Monday, December 28, 2009

Pictures of THE DAY!!

I couldn't get these pictures in the order I wanted, but at least you'll get an idea of the people and the support I had during the incredible birth of this very special little boy. We were so happy to finally meet him!

Do they look like happy parents or what?

And finally... here he is!

I'm a big fan of water birth; the water supported me when my legs were shaking and could barely hold me up anymore, plus it was warm and soothing. The most uncomfortable I was during the whole time was when I laid down on the bed... I'm so glad I wasn't in that position at a hospital!

As soon as we got to the birth center, Bill, Shelley, Kathryn, Doug and Maura were quick to do everything they could to make me as comfortable as possible and make sure I had everything I needed.

Lots of helping hands; it was very empowering and healing.

This is the last picture of the "spectacular" belly. I was actually in the beginning stages of labor when this picture was taken, so I knew this was as big as it was going to get.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Labor Day!!!

My gorgeous, beautiful son was born on the morning of Sunday, December 13th. What an experience, I don’t even know if I can begin to describe it. I chose to have a water delivery at a birthing center rather than go the hospital route, and I’m so glad I did. Most of the labor I was able to do at home, which started very early Saturday morning. Finally, when the contractions were intense and frequent, we met the midwife at the birth center at 4:30 Sunday morning. Bill, Shelley, my sister Kathryn who was visiting from Texas and I arrived, and shortly after came Doug and Maura. There was an energy in the air, the kind that completely wipes out the feeling one usually has at being awake at 4am. Like waking up early to get ready for an exciting road trip… times 10.

During my whole pregnancy it was all about me. Someone who didn’t agree with my decision towards adoption had told me I was being selfish and that it wasn’t about me. My response was that yes, actually it is all about me. I’m the one housing this baby, I’m the one taking care of him, I’m the one (along with Bill of course) who makes the decisions for his life. In that particular conversation the person seemed to be extremely concerned with what happens to the baby and not at all interested in any aspect of my life. I told her she can’t get to the baby without going through me.

That’s true with any expectant mom. There is so much interest in this new life and people want to express that interest and concern, but everything must be channeled through the mother for the first nine months. I loved that channeling process. I loved it when a hand was placed on my belly. Someone was touching me, but it was meant for the baby. We were one. When I was at work in Alaska and my employees were constantly taking things out of my hands saying I shouldn’t be carrying anything, they were taking care of me and showing their concern for this boy they had never met. When someone became protective of me, they were protecting the baby. When someone saw me waddling into the supermarket and they opened the door and pulled the cart out for me, it was also for my baby. Everything was channeled to him through me, especially the love I felt from Bill, Doug, Maura, and their family and friends.

I knew that for that time it was all about me, I was the center of attention because I was carrying this incredibly special boy. All eyes were on me, but only because all of our hearts were on him. So at the birth center as we all gathered there knowing that the time was soon to come, I felt that channeling of love and anticipation even more intensely. Just as we had learned in our birthing class, my entourage of support were rubbing my shoulders, massaging my feet, bringing me water, putting cold towels on my neck, wiping my forehead, pulling back my hair. Some people may be intimidated at having so many people around when going through such an intimate and intense event like giving birth, but with every touch I felt strengthened and supported. I felt it even more because I knew it wasn’t only for me, but also for this life inside of me. Did that make me feel less loved? Or that it was only my baby that anyone was interested in? Not at all; my son and I were at that time so connected that any love anyone had for him I felt was equally dispersed to me, and vice versa. At one point, I was in the tub intensely pushing and every person in the room had a hand on me. How can I explain that feeling, that feeling of so much love and strength given to me by other people, so much energy from anticipation, and the feeling of me transferring that to my son? I don’t think it’s possible to translate that into words.

Everything for the past nine months had been leading up to this point. Lives had been rearranged for this moment. People had traveled thousands of miles for this moment. Every thing I had done for the past nine months; everything I had eaten, every walk I took, every yoga and birthing class I went to, every time I slept, every breath I took was for this little guy I was about to meet. Every kick or hiccup I felt reminded me that he was getting ready for this moment.

I was pushing so hard that I was making deep grunting noises. I was concentrated, focused. He had already crowned about half an hour ago, and I could feel the top of his head. I pushed and pushed, “come on Reed, come on baby,” I was coaching to him. And then, suddenly, everyone gasped. What? What happened? Then before I knew it I was leaning back in the tub and was being handed this beautiful, pink, dark haired baby boy! He had shot out so fast I didn’t even realize it! And there he was in my arms, the one whos’ every movement I had felt, who Bill and I and Doug and Maura had been dreaming about, wondering what it would be like to finally meet him. “So you’re the one!” were my first words to him. And then, as I had said to him every single day since I first learned of his existence, I said “You are so special to me.”

At that instant, every act of love and concern that had been showed to me became even more alive in him. We had been listening to a compilation cd of some mellow music that they happened to have at the birth center, and the song “blackbird” by the Beatles was playing on the cd player at the moment of his birth. How appropriate; “you were only waiting for this moment to arrive.”

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Counting the days... and my blessings

My due date is tomorrow. Not that I'm really expecting anything to happen on the actual due date; there is only a small percentage of women who actually deliver naturally on their due date. But still, something about that date, December 10th, the day we've all been telling people and talking about, rouses this little voice in my head that shouts "TOMORROW!!!!!!"

Even if I don't go in to labor tomorrow, that date signifies that the end is near- very near. The end of a period of time often brings about a time of reflection, and nearing the end of my pregnancy has certainly been no different. Over the course of these last nine months (actually about 7 1/2 months that I actually knew I was pregnant) I've been doing a lot of reflecting, and evaluating where I am in life. I try to take stock of where I am regularly, but having a baby has encouraged me to look deeper, as has my decision towards adoption. But here I want to take the time to write down some of these reflections, specifically the things I have become especially grateful for.

