Stop Whatever You’re Doing and Read This Right Now!

The craziness of the holiday season can make us feel like we just don’t have the time to really stop and plan to do the things we should to take care of ourselves. It’s easy enough to say we’ll treat ourselves to something nice while we’re doing our holiday shopping, but how likely are we to really do that when we’re fighting for parking at the mall on Christmas Eve?

In a perfect world, we’d always slow down and take all the time we needed to care for ourselves. We’d sleep when we were tired and stay in bed when we felt sick. We’d read this blog post on surviving the holidays and follow every piece of advice in it.

But life is chaotic and we can’t always do that, so sometimes we have to find ways to take care of ourselves that don’t involve too much planning.

Below is a list of self-care “quick fixes” that each take five minutes or less. They won’t slow you down or keep you from getting to everything on your to-do list. So if you find yourself getting overwhelmed this month, stop what you’re doing, pick one of these activities, and take a quick self-care break. Your sanity will thank you.

  • Call a friend to wish them a happy holiday
  • Treat yourself to a favorite snack
  • Close your eyes and breathe deeply
  • Take a walk around the neighborhood
  • Dance to your favorite song
  • Stand up and stretch
  • Drink a cup of tea
  • Write a list of things for which you’re grateful
  • Schedule a self-care appointment (whether that means an appointment for therapy – or for a pedicure!)
  • Light a scented candle
  • Eat something green (did you know green foods boost your mood?)
  • Write a journal entry
  • Look at a few of your favorite photos

Which of these activities will you do to help you stay relaxed this holiday season? 


Dear Birth Parents: A Letter from an Adoptee

Today we share with you a letter written by Juliana Whitney, who was adopted as a newborn and has maintained a relationship with both of her biological parents and many of their family members. We asked Juliana to write about what she, as an adoptee, thought birth parents should know. For more by Juliana Whitney, visit www.ThatAdoptedGirl.com.

Dear Birth Parents,

How are you? I miss you. I can only hope that you miss me too. Do you wonder what I’m doing? I wonder what you are doing everyday. I wonder what your personalities are like and what traits of mine are similar to yours. I have this goofy laugh that I’m sure comes from one of you. There’s no way I just came up with it all on my own.

I wonder if you love me still, because I love you. Even though we haven’t been together to build a relationship, it’s like somewhere deep inside my heart knows you, and loves you truly. I like to think that your heart feels the same way.

I know you were probably sad when you gave me to my parents, but you knew you were doing the right thing. I know you probably worry that I will be mad at you, or that I will be sad and hurt. I’m not mad at you. I understand your decision. If you thought my life would be better off this way, I will trust that you were right. As for sad and hurt, of course I’m sad and hurt. It’s only natural to be sad. But my sadness doesn’t take away from the amazing family I have and it doesn’t take away from how grateful I am that you loved me so much that you gave me to parents who could give me the life you thought I deserved. The life you couldn’t provide. That takes a lot of courage and I will be forever grateful to you for having that courage.

Your courage got me to where I am now and I am actually doing really well in this family you chose for me. I am super loved and anytime I face a struggle, my family is here to support me. I hope that you have the same kind of love in your life. Whatever it is that you are doing, I hope that you are loved and that you are happy. You are allowed to be happy. You might know that, I just worry that you will feel guilty about giving me up and that could make it difficult for you to be happy. There’s no need to feel guilty. I’m ok. Don’t worry. Yes, my separation from you left a wound but everyone has some type of wound. You and I share our wound. Our separation is our wound. Luckily, over time wounds can heal. They leave scars so you’ll never forget them, but at least they heal.

I hope you never forget me because I will never forget you. Even though I have never met you, I will think about you for the rest of my life, probably everyday for the rest of my life. I hope that you think of me too. And when you think of me, do so with pride. Do so knowing that you did something positive for me and for my parents. Do so not with guilt, not with shame, but with joy. Just as much as you don’t want to be the cause of my sadness, I don’t want to be the cause of yours either. Ok?

The reality is that maybe I will see you again, but maybe I won’t. Whatever the case may be, just know that my heart will never forget you and at least a little part of me will always miss you.

