Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Outtakes

We took family Christmas pictures the other day in my do-it-yourself studio. These are my favorite outtakes!
 These are the boys' "angry" faces
 My sweet, little lover.

  My heart skips a beat with this one..

 These boys are best buds.

I have been a little absent, lately, as we have been soaking in our first Christmas as a family of four. We are having so much fun! We've decorated the tree, made cookies, setup the nativity, wrapped presents, had a snowball fight (first snowfall was last week!), watched Elf, read Christmas stories, had hot chocolate, and talked about advent. We have really settled in and I get weepy over the specialness of our family. God has given us a good measure; we have much to celebrate this Christmas!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Interview Project: Meet Coley

I participate in The Open Adoption Bloggers Network and for the second year, in a row, submitted my name for the interview project. It is such a neat way to meet others in the open adoption community. This year, I was paired with Coley from Living the Bittersweet Life. She is the real deal. Her story will inspire you.

Before you read my interview of Coley, you should read this post: Being a Birthmom is Bittersweet. Coley writes with conviction and her words draw you in, "Sweet is watching him and his brother bond; bitter is explaining to the son I parent why his brother doesn’t live with us."

I was glued to her story as I read post after post. My first question came after reading this excerpt:
As I sat cross legged in a red t-shirt and watermelon boxers in the hospital bed holding a sweet four pound little baby boy in my lap, I cried. He wasn’t theirs. He was mine. He was a part of me. I saw my nose in his, our complexions were similar. As I counted ten toes and ten tiny fingers, I realized at that moment, I’d just been telling myself he was theirs to make it easier on me. It didn’t work. It was silly. I wish I’d fully experienced, accepted, and enjoyed that pregnancy as my own because sadly it will probably be my last full term pregnancy ever and I spent most of it pretending he wasn’t mine.

Ben and I have been in a relationship with Ty's birth family for four years. I have done my best to always prefer Rebekah (his mother) and her feelings over my own. However, if the mom in me, today, could go back and talk to the soon-to-be-mother back then, there are a few key pieces of advice that I would give myself, especially, as it relates to our hospital experience. I am curious about your perspective, given your role as a birth mother to an eleven year old son (you're much farther along this path than Rebekah and I are). I found your "Their Baby" post incredibly moving. If you could go back, what would you say to the girl wearing watermelon boxers in the hospital, so many years ago?

Honestly, that girl in watermelon boxers sitting on the hospital bed cradling her baby was doing the best she could to survive. I would go back a little bit further and talk to the girl laying on the ultrasound table staring in disbelief at the screen as the ultrasound tech told her she was 5 months along due to a failed depo provera (birth control) shot. I would tell that girl – you are enough, you are good enough to be this baby’s Mom. Don’t doubt yourself so much.

I would also tell her to celebrate this pregnancy. It may very well be her last. (I don’t have a single picture of me pregnant with Charlie!)
And lastly, I would tell her to research the option of parenting two children. I almost instantly dismissed the idea because it seemed so hard and unattainable. Honestly, I don’t know that it would have changed my decision but it would relieve some of the “what ifs” that I face today.

I consider it a privilege to be able to talk so openly with birth mothers. Hearing stories like yours really helps ground me as an adoptive mother. Because I have so many adoptive families reading, I would like to ask you two related questions. 1) What pieces of your story would you tell to help adoptive parents understand pregnancy and motherhood from the birth mother's perspective?
Gosh, it is hard to narrow it down! But I think my age at the time of my pregnancy (25) and circumstances (not first child, got pregnant on the depo provera shot and did not find out I was pregnant until the 5th month) surrounding my pregnancy are good examples for adoptive parents and perspective adoptive parents to know that there is no stereotypical birthmother. We are all different; different ages, different ethnicities, come from different walks of life, have different stories, yet we love our children deeply and are simply trying to be good Mothers and sometimes being a good Mother means knowing we can’t raise our child at that time in our lives and passing that privilege on to another who is ready.

 2) What can adoptive parents do long-term to help cultivate a healthy open adoption for their adopted child(ren)? 
I really believe that honesty and communication are the keys in an open adoption relationship. If there is something bothering either party (adoptive parents or birth parents) I think they should gently broach the subject and talk about it. Not talking about it and just letting it fester can only make things worse later on down the road.