I've heard some women say that they love being pregnant. That they never felt so good, that they have never been healthier or happier. I wonder if they really physically feel that incredible during their pregnancy or if a large portion of it is that they are mentally and emotionally excited about having a baby. I had a roommate in college who, when she was frustrated with her studies, would say, "I don't even want this degree, I just want to be a mommy!" I've never been able to relate to that sentiment, I've never felt any kind of biological or emotional need to have children or for the feeling of being pregnant. So maybe it's part of that anticipation or need that I'm missing for me to be able to say that I've felt great throughout my whole pregnancy, but I just can't say that. I hated feeling sick for 5 months straight, I hated being at work and having to lay my head down on my desk because of nausea and exhaustion just to have my boss walk in with a list of things for me to do. I've hated the feeling of pain my legs have felt, which I can only liken to the sensation two toothpicks must feel having to hold up a watermelon.

No, I had no desire to feel any of those things. But I'll never forget the first time I felt my little boy move.. my God what an experience!!!!! While I was working in Alaska, there were times when I would just sit in my office with my hand over my stomach, feeling those tiny kicks and punches, and I couldn't help but smile. My heart was smiling. Everything in me was smiling, and if my baby knew how happy he was making me, I bet he was smiling too. It's incredible! Even now, his movement is one of the most wonderful physical sensations I've ever experienced. And it's a good thing, because he is very active! Sometimes he just moves a foot or a hand, and then there are the times when I feel like he is making up for the the kickboxing workouts that I can no longer do. And with every single movement, with every wave of my belly, I am amazed and in awe of this life inside of me.

I've mentioned before the negative stigma adoption often has for the birth parents. An unplanned pregnancy, giving up a child, a tragic event. No wonder the idea of an open adoption throws many people for a loop. Who would want to remember and be involved in such a tragic happening? As I've learned with so many adoptions, that just isn't the case. Sure I had the moments when I first found out that were punctuated with choice expletives, but even those moments didn't last long. I look at this experience as such a positive thing, and I'm so thankful for everything I've been given. Would I have ever known the sensation of my son moving inside of me? Would I ever have had the honor and privilege of birthing a child? Of creating a life? Maybe it hasn't been in the way I would have chosen for myself, but I am experiencing things, I am experiencing life, in a way that might not ever have happened if it had been up to my plans. With the incredible support I've had, the people around me like Bill and Shelley who have re-arranged their lives to be here with me, not to mention the most wonderful people I could imagine to raise our son, how can this not be a positive experience for me? I don't feel that I need to convince others of that as much as I feel the need to pinch myself. "Is this really happening? I'm really going to have a baby, I'm really going to finally meet this little guy who has totally surprised and shaken my entire life? Is everything really working out this splendidly? How could I ask for anything to go any smoother?"

There are some things I can be more specifically thankful for, like the fact that I have gotten zero stretch marks (olive oil and vitamin E oil drenching the belly every day may have helped), or that my ankles and hands never swelled. Also the invention heating pads for my back and of bungee shoe laces that have made all my shoes slip-ons are not to be missed. Sure I've had my complaints, but all in all I'd say I've had a relatively easy and healthy pregnancy. And there have even been a few pleasant surprises, like the fact that for some odd reason the hair on my legs has mostly stopped growing. Seriously, I haven't shaved in 5 months and one would have to look really hard to find a few scraggly white hairs. I've never heard any other pregnant women claim that, but hey, I'll take it!

But when I go on my walks in the mornings, as I'm waddling ever more slowly on the trail, and I think about where I am in life and how I've gotten here, I can't help but be thankful for every moment. Everything that has led me up to this point, every pull and stretch I feel on my legs that remind me of my healthy, growing baby, every person I've met who has given me encouragement and support, every moment I have by myself to reflect on how blessed I've been, even in the surprises. I can't help but offer up thanks and praise.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Cast of Characters: Doug and Maura

Doug and Maura (adoptive parents)

