Monday, December 19, 2011

Two Years In, A Lifetime To Go

It’s hard to believe that two years ago, on December 13th, I gave birth to my son Reed. Two years is not very long ago in the grand scheme of things, but I like to think that I’m starting to establish my own traditions in how I celebrate this event. Even though it’s his birthday, I seem to think that I get to celebrate by treating myself to something somehow. Maybe it’s because of the connection I still feel towards him; if he celebrates I celebrate, even if I’m on the other side of the planet. This year the date happened to coincide with what also happened to be the most practical date for our new house warming party, so it really did feel celebratory. That morning I made one of my favorite desserts, a raw vegan version of a key lime pie (made pretty much with avocados, coconut, honey and lime, with a crushed macadamia nut crust… delicious and full of vitamins- yes! Low calorie- far from it) for his birthday cake, I wore the earrings that my friend Shelley gave me as a special gift when I was pregnant with him, listened to my “Reed” playlist of songs I sang to him when I was pregnant with him and now to myself when I think about him, and looked forward all day to the Skype date I had with him and Maura that night. I worked that evening and when I came home there were already friends over for the party, but I went up to my room for our date. It is so fun to see him, and Maura is fantastic at following him around with the camera so that even when just she and I are having an adult conversation, I get to see and observe him the whole time. How thoughtful she is to intuitively know that that’s exactly what I need! He did all sorts of cute things, like making his giant toy lobster get my nose and we would touch foreheads against the camera which he thought was particularly fun. He also showed me his sofa gymnastics and how fast he could run through the living room, trying to imitate Doug’s apparently show-stopping sideways slide on the slick wood floors. As entertaining and interactive as he was on the computer screen, I cannot wait to see him in person!

Towards the end of the conversation, I took my computer downstairs to where the party was happening, took out the pie with two lit candles, and we all sang happy birthday to him. He even blew out the candles on the computer screen. All of my friends of course commented on how adorable he is, which I know is obligation when your friends show off their kids, but I still like to think there is some genuine truth to it and I’m not just being completely biased when I swoon over those blond curly locks and that charming smile.

I’ve always tried to be open and honest about my experience with Reed, but putting him out in front of my friends so they could sing happy birthday to him brought it to a new level. While I don’t go around broadcasting it to strangers, I talk about him in casual conversation as I do any other member of my family; he is nothing for me to hide and I do not feel the need or desire to. When I first decided to place him for adoption I knew that it wasn’t anything I felt ashamed or embarrassed of, and didn’t think I should be. It’s true that at the time when I first found out I was pregnant I didn’t want it to happen, but now when I look back, if I had the choice to do anything different, even not getting pregnant in the first place, I wouldn’t change a thing. This is a really hard thing for most people to understand, and lately, as he has come up in conversation quite a bit in the past few weeks, I realize more and more that people don’t really need to understand.

I tend to think that I have to justify myself sometimes, to convince someone that what I did was what I really needed to do. Reasons start to come out, like I didn’t have a house, a stable job, insurance, a bed, more than two suitcases full of belongings, and I wasn’t in a lasting relationship with his birth father (though I always want to put in the disclaimer that Bill still continues to be a supportive birth dad to Reed and a close and cherished friend to me). However, the truth is that none of these things really warrant someone giving up their child. If a woman came to me with all of those same difficulties (which for me, they weren’t difficulties, they were just a regular part of the lifestyle I loved) and said she was pregnant and asked my advice, I would tell her that if she wasn’t completely convinced that this was the right thing to do, than she shouldn’t do it. I could have kept Reed, I could have moved in with one of my parents, I could have gotten two jobs and worked hard for the both of us, I could have tried to make something work with Bill. If I had decided on any of those roads, I would have had plenty of support from friends and family, and though it wouldn’t have been easy or ideal, we could have made it work somehow, as many single parents have done for thousands of years past and will continue to do so. I guess this is the part that’s hard for people to understand: I didn’t want to make it work, it wouldn't have been right, I would have had to force a lot of things that I didn't believe was the right thing to do. It wouldn't have been good for me or for him, and while many say that the best thing for a child is to stay with his mother, if that mother isn't doing what she truly feels is right by keeping that child than I don't agree. I just can’t explain how much I knew from the beginning that he belonged to someone else, and how I could love him so deeply and intensely while being so comfortable and at peace with giving him up.

But what I’ve realized more and more, especially this week, is that people don’t need to understand. Maybe they shouldn’t. I don’t think a mother needs to understand how someone else could give up their child when that mother has the light of her life in her arms and couldn’t imagine herself without him/her. She shouldn’t be able to easily identify with going through the laboring process after nourishing a life inside of her and then placing the fruit of that labor willingly into someone else’s care, giving him to someone else to love. A person, woman or man, who wants to have a family at some point or perhaps is trying to have one shouldn’t be able to relate to the feeling of preparing for the birth of a child while planning on giving it away. It’s not normal or natural, and I’ll be the first to admit it.

When I made the decision to be open about our open adoption, I knew it would bring out slew of varying reactions. Since I’ve been particularly up front about it this past week, I’ve had hugs, tears, and lots of questions as I’ve related my story. Honestly, I love the questions. “How? How could you give up your own son? What a child needs most is his mother,” a good friend said to me. I wasn’t offended at all, I appreciated her honesty and it was a genuine, mutually respectful conversation. I wish some of the people closest to me would be honest with the questions and doubts they have, because I know they are there. “What are you going to say to him when he’s older and is asking why?” “How is his mother suppose to feel confident in being his mother when you are still openly calling him your son?” “How can you be 100% convinced that you did the right thing, because I’m not sure you did.” Thank God for friends like that! (Or thank God for the consumption of a little liquid conversational lubricant which may or may not have been consumed during some of these conversations) These were not attacks like I’ve experienced before, they were questions asked while holding my hand, in conversations of mutual self disclosure and honesty, and often ended with hugs.

I’ve thought more about conversations I may have with Reed when he’s older and we really start to have conversations about the big WHY question. First of all, I hope that throughout his whole life we’ll have an open stream of dialogue so that nothing will creep up unexpected for him or me. I think he will always have a general sense of ‘why,’ but at some point of course he will become more in tune with his heart, which I hope will make him want to know more about other’s hearts, more about my heart. And then I’ll tell him, “Reed, the reason I gave you to them was because my heart told me to. I knew I loved you and always would, and my heart told me that there was a way to continue loving you, for us to still be a part of each other’s lives, even while it was telling me that you had a different mother waiting for you. If you know one thing about me, know this, that I have loved you from the beginning more than I’ve loved anything or anyone. And if you learn one thing in your life from me, I hope it will be this: that you should always follow your heart, even when no one in the world understands.”