The open adoption relationship is just like any other relationship like a friendship or marriage – it requires a commitment from all involved.

Because our boys are so young (three), one of the things I wonder about most is the questions that will surface in the years to come. Can you tell us a little about your relationship with your son Charlie and the questions he asks? As well, as your relationship with your oldest son, Noah, and the questions he asks.

Charlie and I have a good relationship. He has always known that he was adopted and that I am his birthmother. It’s never been a secret or a taboo topic amongst his family and me. It’s always been something that he could openly talk about and ask questions about and because of that approach being adopted and having a birthmother is extremely normal to him.
Charlie started asking me questions around age 4. The first question he asked was quite cute but caught me off guard. He asked me the question when his Mom was not around so I fumbled to answer on my own. He asked me who Noah’s (my parented son) birthmother was. That’s how “normal” adoption is to him; he thought everyone had two Moms. I first responded that I was Noah’s birthmom but then I quickly realized that’s not true. And I explained that Noah doesn’t have a birthmom and an adoptive Mom like Charlie. He just has one Mom; me. Then Charlie asked who’s belly Noah grew in and I responded with mine. Charlie then exclaimed “No he didn’t! I remember I was in there all by myself!”I laughed so hard. But don’t worry – I explained the whole situation to his Mom and we made sure he truly understood as much as a 4 year old could.
He’s also been very interested in my version of his birth story. So much so that I wrote it down for him and placed it in his lifebook for him to read whenever he wants to. He’s also been curious of his name before he was adopted. So far, he hasn’t had any heavy questions but I know they are coming one day.
Noah has Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy, and Autism and is much more mentally like a 4-5 year old than his chronological age of 16 years so he’s never really asked any questions. He does know Charlie is his brother and I try to facilitate that brotherly relationship as much as possible.

Lastly, will you tell us about the BirthMom Buds organization that you started?
Deep in grief just weeks after Charlie was born, I began typing in different adoption related words into my search engine. I was desperately searching for another birthmother to talk to. I needed someone who understood the bittersweet grief and loss I was experiencing. I stumbled upon an “Is anyone out there” post on an adoption forum written by another birthmother named LeiLani. Lani lived in the next state over and had placed her baby girl into an open adoption just 4 days before Charlie was born which just so happened to be my birthday. I immediately sent Lani a private message and we connected and hit it off immediately. Having someone who understood what I was feeling before I could even get the words out of my mouth was priceless. Because our kids were only 4 days apart we were experiencing the same milestones at the same time. Around the time our kids celebrated their first birthday, Lani and I began talking about the idea of creating a central place where other birthmothers could go to find birthmothers to talk to without all the searching we went through. Thus, BirthMom Buds was born!
Today, BirthMom Buds ( is a large web based support organization that provides birthmothers as well as pregnant women considering adoption support through a “been there, done that” perspective. We have many different programs and resources including yearly retreats, a quarterly newsletter, a private forums, weekly chats, our buddy system, a mentoring program for expectant mothers considering adoption, and more! Check us out! 

I hope you enjoyed this interview with Coley as much as I did. Please go and read more of her story! You can read her interview of me on her blog and if you're interested in checking out the other participants, hop on over to Production Not Reproduction. Such a fun way to get to know other members of our community!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Reward

We had a really awesome experience tonight.

Our first parent/teacher conferences.

Even though I drop the boys off and pick them up from preschool, every time, the two minute, "How are the boys doing?" conversations were not good indicators on what was really going on in the classroom.

I was wide-eyed as their teacher went through their portfolios with us. When did LJ learn to trace lines? And how is it Ty can recognize the number 8 when asked? They are cutting and matching and patterning...all while learning how much Jesus loves them!

While we were curious about both boys, we were most concerned about LJ's progress, attention, and attitude in school. In 8 months, we have seen a complete transformation. We know what LJ is capable of and the challenges he's faced, head-on. What we didn't know, was whether or not his progression translated to the classroom. Another brand new experience for him.

My mama heart BEAMED with pride at the teacher's words.

