Monday, December 27, 2010

Ch-Ch-Changes

It occurred to me the other day that I haven't really said much lately about how things are going right now as far as adoption goes. I don't have much to say about it, I guess. I mean, I could go on for days about last Wednesday's practically perfect visit with P and M and their darling daughters. I could write pages about Roo's eyebrows alone (she has very expressive eyebrows). But I feel like I'm in a really good place with adoption in general and my adoption situation in particular. I am content. I still have my moments where I miss Roo terribly, but more and more I find that the Roo I miss isn't the Roo that exists now. I miss the newborn Roo who was mine and I'm sad for what never was, not for what is. Roo has a wonderful life. I am so happy for her!

So, adoption's great. It's the rest of my life that's a bit untidy at present. And when I say "a bit untidy" what I mean is that there has been a great deal of upheaval.

For openers, I am trying to get back into school. I always planned on getting my bachelor's degree before I turned thirty, and the clock is ticking. Financial aid has been one gigantic migraine, and absolutely nothing I'd planned for the coming semester seems to be falling into place.

I started working again at the end of October, which was an adjustment for me. The last time I worked, H was in my life. I was working at a hair salon for a manager who hated me. My financial situation had never looked better, so I put up with the verbal abuse. My father was still alive. It was a completely different world.

Now I have a very different job at a great library, working for and with people who are generally very kind and personable. My pay would have to be raised to reach abysmal, but I'm happy enough. It's strange to be working again. While I discovered that unemployment didn't particularly suit me, I did grow accustomed to it. So, working is an adjustment. I've had to re-learn how to prioritize and manage my time.

I had been working for exactly three days when my mother announced her engagement to a man she had been dating for all of about two weeks. They got married on December 3rd. He moved in. I'm moving out. I found a really fantastic condo for rent a few miles west of where I live now, and my lease starts on New Year's Day. So I have spent much of my time since Halloween packing and planning for my new place.

I realize that at my age it's probably just sad that I still live at home. But still ... I don't know. I guess I always thought that moving out would be my idea, something I did when my finances were in a better state. I never thought I'd be pushed out because my mom's new husband doesn't like me. Which he doesn't.

My mother says he's intimidated by me, which I think is ridiculous for several reasons I'm too tired to enumerate. Suffice it to say that I am not a child - I can tell the difference between intimidation and aversion, and I smell the latter. How awkward is that? I always knew my mother would marry again, but I guess I thought she'd take a bit more time first. I guess I thought she'd end up with a man who could stand to be in the same room as me. I was wrong.

She seems happy enough. I suppose that ought to be enough, that I ought to be happy for her the way I'm happy for Roo. But it's different - very, very different. And selfish, I'll admit to that. I'm being selfish. I'm not proud of it. But the selfishness is there just the same.

With the crazy way things have been going, I am extra thankful for the stability that Roo has. The more time that passes, the more I am able to appreciate her exemplary parents and wonderful life. I mean, it's safe to say that things wouldn't be changing the way they are now if I'd not chosen adoption. But I can easily believe that there would be many other changes, and probably none of them good for Roo. How grateful I am for the life she has! I don't mean to imply that Roo would have been miserable and damaged if I'd parented her. She would have been fine, I'm sure of it. But instead, she's better than fine.

I think that, eventually, I will be too. Things just have to be a little crazy for a while. I'll get through it and be better for it. Hey, I've been through worse! This is kid stuff.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It is super late, and I am very tired, and I am currently Lord Mayor of Allergy Town, and I should be asleep, not blogging. So I'll make this short and sweet.

Today's visit with Roo and her awesome family? Pretty much the best thing EVER. I am a very spoiled, very happy girl. Also, you should all be insanely jealous of my little Roo, because she is the sweetest, smartest, most beautiful girl in the known universe, and she has the best, most amazing family ever. I love them all forever :)

Merry Christmas, blog peeps!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Awesome Link of the Day

One of the many wonders of the Internet* is that it allows for the discovery of wonderful things you'd never find any other way. For instance, there are hundreds of websites out there full of pictures of baby pandas. There are websites like Mental Floss that contain more information than you could learn in a lifetime. There are blogs like Cake Wrecks dedicated to the edible foibles of grocery store bakers. And there are any number of pages of awkward pregnancy photos (update at bottom is slightly NSFW). I'll confess, that last one was completely new to me before the days of Google. I guess it's because I'd never really been around pregnant women before, but I had no idea that there was a market for pregnancy photography. There exist a grand total of maybe seven pictures of my mother pregnant, and all of them are snapshots. It never would have occurred to me that parents-to-be would arrange for a photoshoot - of any level of taste.

Granted, there are probably thousands of very tasteful, lovely pregnancy pictures out there, but aren't the awkward ones more fun? It's a pity that couples who adopt don't have the chance to pose for pregnancy photos with Goodyear tires and watermelons.

Well, take heart, adoptive couples! You, too, can have tacky "pregnancy" photos. One adoptive couple decided to do a photo shoot with the aid of a beach ball, and these are the hilarious results: http://www.jejune.net/bits/2010/04/introducing-the-metaphorical-adoption-maternity-portrait-series/

The photo commentary is hilarious, but the blog author - whose friends adopted twins - wrote a lovely bit about adoption at the beginning as well. And she makes a good point - in adoption, as in most of life, you have to have a sense of humor.

*I am aware that 99% of the time, when I use the word "Internet" I should actually be using the phrase "world wide web" and I know they're not, strictly speaking, interchangeable. But I've never liked the word "web" and I think "Internet" is catchier.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Anniversary

I've been so busy lately that I missed a milestone a few days ago. It's been a year since Roo's adoption was finalized! How cool is that? I thought about it last month on National Adoption Day because I know a couple who finalized their son's adoption that day (Hi, Mary!). I don't remember if I wrote a lot about Roo's finalization last year and I'm too lazy to check my own archives.

But even if I did do a decent write-up, I feel like reminiscing a bit. Finalization was sort of strange for me - I wasn't sure how I was supposed to feel. As far as I was concerned, things were a done deal at placement. Once I signed the paperwork, she was theirs. I had a hard time committing to an emotion about things being 100% legally official.

I thought it would be harder. I expected that I'd cry, or that I'd be a little sad at least. I didn't really feel anything, and that concerned me. I knew the court date but not the exact time. Sometime in the early afternoon it occurred to me that it must have been over already. I still didn't feel anything. I suppose there was an underlying sort of sadness, but that was more of an everyday sort of thing.

Then I got the e-mail. P and M sent me two pictures that had been taken in the courtroom. When I saw the pictures, I felt my first real, tangible emotion of the day, and it wasn't one I'd been expecting: joy. I have never seen two people look happier than P and M did in the pictures. Their happiness was contagious. It did me so much good to see how happy they were with their little family - with Roo.

The sealing day was a horse of a different color. It wasn't what I expected. I don't know why I thought anything on earth might go the way I expected, since nothing ever has. I'm not sure what I expected, actually. Not the overwhelming sadness, that's for sure. I'm not going to lie; it was pretty rough.

Then came Roo's blessing day - joy again! It gave me the peace I'd missed the day before. It's hard to believe it's been a year since that day. A year! How did that happen? How did Roo get so big all of a sudden? I'll never know. I do know that one year later, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Placing Roo was the best decision I have ever made. I don't regret it for a second. She is the cutest, smartest, happiest, most wonderful little person in the world. I love her more than I can ever say. I am so very glad I placed her with P and M.

Happy anniversary, P and M and Roo!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Dating" a Birth Mom

I was asked a few months ago for a bit of advice. I get asked for advice not irregularly, which is both flattering an intimidating. I don't feel like I know enough about anything on earth to give advice. But people will ask me anyway, and I try to come up with something useful to say.

Anyway. A few months ago, a hopeful adoptive mama e-mailed me. She and her husband were going to meet with a potential birth mother, and she was a nervous wreck. I can't blame her. I'd be nervous, too. And in fact, I was. I'm pretty sure that's what I ended up saying in the e-mail. As nervous as a couple might be, the potential birth mom is just as nervous. It's a pretty intimidating meeting for everyone involved. You want it to go well. You want to make a good impression. You want the other party to like you. Granted, the potential birth mother's got the upper hand here, because the decision is hers to make. But that doesn't mean she's not in a cold sweat at the thought of meeting a couple.

I remember being terrified at the prospect of meeting hopeful adoptive couples. I wanted them to like me, but not because I might give them a baby. I wanted them to like me because they thought I was a good person. I'm sure the couples I met got their hopes up a bit, and I'll confess that I did as well. I'd heard stories from other birth moms about how they felt when they met the couples they eventually chose, and I was looking forward to a heavenly choir of my own, or at least a bit of déjà vu. Neither of which I got with P and M, by the way.

I digress.

I've often found parallels between dating and waiting for placement, and there's another one here - it's overly simplistic and highly imperfect. But even so. Think of meeting with a birth mom as a sort of first date with someone you've met on-line. The comparison isn't a perfect one, obviously, because a birth mom doesn't meet every couple she has contact with. But as far as meeting with a potential birth mom goes, remember, you are attempting to start a real-life relationship, same as you would with dating.