I don’t ever want to shy away from questions about Reed, or why or what will happen or what do I think now. The ‘hard’ questions are the ones which make me think about him more, and I welcome that. Two years is a short time, and I by no means have everything figured out yet. I’m still learning how he is a part of my life and what role we play in each other’s. We (Maura, me, Doug and Bill) are all still learning about each other and how we somehow make a family, extended as it may be. Hopefully I have a long time coming to contemplate these questions and for many more people, including Reed, to ask them.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Interview With Another Birth Mother

If you have read any of my posts, you'll know that I sometimes base my topics on questions from a site called "Open Adoption Roundtable", a community of birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees who blog about whatever side of the adoption spectrum they're on. When I was pregnant and reading whatever I could find about open adoption, I stumbled across an interview project set up through this forum, which paired different bloggers together to interview and post each other's Q&A's on their individual blog sites. Well now I'm excited to be a participant in this project, and I was paired with Amy, who is a birth mother of a 7 year old daughter. This was the first time I've ever spoken or had any communication with another birth parent involved in an open adoption, so I was pretty excited to ask some questions. My hardest problem was getting the number of questions down to an amount feasible for a married, busy, hard working university student like Amy to tackle. So without further adieu, here's my interview with Amy.

(If you want to read my answers to Amy's questions, visit her blog,

Answers to questions:

1. What were your preconceived notions about adoption or open adoption before you became pregnant?
a. I did have preconceived notions about adoption before I became pregnant. I had friends growing up who were adopted and they both didn’t know who their birth-families were. I always asked them if they would want to know and one said, “NO” whereas the other one said she wished she could know her birthmother, only to have the chance to thank her for giving her a good life. Before I became pregnant, I never thought I would be one of “those” women who would enter that kind of life. I also thought that the women who placed their children into adoption were addicted to drugs or where just bad parents who had their children taken away from them.

2. How did you go about choosing the parents for your daughter?
a. I went through an agency to choose Kaylee’s parents. I wanted to go through an agency since I knew they would have a better idea on what to do rather than rely on a blood thirsty lawyer who just wants another case off of their desk. My adoption counselor, Amy D. (yes her name was Amy as well), gave me a book of probably 50 prospective families that were through the agency. I took the book home and knew I had to do this in a systematic way. I read through the book and chose my top five, and then my mom read through the same book. We came back together and told each other our top five. The crazy thing is that we choose the same exact families! I was looking for a family who didn’t have children already, who had the same religious beliefs, and who were outgoing. I contacted my adoption counselor to let her know which families I had chosen and was told to choose three families from this narrowed list. I was then given full detailed profiles about each family. Once again, my mom and I choose our top three separately and found that we had chosen the top three. We called Amy to let her know and she had said that one of the families was already in process with another birthmother. So out of the two that were left we chose the next favorite. We met a week later and I just “knew” that they were going to be the parents of Lil Miss who was growing inside of me. Since I didn’t have a name for her, I started calling her Lil Miss to help me not extremely attached.

3. Why did you decide on open adoption rather than a traditional closed adoption?
a. Kaylee’s birth-father actually sent me the site to the agency that I chose to go through. It was an agency that specialized in open adoption. I felt like this was the best way to go since I wanted to know where she was and that she was living a good life. I read up on all the different options that were out in the adoption world, and open adoption seemed like the best option.

4. I don’t know how your decision to place came about or what your situation was in choosing her parents, so this question may not apply to you.
a. But if you were on a search for adoptive parents, what kind of reaction were you met with from potential candidates towards openness?
i. The only potential family that I met was Kaylee’s parents. I knew the minute I walked into the counseling conference room that they would be the ones who would parent her. They were so much like myself and the birth-father.

5. What is your relationship with her parents like now? Do you have established rules of etiquette for communication/visitation?
a. The relationship with her parents now is on the positive side. We are all very busy and so over the years, the constant communication has dropped off. I will admit that I am slow at getting presents out on time or even cards. I use to be really good at that, but then when I got married, things started to slip.

b. We had established an open adoption agreement before she was born. The agreement was to have 4 visits per year until the age of 5 years old and then 2 times a year after that until the age of 18 years old. This went along same lines for any other type of communication (email, letters, pictures, phone calls, etc.). Even though we established those rules…they are really just ground rules. The first year of life, I was seeing Kaylee about once a month for the first several months, but then it became too much and so we backed off to every couple of months. Now that I do not live in the same state as them, I get to see them whenever I go back home to Oregon. This tends to be once a year due to the price of airline tickets. Her mom told me though to just let them know when I would be in town and she would try to make sure that I would get to see Kaylee. As for pictures and everything now, I tend to get pictures around Christmas time along with a small gift that Kaylee picks out for me. I send her a gift as well.

6. Do you ever feel like they are ‘doing you a favor’ by allowing you to still be a part of your (their) daughter’s life?
a. At first I think I may have thought that. I try not to think about this as we all signed up to participate into an open adoption. The agency that we went through – Open Adoption & Family Services ( – provides lots of counseling sessions for each side to ensure this is the choice they all want to get involved in. I though am very careful to not overstep the boundaries as I don’t want to ruin any type of relationship that we have already established.

7. What was the hardest thing for you to deal with…
a. while you were pregnant
i. I think that the hardest thing to deal with while I was pregnant is trying not to get so attached. It is natural though for everyone involved with this process (especially the birth-mother) to not get attached. I felt every move that she made, I was the one who was up at night peeing every two hours because I chose to indulge in a super big gulp coke slurpee from 7-Eleven at ten o’clock at night. I was the one who felt the first contractions. It was my time to enjoy the pregnancy as it was going to be one of the only moments that I could honestly call her my own.

b. Immediately after she was placed
i. The hardest thing to deal with after she was immediately placed, that I knew that she was not with me anymore. That I made the hardest decision that any parent would have to make. I had a hard time listening to people tell me to move on with my life as the chapter is closed and a new one is about to open. I though, had (and still have) a very supportive family. I lost some friends as they wanted to know about my life but not about my adoption. Adoption was and is always going to be part of life. My friends who stood next to me while I was pregnant are still there for me on those hard days in life.

c. Now
i. The hardest thing now, is that I am not in the same state as her. I wish I could see her more often, especially now that she is getting older and participating in sports and little school activities.

8. What has been the most wonderful thing about your adoption experience? (Feel free to apply the three time periods listed above to this question if you want. J)
a. while you were pregnant
i. The most wonderful thing about my adoption experience while I was pregnant was the support system that I had. I always had someone who I could call or email if I needed to talk to.

b. Immediately after she was placed
i. I would still say that the most wonderful thing about this part of my adoption process is again the support system. I may have lost some friends, but I was told that I will know my true friends, as they will be there to offer support when I am sick, happy, or hurting. This was and is very true.

c. Now
i. The best thing now about my adoption experience is that I have fully come to terms with my choice. I know that placement of Kaylee was the best thing I could have done. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I chose to parent. I made sacrifices and will have to live with emotions that are attached to the choices I made.

