Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Of Grief and Gifts

It's that time of year again! Holiday gift-giving, festivities and scores of people scratching open those festering emotional wounds so they can reminisce about how miserable they are this time of year, every year and why.  I'll usually read enough of those blogs to wonder why I am not like that.  I mean, I have been through more loss in the last few years than most but I am not reduced to some Xanax and Vodka filled ball of despair every Christmas.  Is there something wrong with me?

I get hate mail and negative comments on this blog and the ministry's site all the time.  They don't usually effect me. I delete them, laugh and shake my head at their grinchy dispositions and go about my day.  There was one line in a message once that struck me.  I was confused by its meaning, then I was bewildered why they'd say that about me, of course never having met me or knowing much about me at all.  It took a while to digest.  Here it is, "She can't even appreciate her own humanity."  The reference was to the fact that I am not living as a shell of a person, like I should be, drowning in my own grief and never ending pain of having placed my daughter, Alex, for adoption.  To her and many like her I am supposed to resign myself to being cemented in the moment of placement and to decide to step out of the muck and say, "I can go on" is heresy, a deliberate lie even. 

In the widowhood circles I run in we have a coined phrase "a new normal".  That means that while we cannot go back and feel the way we felt before our husbands were in our lives, we can go on and live our lives in renewal and happiness.  It just won't be the same. To us there is nothing wrong with that. It is what it is. Can't change it, just go on and and live the life you know he'd want you to have. 

To me having to let go of Alex was a significant and painful event in my life but it doesn't determine how I am supposed to feel for the rest of my life just like having to say 'goodbye' to my husband didn't.  Grief is an interesting thing. Some want to shed it like an overcoat on a warm day and others would sooner have you pry it off of their cold, dead bodies before they'd let it go. 

Either case of extremes is not healthy emotional healing.  Trying to outrun grief, as I made the mistake of doing when my husband passed away created a backlash of risky behavior, over-spending and spiritual havoc in my life. It also resulted in Alex's conception.  No, being honest with where I was at emotionally and spiritually would have been the better avenue.  I have found that it can't be any other way.  To the other extreme, I have seen widows, parents who have lost or placed children and other significant relationships become completely paralyzed in their grief.  They seem unable to see passed a traumatic event that changed their lives.  All the therapy, pills, booze, food and whatever else does nothing to improve the emotional and spiritual condition of the sufferer.

I get it.  I didn't go through but I understand how someone winds up in that place.  I remember when I was a new widow and even a new birthmother, I had an anxiousness about when I wouldn't feel bad any more. As much as I wanted to get better, I still held on to this idea that equated feeling better with not caring about my husband or my daughter any more.  There seemed to be an emotional bond between my misery and proving to myself and others that I still loved them. 

At some point I started to see my life continuance as something more worthwhile than just feeling grief.  There was a part of me that felt an innate drive to make something out of what Id' been through not just live with.  I wanted it to be useful instead of hindering.  Instead of using pain to display my love, I could use my experiences to prove that it was valuable.  I didn't want my daughter to see me as the woman who let her go, I wanted her to see the legacy I am leaving that reminds both of my children that their mother is more than the circumstances of her life and her choices.  To me, I want them to say I can rise above the tide when the floods come in because I saw my mother do it.  She is a strong, courageous woman who made something of her life and look at all that became of a certain time in her life not that these events became the ruination of her.  The biggest insult I could give to Alex and Carli would be for them to see that Alex's adoption destroyed my essence.  I want be present for Carli and enjoy her as much as I can because I know how fragile life is.  I don't want her so see Mom in a constant state of wishing her life was different.  She makes life worth living in the present for and to live in the past robs her of her childhood and a solid relationship with her mother. Children are a gift from God, even if we are not parenting them. We still have a responsibility to be the example we would want them to emulate.  I live this every day in hopes that I could be at least a shred of a role model for my girls. 

While both of you, Carli and Alex, celebrate Christmas this year with ribbons and bows, my gift to you both is a mother who is healthy, strong in her faith and striving to be someone you'd be proud of and I hope you can receive it with the same thanksgiving that I have for both of you, in grace instead of grief.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Brought to you by the letter "N" for National Adoption Month

November amongst the pumpkin pies and cranberry stuffing marks National Adoption Month. For all of the NAM clueless less out there, don't feel bad.  I didn't know it even existed until this year.  What you'll also find amongst all of the perfect Thanksgiving recipes on the 'Net around this time is a ton of blogs writing on the subject of National Adoption Month.  It shouldn't surprise you to know that there are a bunch of birthmothers who hate it.  They hate the day, the idea of celebrating, the fanfare that adoption agencies put around it, the posts from adoptive families, if it says 'Adoption' and has the word 'Month' at the end, you can expect to be blasted with angst on their pages.  I read because I have to, you might want to save yourself the onslaught. 

Nevertheless, it brings something to mind that should be discussed if we are going to have to talk about it.  One birthmother's blog that I read recently did so rather poignantly, and while I could have done without the language I celebrate her intelligence and desire to tell the truth.  She called to mind what most birthmothers know. For the most part, what you will find is a stark lack of mention of the birthmother at all during this time of celebration.  Why I even  read the letter from our President declaring the month National Adoption Month. He failed to give even one line for the birthmother.  Not even a passing note of acknowledgement.

 I was invited recently to attend a dinner given by and adoption agency last month. It was their annual fundraiser.  I wasn't invited to speak and I am glad that I wasn't because the letters that I received in the mail leading up to the event were written in grand marketing splendor heralding the plight of the orphan and the opining of the waiting adoption family.  I would have reached for my box of tissues if I wasn't scanning the pages looking for that all too familiarly missing word in the document.  Down and down I read, one paragraph, two paragraph, three. She got a single line at the bottom of the letter. Two lines above the salutation.  She wasn't even worth an explanation I guess, just cover your bases by making sure she was included. If that is what you want to call it.  I decided that it wasn't worth my time since the only reason that adoptive couples can even have someone to adopt aside from DSS hardly seemed worthy enough to call to mind.  What a pity.

