Monday, May 31, 2010

The Ugly Truth

Note: I've been sitting on this post for a while now because I wasn't sure if I really wanted to say all this once I got it out of my system by typing it out. But I'm busy here in the land of Bono, and I figured this would be a good post for y'all to chew on while I get myself situated and work out some kind of schedule. I haven't proofread it in over a month, so I can't vouch for its total quality but I do recall being mostly happy with it last time I read through it. So, here goes. No rotten fruit, please.

A preface: I’m probably going to sound like a hypocrite here. I am not always sweetness and light in my blog, and I don’t doubt that I have said unkind things or passed judgment on others. I won’t try to defend myself here – there’s no excuse for unkindness, and all I can say is that obedience is a process, and that I’m grateful for a God who allows me to repent of my mistakes. Every day when I wake up I choose what kind of person I am going to be. I only hope that it’s apparent in my writing that I am choosing to be a kinder, gentler, more mature version of myself – a truer disciple of Christ than I was the day before. I plan to take all of my own advice given below.

That said, I offer the following observations that have, of late, left me feeling unsettled.

Lately, on a number of blogs, I’ve seen a lot of nastiness and defensiveness and judgment. It’s been done with a certain self-righteous, sanctimonious attitude. “I’m just being honest,” many bloggers will say. “If you don’t like it, tough crap.”

I’m not going to argue with that. There’s nothing I can do about sentiments I disagree with. And I’m certainly not going to argue the honesty point. These bloggers are certainly being honest. But what I take issue with is the fact that nastiness and rudeness is being excused because it’s given under the guise of honesty. We are commanded to be honest in our dealings with our fellow men, certainly. But we are not commanded to be nasty, to hurt feelings, to call names, to find fault, or to assign blame. Quite the opposite, in fact – the aim of being honest is to avoid hurt feelings and nastiness and defensiveness. There’s something called tact, and something else called kindness, and I think that both can be just as important as honesty.

As a teenager, I was wisely counseled to consider the following before repeating a morsel of gossip:
1. Is it kind?
2. Is it true?
3. Is it necessary?

I think it’s worth noting that the first criterion is not honesty. It’s kindness. The truth can hurt, and in some cases can even scar the recipient. I also appreciate that the third item is necessity. I love this quote from Elder Dallin H. Oaks: “The fact that something is true is not always a justification for communicating it.” (source)

I know that I’d do well to remember that, myself! Believe me, the irony of today’s post isn’t lost on me – I’m criticizing others for being critical. I hope it’s clear that I’m not writing this for the sake of being critical. I’m writing as a concerned citizen. I don’t think people realize how damaging their words can be. Even words said sarcastically or in jest can do lasting harm. I can remember very clearly almost every cruel thing that has ever been said to me. My youngest brother made a thoughtless comment about my eating habits when I was nine years old, and I have never forgotten exactly what he said, or how I felt when he said it.

We live in a society where it’s cute and funny to be mean or sarcastic. Rudeness and cruelty masquerade as comedy in the media. Jokes are never made for the sake of humor itself but are rather made at the expense of someone else. Critical words are what constitute comedy on television, and not just in shows for grown-ups. More than once, my jaw has dropped at the subtle nastiness (again, disguised as honesty) in some of the shows my 7-year-old niece watches. Even in programs for very young children, there is a bully or a villain. Cruelty is employed as a literary device to further plot and character development. I worry about what messages my little nieces and nephews are getting from the shows they watch. I take comfort in knowing that they have good parents to teach them correct principles regardless of what is shown on TV.

I’m deviating from my main point a bit here, but as long as I am, allow me to give another quote that I love, this one from N. Eldon Tanner: “The tongue is the most dangerous, destructive, and deadly weapon available to man.” (source) The saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” always puzzled me as a child. Sticks and stones gave only glancing blows. Words hurt me much worse than any physical attack. And words say as much about the speaker as they do about what’s spoken. Indulge me a moment, I’ve found another quote. John S. Tanner said, “We are judged by our words every day. Nothing reveals us so intimately as how we use our divine gift of speech. Are we mean, crude, irreverent, thoughtless, smug, self-righteous, pompous? Our tongues will tell. Our language, too, reveals much about our integrity, honesty, kindness, goodness, humility, and decency. Language reveals character.” (source)

Anyway, back to honesty.