9. Has her birth father been involved in any way?
a. When I first became pregnant, he wanted me to have an abortion. Since I personally do not agree with abortion for my own self, I told him I was going to carry this child for the entire nine months. He wanted nothing to really do with me for the entire pregnancy. He was there at the hospital in the waiting room from the time I went into labor until the time she was born. He held her for a little bit as well, so we do have pictures of her with him. He then went to Afghanistan as a paid contractor

10. How do you think the media plays on the general public’s perception of adoption or open adoption?
a. At times I think that the general public perception is that birthmothers are either drug addicts, bad mothers who are unable to care for their children, or as charity cases. I also think that this same perception is portrayed on today’s television shows. Friends, Brothers & Sisters, Teen Mom, Juno…the adoption lifestyle is made out to look cool or that the women are no good people who are in a screwed situation, when most of the time it is the complete opposite. We as women want to give the best option to our children and that is we choose adoption.

11. If there were one thing you could change about…what would it be?
a. Laws and regulations about (open) adoption
i. I would change and make that all 50 states have a legally binding adoption contract between the birth-parents and adoptive parents. With a contract being legally binding, the birthparents would have the right in each state to go back to the adoption agency or court if the adoptive parents back out on everything that was agreed upon before the adoption was final.

ii. I would change that the birthmother’s do not have a wait time to change their mind, and make the relinquishment process instantaneous so that women cannot go back up to 30 days later in some states to say that they are choosing to parent their placed children.

b. Attitudes and perceptions about (open) adoption
i. I would change the negative view that most people have about adoption. I would not allow people to tell birth-mothers, “wow…I could never do that to my own child.” When they haven’t walked in our own shoes. I would change the thought process of outsiders of those who think that all women involved into an open adoption are going to come back and want the child back. I would also make sure that any movie, tv show, or anything else that is going to be in the media about adoption would shine the good light on adoption and not sugar coat it as if it is a humorous situation.

c. Your own experience with adoption
i. I wouldn’t change much with my own adoption experience. The friends who do not talk to me anymore, I am ok with that. The friends who chose to stay with me and support me is what I need. I would change the

fact that I am so far away from Kaylee. I wish that I was closer so that I could be more involved with her life.

12. Your daughter is 8 now (right?). She will be 8 in January.

a. How has it been difficult/wonderful/easy/challenging/etc. to relate to her as she gets older?
i. Since I only see her once a year, I do find it difficult or challenging to relate to her, especially now that she is getting older. I really feel like I have the same questions to ask her and so on. Our visits only last maybe 2 hours at the most due to everyone kind of running out of things to talk about. I do love that she likes to play dress-up and draw. So I can see what she is into, but I feel like the Aunt at Christmastime who is wondering what to get since I only see her so sparse. I don’t want to be the person who sends a gift and have everyone think, “What was she thinking?” I tend to think she is younger than what she is at times, and I now know why extended relatives (grandparents who live in a different state from their grandchildren) buy things that are several years younger than what that child really is. The older she gets though the more she looks like me, and I love seeing that.

b. Do you and her family have a plan for if/when she starts asking serious questions about her adoption?
i. She actually was told at a young age that she was adopted. NaeDean adds more details each year. Kaylee thinks it is pretty cool, I think. In pre-school she told her teachers that she didn’t come from her mom’s tummy that she came from Amy’s tummy. The teacher at that time didn’t know she was adopted. It was cute. I am ready though for the day when she comes to be in her teenage years to ask the serious and difficult questions. When she gets older, I will start talking to NaeDean and ask her what I should tell and so-forth. The last thing I want to do is to step on anyone’s toes.

c. How do you see your relationship with her (and her family) developing in the future?
i. I do see us (her and her family) becoming closer as she gets older. Just like any relationship, it takes time to really develop anything strong. I would love to be more involved with her life when she becomes a pre-teen and teenager as that is when girls start to develop their identity.

13. You mentioned that you and your husband would like to have a child. What are your thoughts about incorporating your daughter’s life into your potential future family?
a. I would love to incorporate her life into my potential family. If my husband and I would have a child together, they will always know that they have a big sister who lives in a different home. She will never be this “secret”. I would love to see her come and stay at my house for a week or two during the summer when she is older and be considered the cool aunt who likes to go to movies and eat ice cream late at night.

14. Do you have any regrets?
a. I do at times have regrets, but only when I am feeling really down. I know that I made a choice, and I have to live with that choice for the rest of my life. I know at the time of placement it was the best choice at that time. No one can predict the future, and so I never thought that my future husband and I would struggle with fertility issues. I have to thank my lucky stars that I found a good family to parent my sweet Lil Miss and that she is happy, healthy and has a house over her head on a nightly basis.

b. Fears about the future?
i. I do not have any fears for the future. I think that any birth parent or any parent in that matter fears of something tragically wrong happening to them or their child. I think that any birth parent fears that their child who was placed will hate them for what they did, but with open adoptions, I don’t see that really happening. I hope that she will live a long life and be successful in whatever she ends up doing.

15. Choose one of your own questions that you are asking me for this project and answer it yourself. J
a. Some people get tattoos as a way to remember their child. Have you ever thought of getting one if you don't have one already?

i. I do not have any tattoos, yet. Yet is the main word there! I have really thought that if I put any art on my body, that it should be meaningful since it will be on me permanently. Since placement I have really thought about doing some type tattoo that acknowledges my adoption. Different designs have came to mind but I need to really think about the placement of the tattoo, since I want to be a Social Worker. The last thing I want to do is put it in a place that everyone can see and not get a job due to having some type of body art.

ii. As for what kind of designs, I have thought about taking her actual baby footprints and having them be put on me, or a pair of baby booties. I have also thought about having footprints (like footprints in the sand poem) placed on my back as that poem is very significant in the adoption world if you spin it as the two prints in the sand is when the mother is pregnant and the single prints are after placement. So there are a tone of different things. I will have one though in the future.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Spoken Word/Poetry Performances

Well, I've been meaning to do this for a while and am finally getting around to actually posting this. Since being in Singapore, one of the things I've dabbled in is spoken word poetry, attending and participating in poetry slams, competitions and performances. Only a few events under my belt and I'm certainly not prolific enough to become a serious contender, but I've enjoyed getting my toes wet. Another thing I've enjoyed about it is the freedom of self expression. There is something about spoken word, in which all of your sentences don't have to make sense or be completely coherent, that releases me to communicate what is really in this jumbled mind of mine. This has been especially helpful in dealing with some of the emotions and reactions I've had concerning Reed and the whole open adoption process thus far.