When you were dating, would you assume that every person who asked you out wanted to marry you? Probably not. You're asked out because he or she wants to get to know you better and see if there's the potential for a more meaningful relationship. Likewise, a meeting with a potential birth mom doesn't necessarily mean she's ready to pick you. It means she's thinking about you and wants to meet in person to get better acquainted.

So, let's say you've been on a first date with someone and you had a great time. Maybe they had a great time, too, and they'll call you again and you'll enjoy another date. That would be wonderful, wouldn't it? But say that, although they had a good enough time, they're not particularly interested in a repeat performance. Would you take it personally? Would you see it as a sign that you'll never date again, never marry? Would you feel like this person was your only chance at dating, and give up?

I hope not. You might feel sad at first, and wonder what you did or said that made them lose interest. But I hope you'd feel better in a day or two and realize that just because this person doesn't want to go steady with you, doesn't mean no one else ever will, and it doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with you. You needn't take it personally.

Again, it's not a perfect parallel, but try to keep my clumsy analogy in mind when meeting with birth moms. If you meet with a birth mom once and never hear from her again, try not to take it personally. Odds are, it's nothing you did or said. She simply didn't feel you were right. It's no one's fault. And it doesn't mean you'll never be chosen.

One of the couples I met when I was pregnant had actually met with seven birth moms before being chosen. If they'd given up after I moved on, they wouldn't be parents today. But they had a little faith, and they persevered, and today they have a darling one-year-old girl who is their whole world.

It's okay to be nervous. It's okay to imagine what-ifs. It's perfectly okay to want to make a good impression, and I'd be worried if you didn't think, this could be the one. But it's also okay if this isn't the one. It's okay (or will be, anyway) if it doesn't work out. You might not think so right away. But don't lose hope. Just because this woman isn't your child's birth mom, doesn't mean you'll never be chosen.

I feel like this is probably some of the least-useful advice I've ever given, but I hope it was a little helpful just the same.

If you're in the mood for mostly-useless advice, drop me a line at thehappiestsad AT gmail DOT com.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Before I Forget

I promise I have actual blog content on the way very soon, but in the meantime, there is something important I need to say.

To the person who found my blog by Googling "can you serve cold risotto," please accept my apologies. And I'm pretty sure you can, in fact, serve risotto cold.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Formspring Revisited: Brothers and Sisters

Note: this past week has been insanely busy, and I started but never finished six different posts. I plan on finishing them eventually, but I felt bad for neglecting my blog, so I thought I'd post something I wrote a few weeks ago and had floating around in the queue.


It's that time again - time for me to answer a question I've already answered! I'm awesome that way. In case you're wondering, I have considered setting my Formspring up so that whenever I answer a question, it updates my blog. But I don't like the idea of my blog doing anything behind my back. Plus, I usually think of better answers after I've already given answers, and this is another way for me to say exactly what I want to say.

When I answer e-mailed questions on my blog, I paraphrase. I'm going to do a little of that with my Formspring questions, just because sometimes I don't like the way people word things.

How would you feel if Roo's parents adopted again? Would you be upset?

I would never be upset. I wanted Roo to have siblings. I know that a lot of birth moms want their babies to be the first child in the families they place with, so they'll get more attention or whatever. I felt that way at first, but I also worried about my child being sort of the test subject for brand new parents. I know that someone's got to be the guinea pig, but I wasn't sure how I felt about it being my little girl! Also, I wanted siblings for Roo. Many couples who certify to adopt never actually do, and the ones who are blessed with a child have no guarantees that they'll ever end up with more than one child. The thought of Roo being an only child made me sad. When I considered P and M, I liked that they already had a child, because Roo got an instant big sister, and the two of them together are the cutest thing in the world. Even if P and M never do adopt again, Roo and her sister have each other, and they're both adopted, so they have that in common. They're both doubly loved.

So, would I be upset if Roo got a little brother or sister? Just the opposite - I'd be very happy for P and M, and in fact I hope they do adopt again if they want to. I think I'd be a bit sad for them if they wanted to but didn't for whatever reason. I always wanted a little brother or sister, so I would love for Roo to have one or two.

As I said, couples who adopt once have no guarantees they'll adopt again. A such, many couples begin the re-certification process as soon as they possibly can, to give themselves as much time and as many chances as they can to be chosen - and sometimes opportunities to adopt come up before a couple is certified again. I guess that's where my only worry came in, and it's long since past. Although I can't imagine it happening now, I worried for a bit that a chance to adopt again would come up when Roo was still very small, and that as an infant she would have to compete for parental attention with a newborn. But it was only a passing worry, and it passed.

Roo's mom and dad are wonderful parents, and I hope they end up with as many children as they'd like.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

And It's Not Even My Birthday

Let's face it, there's no way to mention you got a blog award without sounding like a horrible braggart. I can't bear a braggart. I had a rather humorous post written up about getting a blog award, and I referenced Captain Cluck and everything. But in the end, I couldn't bring myself to post it, because it felt a little too self-congratulatory. (This post does as well, but que sera, sera.)

But we talked about gratitude in church today, and I thought, if I just let this go without acknowledging it, I'm being ungrateful. Which I don't mean to be. Because I am super, super grateful to get a blog award. And this one came when I was feeling emotionally fragile and needed a little validation.

And here's my validation!



One of my new fave birth mama blogs is called Carrying a Cat By the Tail, and the blogger, who goes by A Life Being Lived, thought I needed a little pink to balance out Captain Cluck and the Daisy on my sidebar. Wasn't that nice of her?

I mean, like I said, I don't want to brag or anything, but I don't want to be ungrateful, either. And I love cupcakes.

Of course, now I'm supposed to spread the love to 5 other people. Sigh. I hate choosing favorites. Some asked me once on Formspring what my favorite adoption blogs were, and I answered, against my better judgment. I do love the blogs I mentioned, but all I can think of are the countless others I love that I should have mentioned as well. So for now, I'm going to be a weaselling weasel, and weasel out of further nominations. I wish I could give it to all of you the way I did with Captain Cluck, because y'all are awesome.

(Y'all know how awesome you are, right? If you don't, kindly click HERE and start believing. Captain Cluck would love to be CTRL+C-ed and CTRL+V-ed onto your snazzy little corner of the blogging world.)

Would the blogosphere explode if I broke the sacred rules of the Blog Award? Like, if I said, "Hey, readers, you are award-worthy, please take this award for yourselves - all of you!" would that be a bad thing? I mean, if anyone can just take one it probably defeats the purpose of them being awarded. Which is probably why I haven't seen Captain Cluck floating around too much - people like the idea of being chosen for something.

Well, too bad. For now, I choose to abstain from further awarding.

Thanks, ALBL! You and your lovely blog are awesome. As a token of my appreciation, please take a chicken.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. I know it's trite and cliché, but I feel the need to count some of my many blessings today.

I am thankful most of all for Roo. She is my favorite little person in the world. She changed my life forever, for the better. I am who I am because of her.

I am thankful for P and M. They are wonderful parents, the very best in the world. They love Roo so very much! She is blessed to be their daughter. I am blessed to know them.

I am thankful for an open adoption. P and M spoil me, really. They have sent me so many great videos of their baby girl. I get to see for myself how happy and clever and loved she is. How awesome is that?

I am thankful for all of the amazing friends I have made since I became a birth mom. Adoption friends are the best.

I am thankful for my family, especially my mother and my big brother Scott. Their love and support have gotten me through hard times and I couldn't have done it without them.

I am thankful for a Father in Heaven who knows me and loves me, and who is always there for me, forever, no matter what.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Happy National Adoption Day!

I've been neglecting my blog lately. Bad blogger! Shame! But I couldn't not post today, even though I am that special kind of tired where it's difficult to string together more than one coherent sentence (bear with me). Because not only is the whole month of November adoption month, but today specifically is National Adoption Day. I think that's what it's called. I'm too lazy to Google it.

(I should warn you, that laziness is probably a pretty good indication of the quality of today's post, so please lower your expectations.)

More than 300 adoptions will be finalized today in the Phoenix area alone. Isn't that awesome? I think this has to be the best day to be a family court judge. So much of their work is to tear families apart. If I were one, I certainly wouldn't mind going to work on a Saturday to put families together.

I personally know of a family whose adoption of a darling boy was finalized today. I am so happy for them! Their finalization takes me back to last December when a judge told P and M that Roo was officially theirs. P and M sent me a few pictures from the courthouse and I remember thinking that the judge looked like a nice man. In the year that has passed, I have seen probably six or seven other courthouse finalization pictures with the same judge, and I always smile when I see him in photographs with these indescribably happy families. I have never met the man, but I will always remember him, because he was the judge who legally, officially, gave Roo a family. I'm sure I'll have more to say about that in a few weeks when it's Roo's one-year anniversary as an official member of the P and M family.

In the adoption blogs I frequent, the focus this month has been on infant adoption, but as I understand it (again, I'm too lazy for Google) the real focus of adoption month is foster children who need forever families. So while I am super happy for the couple I know and their handsome little guy whose adoption is final today, I find myself equally teary-eyed at the thought of older children from the foster-care system who are also getting families today.

