'Happiness Guilt' is a real emotion and heaven knows I suffer with it! Given what the last 3+ years of my life have been like, maybe it's to be expected.
Being a birth mother is hard in the depths of pregnancy and placement but you never know what to expect six months to a year later. I am blessed to be the birth mom to two perfect babies and the aftermath of each placement has come with different lessons, challenges and celebrations.
After my first placement, I didn't know it at the time, but I was feeling guilt for actually being happy. My life had improved with work, I was dating a great guy and I was recapturing my happiness again but the result of that was surprising amounts of guilt. I will try to explain why.
As a birth mother, you choose to place your child with a family ready and able of taking better care of that them than you can, whatever those circumstances are. The choice to do that is not easy. In my case, if I felt capable of being there for both babies in the best way possible I absolutely would want to raise them. I knew my limits financially and more importantly emotionally. After unhealthy relationships and being buried in what felt like mistake after mistake, it was the best option for me both times. I could see I was not prepared, twice. I realized I created a mess for each baby to be born into, twice! And it was a hard pill to sallow that I wasn't in a safe place to parent a new baby twice. That is the driver behind my self doubt now. That is the reason I struggle to accept good things that come my way.
Deciding another mother can give more than you can is a serious decision and I didn't take either lightly. I had to strip my life of all the "help" I was offered, the idea of a new baby, the excitement and anticipation of being pregnant and I had to get real with myself. So much about that process is painful. Realizing the demands of a new baby and where that fits into a single mothers schedule and even more straining, her emotional ability to maintain it all, made my decision.
It sounds like I am more considering how it would have been hard for me as the mother to choose to parent, but the truth is, it was no longer about me. Evaluating the realistic outcome of my baby being at daycare 40 hours a week while I worked is not about me, it is about that six week old. It is about handing my baby over to be essentially raised by an employee of the facility. I am not saying that is wrong. It is what is necessary sometimes and I was forced to look at that reality and I still had time to choose something better. That is not to mention growing up with an absent father or worse. (That is a topic for another day)
My point is, the path to choosing adoption is a road of accountability and reality checks. My life at the time, both times, was centered on rough relationships. I was already a single mom from my marriage, I was working 40 hours a week and barely scraping by in every aspect, including my happiness.
Fast forward to today. Six months post placement of my second baby and my life is actually really good! I have so many reasons to be genuinely happy now. Finally! I am in the healthiest and most loving relationship I have ever had, I am working at a great company where I make more money than I ever thought I could and I am living the life I never felt I was worthy of. Now I am facing the feelings of guilt. I am questioning if I am supposed to have all of this and so soon.
Aren't I supposed to struggle longer? Don't I need to repeat this same cycle a while longer to make placing my babies worth it? Am I allowed to get it all together less than a year after placement? Bow could I be this happy already?
The worry sets in when I think of how much my life has changed over the past six months and how if I were in these circumstances then, I could have kept both babies and been equipped to raise them in the way they deserved to be. I guess it is in my head that as a birth mother, I need to struggle and fight for years to have the happiness and stability I should have had before ever getting pregnant.
After I placed Juniper in 2017 I look back at that year and I was self sabotaging at every corner because I didn't feel justified in my happiness. Those destructive behaviors are what ultimately lead to my second unplanned pregnancy. I made the life I felt I deserved. A life of pain and regrets and emotionally draining relationships.
I am in a complete opposite place now. I am so happy and everyday I find new ways to keep growing. I have those moments that I question if I am worthy or deserving of this life and I have to battle the past sometimes. The way I win those battles has changed my overall perspective. I could choose to dwell in that low self esteem and doubt it all, resulting in continuous heartache OR I can stand tall knowing I made the right choice for that specific time and I am becoming the woman all my babies can be proud of. I faced my demons and I showed them the door. I choose to believe that I deserve this happiness and success because I fought the urges the past six months to self destruct and I ended up here. I finally changed the course of my life!
Placing both sweet babies for adoption was absolutely right at the time. Both of those processes needed to happen in the way and at the times they did and I don't doubt that for a second. My "happiness guilt" lessens everyday and until it is completely gone I am just grateful to know that we can improve our lives and regardless of the past we get to write our own story. My babies are a big part of mine and I am grateful I get to see them grow in the homes meant for them.
I used to think it was either only they win being raised by more capable families or no one does if I choose to parent, but now I see we all get to win!
Two familes, two mothers, two fathers, two perfect babies and a whole lot of emotion!
My journey to double placement was unique.