I hope I don’t sound like I’m advocating sophistry. Honesty is vital. It is crucial, and sadly lacking in so much of the world. It is precious. I think that’s what gets me so riled up – people are abusing it, and using it to excuse poor behavior, rudeness, cruelty, and a sense of personal superiority. To that, I offer this humble plea: please don’t. If you want to rant or whine or complain or dig your claws into someone, go ahead. That’s your right; you have agency. But please, please, please don’t do so under the guise of honesty. Don’t pretend that you’re doing what you do or saying what you say because you “want to” or “need to be honest.” Because you do need to be honest! You need to be honest about your motives and your mood and your purpose and your point.

I won’t pretend to speak for anyone else, but I appreciate it when people are open about those things. I know what I’m getting into. I know to expect a little bile, a little vitriol, a little moodiness. I always feel like I’ve been assaulted when I read something that begins with “I need to be honest about something” and ends with a scathing criticism. I've tried to state outright if I'm simply ranting or complaining, and I will certainly endeavor to do so in the future as well.

So, gentle reader, be honest if you must, but leave honesty as an excuse out of it. Please?

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Word to the Wise

I found this on Twitter today and I love it! I'm not sure if this is an actual Walt Disney quote or if it's like the 1,275 quotes on the internet being attributed to Dr. Seuss, none of which he actually said.

Whoever said it, I like it :o)

"You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you." -- Walt Disney

Plans, Part Two

So, apparently I was wrong for referring to my trip to Ireland as a consolation prize. Apparently my attitude about that was spoiled and ungrateful, and if that was the sort of thing I considered to be a consolation prize, I didn't deserve it.

Well, here's the thing. It's not a matter of deserving it. It's not a matter of luck, either. I'm going on this trip because I paid for it, simple as that. And if it were a matter of deserving it, I think I do.

Two years ago, I was planning a trip to Scotland. I was going with a small tour group and I was going to leave on July ... 14th, I think. I was going to be there for two weeks at the end of July 2009. I'd scrimped and saved every penny I could from my job and I'd paid all but about $800 of what the trip was going to cost (minus airfare, which I was still saving up for).

Then, of course, I got pregnant. And they told me I was due on June 30th. I knew that, even if by some slim chance I delivered on my due date, and if I chose adoption, there was no way I'd be ready to travel thousands of miles and traipse about the Scottish countryside. I'd be too exhausted, both physically and emotionally.

It was with a heavy heart that I canceled my plans. And it was with an even heavier heart that I was told by the travel agent that, of the $1500 I'd paid, only $325 would be returned to me because I hadn't canceled soon enough. Not only was I not going on my trip, but I was down $1200 I'd never see again. I knew exactly how many hours of work that $1200 represented, and even now the thought of that lost money makes me want to weep. I have never been a spoiled princess. I've worked hard for what I have. $1200 might not be a lot of money to some people but to me it was a small fortune, and it was gone.

Quite a bit of my depression during my pregnancy resulted from the loss of my trip and my money. I was devastated to be out that kind of money. I still am. I threw away all the travel information I'd collected for the trip. I thought at that point that I could never choose adoption, and so I thought to myself that I would likely never leave the country unless it was a few days in Canada to visit my brother.

And I learned to be okay with that. After all, I told myself, I've got my baby. But now I don't. I had the thought yesterday that I didn't care how many people were jealous of my trip, or how quote-unquote lucky I am to be going. I'd rather spend the month of June chasing after an 11-month-old than touring Irish castles. That's what I meant when I said that Ireland isn't what I want most, but it's what I can have, and so I'm taking it.

I spent last June counting down the last days of my pregnancy, getting ready for my baby and swimming for an hour most evenings. I know that if I stayed in town, I'd be thinking about that all month - thinking about it, and missing the excited impatience of being an expectant mother. I think it'll be good to be out of town - out of the country, even. It's not the trip I had planned. But this isn't the life I had planned - not ten years ago, not five years ago, and not even one year ago. It's so rare that life turns out the way we planned it.

But I'm going to try to make the most of things as they've turned out. I didn't get to go to Scotland as planned. Roo is worth a lifetime of trips to Scotland. I wouldn't trade her for a trip for anything in the known universe. She was worth staying home for. She was worth losing $1200. I became a better person when she was born and again when I placed her, and I can't put a price on that.