I can't say what the statistics are nationwide but I remember reading that in Arizona there are more than 10,000 children in foster care. Doesn't that just break your heart? I'm not going to get all "I believe that children are our future" here, but I do think that every child is precious, and every child deserves a family and unconditional love.

Next week is Thanksgiving, but I am going to be extra-thankful a little early, because as I understand, that sort of thing is not only allowed but encouraged in some circles. I am so thankful for adoption! I am thankful that Roo has an amazing family and all the love in the world. I am thankful for the great life she has and for her happiness. I am thankful for ppen adoption, because it means we all get to be happy - P and M, Roo, and me. I am thankful for P and M, for the great parents that they are, and for their love for each other and for their children. Because of the choice I made - because I was sad for a little while - we can all have what God wants most for us. We can be happy.

I am thankful for adoption in general. It's an imperfect system, I'm not going to lie. But for me - and for my Roo, and her parents and sister - it was the best thing in the world. For my mother, it was the best thing in the world. For at least thirty families I know, it was the best thing in the world. Adoption doesn't always work, but when it does, it is a beautiful thing.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Up the Hill

I was asked some time ago about grief after placement. More specifically, I was asked what changed for me. What is it that helped me get past the worst of the pain, helped me to turn around, to feel happy again. I've been thinking about it for a while. I wasn't sure I wanted to answer, because it is a story that is meaningful to me personally but that might sound kind of ridiculous when written out. But I thought I'd give it a try anyway, in the hope that maybe someone will read it who is hurting, and I can help them hurt a little less.

The days right after placement were absolute hell for me. To say that I was unhappy would be an understatement of epic proportions. After a week or so, and after the first visit, things got a little easier, but I certainly wouldn't say life got a lot easier after that. It didn't. It sucked less. As time passed, pain started to seep away little by little like a slow leak.

And then, a few months after placement, I hit a standstill. I wasn't as depressed as I'd been immediately post-placement, but I didn't seem to be getting any happier, either. My hike back up the hill of mental health hit a roadblock. No matter what I did or how hard I tried, I couldn't seem to get more than halfway up said metaphorical hill.

It was frustrating, and with that frustration came a number of other little things that acted as a mini landslide, which succeeded in knocking me back down the hill a few feet. I managed to climb back up to the peak I'd reached previously, but nothing in heaven or earth worked to get me to the top of that darned hill. I was ready to give up and pitch a tent.

I grew more and more frustrated and when the opportunity arose to do a school outreach presentation I nearly didn't take it. How, I thought, was I supposed to tell class after class of teenagers that adoption had made me happy when I didn't feel happy at all? I was beginning to think I was never going to be really happy ever again.

But something inside of me wouldn't let me say no, and so off I went, with a caseworker or two and a birth mom who had placed nearly 8 years ago. The birth mom, N, was someone whose story I'd heard before on more than one occasion and I liked and respected her. Since placement, N had married and had three children, and her story gave me hope for my own future. In my crabbiness, I think I'd have snapped at any other birth mom I might have presented with but for some reason I didn't mind N.

I told my story first, and if I was slightly less enthusiastic than normal no one noticed or at the very least no one said anything. After I finished, I gave a small smile and took my seat as N told her story.

It was the same story I'd heard her tell many times before, and I found myself drifting a bit. Then she got to the end. She told the kids that she had worried that the pain of placement would ruin her forever, that it would break her, and she would be forever broken.

Then N said three words I'm sure I must have heard before: "I'm not broken."

Such small words, but she said them with such force, such conviction that I felt them in my soul. I knew N wasn't just repeating a phrase she'd heart before. She was stating the absolute, irrefutable truth. She was NOT broken.

I can't explain it, but those three words changed something in me that day. They grew both roots in my heart and wings to carry them to my mind. They echoed in my head for hours. "I'm not broken."

Was I broken? I didn't want to be. I desperately didn't want to be. It felt wrong to me that I should go through so much pain and heartache and not come through it a stronger, better person. Being broken seemed wrong.

I decided something important that day. I decided that no matter how long it took me to climb that dratted hill, I would climb it. I would not give up, because I was not broken either.

The day N said those words - "I'm not broken" - was a turning point in my grief. I don't think it was until she said them that I realized I wasn't broken, either. I could be, if I so chose, but I didn't have to be broken, not for a second, if I didn't want it. I decided I didn't want it.

That's not to say that my pain is all gone or that there are no hard days and no tears. Certainly there are hard days! Certainly I cry! I still grieve a little. I think I'm entitled to; after all, my heart was broken. My heart was broken. But I was not.

My Father in Heaven asked me to exercise more faith than I thought I possessed and place my precious daughter with two people I had never met. He gave me the strength to do it. He saw me through the hard times afterward. I am not broken. He fixed me. I am whole.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Formspring Revisited: What the H?

I'm not very good at remembering people's names. Or, if I remember their names, I don't remember their faces. For some reason, these rather important things are hard for me to get the first time or two. But one thing I always remember about a person I meet is his or her birthday.

Tomorrow is H's birthday. I don't think I'll ever forget that. I seem to get a lot of questions about H on my Formspring. Here are a few of them, in honor (if that's the right word) of his birthday.

On your blog what does H stand for? I mean it is obviously the birthfathers name but what is it?

I decided a long time ago I was never going to use my ex's name on my blog, and I haven't changed my mind. H stands for Him. Simple as that.

If you are my friend on Facebook (be my friend?), and you look back far enough, should you ever be that bored, you can find him. But I don't use his real name here and I never will. If you are dying of curiosity and would like a hint, I'll tell you that his name is also a verb.

Did the birth father help you pick a couple to place with?

Hahaha!

No, he certainly did not. He was willing to be involved as much as the law required if I single parented, but if I went with adoption he didn't want a thing to do with me or the baby. And then it turned out he didn't want a thing to do with me during the pregnancy anyway.

So, no. He wasn't involved at all. With anything, least of all the adoption.

I'm not sure how much of a fan of adoption he ever was, actually. I had him served with paperwork that said I planned on placing, and he let it slide. He later accused me of manipulating him out of signing it, and told me that if I was thinking about adoption, I should just sign all my rights over to him. Because apparently to him, if I was considering adoption, it meant I didn't care about the baby and just didn't want to be a mother. Blah.

Was the birth father there when the placement happened?
He wasn't. When I placed, I hadn't seen him for nearly a year.

Does the birth father get the same openness you do?
Not that I'm aware of. I haven't seen him in almost two years and I haven't communicated with him in more than one year, so I can't be sure, but it would very much surprise me. I don't think Roo's parents even know his last name. Well, maybe they do. I can't remember everything I told them about him. I would certainly tell them if they wanted to know. But I'm not aware of any contact.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

In Which I Whine Like a Whining Whiner, and Give Up

I didn't post yesterday. I didn't post yesterday, and when I realized that, I panicked. The challenge! I thought. I missed a day. What to do? I wasn't sure. And then I thought, how ridiculous is this? I am getting stressed out because I skipped a single day of blogging! One day! How ridiculous is it to post every single day?

Today is Saturday - six days into November, and I am already complaining about Mrs. R's challenge to post every day. Actually, I think I've been complaining about it since the 2nd. I'm not usually such a whiner. I apologize.

I think that part of my problem is that I've got a lot of good posts that I have worked hard on. I feel like if I post one every day, I'm wasting them and all the work I've put in. So I have a feeling that about half of what I post this month is going to be sort of a throwaway so I don't use up all the best stuff. Also, I feel like the really good posts might get lost with so many other posts going up. Like my post from the 1st, In Which I Answer A Question No One Asked. I'm proud of it, but I feel like it got lost in the shuffle. I'm not really happy about that. I'm not really happy about using filler or throwaway posts. I post as often as I do in a regular month because I don't want to blog just for the sake of blogging. I like to have something useful or relevant to say. If I don't, I don't say anything at all (for the most part).

I'm not quite sure what to do. I don't want my blog cluttered with throwaway posts. I don't think it's worth it just to be able to say that I blogged every day for a month. And in any case, I'm not sure today even counts since I'm not blogging about adoption, I'm blogging about blogging. Blah. I am not usually a quitter or a giver-upper, but I think I may make an exception in this case. I like the idea of a whole month of blogging about adoption, but at the same time, I think, around here, every month is a whole month about adoption. Not one post per day, maybe, but it's not as though I routinely post about anything else. This is an adoption blog; I post about adoption.

I think that's good enough. It's good enough for me, anyway, and I very much doubt that when Roo is older and reads this she'll be disappointed that I didn't force out a month of 30 crappy posts. I think she'd rather read ten to twelve good ones. I know I would. And I'd rather write them as well. So, hello to National Adoption Month, and goodbye to Mrs. R's Adoption Month challenge. Those of you who are keeping at it, good for you. I'm going to just keep on doing my thing.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Question Every Birth Mom Gets Asked

This one's borrowed from my Formspring, and I've expanded the answer. I have a feeling this is going to happen a lot this month.

When you found out you were pregnant did you think about getting an abortion?

Short answer: nope.

Long answer: Define "consider." Did abortion cross my mind? Absolutely. Was it ever an option for me? Absolutely not.