As I wrestled with the emotions of a second adoption in two years my natural tendency was to consider everyone but myself in the scenario. I was nervous, terrified of what was coming and felt confused as I hashed and rehashed it all. I had planned to keep my son up until nearly the last trimester of my pregnancy so time was of the essence. Who was this baby boy meant for? Should I even consider another family for him or place him with the family I already knew and loved. Will I hurt anyones feelings? I knew that the choice to place my son with a different couple than my daughter, just a year and a half prior, would possibly shake up the settled dust but I knew I owed it to myself and the special adoption process to at least explore it.
It is important to note that I could barely choose breakfast from a Denny's menu, let alone a family and life for my unborn baby. From my previous experience I trusted that the right path would be clear and in time it was. Heaven lead me to the right plan for my son.
I have been incredibly blessed with two awesome familes and things have been peaceful and smooth since placement. I never expected any hostility or negative reactions from either dynamic but I was not naive enough to think there would be no differences. I was preparing myself to have different "Open Adoption" ideas and preferences as I decided on the second family. I was very happy with the visitation and extended family-like relationship with Juniper (my daughters) family so I was good if they were similar in that. I also knew that it is a different experience for everyone and adopting can be tricky. It brings up emotions that can be difficult to navigate, moreso with an open adoption and the relationship with birth parents. I knew before he was born that the visitation and relationship would be a bit different but in no way better or worse. I am now very happy with it as well. I have always made it my goal to keep the emotions rational and healthy for baby and the biggest part of that is a good, authentic relationship with the adopting family.
As I try to imagine the future for both babies I hope they can have a transparent and open relationship with their parents and myself. My goal in this is to allow them the opportunity to ask questions. I want them to get the clarity they need, if any, to build a healthy, happy life. That is why I placed them with their families at this stage in my life in the first place. I will always support that goal in anyway I can with the different family dynamics at play. Luckily they are phenomenal parents and people who I consider family.
I have had visits with both families and have learned, through simple and clear communication, what is best for them as individuials. I have tried to make it a point to express my feelings and allow them a safe space with me to do the same. I had to ask questions and confront my future curiosities, as hard as it was at times. So far both families have been gracious in allowing me to be vulnerable as none of us know what may come in time. None of us can say what life will be like in 5 years, 10 years and what adjustments will need to be made to keep the most healthy circumstances for both children.
I think the biggest managed mindset that has helped me is this, "They are the child's parent. Period. I relinquished my right to dictate my will or insist I know what is in the baby's best interest." Accepting that has distilled any lingering emotion that I am their mom. I have always taken the stance of trust in the parents I chose to riase these sweet souls. I chose who I did knowing how big the responsibility would be. I let go of both babies in the hospital and that is it.
I hate to take a harsh angle but the truth is, they are no longer my right or responsibility and the sooner that is greeted with peace in my heart the sooner I can harvest better relationships with the families raising my babies.
I have plenty of updates about these beautiful expereinces but I believe certain pieces of information have a time and a season to be shared. I have been healing and growing from my recent placement and I am grateful for the people who never forget me in their prayers. I have been loved and embraced and I appreciate the open mindedness through some circumstances that can be hard to understand.
"Live and Learn," a line you hear frequently. A line that is applicable to so many situations and scenarios. A line whose meaning I felt was heavily applicable after my first adoption experience. There was no questioning it. An event that huge, with that much impact was sure to change the core of who I was. It was inconceivable that I would find myself there again. The same disregards for birth control, irresponsible intimacy and just plain recklessness could never happen a second time. It was impossible.
Less than a year from the time I placed my baby girl with an incredible family I was again facing the reality of an accidental pregnancy. At first I felt like a double adoption was out of the question. I felt that I absolutely had to parent this baby because how would I own up to this... AGAIN. How could I have not "Lived and Learned?" Am I ready for another baby? How could I be back here, in the same unfit circumstances? Yeah, the first time around was heroic and selfless. "Accidents happen" right, but AGAIN!?
From the discouraging moment I held that positive test in my hand I planned to make parenting work. I just had to. Even though the same logistics that played into my decision last time (unplanned, unmarried and in over my head) were still in the forefront of my mind. I pushed the option or consideration of adoption out of my mind. I just kept thinking that I made my bed, I have to lay in it this time.
Weeks were passing, I hushed my uncertainty but with every kick and flutter of the baby I was uneasily bringing to the world I began to let myself remember the year before. The experience I had with adoption and the peace and conviction that came with my decision continued to circulate in my mind.
