Ah, The Holiday Season

The sounds—bells ringing, the laughter of children, the radio stations playing non-stop Christmas music. The scents—pine trees, cinnamon, the turkey roasting in the oven. The tastes—freshly baked cookies, candy, the pumpkin pie. The feels—soft cozy socks and throws. The sights—lights on the trees and houses, Christmas trees, Hanukkah menorahs, Santa and his sleigh, Nativity scenes with the Baby in the manger. The experiences—visiting Santa, caroling, exchanging presents, Christmas Eve church services, dinner at Grandma’s house.

Are you in the mood? Are your senses taking in all that the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day has to offer? Are you social media ready? Does your holiday season look like everyone else’s on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram?

The holiday season is supposed to be the best, most exciting time of the year.

Remember Have a Holly Jolly Christmas? According to that song and many others, “it’s the best time of the year!”

But for many people it’s not.

For anyone who has had a loss, the holiday season is one of the toughest times to navigate emotionally. And for anyone who has had a loss that is not widely recognized or understood, it can be even trickier to navigate. Adoption and infertility are two of those losses that make the holidays especially challenging.

For women who have placed their child for adoption or who are considering placing their child, the holidays may be a reminder of profound loss. No matter her reason for placing her child, there is a piece of her that had wanted things to be different. That she could give her child the life she believed her child deserved. Adoption may have been the way in which she did give her child the life she believed her child deserved, and yes it was her choice, but it doesn’t make the grief any less.

For families experiencing infertility, the loss of being able to conceive and carry a child is felt deeply and profoundly during the holiday season. This is also true of families who have experienced an adoption “fall through”. When will it be their turn to take their child to see Santa?

While there are no easy answers to how to grieve during the holiday season, it is important to be good to yourself during the grief process.

Recognize that your experience does not have to look like everyone else’s on social media or in real life. Allow yourself the luxury of your feelings—including the less than happy ones.

And don’t forget to add a little hope to your season. This may be a dark year, but light is always stronger than darkness.

   


A Four-Letter Word that Has No Place in Adoption

How careful are you in the words that you use? How careful are the people around you in the words they choose? Are there any words or phrases that make you uncomfortable? That are overused until they lose their meaning?

There are many words used when talking about adoption.

There are words that describe the process. Words that describe the emotions. Words that describe all the people involved. Much has been said and written about the correct terminology. This is NOT one of those lectures or pleas.

This post has to do with a small descriptive word of only four letters. It is used so frequently most people do not even realize they are saying it or how it might sound to the other person in the conversation.

Ready?

Here are the four little letters… J-U-S-T. Just. As in, “If you can’t take care of your baby, just give it up for adoption.” Or “If you can’t get pregnant, just adopt a kid.” Just.

Making the decision to place a baby for adoption is emotional. It is gut wrenchingly difficult. It is not done without thought, care, or information. The emotional cost in placing a child for adoption is often life-long. There is no just about it.

Likewise, the decision to adopt a baby or child is emotional. For families experiencing infertility, just adopting involves letting go of the dream of having a biological connection to a child. For all families hoping to adopt, there is a lengthy process of background checks, home visits, and questions about motives. Adoptive families sometimes feel as though this process is intrusive and unfair. There is no just about it.

What can you say instead? Is there a replacement for just?

How about “I care about you. Can I offer any suggestions?” Or “If you need to talk, I’m ready to listen?

And if you can’t think of anything at all to say, just don’t say anything. Be a presence. Show your love. That will always be appreciated.


Rights and Responsibilities for Expectant Mothers

So many times in adoption, all the focus is on the adopting parents.

People share their infertility stories or their faith commitment on social media and with friends and families. Women experiencing an unexpected pregnancy are seen as simply the way for the adopting parents to get their baby. It’s hard to get in the way of their excitement and joy, but no one need ever feel put down or be ignored for choosing to place their child for adoption. No matter how young or old you are, as an expectant mom, you have rights.

These rights include:

  • Be treated with respect and honesty.
  • Have an advocate for support before, during, and after the adoption placement.
  • Ask questions and receive answers about all steps of the process.
  • Review and understand all legal paperwork before you sign it.
  • Receive emergency living expenses totaling up to $4,000.
  • Receive counseling services before, during and after the adoption placement.
  • Change your mind about placing your child at any point before you sign consents for the adoption.
  • Choose the family who adopts your child.
  • Know how the adoptive family has been screened and evaluated.
  • See, hold, and care for your baby in the hospital.