I'm looking forward to buying a birthday gift for Roo in Ireland. I'm looking forward to her birthday, whether I see her that day or not, because I think the world is a better place with her in it, and that's something to celebrate.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I Needed a Laugh

I've got a folder on my computer that's nothing but funny pictures. If I ever need a laugh, or cheering up, or want to make food come out of my mom's nose, I look through it and see what I can find.

I needed a laugh earlier this week, and I found one of my favorites. The blank spot is where I took out a naughty word.

I feel much better now.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I'm leaving for Ireland on the 29th. I'll be there for a month. I'm looking forward to it, although I am nervous.

I mentioned my trip to a few people the other day. Someone said, "I guess you get to do all kinds of cool stuff now since you gave your baby away for adoption."

I wanted to smack them. First off, because I did NOT "give her away." I didn't put an ad for her on Craigslist. I PLACED her. I gave her the world because I love her. And second, I didn't place Roo because she was interfering with my plans. I never look at things like, Oh, look at all the things I can do now that I don't have to take care of my baby.

I would so much rather have Roo than any trip anywhere on earth. I would trade my trip for her in a heartbeat. But I can't. I wasn't meant to be her mama. I'd rather have Roo than Ireland. But I can't have Roo. And so I'm going to Ireland. Everything like this that I do, every trip, every good thing, is a consolation prize. It's what I have because I can't have her. Because I wasn't meant to have her.

I don't regret placing her. Never. I know beyond any doubt that Roo is where God wanted her to be. Placing my baby was the most gut-wrenching, excruciatingly painful thing I've ever done. I could never have done it for any reason other than love.

I miss her, yes. But I'm allowed to make plans. I'm allowed to do things, to live my life, to get out of the house every once and a while. It's a poor substitute, but it's all I've got, and I'm going to make the best of it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

It's Late ...

... and I miss Roo something awful - something terribly, horribly awful. I miss her so bad I feel like I'm just going to shatter.

Sometimes being a birth mom sucks worse than anything else on earth. It's an ache that never goes away, no matter how badly you wish it would. I know that for a fact. I've spent hours now trying to wish away the pain and it's still here.

That's all for now.

Friday, May 21, 2010

In Case You Haven't Read It Yet ...

... there's a wonderful article about birth moms in Newsweek here:

Tell your friends :o)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May 2009, Part One

I keep looking at the 3-D ultrasound picture, at my baby’s wee little nose and chin and pretty lips. I thought she was the cutest fetus ever (I still think so). If there were ultrasound beauty contests, my little girl would have won, hands-down. She was the most perfect little person I’d ever seen. Everything I read said to expect a decrease in fetal movement, but no one told my baby. She kicked and wiggled happily a LOT. I loved it.

My back did not. I’m not a very tall person, and the extra 30 pounds I was carrying were murder on my spine. I invested in a few belly bands, which helped a bit. I hadn't taken more than a vitamin during my pregnancy but one weekend I finally broke down and took two Tylenol. I felt guilty for it, too. I was immensely proud of not having taken any medication. I was determined that, no matter what else, I was going to grow the healthiest baby I could.

I knew from ultrasounds and appointments that my little girl was healthy. But I wondered what sort of little person she would be. The 3D ultrasound lady told me that personality in the womb pretty much carries over after birth. So I decided she’d be a busy little bee, kicking and alert and happy (and I was right!). Kicking was pretty much my favorite thing ever. My baby kicked on a pretty regular schedule. She kept me up at night quite a bit. From 3 to 4am it was party time in my womb. I worked a lot of SuDoku puzzles since the kicking was hard to sleep through.

My siblings continued to call my mother and tell her what a horrible decision I was making. They apparently believed that I’d make my mother raise my baby while I went off and did … something else, I don’t know. It irritated me. It still does, even a year later. No one was excited for me, or for the baby. I knew that circumstances weren't ideal of course, but I HATED that my baby was being punished for my mistakes. I felt (and still feel, actually) that there should have been a little more compassion, and a bit more perspective. A wonderful, delightful little girl was going to be born, sweet and perfect and fresh from God. And not one single person on earth seemed happy about it, only me. No one asked how my pregnancy was going. They only asked if I'd come to my senses yet and got angry when the answer was no.