I finally summoned the courage to mention adoption to the biological father and the answer was no. He specifically said he would "never let it happen." It broke my spirit to hear those words. I was torn and felt intensely powerless at first. He didn't agree so I was at his mercy. Clearly I would have no choice if he didn't agree. I knew he had the best intentions as a father but I could see that for both of us, intentions do not put food on the table, it doesn't babysit my two month old baby while I work 40 hours a week, it doesn't mend the heartbreak for a child growing up in two separate homes and it certainly could not bring us together as a couple, among other issues I will spare.
We weren't together at the time of conception. We had one night (shame on me) then a month later had a double pink line staring us in the face. My reasons for ending it with him hadn't changed. Big lifestyle differences, parenting differences and future goals made it clear I needed to be done with him indefinintely. At that point it was decided we were not going to pursue a romantic relationship. A co-parenting arrangement was the only thing left on the table. He was more than okay not having a healthy, two parent home to offer this baby and it didn't sit right with me. We continued to pretend this was a good idea anyway. I even tried to have him over here and there to keep us in some realm of friendship for the sake of our future co-parent relationship. It always ended in the defeating feeling that I wasn't doing the right thing. Even accepting that I settled with calling it a "co-parenting" relationship before the baby was born gave me some serious heartbreak for this sweet baby. The thought of the back and forth, the hard sharing of holidays, major events and especially the day to day unrest a child undoubtably feels being passed around were killing me inside. I continuously had this ever growing resentment toward him that I was choosing what he wanted instead of what I instinctually felt was best for my son.
After weeks of tossing and turning and waking up in the night with true anxiety, I finally called my case worker and scheduled a meeting to talk. I had questions. What were my rights? I needed to know what my options were and if it was impossible to even consider adoption due to the biological fathers disagreement. If there was no chance legally then I could put adoption to rest and make parenting work, against my better judgement. I went into the meeting that day very hopeful for the news that the choice was mine. I so badly needed to hear that I had power over this innocent life and I was able to make a better decision for his benefit.
What that meeting brought was a game changer. I had more rights than I thought and I had the power to choose. It didn't take long to switch gears and find an acceptance with a second adoption and myself for even being in the same situation again. Yes, it came with embarrassment and a hellish kind of shame. However, with a miracle spirit, it also came with an understanding of what was going to happen. I had done this before. I decided I could either hate myself for this reality or use it as a strength. I knew the healing that came with it and the unexpected joy of placing a healthy baby with a prepared and deserving couple. I knew the confirming feelings of Gods plan unfolding. The events coming up were not new to me. I found the "why" in it last time and slowly I was finding the "why" this time around.
What I came to realize was that owning up to it instead of hiding it gave me a liberation from the shame. That is something I want to share with all birth moms and especially second or third time birth moms. Just own it! Your story should be told and you are no less for it. Each sweet child deserves the best chance for a healthy life and if choosing to place is what is right for you then I am proud to be among you!
Once I decided on the adoption and the process was rolling I moved forward in life with relief and peace in my choice. Other than handling the disapproval from the birth father and a separate sadness for him about how it had to happen I had put most of the anxieties about the future to rest. I could appreciate his desire to parent and his willingness to do so but I couldn't let that be the blind fold to what the reality was. I couldn't have lived with knowing there was a window of time to choose more certainty for my son and that I didn't follow my instinct as a mother. Some may say the act of deciding and moving forward without his consent was harsh and unfair. My natural reponse to that is thankfully empowering. I was overwhelmed with conviction. I still am. He told me no early on so I had to move forward without him. We had many dicussuons about why he wouldn't agree and they all came back to what he wanted out of it. The reality is that someone more concerned about what they want and what is more fun for them than the life of the child won't look at every option no matter what. They won't face their limitations or the raw truth of their situation. I knew I had to do this on my own because allowing the impaired opinion of someone else to influence something so huge was weakness on my part. Hell yeah I struggled with fear of what the birth father would feel or think or what his circle would have to say about it. I stressed about the outcome, absolutely! However, I would choose that perception from outside sources any day before I try to face myself for backing away from what I knew was right just to avoid opinions of others. The truth is, I am a mother. I was sent this sweet boy. I had his whole life in my body and in my hands! If I wasn't going to fight for him, who would? When I take that approach there is no question, the biological father and I were not ready. We hadn't planned or prepared to parent. I felt sadness because he couldn't realize it.
