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.

Dear Unexpected Pregnant Woman

First, let me say how sorry I am that you are going through this experience.  I truly do understand.  Having an unplanned/unexpected pregnancy can sometimes be distressing with uncertainty; and possibly even more so in your tender teenage years.

I have made three different choices.  I have chosen to abort, I have chosen to single parent, and I have chosen to relinquish my parental rights.  Speaking from my own personal experience, all of these choices come with some sort of consequence.  As for your choices, I don’t want to persuade you one way or the other but I will share some of what I have learned and give you some things to consider.

If you are considering having an abortion, I do support a woman’s choice to abort for whatever her reasons are.  Women react differently to abortions, while going through the procedure and in the days and months following the procedure so I am not sure I could give you much more information that is not already available online.  But you should do what you feel you need to do to move forward in your life.

As for the choice to parent or relinquish, there are many factors to consider.  Here is a list of questions that you may want to answer to help with your choice and plan for the future:

  • Is the father of your child supporting you?
  • Is your family supporting you?
  • Does the father want to help raise this child with you as a couple or as two single parents/co-parents?
  • Is his family being supportive?

Having some sort of support system will benefit you (and your baby) greatly especially if you are still in school.

As for the adoption choice, if you feel you are unable to parent your child and are not being pressured or coerced by loved ones to make this choice, then review the various adoption plans closely and do what you feel in your heart is best.  I do believe that some adoption choices are necessary.  However, know that a richer/wealthier life for the child does not mean a better life for the child.  This is what I hear from adult adoptees all the time.  Love and security are the most important things a child needs.  I chose an open adoption.  For me, that has helped in many ways.  Know that the emotional pain from relinquishing your parental rights can be overwhelming at times.  It’s not impossible to heal but healing after your child leaves your womb and your arms can take a long time, sometimes a lifetime.

If you decide to parent your child, please honor that choice.  Make your child your priority.  A child should never feel like you gave up your life because you got pregnant.  What I am trying to say is, don’t place shame or guilt on your child for showing up unexpectedly or that you had to give up your dreams so you could parent him/her.  Nor should a child need to be unnaturally grateful that you decided to keep him and parent him.  As I said previously, having a good support system is beneficial but many of us have done the single parenting thing alone without our partner or family.  Nothing is impossible if you believe in what you are doing.  Also, don’t be afraid to ask for public/government assistance.

I truly hope that your loved ones are supporting you during this time.  But more importantly, I hope you understand that this is your decision about your body, your baby, and your life.  Do not allow anyone to tell you what is best for you.

I know you have a lot to consider.  And I trust that you will make the best choice for you.  Sending you much needed blessings and prayers, asking God to guide you in this choice, and wishing you all the best as you move forward in your life.

Supporting Women

When I say I support women and their reproductive choices, I mean it, wholeheartedly,

Recently, I received a personal message from a woman, who was in the midst of a dilemma, in a group I follow in BabyCenter.com.  She had seen one my comments that I shared on a post where I touched briefly and lightly on all three of my choices.  She asked me to elaborate.

At first I was hesitant.  I waited a couple days before replying.  I needed to gather my thoughts.  Since I have made three different choices due to unplanned pregnancies with three varying outcomes that led to a multitude of emotional residue, I didn’t feel it would be fair to build up one choice as a better alternative than another.  I also didn’t want to convince or persuade her in one way or another of what she should or shouldn’t do.  That’s not my place.  It would be no more fair of me to glorify open-adoption then it would be to glorify single parenting.

I strongly believe that I have no right to evoke a thought that may persuade any woman to make one choice over the other.  However she decides to move forward in her pregnancy, she is the one who will live with her choice for remainder of her life.