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I started talking to my baby. He has always been very easy to talk to; a great listener, never interrupts, and he doesn’t seem to be bothered when I change my mind or when I don’t know the words to figure out what I’m trying to say. He is (quite literally) closer to my heart than anyone. He is my son, he always will be my son, and I have never once thought of letting him out of my life.
Wait a minute, aren’t I giving him up for adoption? Isn’t that by definition letting him out of my life? Not a chance! As soon as I started thinking about adoption as being a possibility, I knew that I couldn’t go through life only wondering about my son. I already loved him too much to even consider the option of not being able to tell him that every chance I got. So when I started looking for adoptive parents, I let them know immediately that we were a package deal, that pictures and occasional e-mail, letter or phone call updates wasn’t enough. Not that I planned on barging my way into someone’s home; nesting into one spot is contradictory to my life style. But I knew whoever my son’s family was, they were going to be my family as well.
Some couples I contacted replied that they were not comfortable with that level of openness in an adoption. Some welcomed it; one family already had an adopted son and wished that his birth mother was more willing to have an open relationship with their whole family. Some couples didn’t respond at all. I later found out that since I was in Thailand when I first started contacting couples from the website, a warning e-mail was sent out to those I had contacted saying it might be a scam. I can see why; some lady in Thailand wanting an American couple to adopt her baby, and she says they have to adopt her into their family, too? Definitely scam material! Fortunately, when Doug and Maura got that e-mail, it just confirmed everything that I had already told them, that I was a traveler and that I found out I was pregnant while I was in Thailand.
As I told them my story and they told me more about themselves, it became more and more obvious that we had several things in common. I had a bachelors degree in social work, Maura was a child and family therapist. I was a potter and had even started going to graduate school for studio ceramics, Doug was a successful potter with his own studio. Since working at a summer camp in North Carolina for 5 summers I had always loved that state, and they lived out in a wooded area in NC. After reading their profile and a few e-mails were exchanged, I couldn’t wait to talk to them. Once we did have a phone conversation, I knew they were the ones. I was hesitant to say that decision out loud because I wanted to give it a little time, to make sure I was making the right decision, that I wasn’t jumping the gun on one of the most important decisions I would ever make. But every time I spoke to anyone about it, especially to my son about the kind of parents I wanted for him, I couldn’t think of anyone more perfect than Doug and Maura.
When they came up to Alaska to meet me for the first time, we were all so excited. I think I smiled the whole day at work in anticipation of their arrival. During that week together we went on walks, ate dinners together, I introduced them to my friends and co-workers, and we talked a lot. We mostly talked about our families, our histories, how we grew up, what our lives are like now. We also discussed some heavier, ‘what if’ issues. What if the baby is born with Down syndrome, or has some kind of physical or mental handicap? What if he discovers he is gay? What if I’m having twins? (We hadn’t had an ultrasound yet, so at the time we didn’t even know he was a boy.) They were so open and honest with all of their answers, and with their questions for me. Our whole time together was smooth, easy and exciting, and our meeting only confirmed everything I had already suspected- that they were wonderful people, were going to be incredible parents, and that we would have no problem becoming great friends.
After I left Alaska and finally arrived in North Carolina, Doug and Maura let me stay at their house until Shelley and Bill arrived and we found a house of our own. We enjoyed family dinners together (along with Maura’s sister and niece who also live with them), and I was able to meet Maura’s parents and Doug’s brother and his family. Everything they did made me feel so welcomed, and their families were eager to embrace me into their lives.
In my search for open adoption bloggers, I came across an anti-adoption website that stated that open adoption is a lie, that the adoption agencies and hopeful adoptive parents will tell the birth parents anything they want to hear in order to “snatch” up a coveted newborn. I’m sure there are some unpleasant stories of things not working out as planned, as there are with anything in life. But even though I wouldn’t be a part of their lives if it weren’t for my son, I have never once felt that it was only about the baby. They have given me no doubt that I will be forever loved as a part of their family.
In my search for adoptive couples, I discovered that there are many wonderful and deserving people who are looking to adopt who would provide an excellent home for a child. It was a huge decision for me to make, but I knew my heart would tell me who the right couple was. Doug and Maura have given me no reason to question or doubt my decision, and Bill and I can completely trust that our son will be in good, loving hands. They have been so supportive of not just the pregnancy, but of me, Bill and Shelley, and what is truly best for everyone involved. I’ve come to know them not only as my son’s future parents, but as friends. They are people I would want in my life no matter what the reason happened to be to cause our paths to cross. And as their friend, I am so excited to see them become parents, because I know how much they want it and deserve it, and I know that they will be great parents. While adoption is seen as a blessing for the adoptive parents, it is usually seen as a tragic and unfortunate circumstance for the birth parents. But because of Doug and Maura, and how much so many people already love this child, I can’t see this as a negative experience at all for me or for my son. He will be surrounded with so much love from all sides (they have said from the beginning that the more people that love this child, the better!). I don’t feel like I’m “giving up” my son, I don’t feel like I’m losing him. In fact, instead of feeling like I’m losing a son, I feel like I’m gaining an entire family who will be only an enriching addition to my life.

Cast of Characters: Shelley

Cast of Characters: Shelley

“You’re pregnant, Rachel Cane,” Shelley says on a regular basis. With my beach ball belly sitting on top of my still skinny legs, it’s hard not to point out the obvious, and Shelley doesn’t resist. “God, she acts like she’s pregnant or something,” she jokes when I take my time to get out of the car or waddle down the street. When we got our printer finally working, the first thing she printed out was a document that said “Rachel Cane is Prego!!” in as many fonts and colors as would fit onto the paper.
I first met Shelley in 2006 while working on a cruise ship in Hawaii. The first thing that drew me to her was her smile and her laugh, and as I got to know her better, her care free personality. In Hawaii we had another friend named Candy, who we of course dubbed “Candy Cane.” We in turn became Rachel Cane and Shelley Cane, and though we’ve lost touch with our third Cane sister, our names have stuck.
On the cruise ship we became friends, but I’d say our bond didn’t seal until a few months later, the first time I visited her in Portland where she was staying. She had every intention of laying roots there, to make it her new home. She met me in the airport and on the train ride home I told her about the last few months I had just spent at camp in North Carolina, and how I was about to go to Zion National Park in Utah to work for the fall season for the second time. There was a spark.. something was going on in her head. A contemplative look came over her face as she started stroking the side of her mouth with her finger. “Zion… huh?” She had heard me talk about Zion before. She couldn’t resist. Her mind was made up. The next day I called the hiring manager there and told him I had a friend who would like a job as well, and she turned in her notice to her employer. Two weeks later, we were both in Utah. Since then, we’ve shared adventures, bottles of wine, and our love of life and making the most of it. While we were in Zion one day we saw an advertisement for “Spa Adventure.” “Hmm… Spa and Adventure… two of our favorite words!” she said. It didn’t take much to convince ourselves into making appointments for hot stone massages. Yes, we needed those massages!
Shelley and I have always shared our love of life and adventure, but there is so much more than only that connection. She is a fellow seeker, one of my true spiritual sisters. A conversation with her is a celebration of life, no matter what life holds or where it takes us. She has lived through her share of trials, past and present, but she has somehow become a master of positivity and gratitude. Maybe it’s because of a lifetime of lessons learned, but she refuses to let anything get her down. I’ve seen her in situations of success as well as distress, and the one thing that is a pervading factor in her life is laughter and making the most of every day. Several of our conversations these days are about this moment in our lives, how we got here and where we’re going. We talk about how amazing it is for my situation to work out as wonderfully as it has; how wonderful Doug and Maura and their families are, how incredibly lucky I am to have Bill around, how the timing of the birthing classes we’ve been going to worked out (it took a while to find one that worked with my labor schedule since I was already in my third trimester when I arrived), how much we love the house we’ve rented and its location, and all the possibilities of the future as we once again plan to head in different directions.
This summer she was working in a small town in Alaska about an hour away from where I was when I told her I was pregnant. Soon after, she made the trip to come and visit me and some other mutual friends. There were four of us having dinner together, I was splurging on a quarter glass of wine while the rest of the group was gladly taking care of the rest of the bottle. I had already chosen Doug and Maura as the adoptive parents, they were coming to Alaska to meet me for the first time in just a couple of days, and I was telling Shelley and the others about it and my plans to go to North Carolina after Alaska. There was a spark. A contemplative look came over her face. She stroked the side of her mouth with her forefinger and said “North Carolina,… huh?” We both knew it was going to be. Later she told me about a story in Buddhism of a young monk who asked an older and wiser sage how to gain spiritual wisdom. “Did you eat your rice this morning?” the sage asked. “Yes,” replied the monk. “And did you wash your bowl afterwards?” “Yes.” And that was it. The sage walked away and that was the end of the story. The point of it is to take life one step at a time, and to learn something from each of those steps, no matter how mundane they may seem. Shelley compared that to coming to North Carolina with me. “I have to do it, it’s like washing my bowl. My step just happens to be all the way across the country to be there for you. It’s just what comes next.” Simple as that. “Besides, you’re going to need someone to tie your shoes when you can’t bend over anymore.”
A book she sent me once, “Snowflower and the Secret Fan,” tells the story of two girls in China and the special friendship between them that bonded them together for life. They became each other’s old same, an expression used to describe that certain kind of bond. Shelley is 20 years my senior, but because of her ability to relate to people of all ages, as well as her young spirit, I don’t notice an age difference (she just has more stories and wisdom to share). The other day she said she should call me her young same, but I told her no way, the names have to be the same for both of us. Shelley Cane my Old Same.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cast of Characters: Bill

