Humbled Behind "Enemy" Lines

The pain of adoption does NOT start with loss for the Birth Mother. It starts with the woman who is forced to look outside herself because everything about her body and nature has failed her.
— Ashley Mitchell, Birth Mother

Adoption is scary.  There is SO much fear with the unknown.  The "other sides" that force us to act and do so many things based on our lack of understanding.

Never let fear dictate your relationships.  You will be greatly deprived of something magical.

I had the incredible opportunity to attend a Steering Retreat for the upcoming CHOOSE JOY EVENT in Palm Springs this past weekend.  I knew that we would talk about the event, I knew that we would talk about Adoption and I knew that we would all share our stories....but what I didn't know was how I was going to feel through this process.  What happened almost put me on the floor.  

It takes a lot to ruffle my feathers.  I have seen so much and experienced so much that I forget sometimes what it feels like to have one of those core shaking moments....those reminders that God brings to us to keep us focused, to keep us humble and to HIT US LIKE A TRUCK so that we will get out of our own damn way.  

I love Birth Mothers.  I always have.  This journey of mine started because of my overwhelming desire to connect with women who, like myself, chose adoption when at a crossroad.  I wanted to know them, to understand them, and to serve them.  

But I have a great conflict in emotion because I have a deep and overwhelming love for the Adoptive Families.  The woman that adopted my son is a part of me.  We are connected.  

As I think back to some of those precious moments with her I am deeply humbled.

I learned something so sacred and special that day.  There are very few things in this world that are more precious and more amazing to a mother than hearing their baby cry for the first time.  The second he came into this world, I wanted him close.  They placed my son on my chest and he cried.

That sound, that precious, sacred sound filled the room. My heart was breaking.  I knew that I was sharing that very first cry with someone else.  That cry wasn’t just for me.  I knew that out in the hall, listening and waiting through that door was his mother.  I know that when she heard the very first cry of our son, she wept.

People always ask about him with them and what that is like for me.  I just smile and say "he looks like his dad."  He belongs in that family; he is a part of their family. 

I carry him in my heart but he is all theirs- body, mind and soul. I gave him life, and they are helping him live it. I am eternally indebted to them for saving me, for saving him. They are the true heroes of my journey.
— Ashley Mitchell, Birth Mother

Birth Mothers can be proud creatures.  We need to be a little proud.  We need to be validated and lifted up in strength for our choices. We need that to put one foot in front of the other.

 I think that we sometimes blur the line between needing to be lifted in love and light and needing to be lifted in praise and entitlement because of our choices.  

Let me make one thing very clear in my experience.  I am not a "proud" Birth Mother.  I am not proud of the choices and decisions in my life that made me a birth mom.  I am not proud that I got pregnant, I am not proud that I strongly considered abortion and I am NOT proud that I had to put myself in a position to make the choice of adoption to begin with.

If I am being honest, the majority of my pain and anger during those first years after placement was really directed at myself.  I was SO angry that I was in this place.  I was so angry that this was my new reality...and I could only point that finger at myself.    

I truly believe that in the worst circumstances I made the best possible choice.  I truly believe that I did what was right given ALL the information at the time.  Has that changed?  maybe.  Does it all look different almost 10 years later?  absolutely.  But that is a choice that I made.  

For me it wasn’t about making the decision to place with 100% confidence. I never had that kind of clarity. It was about making the decision and then choosing to live with it everyday for the rest of my life.
— Ashley Mitchell, Birth Mother

This past weekend I sat in a room full of amazing women.  Women that shared the sacred and emotional experiences of Infertility, countless miscarriages and their deepest and purest desires to become a mother.  

 Photo Cred:  Kelly Treadway

Photo Cred:  Kelly Treadway

Some were called to become a mother through Foster Care, some through Domestic + International Adoption.   

One by one they shared their hearts.  They shared their pain and their struggle.  They shared their hope and their faith.  They shared their prayers and their triumphs.  