In retrospect, I'm able to be a bit more understanding about things, but the hurt is still there. Allow me to interrupt my story for a moment to say this: if you know a woman who is facing an unplanned pregnancy, you've got two options. You can be supportive and kind, or you can be a jerk about it. You might think the choice she's made is a horrible, terrible mistake, but the choice isn't yours to make, it's hers. Being a jerk about it is going to accomplish one thing: hurt feelings. It's not going to make decisions or change minds. It's simply not. It's going to hurt feelings and ruin relationships. Your choice, really.

May was notable for me because it was then that I took childbirth classes with my mom. It sucked to be there with her instead of a husband. I hoped people knew that she was my mother and not my ... partner. I worried that people thought we were a lesbian couple. My mother laughed at the thought.

"Easy for you to laugh," I told her. "They think the best I can do is a woman in her fifties!"

I learned quite a bit - there were videos and handouts and at one point I thought, you know, I've changed my mind, I really don't want to have a baby after all. I decided that a good way to encourage teenagers to use birth control was not, in fact, to make them carry around flour sacks, or those electronic baby dolls. Childbirth classes seemed a much more effective contraceptive to me.

I bought baby things here and there. In the back of my mind I was still considering adoption, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself from buying baby things. I made a few trips to Babies ‘R’ Us. It is a horrible place to be in alone. Couples everywhere, happy couples, starting registries. I envied them. I wanted to start a registry, too, but I didn’t see a point in it. You only need a registry if people are going to buy you gifts, and people only buy you gifts if they're happy for you.

No one was happy for me. I hated that. I wished that people could look past circumstances and just be happy that a baby was going to be born. It irked me that no one could, or would. But my little girl always seemed to know when I was upset. She’d give me reassuring little kicks just when I needed them the most. It was like she was saying, "It’s okay, Mommy. I’m here, and it’s okay."

At my mother’s insistence, I met again with S, this time to gather information about single parenting. LDSFS had initially told me that they’d help me explore my options, and give me information about whatever I chose. It became apparent, however, that they were not used to dealing with women who chose to single parent once that decision had been made. S wasn’t very enthusiastic about the idea of me single parenting. She told me that she’d put a "soft hold" on one of the couples I’d met with, meaning they weren’t really available for any other birth moms to choose. I was irritated. It was no wonder they’d been e-mailing me so frequently! I hadn't asked her to do that, and it bothered me that she’d have done so without my input. S told me that no matter what I chose the couple really liked me and cared about me and wanted to keep up a relationship.

"Seriously?" I asked. "So if I keep my baby and single parent, this nice married childless couple would still like to hang out with me?" I couldn't see it happening. I couldn't see the couple ever liking me once I'd told them no. I didn't even much like myself for telling them no. They were the perfect adoptive couple - I couldn't have asked for anything more from them. I wasn't sure why I hadn't chosen them, really, except that I simply couldn't bear the thought of not being my baby's mommy.

As my pregnancy progressed, I became more and more moody and emotional. And as the weather heated up, my feet got fatter and fatter until the elastic on my socks cut into my ankles and I decided to give up on shoes and socks and wear flip-flops everywhere. Even if my feed hadn't puffed out, flip-flops were inevitable because I reached the point where I could no longer touch my feet. I had vague recollections of once being able to reach my toes and ankles, but those days were long gone.

I had started attending church again. It was awkward going to a singles ward while pregnant, but I couldn’t forget the story I’d heard from a married birth mom. She’d met her husband in church when she was eight months’ pregnant. She’d been asked out a LOT at eight months’ pregnant. The men in her ward had been impressed by her consistent church attendance and obedience. I decided that would happen to me, too. If she could meet her husband while pregnant, so could I. If nothing else, I would charge ahead, make new friends, and show a little faith. I bought a simple black maternity dress from Old Navy and felt thankful, not for the first time, that I didn’t look as far along as I was.

Church wasn’t much fun for me. Ninety-nine percent of the time, no one looked at me, no one talked to me, no one sat by me. I think that my bishop was probably the only person who was glad to see me there. It was rough. I knew I’d messed up, but I was trying to do better. On occasion the Relief Society president would sit by me out of pity, but she never said more than “Hello” to me, and she always got up quickly when we were dismissed, as though she didn’t want anyone to see us sitting together. It hurt. I left church after Sacrament Meeting, went home and cried. It was a routine I’d stick with until the end of my pregnancy.