It's not all bad.  I had a good experience with my adoption as you all know and I am very comfortable with where I am at with my decision, her family and the days and months afterwards.  There is an overwhelming amount of birthmothers out there who aren't.  There is a staggering amount of them who were offered no aftercare following their adoptions.  80% of open adoptions close at the behest of the adoptive family with our without prior notification to the birthmother disclosing a reason.  Some have claimed coercion either by their families, clergy or adoption agencies prior to placement.  Celebrate? There are many who wail at the very idea, I can't say as I blame them. 

What it does call to mind is why I do what I do.  I want to make it a good experience for the ones facing a decision now and in the future.  I want to work with national organizations on how we can come together to make this a better decision for all involved, not just the ones who stand to gain something.  We need to run shady agencies out of town on the horse they rode in on.  We need to equip ministries and churches, along with other institutions with resources and materials to provide correct information on adoption and a valuable aftercare program for grieving birthmothers.  All this takes work and people willing to do it.

I am grateful for those who have made a positive impact and even more grateful who see a need for change and have made some positive steps to make it better.  I am grateful for those who write about their negative experiences because it has taught me a lot about what needs to change and the gravity of what the situation really is for the majority of birthmothers out there, young and old.  I am grateful for the hate mail and negative blog articles written about me because even in the chaos I can still read objectively, take a step back, evaluate the message and look at how we are coming across.  It has given us pause to see what changes we can make to bring about a clearer picture of what we are about and what we are trying to accomplish.  So you know what, Monica? Thanks.  

Will I feel like celebrating Adoption this month?  I have reason to be grateful.  I think I will just focus on giving thanks for what it is and what I have and look forward to celebrating a better tomorrow for birthmothers when it comes.  How's that?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Celebrating Alex's 2nd Birthday!

A giddy precious bundle of giggles and squeals. That is my oldest daughter, Carli.  She bounded into my bed this morning as she does most every day, asking me to play 'Baby Kitten and Momma Cat'.  She gives me instructions on what to do for the Baby Kitten.

"Hug her with your paws, Momma Cat.  Give her kisses with your nose," she calls out from under the covers. 

I don't really want to play today but I do, she doesn't need to know that I am not myself today.  I'd love to hide and reflect in silence but that is never my life anyway so I shouldn't expect anything different.  I'd love to be invisible.  I don't want to minister today but Paul teaches that we must be ready in season and out of season. I am out of season today for sure but God knows, reaching out to another who is suffering is just what I need. I think I will go to Starbucks today. 

If I were really pressed to answer, the truth is I don't really know how I feel today.  I am not sad. There is, in my mind, nothing to be sad over.  Alex is happy, healthy, loved and perfectly adjusted to her life with her adoptive parents. That is exactly what I wanted for her.  Maybe I wish that I could be at her birthday party.  Although, at her party yesterday her family went around reminiscing about the day of her birth and the intricate part I played in it.  In a sense, I certainly was there. If not in body, in warm, heartfelt memories.   But I don't crave accolades so it isn't that either.

Maybe I miss her.  I don't really say that I miss her as much as I miss them.  I wish we would have met under different circumstances. I really love her parents. They are the kind of people I would want to get to know and spend time with.  Everything about them is the reason I chose them for her.  Naturally I would want her to be loved by people that I could easily love. 

I think I am saddened that our relationship has to have boundaries.  There is an invisible fence that I can't cross.  The trouble is, I don't know where the line is either. I just try not to cross it.  Not that anyone has warned me or reminded me that there is one.  I just understand that these kinds of relationships need them and I don't like it. 

This kind of relationship is new. New to me, new to the world out there.  No one knows how to feel about it, really. Maybe that is why I struggle. People ask me questions about it all the time, never knowing if they should ask or if they should ask for more information to satiate their inquisitiveness. 
There is always a careful dance of information asking coupled with a certain straining on the faces of those who dare to ask. Always looking like they are hungry for more but being afraid to ask.  Then there is the few who blurt out things they shouldn't.  I have to pause and instruct in those moments.  It would be easy to get offended but they don't know. 

1) No, you really don't know what you would do unless you are in the situation yourself.
2) You actually are capable of way more than you think.
3) Reality is not usually as bad as the awful, horrid scenarios you build in your head.
4) I didn't emotionally damage Carli (so far).
5) We are very open when we talk about Alex. It greatly reduces stereotypes and helps us all heal.
6) I don't have to make you understand why I made this decision and you don't have to "get it".

I am not in mourning. She's not dead!  She is happy, safe and all the good things you would want for your children.  I just don't see her every day.  If I had aborted her, I'd never see her at all. I'd never get to see the realization of her life and all the good things that she is.  I guess I'd have gone on with my life but I am doing that today.  I might have wondered "what if" or "if only" but I suppose those questions come up not matter what choice you make.  So what's the difference?  I'd have carried around the knowledge that I could have a child today but I ended that life for the sake of my own pride.  That was why I decided not to.  The idea that I would abort a baby simply because I didn't want to fess up to my parents, friends, family and in-laws left an abominable, selfish taste in my mouth.  No, I don't mourn this child. There is no reason to.  I made a choice to let her live even if that meant that I'd suffer. Sacrificing for your children. That is what a good mother does.  These girls will never know what I have endured for the sake of their future.  You're welcome. 

Feeling left out in some way?  I have said that before but I don't fully understand what I mean by that. If I had parented her I'd be back to working 60 hours a week again for Corporate America, trying to take over the universe one client at a time while my kids spent their little lives in Day Care, After Care, and Nana's house. Maybe they'd spend what little free time with me that I had while I tried to cover errands and grocery shopping but I'd be exhausted and out of patience, just longing to be left alone.  That is pretty much what it was like when it was just Carli and me and it was miserable.  With two it'd be worse.  I'd have more "stuff" to give them but who cares?  The stuff never made me happy. How could I expect that to take the place of me for them?  Left out? Left out of what?  I am more grateful that these girls don't have to endure rather than feel like I "coulda, woulda, shoulda."