They were open, honest and vulnerable.  They didn't hold back, they didn't sugar coat and they didn't pretend.  

I felt like I was trespassing.  Like I was hearing some secret sisterhood code that only this elite group of women were allowed to hear.  So many times I felt like I needed to honor their privacy and leave the room.  As I leaned against the back wall and just listened and watched I could not stop the tears from streaming down my face.  

The conflict of emotion almost brought me to my knees.  

I had to step out for a minute.  I had to remove myself, very aware of how I was feeling.  

Those moments of picking a family, those first meetings, those sacred moments in the hospital, saying good-bye to my son.  I was right back there.  Like it was yesterday I was right back there.  Engulfed in my pain and emotion, yet not wanting to be disrespectful of the realities of the other side.  The women that were overcome with emotion as their babies were brought into this world, as they were becoming mothers, as they were living out their answered prayers.

I slid down the wall, crumbled to the floor.  Sobbing uncontrollably.  Trying to hold it in, trying to keep the sound muffled.  

I am so grateful for moments like these.  I am so grateful for reminders that no matter how long it has been since placement I feel great pain and loss.  That no matter how "fine" I am I will ALWAYS have moments of complete and utter breakdown for the experiences in my life.

I am so grateful to be humbled to tears from the realities of the experiences of others.  To truly understand those on the "other side".  To see and hear and feel their experience so deeply.  I am honored to know them and to call them my friends.  

Almost ten years SHE has been the mother to our son.  SHE is the one that has been there day in and day out.  SHE has suffered and celebrated.  She has been burdened and has been lifted in prayer.  SHE has struggle through her own battles and fought her way to motherhood.  SHE is one of the most important women in my life.  

These women have read unflattering and unkind posts about "their side", about who they are in the lives of these children and about the great pain and damage they have caused.  

We are all GREATLY uneducated on the sides of Adoption.  We have a long way to go in learning to love ourselves and to love each other.  

I will always tell my story.  I will always share the realities of this journey.  But I will always keep in mind the hearts that are reading it.  

Thank you.  You know who you are.  Thank you for allowing me to come, for sharing your hearts with me and for never holding back.  It is a sacred honor and I am forever changed for this experience.  

Two Birth Moms. One Community.

*I have met so many amazing women during this journey.  I have watched women blossom and heal and connect and find great peace in their life because of the amazing birth mom community that started this all!  These women have become my soul sisters and have fought many battles by my side.  I am honored today to share an amazing story, two birth moms from a very different generation of adoption and how they have survived these past years, how they came to find BTG and what this community has done to change their life forever!  xo Ashley Mitchell


Meet Roanne.

My name is Roanne and I am a Big Tough Girl!

I was 19 years old when I found out I was pregnant. I was informed by the doctors as I was trying to enlist in the NY Army National Guard. When I told my boyfriend at the time, we decided to look into abortion. When we went to the doctors office, I was told that I was at least four months along. Abortion was not an option. We talked about raising our unborn child together. We picked out names. When I was around seven months along, the birthfather announced to me that he was leaving. His parents gave him $300 to walk away and forget about us both. I was alone and terrified. I was heartbroken. I was losing my best friend. I moved home to my parents. My mom and I sat and talked about what I was going to do. My parents told me that it was my decision and they would support my decision....

A couple of months after I placed, I was living alone for the first time in my life. I was trying to work through my grief and depression. One night my whole world was turned upside down. As I came home from work and unlocked my door, my neighbor forced his way into my apartment. That night he raped me. I was devastated and felt more alone than I ever had. The very first people I thought to call were my birthson's parents. They called my parents for me. My mom showed up at my door with my black Great Dane and we called the cops together. For years I allowed him to take what strength I had left. I tried to allow myself to heal by burying it. It is still very hard for me to talk about. 