I have said this before but it's worth repeating. Having sex does not qualify you for parenthood. Yes, scientifically you made a baby but raising a child takes much more than science. Sleeping together doesn't equal love. One irresponsible night does not warrant an entire life of a child resulting in turbulence, two seperate homes, different parenting appraoches and ideals or worse things that come with certain situations. A summer fling does not come with the luxury of selfishness. Do you think it's easy for me to admit my behavior last summer and the immaturities that got me here? No, it's not, but it's the ugly truth and I would rather look it in the face and give this delicate little life a freaking chance!
The father and I do not agree on these matters and perhaps mine is the unpopular opinion worldwide. I don't care. This is bigger and more important than avoiding the emotion or pain of accepting your mistakes and limitations. I was confident then and moreso now that this baby belonged with a couple in love and ready to offer all of their best.
And that is exactly what I found. The details of the entire expereince could fill a novel so I will break it up in pieces. What I can say is that the feeling that came in the hospital as I brought him into the world confirmed to me that I had placed that precious boy with his parents, the people he was meant to be with. The aftermath of this decision has been much harder than expected and I couldn't have prepared for the emotions it has brought.
BUT! I would not change it for the world. I love my son just as I love each sweet baby that I physically brought down from Heaven. My conviction as a mother out weighs the opinions of others and I know I did the right thing... again. Heaven doesn't mess with adoption and I am so grateful for the love and support shown through my struggle.
I am an advocate for adoption. I am an advocate of proper birth control and want to use this platform to bring awareness. Please be smart. If you are not ready for the lifestyle it should require to raise a child, use birth control! If you find yourself unexpectedly pregnant in an unfit situation, look into your options. I know how scary it can be, believe me! Reach out for support and love, you are still very much worthy of help and comfort as you navigate next steps. I couldn't have had as much peace through this without the judgement free people I am blessed to have around me.
My story will continue as both of my adoptions are open and a big part of my life. I love all three of my babies and my choices will not always make sense to outsiders but I will say that I am happy. I feel deep joy when I get to hold or see either child I placed for adoption. I thrive as they thrive in the family and home I couldn't provide.
I vividly remember the fall of 2017, about a month before I placed Juniper for adoption. Hardly anyone knew I was pregnant and planning on adoption. At that time I was mentally preparing for the backlash of negativity coming once it was no longer under wraps. The opinions, judgements and disapprovals were inevitably coming in my mind. I knew I was making the right choice and I was confident in that but I now had to ready myself to defend it publically as I decided to share my story.
My method of preparation was to root myself in my reasons why. I just knew if I explained my "why's" I could make anyone understand. I believed so heavily that my decision was the obvious best choice. I also understood that it wasn't so obvious to others right away. However, I was convinced once someone knew my reasons they would immediately get it. I shared my first blog post a week post placement. There were two surprises after I went live.
The first surprise was the amount of positive feedback and support I received! Secondly I was surpirised I was actually lacking that disapproval I expected to have which was such a relief but very shocking. I had questions from people but none that I felt came form a place of disagreement. If anything it was simple, genuine curiosity which I was happy to face instead.
Fast forward to today. I have recently faced the opposition in my decision I expected to have in October 2017. I have gained so much peace in sharing my story over the past 18 months and I accepted that society really is gracious just in time to realize it is not 100% gracious. I finally felt the heavy weight of disapproval. I actually had feelings of inadequecy I hadn't faced yet as a birthmom, almost as if I deserved less in my life for choosing to place. The opinions of others were really impacting what I believed about myself, that I deserve a happy marraige to someone amazing and more children in my future. I had moments of doubt that I was tainted and second rate because I had had an unplanned pregnancy.
After feeling that pain for the first time I decided to talk about the stereotypes that come with being a birthmother and a few things I did to restore my self worth. Fortunately the adoption community has grown and expanded so many minds so these steroetypes are much less common but they are out there and even years after placement may effect birthmoms. Self-esteem, relationships, the healing process, etc. may all be effected.
At first I was overwhelmed with defensiveness and anger I hadn't yet felt. I have since accepted that I cannot change someone's opinion. I cannot make them understand me and my choice but I can choose to look beyond their lack of understanding to the bigger picture.
Here are some of the most common misconceptions about birthmothers and the facts.