I didn't know everyone in my ward, but I knew enough about enough of them. I was certainly NOT the only one there who wasn't taking the sacrament. There were at least a handful of people in my ward who had done some pretty serious things. The only difference was, their mistakes weren't making their feet swell. I felt like my maternity dress bore a scarlet S for skank.

I used the word "unfair" an awful lot when I was pregnant, and this was another instance. I hated that I had to suffer publicly for my sins when there were seriously messed up people who escaped public scrutiny altogether.

But I wasn't going to church for them, I reminded myself. I was going for God, and for me. My Heavenly Father was happy to see me there even if no one else was. My baby wiggled around when I sang the hymns. Sitting in church, I was able to think a bit more clearly about what my baby's life would be like with me as a single parent. Would she feel as out of place as I did, being the only little girl in Primary without both parents at home? What would she feel on Father's Day when all the little kids got up to sing to their daddies? I knew what she would feel, and it broke my heart. I cried, thinking of my sweet, innocent girl feeling left out and sad because of something that wasn't her fault.

It made me question the idea of single parenting. I hated questioning. I pushed it aside as best as I could, and counted the minutes until I could leave church.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I'm Considering Some Pass-Along Cards ...

... but for now I'm going to see what comes of the blog.

No rotten fruit, please. You know I love my adoption peeps. Y'all are awesome. I satirize with all the love in the world ... and because I am very, very single. And it's not much of a satire, really. I figured, what works in one situation might work in another.

(Although if you do find it horribly offensive or in poor taste, please let me know and I'll make it private again. I do NOT want to hurt feelings, honest.)

Friday, May 14, 2010


I'm still sick and not having much success putting more than three words together at a stretch. But, in the meantime, I thought I'd do a little flashback. I was going through some old pictures on my computer and I found this one I took exactly a year ago. I had, I think, seven weeks to go.

Babies are supposed to move around less as their due dates approach. Not Roo! She has always been a busy, happy girl. She kicked and wiggled and danced until the very end. I used to sit down and set a book or my phone on my belly and watch it tip and sway like a ship on the ocean.

I miss that belly.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I have a viral infection, so I've been away from my computer for a few days ... and I'll probably be away from it for a few days more. Bear with me, I promise I haven't disappeared :o)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Birth Mother's Day

Today, the day before Mother's Day, is Birth Mother's Day. I'm not sure how I feel about that. My feelings about it are a bit jumbled, but I'll try to explain anyway. If you're offended by something I have to say, please know that it's not intentional. I'm trying to express my feelings here, not hurt other people's.

First, I've never been a huge fan of Mother's Day as it is. It seems like it is manufactured to guilt people into spending a LOT of money to compensate for treating their mothers poorly the other 364 days of the year. I try to do nice things for my mom all year 'round. I have a wonderful mother. But I like to celebrate that on her birthday. She does, too. Likewise, shouldn't a couple who have adopted treat their baby's birth mom well every day they get the chance? They shouldn't wait for one day a year to have to remember her.

Mother's Day also seems to be the sort of greeting-card holiday that makes women feel inadequate. Not every woman has children. There are plenty of women who would love dearly to be mothers, but for one reason or another it hasn't happened yet. Mother's Day for them is torture. It's society's way of saying, call us when you're a REAL woman and you're actually done something, then we'll give you flowers.

I didn't really celebrate Mother's Day last year, even though I was quite heavily pregnant because, as I may have mentioned, not one person on earth was the least bit excited that I was going to have a baby. Do you know how incredibly bad that sucks? What a nasty, cruelly unnecessary slight on my sweet baby! Just because my situation wasn't ideal, didn't mean it was right to take it out on the precious little girl in my womb. She should have been celebrated; anticipated as the sweet and wonderful little miracle that she was. I'd harbored secret hopes that my mother might, perhaps get me a mommy-to-be Mother's Day card. That hell would freeze over and H would think of me on Mother's Day. That someone, somewhere who loved me would say, "You are going to be a mother soon, and I am so happy for you!"

Insult, meet injury.

Birth Mother's Day, too, is another opportunity for some people to make a big stink about their birth moms, and what amazing and wonderful women they are, and how they are beautiful and wonderful and selfless. And they will go on-line and post pictures of visits and elaborate Birth Mother's Day gifts and talk about how they are all best friends, and they do all this because they LOVE their birth moms - of course they want to buy her and make her gifts. They love her.