Bill (baby’s father)

With us working so closely together at a restaurant in Colorado, Bill and I naturally became very close last winter. However we knew we were going in different directions in our lives, so when the ski season ended and the restaurant closed, we parted as friends with the intention of keeping in touch. Little did we know at that time that we would be connected for the rest of our lives! From the first time I told him that I was pregnant, even in the midst of confusion, fear, interpretation, and lots of questions, he has been nothing but supportive of me and our baby. When I was working in Alaska over the summer, he would send cookies and other homemade baked treats along with a few baby toys, some pregnancy tea, and whatever else he could think of to add into a care package. Because I was in the middle of Alaska and he was in the middle of the Colorado Rockies we weren’t able to talk on the phone for most of the summer, and when we finally could it was only about once a week, but every time we did he would ask me if there was anything he could do for me or if there was anything I needed.
I knew Bill took this pregnancy seriously, and he felt all the responsibility a dad should. As we talked more about adoption, he let me know about his reservations about giving up his son. He wanted to do what was right, what was the best for his son and for him. I told him that just as he has supported me through my pregnancy, if he decided that adoption wasn’t the best route to take, then I would support that decision completely. I knew that for me adoption made the most sense, but I wanted him to be completely on board without any persuasion or coaxing from me. I knew that sometimes the most important decisions we make are not made from the head, but from the heart, and I wanted him to decide in his heart what the right thing to do was. We decided to go along with the adoption, and as soon as I told him about Doug and Maura, he immediately started thinking about moving out to NC to be closer to me for the rest of the pregnancy, and to be with his son. As soon as his summer job ended, he packed up his car and drove across the country with his border collie Bijou, and finally met Doug and Maura for the first time. It didn’t take long for him to be completely convinced that they would be absolutely wonderful parents, and that they would welcome his friendship and his role in our son’s life.
As we continued to make plans, it made sense for Shelley, Bill and I to get a house together in NC. Bill came with his border collie Bijou, and we all soon found a 3 bedroom house close to the birth center. He continues to be my main source of support, giving me back and foot massages, cooking dinners for me, going to birthing classes and doctors appointments with me, providing entertainment just by being his goofy self, and by being an all around great friend and shoulder to lean on. He has never stopped asking me if there is anything I need him to do, and even our adoption counselor has commented on how rare it is to have the birth father so involved. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive man to be with during this time. I also love how random he is. The other day while driving in the car, he asked, “if you were serving a life sentence in prison, who would you rather have as your cell mate- Elton John or David Bowie?” “Ok, same question, but between all of the Beatles, or the Monkeys?” I can't wait to hear the kind of questions he and his son will think of together.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Baby Shower!

Yesterday was the baby shower for our very loved little boy. Some people have already asked me if it was weird at all being a part of it, but I didn’t feel that way at all. In fact, even when I was still in Alaska I was hoping to be a part of the baby shower! There were about 30 people in attendance, and Bill, Shelley and I didn’t know most of the people there. But once again, I was reminded of how wonderful of a place this little boy will be raised in and the incredible people who will be around him.
From the time we first arrived, there were friends and family members who were so excited to meet us. I had people coming up to me saying how happy they were that I was becoming a part of Doug and Maura’s family, how they couldn’t wait to get to know me better in the future, and how excited they were to meet the baby. Maura’s niece led the group in a Mad Libs about our adoption story, which turned out to be really funny! Everyone got to paint a onesie (he’ll be well stocked with a very creative wardrobe for the first year of his life!), and we all wrote down our guesses for the due date, time, and weight . When it was time to open the gifts, Doug, Maura, Bill and I all sat on a sofa and took turns opening them. Bill and I gave them a framed print to hang in the baby’s room of a giraffe walking up to a house, with the title of the painting being “Home Coming.” We also got him some really snuggly winter onesies, one of them came with a little hat with bear ears on it. Doug and Maura gave Bill and I each a photo album, with a card about how wonderful it will be to fill them up with memories of our baby and our times together.
Before we opened presents, one of the guests pulled Maura and I aside and gave the both of us gifts. We each got a card with a hand written note that
(Here we are hard at work painting onesies)
celebrated the bond between us as mothers, and we both got matching necklaces. It was such a sweet gesture, Maura and I really appreciated it and we love our necklaces. We also got a toast from Maura’s mother, who welcomed Bill and I into the family, and thanked Shelley for her special role in our lives. I have to admit that I was thankful when I looked at Maura and saw her watery eyes, which assured me that I wasn’t the only teary eyed sap in the room.
All in all it was a great time. I never felt uncomfortable, and was so happy to see all the people who supported our son’s future family. We were able to meet more of Dougs family who came in for the shower and visited again with some family members we had already met. The guests made it a point to tell me that I couldn’t have chosen better parents (which I already knew!), but at the same time I didn’t feel like it was only about the baby. They were all so supportive of our open adoption relationship and went out of their way to welcome Bill and I into their circle of friends.
(here's my cute little onesie I painted for my favorite little monkey!)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What NOT To Say

Recently, a family member of mine gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, whom upon delivery was diagnosed with Down's Syndrome. I haven't talked to them directly yet, but one of the things I've wondered is the kind of questions or responses they have been getting. Of course they are as in love with him as they are with their other two children, and I and the rest of my family are as happy for this little boy's arrival into the world as we were for their other two children. However I also heard this statement: "Well, they should have known better since they are getting older, they should have been content with their two perfectly healthy kids."