A year later I allowed my demons to consume me. I attempted suicide. I slit my wrists because I didn't want to feel it anymore. I believed I couldn't handle the pain anymore. My best friend saved my life that night. She made me call and talk to a therapist that was offered through our work. My best friend also sat and reminded me how amazing of a person I am. I am thankful that she was there for me. She still reminds me every so often. I feel this helped me push to make my adoption the way it is. I needed the extra love and support and thankfully my birthson's family was willing to give me their love.

Being a birthmom is an emotional roller coaster. There are still triggers that I deal with. I suffered from depression in the beginning and hid it from my birthson and his family. They were my happy place and I didn't want them to know how much I hurt. Leaving after a visit was very hard in the beginning. I felt my heart break all over again. Over time it has become easier on me emotionally. I have discovered so many things about who I am. I found strength that I didn't know that I had until I needed it. In the beginning it was very hard for me to be a birthmom. I always thought of how they felt. I understood that they may feel threatened by me and did everything I could to show them how amazing they are as parents. I understood that I had to step back and was no longer a parent to the child. I never thought of my birthson as my son. Our relationship is very special....

My birthson is almost 17 years old. He is an amazing young man. His family is my family. I can't imagine my life without them. They are amazing. My birthson was the ring bearer at my wedding. He is a big brother to not only their other four children but to my youngest. We text every day. He is becoming one of my best friends. I treasure every moment with him and look forward to our time together. We have a special bond that we both treasure. His parents have done an amazing job raising him.

Over time my journey has become easier. There are still hard days, but I know I am not alone. I have an amazing support system. I belong to positive support groups. I have a special group of women that I call my sisters now. I have a wonderful extended family. We celebrate every Christmas Eve as a family. They have opened their home not only to myself and my parents, but to my siblings and in-laws. I am invited to all of their family gatherings and special events. I consider my open adoption my first marriage. It has taken a lot of hard work and time to build the relationship and trust with my chosen family. I can honestly say that I have never regretted my decision to place my birthson. I learned so much about who I am because of my journey. I am proud to be a birthmom. My only regret is that I didn't have his mom there for his birth. Having a successful open adoption is like having a successful marriage. You have to think of what is best for everyone. I always put their feelings before mine. It was hard and hurt at first. Now, it just comes naturally. They have done the same with me....

Open adoption taught me about unconditional love, not only of a child but of another family. My amazing family that I am blessed to have. I can never thank them enough for all their love and for the amazing job they have done. Seeing my birthson with my son is music to my soul. Seeing the love that they have for each other is amazing. Adoption is not an easy choice or journey. Do the research first. Know what you are going into. If you put the hard work in from all sides it can be amazing and beautiful. I'm proud to be a birthmom! 

After 16 years of trying to navigate my journey as a birthmom with only a few close friends, my parents, and my birthsons family there to support me, I decided to look for support groups through Facebook. I found a few that I am a part of. I refuse to allow negativity into my life. The support groups I belong to are all encouraging, loving and supportive of me. We are always there to help each other when needed. Having others who understand your journey is amazing.



Meet Bridget.


Hi my Name is Bridget. I have been a birthmom for 36 years. My journey starts in rural northern New York in 1977. I was a 17 yr old girl with a boyfriend who was in the military. I found myself pregnant in the spring of 77. Too afraid to tell my parents I waited until I was 5 months to tell them. Although my father deep down knew. My parents did not take the news well. In my generation teen pregnancy was to be ashamed of to be  kept a secret. By the time I was 7 months along my boyfriend dumped me. One of the last things I ever heard from him was “you and the baby could die in labor. ”...

I had no where to turn, no idea what to do. You see I lived with an a alcoholic father and my mom had self commuted to a mental institution.  My whole family was in turmoil. My father teld me I “could not bring that baby into his home.” I went to Social Services for help, but the only help they offered me was adoption. At first I was shocked! I wanted my baby. I kept thinking once I had the baby my boyfriend would come back to me. But as the pressure mounted at home and also from the social worker I decided adoption was my only choice....