In conclusion, I don't know how I feel I just know I don't feel happy but I still feel good about what I did.  I am happy that she was celebrated in such splendor by her family yesterday.  I am grateful that the memories of her adoption were so good for her family and that they wanted to share them with each other.  I am grateful that Carli is still a happy, funny little girl who feels secure in her relationship with her mother and in the love she has for her.   I love that I can work for myself and build something worthwhile so that I can be involved in Carli's life. I know she does too. My trial gets used every day to give life and hope to others. Who could complain about that?  There is good to think about.  I'll be okay but I would love a prayer if you think of me today. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Making Grief Good

My mind has been drifting back lately.  Even though I am in a good place now, it wasn't always like this.  The days when Alex's adoption was new were a great swell of sadness.  I hadn't had proper time to grieve the loss of my husband when she came into view. Both losses threatened to drown me in their riptides.  I was trying to swim above the swell.  I knew that I'd made my decision.  I'd done so much talking it up that I didn't want anyone to see how sad I was. Tears made rivers on my face at a moment's notice and at unpredictable times.  I would run to the bathroom to try to clean myself up rather than let anyone see.  I didn't want anyone to worry that I'd made the wrong choice or changed my mind. Even if I had, it was too late now.  I had such little aftercare.  In fact, most birthmoms do. Either because they don't seek it or it is non-existent in the first place.  Such a great loss and so few options. 

I did a lot of equating the loss of my husband with Alex.  The intensity was the same.  Although, when you lose a spouse, everyone expects you to fall apart. That is normal.  In the instance of choosing adoption the dogmatic response to a grieving birthmother seems to be "but you did a great thing".  Let me tell you something. There are a lot of things that one could say to someone who is suffering a loss but trying to help them see the sunny side when the sky is falling is not the right thing to do.  It was of little consequence to me to hear that I'd done anything of merit when what I'd done was hurting me to badly.  I felt the same way when people would pat my back, hand me a tissue and say "at least you have his daughter" or "be grateful for the time you had".  Well meaning things that fail to comfort.  You want to  make someone feel better? Cry along with them and give them a hug. That speaks volumes without saying a word. 

When I started to rally I began to feel guilty. To me, feeling better was the same as not caring as much but I still did and I didn't want anyone to feel like my feelings had changed based on my demeanor.  Finding myself walking out of the surf of sadness almost made me want to run back into the tide!  Why did I feel that way?  I suspect that the grief was a way that I could still feel connected to what I'd lost.  Somehow I was afraid that if I let go of the pain that I would forget.

Now that I am in a better place I can look  back and see how flawed my logic was.  How I could systematically forget about two people who have left an indelible mark on my life is almost laughable.  Now I can see that these experiences can be used for more good than upping the stock prices of the Kleenex company.  It's not to say that I don't have my times of revisiting the feelings of loss, of course I still do, but I don't let it fool me into thinking that this is the only way to show love to the two people who are no longer in my life.  I can take these experiences and channel the feelings into something worthwhile, something that can benefit others.  In this way, I can still remember them every day and show everyone else how much they mean to me in a way that lets people know it's okay to feel better even if their world will never be the same. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Birthmother Superior

Coming off the stiletto heels of my debut speaking engagement in Atlanta at Together for Adoption's National Conference, I was welcomed that Monday morning to a flood of emails, tweets and requests to have me come and speak at other conferences and events. Of course that was exactly what I was hoping for. I even had a job offer at a local church thrown in as an added bonus.  Voila!  Even just the other day our ministry had its first 'ministry baby', a little precious named Christian came into the world and into the arms of his mother and expecting adoptive family.  You couldn't write a better script and gifted as I am, I only wish I'd be so creative as to make it up. Still, I felt some emotional pull inside.  Something was not quite right but I couldn't articulate the 'what' in "What's wrong?". 

As the week continued and I followed up on emails and calls for my attention, I shared and shared my vision some more.  Accolades, tears, and "atta girl"s flooded my ears and my heart. In a former life, I'd have sopped it up like a dry sponge but now I am not so anxious to soak in it.  There is a heaviness and a somber air around me. 

I finally figured out what it is.  I am unwittingly being attached to an ideal of something that isn't real.  I am sure it can be easy to hoist my clay feet onto a marble pedestal and call me blessed.  Please don't.  I am not courageous half as much as I am driven to deliver a message.  I have been given a great assignment and my job is to carry it out. The courage belongs to Him and so do the compliments.  I am a girl who got it wrong, screwed up and asked God to fix it.  He is the one who brought me through the pain, dried my tears and helped me see how something so destructive could be made into something amazingly beautiful.  I didn't put it together, I just marveled at the work and asked to have it.  I am not a gifted speaker. I've been given a voice by the One who needs the message said.  It is Him that says the words, I just yield my mouth and my mind.  The glory does not belong to me. 

I don't want to take hold of something that is not mine.   This is new.  I will make mistakes.  I might put my foot in my mouth as soon as someone pats me on the back.  In fact, I may do it tonight.  I am sharing my story and my vision for my ministry on "Pro-Life Friday".  It's a blog radio show that has featured such pro-life speakers such as Melissa Ohden, Abby Johnson and now me. 

Please tune in if you can at 6PM EDT:
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/the-visible-conservative-christians-unleashed/2012/09/21/pro-life-fridays

Thursday, September 13, 2012

We Have Lift Off!

This weekend I will embark on a new mission.  I will launch my career as a Pro-life speaker.  I never saw this coming from 5 years ago. Who'd have guessed I'd write a book and want to get involved in all the hullabaloo.  As I sit in a hotel lobby, I realize I can't step back from the launching pad. We are all systems go.  The countdown is on.  I will sign in tomorrow at Together For Adoption's National Conference and take my name badge entitled 'Brittany Hudson' Executive Director for The Vessel -For Life and Speaker. 

What on earth possessed me to take on such an endeavor?  It wasn't part of my initial plan at first. I just wanted to write a book and let that be that but as I started looking into the writing world,  I realized that there was so much more to making a statement than penning some pages.  The privilege of author takes a commitment to building a platform.  I got it, you need to be out there promoting your message in order to sell books but what was my message other than sharing my testimony?

I had such a profound experience with my adoption that I never slowed down enough to consider that others might me a lot less fortunate than me.  As I researched blogs written by other birthmothers it became clear, I was not so much the norm as the exception as far as the bloggers out there.  What a hole in my heart, my tears poured through as I read the stories of birthmothers who'd felt coerced, lied to, rejected, dismissed and left to suffer to the scoffing of a public that wanted them to keep quiet and tow the company line, should anyone care to ask.  It shouldn't surprise anyone that as I made myself know out there on Planet Internet that my very experience would make their skin wrinkle.  Obviously I was a religious delusional who'd not been made aware of my harsh reality, poor dear. 
I expected to be embraced by my newly found nation only to be rejected and rather unceremoniously.