I told the person who made that statement that I hope they would never say that to any parents, no matter who they were or what their situation is, because it is completely inappropriate.

Which leads me into this topic; things NOT to say. There are plenty of situations that lend themselves to the most ghastly of comments, and I'm sure we all have our lists of things that well meaning people have shared with us that have come across as offensive, insensitive, and down right rude. Since my situation specifically deals with adoption and all that goes along with being a single, pregnant woman, I'll stick to my experiences strictly within that realm.

First of all, let me say that I don't expect everyone to have the same opinions, thoughts or beliefs as I do, and I don't expect everyone to understand my decisions and actions. I knew that when I first told my family that I was pregnant there would be a variety of reactions, from support to obvious dissapointment. And when I told them about my decision towards adoption, they were even more varied. Keep in mind that I am the middle child of five children, so between my siblings and parents, there were plenty of opinions to go around. Me being thousands of miles away didn't help things much either (they were in Texas, I was in Alaska when I told them). But even with all of the differences of opinions and beliefs, there's only one response that I would qualify as belonging in the "What Not To Say" list. It wasn't just a statement, it was the whole reaction. This person didn't listen to anything I had to say, and immediately started lecturing me on how I was already ruining this child's life by choosing adoption. "Well I love your baby!" As though I don't? What a misconception to assume that for a mother to choose adoption for her child means the baby is unloved and something to be tossed to the side!

When I got to Alaska and was finally able to go to my first prenatal visit, the nurse there was very helpful and pleasant to talk to. Until she found out I was 32 and was giving my baby up for adoption. That's when she said, "Well honey, you're not getting any younger, you might want to think about keeping what you got." Apparently in some people's minds I have reached this magical age where I am somehow obligated to have a family and children, and how could a woman my age give away a child? My response to that is that I don't feel that any kind of age makes me obligated to have children, and just because I may be "running out of time" doesn't mean I shouldn't want the absolute best enviornment for my child to be raised in. Even if that enviornment is not under my roof (besides- I don't even have a 'roof' to call my own).

Another touchy subject for a 32 year old single, pregnant woman is birth control. First of all, if you are a stranger and do not know my situation, you have absolutely no right to take it upon yourself to enlighten me about birth control. Case in point: While working in a restaurant in Alaska with tourists constantly coming and going, I would get several questions from strangers about my pregnancy. I didn't mind that at all, it comes with the territory and it wasn't anything I felt the need to hide, be embarrassed or ashamed of. However when I entered into a conversation with one woman in particular, her words to me were, "Well, now I hope you've learned your lesson, and you really need to start thinking about birth control. You're old enough, and you need to take these things seriously." In my head flashed a number of responses I could say, like how I was practicing birth control, about how I do take these "things" seriously. But what it all came down to for me was that it is none of her business to speak to me about my sex life. I responded with, "That is a personal subject that I prefer to keep personal." Being the manager of the restaurant I didn't think it would have been good business practice to add in the explicatives that were swirling around in my head.

On the subject of me getting pregnant in the first place, when someone said to me, "You have to be half way smart about these things!" I didn't respond too favorably either. If there is anyone reading this who knows a woman with an unplanned pregnancy, I am begging you, please don't assume she is this careless sex whore who gives no responsible thought to what may happen. Ok, so maybe you wouldn't have put it in those terms, but if you say things like that, she may feel like that is how you see her. Speaking from my own experience, I feel like I was being very smart and proactive about not getting pregnant. My partner and I had discussed it and we both knew that neither of us wanted children. It wasn't just an abstract thought like 'theoretically, this may happen to some people,' but we thought of it as 'we don't want this happening to us!' When I first told Bill about the pregnancy, he doubted that it was even his because we had always been careful (though he didn't say that until a few months later when we were able to speak more in depth about it- he has been a great example of how to handle things perfectly!). My point is that there are few birth control methods that come with a guarentee, and people make their own choices on what risks they choose to take. Just because I fell into the small percentage group of people who have felt the heavy hand of that lack of guarentee, certainly doesn't mean I wasn't even being half way smart.

So what is a good way to respond? With support. Ask questions and listen, don't demand answers. Don't make assumptions. Be sensitive to what she is comfortable with sharing. Any woman who finds herself in an unplanned pregnancy has a lot of questions to ask herself, and regardless of her situation, how she got there, or the decisions she's made, she needs all the support she can get. She is carrying a new life inside of her, and it is not the time to chastise, lecture, or judge. Think of how delicately and lovingly you would treat her newborn, and treat the woman who is carrying that baby with that much respect. Weather you are a friend, a family member, or a stranger, the thing she (and the baby inside of her) need from you is your support, love, and respect. If you are a loved one and involved in her life and you feel you need to share your opinions, you should be able to, but not before making sure she knows she has your complete support, and not before listening to her. Ask her how she is feeling (emotionally and physically), what she is thinking, and what you can do for her, because all of those things are more important than your opinions or anything you may have to say.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why am I even writing this blog?

When I first found out I was pregnant and started thinking about all of my options, I didn't really know anything about adoption, much less open adoption. I had never even heard of open adoption, I didn't know it existed. Even with a degree in social work, I was in the dark when it came to the situation I found myself in.

With all of my questions, doubts, and moments of being utterly dumbfounded, there were a few things I was sure of.
1) Even though I love kids and I think I would be a good mother, I was not in a position, nor did I have a desire to have children.
2) Even though I didn't want children and had tried to prevent a pregnancy in the first place, I was already completely in love with this baby growing inside of me.
3) Even though I was seriously considering giving my baby to another family to raise, I had no intention of letting him out of my life.
I knew adoption made the most sense for my particular circumstance, but it couldn't be an adoption where I never knew what was happening to him, what he looked like, what his first words were, what kind of person he was. And I didn't want him to grow up with no idea of who I am either. I wanted him to be raised by two parents who would be willing to accept me as an extended part of their family as well. Was I crazy? Did this kind of arrangement even exist? Are there even people out there who are as crazy as I am, enough to let me be a part of their family? People want to adopt a cute little baby, without a 32 year old homeless mother tagging along. Nevertheless, I knew that was how it had to be, and if it wasn't that way then I would have to do whatever it took to raise him myself.