My baby girl came into this world 8 weeks early. I was not prepared. My mom had just returned from the mental hospital 2 days before I had her. I held her every chance I had in the hospital. The day I left the hospital and left her there was the hardest day of my life! In my day the baby did not go to the adopting family until after a 30 day stay in a foster home.  After I went home I wanted her so bad that finally my dad said I could go get her from hospital and bring her home.  I was so excited! We went and got her....

The first thing my dad said to me when I walked in the house with her was “You have 2 weeks to get out of my house.” It was the middle of February and I had no placed to go. So after two days of listening to my parents fight and my Dad telling I had to get out, I knew I was defeated. I knew I could not raise this baby alone or in the dysfunctional house that I lived in. So on the second day I called my caseworker to come and get her. That was February 25,1978. It was the last time I ever saw her....

In my generation you never talked about the baby you had and gave up.  I had family members and friends who never even knew I had a baby. I had signed the papers and let her go. For 33 years I lived in shame and guilt never telling people I was a birth mom. I was ashamed of being a birth mom....

Fast forward 33 years. That is when Becky form helpusadopt.org came into my life. She was was able to take away all the years of shame and guilt. She helped me see the pride and courage that it took for me to sign those papers relinquishing my parental rights to my daughter. She was able to change my whole life in more ways than one. If we fast forward again another 2 years, that is when Becky introduced me to Susan. Little did I know that my whole world was going to change again. Susan is a search angel that helps birth moms find children they placed for adoption. I had never heard of a search angel before.

On a Sunday in late sept of 2013 I had an hour conversation with Susan on the phone. Her last words to me were “It may take some time Bridget but, I will find your girl.” Even after we hung up I knew she would never find her. I knew that NYS records were sealed never to be opened. So, you can imagine my surprise when exactly one week later my phone rang and it was Susan with 3 questions:

“What county is Massena in?”

I said “St.Lawrence County.”

“What county Is Norwood / Norfolk in?”

Again I said ”St.Lawrence County.”

“Where is Brasher Falls.”

Once more I answered ”St.Lawrence County.”

The next sentence changed my life forever! “Bridget, your Daughter lives in Brasher Falls.” That was only  50 minutes away from me. I was floored.  Susan wouldn’t give me her name. She had called and left messages for my daughter but my daughter hadn’t called Susan back yet. Susan wanted to explain everything to my girl since the search angel normally breaks the news. The best news Susan gave me was that my girl had searched for me for 5 years. That gave me hope.  The next day my girl still hadn’t called Susan, so Susan gave me all the info that she had found. My first step was to get on Facebook and just look at her. “Oh my Heavens she looks just like me.”  At 4 pm that night I called and she picked up.  My words went something like this:

“Hi I am Bridget. I am not a tell a marketer.  This is a serious call.” She said “Yes what is it?” I said “I am your Birthmom.” She said “shut the —- up.” Then she kept saying “How do you know,” so I kept repeating her birthdate, her weight, and height. Then I said “I took you home for two days.” She then got silent and said “That is the only fact we ever had. Mom took me home for two days.”

Two hours later we where standing in a Pizza Hut Parking lot in Canton N.Y.  hugging.  We have not let go yet. We just celebrated our first anniversary and I will never let go again. We are one of the lucky ones because we got our happy ending. We have each other back.


BRIDGET AND ROANNE JOIN BTG.

These women came to find us in different ways but we have been SO blessed in our group because of them.  These women never shared their story, they had never met up with another birth mom and they had never been able to openly share about adoption and what it has meant to them.  Through our community all of this has become possible.  THEY have showed up, they have done the work in their life, they continue to participate, take our classes, create opportunities to meet-up, share gifts and support for each other and have blossomed in their own strength and have let go of so much that has kept them stuck.  I am so honored to call these women my friend.  I am so honored to stand with them not only as a Birth Mother but as a Big Tough Girl.  Reading their following words about BTG and what it means to them brings me to tears.  xo Ashley Mitchell. 