H let me know that he would have been okay with an abortion. I seem to recall that he offered to pay for one if that's what I chose. I've told that to people and they all seem to think it was just awful of him. I don't, because I know him (or rather, I thought I used to). I believe that was just his messed-up way of trying to help.

But ever since I was aware of things like unplanned pregnancies and abortions, I have known that I could never, ever have an abortion. I've always found abortion to be very morally yucky. I wanted Roo before I even found out I was pregnant. Nothing in this world could have changed that.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Who's the Boss?

I took the "Blog every day for adoption month" challenge last year, and it was actually not as hard as I thought. So this year I thought, I can do this, no problem.

But there is a problem. Today is November 3rd, and I already feel like I've run out of things to say. So I'm going to be a weasel and use some of my Formspring questions and answers to fill in the days. I'm not always feeling chatty when I answer questions, so I may expand my answers here on my blog as I feel it's appropriate. Today, for instance. I've added a bit and explained a bit more. Well, okay, a LOT more.

Here's the question for today:

Do Roo's parents do anything as parents that you don't agree with or that you wouldn't do as a parent?

Not that I'm aware of. But it's not as though I've got nanny-cams on them and see their every move. It's certainly possible. When I was meeting couples, and when I met with P and M, I asked questions about the aspects of parenting that were most important to me. For instance, I feel very strongly that spanking is wrong. So I asked about it. P and M are smart people. They've read and studied about child discipline and what children respond best to, which is NOT spanking.

But back to the question - do they do anything I disagree with as far as parenting? If they did, I'd live with it. Parenting is their job and their call, not mine. One of the classes I attended at the national FSA conference in July was about communicating with adoptive couples. Someone asked a question about what to do if you disagree with their parenting styles or philosophies, and the instructor addressed it. I thought her answer was sort of nice, but at the same time I think she failed to mention something important - once you place your child for adoption, you don't get to decide how they're raised. I think that some misinformed birth moms mistake openness for co-parenting. That is absolutely, 100% not the way things go. There's a difference between contact and custody. I gave up the right to a say in how Roo is raised when I signed my rights away. If I wasn't okay with that, I wouldn't have signed.

I wouldn't tell my brothers or sister how to raise their children, and these are people that I routinely talk smack about and tease. I'm certainly not about to tell P and M - my little Roo's parents! - how to raise their children. That would be quite an insult to their intelligence to assume that I know more about parenting - that I know what's best. What is best is for them to decide! I daresay that at this point in time, they know much better than I do how to be good parents. I trusted them enough to place my baby with them, so obviously I trust their judgment and I honestly think they are the best parents in the world to Roo and her sister.

The instructor of the aforementioned class gave examples of polite ways of suggesting certain parenting ideas, but I think that even that is a bit much. It is simply not my place. I don't have that kind of nerve, and I don't want it.

So, you might ask, is a birth mom out of luck? Well, yes. That's why it's so important for her to make sure she chooses the family with whom she feels the most comfortable. For example, if an expectant mother meets with a couple she loves but they vote Green Party and she knows it's going to bug her for the next twenty years, she might consider meeting with other couples. She needs to know what things are the most important to her in potential parents for her child - what things are deal-breakers, and what things she can live with.

I think I've used about four times as many words as I needed to answer that question. I think I'm done now.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How Will She Feel?

I have about forty drafts of blog posts waiting to be finished, edited, polished, and published. At least five of them are different versions of the same post, which I scrapped months ago but have yet to delete. I know all this because I just went through my drafts to see what I might be able to use for this month of blogging.

I have to say, I'm not very excited with what I've got. Today is only November 2nd, so I've got a bit of time to figure something out. In the meantime, I thought I'd answer a few of the questions I've been asked. Maybe by the time I've gone through the list I'll have thought of ideas for the rest of the month!

As usual, I've paraphrased:

I'm sure you've come across the same blogs I have written by adult adoptees who feel cheated or harmed by "the system" in their adoptions. Do you ever read these and worry about what your daughter will think when she's older?

Honestly? Every so often I do. There are no guarantees in life. I can't say definitively that Roo won't ever have negative feelings towards me as she gets older. I don't think it's likely at all, but you can't always predict these things.

And sometimes, if I'm having a more emotional day, I'll think about it more. I should mention, I don't actually read those blogs, for the same reason that I don't ever watch those videos that PETA produces about how animals on farms are mistreated: I don't enjoy seeing - or reading about - the pain and suffering of a living creature. Nothing in the world that I can do will take away the pain of these people, and reading about their pain just makes me feel miserable.

Anyway.

My mother has been a great comfort to me when I've been a worrying worried worrywart. She was adopted as a baby, and she reassures me that she has nothing but love and respect for her birth mother, that being adopted was the best thing in the world for her - even though her birth mother could have raised her and been an excellent mother, that she has never suffered or felt damaged by being adopted.

I know and know of other adult adoptees as well, and not one of the ones I know personally are of the angry, wounded ilk. I think what it comes down to is the parents, and how the issue of adoption is handled. Roo has phenomenal parents. I quite honestly wish they could have adopted me, too. And she will always know that she was adopted, and why, and who I am. It will never be a secret, or something to be ashamed of. Any questions she has about where she came from will be answered. And like I said, she's got great parents, who have read more books about adoption than I even know exist. They will be able to explain things to her in an appropriate way as she grows.

Honestly, as much help as my mother is, P and M are the reason I worry as little as I do. I could not possibly have found better parents than they. There are, as I said, no guarantees in life, and only time will tell what sort of person Roo becomes. But I placed Roo with her parents because they were the only people I met that I trusted implicitly to raise my baby to be a strong, smart, well-adjusted, content and happy woman. I feel confident that as Roo grows up, she will understand her adoption, and that it will be a non-issue.

Monday, November 1, 2010

In Which I Answer a Question No One Asked

I'm a little late in the day to post, but today is still November 1st, and this still counts as a post for today. I think it's a good one to kick off National Adoption Month as well.

I was asked not long ago to explain what open adoption means to me.

I'm sure that the person who asked was hoping for a definition of sorts - what do I consider to be an open adoption? How would I classify their idea of it? What are the requirements that I personally have for an adoption to qualify as open?

Well, too bad, question asker, because this is my blog, and I am obstinate. When I read the question, although I was certain of the context, I couldn't answer it that way. When I read the question, answers came to my mind. They're probably not the answers that you (whoever you are) were looking for, but they're what I've got. I've got answers to the question that no one has asked but that needs to be asked.

What does open adoption mean to me?

Open adoption means that any time I want to, I can turn on my computer, open the right file and watch Roo take a few shaky steps, or watch her dance with her sister, wiggling her hips and squealing with glee.

Open adoption means if I want to know how she's doing, all I have to do is ask.

Open adoption means I know the baby I placed, the person I love most in the world, is a happy, healthy, clever, sweet, gorgeous toddler.

Open adoption means Roo will never wonder who her birth mother is, what I look like, what sort of person I am, and why I placed her. She will know.

Open adoption means I will never wonder who my baby is, what she looks like, and whether she has a good life. I will know.

Open adoption means I know, every single day, that I made the right choice for Roo, because open adoption brings peace and reassurance.

Open adoption means that when I grieve, I grieve for the right reasons, not the wrong ones. I grieve out of love, not regret, out of sadness for myself, not for my baby.

Open adoption means that Roo is happy, and it means that Roo's mommy and daddy are happy, and it means that Roo's birth mom is happy. It's win-win-win. We all get to be happy. We all get to have peace and joy.

Open adoption means that if something needs to be said, it's said, and we make adjustments, and we're happy again, even happier than before.

Open adoption means that Roo is loved by more people than she will ever know. It means she gets to meet some of the ones who love her who are not her forever family, and that the rest of them that don't get to meet her still know who she is and that she is happy. Open adoption means an abundance of love for Roo and for all of her families.

Open adoption means that even though my heart broke, it's healed stronger than it was before. It means that I am a better, stronger person, for Roo and for her parents. It means I try every day to be someone they can be proud of.

Open adoption means I never have to wonder and I never have to worry. Open adoption is the happiest sad, and the happiest happy.

Open adoption means that placement wasn't goodbye; it was hello.

(And if you keep having the tagline "Love means never having to say your sorry" stuck in your head after reading this list, don't worry, I do too. And it's crap, because love means saying you're sorry whether you really are or not.)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Two Things ...

1) I am feeling much, much better since I posted last. I know that there are people who think that it's not good to deeply feel negative emotions, and that's fine for them, but I'm the sort of person who has to let something out before I can get past it, and that's what happened. I let it out, and I feel a million times better. Also, I got a new Roo video that day, which pretty much made my month.

2) November is National Adoption Month! I'm still debating whether to take Mrs. R's challenge to post every single day. I did it last year and it was exhausting. But I think maybe I can do it. I'm going to try it for a few days and see what happens.

That is all. Thank you :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Good Times, Bad Times

For the most part, I feel like I am doing remarkably well for myself 13 months post-placement. I have good days and I have bad days, but mostly good days, and the bad days aren't as bad.

Usually.

Today is the rare exception.