Does that mean that if I don't get gifts and pictures and visits for Birth Mother's Day, that Roo's parents don't love me? That's bull. I KNOW they love me. I will never, ever doubt that. They don't need to buy me gifts to thank me for placing Roo with them. They needn't thank me at all - I did it for Roo, not for them. The best way they can thank me and show me love, they already do - they are the very best parents they can be. They love Roo more than anything. They take the very best care of her. They took her to the temple. They love her. What on earth could I ask more? As far as I'm concerned, I got my Mother's Day gift on December 12th.

(I hate it when people explain their level of openness with, "Well, of course it's that way. We love each other. Why wouldn't we?" It makes it sound like if you don't have that, you're loved less. Nothing could be further from the truth.)

And then ... okay, I know I'm not Roo's mama. I know that. But I grew her and birthed her and loved her - still love her - shouldn't that count for something? Shouldn't I get to celebrate Mother's Day for that? In that way, Birth Mother's Day serves as more of a reminder of what I'm not than a celebration of what I am.

People have wished me a happy Birth Mother's Day, and I am thankful to them for thinking of me. And yet I'm a little uncomfortable with Birth Mother's Day. It was sort of created so birth moms could get some recognition for their sacrifices. So they could have a day, too. Well, I'd rather have tomorrow, if it's all the same to you, and I didn't place Roo for any kind of recognition. I don't want this special day that's all about how I placed my baby for adoption. I am so much more than that decision! I am more than a birth mom.

And yet I am a birth mom. But I like to focus on the second of those words. A birth mom is still a mom. Why can't I celebrate Mother's Day? Does choosing adoption make me less of a mother? I think that choosing adoption makes me the very best mother I could have ever been.

I'm not sure how much sense I'm making here. Some, I hope. And, again, thank you to those who have wished me a happy Birth Mother's day. I appreciate being remembered. But I think, for what it's worth, I'm going to celebrate being Roo's birth mom on my schedule. Maybe tomorrow, maybe on her birthday. Maybe on some random, arbitrary day. Maybe never. Roo is the happiest of girls and she has the best of families. I think I'd rather celebrate her; celebrate them.

Happy (early) Mother's Day to Roo's mama. I love you so much, and I am so thankful that you are Roo's mommy. She is so very blessed to be your little girl!

Friday, May 7, 2010

10 Months Old

Roo is 10 months old today! 10 months is crazy. It is alarmingly close to 1 year. Where on earth did the time go? I look at recent pictures and wonder what on earth happened to my teeny-tiny newborn. It seems like just a couple of weeks ago that I brought her home from the hospital in a slightly-too-big Onesie and striped hat.

Now she is crawling and laughing and eating real food and growing tiny teeth. She has grown so much! She is so clever and so sweet. I got some new pictures printed out yesterday and so I spent a few hours re-doing all my Roo photo albums. It was amazing to see her grow in photographs - to watch her hair fill in a bit more, to see her becoming more alert, her personality emerging.

She is my favorite little person in the world. I love her so much!

I think that's it for now.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Word of Advice ...

... for me, this time, not FROM me.

I've been in a bit of a funk lately. I'm not sure exactly why. Oh, I'm sure I could come up with a number of possibilities, if I stopped to think about it. But I don't want to think about it. I just want to feel happy again. Or, at least, slightly less irritated with the world in general.

A good start would probably be to stop watching "House Hunters International." Y'all ever watched this show? It will make you want to rip your hair out. It typically features a poorly dressed American couple (frequently the sort of people who put little hats and sweaters on their dogs - seriously, who does that?) who are unhappy in Seattle/Los Angeles/New York/Miami, so they're looking for a summer home - not a new home, but a SECOND home - in a more exotic locale - Mexico, Australia, the Mediterranean. And the typical budget is between $750,000 and $3,000,000. Shows like this make me think that the economy simply isn't bad enough yet.

Of course, I think the same thing when I see teenagers driving BMWs.

I digress. It's not just TV or dog sweaters or spoiled teenagers. It's ... everything. And nothing. I just don't feel like myself lately.

And so I ask you, gentle readers: what do you do when you've had a bad week or two? What do you do to snap out of it or to try to refocus your brain? What are one or two things that always cheer you up?


