know that this may sound horrifying to many of you. But in my mind, I felt like I could have still been in a spirit form hanging out with God my father rather than in this human form with pain and suffering. Of my mother’s five children, I am the only one who was born out of wedlock or illegitimate. I mean who wants to feel like you were given birth because there was no other option, no other choice. Who wants to feel like a burden or that your life has brought shame to your family?

With tears rolling down my face, I said to my son, “I believe that if abortion was legal when I was conceived, I would have been aborted.” You may ask why I feel this way. Well, besides what I described above, my mother suggested for me to abort my first pregnancy, she suggested to abort my second born son who was later placed for adoption. And lastly, upon finding out my first born son was bi-racial, (and too late to suggest abortion) she wanted me to place him for adoption. Why would I think anything else?

I reassured my son and admitted, “When I got pregnant with you, I had a choice. I chose abortion before you were born and after you born and could have chosen to abort both you and your brother. I gave birth to you both because I wanted you both. That’s one thing you can be sure of. ”

I will tell you of the three choices I have made; choosing adoption was my hardest choice both before and after the adoption took place. This choice brought about such pain that I would not wish this on my worst enemy. You can ask other birth mothers and just about all of them will tell you the same. Single parenting was by far my easiest choice. Although it is a lifelong commitment and can be very stressful at times, as a parent, we get so much in return. The love of a child is like no other love I had known before and something that I had longed to feel. As for the abortions, who knows how life would have turned out if I chose to give birth to the children I aborted? Would I have felt like they were a burden to me and mistreated them solely because they came at an inconvenient time, or because I was not married nor did their father want to marry me or parent or for that matter co-parent the unplanned child?

I am a single mother and more often a single parent, and a birth mother and I accept that I am not a perfect mother or for that matter a perfect human being. I know we all have our shortcomings. And I have confessed to my sons and apologized for any wrong decisions or poor choices that I may have made.  But I want them to know that I had a choice and my choice was to give them life. Not because I had no other choices, not because I felt pressured or needed to satisfy their father (who didn’t want any more kids) or a society or my family or my friends or my religion or whoever else wanted me to choose something other than what I felt I needed to choose.

My sons were chosen and they are loved.

Parent/Child Sex Education

English: sex education

English: sex education (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I, like most parents wondered how to talk to my son about sex. Do I begin when he is young? Do I wait until he is a teenager? Do I bring up the subject or do I wait for him to ask me? Truth be known, all this sex talk makes some of us parents squirm? It can all be very confusing, and intimidating. But after reading a few books, I learned that who better to teach my son about a loving relationship than his own mother.

Since my parents never had the talk with me, I decided I would do things differently. I didn’t have any blueprints as to how I was going to introduce sex education to my son. However, I did know that I didn’t want my son to ever feel awkward about anything, most importantly, coming to me for answers. I am the one who has been teaching him since the moment I gave birth to him. Why would I stop now?

As a single parent mother, I don’t think I ever planned to have the full version of the birds and the bees talk. That’s the one talk I was saving for his father. I gave my son the basics. I was laying down his foundation from which his father could build upon. I believed as a man, his father could provide details about his body that I could never fully understand. After all, I was born female. I understood females.

It all started when my son was five years old. We were sitting at the dinner table and my son informed me that he knew how he was born. He said it in a kind of matter of fact way as if “I” had been withholding information from him. One of his classmates told him how she came out of her mommy’s belly. “I was cut out of your belly, Momma.”

I pondered for a moment.

I had heard on one of those day-time talk shows that parent’s should not call their child’s private parts by a nick-name or code name. Previously, I referred to private parts as wee-wee and pee-pee. But after watching the talk show, I made the conscious choice to use proper reference names when referring to a male’s or female’s private area. I also explained to my son that women have breast and men have chest. I know this is not medically correct but I needed to let my son know that God made him different than He made me.

“No honey, some babies are cut out of their mommy’s belly. It’s called a cesarean. But you weren’t. You came out of my vagina.”

My son gave me this look and then said, “EEWW!”

The next round of questions from Jaren began with, “How did I get in your belly?”

This is a tricky question. How much should I really divulge to a five year old? So my explanation went something like this, “Daddy’s have the seed. Daddy’s put the seed into the Mommy. The seed grows into a baby until it’s ready to come out into the world.”

“How does the Daddy put the seed into the Mommy?”

“Hmm.” That’s another good question for which I have no good answer at this time. “Well I can’t explain that to you right now but when you are older, I’ll explain more.”

“Okay, Momma.”

I provided short honest answers, and he was okay with these limited explanations.

Fast forward a few years…. my son opens the front door and walks in with a condom in his hand that he found in the parking lot of our apartment building, “Momma, look what I found.”

Thank goodness it was unused.

Once again, he thinks he has discovered some top secret information and announces, “I know what this is used for.”

“Oh really?” I replied, “Please tell me.”

“It’s for sex and the woman uses it.”

“Actually the man uses it and it is for protection.” I remain quiet and wait for a response. Jaren draws a blank stare for a moment and then looks up as if the light bulb just turned on, “Oh!” He giggles.

From that point on, as questions popped up in my son’s mind, they popped out of his mouth too. Jaren felt comfortable asking me about anything and I felt more confident explaining what I felt was an appropriate answer. No, he didn’t know all the minor details but I began feeding him information on an as needed basis. When he came home from school and discovered some new particulars about sex from one of his classmates, I requested for him to repeat the new information he learned so that I may either validate or educate.

My son recently told me how several of the students became embarrassed in school during a lesson/discussion in his Sex Ed class.  One student even walked out.  Love and sex are both a very natural part of life and the human experience. All living species on our planet participates in sexual relations or procreation in some way. By parents discussing this topic with our children, it makes it less taboo. Do we want them getting misguided information about sex from their friends, classmates, other adults or teachers who may not share the same values as we have? Do we want them experimenting with their immature bodies and uneducated minds?

Not all of our children will participate in illegal behavior and yet we teach them right from wrong so that they will make the proper choices. We teach them about stranger danger and about inappropriate touching. Teaching our children about sex, in my opinion, is no different.

My son is now a freshman in high school and he still comes to me with questions or topics about sex.  Now I will tell you that some things are off limits and I tell my son, TMI (too much information); so we each have our boundaries. But I know that one day, my son will engage in a loving relationship that will most likely include sex. Personally, I hope he waits until he is an adult and moves out of my house; maybe until he is married. I’m just saying. Ultimately it will be his choice. I’ve explained that sex comes with great responsibility and sometimes consequences (i.e. pregnancy, STD’s), and that “No”, means NO! As parents, we can take this time to bond and connect with our child so they know that they can talk to us about anything. After that, it’s up to them to make the right choice at the right time, cautiously, and respectfully.

Share your thoughts and comments.

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.