I've made a conscious effort to be less negative on my blog (I've been criticized for my negativity in the past) and I think I've done fairly well. I no longer feel the need to express every thought I have in such a public forum. I might have done so in the past when fewer people read this blog, but the more people that read it, the less comfortable I feel sharing certain personal things. I have another blog for Roo, a private one, where I do write every thought I have about her and about her adoption. I've thought about giving P and M access but I worry that they'd think less of me for some of the things I've written. Or that they'd worry about me, and I don't want that. Of course, that probably happens enough with this blog. So I don't know. I've never been a fantastic communicator, and even after all this time I still find myself re-reading my e-mail to P and M eight or nine times to make sure it sounds okay, because I think that if I say the wrong thing, they won't like me anymore.

(Much of my relationship with H is a blur now, but I can recall him once telling me affectionately that I am "action-packed with issues." I think he said it affectionately. Although in retrospect it might have been more like disbelief. Either way, he wasn't wrong.)

But all that aside, this blog is still first and foremost a place for me to write about what it's like to be Roo's birth mom, and that includes bad days, of which today is one.

Sometimes I can actually feel a bad day building up. I'll have a sniffle or two here and there, but no major sob explosions for a while. Then I'll realize that my bouts of sniffling are getting closer and closer together. At the same time I'll find myself thinking of Roo more and more often, and the next thing you know, my mental dam bursts and everything comes out. I'll sit and cry for a bit and miss Roo. Then I feel a bit better.

Except sometimes, today for instance, I don't sit and cry for a bit. Sometimes, like today, I will be fine one minute, and the next minute I'm choking back sobs and wondering if I could possibly leave work early because I'm having trouble breathing and holding myself upright.

Today, I miss my little Roo so much that it physically hurts. I feel a little sick, actually. I just ... I miss her. I miss her, and that sucks. Most of the time it seems strange to think that I ever had a baby, that I was ever a mother for a few brief weeks. But on days like today, it's all I can think about. On days like this, all I can think is, I used to have a daughter, and now I don't.

It feels wrong to even put this into words, but sometimes I wish I didn't love her so much. I think, if I loved her less, it would hurt less. It seems unfair that I have to love her as much as I do but that I don't get to reap any of the benefits.

I hate feeling like this. I hate the selfishness of it, the fixation on what I have lost rather than on what Roo has gained. But hate it or not, it's there, and I'm stuck with it for a while.

I wonder if I ought to even post this. I'm not sure. It's hardly beneficial to anyone at all, is it? But then, I think maybe when Roo is older and she reads it, it'll help her know how very much I love her.

Monday, October 25, 2010

In Which I Tell a Story I've Told Twice Before

This is probably going to be a little TMI, so consider yourself warned.

Today marks two years since a home pregnancy test showed two lines instead of one. I've written about it before, here and here, but I like to reminisce, and I'm putting off doing something unpleasant, so I'm going to write about it again.

I've said before that I knew I was pregnant before I knew I was pregnant. (Here's the TMI part.) My period was militantly regular. I had never in my life been so much as ten hours late - until October two years ago. Things should have started on the 20th, but didn't. Each day that passed increased my sense of foreboding. It put a bit of a damper on my birthday as well, because all I could think was, I'm three days late. I tried to talk myself out of a panic. I'd been sick a few weeks before. Maybe the antibiotics had messed things up a bit.

That got me through my birthday. And each day that passed, as much as I worried, I thought, today's the day. Well, the 24th wasn't the day, either. I told myself that if nothing happened the next day, I'd buy a home pregnancy test. Nothing happened. I bought a home pregnancy test. I can still remember - like it was this morning - driving home from Target with a sick feeling completely unrelated to pregnancy hormones. I already knew the truth. And all I could think of was, my brother is going to be so disappointed in me. In retrospect, it seems funny to me that my first thought was not for myself or my baby or even my mother. My first thought was, what will Scott think? I have let him down.

I love my brother. He is one of my favorite people in the world. I'm sure he's done stupid things in his life, but nothing major, nothing serious. And he's the sort of person whose goodness inspires others to be as good. I felt like a failure. I didn't want him to know how badly I'd messed up because I was afraid he'd think less of me for it.

Well, as I'm sure you know by now, after I waited the prescribed amount of time, and two pink lines appeared in the results window of the test, and I swear, I could feel a chasm form in the space-time continuum. Now there was only before, and after. I was desperate for the peace and safety of the before, but there was no going back from the after. There was a grand canyon between the two, and that terrified me more than anything. I had made some serious mistakes before, but nothing I felt I couldn't sort of take back through repentance.

This was something I most certainly could not even dream of taking back.

My mother had gone out shopping. You may recall that my father had died only about seven weeks before all this happened. In those days, my mother distracted herself from her grief by leaving the house and getting a head start on her Christmas shopping. Many times she had offered to take me with her, and several times she had pleaded with me to go with her, but I almost always declined. I've never been one to distract myself from my grief. I wallow. And on top of my grief over my father's death was worry about a fight I'd had with H. After our breakup in July we'd tried to remain friends (and obviously we still saw each other on occasion) but I had a hard time separating my emotions and I'd fought with him. I was afraid that the words I'd said in anger had permanently ruined any chance of even friendship with him - he being of course the only man who had ever been interested in me.

(That didn't sound right grammatically, but I'm too lazy to look into it, so please ignore it if it bothers you as well.)

Once I got over my initial, heart-stopping shock, I numbly descended the stairs and collapsed on the couch in front of the TV. I had thought about turning it on to distract myself but I couldn't seem to remember how to work the remote control, so I sat there and cried.

My mother came home not long after, excited about her purchases, which she immediately removed from their bags to show me. I tried hard to look enthusiastic, to smile and give the appropriate responses, but I have the world's worst poker face. The fact that I hadn't quite managed to stop crying was probably a clue as well. My mother asked what was wrong, and I just shook my head. In retrospect, it seems sort of odd that she'd ask about my tears when my father's death was so recent. Perhaps, being my mother, she could sense that there was something different about my unhappiness that day.

She persisted. I cried harder. "I can't tell you!" I sobbed. I realized later that as I spoke I had nervously shredded a number of half-used Kleenexes and set them in a pile on the ottoman in front of me. This, too, might have been a clue to my mum. She urged me to tell her, saying that I could tell her anything. At this, I let out a half-sob, half-cry, and tried desperately to get my vocal cords to function properly. No such luck. I hadn't even used the word "pregnant" out loud to myself. I sure as hell couldn't say it to my recently widowed mother.

I remember crying harder then. My mother kept asking me to tell her why I was so upset, and I kept refusing, shaking my head and sobbing and shredding Kleenex. Finally, she said, "The only reasons I can think for you to be this upset and not tell me are that you've got AIDS or you're pregnant. Which is it?"

I looked up at her. The good news, I thought, is that I don't have AIDS. But I said nothing. I couldn't. She knew just the same.

"You're pregnant," she said. I nodded.

We both cried then.

It's funny to remember it now - I can remember it so clearly, and yet it feels like it happened to someone else. Now I can't fathom being that selfish and blubbering and weak in the face of such a thing. I suppose that at this point in time I've simply been through enough that almost nothing fazes me anymore. I suppose it's because I experienced something that made my selfish and blubbering and weak that I'm no longer any of those things.

I guess part of what has changed my perspective is Roo. As hard as things were, I'd do anything in the world for that little girl, and if I had to go back and do it all again I'd move heaven and earth to get her here and to the point she's at now. She is happy and healthy and so very loved. She has phenomenal parents. She had to get to them in a rather unorthodox way, but I'm okay with that.

I am as happy today as I was devastated two years ago. The apparent cause of the devastation ended up being my saving grace. I don't know where I'd be today without Roo. I don't like to think about it. I don't like to think of what my life would have been without her, or what the world would be like without her.

Two years ago my life changed deeply and forever, and I am forever grateful.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

You Say it's Your Birthday

I'm going to ramble a bit today. I've decided I'm allowed.

It's October 23rd again. That always happens this time of year :) It's my birthday, and it feels kind of weird. My birthday always feels kind of weird for some reason. Kind of not quite normal.

I feel like my birthday two years ago was the last normal birthday I ever had. Which is sort of funny, because my dad had just died. So maybe my 25th wasn't the last normal one, my 24th was. Except that when I turned 24, my dad was being treated for brain cancer. Which is also abnormal (in every sense of the word). So maybe my last normal birthday was four years ago.

I'm not sure I can even remember four years ago. I'm sure I must. I'm sure something happened that year. As I recall, I had just graduated from beauty school, so I must have been happy. I think the lack of any strong memories of that year is probably a good sign that it really was my last normal birthday.

But the reason I think of 2008 as my last normal birthday is because it was two days after that birthday that I had one of those moments when you know the rest of your life is going to be marked by before and after. Two years ago, I found out I was pregnant. Two years ago, my vibrant, darling, cheerful little ray of sunshine was a jumble of dividing cells still a week away from a heartbeat. That seems crazy to me. I can hardly remember my life before Roo. Which is just as well, because it can't have been half as happy without her.