Love always and forever,

Your sweet child


A Birth Parent’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays

“I hate the fact that I can only see him during Christmas at an agency party. I hate the fact that I can’t watch him open his presents on Christmas morning. I hate the fact that he’s not here. I just miss him so much.” – Annie at BirthMom Buds 

Because the holiday season is all about celebrating love and family, it can be a very difficult time for birth parents. If you placed your child recently and your grief is still fresh, your adopted child’s absence at the Thanksgiving table or on Christmas Eve may feel practically unbearable. If you placed many years ago, the intensity of that pain has probably subsided, but that doesn’t mean you won’t think about your child or wonder what this season might have been like if you’d made a different choice.

Below are some suggestions for taking care of yourself if you’re having difficulty finding the joy in this holiday season.

Reach out for support.

It’s okay to feel like you can’t handle this time of year on your own – you don’t have to. No one can take the place of your child, but that doesn’t mean other people can’t support you. Reach out to the people who have listened and been kind to you in the past, whether they’re family members, friends, social workers, or counselors. Many organizations have support groups over the holidays for people experiencing grief, so e-mail us if you’d like a referral. We can also set you up to talk with another birth mother if you think that would be helpful.

Give to others …. but prioritize YOU.

Your family may have a specific tradition or idea about how the holidays should be spent, and that’s great if those plans make you feel comforted and loved. But if they don’t– if, for example, your family was not supportive of your adoption plan, and thinking about spending lots of extra time with them around the Christmas tree stresses you out – then you may need to decide beforehand just how much time you want to spend with other people and how to balance your needs with theirs. Setting boundaries with people takes a lot of reflection and strength, and it may mean starting some new traditions instead of sticking to old ones. Remember, your health and well-being are important and deserve to be your top priority.

Start a new tradition.

Find a way to incorporate your child into your personal celebrations. Light a candle for them, make a special ornament to hang on the tree, or do something as simple as decorating with their favorite color. If you have an open adoption, write your child a holiday card or make them a gift to send in the mail; if you’re parenting other children, they can draw pictures to include in the package, too. Even if you are not in touch with your adopted child, you may find it comforting to write to them anyway, even if the letter never actually gets mailed.

Be thankful – or don’t.

Expressing sadness doesn’t make you ungrateful. In the same way that it’s possible to miss your child while also believing adoption was the best decision, it’s also possible to feel upset over the holidays while also giving thanks for what you and your child both have. And if you’re feeling too depressed or angry to give thanks, that’s okay, too! Your emotions are valid; there is no “wrong way” to feel. If you’re yearning for a little cheering up, volunteering can be a great way to help others, feel good about yourself, and remember how much you have to be thankful for.

The holidays may always be a little bittersweet for you as a birth parent, but they will become easier over the years. What will you do to take care of yourself and to celebrate this holiday season?


Surviving the Time You Have to Change Your Mind

The first days and weeks you spend without your baby are likely to be the most difficult part of your adoption experience.

Many birth mothers feel devastated, strangely numb, or both. Several have described waking up in the middle of the first night and panicking when they remember having placed their baby the day before. These emotions are powerful, and they are often intensified by the fact that, depending on the state where you live, you may still have the option of changing your mind about the adoption.

Whereas in some states an adoption is legally completed as soon as the birth parents sign the paperwork, other states have a period of time called a “revocation period” during which the birth parents can still regain custody of their child if they decide to do so. In Maryland, birth parents have thirty days to change their mind; in DC it’s fourteen days, and in Virginia it’s seven days.

Renee of the blog Letters to Little Man said of North Carolina’s ten day revocation period, “That policy was torture. Those were the worst 10 days of my life.” She agonized about her decision to place and went back and forth on a daily basis. Jessalyn at Birthmothers4Adoption said almost the exact same thing about revocation periods: “Can anyone say torture?! When emotions are at an all time high, the absolute worst thing is to force a birthmom to rehash her decision every moment of every day for thirty entire days, a decision that she has most likely already been making for months prior to the birth.”

