A Few Initials and a Signature
Brek's Birth Story Part 2
What can I say about a few initials and a signature. Flipping over pages of cold, legally worded paragraphs outlining what I was giving up, what I was letting go of. How much can I describe the quiet in the room with only the sound of turning pages and all eyes on my right hand signing away my legal guardianship over my son. Two years ago today, 24 hours after birth I was relinquishing my parental rights, again.
I had done this once before and I was strong and steady through it all.
Not this time.
I was saying goodbye to him in ways I couldn't get back. There was no changing my mind after this. I didn't doubt that what I was doing was the right thing for him but knowing that didn't make it any easier. Tears were rolling down my face as my case worker read each acknowledgement of my choice to place him for adoption. Each phrase stating very clearly that this was binding and I would no longer be involved or responsible for decisions made on his behalf. I would no longer have influence or a part in his special little existence. The words stung as I put my blue ink pen to paper to say okay, I agree. I was agreeing to completely remove myself and give another mother the freedom to raise him. I imagined the mother I chose nurturing him, snuggling with him and raising him in her home creating memories I didn't get to have. Of course it was painful, selfishly I wanted all of that for myself.
The finality of it was very rattling. My senses were on overload realizing it was almost official and he would go home with his parents. Even saying that sometimes is crazy to me. Just like that he is no longer a part of my body and no longer a part of my life.
Labor and delivery has its own set of hard emotions and this time I felt very happy through delivery but the relinquishment of my rights took me down a different path with Brek more so than Juniper. It is still ironic how the experiences were the same in so many ways and yet so unique and distinct in my mind. The surreal and special moments are engraved in my mind with each baby. They both brought with them an incredible spirit of resilience and strength. I remember being in awe at the sense of peace I felt while I held each of them for the first and last time as their mother.
I am very glad I took a little time with each of them and felt no doubt in my decisions. I know it was because there were greater forces at play and the families that were chosen, not by me but by some higher plan, were meant to be there. The dedication and love as parents was so apparent to me in the hospital as it all unfolded. I know they had the capacity to love and offer stability in ways I couldn't at the time.
So with every initial, every signature, and definitive phrase--I was allowing that plan to happen. I wanted nothing more than the best chance for these children to grow and thrive with attentive parents and complete, whole homes.
I used to wonder if I would have that to offer them shortly after placement and then feel guilty, regretful and sad but the truth is, that wouldn't matter! I am still not able to and so that helps me make even more sense of it but even if I did have that to give now, two and three years later, I know it was right then. I couldn't have had the strength to relinquish my rights as a mother if it weren't the absolute right thing to do.
Now, two years later my heart is so full seeing Brek grow and smile ear to ear in photos and during visits. I am grateful most for open adoption and the ability to see both children happily with their families.
All three of my babies give me strength and hope in the greater picture of life.
Brek's Birth Story Part 1
I placed my third baby in the arms of his mom and dad in May 2019. I haven't written about that experience in detail yet. Although it was my second open adoption and I (in some ways) knew what to expect, it was an emotional surprise. The timing and relationship dynamics were different and I can look back now and see how I tried to turn off the raw emotion I was open to with my first adoption. I was battling shame and fear that I rushed to a decision and how would this choice effect everyone involved. I had so many beautiful confirming experiences in such a short time that I let myself question if they were truly sincere or if they were just me acting out of stress and inadequacy. I don't fault myself for feeling that way or even shutting down a little bit but I do wish I could have been more present emotionally for the birth and relinquishment. I believe Brek deserved that from me and his parents as well.
His birth story was still a very special and surreal time for me. He was perfection and the second I saw him, I knew that after all the doubt and fear he came to the right place in the right time.
I was still working full-time through my pregnancy and I was pretty happy with how "together" I kept it during this time of big decisions and life changing shifts. It was one day until my induction date when I had a huge rush of anxiety and urgency to have the experience over with. The relationship with his biological father was different than with Juniper and the circumstances made me very anxious.
I can explain more on that later because the birth father's story is just as relevant as mine but pieces of that story aren't mine to tell. I can share my point of view and why I made the decision I did. It may not always be received well so I am hesitant to dive into it but I am a very transparent person. I think there is strength and value is sharing the ugly parts too so all aspects of my journey are open for questions. I will answer with discretion and respect for everyone involved. Ultimately, I believe no one was in the wrong in their actions, thought processes or opinions. The forces that push us in certain directions cannot always be explained but I believe they will all make sense some day.
As I tried to process each emotion day by day, some days got the best of me. My boss at the time found me in the hallway near the restroom trying to hide the panic attack. I was shamelessly and uncontrollably sobbing. She could see I just couldn't care about work at that point. I was at emotional capacity and I needed to just go home. As I packed a few things from my desk for my time off all I could think was, "this is it, there is no more time." I couldn't decide what that meant for me though. Was I happy about it or sad, or both? In a way I was more than ready to have this chapter of my life over but even more than that relief was the deep sadness that this baby was about to be separate from me. He was mine all this time, in my body and in my heart and now I prepare to say goodbye. However, the thing that helped me move through that sadness was knowing with my goodbye was a powerful, sweet hello from his parents.