Since then, I have not only found out about this open adoption concept, but have realized that there are actually many couples out there who are trying to adopt or already have adopted who would rather have an open relationship with their child's birthparents. As I've been thinking about writing this blog, I've been searching for other or similar blogs from a birthparent's perspective. What I've found so far are blogs by adoptive couples who are in an open relationship with the birthparents, blogs by birthmothers who's child was adopted many years ago, sites that promoted adoption, and sites that were militantly against adoption and even claimed that the concept of open adoption is a lie invented by agencies and hopeful adoptive couples so they can snatch away more babies. But I've yet to find any blogs written by a birth mother or father who is in the thick of it, who has been documenting their thoughts, feelings, fears, anxieties, etc. from the beginning. Certainly none who are in their 8th month of pregnancy. I'm still hopeful that there are some women out there who are in a similar situation that wish to share their experiences with others, I just haven't found them yet!!!

All this to say that the whole reason for me starting this blog and keeping up with it is to get another perspective out there. And not just from a birth mother, but a birth father too. I'm so thankful that Bill has decided to be a part of his son's life! And not only is it just Bill and me who are committed to him, but Doug and Maura, our baby's adoptive parents, are excited about having both of our whole families as involved as they want to be. My family is in Texas and Bill's is in Utah, so it will be a long trip out to North Carolina for visits, but Bill's parents as well as one of my sisters are planning on making the trip here for the birth. My sister can't wait to meet her new nephew and his new family, and making them a part of her family.

Right now we're I think we're all in what I'm calling the "engagement phase." Couples who are in love and dream of their lives spent together can have no way of knowing what difficulties marraige will bring. Even though everything right now is sailing along like a dream- I've found the perfect parents for my son, they are people I would want in my life regardless of the situation, I am surrounded by love and support, I am happy and my baby is healthy and active- I know I can't help but be a little naive about what is to come. I know that I don't know what it will be like yet to hold my son in my arms. I can't imagine the emotions I'll be feeling after I birth him, when I first meet him, knowing all the while that he'll be calling someone else "Mommy." I'm not expecting it to be easy when he goes home with Doug and Maura and I'm without him for the first time.

But even so, I have a complete peace about everything surrounding this adoption. I am so sure that this is the best thing for everyone involved, and it's almost surreal how wonderful everything has been so far. So maybe I have no idea what is to come, but right now everything in my heart tells me this is right and good for everyone involved.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

My History... Part 2

Let's see, where was I? Oh yes, Thailand. I took the pregnancy test. But before I took the test, as I said, I already knew I was pregnant. I'm not sure how I knew, maybe it was that all I wanted to eat was ice cream, watermellon, and Italian food. But I knew for about a week that I was pregnant before I took the test, and while I was in communication with plenty of people over e-mail (including Bill), I didn't want to say anything to him until after I had tangible proof. During that time though, I had a lot of time to think about what I was going to do. What were my options? I could keep the baby, but where? Where would I live? I already had a job in Alaska for the summer as a restaurant manager, with my room and board taken care of, which was a great opportunity to save all of my salary. Even though the job was only through the summer, I'd be nuts to change those plans, but I certainly wasn't planning on staying in Alaska to have a baby! By the time I was through with my Alaska gig, I'd be going into my third trimester, which would give me about 3 months to find a job with insurance (yep- no insurance. And can you tell me who would hire a 7 month pregnant woman? In the restaurant business?), and a house or somewhere to live, not to mention things to put in the house like a bed, or a sofa would be nice. Oh, and then there's the crib, high chair, bibs, clothes, and of course diapers galore, all in 3 months time! Would I have to move in with one of my parents? Become a 33 year old single mom who has to mooch off of her parents? The thought didn't exactly make me happy, to say the least. I couldn't even imagine staying in one place for longer than 6 months at a time.

Ok, so what about other options? Well, there is a way to make this all go away and no one would ever know about it... but that option lasted all of about one second for me. I would rather have the scars of stretchmarks than the emotional scars that an abortion would surely leave me with. Besides, I already loved this baby. There is still a chance I could miscarry... at that thought I instinctively clutched my stomach and said "No! You just stay put for a while and be safe and healthy, and I'll take care of you the best I can." I didn't want to miscarry, I didn't want this baby to just go away. I had already started talking and singing to him, wondering what he was going to look like, wondering about his future, thinking about holding him in my arms. Well, there's also the option of adoption. But could I really go through with something like that? Could I go through a whole pregnancy, knowing that I already love this child and will love him more every day as he grows inside of me, and then give him away? For him to be out of my life forever? Nope, can't do it. Now that I've created him, there's no way he's getting out of my life! I didn't know much about the specifics of adoption, but I had always been a fan and even thought that maybe some day if I ever met a person I wanted to have a family with, that I might rather adopt a child who needs a home than have my own child. Now that's a twist of fate, isn't it? All I knew was that I wasn't in a position to raise this child, but if I chose adoption, I would have to somehow find people who are crazy enough to let me be a part of this childs life, and their family, for the rest of my life. Essentially, they couldn't just adopt my baby, but they would have to consider me a part of the family as well. Who would be crazy enough to do that? A stable, two parent home is what my ideal would be for my child, but if that means that I have to be excluded, than I'll just have to find a way to make it work myself.

The research began. Every chance I got I would get on the internet to find out what adoption entailed, and started looking at prospective couples. I found a website,, and read some profiles and contacted some who seemed interesting, as well as some adoption agencies. I had already done this when I took the pregnancy test and then, after eating a large pizza by myself, was sitting at the computer trying to find the words to say to Bill. After typing and deleting three different times, I finally sent this message: "I'm pregnant. I've already contacted some adoption agencies, and I haven't told anyone else yet, not even Renee." That was it. Looking back at it now I suppose there were other ways to say it that would have eased his mind and heart a little, but nothing at the time seemed right. That was on May 9th, a day Bill says he'll never forget. The day before mothers day.