When I was about eight months pregnant, I bought a super cute outfit for Roo. It was size 3-6 months, and I decided it was going to be the outfit I dressed her in on my birthday. She would be 3 1/2 months old then, but I knew she was just going to be a tiny little thing and it would fit her. I remember thinking how much fun my birthday was going to be as a mommy. Instead of the usual boring picture of me, there would be a picture of me and my daughter. I could picture myself going out to eat, baby in tow, getting a free birthday dessert and a million compliments on my baby.

What's that saying again? Something like, "Man plans. God laughs."

Right after placement, I remember opening the wrong drawer in my dresser by mistake, and instead of my shirts, there were Roo's clothes. And right on top was the birthday outfit. It just about killed me. A few weeks later, on my birthday, I kept myself busy, but at one point I did go back to that drawer and pull out that little outfit. I wondered what Roo was wearing that day instead.

I've been thinking about that a lot this week. I don't know why. I guess because since I was seven or eight or so, I haven't had a birthday turn out the way I'd hoped or planned. Many of those years, it wasn't just a change of plans, but some ... some event, or something unhappy that made my birthday unhappy. Some years it might be something little, like the Yankees winning the world series. (That was a joke. Although I do hate the Yankees.) But there was the year the girls at my birthday party, spurred on by the suggestion of one girl in particular, passed around sheets of paper with everyone's names on them and rated them on looks, personality, popularity, and other things. There was the year that my mom, desperately worried about me, dragged me to the doctor, who prescribed antidepressants, which I still take ("Give 'em a year, 18 months tops, you'll be done with 'em," he said, back in 1998). There was the year that, on the way home from school, my parents and I were in a car accident. There was the year that my church choir practice ran late, and when I got home for my family party, I found that my extended family had already cut into my cake and some were ready to go home.

Birthdays and I don't get along.

Hmm. I'm sure there was a point to this post. Or then again, maybe there wasn't.

Gee, this is embarrassing.

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Oh, I've got it! Birthdays. Right. So, I think of 2008 as my last "normal" birthday, but if I'm honest, last year was probably one of the best birthdays I've ever had. I think there's something to be said for that. Finding out I was pregnant was one of my life's defining moments. But I wouldn't trade any of the before for the worst day of the after. I am so much happier now. My life is so much better. I think the world is so much better, because it contains my favorite person in the world.

So, you know what? To heck with normal birthdays. The abnormal ones are exponentially better.

Okay. I'm done rambling. Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 18, 2010

One Thing

Here's another question answered:

If you could only have Roo know one thing about you, what would it be?

The most important thing for Roo to know about me is that I love her. Obviously, either her parents or I will answer whatever questions she has about me, but if I had to pick just one thing, that would be it. I love her forever.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Southwest Regional FSA Conference, Day Two, Part Two

The following is long, and self-centered, and mostly for my benefit. You have been warned.

I think I mentioned on Friday that at the dinner, I met both of the couples I considered placing with when I was pregnant. One of the couples, I've seen many times since then. There's no awkwardness. The other couple, I haven't seen or heard from since I didn't choose them.

I don't think I mentioned on Friday that when I saw N, the wife in the second couple, I almost cried. I don't know if it's ridiculous or not, but I felt terribly guilty exchanging pleasantries with her. I wanted to apologize profusely for not choosing her and her husband. I wanted to beg them to forgive me and tell them it's not personal, I liked them very much. It just wasn't right. Do other birth moms ever experience this? I don't know how many birth moms have ever run into couples they didn't pick after the original meeting. I don't know if my reaction is normal or not.

I mention this mostly because at lunch I once again met up with the first couple I talked to, the ones with whom I am very comfortable. Their little girl just had her first birthday. They came over to talk to me and Breonna, who also considered placing with them (small world, eh?). If my awkward interaction with N is atypical, I can only imagine how abnormal my relationship with the first couple is. I could have talked to them for hours.

It's a funny thing, but as much as I enjoy their company, as long as I could have talked to them, as comfortable as I feel with them, I know I wasn't supposed to place with them. They know it, too. If I had, they wouldn't have their little girl, and they wouldn't trade her for anything in heaven or on earth.


After lunch it was time for Mrs R's adoption advocacy class for birth moms. There wasn't enough time for all of it, really - there were so many comments and experiences packed into that room, we could have talked for hours, not just 50 minutes. Maybe next year? I got a few minutes at the end to talk about doing outreach at schools. I think I may have noted before that public speaking doesn't bother me like it does most people. I think that, given a subject and a few minutes to prepare, I could probably address the United Nations. School outreach? No problem. Fifth Sunday presentation? Easy. Adoption Academy? Birth mom panel? Kid stuff.

My problem with public speaking arises when I'm called upon to address my peers. That's when nerves set in. I felt confident until I stood up, and looked around the room. All birth moms, at least two of whom don't like me; strong women who had as much to say about advocacy as I did, but it was me up front. I felt inadequate. It didn't help that this was Mrs. R's class.

I don't know how many of my blog readers have met Lindsey. If you saw her pushing a cart in the grocery store, you would probably hate her, because she is this tiny little thing, pretty and well-dressed and obviously not poor. But hating her would be unfair. She's also genuine, and friendly, and has been through her share of hard times. I felt this immense pressure not to say anything stupid, because I didn't want to take away from what she'd had to say.

In the end, I did what I usually do when I'm nervous - I spoke fast and used polysyllabic words in the hope that people would only hear half of what I had to say, and sat back down. Next time, if there is a next time, I'm going to rein in these ideas I have about winging it.

Before the conference, I agreed to facilitate one of the classes. I was told that all I'd have to do was to introduce the speaker, give him or her 10 and 5 minute warnings, and, at the end, hand out the thank-you gift. I thought, I can handle that. But it turned out, the class I was supposed to facilitate wasn't actually a class, but a panel. The birth grandparent panel, more specifically. There was a red folder in the room that had the biographies of the panelists and a list of questions for me to ask them. There were four nametags on the podium, and four chairs set up. There were two panelists there. The third was going to be a few minutes late. Was there a fourth? I was confused. Despite the absence of the third panelist, I didn't want to start late, because I know that panels tend to run long as it is. I didn't want to read the panelist bios for the same reason - besides, their bios were in the folders that everyone had picked up upon signing in that morning. It seemed both redundant and a waste of time for me to read the lengthy bios of all of the panelists.

I introduced them and started with the first question. From the back of the room, someone I love dearly but who will remain nameless in this accounting, called out, "Jillybean, why don't you start with having them all say why they're here today?" Which was irritating because obviously, they were here because they were birth grandparents, and humiliating, because I felt like a child with both the nickname and the direction, as though I weren't clever enough to moderate a panel. I already felt I wasn't clever enough, and the suggestion certainly didn't help. Dare I say it shattered my already fragile calm?

But the suggestion had been made, and the first panelist started, and basically told her story and answered most of the questions on my sheet of paper. The third panelist (there were only three, despite four nametags and four chairs) came in at this point, and I gave her the appropriate nametag, which she set on the fourth chair next to the Kleenex box.

It became apparent that instead of questions being asked and answered, this was just going to be the birth grandmothers telling their stories. Which was fine by me, except that there I was, standing at the podium like a jackass (and no, jackass is not a bad word. I heard it on "Matlock," and Ben Matlock would never swear). I wanted to sit down, but the fourth chair had things on it that I would have to hold if I sat there, and if I sat in the audience I might have to pop back up if there was time for questions. So I stood there the entire bloody hour, feeling like the dumbest person on earth, cultivating a strain in my neck from looking to my right where the panelists were seated, and trying desperately to figure out if I might be able to sit down somewhere. I leaned over the podium as much as I could so I didn't stand out. I tried to be invisible. I failed miserably.

I almost cried, too, which was even worse. The first panelist spoke frankly about her anger at being told her single daughter was pregnant. And I swear to you, as she spoke, her rage was palpable. For some reason, hearing her speak made me think of my own mother. The idea that my dear old mum might have harbored similar feelings of anger toward me just killed me, and I teared up. My mother has been really and truly angry at me once in my life, and the occasion constitutes one of my least favorite memories.

(I asked my mother Sunday night if she'd been angry at me when I told her I was pregnant. "Oh, honey, never angry," she assured me. "I just felt so bad for you! My heart broke for you, but I wasn't angry." I was terribly relieved.)

Personal awkwardness aside, the panel went well. I think it was impactful, if that's even a word. Birth grandparents have an important perspective and I don't think they're heard from enough. Anyway, When the panel was over, it was time for cake and ice cream and then the birth mother panel. The cake was made by a local birth mom who has been to culinary school. It looked amazing and tasted pretty darn good too. I wish I'd thought to take a picture of it.

The birth mom panel is usually the biggest draw and the best part of any adoption academy or conference. I was super excited to see that two of my favorite birth moms were on the (4-person) panel. I go to group with both of them but I never get tired of their stories. One of them, my friend A, was only a backup panelist, but the fourth panelist was a no-show so she got to be on the panel! I was super excited for her, and she did an amazing job. She is both a single mother and a birth mom, so I love her perspective. A needs to speak more often. She is awesome.

