This Birth Mom Wrote a Play About Her Pregnancy

Mariah MacCarthy is a playwright, rapper, storyteller, burlesque artist, and birth mom.

In a society that is quick to judge women who choose adoption, it’s pretty rare to meet a birth mother who shares her experience with more than a few close family members or friends, let alone performs a play about it. But that’s exactly what Mariah did; last night she premiered her solo show, Baby Mama: One Woman’s Quest to Give Her Child to Gay People. Below is a clip of the show before it premiered.

In the clip and in the interviews she’s done to publicize the show, Mariah doesn’t share much information about why she chose adoption. She has spoken a great deal about what she calls the “invisibility” of birth mothers and how few people have actually met a birth parent or heard their story. We think it’s great that she wants to educate people about being a birth parent, especially because she does such a beautiful job of exploring both her certainty about her decision and how painful it was to make.

One thing we find confusing about Mariah’s sharing of her story is that even though she talks in her interviews about adoption language and the important difference between saying “place for adoption” and “give up for adoption,” she doesn’t follow her own advice! She regularly uses the phrase “give up” in her interviews, and goodness knows other birth parents are tired of hearing that.

Also sure to be controversial among birth parents is Mariah’s use of humor to tell her story. She’s pretty in-your-face about it, and although it’s clear from watching the clip that she thought very carefully about her adoption decision, we have a feeling that quite a few people will not appreciate how light-heartedly she seems to approach the topic in her retelling.

What do you think? Is it appropriate for Mariah to use humor to tell her story, or does it make light of too serious a subject? And how do you feel about the language she uses?


How to Write the Perfect Letter to Your Child

how to write the perfect

Obviously, we’re on a bit of a writing kick. We can’t stop writing about writing (ha ha). And today we want to talk about a different kind of writing: writing letters to your child.

Really, the title of this post is a little dishonest, because nothing anyone writes is ever perfect, and that’s a good thing. Marc Jacobs once said, “Perfection is just… boring. Perfect is what’s natural or real; that is beauty” (who knew fashion designers were so wise? Now if only his purses were affordable). The point is that when you sit down to write a letter to your child, there’s no use in agonizing over trying to make it absolutely perfect. Whether you have been writing to them their whole life or are hoping to reunite after a long period of absence, the important thing as that you’re writing, not whether the letter is “just right.”

To help ease the stress that comes from trying too hard to be perfect, here are some tips to keep in mind once you sit down to write.

Don’t overthink it. If you put too much thought into this letter, you run the risk of becoming so overwhelmed that you never even get started. Remember, even if you only write three sentences, those three sentences will still be more than what your child has right now. They don’t need you to give them the answers to life’s biggest questions; they just want to be able to hold up a piece of paper and know that it’s a letter their birth parent wrote especially for them.

Keep it simple. You and your child are certainly connected in a deep and meaningful way, but they do not know very much about who you are as a person, so just start with the basics: your hobbies, your family, your job if you have one. What do you do every day? Who do you see? What is your neighborhood like? What do you enjoy doing in your free time? Think about when you were a kid and you met someone new. You weren’t interested in their deep-seated beliefs or their underlying motivations; you just wanted to know what kinds of foods they liked to eat and whether they enjoyed the same kinds of movies you did.

You don’t have to say it all. Many of our birth moms worry about telling their child about the difficult things that have happened in their lives. Some of them are particularly afraid to talk about their child’s birth father, especially if he was not officially a “partner” or if he was violent or abusive. There’s no reason to share things that you aren’t comfortable discussing. When you meet a new friend, you don’t tell them everything about your entire life in one fell swoop! First, you chat about the basics. Someday, when you know your child a little bit better and they are old enough to understand, maybe you’ll be able to talk about some of the hard times in your life and how they may have impacted your adoption decision. But right now is just the beginning.

Have you ever written a letter to your child? What did you write about? What advice do you have for other birth parents?


How Writing Poetry Helped One Birth Mom to Heal

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image c/o teenlinkseattle.blogspot.com

How timely! After publishing a post on healing through writing, we ran across this article on adoption.com by a birth mom who began writing poetry after placing her son for adoption. She says that writing poetry helped her to heal: “Anytime I would feel the grief beginning to surface, I would break out a pen and try to get my feelings on paper.”