So what was different about me?  Why was I doing so well when others suffered seemingly endless grief and loss?  The answer is clear to me.  I understand that my adoption story had amazing purpose.  It was ordained by my Creator, loving handed to me to carry out and I chose to respectfully and reverently bow my knee and take my assignment. 

Do I feel any pain in my adoption even today?  Of course I do.  I pain for my daughters who unwillingly take my choices on as part of their lives.  I regret that they may grieve because of me.  I have times of reflection where I wish this wasn't part of my life, because it isn't easy to live with this story you see. 

I get up every day with a commitment to honor my life assignment. I use my pain to bring hope and healing to others but I am not the message. I am the messenger sent by the only one who can make something like this whole.  Jesus is the Healer and I get to bring His love to every woman and unborn child I touch.  I would cry a river every day to share in the joy for 10 minutes that I have with these woman when they understand that this time, even for the first time, someone loves them unconditionally.  I get to let God's love pour out of me and into the hearts of these beautiful people.  What a joy it is to serve!

Together for Adoption's National Conference will focus on the reality that every adoption involves suffering. The joy that comes through it is promised in James 1:1-4.  Read it and may you understand, what He promises is what is gained in the trial.  If you can't join me at the conference this weekend, please pray for me as I share my story and the ministry's vision for how I bring healing and what needs to be done for better aftercare for women who have placed.  Launch will commence in T-Minus 12 hours...

www.togetherforadoption.org 
www.the-vessel.org

Friday, August 24, 2012

5 Things I Wish You Knew That I Would Probably Never Tell You

I recently viewed and distributed an article I found on Twitter entitled '10 Things A Birthmother Wishes You Knew' or something like that. I have seen this type of thing before and I am always curious to see if it matches up with things that I would have said if someone had asked me for my list. The article did have some well-taken points, although I bored with the wordiness as I often do with things grow a little long in the tooth. Still, it had me pondering a response.

Here is mine:

5 Things You Should Know That I Won't Tell You

1) You are always going to feel like the ideal parents to me.

Don't get me wrong, I know you are not perfect. If it's all the same to you, I'd just assume that you do make mistakes and not want to hear any examples. In some ways, picturing you both as the ideal is comforting to me. It is like a quilt on a stormy night. I tuck in and know that it will be okay if I just stay under it all snug and warm. I chose you and I have great reasons for doing so but we forged a spiritual, emotional connection above all else and I trust in that more than what I can see with my eyes.

2) I hope you don't always see me as a woman in a desperate circumstance.

We didn't meet under ideal circumstances, let's admit it. I was in a precarious situation and you were in a position to need to meet someone who met those qualifications. If I'd had my druthers, we'd have met under a completely different context but this was God's engineering not mine. Since our first meeting, a lot has changed and I think we can all agree it was for the better but I don't see you as the same people I once did. I see you as something much deeper and I hope you see me that way too. I was so much more than my situation then and I am even better now. I want you to see me for all that I am not just what I was at the time.

3) Sometimes I miss her.

There are moments where I ponder the "what ifs". I don't hang out there too long mind you but I do have times where I contemplate what it would be like if she were here with me. There are days that I miss her and to be honest, I miss you all just as much. We shared something so special in those days up to our departure from the hospital and to me it is a shame that we don't get to share as much of life as I'd want to since we have been through so much together. I love you all, I don't have any regrets. I am human and you will have to forgive me for being honest enough to say, she is a piece of me that I notice is missing on occasion.

4) There will never be enough communication.

You will never butt in or be an inconvenience in my life. I bloom over the pictures and emails of things you want to share with me and I like telling other people about your news and gushing over the latest things in your family milestones. Don't feel like you want to make sure I have my space or think I have moved on and don't want to hear from you as much. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our connection is what makes me feel safe in a lot of ways.

5) Our covenant is everything to me.

We promised a lot of things in those days before we left the hospital and I was counting on every word of it being true. No one can make us continue our relationship I am just counting on our word being our bond and hoping that we've built a relationship on love and trust since then. In a situation with trusting you with the one priceless thing I had, a child, I really need you to live up to that. Please remember what it took for me to place her in your arms.

In closing, I'd just like to add that it greatly pains me that 80% of all open adoptions close within the first two years. The majority of those closings are at the request, either verbal or not, of the adoptive parents. I know that not every relationship is possible to keep open and for lots of reasons but I am sure that we as an adoptive community can do much better than 20% honoring the covenant that was made. To learn more about open adoptions, I recommend a book "Open Adoption, Open Heart". You can find out more about their book and their work at: http://russellelkins.blogspot.com/

4 The Love of Alex is in great need of support to spread our message to women facing a crisis pregnancy and meet the demand of getting information into the hands of professionals helping these women make a decision for their child. Please see our website:  http://4theloveofalex.org to make a donation.

Monday, July 30, 2012

How Do I Bring Her Back?

Life after placement is a no man's land.  I came home to my daughter who was relieved to see mom not in a hospital bed.  My mother did her best to try to keep things 'normal' so we could just go on and live our lives.  The hormones, the loss.  No one ever talks about postpartum depression in birthmothers. How could there not be?  Your body is its usual upside down pattern when you give birth but there is a baby that is supposed to help with that.  Not in this case. 

If I couldn't have a baby to show the world for my out of shape and pudgy frame, I wanted to snap back to normal like an elastic but it doesn't work that way.  I resented my breasts for being heavy with the sustenance it was producing for a child that was no longer in my care.  Why couldn't my body just be like it was the day before I got pregnant?  I hid in baggy things and tried not to notice.

I felt happy and purposeful before Alex was born. What was I now?  I felt like a work horse that had been sent out to pasture.  Did anyone in my adoption have a need for me any more?  Could I ask if I was still needed or loved?  Will they still reach out to me now that we're done? 