I got to do an outreach presentation at Compadre on Monday (the 3rd). Compadre is always a fun one because instead of a health class full of bored fifteen-year-olds, I get to speak to single girls who are facing unplanned pregnancies. Compadre has classes for pregnant girls and for girls who are already single-parenting. On the one hand, I think it's fantastic and innovative and a good idea. On the other hand, it depresses me that there are enough pregnant girls in the Tempe Unified School District that they need their own program.

I've done an outreach presentation at Compadre once before. Talking to the class of single mothers is awkward. It's like going to a prison and talking about the benefits of a law-abiding lifestyle. Fortunately for me, I didn't get to speak to that group Monday. That honor (I think) went to another birth mom I know, Heather. But Heather had to go back to work after that, so the second class was all mine, and the class was all pregnant girls.

I do pretty well speaking to teenagers, because they appreciate my attention to humorous detail and my asides about trouble with my ex. They were a terrific audience, and they all oohed and aahed over the Roo pictures I showed them. When I finished, Sarah, an adoptee and adoptive mom spoke. I've heard Sarah speak before at adoption academies before and I love her story. The time was mostly gone after we'd both talked, but C (the LDSFS caseworker doing the outreach) passed around some fact sheets and asked the girls if they had any questions or if they'd learned anything.

This is usually when the girls take a sudden interest in their mobile phones or their homework, and they refuse to look up or make eye contact. This was a good group of girls, though. They all enthusiastically thanked Sarah and me for speaking and said they'd loved our stories.

C asked if what they'd heard had changed any ideas any of them had had about adoption. One girl - this stick-thin 14-year-old with a gigantic hairstyle, gave me a big grin and said, "I really liked your story. It helped me make up my mind. Now I know I'm never giving my baby up for adoption. My situation isn't like yours was. My boyfriend and I really love our baby."

This is what I believe the 'nets refer to as a facepalm moment. Had she not heard a word of my story? After she thanked me and opined, a few other girls nodded their assent. They, too, had conclusively decided against adoption.

These teenage girls ... they just kill me. You want to make a birth mom breathe fire? Imply that she chose adoption because she didn't love her baby. They just didn't GET it! It was pretty discouraging for me because even though I figure no one at an outreach presentation is going to leap up and say, "Yes! Yes, adoption! That's it!" this is the first time after one that a girl has actually told me that I persuaded her against adoption.

I wanted to cry. It felt like I'd done more harm than good, and I wondered if I should have just stayed home. But while I was wallowing in stunned disbelief, one of the girls in the class mentioned to C that she was definitely going to consider adoption, because certain parts of her pregnancy story paralleled mine, and she wanted more for her baby than she alone could offer.

C, I didn't tell you this, but when you offhandedly mentioned what that young girl told you, you saved my bacon and my day. Thank you. Thank you for paying attention to the quiet, reasonable girl and not just the cheerfully loud one. Thank you for making me feel better about the words of the toothpick teen with the big hair.

And thank you, quiet girl on my left who spoke to C, for listening with your heart and not just your ears. I haven't forgotten you, and I never will.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How On Earth Do You Choose? A (Sort-Of) Guide

Before I begin, I would like to state for the record that for me, "choosing" was a moot point. I truly believe that I did not choose Roo's family. God chose them for her, and He simply helped me to find them. I did not choose. I found. That said, it wouldn't have been very prudent of me to say, "Okay, God, I need names." I did have to sort through profiles and have criteria of some sort. As such, I offer the following.

When I decided to meet a few couples, S suggested that I make a list of questions I wanted to ask them. I couldn't think of a single one. My mother helped me to come up with a few, based on things that were important to me. And that's what counts, I think - what's important to you? It's not a stupid question if it's important to you. In my case, the things I absolutely did not want were more plentiful than things I did want. I had a number of absolute deal-breakers. I knew I did not want a couple with pets (hello, allergies), or a couple who were politically liberal, or a couple who believed in spanking as a form of discipline. And my baby's parents had to appreciate that it was just me they were getting - I didn't have a ton of information about the birth father, and he wasn't going to be part of the openness I wanted.

The following are things to consider, whether they're really important or not. If nothing else, they’ll help you to know a couple better. Some of them might seem overly personal. But my feeling is, you’re potentially trusting these people to be the parents of your child. It’s important to be thorough. And they don't have to tell you anything they don't want to, so it can't hurt to ask.

You might not care about any of these things - that's good! I think it helps to know going into it what things are and aren't important. Not all of these things mattered to me; some did, and the rest I got from other birth moms I know.