This past July I had an opportunity to let others hear some of those thoughts as well, when I was invited to perform at a Lit Up Singapore, an annual event promoting the literary arts. It was a small gathering, nothing too big or fancy, but it was my opportunity to get out 3 pieces I had written; I call them my healing poetry. I wrote them through much tears, trying to cut through to what I really wanted to say, and performed them that night attempting to keep most of those tears back. It was very intimidating for me, laying myself open to the friends, co-workers, acquaintances and strangers who attended.

Thankfully, one of those acquaintances whom I know from my book club (thanks, Cheryl!) recorded it with her phone, which is why I'm able to present them here. Like I said, nothing fancy, and you'll have to bear with me as I stumble through some kind of an introduction to the first poem. So here's the first one... (btw, sorry if your computer screen is like mine and doesn't show the whole frame of the video; I have to watch it full screen to even see myself. Maybe it's time for a new blog layout...)

This second 'poem' (I know, it doesn't seem like a poem if you're use to thinking of it in a traditional poetry sense, but remember, spoken word is different) is my reaction to judgement I've seen, heard and felt, both from external and internal sources, about my decision to place for adoption. Some of the words I speak here are words I've heard verbatim from others, some are from arguments I've had in my own head as I've tried to hash out every side of the multi-dimensional coin. The couple of words that are cut off are, "The lightbulb swung casually..."

The final piece is something I wrote specifically for Reed. These are words I hope he hears as he gets older, that will make more and more sense to him as he experiences life and all of it's complexities. The first sentence is a bit cut off, it starts, "There is a way things are suppose to be, there are certain people we are suppose to appease..."

Coming up is something I'm pretty excited about: the Open Adoption Roundtable's interview match-up. The participants are those of us who blog about adoption from any side- birth parents, adoptive parents, adoptees- and we are paired up to conduct our own interviews. This happens in November, so stay tuned, and if you or anyone you know who has been affected by adoption in some way would like to participate, you can check out the link on the right side of this page. :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Revisiting Thailand

There are so many things I could have been writing about since I last entered anything into this blog, but time passes, procrastination happens, and then the things add up so much that I don’t even know where to begin.
After my visit to see Reed and everyone in Colorado which I wrote about in my last post, I got back to Singapore and hit the ground running. I moved from my tiny room in a condo unit to a ground floor room with an Indian family, jumped back into my normal working schedule, planned for the book club meeting that I facilitate every month, and prepared for the arrival of my dear friend Staci.
Staci and I met as roommates on the cruise ship we both worked on in Hawaii in 2007, and from the day we first boarded and met each other, we became fast friends. A year later, we took a road trip together from Oregon to Alaska where we worked in Denali National Park. A year after that in 2009 she was still in Alaska and I returned for my second summer of working there. I had just flown straight from Thailand where I had spent a month on vacation, where I found out I was pregnant. She picked me up at the airport and as soon as we got in the car I told her the news. “Well, I guess this won’t do you any good now,” said her boyfriend, tossing the wine bottle holder that they had gotten me as a gift into the back seat. We laughed and they both gave me their immediate support.

(Staci and me in Alaska, summer of 2008)

When she arrived in Singapore for her 3 week visit, it was the first time I had seen her since that summer in Alaska. We wanted to make the most of her first trip to Asia, so we booked a weekend in Bintan, a small Indonesian island that’s just a quick ferry ride from Singapore, and one to Krabi, Thailand.
Krabi is a special place for me, but I didn’t know how surreal it would be going back there. That was where Reed became real to me, his presence came into my life. In the spring of ’09, I was traveling through Thailand when I got sick, and stayed sick for the next 6 months. About two weeks into my trip, I realized I was pregnant, despite all my arguments with myself that I surely wasn’t. There was a snorkeling trip we took though, where I had come to accept the fact that I was, and as my mind was reeling and my face was underwater looking at these beautiful blue and yellow fish in clear turquoise waters, I thought, “I’m not alone, it’s not just me anymore. It’s you and me, baby, we’re doing this together.” They were my first thoughts towards Reed, the first of many words and thoughts I spoke to him.
After that snorkeling trip, I spent another week or so with him alone in my thoughts. Then I broke off from my traveling partner Rene (who, incidentally, will also soon be making a visit to Singapore!), and spent a couple of days alone on the beautiful beach of Railey, often considered one of the most stunning in all of Thailand. It was there, sitting on the beach at night digging my toes in the sand gazing out over the ocean, that I really spoke to Reed about where we were, what we were doing, and about adoption. From there I took a ferry to Krabi on the mainland, found a drugstore, and finally took a pregnancy test.

(Railay Beach Thailand)
Later, when I was in North Carolina going to birthing classes, we were coached to have an image or object to focus on through the contractions. I had chosen a print of a painting that someone had given to me that had special meaning for me, but when the time came and I was in the bathtub pushing through labor, my mind automatically went back to those clear, turquoise waters, those blue and yellow fish, surrounded by the tall rock walls jutting out of the water in a semi-circle to form a cove, and me telling him, “we’re doing this together, baby.”
So there I was, two years later, back in Krabi. I send a postcard to Reed from every place I visit, and I definitely wanted to send him one from there. I found a shop and looked for cards from Krabi, but then I found one of Railey Beach, and I knew I had to send that one. I sat down and thought about what to write to him, and was able to send it off immediately with tears in my eyes. Staci waited patiently for me, and then we were off to find some sunscreen. My thoughts were a bit distracted when I followed her into a drugstore, but as soon as we stepped in, I recognized it immediately. I pointed out to her the corner where the pregnancy tests were, and told her how I had to mime what I wanted to the non-English speaking woman behind the counter.
The next day, we went on a snorkeling trip. Not just any snorkeling trip, but you guessed it, the exact one from 2 years ago. Every spot was as beautiful as I remember it, and of course we went to Loh Samah Bay. So much came flooding back to me then, from my first acknowledgement of Reed up to his birth, all tied with this scene I was in. I put on my snorkeling mask, dipped my head in the water, saw the blue and yellow fish swimming around me, and started to cry. Have you ever tried crying into a snorkeling mask? It’s not easy! I would come up to take a breath and recollect, then dip my head back under and start bawling again. All of the feelings, amazement, fears, wonder and questions came barreling back, and I realized why that place, that moment was so special to me; that was when he was mine. All mine. I hadn’t told anyone about him, I hadn’t decided on adoption yet, no one knew about him, I wasn’t sharing him with anyone, he was all, completely, utterly, unquestionably mine. That may have been the only time he was really mine, that it was just him and me, because it didn’t take long for me to realize that he actually belonged to someone else, plus I wanted to share him with Bill as soon as I could. I wasn’t thinking this two years ago, but oh, that sweet, wonderful moment when he was mine…