I know what it’s like to have others pressure you into making a choice that is their preferred outcome.  It makes one feel insecure and inadequate.  When someone forces or coerces another person or tries to paint a picture that is not based on facts but on their own limited perception, it’s all about control.  It’s one person trying to take another’s power away.  For some, they want to create their version of the perfect outcome of someone else’s life, as if they are God.  While others are conveying  from a personal point of view, as if this had happened to them, this is what they would choose or maybe have chosen.  But the truth is, it’s not happening to them.  It’s happening to the woman who is pregnant and is faced with a choice about her future.

Who am I to tell another woman what is best for her.  I have no right to tell another human being that she should end the life that is in her womb.  Neither do I have a right to influence her to surrender her newborn infant.  And I surely don’t want to guilt someone into parenting.  My intent is to provide as much information as possible for a well-rounded image.  Not all rosy, not all dark.  Not all positive, not all negative.  But always the truth.

I will say that I do understand and sympathize with the women who have become anti-abortion or anti-adoption because of their own personal experience and emotional trauma more so than coming from a man or woman who has never experienced a similar circumstances or choice in their life.  Woman who have lived through these experiences and life alterations are biased because of their involvement.  As sisters, we may not want another woman or mother to have to endure the gut wrenching pain that becomes a part of the aftermath of such turmoil.  We feel it’s our duty to protect other woman from this heartache and emotional mind game.

I guess that’s why I wrote One Woman’s Choice.  And I’ve had people upset with me because I discuss abortion and they do not approve of abortions.  Others who didn’t know me or my story before reading One Woman’s Choice said they were sad when they came to the page that told of my signing relinquishment papers because they were hoping that I had decided not to go through with the adoption.  While others felt I glorified adoption as a wise, religious choice.

The three most important things that I want people to understand after reading One Woman’s Choice are these:

  • Men are equally as responsible for unplanned pregnancies as women.
  • No one has the right to suggest, force or coerce a woman to make a choice (aborting, parenting or relinquishing)
  • God is a loving God.  And despite what some think, even after abortion, God is a loving God.

Truth is, there are no easy answers, no common outcome.  The issues are too complex and every circumstance is unique.  And if we choose abortion or adoption,  the road to recovery is experienced in many different ways.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve or heal.  My experience may be very different than someone else’s.  It doesn’t mean that either one of us is right or wrong, or weaker or stronger; we’re just different in our human experience.

In the end, I respect woman enough to know that with honest feedback, knowledge (pro’s and con’s), and compassion, we are very capable of making a well informed decision.  And when all is said and done, I will be here to support my sisters as best as I can, no matter what choice they decide to make.

Rally In Austin

Last week, my son and I headed south to Austin, Texas.  The prior week, Senator Wendy Davis stood on her feet for thirteen hours to block a bill, if passed, would have affected women’s health issues, restricted women’s choices, and closed 37 of the 42 clinics in Texas.  As women, whether we support the Pro-Life campaign or the Pro-Choice campaign, we should not let our campaign choice impair our judgment of a fellow comrade who is a resilient, courageous woman that was willing to stand for THIRTEEN hours for her belief and her right as an American citizen.

I will tell you that I tend to lean more towards the Pro-Choice campaign.  Just by my past choices, I am by default, a Pro-Choice specimen.

I, myself was an unplanned (illegitimate) child of the 1960’s, during a time of heated debates.  Even though I was too young to rally and protest injustice for the Civil Rights and the Women’s Rights Movement, it seemed the seed was planted inside me waiting for the moment to sprout.  When Wendy Davis called for supporters in Austin, I eagerly wanted to stand with my sisters and fellow supporters.  After all, this is what historical moments are made of and I wanted be a part of history.  I wanted to show my support and honor all those women who came before me; the ones who fought for my right to vote and my right to choose.  I wanted MY voice to be heard that day.  No, I wasn’t on any stage and I wouldn’t have a microphone in my hand.  Nevertheless, my voice and applause was in collaboration with all those others souls who were standing in support to honor the lone, Wendy Davis who stood on her feet for thirteen hours!  I mean thirteen hours, on your feet with no meal breaks, no bathroom breaks, and no leaning on your desk, all the while, talking non-stop about one topic.  This one woman along with others by her side did this remarkable task all because she believed that every woman should have the right to fair treatment and the right to choose.