But is it really the worst thing to do? The revocation period is extraordinarily difficult, yes, and we believe our clients when they tell us they’re glad once it’s over – but we feel that it is important for birth parents to have that time to fully make up their mind about what’s best for them and their baby. This is especially true for our many clients who haven’t been planning for adoption since the beginning of their pregnancies. We have worked with a number of women who were originally planning to parent but changed their minds hastily when their support networks didn’t come through for them. It is crucial for these clients to have a period of time during which they can process their decision and change their minds if they need to.

When we meet birth mothers who want to waive their rights to proceed under their state’s law specifically so that they will not have a revocation period, it’s actually a sign to us that we may need to slow the adoption down and give them more time to process and reflect on what’s happening. If a birth mother knows for sure that she is going to regret her decision afterwards, then we need to talk to her about why she is forcing herself to make this choice, and whether there is another way.

After all, it’s one thing to grieve and to wonder, “What if?” in the days after your baby’s placement; it’s another to feel certain that you made the wrong choice and want to regain custody of your child. If you don’t want to have the option to change your mind because you are afraid that’s what you will do, your brain is telling you something important. Placing your baby for adoption will be an incredibly hard decision no matter what, but if you don’t trust yourself to stick with the plan you’ve made, it might be because a part of you still doesn’t believe it’s the right choice for you.

Did you have a revocation period when you made an adoption plan for your baby? What was that time like for you?


From a Birth Mother During National Adoption Month

This is our fourth guest post written by Jenna Myers, a birth mother who placed her daughter with an adoptive family in 2009. You can read Jenna's previous posts, and posts from other guest bloggers, here.

After finding out that you’re unexpectedly expecting, many woman (and men) often think one of two thoughts: abortion or parenting. It is a small group of people who actually ponder adoption. Many people just dismiss the thought entirely. It shouldn’t be that way. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that adoption is for everyone, because it’s not, I’m just saying that the idea of adoption shouldn’t be thrown out before the word is finished being spoken.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and I think it is a great time to start talking about it. For those of you who don’t usually talk about the adoption, what stops you? For those of you who do talk about it, who do you talk with? I know that I talk about it constantly. I talk about it at work, with complete strangers, with kids, with anyone! I think we need to get together, and we need to help people see that it is possible to place and then live a happy, healthy and normal life. People need to know that life doesn’t end after you place, and that you can have an open adoption if you want to. It is so important to spread the word. Adoption changes the lives of everyone involved – your child will have opportunities that couldn’t be provided otherwise, a family (who may not be able to have children on their own) is blessed with a child, and you are given an opportunity to make your life what you had always imagined. No one loses in adoption.

Let this month pull you out of your shell a bit, and start telling your story – you’ll never know who it may impact. But it’s important to keeping sharing. Once you get comfortable talking about it and telling your story, keep doing it, don’t stop in December. We need to educate people on what adoption is nowadays, and show people that it’s okay – that we’re okay.


When Abuse Begins or Gets Worse During Pregnancy

There is a growing body of research indicating that intimate partner violence often begins or increases during pregnancy, regardless of whether the pregnancy is the result of abuse. As the folks at the National Domestic Violence Hotline explain, “Since abuse is based on power and control, it’s common that an abusive partner will become resentful and jealous that the attention is shifting from them to the pregnancy.They may be stressed at the thought of financially supporting a child, frustrated at the increased responsibilities or angry that their partner’s body is changing.”

No one ever deserves to be abused whether or not they are pregnant, but a pregnancy can cause women in abusive relationships to feel especially vulnerable. If you are experiencing partner violence, check out these articles to learn about how to stay safe during your pregnancy. Also, if you are planning for adoption and working with an agency you trust, we urge you to tell your social worker or counselor about your situation. They can help you make a plan for your safety as well as provide emotional support throughout this difficult time and afterward.

Today is the last day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but there are resources available every day of the year for women who are experiencing abuse. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is open 24/7 and available in over 170 languages at 1-800-799-SAFE. They also have a chat line at www.thehotline.org. No matter who you are or where you are, we hope you’ll reach out to find the support you deserve.


Did He Pressure or Force You to Get Pregnant?