(Loh Samah Bay, July 2011)
This of course begs the questions: Then do I wish he were still mine? Do I regret the adoption? Should he have been mine?
No, I do not think ‘yes’ to any of those. I think I will always struggle with the concept of loving him so much and yet not wanting to keep him. Yup, I said it, I didn’t want to keep him. This statement conjures up images of women dumping their babies in garbage bins, leaving them at friend’s houses for days at a time, abandoning them to whomever will take them off their hands. But I never said I didn’t want Reed in my life, that I wish he had never happened. Even before I took the pregnancy test, when I thought about the possibility of having a miscarriage or any other way to get out of being pregnant, my soul cringed and my heart cried out. Once he was there, I didn’t want him to not happen. And yes, it was beautiful when he was all mine, a feeling I’d never experienced before, a feeling I’m sure so many other mothers know well.
That’s the struggle, how do I reconcile those two seemingly opposing sides- that I love him dearly and deeply with everything I am, yet I didn’t (don’t) want to keep him? As Reed grows older and comes to understand more, how will he deal with the fact that his mother didn’t want to keep him? What about when he hears that I don’t regret placing him for adoption? These are all harsh questions I have to ask myself, and I don’t have answers for. In the video posted on this site made when I was still in NC, I read an excerpt from the journal entry I wrote after taking the pregnancy test, which said, “is it possible to truly love something that you don’t want to keep?” What didn’t make it in the cut of the video was the sentence I wrote immediately after, “I don’t know how it is possible, but my heart somehow tells me that it is. And now, it’s reality to prove it, and for my life to live it.” I may not know all the depths of how it works, but I am still able to confidently say that I am glad he belongs to Doug and Maura and that he was meant for them and not for me, even say that I am glad he is not with me, and at the same time profess my undying, unconditional, inexhaustible love for him while producing tears galore from missing and longing for him. Like I said, I don’t know how it works to fully love something you don’t want to keep. Maybe the beauty of it is that I don’t need to know, that I only need to listen to my heart that tells me it is. And my life is certainly proving it true.
The rest of Staci’s time in Singapore was wonderful and way too short, and my summer continued to get busier. My next post will come soon, with another project I was working on for the month of July that had to do with Reed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"First Meeting": Gramma Pat

The newest Open Adoption Round Table discussion prompt was “First Meeting,” leaving it open to interpret any way we want ( Participating bloggers who are involved in adoptions in some way have written about when they first met their child, when they first met the birth parent, when they first met the adoptive parent, etc. So here is my first meeting contribution, which just happened recently, last month.
Characters involved:
Doug, Maura and Reed, steaming in the hot, humid North Carolina summer
Me, slaving away in the hot, humid year round Singapore summer
My mom and sister Kathryn, melting in the hot, humid Texas summer
Bill, enjoying the cool, dry, crisp, mountain air of the Colorado Rockies, where he works as a private chef during the summers on a large ranch

The Plan:
I had a one week school holiday in June, and I knew that I wanted to fly back to the US to see Reed, even if it was a short trip. I don’t only want to see him once a year, so any cost or amount of jet lag will still be worth the visit. So I thought, why not have everyone meet in Colorado where Bill is? It would be Bill’s and my first time to see Reed together since I left for Singapore in April of 2010, when he was only 4 months old. But then I also had another motive (besides seeking relief from the perpetual Singaporean summer). I thought that maybe if we were in Colorado, which can be a very tempting place for Texans in general to go and visit (much to the chagrin of most Coloradans), that perhaps some of my family members would be willing to make the trip to finally come and meet my son, their grandson/nephew.
I knew that many of my family members would be busy and it wouldn’t be so easy to drop everything for a week long trip, but thankfully my mom and sister Kathryn stepped up to the plate. Kathryn, the youngest of us 5 kids, was the only one in my family to have met Reed before, having flown up to North Carolina for his birth. I can’t even tell you how much that meant to me, having her in the room with me throughout the labor and at the moment he was born, and apparently it meant a lot to her too because she had his birth date tattooed onto her foot! So it was my mom that was going to meet everyone for the first time.

I can’t say that we weren’t all a little nervous about it. Mom has been supportive of me throughout this whole process from the first time I told her I was pregnant, but also, like a true mother, she has let me know that she wished I had made a different decision. A few different decisions… but I digress. I remember one conversation I had with her when I was first telling her about my decision to place for adoption and she said, “It’s not only that you’re giving away your son, but you’re also giving away my grandson.” I tried to tell her that she could still have that relationship with him, but when closed adoptions are the norm and all a person knows about, it’s hard to imagine anything different working out.
So there we all were suddenly together in Colorado, I was ecstatic to see everyone again, and of course it all went beautifully! Bill was amazing, the entire week he prepared the most spectacular feasts for us. This guy is the most talented chef ever, every single meal we made the comment, “this is the most amazing _____ I’ve ever had in my life!” Even the oatmeal he made for us in the mornings- the best oatmeal I’ve ever tasted! We were able to stay in the beautifully rustic cabins on the ranch where he worked, and we were welcomed by all the staff he worked with and the owners of the property with open arms.

Reed was in toddler boy heaven, surrounded by all the wheel burrows, power tools, trucks, tractors and other various machinery for which he has a particular fascination. It was fun for Bill and me to get to know more about his personality, and we learned quickly that he loves anything that’s big and moves. Also, it was once again good for my heart to see what a happy little boy he is. He has such a sunny personality, even when he was not quite himself because the jet lag and traveling had tinkered with his all so important napping schedule, he still seemed in relatively good spirits. Being surrounded by people eager to make him happy (which often involved tossing him into the air, one of his favorite past times) seemed to help too. :)

Aunt Kathryn loved seeing her nephew again, and by the end of the week Reed knew all too well that if he sought out her attention he would be rewarded with a goofy face, a tickle, or some little trick up her sleeve that was sure to result in a giggle.

And Mom? What a fantastic grandmother to Reed she is!!! Everyone commented all week to me about how much they enjoyed having her around, how easy it was to talk to her, and how great she was with Reed. She had the ingenious idea to tie a few shoe boxes together to make a train for him to pull around, which he made terrific use of for the entire week. It was also her idea to collect some wood chips from one of the work areas for him to build towers with, or just to throw them into buckets of water, which was a big hit as well.

My mom doesn’t often get too outwardly sentimental, and this time was no different. It wasn’t sappy words of love that were poured out from her mouth that were so important to me, but rather, the fact that she made the long drive to come meet her grandson, and made Doug and Maura feel so comfortable around her and excited to have her in Reed’s life. Even Bill said that he really enjoyed having her around, maybe because she contributed greatly to all the praises we lavished upon him for the outstanding food we were constantly eating.
In short, this was a very important 'first meeting' for me. My mom, meeting my son for the first time, and not only my son, but his family whom has become my family too. I have no idea when it will happen, but I can't wait for the rest of them to meet!