In addition to the heartfelt poem she shares, what particularly sticks out to us about this article is the author’s differentiation between grief and regret. Folks outside of the adoption world tend to have a hard time understanding that grieving is a natural part of the process; they often think that when birth mothers are sad after placement, it must be because they feel they made a mistake. But as this birth mom explains, “I missed my little baby with every fiber of my being but I still did not regret the decision that I made for him. Expressing sadness is a part of the grieving process…Sadness does not equal regret, and it is perfectly acceptable to feel sad and cry.”

She is absolutely right. Feelings of loss do not prove that you made the wrong decision; they prove that you made a difficult decision. There’s a big difference.

The author of the post also explained that after writing “quite a few” poems, she found new ways to express her feelings outside of writing. We loved her point that even if writing isn’t the way you choose to express your feelings, the important thing is to find something that works for you, whether it is “something you think you are not good at” or “a talent you already have.” Our birth parent counselor always talks to the birth moms with whom we work about finding their own methods of self-expression, whether that means writing, drawing, singing, dancing, painting, or anything else.

Head over to adoption.com to check out the article and poem, and let us know in the comments section below how you took care of yourself during your healing process! 


Healing through Writing

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image c/o pinterest.com

Writing is a way of moving energy.

As you write, your emotions move through you and out onto the page. The emotions aren’t gone – but their pressure, their weight, has been transferred.

The beautiful thing about writing is that it is totally about you. You can share your story if you want to, or it can be yours and yours alone. You can even write to yourself. For example, some birth mothers write a letter to themselves while they are pregnant, explaining how they feel and why they are choosing adoption, so that they can go back and reread that letter later on when they are grieving or feeling especially emotional. Shannon at BirthMom Buds wrote a letter to herself before she went into labor, and later wrote a letter directly to her son. She has reread both many times. “I can tell you,” she says, “that if I didn’t find peace through these words I could have lost the war to pain.”

Jenna, one of Adoptions Together’s birth moms, also wrote letters to her daughter. In a previous post, Jenna explained that writing in a journal was the best piece of advice she could give to other birth parents. After she placed her daughter, she wrote her letters every day in a journal she’d bought: “I explained to her why I chose adoption, and even wrote to her in the times when I yearned for her the most.”

The longer you sit alone with your feelings, the more painful they can become, because they don’t have anywhere to go. Writing them down is a way to keep them from festering; it moves that negative energy out and onto the page. You might be surprised by how much lighter you feel after the first time you sit down and really write from deep inside yourself.

Has writing or journaling been a part of your healing process? In what other ways do you take care of yourself when you’re feeling down? Share with us in the comments section below.


For Birth Moms Who’ve Experienced Sexual Violence

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Dear Birth Moms,

At Adoptions Together, we have worked with numerous birth mothers whose pregnancies resulted from violence, which is unsurprising given that the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that there are over 17,000 U.S. pregnancies a year resulting from rape. And since one in every six women has experienced sexual assault, many women whose current pregnancies are not the result of a sexual assault may have experienced one at some point.

For women who have experienced both assault and pregnancy, being pregnant can be extremely traumatic. Your changing body serves as a constant reminder of what you suffered through, which can make emotional healing very difficult. Some women are reluctant to seek prenatal care because the associated medical examinations and, later, the process of labor and delivery can trigger painful memories and feelings. These triggers can happen even for women whose pregnancies did not result from their assault.  Since women who have been assaulted are three times more likely to suffer from depression, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, we know that whether or not a woman’s pregnancy was the result of her assault, related factors may still play a role in her decision to parent her child. For pregnant women who are in abusive relationships, many other emotional and physical considerations also come into play.

All women have an absolute right to make decisions about their pregnancies free from pressure and based solely on what they feel to be right for them; and for women who have been sexually assaulted, it is especially crucial that you feel fully in control of your decision making process. Many women with whom we have worked who became pregnant after a sexual assault and chose to place their baby for adoption felt at the time that they didn’t want to make these decisions- like choosing the adoptive family or planning how an open adoption might work. Understandably, it felt safer to separate themselves from the pregnancy and the traumatic experience associated with it.