-How long have they been married?
-Why did they choose adoption? Is it something they are both excited about or is it a second-best way of having a family?
-What are their political views? Do they vote with their party or do they vote on individual issues?
-How do they feel about spanking? What is their philosophy on discipline?
-Will they encourage their sons to serve missions? What about their daughters? Who will pay for it?
-Will the child know he or she is adopted?
-What will the child know and when?
-Will she be a stay-at-home-mom? Will the baby be in daycare or will relatives babysit?
-Yes, they have recommends, but do they regularly attend the temple?
-Are they willing to be open? What does openness mean to them?
-If your baby is biracial, how do they feel about that? Are they open to adopting outside their own race? Will they make sure the baby knows about and appreciates his or her heritage?
-Do they have any pets? Are they indoor or outdoor pets?
-How do they handle stress?
-Are they close to their families – immediate and extended?
-Do they have any plans to relocate in the next 10 years? (Visits are hard when they live on the other side of the country.)
-What family traditions did they grow up with that they want to continue with their own children?
-Do they hunt or fish?
-Who does most of the household chores? How are they divided up?
-Do they engage in any high-risk activities, like 4-wheeling or extreme sports?
-Have they had any experience with adoption before?
-Do they watch R-rated movies? (You’d be surprised)
-How do they “do” Christmas?
-Are they musical? Athletic? Literary? Witty? Ourdoorsy?
-Do they have a nursery ready? How prepared are they, right now, for a baby?
-What are their church callings? Do they enjoy them?
-What did each of them study in college?
-Did either of them serve missions?
-What kind of relationships do they have with their parents?
-If the baby is a girl, will they have her ears pierced?
-Do they like to travel? Inside the USA? Outside the USA?
-Do they have family (immediate or extended) nearby?
-How do they eat – are they vegetarian? Omnivores? Vegan? Gluten-free? Sugar-free? Organic? Do they ban refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup? How do they feel about tap water? About soda?
-Do they enjoy reading? Singing? Do they plan to read or sing to their children?
-Does their home have a pool? A Jacuzzi? Stairs? A basement? A fenced yard?
-Do they hold regular FHE already?
-Do they have any habits they wouldn’t encourage in a child?

And if you want to start off with a laugh, you can always ask how they feel about child beauty pageants. I (accidentally, and much to my embarrassment) led off with that question when I met P and M, and we got along just fine :o)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Choosing - Some Preliminary Thoughts

Once a pregnant woman starts to think about adoption, one of the first questions that comes up is, “How on earth do I choose a family?” And aside from the decision to place, which family to place with is the most important choice to make. And the most overwhelming. Where do you even begin?

I wish there was a simple answer. I wish it was easy to go through profiles and say, yep, there they are. But it is an agonizing, heartbreaking process, and it is hard.

Tomorrow (or in a few days, I'm not sure yet) I'm going to post more detailed thoughts on this process, including some questions to consider. But I think that before you ask questions of a couple, you have to ask some of yourself first. Because not only do you need to ask questions, but you need to decide what answers you want for them.

What sort of parents are you looking for? I was told by one person that I should try to find a couple that reminded me of myself - people who were a lot like me. But the problem with that was, I drive myself crazy. And I wasn't sure if I wanted my baby to have parents who were like me! At times I felt I should look for the exact opposite.

I feel that, in P and M, I've found a good middle ground. I see in them the things I like best about myself, and the things we don't have in common tend to be areas where I am weak and they are strong.

You might have a lot of questions for a couple, and you have to decide which ones are the most important. Are you willing to consider an answer you don’t like for one question if you get answers you do like to the most important questions? Ultimately, you have to decide these things for yourself. And when in doubt, trust your instincts. If you’ve got a good feeling about a couple, go with it. And if you don't, or if you're not sure, be honest with them. Tell them how you feel. They will appreciate your openness and will likely respond in kind.

Ask yourself: Why am I considering adoption? What is it that I want most for my baby that I am unable to provide? I wanted my baby to have an eternal family. Going through a church agency made that easy - if a couple wants to be approved through LDSFS, they have to be able to take their baby to the temple. Use what's most important to you as a starting point and go from there.

(Pretend I'm Deborah Norville here)
Coming up next: a really wordy sort-of guide to trying to choose a couple, after these messages! Or after a day or two.