I'm always grateful for the encouragement I get from Doug and Maura regarding my relationship with Reed. They are eager to see us develop a loving, healthy relationship with each other, and during each visit have made a deliberate effort to make sure I get some quality alone time with him. I say for the millionth time, I could not have chosen better parents for him.

One of the highlights of our trip was the women's rafting trip. Thanks to some guys at the nearby rafting company being big fans of Bill's famous homemade ice cream sandwiches, Mom, Maura, Kathryn and I were able to raft down the white waters of the Taylor River. This was my mom's first time to try her hand at it, and her exact words were, "I wish I could do that every week!"

On our very last day together, we were all blessed to meet Bill's parents who drove up from Utah. Even though it was a short meeting, they were both so kind, supportive and happy to also finally meet everyone, that it just made the whole gathering that much more wonderful. Am I sounding gushy enough? It's only because I still pinch myself sometimes when I think about how much of a blessing all of these people involved are in my life.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Random Thoughts From a Non-Mothering Mother on Mother's Day

Why do people celebrate Mother's Day? For the act of giving birth? For all the sacrifices a mom makes for her children? For the daily love and care she gives to her family? Just some of the things I have been wondering about today. Not that I'm doubting the validity of celebrating Mother's Day, moms are certainly a great thing to celebrate! But what about me? Do I have a right to celebrate mother's day? Am I a "mother?"

Last night, as I was searching the internet for something that related birthmoms to Mother's Day, I found out that many adoption circles celebrate the Saturday before Mother's Day as Birthmom's Day. I've been thinking all day about that. Should I have a different day to celebrate giving birth to Reed? Should I not share the same day as Maura, who is the one actually parenting him and being his mother?

Mother's Day is somewhat of an anniversary for me. It was on Mother's day in 2009 that I was sitting in a hotel room in Thailand, watching a documentary about mother animals in the wild, and I was thinking, "Oh God, I'm a mother." The next day I took the pregnancy test, which, with the time difference, was Mother's Day in the US. I knew it would be a special day for me for the rest of my life.

Last week I received an email from saying that a friend of mine here in Singapore had just bought me a gift card for Mother's Day. This morning I woke up to find a message on facebook from an old friend of mine from highschool wishing me a Happy Mother's Day, with some very heartfelt words about her respect for birthmothers. It was very sweet and touching, and just what I needed. I worked, as I always do on Sundays, until 5pm, and during my lunch break one of my co-workers treated me to a Mother's Day waffle. This is not just any waffle, this is an extra buttery, extra delicious, extra fresh waffle made from this little waffle stand in the neighbooring mall. It's very fattening, very delicious, and today was very appreciated. After work, I knew I wanted to mark the occasion in some way, so after going home and changing into some cooler clothes (it's been hot, hot, hot here!), I made my way into the heart of town to treat myself to dinner. I found a nice tapas restaurant where I had never been and indulged in 3 courses, dessert, and wine. When I got home tonight I had two more wall posts on facebook from my sister and another friend here in Singapore, also wishing me a happy Mother's Day.

No, contrary to what the above paragraph may have indicated, celebration of today is NOT just about me undoing all the hard work I've put into loosing my baby belly!

(My Mother's Day celebration dinner, compliments of ME!)

As I thought about today and read comments about who people were celebrating and honoring, it became evident that there are many different types of mothers; biological, adoptive, even 'community mothers,' women among a community who have shared their hearts, homes, gifts, wisdom and love to others all around them. Being a mother is a multifaceted role, one that more than just one woman can fulfil in the course of someone's life. For me, the obvious role I play in Reed's life is giving birth to him. Loving him, encouraging him, talking and singing to him as I was building him, choosing to carry him, and then choosing to give him a family; this is not an honor I'm willing to dismiss for myself because he is not with me every day. As Reed grows older, I hope to continue to have a special role in his life, still loving him, encouraging him and talking to him (he may get a bit annoyed if I kept singing to him, so I'll replace that with listening to him).

I identify with being a mother. It's always uncomfortable for me when people I don't know ask me if I have any kids and I say no. I have a son, he is my son, he'll always be my son, just as much as he was when I gave birth to him. And though he will never actually call me 'Mother,' I will always be his mother. I may not have the big hoopla of people taking me out or cooking dinner for me or make sure I don't do any housework or get me special gifts, but I will still celebrate Mother's Day because I am a mother.

*****And not as a side note but just as important as everything I have just written above,
Happy Mother's Day to Maura!!! She is not only a great mom to Reed, but she has been a great person for me to share this day with. I'm so blessed to have her in my life as Reed's mom, and of course Reed is too. She sent me an email with a short update (they're visiting family in NYC, so a longer update will come soon) and pictures. I love that she actually wishes me a Happy Mother's Day instead of just thanking me for making her a mother (which she did as well).

Monday, March 7, 2011

Open Adoption Roundtable Questions

He's such a cutie, huh? This is one of the pictures they've sent to me since I've been back in Singapore after the holiday visit. I haven't asked the origins of the hand-me-down he's sporting, but I love it.

Apparently, adoption has been getting some interesting press lately, with shows like 16 and Pregnant and whatever other shows are out there that I've never seen. I have no idea what they're portraying, but I can take a few guesses. There are very good reasons why people are leary of open adoptions. So here's my tribute to the wonderfulness that has worked out for us so far. These questions are from Jessica at O Solo Mama, and presented as a discussion forum at She asked them very honestly, admitting her own ignorance and lack of knowledge/experience. I thought they were interesting to address, and have spent the last month reading and re-reading my response to them. I haven't changed anything since I first wrote it out at the beginning of February, but I'm finally posting it.

1. If open adoption is so great, why do so many people suck at it? By this I mean, not honoring commitments, closing the adoption, telling the other family they’re not “doing this thing” correctly or playing the “for the sake of the child” card?
Well I guess people suck at open adoption just as they suck as so many other things in life. Parents involved in either side of an open adoption aren’t the only ones who mess things up when it comes to parenting, so I really don’t think that’s a fair question or assumption. I for one, am not too worried about “sucking” at being in this relationship. I didn’t choose Doug and Maura because I didn’t think they or I wouldn’t make any mistakes, I chose them because they were people with whom I could build a relationship with that would allow us to talk about and work through any struggles or difficulties we will have (which has already proven true).