All these things circled in my mind like fish in a tank.  I was secretive and reclusive.  I didn't know what to say about what I'd been up to for the past 10 months.  I kept to myself and hoped that no one would ask much or require great detail.  Who could I share this with? What would they think of me?  The church I had been attending persecuted me for having the gall to get pregnant out of wedlock as one of their members.  When the oppression from the leadership got too much, I resigned my membership on the advice of pastors outside the church.  I felt hated and dirty.  I felt rejected and lied to.  They were supposed to love me and support me and instead I felt like the woman in 'The Scarlet Letter'.  If I couldn't talk to my church family, who could I trust?

The answers came one morning as I watched television with my mother. We had been staying with her in her home while I looked for a house to buy back in New England.  My daughter fluttered around the house as usual. I tried to ignore the noise and the business while I focused in on the Today Show. A woman came on for an interview.  She was a strikingly attractive woman with blond and pink hair.  I became interested in why she'd be interviewed. She was not an average guest.  She went on to describe what she did. She was a former prostitute who had now escaped her old life and found a new one rescuing women caught in sex-trafficking. She would comb the streets of Las Vegas looking for women out at night and she'd talk to them, pray with them and encourage them to come to her for help.  I was enthralled with the conversation. I hung on every word.  I felt like the TV would suck me right into the room with her if I stared any harder.  My heart burst open with hope.  If she could use her old life for something so wonderful and useful I could too!  She was not ashamed.  She didn't cower over her story.  She could have just left her old ways and gone about life silently, hoping no one would find out about her but instead she let God use it for something too marvelous for words.  It was in those moments that I uttered a silent prayer for myself, "Lord please use me too." 

Now I am the Founder of 4 The Love of Alex.  Me and my ministry partner, also a birthmother, are working to raise up the voice of the birthmother to her rightful place on the platform of pro-life.  The life of the birthmother is largely silent with little healing after the fact.  I am burdened to fix the broken pieces of the adoption process for the birthmother.  I want to offer the hope of Christ for the woman facing such a difficult decision and show her that the only healing that can really come is from the loving arms of Jesus. 

How did I get me back?  I stopped letting the enemy duct tape my mouth shut.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Permanent Like Super Glue

Something fills your lungs when you are about to make something permanent.  It's like a gluey coating when you inhale.  Exhaling it makes it all stick in some cosmic way, I am sure of it. 
I felt that way when I got married.  It was exhilarating to get ready for my wedding. I remember having the whole day to primp and celebrate with my bridesmaids.  We sang in the limo 'Chapel of Love' all the way to the church but when I stood with my dad and the doors to the sanctuary as they  opened, I inhaled and the sense of permanence filled my body. I knew I was making a decision for the rest of my life.  But that was a happy kind of sticky. 

Any feelings of more time wafted out the door as soon as my adoption counselor arrived.  Upon her greetings and minutes of small talk, Brett and Kayla were asked to leave the room with Alex and it was time for us to get down to business.  It was time for paperwork.  I tried to slow my breathing as she pulled out the papers.  The weight of anticipation made my whole body feel slow to move.  She tried dutifully and carefully to explain but what was the sense?  Anything I didn't agree to or couldn't sign off on meant the deal was off.  She read and pointed and I had my pen in hand and tried to lightly lift my clammy fingers off of the paper with each sign so they wouldn't stick.

I didn't ask any questions, I just wanted to get through it.  I hadn't changed my mind but I wanted more time.  If I had a thousand years, I still would have wanted a thousand and one.  Sooner or later, I was going to have to say "good bye".  Every page made the decision stick a little more.  The last page and it was done.  A fixed decision in my life.  There is no divorce from this covenant unlike marriage. 

People have asked me what was more painful, having to bury my husband or letting Alex go. The honest answer is that I don't really know.  Both of  them were equally painful but how I feel about those losses are incredibly different.  Although Greg and Alex will never be mine again, I can still see Alex.  In fact, I have had two great visits already.   I didn't have any warning for the day I'd lose Greg.  I had several months to see the day I'd terminate my rights to parent Alex.  That didn't make it any easier though.  Greg is in Heaven with Jesus right now.  Who could ask for him to be anywhere better even if it isn't with me?  Alex is with two of the best parents I could ask for who love her more than their own lives.  Could I have wished for anything more for her? 

In the cases of my widowhood and my birthmotherhood I can say one thing about them both. They are both losses, they both hurt sometimes but I have healed by the grace of God and I can see the beauty in it all even though I wish sometimes that it could have been different.  I wouldn't change either one of those covenants.  I can sleep well in that.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Real Parents

Sitting in a hospital bed watching other people fawn over my daughter was a lot like sitting in sound proof room looking out through anti-bullet glass.  I sat silent, placidly smiling and feeling ashamed of asking to hold her.  There needed to be a full 72 hours from birth to be able to sign any adoption paperwork so legally she was mine.  Was she still my daughter?

I shifted in my bed while they passed her around.  Mom, dad, then adoptive grandma, aunts, would I be able to hold her too?  Do I have to ask for permission?  Times would come and someone would ask if I wanted to hold her.  I'd offer a lazy 'yes' wanting to leap off of the bed to embrace her if only I wasn't recovering from a c-section.  Was it okay that I wanted to see her? 

In the evenings the visitors would eventually go home.  I'd sit in my silence, afraid to ask the nurses to get her for me.  I wanted to be able to feed her, I even asked once but they never returned to either say 'no' or bring Alex to me.  I wanted to care for her in the precious hours that I had left before the sand ran out of my hourglass. Could I do that? 

My last morning came like an unwelcome relative on a Thanksgiving morning.  I didn't want to get up.  I knew it was the last day that I'd see her, see them.  The yellow island sun beamed through my hospital room window with the promise of another day in paradise to everyone in Key West who wasn't me.  Today was the day Brett and Kayla would be bringing Alex home. This was the day they had been waiting for since their adoption journey began.  This was the day I was dreading since the start of mine.  How much longer do I have?

After pushing my breakfast around with my fork I asked for her.  Just a few sweet moments with her alone.  I could finally hold her and look into her cherub-like face all nestled tightly in a newborn swaddle.  She slept as I held her in my lap, cradling her little head in my hands.  I wanted to get a solid look at her, to study her face.  I started talking to her. I wanted her to know that it wasn't that I didn't love her.  I loved her enough to let her go, for her protection, in her best interest.  The all encompassing love of a mother bids her to make the sacrifices she must for her children,  forsaking her own life even. This would be one of those times, so few really ever face, and  I was doing it. 
I told her how much her parents loved her.  I told her of how much I have adored them since the minute I saw their pictures.  I told her about the sweetness her mother has and how much I looked forward to hearing from her about all of her milestones.  Please God, let them tell me about Alex.