Before I came to Adoptions Together I worked at a hotline for pregnant women. In my first few weeks there, I noticed a trend that I hadn’t anticipated.

Many of the women who called, even the ones who didn’t say that their partner was abusive, told me that their partner had tried purposefully to get them pregnant even when they didn’t want to have a baby.

“He poked holes in the condom,” they said.

“He hid my birth control pills.”

“He took the condom off when we were having sex.”

Then, once the caller found out that she was pregnant, her partner would often begin badgering her about what choice to make. Instead of supporting her as she considered her options, he would try to pressure her to do what he wanted. Often, his way of doing this didn’t even make any sense:

“He begged me to have the baby so we could be a family, but now he’s saying he doesn’t even believe me that it’s his.”

“He told me I needed to go and get an abortion, but then he started telling everyone that I was killing our baby.”

Reproductive coercion – trying to force someone to get pregnant against their wishes – is a method that some men who abuse women use to exercise power and control over their partners. These men try to use pregnancy to ensure that their partners do not leave them, because they know that separating will probably be more difficult if you have a child in common. If your partner has ever tried to get you pregnant by interfering with your birth control or pressuring you not to use protection during sex, or has tried to force you to make a certain decision after you become pregnant, you are not alone.

Even if you are not comfortable contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline or loveisrespect.org, which we talked about in our last post, there are measures you can take to protect yourself. We at Adoptions Together strongly encourage you to check out this article at bedsider.com to learn more about the signs of reproductive coercion and what you can do to protect yourself. As always, we are here, too, if you need to talk to us, and we will respect whatever decision you make about your pregnancy.


Is Your Partner Controlling You?

Does this sound familiar?

Everything starts out fine. You are perfect for each other. Slowly, though, he starts to get upset about little things. Every day things get just a little bit different; you begin to feel like you’re walking on eggshells. The tension becomes thicker and thicker, until one day, he blows up. He hurts you. Maybe you leave, maybe you don’t. Then, suddenly, he is regretful. He begs you to forgive him. He gives you flowers, cards, and gifts and tries to explain that he only did this because he loves you too much. You believe him. You forgive him.

And then, the tension starts building again.

This is the cycle of intimate partner violence, also known as “domestic violence.” As the relationship progresses, the abusive behavior usually becomes more severe with each “blow up.” It happens more and more often, and the lovey-dovey “honeymoon period” gets shorter or even disappears.

Even as this happens, it becomes increasingly difficult for women to leave their abusers. As time goes on, the abuser gradually isolates his partner from her family and friends so that she has fewer people to whom she can turn for support. If they live together, he may exercise control over their finances so that she feels she cannot afford to leave.

Intimate partner violence can happen in any intimate relationship, whether you are dating, having sex, living together, or married. Ninety-five percent of the time, the man is the perpetrator, although it occurs just as regularly in lesbian and gay male relationships as it does in relationships between a man and a woman. There are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships, from the control their partner exercises over them, to the hope that he will change, to fear of what he will do if they leave.

Nearly one in four women in the United States has experienced intimate partner violence, and it often begins during pregnancy – we’ll talk about that next week. For now, please know that if you have found yourself in a relationship like this, help is out there. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has both a 24-hour hotline (1-800-799-7233) and online chat line (www.thehotline.org) that can help you find resources in your area if you need them. You can also get help through loveisrespect.org by calling 1-866-331-9474 or texting “loveis” to 22522.

No one deserves to be hurt. If someone is abusing you, we at Adoptions Together urge you to seek help. If you are working with us or have done so in the past, we hope you know you can always share your story with us without fear of judgment. We want you to be safe.


3 Ways to Get Back to Normal After Placement

Life goes back to normal after making an adoption plan, but it’s not the same normal it was before.

Grief changes us, and your daily life after placing your child will never be exactly the same as it was before; but that does not mean that you cannot live your life just as happily and healthily.