2. From the standpoint of first parents, open adoption sounds like something that could prolong suffering. Could this suffering potentially outweigh the good of knowing where your child is? Who helps the first parent?
Suffering is bearable, pain can be dealt with, and yes I certainly do feel the pain of loving Reed so much and being so far away from him. But am I resentful of that suffering? NO! Does it outweigh the good? HELL NO!!! Placing a child for adoption is going to have suffering no matter what. Why run from it? Why pretend it’s not there when it’s going to follow me around in some form or another anyway? If suffering is going to be there, I’d much rather suffer through looking at pictures, reading e-mail updates and skype chats from half way across the world, through struggling to find the perfect birthday gift for him, through not being able to squeeze him tight enough when I do see him, and then to try to appear ‘together’ through it all. I’ll take any amount of suffering no matter how long it lasts over not having him in my life.
As far as who helps the first parent, well, that is a sore subject for me. I’m not an emotional wreck (most of the time) or depressed, I’m not struggling in life, I’m not unable to take care of myself, I’m not without support, I certainly don’t have any regrets or am unhappy in any way (clarification: in my book, pain from loving someone so much does not equal unhappiness). However, it would be so wonderful to have someone to talk to that understands what I’m going through, to help with the complexities of life and relationships in general after adoption. God knows I don’t know what I’m doing, and it would be nice to talk to someone who at least has some experience in dealing with first moms. One of the attractive selling points of the adoption agency that D and M chose was that they offered life time counseling for the first parents, but when I tried to take them up on that offer I was sorely disappointed. However, Reed’s parents are big advocates of counseling and we’re all hopeful that good, quality, professional support will be in our future.

3. I’m guessing kids are not hung up on how many relatives they have. Tell me that the thing that hangs up the public all the time about open adoption and other unconventional relationships—two mommies, two daddies, three, four, parents—is the least of your worries because it seems to me it is.
People who have read my blog have heard this before and I’ll repeat it many times after this: During one of the first conversations I had with Doug and Maura, they said, “the more people who love a child, the better.” I’m not worried about Reed being confused, our common goal is that he will be surrounded from all sides by people who love and support him.

4. Do you ever feel like you should give this child back? Does the thought ever seize you totally as you watch your child with her bio-family: “ooops?” (OR for f-parents: Do you ever feel as though you need to take this child back? That nothing is stopping you beside an agreement that feels false? Does that feeling go away?)
NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! My heart yearns for Reed, I ache for him. But would I have it any other way, raising him myself? No way. Let me tell you a little about my decision making process concerning adoption. I was in Thailand, traveling around between jobs, living a very nomadic lifestyle and absolutely loving it, when I found out I was pregnant. I considered all of my options. I could abort: nope, that was quickly eliminated after about 2 seconds. I could keep him: so I thought about me moving somewhere, acquiring things like an apartment, a bed, more than just a few sets of clothes, health insurance, dishes, furniture, baby stuff, etc., and then finding a job to help me pay for all of that stuff plus child care where he would spend most of the day. Each thing I thought of seemed like a weight being put not just on me, but on him. Could we have done it? Absolutely. Did I have any peace about it? Not at all. Then I thought about adoption. The thought of him not being in my life or I in his was out of the question, but I had never heard of open adoption. However, as I imagined a scenario in which we both entered into the family, he as their son and I as, well, I didn’t quite know but I was somehow embraced into the picture, my heart lifted. I could imagine it with perfect peace, and I had an overwhelming sense that this was what he was created for. I remember the night when I told him what I was going to do, I hadn’t even taken the pregnancy test yet. I was sitting alone on the beach, telling him about where we were, and about the kind of family I was going to find for us. And at that moment, I got this overwhelming knowledge that he had been loved and sought out by this family for much longer than I had ever known about him. I said with full conviction, “You have NEVER been unloved or unwanted!”
I had no idea who this family was at that time, but I knew they were there, and I knew he was theirs. As soon as I met Doug and Maura (and by ‘met’ I mean finding their adoption profile online and then communicating through e-mail since I was by then in Alaska at my summer job and they in North Carolina), it was obvious that we fit each other. With other couples I had contacted, I still had questions. But with D and M, I felt a peace and excitement and joy sweep over me as soon as I read their profile. Our first phone conversation and then their trip to Alaska only confirmed it. Since meeting them, there has never been a time when I haven’t been absolutely sure that Reed is exactly where he needs to be.
Over Christmas when I spent a week with them just after his first birthday, I was reminded even more of how much he belongs with them. And it isn’t a “I wish he was with me but it’s best for him to be with them” kind of feeling, it’s just an all around “Yes!” kind of feeling. I love him so much that it hurts, and it hurt when I was holding him but Maura was the one he wanted. It hurt when he sat in her lap, played with her belly button, showed her his books, fell asleep in her arms. I’m aware every single day of his absence in my life and not a day goes by that I don’t wonder what they are doing together. But I also love his parents and I can’t imagine them being apart. In fact, I don’t love him apart from them, to me they are inseparable. I genuinely believe that Reed was created for Doug and Maura, and it would be a disservice to the Universe for anyone to take them away from each other.

5. How do children ever cope with knowing they could not be kept? When they see their natural parents having more kids, what do they think? Who helps the child in this situation? Both sets of parents?
These are all questions I have as well. Enter the need for professional counseling. While I’m not completely opposed to having children, it’s not something I desire and since I’m already 34 my chances are rapidly dwindling. I’m ok with Reed being the only child I ever have; I’ve never felt a biological clock ticking away.
As far as who will help Reed, well, I assume both sets of parents in our case. All of us want him to be supported on all sides, and I expect that we’ll communicate with each other about his needs for help and support. As his parenting parents, Doug and Maura will obviously provide the bulk of it. But as the ones most likely to have the answers to his probable questions, Bill and I also want to be there for him every step of the way.

6. Can you say comfortably that some surrendering mothers could not cope with an open adoption or do you think that it should always be the standard?
I can say comfortably that the option of openness should always be the standard. And I don’t mean for the birth mother to have the option to make that decision within so many hours or days within placing the child, but throughout the child’s life. I’m also fully aware that there are some women (and men) who are not emotionally or otherwise ready for that kind of relationship just yet. In those cases, I firmly believe that everything should be done to help them get ready for that kind of relationship. The object of counseling should be to guide them into a place in which they can have a healthy relationship with their child and adoptive parents. Adoptive parents should support this kind of counseling, and to not be afraid to welcome birth parents into their lives. As I was searching for and contacting potential parents, I was met with some responses of not being comfortable with that level of openness. While I could understand the hesitation and caution, it still had the feeling of, “We don’t want you, just your baby.” A parent should not be expected to separate completely from their child.