From Roanne:  I spent the first 16 years of my journey searching for women who knew how I felt. Who could truly understand the emotions and loss. I had support from a few members of my family and one dear friend, but none of them could fully comprehend my decision. I decided to do a search on Facebook for birth mother support groups and there was BTG. I joined and am thankful every day that I did. This community is absolutely amazing! We all have our own stories but we are there for each other no matter what. 

After about a year in the group I knew I wanted to meet birth moms who I had grown close to that lived within a few hours of me. I contacted Bridget and we decided to meet at a local mall. I was nervous as I always am meeting someone for the first time. When I saw Bridget though and we hugged, I felt as though I had always known her. I was comfortable and relaxed. It was a wonderful afternoon together. 

BTG means so much to me. It is a place where I truly feel I belong. I am building new friendships everyday. I know I can brag about my birth son or just open up when I am feeling down. It is the first place that I felt comfortable to open up and share my story. I found my courage and my voice through BTG. All of my BTG sisters are amazing women who I hold very close to my heart. 
I love you all!


From Bridget:  In the fall of 2013 I reunited with my 35 year old Birth daughter. The first few months where like a.honeymoon. Then reality set in. And I found myself struggling with many issues long since buried. Becky who was instrumental in helping me find my girl called to check on me one day and I told her I was struggling. She is the one who once again helped save me. She told me about BIB and my World changed yet again. Through BIB I found BTG.
It took 35 yrs for me to find women who walk my journey. Who knew what I feel. It was truly amazing. I felt like I became part of a sisterhood. Someplace I truly belong. The first major effect BTG had on me was 1 word. Placed. You see for 36 yrs I have given up.. To me it meant I gave up on her, I gave up on me. Ashley and BTG taught me. I never gave up. I was strong and brave and I Placed my baby girl with Love.
Then I posted a question in BTG asking if there was any BTG sisters from NYS. And that how I met Roanne. We started chatting every now and then. I think what drew me to Roanne was the wonderful working open adoption she has. My generation of adoption was closed sealed and never to be talked about.  But the more we chatted the more I realized what a special bond we have. Ro has taught me so much. She has helped me grow so much. So we decided we had to meet. As we only live a few hours apart. To finally meet and be able to sit across from each other and share our stories and not just about Adoption but about our lives in general was amazing. I feel such a sisterhood with Roanne. BTG and MY BTG Sisters have changed me. I finally belong. I finally I am understood...

 

If you are birth mom, no matter what stage you are in your journey please contact us.  We love you and we are here to support you!  

Adoption Means...

I am so honored today to share an AMAZING post by the beautiful woman that adopted my birth son.  She has brought great peace to my life and offered so selflessly to do what I could not.  I am forever in her debt for the love that she has shown our son, for the sleepless nights and the stress and the responsibility and the love that has been poured upon him has been above and beyond my expectations.  She has allowed me to grieve, to share my story, even the hard parts.  She respects me and honors me by the way that she loves her son.   I love her, I respect her, I honor her and my life has been forever changed because of her.  xo, Ashley Mitchell OWNER BTG

Since I was young all I wanted to be was a wife and mother and have a family of my own. I was married to an amazing man at age 18 and at the age of 24, we were blessed with a beautiful daughter. At her moment of birth I remember thinking I could do that ten more times. It was such an amazing and spiritual experience. (Little did I know it would be my only opportunity to give birth to a child.) A year later we were ready to start the process again to increase our family and provide a sibling for her. This is where my story really begins.

Never had I suffered beyond the heart break of boyfriends, occasional illnesses, surgeries, challenges with friends or the demands of life. I had been blessed to grow up in a loving home with all my needs met. But the next several years proved to be my "cross to bear" , filled with grief, emptiness, anger and frustration.

Having to see pregnant sisters, sister-in-laws, friends and anyone having children, and all the joy they were having as their families grew was unbearable at times.

Why me? I would try not to say that, but it seems the natural thing to ask in the midst of trial. I didn’t want this one. I wanted a family. Why couldn’t I have what everyone else has? I didn’t know at the time, but God was saving me for one of the greatest privileges and experiences this life can bring.

