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 (www.birthmombuds.com) 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!