After the panel, there was a raffle. I did not expect to win. I've won a raffle once in my life. The prize was a Spice Girls cassette tape - their second album. But lo and behold, not one but two of my ticket numbers were called! I won a beautiful hair clip from Ruby Jane Boutique and a gift certificate for a free consult, x-ray and treatment from a local chiropractor. I've never been to a chiropractor before, so that will be interesting.

And then it was time to go.

I can't talk about the conference without mentioning Andrea and Josh and the amazing job they did putting everything together. I don't think Andrea slept at all for about three months before the conference. Dare I say her lack of sleep was worth it? The conference was fantastic. I can't wait for next year!

And if you've read through my excruciating, self-centered rundown of the conference, you deserve a prize.

I mean, you're not going to get one from me, but you certainly deserve it :)

No, wait, here. Have a platypus.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Southwest Regional FSA Conference, Day Two, Part One

I meant to post this on Saturday, when I got home from the conference, but I was tired, and I had a church activity at 7:30. And after that, I was even more tired, on top of which I had to find a recipe for funeral potatoes and get to the grocery store for ingredients so I could make said funeral potatoes the next afternoon. Long story.

I digress. Back to the conference. I'm splitting day two into two parts because it's long.

I ended up not going to many classes - I only went to one, in fact. I'm still not quite sure how that happened. I meant to go, I really did. But I got to the ASU Institute building early on Saturday. I had to put labels on the thank-you salsa (long story) and I wanted to make sure I had time to do that before breakfast and everything. And then it looked like a little help was needed at the registration tables, and I thought, hey, when we're helping, we're happy, right? So I helped. I got people signed in, gave out t-shirts and raffle tickets, and directed them to breakfast. Then it sounded like breakfast was starting, but I wasn't that hungry, because I'd had a little Cap'n Crunch before I left the house.

I love Cap'n Crunch. It tears up the roof of my mouth and leaves a film on my teeth but it's delicious. And you can't help but be encouraged by the cereal's old commercial tagline: "You and the Cap'n make it happen!" Of course, they were never really specific as to what, exactly, the two of you made happen. I suppose it could have been anything from breakfast to a nuclear holocaust.

Again, I digress. I wasn't concerned about breakfast on account of I'd already eaten. So I stayed up front at the desk. Then people dispersed to go to the first classes, and I wanted to go to hear Tamra's class on what to expect after placement. But there were still things to be done at the desk, and I wanted to help. I'll go in late, I thought. But the next thing I knew, people were out of the first class and going to the second. Well, shoot, I thought. But I knew I had ten minutes to get upstairs for the second class, Jessa's, on who, when, and how to tell people your adoption story. But I didn't finish with what I was doing until it was too late to politely enter the room, so I gave up. I consoled myself with the fact that I had heard Tamra speak on a very similar topic at the national conference, and that I'd attended a class on who and how to tell at the national conference, although someone else had taught that one. I figured I still had most of the relevant information, and refocused on being useful at the registration desk.

I sat down with another woman who was wearing a super awesome "FSA Conference Staff" button like I was and we sorted and boxed up the care basket donations people had brought. I should mention here that my local birth mom group has started our own version of the well-known birth mother baskets (also, I may or may not write the fluffy, exclamation-point laden blog). Ours are called care baskets, and we took donations at the conference. I couldn't believe how many people brought such nice things - fuzzy blankets an beautiful jewelry and gift cards and books and what looked like half of an entire Bath and Body Works. Which explains my subsequent hives.

"We got great stuff here," I told one FSA volunteer. "I almost want to get knocked up again just so I can get a basket!" I realize my eternal salvation is probably more important than a care basket, but honestly, you should have felt this microfiber and wool throw blanket someone donated. It had to be pried out of my hands.

Adoption-related CDs are on the list of things we would like to see donated. I wasn't sure exactly what adoption-related music was, but I saw it on another donation list and thought it sounded nice. Some kind soul seemed only to have noticed the word "music" and donated six or seven CDs that, when I saw them, I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry. I settled on laughter, and showing the stack to my friends.

The CD on top was the only one still shrink-wrapped - Classic Love Songs of the 60s. The rest of them were clearly used, cases scratched. The next CDs that I remember are as follows:






I know there was at least one other CD but I don't remember what it was. I want to say George Winston or something like that. I shouldn't make fun, really. It's nice of people to donate things. It was just such an odd mix of music that I had to laugh.

I meant to go to the 11:00 class on communicating with your adoptive couple, because although I feel like I do okay with that, I figure I can always do better. I attended a similar class at the national conference but it had been taught by birth moms, and it seemed to me that this one, being taught by adoptive parents, might offer a different, more relevant perspective. But the others in charge who'd been around the registration desk had all disappeared, and I didn't want to just abandon the desk, because even though the day had started officially at 8am, people were still trickling in hours later. I ended up answering a few questions and checking in a few very late people so it was just as well.

By the time I decided I really wanted to go to the class it was 11:20 and I refuse to be that late. So I stayed where I was. One woman kept coming back up front to ask me questions. She didn't have a lanyard so I'm not entirely sure she was in the building for the conference. She asked me a lot of strange, random questions and needed help turning on her own mobile phone. She kept thinking I worked at the institute building. Each time I explained to her I was there for the conference, and that the people who could best answer her questions wouldn't be in the building until Monday. She kind of scared me.

Around this time, my friend Breonna arrived and we talked for a while. She showed me the adoption book she'd won the night before in the raffle. It's called "We See the Moon" and it was a little strange. I'm not sure I understood it. It's a children's book that's supposed to explain to little ones about being adopted. It featured lines such as "The full moon glows heavy in the night sky. A beacon of beauty and truth."

If anyone can explain to me what that has to do with adoption, and how on earth a child is supposed to understand it, please let me know. I'm baffled. The illustrations were neat, though. Breonna and I talked for a while and then it was time for lunch.

Phew. I think I'll end here for now. Part two will be along later.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Southwest Regional FSA Conference, Day One

I learned my lesson with the national FSA conference - if I don't blog about it right away, it's not going to happen. I've still got three or four drafts of posts I started about the national conference, and I've pretty much given up on them - it's been two months, it's just not going to happen.

So I thought that this time, I would blog about it as soon as I could. I should probably go to sleep instead, because the conference starts bright and early tomorrow morning, and I am not at my best and brightest at 8am even if I've gotten a good night of sleep. But I have never been good at doing things because I should. Let's face it, if common sense was a strong point of mine I wouldn't have faced an unplanned pregnancy.

I digress.

Tonight was the first part of the Southwest Regional FSA conference. The dinner and decorations were western themed and it was suggested that we dress "country casual." I don't own boots or a hat but I did dig up a cowgirl shirt and decided that constituted dressing up.

The events of the evening took place outdoors, on the roof of the parking garage adjacent to the building we'll be in tomorrow. Phoenix weather is unbearable in the summer but the fall makes up for it, particularly in the evenings and today was no exception - it was perfect.

Before dinner, there was a slideshow about the adoption triad featuring an adoptee, a birth mom, and an adoptive couple. I should mention that I was the birth mom featured. Can I sound cheesy and braggy and say that I loved my story? I did. I thought that Sarah, who put the slideshow together, did a great job with my story and the other two. The other two were really amazing too, because the adoptee is also a birth mom, and the adoptive mom is also an adoptee. And I'm the daughter of an adoptee. I love all the little connections and coincidences there are in adoption. It was so cool to see the adoption overlap in the slideshow.

The evening felt like one big happy adoption reunion - I swear, I got to say hi to every person I've ever met with an adoption connection. It was great to see so many of them again. I saw adoptive moms I've done outreach with, birth moms I've met and lost track of, couples whose blogs I read, and both of the couples I met with and considered when I was pregnant. I was surprised at how many people there I knew. I thought, this must be what it's like to be Tamra - I felt like I knew nearly everyone!

It was also fun to meet people I've only ever encountered on-line. Tonight I got to meet Michelle, Kelsey, Jessalyn, and Lindsey, a.k.a. Mrs R. I met Lindsey once before, at the national conference, but it was at the end of the day, in an elevator, and I was tired and greasy and could barely see out of my contact lenses because I'd been wearing them for 14 hours, and it wasn't a proper meeting.

I got a more proper meeting tonight complete with something at which I excel; the awkward hug. I should tell that to people when I meet them - "Hi, it's so good to meet you, if we hug it'll probably be awkward." Oh well.

She (Lindsey) said she liked the slideshow, and then she told me I have soft hair, which was delightfully random. I'm stealing a few minutes at the end of one of her classes tomorrow on adoption advocacy; I'm talking about doing school outreach. I suppose I should probably figure out what I'm going to say ahead of the time, but really, where's the fun in that?

Assuming always that a lack of preparation equals fun. But whatever.

The food was yummy, the music was entertaining, and I had excellent dining companions (hi, Nicci!). All in all, it was a great night. I'm looking forward to tomorrow. This promises to be a great conference!

And now I'm going to bed.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

June 2009, Part Four: the End of the Line

I wanted more than anything in the world for my baby to get out of my belly. My entire body hurt all the time. I was so tired of being pregnant! I felt massive, like a beached whale. Moving was agony. I went downstairs in the morning and only went upstairs once a day when it was time for bed. One day I went downstairs but forgot my mobile phone upstairs. I cried when I realized it. I cried over a lot of things. A TV commercial for antidepressants made me cry because the people in it looked sad.

