Healing through Writing

anne frank quote

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

ribbon

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?

 

hospital

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

3 tips for great

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

33_choose-your-own-path-550x377

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

balloons

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.


When the “Perfect Family” Isn’t “Perfect” Anymore

divorce candy heart

image c/o www.telegraph.co/uk

About fifty percent of marriages end in divorce.

A divorce can be extremely difficult and emotional for the couple splitting up and for their children, if they have any. And when the couple’s children were adopted, there is someone else who may be upset about the divorce: the birth parent.

Because divorces consume a lot of emotional and physical energy, adoptive families often communicate less frequently with their child’s birth parents during the divorce. There’s also another reason why they may shy away from you during this time: they’re worried. If you chose them so that their child could have a two-parent family, there is a good chance they are worried about upsetting you with the news that they won’t be that two-parent family in the same way.

And you might be upset with them! When you were choosing an adoptive family for your child, you picked the book that labeled this couple as a couple; you didn’t choose two separate albums for two separate families. You may have envisioned your child growing up in a picture-perfect family that you couldn’t provide. It’s normal and okay to feel upset when you think back to the role these things played in your adoption decision.

If you are in a relationship at the time of your child’s parents’ divorce, you may also feel some guilt about not parenting or start second-guessing yourself about whether you should have parented and provided that two-parent home. These are normal reactions, but try not to be too hard on yourself. There is much more to every family than whether both parents live together, and you didn’t make your adoption decision based solely on relationship status.

While you’re thinking about the reasons why you made that difficult decision to place your child for adoption, take a moment, if you can, to put yourself in the shoes of your child’s adoptive parents – because now they are the ones making a heart-wrenching decision that they believe is for the best. Don’t give up on them because of a divorce. Take a little space if you need to, and definitely give them time to sort themselves out, but don’t let yourself get bogged down in feeling sad or angry about the change in their family structure. The truth is that no family is picture-perfect. That doesn’t mean you made the wrong decision or that your child won’t lead the life you want for them. It simply means what you already knew: that life is difficult, people are flawed, and that sometimes doing what’s right for you and your child means making a very tough — but ultimately good — decision.


What Does the 4th of July Have to Do With Adoption?

what does the 4th

image c/o effectspecialist.com

In case your high school history class isn’t still fresh in your mind, here’s a reminder of what we were celebrating with all of those fireworks and barbecues this past weekend:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Yep, it’s the Declaration of Independence! Part of what was so revolutionary about the declaration was its assertion that everyone has “unalienable rights” that are guaranteed and can’t be taken away by governments. Yesterday we ran across an article by a birth mother who asserted that the right to know where you come from is “unalienable,” and that children have the right to see their adoption records and search for their birth families if they want to.

It’s definitely healthier for children to know where they came from than it is for them to wonder about their birth parents, but is it a right? And if it is, how should that right be balanced with a birth parent’s right to privacy if they don’t want a relationship with their child?

Today, sixteen states have opened or partially opened their sealed adoption records, meaning that adopted children can see their original birth certificates and search for their birth families if they want to. Adoptions Together has generally been supportive of these laws, because we have felt that they are in the best interest of adoptees.

That said, we have also worked with birth parents who told us upon placement that they did not want to have any contact with their child, and although we always encourage these folks to leave the door open for contact in the future in case they change their mind, we never pressure or force anyone to remain involved in their child’s life if they do not want to. We would never want to re-traumatize someone for whom the pregnancy and adoption process was exceptionally painful, like a birth mother who had been raped or who placed her child for adoption out of fear of violence from a partner or family member. We have to trust the birth parents with whom we work to know what is best for them in terms of whether to stay in touch with their child.

Clearly, we’re still grappling with this issue and trying to sort out how to respect every individual’s “inalienable” rights. But more importantly, what do you think? Do adoptees have a right to know their birth parents? Do birth parents have a right to privacy from their biological children, if they want it? We’re curious to hear your perspective!


How to Maintain Openness When Someone Moves

how to maintain

image c/o stick-empires.wikia.com

You may have been counting on always living in the same general area as your child’s adoptive family; their location may even have been part of the reason you chose them. But life is unpredictable, and things change. They – or you – may get a new job opportunity, need to be near family or friends, or be called to move somewhere different for another important reason.

Changes like these can be jarring, but they don’t have to mean the end of your openness agreement. Below are three ways you can ensure that you remain a part of your child’s life despite the distance.

1.Be open and honest.

Sometimes, birth parents don’t tell us or their child’s adoptive family that they are planning to move because they are worried about our or the family’s reaction. But everyone understands that people’s lives change, and the only way anyone will be upset about your relocation will be if you don’t tell them, because then they won’t know how to get in touch with you!

2. Trust and reevaluate.

Every relationship requires trust and regular reevaluation of how to make sure everyone is getting what they need. Unexpected hurdles are normal and they do not need to result in the end of the relationship; they simply mean you will need to reevaluate how (not whether) your adoption will remain open. We don’t mean to make this sound easy; it’s hardly ever easy to trust someone, and you may feel betrayed by your child’s family if they are the ones moving. Unfortunately, as you know, life almost never goes as planned, and families have to make difficult decisions. So even though it may be tough, try to remember that your relationship with your child’s family is just that: a relationship. In order for it to work, you have to trust them to do their part, no matter how many miles separate you. And we’re not only saying this to you – we send adoptive families the same message, and they usually understand that if they are going to move, they will still need to return to the area for visits and/or do whatever else they agreed to in order to maintain openness.

3.Use technology. Today’s technology makes it practically impossible not to stay up to date on other people’s lives! If your or your child’s family’s move presents an obstacle to having annual meetings, talk with them and/or your agency about using Skype or another video chatting platform in order to get that face-to-face time. If that’s not possible, maybe you can change things up so that instead of having, say, one letter-and-picture update and one visit per year, you could have four letter-and-picture updates per year. We also encourage the birth parents and adoptive families with whom we work with to use Child Connect, 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. If you don’t have Internet access, you can still receive printed letters and pictures through the program. And, in case the texting craze has caused you to forget, actual telephone calls are always an option, too!

If you keep these suggestions in mind, there is no reason, in our opinion, why an increased distance between you and your child’s family should negatively impact your open adoption or relationship with them. But what do you think? Do you have an open but long-distance adoption? Or do you live in the same area as your child? Tell us what your relationship is like in the comments section below!