Bill was immediately supportive- and totally freaked out. In fact, the first sentence of his response was "Ok, I'm totally freaking out." But then he asked me if I needed anything, if there was anything he could do for me. He was in Utah spending time with his family and I was in Thailand, so there wasn't really anything I needed him to do. The only thing I needed from him was his response, and his support. The next day I met up with Renee again on another island where we had been planning to celebrate her birthday big time with a full moon party on the beach. I was hesitant to tell her only because it was her birthday and I didn't want to steal her thunder, but she was so worried about me that I had some kind of parasite that wouldn't go away, so I told her to ease her mind. She gave me a big hug and told me that she was there for me in any way that she could be.

I finally left Thailand a few days after that, and went straight to Alaska to begin my new job for the summer. I told my boss and my two assistant managers about it, so they would know why I was looking so green and why I might have to suddenly excuse myself from the room to either eat or throw up. About two weeks later I was able to see a doctor for the first time, a small town general practitioner who's office was in the same building as the fire department and the city hall. I knew he was certainly no specialist, but he'd have to do since the next nearest hospital was 2 hours away and I didn't even have a car. After all of my restaurant employees arrived and had been there for a few weeks, I finally told them as well, just as I was entering into my second trimester. I had worked with some of them the previous summer, so they were quite suprised to say the least. But even more than suprised, they were supportive too, and became a big source of support for me over the summer by always asking how I'm feeling, if I need anything, bringing food to me when I was in the office, and not letting me carry any large loads. Of course I told my family before I told my employees, but that's a whole different subject that I might go more into depth at a later time.

By then Bill and I had established regular e-mail communication. He had started his summer job as a private chef on a ranch in Colorado, and he didn't have cell phone reception so we had to stick with e-mail. We were both in agreement by then that adoption would be the best way to go, so I continued to pursue it. I had told him that I was going to look for someone who would let me continue to be a part of our child's life, and that I didn't want to exclude him from any part of this process if he didn't want to be excluded from it. I wanted him to be as involved as he could be, but at the same time I didn't want to pressure him into anything. I knew he was supportive of me, but I got the feeling that his thoughts and feelings were a big wreck when it came to this baby, and I could understand that.

While I was looking for the perfect parents for our baby, I came across several different couples who caught my attention. I contacted them and was honest from the very beginning, and laid out what kind of people I'm looking for, what kind of enviornment I want for my child, and that I want someone who will be willing to consider me an extended member of their family. Some people were very uncomfortable with the idea of such openness, and some didn't respond to me at all. But I found that there are actually several couples who are willing to consider such an open adoption, and that there are many, many wonderful people out there who are wanting to adopt. How could I choose between them all? Then I came across Doug and Maura's page. He was a potter and computer guy, she was a child therapist. They lived out in the woods in North Carolina where Doug had his own pottery studio. With my background being in social work (that's what I got my degree in) and pottery (I started on a masters degree in studio ceramics before I ran out of money ), I loved them immediately! I couldn't wait to talk to them, so I sent them an introductory e-mail about me and my situation, and was extatic when they responded so quickly. We communicated a little more over e-mail, and then set up a phone conversation. I can't remember how long we talked on the phone, but I do remember that the only reason we stopped was because I had to let them go so I could get something to eat. I felt such a strong connection to them, and they seemed to be everything I was looking for. Following e-mails and phone conversations only added to that feeling, and finally I was ready to tell them that they were my choice for my baby's parents. I had already sent Bill copies of our e-mail communication and told him all about them, and that I was ready to tell them about my decision. I wanted his imput in the matter, but he said that he was behind whatever I decided and they seemed like good people.

Upon hearing the news, Doug and Maura were so excited, and planned a trip to come meet me in Alaska. Their sudden vacation was a blast for them, and for me it just confirmed every good and postitive feeling I had about them. They were so easy to talk to, were very open minded, down to earth, positive people. We asked each other all sorts of questions about our families and past experiences, as well as talked about plans for the future. And when I was able to schedule an ultrasound in Fairbanks, they extended their stay another day so they could drive me up there. They were in the room with me when we found out I was having a boy- they were going to have a son!

Friday, October 16, 2009

My past nomadic history: part I

32 weeks and counting. I thought I'd use this entry to explain a little more about myself, to give a little more of my history. In the summer of 2005, I left Texas where I had lived my whole life, and went to North Carolina to work at a girls camp as a pottery instructor. I had already worked there two summers previously and absolutely loved it, so my plan was to do it again, and then go back to Texas. But during that summer, I started re-evaluating that plan, and for a variety of different reasons, going back to Texas seemed less and less appealing. I can list off some of those reasons, and I can list off plenty of reasons why I really wanted to go back, but the deciding factor was that I had this terrible gut feeling every time I thought about making plans to be back there. It really threw me off; I had wonderful friends and family there, I was surrounded by people who loved me, my whole life was there. But I found that every time I thought about going back, I would get this nauseous feeling in my stomach. I couldn't explain it, but I just didn't feel right about going back.

So I didn't. Instead, I got a job at Zion National Park in Utah, at the lodge there waiting tables. At first I hated that I was waiting tables again, after all I had a college degree and I was actually suppose to be doing something with my life, right? But what I soon realized was that when I was there in the canyon, working in the restaurant, living in the employee housing, having minimal possessions with me, needing minimal possessions, and meeting so many interesting people who would teach me lessons I didn't even know I needed to learn, is that I actually enjoyed waiting tables, and that this life style seemed to fit me like an old pair of jeans. I knew I couldn't go back now. So at the end of my few months stay in Zion, I went back to Texas for a week, sold everything I had that wouldn't fit into my two duffel bags (with the exception of a few boxes of pictures and keepsakes that are in my mothers garage), and then went off to Hawaii to work on a cruise ship. The cruise ship gig ended perfectly in time for me to return to the camp in NC again the next summer, and since I loved Zion so much I went there again after camp. Then back onto the cruise ship in Hawaii, and then to camp again. I didn't want to get stuck in a rut, so I tried something new after that summer of 2007, and I went to San Diego. I stayed there for about 4 months and absolutely loved it, but then I got a job for the winter at a ski resort in Colorado. It was great- I skied to work every day! The next summer, still changing it up, I went to Denali National Park in Alaska instead of going back to the camp, and then for the fall season I went to Olympic National Park on the Washington peninsula. And then back to Colorado for the next winter, which brings us up to the winter of '08-'09.

