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.