7. Is there ever a reason (aside from extreme/illegal behaviors) to close an adoption totally?
No. There may be a time to reduce or restrict contact or communication, but I still believe that the goal should be to move beyond that point into a healthy relationship. In this case, counseling would be critical for all sides, but I think it’s that important. I can understand the adoptive parents needs for protecting their children. Another one of my favorite things Maura said during our first phone conversation, in the context of discussing my role in Reed’s life, was that she “will protect him like a mother wolf,” indicating that if I or anyone else does anything to hurt him she will snarl her fangs. I loved it. That’s how a mother should be. It must be scary for a couple who is wanting to start a family to embrace a birth parent, not fully knowing what they’re getting into. But the option –and hope- for a comfortable level of openness from both sets of parents should always be there.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Open Adoption Roundtable Discussion: Being Proactive About Open Adoption

Here's the latest discussion question from the Open Adoption Roundtable, a community of adoption bloggers that encourages and gives voice to all members of the adoption triad.

One year ago many of us answered the question, "How will you be proactive in the area of open adoption in 2010?"

If you participated in the January 2010 discussion, revisit your post and give us the one-year-later update.

And whether or not you participated last year, tell us about your open adoption hopes or commitments in 2011.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was on my from Singapore to North Carolina to see my one year old son, Reed, for the first time in 8 months. I had a layover in Hong Kong, and another one in Chicago. It was the latter airport where I found out that the flight to NC had been cancelled. CANCELLED?!? I've spent the last 30 hours in airports and airplanes, consumed with anticipation to see my son who just had his first birthday one week before, and the last leg of my trip gets cancelled???

My heart sank. I started to feel a little nauseous. I stood in a long line with all the other passengers with woeful stories of not being able to see their families or missing important business meetings, everyone convinced that their own need was greater than anyone else's on the whole flight. Me included. As I watched each person in front of me step up to the counter, in my mind I could see the available seats on the next flight disappearing. I was trying to calm myself, telling myself that things happen for a reason, that it will all be alright, but my stubborn tears were relentlessly spilling over my wall of emotional self control.

Despite my worries, I really did have a sense that everything happened for a reason. I had just read 'The Alchemist' by Paulo Coelho at the Singapore airport, and as it has so many people, it resonated with me on many levels. It spoke of travel, following your dreams and your heart, doing things that others think are crazy and don't understand, and connecting spiritually with God and the things around you. It said that when you want something with your whole heart, it is because the Soul of the World wants it too, and the entire Universe conspires along with you to make it happen. One of the recurring themes in the book is following omens, recognizing things that are put in your path to encourage you along it.

My turn finally came to step up to the counter, where a smiling airline worker told me I already had my seat reserved on the next flight which left in 3 hours, and handed me my new boarding pass. Easy!! Relieved, I went to the nearest bar to have a glass of wine. In time, a woman came and sat next to me at the bar. We started up a conversation, beginning with our cancelled flights; hers to Michigan to visit her mother was cancelled and she was returning to California to be with her husband. She asked me if my family was from NC, and I smiled and said, "Well, sort of," thinking that she might not want to hear the complexities of my family there through open adoption. I've never attempted to keep my son's adoption secret, but I do try to discern when it's appropriate to launch into my experience or not, so I decided that if the opportunity arises then I'll tell her why I'm going to NC. She continued on with her story. She was going back to be with her husband... they had had a hard year. A hard past few years. They were wanting to have a child and tried and tried and tried, spent all of their savings, time and effort into medical treatments trying to get pregnant, even tried a surrogate who unfortunately miscarried. They had been trying to have a family for the past 10 years, and now they were turning to adoption. They were currently in the home study phase, they saw this as their last chance to have the family they had wanted and dreamed of for so long.

"But enough my story... let's get back to you," she said, trying to change the subject (we had also been talking about relationships before, and she wanted to hear more about where I was with that). What, let that pass?? No way! I told her about Reed, about how I was in Thailand, in between jobs, and 32 years old when I found out I was pregnant, about my search for an adoptive family and my insistence on full openness, and how I met Doug and Maura and how the stars and planets and everything in the Universe aligned so perfectly for Reed to be born into the most amazing family with all of his parents around. Her jaw dropped, and with tears in her eyes she said, "Do you realize what you have done for those people?" She was fascinated with my story, and said that she knew little about open adoption and might have been weary of it before. "I just can't get over this. I was suppose to meet you... I flew all the way from California to Chicago thinking I was going to visit my mother, but it was just to meet you here at the airport. I think you're a good omen for me." At that point, I knew that the book I had just read now belonged to her. I gave it to her telling her it was part of the deal of flying all the way out to Chicago just to meet me, and with that I left to catch my flight, happy for the delay, and happy to be on my way to see my gorgeous son.

So how do I want to be proactive about open adoption? In Reed's life, I plan on being proactive by keeping in touch with his family, continuing to share about my life and adventures, and sending him postcards and letters (he already has a special box of letters I've written to him, so far from China, Malaysia and Singapore...the one from Bali was lost). I'm also planning on flying back to the states to spend a week with them again in June.

Outside of my personal adoptive triad, I would like to be be proactive in general about open adoption, just by continuing to be open about it. I want women who are faced with unplanned pregnancies to know about the options they have. Any choice a woman* in that situation makes will be a difficult one, and I do not believe that there are any black or white answers that fit across the board. But I think that so many women choose to terminate a pregnancy, thinking that the only other options are to raise the child herself (sometimes in unhealthy or unsupportive surroundings), or to give the child up for adoption, never to be seen again. Likewise, some women may choose to keep a child even though it's not healthy for the child or parent, thinking that the only other options are abortion or to let her own baby slip permanently out of her life. I want people to know that that's not all there is!

It's hard being a mother. It's hard raising a child, but it's also hard to be completely, utterly, whole heartedly in love with your child that someone else is holding in their arms. At the same time, it's so easy to love him, and it's so easy to love the arms that are holding him, cherishing him, protecting him, and receiving so much joy in return from him. No decision I could have made would have been easy, and I suspect it's the same for many women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy. I just want more people to know about the joys that an open adoption can bring. I would like for expectant women to know about open adoption as an alternative to the traditional options (keeping, terminating, or closed adoption), and I would like for hopeful adoptive parents to know more about it so that they won't be afraid of a birth parent who loves her/his baby so much that they just can't let it out of their lives.

I'm not really sure just how proactive I'll be, but I do plan on continuing to be open in conversation with my experiences, sharing and documenting here on this blog, and hopefully someone who needs to hear this will one day hear. And hopefully someone will choose to give this woman in California and her husband, or any of the many, many other people who are wanting to build a family through adoption a chance to make their dreams come true.

*I don't like excluding the father's role in this, and ideally he would have a hand in making a decision for his child together with the woman who's carrying it. Unfortunately this isn't always the case. In our little adoptive family, we are so lucky to have Bill as a part of our lives. He moved across the country for me when I was pregnant, never left my side during Reed's birth, and flew across the country again to celebrate Reed's first birthday.