Tears spilled forcefully as I wrestled with my emotions.  I wanted to be happy for her.  This little life, having no choice in coming to be, having nothing to do with our separation was going to have to live the life of an adopted child and I was the one making that decision.  I wanted her to know how special we all thought she was.  Would she feel special?  Would she be sad?  Would she be mad at me?

I began to churn with desperation when the door opened to my room. It was Brett and Kayla.  I tried to smile through my grief-stricken face and greet them but they shrunk back from the doorway as they took in my appearance.

"We'll give you some more time." Kayla said, looking apologetically. 

"No, it's okay. Come in."







Saturday, May 19, 2012

And Then There Was Me

I lay in my bed in the recovery room staring in dismay at my feet.  "Mind over matter," I thought.  They still wouldn't budge.  When I decided that my brain couldn't over ride my epidural I glazed over, peering at the foot at the bed.  No one.  I could hear faint voices of what I reasoned was recovery room nurses, but other than that and for the first time in nine months, I was utterly alone.  That stark realization struck me in the face. 

My mind drifted to the minutes after Carli, my first daughter, was born.  I had my husband by my side and a flutter of nurses crowding around me, offering congratulations and cooing over my newborn baby.  I thought of the glowing love I had for Carli the second I laid eyes on her.  As I gazed down at my precious child I remember the feeling like I could never let her go. I kissed her sweet head and nuzzled my little girl. Sheer bliss.

I felt a little jealous about being down the basement of the hospital with no windows while Brett and Kayla held Alex in her first minutes. As I lay in silence, they had the attention of the maternity floor, my family, their family and her. It is such a bummer to feel like you are missing your own party.

I came around to my feet again.  They were my only company.  Eventually a nurse came by and took my vital signs, asked how I felt and offered me pain medication.  I readily accepted.  I wasn't in much pain but I wanted to be a little zoned out for when I went upstairs. I didn't mind something taking the edge off of the emotions.  I swallowed and waited for the comfort of sedation.  I could go upstairs when I could move my feet.  I focused and tried for almost 45 minutes until they agreed to do what I said. 

At last an orderly came to take me upstairs.  I was free of this prison of solitude and I could again join in on the celebration.  I wanted to see her.  I only got a glimpse of her in the OR.  Would she look like Carli?  Me?  Did my mom get to hold her yet?  I thought of more questions while the anxiety of seeing everyone rose into my chest with every ding on the elevator.

I was backed into a large maternity room with a familiar buzz of excitement.  I was now a little sleepy from the pills and the tiredness of an operation.  With everything going on, it was easy to forget that I just had surgery.  My daughter, Carli, met my bedside to see her groggy mom attached to wires and tubes. She started crying.  As she went on she started to panic.  She needed to know that I was okay.  She ran around the bed, back and forth, trying to get to me as I tried to scold her over the noise of everyone in the room, "Carli don't pull that!"  In my exasperation over trying to both protect myself from further injury and fruitless in attempting to soothe my toddler, I yelled out to my mother. "What is she doing here!?"  We had agreed not to bring her to the hospital this day.  I knew this would be confusing for her and she was to leave her with my friend, Angel.  My mother gave an explanation but I think she needed Carli there to help her get through this.  I had to give her that much. This was hard.  I relented and calmed down to explain to Carli to be careful with Mama.  We brought her attention back to the baby, which she wanted little to do with.  Her concerns were for me.  I pained that she had to suffer because of me. 

So powerful to realize that a bad decision made in private can become not only so public but have the ability to hurt a multitude people.  Sin never happens in a vacuum.  After a calm came over the room, I looked over to the corner side of the room to see Brett calmly holding a sweet, sleeping baby dressed in a cute 'yellow duckie' sleeper while his wife quietly smiled and looked on.  A slice of Heaven fell on two wonderful people.  God can do amazing things with sin that is given to Him to make beautiful. 





Thursday, May 10, 2012

Happy Birthmother's Day?

A swirl of emails and phone calls, my life is abuzz with my prospective future.   A PR firm interviewed me for promotion of my story.  The anticipation that I might be getting "that call" to say a media outlet would like to bring it forth to the public is what I have dreamed of since I started this journey.  To make Adoption as easy a discussion as any other in the unplanned pregnancy positions, that is my goal.  I am a bit desensitized to the jargon these days.  Adoption is a topic I routinely discuss.

"Why do they want to get your story out?", one asked me as I was heralding what was new in my life.  "It's Birthmother's Day on the Saturday before Mother's Day", I replied with a bit of an excited tweek as if I were sharing a secret.   As a contortion of confusion came to his face, his next question was, "They celebrate that?" 

I stumbled a bit in my posturing but trying to maintain a poker face in response to the last remark, I offered up an affirmative with a weak smile.  I know why he said what he did and it was by no means an insult or trying to demean what I'd been through. The fact of the matter is, the Birthmother is largely closeted in the discussions of Adoption with most agencies and ministries firmly founded on the mantra of Child and Adoptive Family.  There is nothing wrong with that.  I do find it comical though that most would prefer to think of the child just materializing into the arms of the adoption counselor to dispatch to the adoptive family like these children are harvested out of a parentless cabbage patch.

While others on Sunday will get flowers, cards and spa gift certificates, the mother who has so lovingly and purposefully chosen for her child that a life apart from her's would be best,  Mother's Day can be a tearful reminder of her covenant with her adoptive family.  How does one honor the sacrifice but also give room for the grieving that takes place so often on this weekend?  Personally, I think a Metal of Valor would be grand but no one gives those out to us.  Our awards can't be seen and our stories, for the most part, are never even heard outside of a close knit circle of those with the inside information.  That doesn't make them less valid. 

If one seeks to be understood, one must seek to understand.  Why is the Birthmother so hush, hush?  Why wouldn't a person who, aside from dying, made the ultimate sacrifice be out there for others to see?  Doesn't being a good mom mean we make the best choices for our children no matter what the cost is to us?  When someone does something extraordinary, don't people love to share it that others may benefit? 