I was loving it. I had a great job as a restaurant manager, and had another one lined up for the summer again in Alaska. While in Colorado, I worked very closely with our chef, and the professional relationship evolved into something more. However at the end of the winter season, we knew we were going our separate ways, so we wished each other the best and parted as good friends, still planning on keeping in touch. He went on his way to visit his family before his summer job as a private chef on a ranch, and I went on a much anticipated, month long vacation to Thailand before beginning my job in Alaska.

I spent two days in Seattle and two days in Korea before I finally got to Thailand where I met up with my friend and fellow nomad, Renee. I had met Renee on the ship in Hawaii, and she was one of the people who convinced me to come out to Alaska the past summer. I in turn had convinced her to come to Colorado with me for the winter, and we had planned the trip to Thailand together. We were in Bangkok for two days, and on the second day were getting ready to leave to travel north by train to Chang Mai. While we were waiting at the hotel for the taxi, I started to not feel so good. By the time we left the hotel I had already ejected in some form or another everything I had eaten in what seemed like the past year, and continued to do so for the next 12 hours on the train. What a vacation this was turning out to be! The vomiting finally let up, but in the following days I still didn't feel so well. And I was really tired all the time. As we continued to travel around I had some good days, but I never really felt that well. It was never as bad as that first horrific night on the train, but after two weeks of the blahs, we were looking up every kind of traveling sickness we could find. Then one morning I woke up and it just hit me: "Oh My God I'm Pregnant!"

What the #$%^&*()_&^%$#@!@#$%^&*???????!!!!!!!!!!!??????????? How could this have happened? Surely it can't be! Bill and I had been very careful; we had even talked about the fact that neither of us wanted kids! What am I going to do? I can't raise a child- I don't even have a home! Renee and I were in Phuket, a super touristy beach island in south Thailand. I had already been planning to get away for a couple of days to spend some time by myself, so I went to a nearby island with lots of gorgeous scenery and very few people around. I spent the days there contemplating the situation, and as soon as I got back to the mainland where there were drug stores, I bought a pregnancy test. By then I didn't even have a reaction when it came back positive, I already knew. I went straight to an internet cafe to tell unsuspecting Bill the news.

I know this is becoming a pretty long story, so I'll leave here with a 'To Be Continued...."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My First Blog... 8th month of pregnancy!

There are so many things I could and want to say for my first blog entry, and maybe I’ll be somewhat successful in my attempt to express a handful of them. But for now, for the sake of getting this rolling, I’m just going to start with the present moment and my current condition- which is 8 months pregnant in North Carolina. I’ll even start with just yesterday, with my first pre-natal yoga class.
I walked in, got a yoga mat. The other two women who were already there had blankets and pillows also… maybe I should get those as well. The instructor wasn’t there yet. I chose a spot in the middle of the mostly empty room to lay out my mat and set out my blanket. Slowly other women started trickling in; most of them were showing, some not at all. As they came in, I watched the ones who seemed to know what they were doing, the old hats of the pre-natal yoga class, and did what they did. It was a place to start anyway, and I thought it was better than just sitting there. I grabbed the equipment they grabbed- not just one but 3 blankets, a baluster pillow, a foam block, some had two yoga mats. I stuck with one… I mean, I can’t imitate everything. Some light stretching. The instructor came in, I knew her already from the birthing class I had attended the night before.
“All right, lets get started. Just remember that there is no ‘being late’ to this class, we all know that pregnant women often move a little slower than they may be use to..” Wow. I’m finally in a place where I can move slowly. No work, no traveling, no moving from one place another.
We start with introductions. Name, how many weeks along are you, have you done yoga before, where are you getting your medical care from, any current aches or pains? As we go around the room I enjoy hearing where the ladies are in their pregnancy, what they’re feeling. You mean your inner thighs are killing you too? I’m not the only one who feels like the baby is breaking one of my ribs? My turn comes around. There’s so much more to my pregnancy than just how far along I am, sometimes I almost feel like I’m lying when I leave some of the major information out. How much do I share? How much do they need or want to know? Should I tell them about the adoption? I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of the situation and don’t mind sharing, but this isn’t the place to take up too much time sharing my story. I can hardly answer any questions truthfully without it leading to more questions, since most of my answers dealing with this pregnancy and my situation are not typical. My mind is made up to stick to the very basics. “Hi, my name is Rachel, I’m 31 weeks pregnant, and I’m getting my care from the birthing center. I’ve taken yoga before, but I just moved here from Alaska so I haven’t had any opportunity to take classes of any kind since I got pregnant… and so far I’m feeling relatively great.”
“Any specific aches or pains?” the instructor asks.
“Just my legs and ribcage, but for now I’m just happy to finally be here in North Carolina around other pregnant women and a support group, so lately I’ve been mostly focusing on how much better I’ve felt.” Luckily, since the instructor already knew more about my situation from the birthing class the night before, she didn’t feel obliged to ask any more questions, but I could tell the rest of the class was curious.
We moved, stretched and balanced our way through the class. At the end we set up a baluster pillow propped up on one end with the foam brick, and laid back on the pillow with our knees supported by the blankets for our big-bellied version of shavasina. With a small eye pillow over my eyes, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm. I’m here. I’m surrounded by other pregnant women. I have no job now. My only responsibility is to take care of this baby inside of me, and the people in my life right now expect only that from me. I don’t have to apologize for wanting only to go take a nap, for being hungry all the time, for not feeling well. Some women say that the third trimester is the worst, but after being sick in foreign countries, trying not to throw up on a customer or an employee at work, not having much of a healthy eating option, and with all of my support being thousands of miles away from me during my first two trimesters, this last one has been a relief. My only focus now is on being pregnant, and taking care of this little boy who seems to be happily playing soccer with my ribcage.