1. We are all teen moms.
Actually I was 24, divorced and already a mother to a 3 year old. Many other birthmothers I know personally are in their 30's and even 40's when they chose to place. You can still decide that you are not equippped to parent even if you aren't 16 years old. We are allowed to know our limitations at any age. If anything it may be more difficult as you can see loopholes in where you may feel ready to parent so that black and white line is much more watered down. People expect you to parent at an older age. I had this question many times, "You already have a daughter, why wouldn't you choose to parent your second?" I have written about that more in depth in previous posts so I will spare detail but I knew my limitations at that time. I couldn't romanticize parenting and having a new little baby in my circumstances. I knew what it took and I am glad I had that self awareness to say no, I cannot provide what I know she deserves right now.
2. We are addicts.
Some are addicts, most aren't. BUT that is true of people in general. To me, if that is the case, then why aren't we applauding the small percentage that are admitting it and want better for thier babies?
3. We are uneducated.
In fact, more that half of birthmothers have an associates degree and much more than that have their highschool diploma. Studies show that women who choose to place pursue higher education and finish school with a defgree. I have personally chose not to go back to school but I made that choice long before even having my first daughter and it definitely had nothing to do with my unplanned pregnancy or decision to place. I have since had some big career growth and believe that was partly possible because I chose to allow someone ready to parent to be there for her 100%.
4. We sleep around.
This is a big one for me. I was irresponsible with birth control regularity. I wasn't moonlighting at the local bordello. Each of my pregnancies were while in a committed relationship and yes, I own the fact that is still not a reason to neglect birth control but when people hear birthmother they probably think we are sleeping around.
I will be the first to raise my hand when it comes to knowingly staying in an unhealthy relationship and allowing the actions that lead me to where I am. If you know me or read this blog you know I am well aware of my flaws in this area. I am not justifying the fact that I have had two unplanned pregnancies just because we were in a relationship. I do however refuse to feel like less because my physical state proves I was sexually active when most everyone is. I can only try to make the best of it once it happens. I am to the point where I see there is a line of viewing myself as trashy for having unplanned preganncy OR I can precieve myslef as classy and worthy of the best things in life!
5. We just don't want the baby.
Also false and probably the most hurtful bias. That is why some women abort. They don't want the inconvenience of preganancy. For a birthmom to go through 9 months of this just to have empty arms at the end is exactly the opposite. Birthmoms want their babies, but they want them in the right circumstances and that is much more selfless than choosing to parent knowing you cannot provide what someone else can. I say this a lot but I know my limitations. I know I am a single mom already facing all that comes with even one child and her dad. I would have been lying to myslef if I told myself I could have done all of that again at that time. I feel deep sadness when I hear "How could she take it out on that poor baby," or that I am selfish for not "bucking up and parenting." Guess what? I did buck up. I fulfilled my role in her life and I am so blessed to be able to see that confirmation daily that I did the right thing.
There are probably more common mosconceptions I didn't touch on. As sad as it is that this is still an issue with all that goes on in the world I am happy to say that there is support and genuine respect for your decision as a birthmom. So many incredible families are brought together through your sacrifice.
For me, the prejudices have hit close to home in recent weeks and I have a few ways I have been combatting them that may help a fellow birthmom out there.
First I go back to "My Why's." I reread words I wrote when I made my decision. I look at all it takes to be there emotionally, financially and physically for a baby and remember what my limitations were at the time. This really gives me my power back as I remember that I took charge of my situation with my baby's best interest at heart.
Second, I reach out to those who I know supported me then and support me now. They remind me that there is understanding and open minds we can lean on. It is good to know the negative opinions are so small in number compared to the supportive ones.
Third and most difficult sometimes, I pray to understand those who judge me. I sincerely hope they can let go of the biases and disapproval and realize that my dicision was MINE. It does not help me to feel anger towards those who don't understand. It does not serve me to wallow in those opinions. I am a birthmom. Plain and simple. I know what it means to me and that is all that matters!
Fourth and final for now, I try to use social media carefully. Anyone with eyes and a laptop can critisize you online. Do not put yourself out there if you allow those faceless comments to effect you. Just don't go there. Network validation is pretty empty if it is all you have to rely on. Be okay with yourself and your decision first and then you may be ready to share your incredible, unique story. If you are struggling at any stage in your motherhood, be aware of online risks and rewards. You are more than a blanket steroetype! Remember that!
Ultimately this is how I look at it. You are beautiful, the world is big and life is long! Let yourself be happy, let yourself progress unapologetically and hold tight to the truth that you owe nothing to anyone. You have every right, as does everyone, to learn lessons your own way and put your self worth first!
Your families love you, your babies love and revere you and I am very proud to be among this community of strong women.