I remembered the night I met with his parents and decided to place this precious life in their hands. I couldn't deny the peace I felt. We had such a calming and genuine conversation that night. The guilt from my irresponsible decisions that brought me to that place started to fade as I realized Brek needed to be here and again, I was blessed to be the vessel to bring him here.
I left work exhausted physically and mentally that day. I got home and as I laid down to just breathe, the phone rang. All of the sudden my doctor is telling me I can go in early. I was not expecting this and didn't know if I was okay with it or not. I thought I would have a minute to take it all in but no, he said "get checked into the hospital and we can get you going!" I just got up, grabbed my pre-packed bag, and drove my car to the hospital.
Through all of these hills and valleys of feelings I waddled through the doors of the Women's Center without a second thought. I was about to enter the room so vivid in my mind. The same room I delivered Juniper and relinquished my parental rights not even two years prior.
Recalling that feeling of walking back into such a dream-like memory gives me goosebumps now. No regrets or sadness, only hope remained there.
I was alone, I checked in, and with a very somber anticipation changed into my hospital gown. I just stared out the window at the spring flower beds blooming for what felt like an hour. I needed that before I felt like telling anyone where I was and that I was admitted to the hospital early. I had so much support and encouragement from every corner but in that moment looking at the flowers, I felt completely alone with my baby. I took in that time to accept what was happening and to be as open as I could to the vulnerability I was about to experience. My huge belly almost smiled back at me like it was an old friend that was proud of the decision I was about to make. It was a surreal feeling to know it was all about to change. Nine months in this place of growing and feeling him would soon be a memory. Once I felt strong enough to see everyone and maintain my calm I made the calls.
It was always very important to me to be open and uninhibited by embarrassment in the birth experience. In my mind if I chose this family to raise this child then they should be there for everything they possibly can and the moment a baby enters this world is a sacred one. They were my first phone call and they were immediately headed over when I told them I was at the hospital. In a way, their excitement and anticipation was calming and healing for me. He would be in very loving hands.
My support system also dropped everything to be by my side. My dad, his wife and two of my sisters were my consistent adoption support team. I don't know that they will ever know how much it meant to have to make these huge decisions and feel their support, even if they couldn't understand them sometimes. They took my daughter Haven and were there for her during a time that she may not have been able to make sense of and that meant the world.
As everyone arrived with excitement and an unknowing of how it would all happen I took my place as the calm and collected one. For some reason the faith I had in the process carried me through the panic. I knew adoption was a gift and each experience is crafted by a higher power. I didn't have to ask myself ever again if I was doing the right thing.
The actual deliver went very smooth. I was on Pitocin that evening and as things slowly started to progress I felt labor pains getting worse. I was familiar with the process but getting to the point where I could get the epidural was taking longer than any of us expected so we kept on waiting through the night. I was doing well once I was given the drugs, naturally. I received my epidural around 8:00am the next morning. We waited all morning having visitors in and out. I spent time with Brek's parents, my family and my boyfriend at the time was there as well. Those memories of talking and laughing are very close to my heart and I will never forget the warmth of that hospital room.
I often get surprised looks when I tell people how open I am about it all. I just feel like life is a million little moments and experiences. Sometimes we shield people from the most intimate ones. Why? It was a piece of me, a chapter of my life that was shaping who I was becoming and if I wanted someone to really know me why would I keep them from those deep, real moments? I am no longer with that boyfriend but I do not regret having the memory and growing experience with him. I do not regret letting both sets of adoptive parents in the room during delivery. Sure, it's a vulnerable place to be but in my opinion what is the point in having these major transformative pieces of life if I am experiencing them alone? Now we can recall it together with fondness and that seemingly vulnerable exposure is a special memory. I had the choice to allow them to have that memory of Brek entering the world or because of my fear of embarrassment, they would not have that. So, I put aside the potentially uncomfortable and possibly funny 'what if's.' It was a beautiful time.
After the morning of slowly progressing and dilating we were finally to a 10 and ready to push. Luckily this delivery followed my previous two with ease and minimal struggle. I didn't really have to push, he was ready to join us. Once he was delivered, his parents had all eyes on him and I could tell in their expressions this was something they would never forget. He was so sweet and perfect. We were all happy to hear that he was healthy and strong.
Normally this is where I would lose it and become overwhelmed but I stayed grounded in my decision and just kept a silent prayer in my heart that he knew I loved him so much and always would.
The next 24 hours were a mixed bag of happiness and surreal emotions leading up to signing my relinquishment documents. I will cover that experience in my next post. The irony of having both adoption experiences in the same hospital, same room even, is that the emotions were flip flopped in a way. I broke down during delivery with Juniper but not relinquishment. Then kept it together with Brek during delivery but not relinquishment. I think the important thing is that we cannot predict anything about thee kinds of moments. All we can do is move through it with love and trust.
I love open adoption and I am forever grateful for the blessings in my life that have come from being their birth mom.
Why I feel guilty for being Happy.
'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.