You know better than anyone how to take care of yourself and what you can and can’t handle, but it might help you to know that many women who initially rejected playing any role in their baby’s life after delivery but changed their minds told us later that they were happy that they took an active role in adoption planning. Making decisions like naming your baby, choosing an adoptive family, and planning for open adoption can actually help you feel more in control when your child is born and for many years afterward. If you make these choices now and leave the door open to receive updates or be in contact with your child, then even if you are not ready yet, you might find that you are less likely to look back and have regrets.

We hope that those of you who are considering placing a baby for adoption, or who made adoption plans in the past worked with an agency that supported and respected you. If not, and if you feel like you want/need some support, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline either online at www.rainn.org or by phone at 1-800-656-HOPE. This resource may also be helpful for you if you are currently pregnant and worried about how your experience being assaulted will affect you during labor and delivery (they may be able to put you in touch with a birth doula or other professional who specializes in maternity care for survivors of violence). We know that, frequently, sexual assault is not an isolated incident, and we will be posting more in the upcoming weeks about pregnancy and intimate partner violence, but for now, if you are currently in a situation where you are being harmed by your partner, you may want to check out the National Domestic Violence Hotline at www.thehotline.org or 1-800-799-SAFE.

Stay safe and strong,

The Adoptions Together team


What Was Your Hospital Stay Like?

 

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image c/o benin2009.com

Right now the Domestic Infant Program team here at Adoptions Together is getting ready to do several trainings for hospital staff in the DC/MD/VA area. We address a number of topics in our trainings, from basic information about open adoption to the different types of adoption professionals to how to handle adoption cases in a compassionate and caring way.

The purpose of these trainings is to help the staff at the hospitals where our birth moms deliver to be knowledgeable and sensitive about adoption so that birth parents can have the most comfortable experience possible. In order to train them, we’d love to hear from youwhat was your hospital stay like? Did the nurses, doctors, or social workers do anything that made the process especially smooth or difficult? What do you wish would have happened differently? Tell us in the comments section below! 


When You’re Pregnant Again After Placing

when you're pregnant

image c/o www.yahoo.com

“How could I let this happen again?” If you became pregnant again soon after making your adoption plan, you might feel embarrassed about finding yourself in a similar situation or face judgment from family members or friends. Below are some things I hope you’ll remember as you navigate this pregnancy and think about your options.

Unplanned pregnancies happen.

I’ve worked for several years in the family planning field, and you can trust me when I tell you that you are not the first person to have more than one unplanned pregnancy. Many women feel intensely disappointed in themselves, especially if, after terminating the pregnancy or giving birth, they continued to have sex with the same partner without making any changes as far as using birth control or what kind to use.

Certainly, practicing safer sex can significantly decrease your chances of an unplanned pregnancy, and you can use this experience to guide you in making changes in the future. But instead of feeling ashamed or angry at yourself, consider this: in each woman’s lifetime, there are about thirty-five years during which she can become pregnant. Thirty-five years is an awfully long time to expect yourself to be completely perfect! You’re human. Unplanned pregnancy is common. Anyone who looks down their nose at you is being unfair and unrealistic.

Every pregnancy decision is different.

If you made an adoption plan because you were not in a place where you felt like you could provide the life you wanted for your child, then there is a good chance that your circumstances have not completely turned around since then (after all, change takes time). For this reason, some birth moms feel like they have to choose adoption again. First of all, there is no “have to.” This is your choice, just as it was the first time. If you don’t want to make another adoption plan, then forcing yourself to do so is a bad idea.

Second of all, every pregnancy is different, even if the circumstances aren’t. One big difference is that now you know what adoption is like. When you make your choice this time around, you can consider the feelings you had during your placement as you think about what to do. Remembering the intensity and emotional difficulty of the adoption process, you may feel like you simply can’t go through that again, and that’s okay. If you do choose adoption, you have the power to make any changes that you think would have made things easier the first time around. Talk to your adoption counselor about what you want and about any issues that need to be addressed. No two adoptions are the same.

Did you become pregnant again soon after making an adoption plan? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


3 Tips for Great Annual Meetings with Your Child

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image c/o www.youtube.com

First dates are pretty awkward. You’re not sure what to talk about, you worry about how you look and sound, and it’s impossible to tell what the other person is thinking.