I counted the costs in my decision and decided that Adoption was the most loving thing that I could do for everyone involved.  I haven't regretted my choice.  I have a great relationship with Alex's adoptive parents and that is just icing on my cake for Birthmother's Day.  She will live a life in love from her adoptive parents and her birth family.  How can that not be worth a celebration?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Alex's Adoptive Mom Shares on the Birth Story

I often wondered what it was like to witness Alex's birth from Kayla's perspective.  I asked her to write about the birth story from the perspective of the Adoptive Mother. Here is her powerful and personally touching story:

"I laid in bed in a dark hotel room waiting for the alarm clock to signal it was time- time to go to the hospital, time to meet my daughter.  The thought made me giddy and anxious at the same time.  Was this really happening?? 

The events of the previous four years played in my mind, and I was reminded of the hope, pain, disappointment, joy, depression, and longing that had kept me on an emotional roller-coaster with no end in sight.  But there I was at the end, and it was only the beginning.

Before I knew it, I was in a pre-op room dressed from head-to-toe in blue scrubs and holding the hand of the most beautiful pregnant woman I had ever seen.  Just two months before, I met her for the first time feeling so blessed that she chose life for the baby girl growing inside her and chose us to be the parents.  That day she told us that she knew she was “the vessel that God was using to carry the answer to someone else’s prayers.” 

I will never forget those words.  Ever.

The nurses wheeled her into the operating room and told me they would come get me when it was time.  My husband and I held hands and prayed for a safe delivery, a healthy baby, and peace for our daughter’s birth mother. 

A few minutes later, a young nurse with an excited grin appeared in the doorway and led me toward the operating room.  We walked down the long, sterile hallway and tears welled up my eyes.  Surreal.

Not all adoptive mothers are in the delivery room.  Since Brittany was having a c-section, she was only allowed to have one person in the operating room with her.  Her mother?  Her best friend?  No, she selflessly invited me to witness the birth of my daughter.  Words cannot describe how grateful I will always be for that gift. 

When we entered the brightly lit room, Brittany was on the operating table and all I could see was her beautiful belly.  I quickly moved to the other side of the curtain where I found her face – calm and reassuring.  I felt so guilty that her demeanor was reassuring me when I wanted nothing more than to make sure she was okay.  I did the only thing I could possibly do to help bring her peace- I placed my head next to hers and whispered a prayer in her ear.  I knew our Heavenly Father orchestrated every step of this journey, and I knew He was there with us now. 

In keeping with the laid back vibe of the Florida Keys, the doctor and anesthesiologist made small talk and dished out clever jabs at each other, making the rest of us chuckle and wonder if they were focused enough on the task at hand.

 After a few minutes, the nurse told me I could move to the foot of the bed to have a clear view of the first moment of my baby girl’s life.  An intern had my camera, and I was armed with my cell phone camera – ready to capture the beauty and perfection of life.  Briefly, the mood in the room changed, the small talk and jabs subsided, and my heart sank.  The doctor asked for a vacuum and I prayed again. 

Then she was here.  There in front of me was a perfect, crying, pink, beautiful baby girl.  Tears flowed and the love that I already had for her multiplied infinitely in my heart. 

I wanted so badly to hold her, to kiss her nose, to snuggle her into the curve of my neck.  But the nurses took over and began cleaning, suctioning, and checking every inch of her little body.  I stuck my pointer finger out and let her wrap her tiny hand around it.  I was smitten.

I turned around and saw Brittany with a tear rolling down her cheek.  Was it joy?  Was is sorrow?  Was it fear?  I went to her, held her head in my hands and repeated the same words I had said to her many times before: “thank you.”  Those two words do not even come close to expressing the feeling in my heart.  You say “thank you” to the cashier at the grocery store, you say “thank you” to your hair dresser when you leave the salon, you say “thank you” to a stranger who holds the door open.  There should be something more significant to say to the woman who gave you the gift of motherhood- who, through the will of God, blessed you with a child.  But all I could say was, “Thank you!”

The nurses finished cleaning and examining the baby, wrapped her up like a burrito, and took her to Brittany’s face.  She said how beautiful she was and we exchanged smiles.  Then the nurse put the baby into an incubator and got ready to head out of the OR. 

I wanted to hold her.  My heart was aching, I wanted to hold her so badly. 

I followed as the nurse pushed the rolling incubator towards the door.  My heart was overjoyed at what was before me, but breaking with what was behind.  Brittany had cared for, talked to, and bonded with the child that grew in her womb.  How did she feel laying on the operating table, cord cut, and physically separated from her baby for the first time in nine months?  Lord, give her peace.  Please Lord, please fill her heart with peace.

I put my hand on the incubator and headed toward the waiting room where a new father was waiting to meet his baby girl.  After years or prayerful faith, we were finally a family of three."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Delivery and the Hero


My underlying panic over having abdominal surgery started to rise as my hospital bed was backed up into the elevator.  In a reaction, I struggled not to put my arms out and yell “NO!”  Couldn’t this baby be born any other way?  The thought of the pain and slow healing process made me want to stop everything but there was no way around it, I was going to go through this today.  My C-section with my first daughter, Carli was a nightmare of nightmares.  A failed epidural and no way to fix what they had started, I spent my fearful moments on the OR table in a daze of morphine as they tried to keep me as comfortable as possible in order to get through what they needed to for the delivery of my daughter.  The shaking from the drugs distracted me from the miserable pain.  It seemed cruel to anticipate that I might have to go through that all over again and I was afraid that maybe this time, in such a tiny little local hospital, it could be even worse.

Kayla was right by my side the entire time.  Her pleasant, anticipating smile were a reminder that we were doing something monumental today.  I tried to shift my mind back to the baby being born for such a remarkable couple to welcome. The agony they’d faced in years of infertility trials and heartbreak would make all of it worth it to her, this day was finally here for Kayla to take in.  This is the day she would hold a precious little baby in her arms and call her “mine”.  I settled on those feelings of helping God accomplish that for her until the waves of anxiety would sweep me out again. 

Like a tide I washed back and forth as nurses and workers asked me questions and stuck this needle in here and prepped that area for the procedure.   Everyone in the little pre-op bays stood a little while longer than they should have to find out what the nature of my relationship was to Kayla.  I offered no explanation; I wanted this to be her day with her new daughter and not a morning of interviews about my decision.  Kayla’s nervous excitement seemed to grow with the minutes closing in on my operation time.  Both of us had the same thought for once, “please let’s get on with it!” was all we could think of.