Rights always come along with responsibilities. These responsibilities include:

  • Treating others involved in your adoption with respect and honesty.
  • Let your advocate know your questions, thoughts and feelings before, during, and after the adoption placement.
  • Ask questions!
  • Request a copy of the legal paperwork before you make a firm commitment to adoption.
  • Use the emergency living expenses as intended.
  • Use counseling services to help process your grief and provide a way to move forward.
  • Be honest if you are not planning on moving forward with an adoption plan.
  • Think about what type of family would be best for your child.
  • Ask what screening measures were done by the adoptive family to insure not just a safe home but one where adoption is celebrated.
  • Being available for your child when they have questions about their identity.

No single list is all inclusive. Maybe the best way to think about rights and responsibilities is to remember the Golden Rule—that is to treat others as you want to be treated. 


Social Media and Open Adoption

Social media is both a blessing and a curse.

Social media can bring bring people together or tear them apart. The ways in which people have communicated over the years has changed, and continues to change. What does this have to do with an open adoption? What does it NOT have to do with open adoption?

From sharing plans to adopt or seeking support from others in a similar situation, the connections made on FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter or even Pinterest demonstrate the best of social media. Looking for other women who have placed a child for adoption? Search for groups related to birth parents. Looking for adoptive parents who adopted across racial lines? It’s there on the internet to be found. Private groups really do serve a purpose.

So what’s the down side? Where’s the curse?

One very real danger in using social media as the primary means of communication is that we talk around and about things and issues rather than talking to one another. Conversation between people becomes limited to the photo we decide to share. It’s a matter of how we tell the story. It’s easy to hide feelings behind the presentation of our best selves.

Overcoming this can be a challenge but it can be done. If your open adoption relationship began on line, you may already have a jump on the process. If your open adoption relationship came after placement, consider how you will use social media as a tool to keep the lines of communication open.

Sure—it’s ok to share those baby photos if both sets of parents agree. Your child has started walking? Saying first words? Share away! Social media is all about the bragging!

What about the things that aren’t so great?

Birth moms—are you willing to let the people who follow you know that you are having a rough time with post-partum depression? Adoptive parents—are you willing to post that your new baby cries all night and you would give anything to be able to take a shower? We always want to put our best image forward, and sometimes these things don’t translate as well in a quick post.

Yet if relationships are going to grow, thrive, and meet the test of time, the people involved in the relationships have to be able to communicate directly with one another. This is where private messaging can help. Share a little of the struggle, parent to parent. Saying you are having a rough day is not the same as saying you don’t want to continue the open part of the relationship.  Be willing to take a step back if the hard emotional stuff of the adoption is clouding your thoughts. But before you do, let the other side know that’s what’s going on. Going dark only feeds the other’s fears.

Open adoption is all about relationships.

Healthy relationships thrive with honest communication. No matter if you communicate through phone calls, texts, or even social media, take the risk of honesty. The payoff is worth the risk.

 

 


Summer Visits for Open Adoptions

Summer time. It’s that season in which we all want to kick back, take in the long hours of sunlight, and relax. It’s also a great season to connect with old friends and keep relationships fresh. This is especially true for families in which adoption is a part of the mix. Schedules tend to be more flexible, there are no worries about road conditions for travel (other than knowing where the cone zones are!), and community events and activities abound. It’s a wonderful time to keep the relationship on track with visits, make memories and start traditions.

What do you do during these visits?

If you have the kind of easy going relationship where conversation flows, this may not be an issue at all. On the other hand, if you have a more casual relationship and you are still in the “getting to know you” phase, visits may induce some level of anxiety. Sitting in a restaurant or office room somewhere can be tense and awkward. What happens if there are children of different ages—both older and younger?

Planning is the key. Keeping busy and staying active can help keep the visit moving and if conversation lags, the activity can help fill in the blanks.

With that in mind, here are a few summer time activities to get your imagination stimulated.

1. Splash Pads! These are popping up all over the place. Running through water and having water fights are fabulous ways to cool down on hot, sticky days.  Many communities now sponsor these pads as part of their park systems.  They are typically free, although if they are attached to a swimming pool such as those at YMCAs this may not be the case.  
2. Picnic in the park! Parks often have substantial playgrounds as well as picnic areas. Take along some simple toys like bubbles and hula hoops, and there is always something fresh to keep short attention spans on the alert. (Bubbles are fascinating for children of all ages. If you’ve forgotten the joys of blowing bubbles, try some today. You won’t be sorry.)
3. Paint rocks! This is part of a recent trend. Search for some flat stones, paint designs or words of inspiration on them, and then plant them for others to find. Older kids can help younger kids, adults can help all the kids, and the designs and inspirational words can prompt more in-depth conversations.
4. Have a ball! It doesn’t really matter what kind of ball your family is into, that spherical object offers something for everyone. Baseball, soccer, basketball and even playing catch—all offer opportunities for hand(foot)/eye coordination and conversation. And if those bigger balls are too much—pick up a putter and find a miniature golf course.
5. Visit the zoo! While this can be a little more pricey than some of the other options, it’s still a fun way to get out and make a special and memorable day.  