Birth parents and adoptive parents tend to feel the same way about their first meeting after an adoption. Everyone wants to make a good impression, but no one knows how to do that because they barely know one another!

It’s completely normal to feel anxious about your first post-adoption meeting with your child’s family, but we’re confident that you can not only get through it but really enjoy it. Here are a few tips to guide you.

1) Call your agency.

In the first couple of years after you make your adoption plan, you can expect to get a call from Adoptions Together a month or a couple of weeks before your meeting is supposed to take place; after that, it’s up to you to reach out to us when it’s time for your next meeting so we know you’re on board. We have a counselor who is dedicated to working with birth parents and adoptive families “post-adoption” (after the adoption has taken place), and she will talk to you about what to expect if you’ve never had a meeting before. She’ll also reach out to your child’s adoptive family to schedule a date and time that works for everyone.

2) Know what to expect.

Meetings usually take place in one of the Adoptions Together offices or at a park, depending on the time of the year and how old your child is. A social worker from Adoptions Together will be there to support you and to make sure that you feel comfortable; if at any time during the meeting you feel overwhelmed, just pull her aside and the two of you can talk privately. Meetings usually last about two hours, during which time you’ll chat with your child’s family (don’t worry, your social worker will help come up with things to talk about!) and play with your child.

3) Think about who to bring.

If you’re comfortable bringing your children to the meeting with you, that’s great! It’s never too early for them to establish a relationship with their sibling. Aside from your kids, it might be tempting to invite your partner, your parents, your grandparents, or other family members or friends so that they can get to know your child. Bringing a support person is also a great idea, although we don’t recommend bringing more than one. The purpose of these meetings is for you to get to know your child and their family and begin building a relationship with them, which is difficult to do if there are too many people in the mix. So, definitely invite your partner, your mom, or your friend – but don’t invite all three.

Your first meeting might feel a little awkward, and that’s okay! The relationship is still new and everyone is a bit jittery. We promise that as time goes on, everyone will become more comfortable — we know this because after the first couple of meetings, most birth parents and adoptive families tell us that they feel comfortable setting up future visits on their own and just leaving our agency out of the whole thing. Of course, we’re always available if you want us there, but you’ll probably be surprised to find you don’t need us.

Do you have a meeting with your child and their family coming up? How do you feel about it? If you’ve already had a meeting (or two, or more), tell us how it went in the comments section below!


Not Every Woman Wants to Be a Mother

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image c/o www.scoutiegirl.com

We’re getting annoyed.

We recently wrote about the anti-adoption community and explained that we actually agree on multiple issues: that we, too, are troubled by coercive for-profit adoption businesses and that we know that adoption is often a “Band Aid” solution to the much larger problem of women not having the resources they need to be able to parent when they want to.

So why were we annoyed when we saw yet another anti-adoption article pop up on our newsfeed? Because along with the totally valid argument that women should not be denied access to the financial and social support they need to parent, we keep running into the assumption that every birth mother wishes she could parent. And this is simply not true.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: There are as many reasons to choose adoption as there are birth mothers. It is definitely true that many women choose adoption because they feel that they can’t parent for financial reasons, and that our society needs to do more to remedy this problem. But it is also true that some women do not want to parent – and that is perfectly okay.

It is very difficult for our society, which places so much value on motherhood, to accept that not all women want desperately to be mothers. Many of them do, and it’s important that we support them, but you know what’s also important? Women doing what they feel is right for them. Every woman has the right to be emotionally healthy and happy and to create the life she wants for herself. Sometimes, parenting one or more children is not a part of that picture.

We’re tired of seeing all birth mothers lumped into one single category. Each woman is an individual with her own life, dreams, goals, and hardships. It is time to stop assuming that all women were “born to be mothers” and to start recognizing that women are complex human beings who are capable of making their own choices. It is time to start trusting women to think about what they want in life and to make decisions that are right for them. It is time to recognize that adoption can be not only a way of taking care of a baby but a way of taking care of yourself, and that taking care of yourself is just as important.

Tell us about your reasons for choosing adoption in the comments section below!


