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.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

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.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

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.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

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.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

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!

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

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. 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

Would You Place Your Baby with a Family Member?

Whenever we counsel women who are pregnant or recently gave birth, we talk to them about all of their options, including placing their child with a family member. But even though we always ask them whether anyone in the family might want to adopt the baby – and sometimes there is someone who wants to do that – women don’t always choose that option. Why?

Too Close for Comfort?

Most women tell our birth parent counselors that they don’t want to place their baby for adoption with someone they know for two main reasons. The first is that placing a child for adoption is extremely painful even when it feels like the right choice, and many birth parents feel that seeing their child at every family event they attended would be difficult. The impact of an adoption decision doesn’t end after placement, but it is important for birth parents to return to their daily life and find their “new normal,” which can be tough to do if their lives are still very much intertwined with their child and that child’s family.

Boundary Blues?

The second main reason that most women give for not wanting to place with someone they know is that they worry that the boundaries of their relationship with their child and with the family member would be too blurry. After a birth parent places their baby with a family unrelated to them, they are not responsible for that family’s well-being; but what if a birth parent placed their baby with a family member, and then that family member got into financial trouble? The birth parent might feel like they had to help out, even if it meant straining themselves financially. Birth parents also tell us that it would be stressful to regularly see someone else parenting their child because everyone has a different parenting style, and if they found themselves disagreeing with any of their family member’s parenting methods, they wouldn’t know whether or not to speak up.

A Perfect Solution?

All of that said, placing with a family member is a wonderful option for some people, particularly if they want to have an extremely open relationship with their child and their child’s family. In a typical open adoption with Adoptions Together, birth parents see their children once or twice a year; if a birth parent feels strongly that they want to be able to see their child every month, speak with them on the phone regularly, or spend holidays with them, it is unlikely that we would be able to find an adoptive family who felt comfortable with that arrangement. In cases like these, where the birth parent really wants to have a level of openness that won’t work for most parents looking to adopt through an agency, placing the child with a family member can be a great way to make sure that everyone’s needs are met.

Did you consider placing your baby with a family member? What did you decide?

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

This Time Around

Every pregnancy is different – but it doesn’t always feel that way.

Back in July we posted about becoming pregnant again soon after placing a child for adoption. Today, we’re talking again about pregnancy after adoption, but this time we’re focusing on birth parents who make an adoption placement and then gave birth to another child several years later, rather than soon after the placement. If you become pregnant again a few years after placement, the embarrassment and shame that many birth moms feel when they get pregnant again right away isn’t as likely to come up – but that does not mean that your adoption journey won’t play a role in this pregnancy.

Memories.

While you are pregnant (and in the days and weeks afterward), you will likely find yourself thinking a lot about the child you placed for adoption. One birth mom told us that after she gave birth, she accidentally referred to the baby by her other child’s name! Thinking a lot about your adopted child might lead you to feel more curious about them or more eager to have contact than you were before. On the other hand, memories of your adopted child could make you feel like you need some space so that you can focus on this unique pregnancy. Both reactions are natural and normal.

Painful feelings.

As you go through many of the same physical changes that you did the last time you were pregnant, you might also find yourself re-experiencing any feelings of anxiety or guilt that you had back then. These emotions won’t last forever! If they are particularly stressful or painful, you might decide to distance yourself from your adopted child and their family for a little while. Do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself during this pregnancy, but don’t sever the relationship entirely – if you do, you will definitely regret it later on.

Choices.

There are probably many people in your life who don’t know that you made an adoption plan in the past and who will be happy for you and excited about this pregnancy. A well-meaning friend might give you pregnancy tips, assuming you’ve never been pregnant before; your boss might write you a card that says “Congratulations on #3” not knowing that this is your fourth pregnancy; even a complete stranger at the store might touch your belly and ask, “Do you have any other kids?” It’s your choice how you want to handle these situations. If you want to tell your story, that’s wonderful – you will probably feel relieved afterward, and maybe you’ll find that you have another support person in that individual. But if you don’t want to tell them, that’s okay too. You are not being dishonest or sneaky if you choose to keep your adoption story private; it’s nobody’s business but yours.