My anesthesiologist was an answer to my jittery prayers.  My expectations were a barely-passed doctor from some medical school in Guatemala but instead I got an Ivy-Leaguer trained in one the best hospital institutions in Boston.  We quickly settled into talking while he worked about “home” for both of us and what we liked about Boston, where we lived and their proximities to each other.  He went on drizzling information to see if we had any personal connections, I couldn’t think of any but then in my circumstance, I didn’t necessarily want to divulge any either.  I rattled on about my hesitation and previous experiences with epidurals and he half-heartedly laughed as he sighed out “Well, Beth Israel is a teaching hospital.  You probably got a newbie.”   In no time I was completely numb and comfortable.  I was fascinated by the lack of feeling I had from the waist down.  He greeted my doctor as he arrived and everyone exchanged “Good Mornings”.  My doctor asked me a few questions and patted my arm in reassurance that it would be over soon.  Sadness always haloed his voice when he spoke to me.  I am sure I was one of the few, if not the only, birthmother he ever attended to. The whole situation seemed to ring of loss for him.  I suppose a man who mainly makes a living helping parents through one of the most joyous times of their lives was not used to having to keep my relationship to the baby so matter-of-fact  instead of sharing in the wonders of expecting mothers and fathers.  He did his best to try and comfort me and keep off of the subject of parenthood.  “Okay, Lady”, he said in his subtle Cuban accent, “Let’s get this baby out!” That was music to my ears. 

My new best friend was the anesthesiologist.  I lay there in a dazed, numb-limbed haze as he spoke kind and reassuring words to me about the progress of the surgery.  Kayla was with me, holding my head and comforting me as they progressed behind the screen.  Feeling her hands on the sides of my face was such a tender comfort to me.  I focused on the whisper of her voice as she spoke words of thanksgiving and peace.  “Please just let me live to see my Carli”, was all that I could plead with God silently in my mind. I didn’t want to leave her.  Not like this. 

The moment came when they were ready to bring Alex out in the world.  Attendants in the room called out to Kayla to take her position with the camera for Alex’s debut.  My lips trembled for her joy, an emotional tear escaped from the corner of my eye.  This was the big moment, the showstopper.  Kayla would greet her little girl into the world and I wished I was able to take a picture of her face when she saw her. 

A newborn cry let out and I heard Kayla breakdown as the OR erupted into joyous comments from the staff.  I saw the nurses rush by me with the baby to the table where they would examine her and give her the initial APGAR. Kayla was close behind them.  She returned to my head, crying from the amazing event that had just occurred before her eyes.  She became a mother and it wouldn’t have been possible if not for my willingness to submit to giving Alex life. 

Kayla and I formed an unbreakable bond in those moments.  There is an altruistic relationship that forms between Adoptive mother and Birth mother.  Both depend on each other so much to stay true to their covenant.  I have never felt such an unretractable love for someone and yet feel as though it was so completely vulnerable all at the same time.  She depended on me to fulfill the plan.  I depend on her to fulfill the needs that Alex has and will have as she grows.  You would wonder why or how you could put a trust in someone like that, wouldn’t you?  Yet, it is true.  It can be done so beautifully if it is done well. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Now Arriving...

I was met in the lobby by two very wide-eyed people.   I am not sure that Kayla's mouth could have handled a wider smile.  Her pale blue eyes danced and twinkled as she beamed at me.  Brett, with his usual warm smile was a little quieter.  He always seemed like he was trying to be cautiously optimistic.   He wanted things to work out well for Kayla, I know.  The only thing it seemed that he ever wanted was for her to be happy.  Who could fault a guy for that?

We hugged and belly patted and I waddled over to registration with two impending parents in tow.  After a brief mix up over where I was supposed to register, the nurses got me into my room and settled me in my bed and Brett and Kayla found seats off to the side.  The maternity nurse did her usual.  I'd had a baby before so I knew what we'd be doing.  They hooked my belly up to the baby monitor so they could hear her heart beat.  Kayla made her way over to the machine.  She stood in front of the sound of her daughter's heart wooshing in a perfect rhythm.  I saw her face soften and become emotional over the sound.  It was the first time she'd heard Alex's heartbeat.  I fixed on her face and studied as she started to let out a giddy laugh and turn back to Brett who was standing at the foot of the bed watching this all happen.

Nurses, attendants, and doctors came in and out.  They greeted and checked things, blood pressures and such. We were periodically updated as to when I would be prepped for surgery.  We made some excited chit-chat between the three of us as we waited.  They were nervous with anticipation and I was trying not to focus on my impending abdominal surgery.  I wasn't looking forward to the recovery and I was especially on edge because my last epidural with my first daughter didn't take and I was miserable and doped up so full of morphine that I thought that I was going to shake off the table.  It was a harrowing and disappointing experience and I was hoping that this one would not be part two.

The talk came around to some other couples they met recently that had adopted within months.  They had kept in contact with other couples at the agency who had gone through prep courses at the same time.  I thought that was kind of neat.  Like a kinship.  I am sure the process and waiting can be agonizing. It must be nice to have others around you who can relate.  Last they brought up a couple who's birthmother changed her mind after the delivery.  There was a brief silence.  I was heartbroken to think about this amazing couple, awaiting the answer to prayer only to go home empty handed.  I assured them that I had made my decision and that I knew that this baby was meant for them and a blessing by God.  After that elephant left the room we could get back to settling in on Alex's arrival.

Kayla brought sweet little outfits for her and told me all about her baby shower back home.  She recounted the nice things that her family and friends had done for them and what they got.  She pulled things out of a bag to show me.  I patted my belly as I looked on. It wasn't just a couple adopting a baby.  It was a family welcoming a great gift into their midst and in their hearts.

Our last visit by a nurse was followed by two orderlies who'd be driving my bed down to the OR.  It was show time.  They got me all wrapped up for the travel and we said our good byes to Brett.  Kayla would be joining me in the operating room this morning.  An honor I was so glad to bestow on her.  I heard the release of the brake on the bed and we were wheeling toward the door.