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you are all together.

Pack the sunscreen, snacks, and water so that you all stay healthy. Most importantly—don’t forget the camera (or make certain you have plenty of space on your phone) and make those memories together.

 


Heartfelt Mother’s Day

It is almost here.

That day of the year that we buy cards, flowers, gifts, and go to brunch will be here on Sunday. Do you have your plans made yet? Have you spent your $180.00 on your mother, or will you be spending more? (According to the National Retail Foundation, projected Mother’s Day sales will total more than $23 billion this year, or an average of $180.00 per person.)

Mother’s Day is one of those holidays that retailers love, but a portion of women dread. If you have experienced fertility problems or had a miscarriage or a still birth, Mother’s Day can be a reminder of significant loss. If you have placed a child for adoption, you may feel as if you have no claim to Mother’s Day at all—it’s simply something else that the adoptive mother gets that you miss out on.

The “mother” of Mother’s Day never intended for this day to become so commercialized.

Anna Jarvis began advocating for a national day or recognition for mothers in the early 1900’s, and in 1908 held the first official celebration in West Virginia. She lobbied for greater recognition and acceptance of this day, and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson established the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. But she was a proponent of the sentiments of love and gratitude to be shown to mothers—not that any type of company use the day for profit. Rather than sending store bought cards, she believed a mother would best be honored with a hand-written, heart-felt note.

Based on the actions of Miss Jarvis later in her in life, it is doubtful she would have wanted any woman to feel slighted or uncomfortable or sad on that Sunday. She never had children herself, and she died completely destitute from her efforts to have the holiday removed from the national calendar.

So how are you celebrating Mother’s Day?

Are you taking your mother out to eat? Men, are you giving your children’s mother flowers and candy? Do you all have your brunch reservations made? More personally, are you going to focus on your losses rather than celebrating the love women have for their children?

However you choose to celebrate Mother’s Day, remember the story of Anna Jarvis. Whether you are a waiting mother-to-be, a birth mother, an adoptive mother, a foster mother, or someone who mentors someone along the way…think love and gratitude—and then go out and show the world the same.


I’m Not a Quitter

Ever since I started talking about adoption, people have been giving me all kinds of grief.

The most common thing I hear is “how can you give up your baby?” Just because I’m considering an adoption plan, doesn’t mean I’m giving her up. It’s not like I’m throwing her up into the air and just waiting for her to be caught by some nameless, faceless, and soulless stranger out there!

The thing is, right now my life looks overwhelming. I have two toddlers—and I love them—but when one gets sick and can’t go to daycare, I can’t go to work. My boss says she understands, but she’s written me up twice for being late when my car died. I’m literally one write up away from being fired. My ex is no help and right now he’s living with his new girlfriend. I’m not a priority, and he says he doesn’t care about the baby I’m carrying. He’s not even sure she’s his.

So I’m planning. I’m thinking.

I’m working things through in my head. I love this baby—like I love all my babies. The two at home need me to be strong and to get them fed and get them to bed at night. They need me to be able to read their bedtime stories. They need me to get them ready to go to the sitter’s and play in the park on the way home. I can’t give them a father. But I know they deserve the best of me that they can get!

So I’m making a plan. I’ve been talking to Alli, an adoption coordinator at the Adoption Support Center. She’s introduced me to this family and we had lunch together. I can’t put it into words, exactly, but it’s like I’ve known them forever. My baby is not going to be put up for random people to become parents! I’m not going to just “adopt her out”.

I’m making a plan. Right now, that plan includes adoption. I may follow through on that plan. I may not follow through on that plan. Whatever I decide, it will be what is best for this baby, my kids at home, and me. I’m not going to quit being a parent, even if I do place my baby with the family I met. I’ll be her parent in a different way, but I’ll always be connected to her.

I am not a quitter.

The Ties that Bind

“Your son would have brought much honor to your family.”

There’s something about a pregnant belly that invites commentary, advice, judgment, and opinion. Suddenly, everywhere you turn, there are people wanting to tell you their own pregnancy story, their friends’ pregnancy stories, and the latest rumor on the web about which celebrity is pregnant. And after the stories and rumors comes the questions. “When are you due?” “Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?” “Do you have names picked out?”

Taylor remembers having this conversation with the nail tech while getting a pedicure. The woman was thrilled to hear she was having a boy. She exclaimed, “Your son will bring much honor to your family.” And then in the interest of honesty, Taylor confided her adoption plans to this woman. As Taylor said, “It just felt like a lie to let her think I was bringing this baby home.” The woman’s response was less than thrilled. She became more quiet and then said “your son would have brought much honor to your family.”