Regret.

Many birth moms who don’t have another child until a few years after placement are feeling more emotionally and financially stable this time around. This is great news, but it can also create some feelings of regret as you consider whether you would have been capable of parenting the child you placed for adoption. This happens most often with couples who did not feel stable in their relationship at the time of the adoption, but ended up working things out. It’s normal to wonder about what could have been, as long as you are not too hard on yourself. Remember, we all have to make decisions in the present, without knowing what the future holds; the only option we have is to do what seems best right now. Trust yourself. You made a decision that felt right to you at that time – and that’s all anyone can ever do.

Did you become pregnant again a few years after your child’s adoption placement? What was it like for you?

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

How Writing Helped ANOTHER Birth Mom to Heal

healing_writing

image c/o livingonthefaultlines.com

Yes, we talk a lot (a lot) about writing as healing, but we swear we did not pay Elsa to post on BirthMom Buds about how writing helped her find “a path out” of her depression after placement.

In our original post on this topic, we described writing is a way of moving energy, which sounds kind of silly — but we swear that it’s true! As Elsa explains in her post, “When I wrote, I finally released everything in my chest that I had stored up there.” We can’t move past pain until we give it somewhere to go — like onto a blank page. When Elsa did this, she was able to begin to recover from her depression.

What we love most of all about Elsa’s post is the quote she shares from Ernest Hemingway: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” It might sound scary to confront your pain by writing it down, but it could be your first step to letting go.

Don’t take our word for it — head over to BirthMom Buds and read Elsa’s post for yourself! If you’d also like to take a look at our previous posts about writing, you can check them out herehere, and here.

 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

Will I Have to Tell the Birth Father?

One of the hardest topics for our birth parent counselors to bring up with birth mothers is the question of the birth father. Many of our birth moms currently have difficult relationships with the birth father and would do just about anything to keep from talking about him or getting him involved in the adoption process.

If they don’t know very much about him, they might be embarrassed to tell us how casual the relationship was, no matter how many times we explain that we’re not here to judge. If the relationship is tumultuous, they may be mad at themselves for having had sex with him – birth moms can be very hard on themselves! We have also worked with many survivors of sexual assault, who are worried that we won’t believe them or who feel ashamed about what happened, even though we firmly believe that sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. And finally, we’ve worked on our fair share of cases where the birth father was mean, uncaring, or just generally difficult, cases in which the birth mom often assumed that the adoption process would go more smoothly if he just stayed out of it. (P.S. We’ve also worked with some wonderful birth fathers – that’s just not the subject of this post!)

If you are or have been worried about talking to your adoption agency about your baby’s birth father, you’re not alone. Most of the birth mothers with whom we work are not in a committed relationship with their baby’s birth father, so if that’s your situation, please don’t be embarrassed. Every individual person and relationship is unique and complicated, and no good counselor or social worker will ever presume to know how you should have handled your specific situation. Difficult though it may be to talk about him, the fact is that if no one makes what the court calls a “good faith effort” to find the baby’s birth father, he can come forward later and take legal action to disrupt the adoption. Since any ethical agency should be committed to never letting that happen, they have to take every step they possibly can to try to find the birth father – but they should also be committed to working with you to do that in whatever way is most comfortable and least upsetting.

If you are not comfortable or don’t feel safe contacting the birth father yourself, an ethical agency will work very closely and carefully with you to make sure you stay safe and out of danger. Birth fathers who are abusive and/or are sexual assailants usually don’t want to be found because they know their actions are wrong and they fear being charged with a crime, so even when an agency makes the “good faith effort” required by law, they often find a way to stay out of sight. And even if your baby’s birth father is not abusive but you know he is going to make things difficult for you, we promise – and any other ethical agency will promise – to stand by you and do whatever we can to make the process bearable while also following the law.

Were you worried about talking to your adoption agency about your child’s birth father? How did it turn out?

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+