I wanted my baby to be born but I still worried like a worrying worrywart. I secretly felt that my baby deserved more than I could give her but that I wasn’t brave enough to trust her care to those who could give it to her. Was I too selfish and immature to me a mother? Would I depend too much on my mother? What if I was a horrible mother? What if I just couldn’t do it? I was going to have this teeny-tiny, helpless little person completely dependent on me for everything – on me and me alone.

I was overwhelmed. I felt like I couldn’t do it. I wanted my baby to have everything in the world, to be happy and know that she was loved, completely and totally. I wanted her to be safe and secure and comfortable. I didn’t ever want her to feel scared or worried or sad, and I knew I couldn’t control that. It scared me. And there were so many things I couldn’t control! SIDS and car accidents and random violence and whooping cough and so many other things … what if something awful happened to her? I hated the thought that I wouldn’t be sealed to her, that something could happen to her and she’d be lost to me forever. I get all teary just thinking about it now!

I loved my baby more than anything, and I prayed that it would be enough. More than once I lamented to my therapist that things would be so much easier if some nice man would take pity on me and marry me. I suggested marrying a man who needed a green card, or a gay man who wanted to get his parents off his back. My therapist said that was a bad idea. He never has had a sense of humor, that man.

It came down to this: I knew deep down that my baby deserved so much better than me. But I was too selfish. I admitted it. I knew myself. I love too much, too quickly, too deeply. I knew that I would set eyes on my baby girl and never want to let her go. I’d told myself before that I’d decide for sure what to do with my little girl once she was born, but I was lying to myself. I knew I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t possibly not be this little girl’s mommy.

My due date came … and went. I was never one of those women who want to deliver early. I wanted my baby in for the full 40 weeks. But past 40 weeks? I knew I was going to be crabby until she came out. Being past due is perfectly normal, but I was a million percent sure of both the date of my last period and the day I’d gotten pregnant. I was done cooking.

I don't know what I expected on my due date, really. Trumpets and fanfare, maybe. The beginning of labor. A party. A phone call. A migraine. Anything. Nothing happened. Nothing was ever going to happen that day, and I knew it all along.

To take my mind off things, my mother took me to see the movie "Up." I wrote about that *here*. I'd expected a fun little cartoon but it turned out to be quite a tearjerker. I couldn't imagine how devastating it would be to get the news that Carl and Ellie got. That sort of shock should have pushed me towards adoption, but it had the opposite effect. My baby seemed more precious than ever, and I thought to myself that I simply couldn't bear it if I lost the one good thing I had going in my life.

And, I thought, how could anyone ever love my little girl as much as I did? I couldn't fathom it, so I pushed it from my mind.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Deep Thoughts, By Oprah Winfrey

I'm not usually an Oprah fan (although I do like the supercut of her shouting the names of various celebrities). But I do like this quote I found on-line that has been attributed to her: "Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother."

Not having heard Oprah actually speak those words, I can't vouch for the context. But I think it's a good addition to my collection of adoption quotes.

What are some of your favorite adoption (or adoption-related) quotes?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nerd Alert!

Can I interrupt my usual fare for a bit of nerdish pleading?

According to the Google Analytics for this blog, 44% of you are using Internet Explorer. Forty-four percent! Allow me to share my thoughts on Internet Explorer.


via.


Trust me, peeps, once you go Firefox, you'll never go back. Also, for the 73% of you who are using Windows, I'd like to recommend Ubuntu. You don't have to be a Mac or a PC.

Okay, I'm done geeking out. Thanks for listening.

I Want You ...

... Or rather, your opinion on my blog. I put a little poll on my sidebar. I'm considering throwing in more personal, not necessarily adoption-related content but I'm not sure how I feel about it. Let me know what you think! I included the last option for those of you who are just a little click-happy.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's That Time of Year Again!

No, not my birthday, although that's coming up soon enough. I'm talking about something that other people are excited about, too.

That's right, it's time for the Families Supporting Adoption Southwest Regional Conference. And it's happening right here in the unseasonably warm state of Arizona, in the very same building I go to every Tuesday night for Institute. It promises to be an amazing conference. Andrea has been working day and night and every time in between (4am, anyone?) to make it great.

Check out the conference website and sign yourself up. You might notice a familiar name or two on the presenters page. How I ended up on the list with the likes of Mrs R, Kerstin Daynes and the always awesome Tamra Hyde is beyond me, but there I am.

What are you waiting for? Go and sign up!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Never Say Never

Thursday morning I got to do another round of school presentations - three classes in a row, starting at 7:50am. I am not precisely what you would call a morning person. If I'm awake at 5am, I'm more likely to still be awake than I am to have just awoken. But I love doing school presentations, so I woke myself up, made myself presentable, and headed out.

I took the 60. Why did I take the 60? The 60 is almost always a bad idea. But Google Maps told me the 60 would save me six minutes over the 202, and I live much closer to the 60 than the 202. In the end I was only five or so minutes late, but I could have done without the stress of stop-and-go traffic (mostly stop) and having to repeat to myself, "It's okay, my brakes worked, I'm not dead yet."

I digress.

This was my first school presentation in several months and I felt a bit rusty. I think I did okay, though. Well, actually, I think I did terrible, but I always think I've done a terrible job. It's so hard to tell with teenagers. You don't get much of a response from them. It doesn't seem to matter what you say; they just sit there and stare at you with bored looks on their faces. I feel like I need more feedback than that.

I found myself mentioning irrelevant or unimportant parts of my story just for comedic effect. I got a few perfunctory laughs for them, at least. After I talked, there were a few minutes for questions. The first class was silent. I don't even know if it registered that I'd finished talking. The second class had no questions but a few comments. Three comments, in fact, all from girls. All of them said the same thing when Calli (the LDSFS caseworker) asked if anyone had any thoughts or experiences about adoption.

"I could never do that."

Have I mentioned before how much I loathe that phrase? I believe I have. And I do. Loathe it, that is. I don't believe there's a woman in the world who thinks they could do it. I sure as heck didn't think so. I said as much to the girls. I told them that when I'd heard about adoption before I was pregnant, I thought, I could never do that. But never say never, right? Because not only could I, but I did.

When I spoke to the third class I changed up the conclusion to my story. I told them, "So many girls hear I'm a birth mom and say, 'I could never do that.' But I didn't think I could do it, either. No one does at first. What it comes down to isn't so much, 'I could never do that, it would be too hard for me,' but, 'I have to do it, because it's not about me.' Motherhood is about making hard choices and doing what's best for your child."

This time, when Calli asked for comments, a girl in the back raised her hand. "I think that if I was pregnant and I didn't know what to do, I might think about adoption," she said. "I mean, I wouldn't want to or anything, but I think maybe if I was in that kind of situation I could think about it."

I could have kissed her.

I hope this young woman doesn't face an unplanned pregnancy. I hope none of the girls I spoke to ever has to, really. But odds are if this young woman doesn't, one of her friends will. And what she realized is all I ever want these teenagers to get out of a presentation - adoption is an option. It's not for everyone, maybe it's not for you, but it's an adoption. It's a possibility. It's worth looking into. Never say never.

I never thought I could do it, either. I never thought I could place my precious little baby for adoption. But I did, and I am so glad! I hope that someday Roo will be glad I did, too.

(I'm sure she'd be happy about it now if she weren't preoccupied with things like learning to walk properly, and growing teeth, and being adorable.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Advocate

Here's another question (or rather, series of questions) I was asked via e-mail. As usual, I've paraphrased.

Do you want to be an adoption advocate? Do you consider yourself one? Do you feel a responsibility to educate people about adoption?

This question made me wish I'd made it to Mrs R's adoption advocacy class at the FSA Conference in July. Unfortunately, I didn't see it on the schedule until after it was over.

I don't know that I've ever applied that specific word to myself, but I suppose I am an adoption advocate. I mean, my blog is a pretty good indicator that I love adoption and want to spread the word. I've done birth mom panels and school presentations and that sort of thing.

It was never a conscious decision on my part. It just felt, and feels, very natural to talk to people about adoption and my experience. I would love to continue doing just that. I want to do what I can, when I can, while I can. I do love presenting and blogging and talking about adoption. I've found it to be very healing.

I didn't feel any particular responsibility until I started talking to people and I realized how many misconceptions there are. Knowing how many people have wrong ideas about adoption makes me want to shout to the world that it really is about love. I know that it's not my responsibility to change the way the world thinks. I'm more about taking it one person at a time.

I hope to someday not have the time to worry about adoption anymore. My goal is to get married and have children of my own, and when that happens my focus will be on my own little family. I don't see dropping adoption all together then, but I (hope I) will have less time for it.

I am proud to be a birth mother, but I don't want that to be my whole life. I'm totally okay being the adoption chick for now, but I hope to be more, to do more as my life goes on.


If you've got a burning question for me, or one that maybe doesn't burn but just feels a little warm, e-mail me at thehappiestsad AT gmail DOT com, or click here: http://www.formspring.me/jilleb163.