Post-Placement Advice from a Birth Mother

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image c/o www.pinterest.com

This is our second guest post written by Jenna Myers, a birth mother who placed her daughter with an adoptive family in 2009.

I remember it like it was yesterday: I was wheeled out of my room, and downstairs to wait for my ride home from the hospital. My nurse parked me in a line of women who were also waiting for their ride home, the only difference between them and me is that in their arms laid their sleeping newborns; and in mine, the baby blanket I unwrapped my daughter from before saying my goodbye. The cotton candy colored balloons on their wheelchairs floated happily through the air, announcing to everyone if they had a little girl or a little boy. That day was torture for me, and I’m sure many birth mothers have gone through a similar experience. I was lucky enough to have Lindsey, my counselor, at my side. She always provided me with so much support, and I honestly couldn’t have done it without her. I was her very first case since she accepted the position. She wasn’t sure what to expect, and neither was I. Together we crossed each bridge as we came to it, hand in hand.

I am not very close with my family, and wasn’t comfortable leaning on them for support, so my first weekend was scary for me. It would be the first time since I gave birth that I wouldn’t be able to talk to Lindsey during the day. I had her e-mail, and could  call her in an emergency, but I wasn’t comfortable calling her over the weekend. Friday came and went and Lindsey gave me a book to read for the weekend titled Something Borrowed, Something Blue. I never read it. Still haven’t. The book was for leisure reading, and had nothing to do with placement. Friday night I woke up with a nightmare about Julia (my daughter). I dreamt that they took her from me before I could say goodbye, and wouldn’t let me see her. That’s when I started my search for information about what to expect post-placement. And that’s when I realized that there is no information out there.

Lindsey had explained grief to me, and what I should expect and how to handle each emotion as it came, and that was very helpful, but there was always a part of me that felt like she didn’t understand. I definitely went through the stages of grief. It was almost comical how spot on I was with certain things. But the stages of grief just made me feel guilty. I felt like I wasn’t grieving, my child was alive and well. My brother had just had a stillborn — he was grieving. I chose to place, what I was going through was my choice, and that meant I shouldn’t be feeling as down as I was. That was one of the more difficult things for me after placement, I felt guilty for hurting. If I have any advice for someone feeling this way it’s to feel what you’re feeling, as you’re feeling it. Don’t think of grief as a feeling after one dies, but rather the feeling after one loses someone close to them. For a mother, having a child that you won’t be parenting is a loss, and sometimes only other mothers will understand that. The emotions are healing, and you shouldn’t be worried about if it is or isn’t okay to feel how it is that you’re feeling. Of course it’s okay to feel that way. You need to feel that way at that time, in order to heal, so just let it happen! Guilt is probably inevitable, and I think it passes with time. Once you start to see how amazing your baby is doing, and the endless amounts of opportunities you have given them, I think it will wash away all of your guilt.

My second piece of advice would be to ask your counselor for the name, number and/or e-mail of other birth moms. The birthparent community is so warm, friendly, and open. I know of a few birthmothers who would love to talk to other birthparents, and give them some support advice if need be. Just ask!

My final piece of advice is what helped me the most. I bought a journal, and I wrote Julia letters every day, sometimes a couple a day. I would tell her everything I wanted her to know — things about me, goofy things about her father, quirky things about the family. I gave her advice, and told her stories. I explained to her why I chose adoption, and even wrote to her in the times when I yearned for her the most. It was so therapeutic for me to write that, because it documented everything I went through after placement, and I know I can always give it to her one day if she has any questions. It’s also always there when I want it, I can see how far I’ve come, or I can lend it to a birth mom who recently placed and let her read through what my feelings were. Here is some information about my healing after placement: I placed 12/14/2009; I had 30 days after that to change my mind: 1/14/2010. My first journal entry: 1/27/2010 — and I wrote multiple pages (6+) every day until 2/10/2010. My next entry is 3/20/2010 — and I tell her how much I miss her, and that “I feel like a huge hole was just stamped out of my chest.” I wrote off and on after that. My last entry was 5/21/2010, and by that time I was feeling much better with everything. I still had my hard days, I still do now, but they are few and far between now. Time will heal. I know it’s not what you want to hear, but it’s true.