"...Ty is expressive in his participation, curious in his learning, and kind-hearted and polite in his actions. Laron always has a smile on his face, gives the most hugs, plays really well with the other children, and follows direction. Both boys are truly a joy..."

I am proud of BOTH of my boys for the men they are becoming and the actions they are displaying, away from home. I was elated to hear about Laron. Not because we play favorites, but because that kid has been through a whirlwind of change in the last several months. He went from not being able to drink from a cup and throwing defiant tantrums at whim to cutting straight lines and raising his hand when called on, in class! My son, did that! He can do anything. I always believed it, but HEARING his teacher say the words was like a God song.

I'm sorry, but I have to get out my soapbox, here.

My son was a state ward. His profile was sent to, what most consider, our state's "unadoptable" website. (i.e. case workers are not able to find families for the children listed). My son was listed with moderate emotional and physical needs (physical being the "severe" asthma he does not have). My son lived in FIVE foster homes, two of which he was removed from for CPS violations, and he swapped out siblings like I pay our car insurance. He spent his first weeks with us void of most emotion and the next several weeks, crying. He has scars on his body that I cannot explain. He wouldn't laugh when we tickled him. He didn't know how to go to the bathroom on the potty or eat properly or problem solve. He was a tripping maniac and had little hand-eye coordination. He had a constant line of drool streaming from his face because he hadn't properly learned how to suck. He cried for "home" every time we left the house because he didn't understand that we would be back. He didn't know how to sit still on my lap when I read him a book. He called me "mama" from day one because the name held no meaning. He didn't talk much, and then when he tried, his words came out in stutters.

He didn't know security.

He didn't know how to belong.

He didn't understand that family is forever.

In eight months (EIGHT!) That same boy...MY an outgoing, full-of-life, passionate, energetic, leader in his classroom. He is confident and secure and knows his place in our family. He is a stickler for the rules because they mean something to him. They provide him with healthy boundaries, while allowing him to explore and dream and be creative. He knows that EVERY good gift comes from God and that Jesus loves him more than anyone else on this planet. He knows that his brother is his best friend. He understands that he will never live in another home again. He knows that when Daddy lays on the floor, it's wrestle time. He gets what we mean when we ask him to act like a gentleman or pray from his heart or to "dip responsibly" (table manners).

The same boy that couldn't figure out how to back his monster truck up from underneath a table is now painting within lines, leading his classmates in songs, and recognizing the letters in his name. I am in awe of what God has done.

Isn't it amazing what one little "yes" can do? We said yes to our son before ever seeing his picture or meeting him in person.

Isn't it amazing what a little lot of patience, time, love, and expectations can do for a three year old?

It's an absolute privilege to mother these two boys. I know the love and pride in my heart, for them, pales in comparison to God's, but, man, I am just EXPLODING, tonight.

I always wanted a HUGE life. I wanted my actions to make a difference.

I have it. They are.

My boys are going to change the world.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Start of Forever

We had a great day.

The morning was early and a bit rushed; the boys a little cranky.

The court room smelled musty, but there was an awe all the same. The judge asked us a series of questions, most of which left me choked up. I held Ty, while LJ snuggled and schmoozed Ben. The judge watched them for a few minutes and was, outwardly, touched by their interaction. Our case worker gave a teary affirmation toward our adoption and the judge answered with an, equally, teary declaration that the state found it within the best interest of "the child" to remain in our family.

(Yes, LJ has bright blue striped socks. Target shorted me a black sock in my two pack and we didn't notice it until this morning. Bright blue was the darkest we had!)

The part that gets me every time is when the judge says, "It will be as if this child was born to you..."

It's not that I need the confirmation; I don't. But, the weight of those words fit the love in my heart. I love both of my sons as if they were born to me....and they weren't.

I love them because God loves them. I love them because they enrich my life in every way.

The judge gave the boys lollipops and allowed them to practice with the gavel.

We had a celebratory breakfast with our loved ones and followed it up with a family  nap! The sweetest moment of the entire day was not swearing in or standing before the judge...It came at bedtime. When I kissed LJ's head, tucked his covers tight, and told him that he would be in our family forever, there was an assurance that didn't exist before.

I love my family and what God is doing through us.