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. 


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?


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?


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.

 


Reuniting Children and Birthparents

Sixteen states, including Maryland, have now opened or partially opened their sealed adoption records. This means that adults who were adopted in these states can see either their original birth certificates or their adoption records (depending upon the state) and search for their birth families if they want to.

Not all birth parents want to stay in touch with their child and their child’s adoptive family, and the unsealing of records does not mean that they have any obligation to communicate. It is possible, however, that a birth parent who has not been in contact with their child for many years could receive notice from an adoption agency that their child is searching for them.

The age at which a child is legally permitted to search for their birth family depends upon where they were adopted. In Maryland, the age is 21. A young adoptee might dream of going to their adoption agency on their 21st birthday, getting their birth parents’ names and phone numbers, and calling them up to arrange a joyful reunion with hugs and tears all around – but it’s not quite that simple. Adoption agencies themselves cannot release information about birth parents; the unsealing of the records has to happen through the state, which involves an application process and at least one counseling session. Once that’s been accomplished, the agency must reach out to the birth parent – which can be very difficult or even impossible – and send a social worker to meet with them to find out how they feel about the possibility of a reunion.

It is then up to the birth parent to decide if they are comfortable with opening up the lines of communication. If they are interested in doing so, the agency social worker will assist both parties in beginning to communicate with one another via letters and photos. Eventually the birth parent and adoptee may get to the point where it makes sense to meet in person, but it can take years to get there. Think about it: Getting in touch with a long-lost relative means inviting a new person into your life who you know nothing about. It is certainly very exciting, but there is also a good chance that each of you will have different expectations, which will need to be worked through so that no one gets hurt.

What would you do if you find out that your child wanted to communicate with you? Would you jump at the chance, or would it be too difficult? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!


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

writing poetry

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!