1. Make time for feelings. The timing of your pregnancy and adoption plan is likely to have an effect on how you feel afterward. We’ve found that birthmothers who don’t realize they are pregnant until shortly before delivery tend to struggle emotionally after placement because they haven’t had time to fully process the pregnancy and adoption decision. No matter how long it’s been since you found out you were pregnant, you must give yourself time to process your decision once you return home from the hospital. This might sound silly, but scheduling time to “feel your feelings” can really help. Give yourself fifteen minutes a day just to feel, in whatever way is most comforting to you: by talking to someone about it, by writing in a journal, by taking a long walk by yourself, etc. You will likely find that when you schedule time for feelings, it will make going back to the other things you need to do, like grocery shopping and taking care of your other children, less difficult.

2. Do something else. Elsa at Birth Mom Buds turned to an old hobby, knitting, to pass the time as she processed her decision after coming home from the hospital. “I needed something that had been untouched by all that I had gone through in the last few months,” she explains. “It calmed my nerves, ordered my brain, and gave me a sense of accomplishment with every project that I completed.” Finding a hobby that you enjoy and that makes you feel good about yourself is an excellent idea. Keep in mind, though, that distracting yourself without giving yourself time to grieve is not healthy. For example, if playing with your children in the evenings relaxes you and helps you feel calm and secure, you should absolutely make a point of doing it as often as you can. You should not, however, dive into taking care of your children 24/7 to the point that it consumes you and that you are never alone or thinking about your feelings about the adoption. Again, you need to make time to feel sad  — to acknowledge it, to cry about it, and, eventually, to get through it.

3. Stay in touch. We have found that our clients who use Child Connect tend to process their adoption decisions very well. Child Connect is a web-based system that allows you and your child’s family to upload and view pictures, letters, and videos from any computer with an Internet connection (and if you don’t have Internet access, you can still receive printed letters and pictures through the program). Clients who use Child Connect and are able to see that their child is in a loving home tell us that even as they are grieving, they are able to feel good about their decision. Even if you and your child’s family do not use Child Connect, being purposeful about maintaining an open adoption in the days, months, and years after placement is an excellent way to process the grief and loss that are normal parts of the process. Knowing how your child is doing, and seeing them thrive, will not make those feelings go away, but they can help you see your child’s adoption in a bittersweet light – as something difficult and painful, yes, but also something to be celebrated.

How did you find your “new normal” after making an adoption plan? Tell us in the comments section below!


Birthday Advice from a Birth Mother

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

So, it’s been a year. Or 2. Or maybe even 5. Not only does that time signify your child’s birthday, but it also represents the anniversary of the time you placed your child. It’s not easy, and I won’t lie to you, it still isn’t easy for me — nearly 5 years later. But I have learned ways to make it easier to get through that day (or week).  

I find that I spend that week, and much of that month, reliving my time in the hospital. 

Julia was born December 14th by c-section, so I spent about 4 days in the hospital. The entire week for me seems to be difficult, even almost 5 years later. Actually, to be completely honest — the entire month of December sucks for me. But today, we focus on the birthday. It can be a tough time, especially since many of us don’t get the opportunity to spend our child’s birthday celebrating with them. We may get a nice phone call or e-mail or photos, but it’s not the same. And while that may fill the void that we feel somewhat, it doesn’t help too much. The first year after placement, I spent that day crying. The second year, I chose to spend that day in PJs watching Gilmore Girls, wishing I could live the life that Lorelei and Rory live. By the third year, I decided to celebrate. Don’t get me wrong, I am still emotional during that week, but I just choose to hang out in my PJs with some good friends and celebrate. I bake a cake, watch some movies, drink some wine and keep my mind off of the time I spent in the hospital. It’s not healthy to relive such a difficult and emotional time anyway. 

So, my advice to those who still struggle with the birthday is not to spend the day reliving that day. Don’t spend your day wondering “what if” and thinking about what he or she is doing. Be happy that your child is happy on this day, be happy that your child is being thrown an awesome birthday party and is surrounded by loved ones. And celebrate! Celebrate the life you gave to your child, celebrate the joy you gave to their family, and celebrate the sacrifice you made — for whatever reason you made it. You did something amazing and truly blessed a deserving family and that is something to be proud of, and something to celebrate.