Let’s face it. Adoption sounds wonderful from the adoptive parents’ point of view. All their friends and family members get to be excited about a new child coming into their lives. But from your side? You are much more likely to get “How can you do that? How can you give your baby away?” Taylor also heard such comments as “just give your baby to me!”, and “I know you. You won’t be able to actually go through with it”. She had family members tell her that her baby was her “blood” and she had no business “giving it away”.

So how do you respond? First of all, you are never under any obligation to talk about your pregnancy—big belly or not. Random nosy people at the store or park or nail salon may be well intentioned, but they do not have the right to know your story. Taylor says in looking back she wished she had simply answered the questions about boy or girl and due date, and then simply said “thank you” to the part of bringing honor to her family.

Of course, to have people in your life that you know and trust is a blessing. They may not understand or agree with your decision to place the baby. Family pressure to parent is often real and very strong. Taylor says her answer to the question “How could you do that?” became “How could I not?” She goes on to tell it like this: “Good parents put the needs of their children before their own needs and desires. My choice is no different. I am just in a different circumstance.” She adds, “I want the very best for my son, but I am not able to provide that for him at this point. I didn’t feel right about dragging my son along for the struggle.”

Whatever your circumstances, your reasons, or feelings, the choices you make for your child belong to you! Whether you become the every day mommy or the mommy who loves your child in a different way, there is no breaking the bond you have with your baby. The people who know and love you will come to understand your decision. Still struggling with how to tell and who to tell? The ladies of the Adoption Support Center are ready to help you find the words.


Thinking the Unthinkable

So you’re pregnant. Not too far along…just a few weeks. But trying to think ahead is confusing, overwhelming…and let’s face it. The early physical parts of pregnancy may make you feel that you’ve got an alien inside you trying to completely take over your body.

At this point in time, you may not be able to picture a real baby. You might be caught in the now…just trying to get through the next few hours, days and weeks.

Early in the pregnancy, you might start to consider the possibility that you might not raise your baby yourself. It’s just a hint of an idea, but it sits in the back of your mind. But if you don’t raise this baby, what will happen? How does this just go away?

If you are still in your first trimester (up to twelve weeks pregnant), you can choose to end your pregnancy with an abortion. You can travel out of state if you are farther along to end your pregnancy. You may be thinking this is the best way to make the problem go away. You may not be thinking of what is going on inside you as a baby. And who is going to know if you don’t tell them?

Well, you will know. And while you may just feel a sense of relief, it’s likely you will always remember the experience. There is a good chance that you may regret it. And who can you talk to about it? If you don’t feel good about your decision, you may become depressed.

Once an abortion is done, it can’t be undone. There will be no baby.

So if abortion is not for you, yet down deep in your heart you believe that you are not ready to be a mom, what is for you? If you believe that you can’t give your baby the life you want for yourself or for another life, what do you do? Maybe this is where you can start to think about adoption.

In adoption, you can choose to give a baby a life, and give that baby the life you dream of. You have time…time to make a plan. Time to dream of the future. Time to get the basics of life in line…a place to live, a way to provide for yourself and the baby, and time to work on your relationships to others.

All this gets really confusing. But here is what a woman who placed her baby for adoption had to say about this difference between abortion and adoption.

“I would never be able to live with the guilt and grief of abortion. I know there is grief that comes with adoption as well, but I knew I would have peace knowing that I gave him life. I love my son and I know his adoptive parents do too and are glad that I chose life for him. Some people told me that I “could have gone the easy way out” and gotten an abortion but that never crossed my mind while I was pregnant.”

If you’re looking for someone to talk this through, just reach out. The Adoption Support Center is ready to talk about all of this…without judgment, pressure or expectation. We’re ready to listen.


I’m Pregnant—Now What?

What happens when the unthinkable happens? What happens when you pee on the stick, and that line appears? Maybe you want to have a baby and this is the best news you’ve seen in a long, long time.

But what happens if you don’t want to have a baby? What if this complicates your life and the life of your children in ways that are too hard to imagine?

An unplanned pregnancy can be scary, thrilling, sad, exhilarating, depressing, or breathtaking. From that first glimmer of suspicion to the confirmation from the pink lines on the pregnancy test, your emotions will probably shift and change from moment to moment. Guess what? This is normal!

When you take a few moments to let it sink in and to really think about it, you start to realize that life will never be the same. No matter what happens next, this has happened.

Perhaps your story is like that of Jessica’s. Here is what she wrote in her journal on the day she learned she was pregnant…again.

“I took a test today. It came out positive. I just got back in a relationship with my little girl’s dad. I had an appointment in a few days for birth control. How could I be so stupid to let this happen again? My daughter isn’t even three and he has never been around for her. How is this going to change anything?”

No matter what you are feeling, thinking, or doing, you are not alone! There are other women who have been there, felt that, and want to help you through the times that are scary and uncertain. You just have to reach out.  The Adoption Support Center is one place you can turn. No pressure, no judgment. Just compassion.