As an author of a book that conveniently is titled, One Woman’s Choice, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share my book information.  I had post cards printed up with the book cover on one side and added my Twitter account at the bottom along with a one line sentence at the top that read, “Supporting women and the choices we make.”

Just outside the gates, protesters were standing and holding their creative, political signs, sharing their potent words.  As we walked through the capital gates, Planned Parenthood had tables set up just inside along with other Pro-Woman advocates, handing out flyers and requesting for us to sign in so they could get a head count.  Without hesitation, I leaned over, grabbed a pen and signed my name to be counted for their roll call.  Apparently those supporting Pro-Choice and Wendy Davis were supposed to wear orange clothing.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get the memo.  I had on a navy blue polo shirt.  So they gave us a little orange sticker dot to place on our shirt to show our support.  Cool, we’re all good now.

My son and I trek down into the crowd, looking around in amazement.  I take a deep breath and I begin to hand out my flyers.  I’m met with some reluctance and a little resistance.  I understand that these activists have lots of campaigners asking them to look at something, take something, sign something, or sign up for something.  I am somewhat of a meek person usually.  I don’t have the car salesmen personality and I am better at servicing customers than attracting customers.  Hey, we all have our strengths and weaknesses.  But sometimes we have to get out of our comfort zone especially when we need to accomplish a goal.  This was one of those times.

About twenty minutes after arriving, the music stops, one of the guest speakers gets on stage, the mood of the crowd shifts, and the rally begins.  The crowd roars in unison with every valid point the speaker makes.  After a brief respite, the crowd quiets down and I continue to hand out my post cards.  But the activists now seem less friendly and less interested in what I have to share.  I’m wondering what it could be.  I’m feeling a little insecure because neither Jaren nor I have on orange clothing.  Are they judging us by our colors?  Seems crazy right?  All these years we have been drilling into our American society to “not judge a person by their color but rather by the content of their character” and here we have a protest between two opposing sides suggesting that their followers wear a specific color so others can tell what side you represent.   As I walk among the orange shirts, I feel somewhat like an outsider.  But hey, I have on my little, round- orange sticker.

I pull my chin back up, muster up some more courage and begin to hand out more post cards.  That’s when I met this one young lady.  I handed her a post card and she replies, “You do realize my uterus is my property?”

At first, I was taken back and to be honest, offended.  When she saw me, she made her quick inaccurate assessment and judgment.  I replied, “Yes, and my book is called One Woman’s Choice.  I’ve made the choice to have an abortion.  I’ve made the choice to give birth and raise my son who is right there (pointing to Jaren) as a single parent, and I’ve made the choice to give life and be a birth mom.  That’s what Pro-Choice is all about, isn’t it?  Supporting all choices women make?”

She said, “As long as we are on the same page.”

I said, “I have on an orange sticker.”  To which she replies that the “others” were also wearing the orange sticker so they could mingle among the Pro-Choice activists and get their Pro-Life campaign pamphlets out.

As Jaren and I walked away, I was fuming.  Jaren tried to smooth over the situation.  I said we came here to support this cause and this is how we get treated just because we didn’t have the right color shirt on.  I wanted to shout out to her and ask her what choices has she made?  Has she ever had an unplanned pregnancy?  Has she ever struggled as a single mother to support her child?  Has she ever had an abortion?  Has she ever had to say good-bye to her infant baby because no one in her family offered to support her?

I am thrilled that so many Americans came to support Senator Wendy Davis.  But I also know that not every man or woman who supports Pro-Choice has ever had to make a life changing choice or experienced an unplanned pregnancy.  I respect all those who gather to support a women’s right and freedom to choose the path she feels is best for her when an unplanned pregnancy occurs.  But don’t come at me with your premature judgments.  I don’t just believe it.  I don’t just speak it.  And I don’t just protest it.  I have actually lived it!Image

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.