After several years of fertility appointments, procedures and surgery, my husband and I sat across from our good friend and M.D., who told us our chances of having another child would take a miracle but we could possibly try a very expensive procedure. At the time we had just moved to a small town where my husband started his first job out of college. There was no money for fertility procedures, drugs and travel, especially ones that offered a slight "chance" of conception.

After much prayer, fasting and seeking God’s help, the idea of adoption entered our minds. Sometimes it takes life-changing moments to remind us who is in charge of our lives. It seemed like this might be the "window" opening after the big door had been shut.

We joined Families Supporting Adoption, a support group through LDS Family Services that promotes adoption in local communities. Here, we found others who could relate to what we had been going through. We found friendship, love, comradery, a place to serve and learn more about adoption.

Then came the extensive paperwork, the home studies, the ever hopeful days of waiting. This, again, was a trying time. Since there are so many other couples trying to adopt, it was easy to compare ourselves.

As other couples were chosen we felt like we weren’’t enough, that we didn’’t have what an expectant mother was looking for and it took a lot of faith to keep our hope alive.
— Lana

After two years, we received "the call". It is hard to describe the moment and how it feels when someone has chosen you to be the parents of their child. You are deeply humbled and grateful. It almost seems like it can’t be real, just like a dream. We had the opportunity to adopt twice. First, a daughter came to our home, followed by a son, four years later.

Even though it was hard in its own way, adopting these amazing children has added so much more to my life than I could have ever experienced having had all biological children. I would never trade the experiences.

Adoption has meant a lot of things to me. First and foremost, my children mean everything to me! They are the treasures of my life and I will forever be grateful for their birth parents and the choice they made to place them in my arms.

Having had both a biological child and adopted children I can say there was absolutely no difference in loving or accepting them as my own.

Perhaps the greatest part of adoption has been the sweet relationships we enjoy with our birth parents and their families. This had brought even more fulfillment and joy than we could have possibly imagined.

Through adoption I have experienced so much personal growth. I have struggled through the process –enduring the emotional roller coasters, surviving placement and the intense guilt that comes with it, and I have continually prayed for, worried over and tried to provide all I could for struggling birth mothers.

I have had the added bonus of trying to be the best mother I could be, knowing there was another mother counting on me to provide and give her child everything she could not.

I have a greater faith and understanding that God has a plan for each of us, that He hears and answers our pleadings and blesses us when the time is right. Sometimes he lets us struggle only to make us better and stronger.

I also believe one of the greatest expressions of love and courage is found in birth mothers and fathers who place their trust in someone else to raise their children.
— Lana

Adoption is all about love– the love of birth parents wanting what is best for their child, the love of adoptive families who open their hearts and lives to these precious children, the love of those who are adopted who accept it, understand it and celebrate it.

I believe those connected with adoption are special and strong and are given these experiences because God needed them to bless lives. Together we can make a difference as we share our stories, support one another and continue to promote adoption every way we can.

This month and always, I will celebrate adoption–one of the greatest gifts and miracles of my life.

I was the Stereotype

*disclaimer- This may be my bravest post yet.  I have shared many things in my journey.  This shares a lot of the behind the scenes action that took place during the darkest years of my life.  All legal action that was required has been dealt with and all needs were met with great humility.

As birth mothers we tend to get a bit defensive when it comes to the stereotypes that the uninformed and uneducated society tries to peg us with.  There are many opinions and ideas of what a birth mother is and why she makes the choices that she does.  

I have to say that at the time of placement and for several years after I was many of the stereotypes that birth mothers try so hard to fight, to redefine.  

I was in a relationship with the birth father.  We dated on and off for several years.  We spent a lot of time together and obviously we were having sex.  ( I wont treat you like you are stupid and don't know HOW I became a birth mom to begin with ).  We were also drinking a lot and had some additional choice pills etc in the mix when it was available.  

Now, I am the first to throw myself under the bus so I will tell you that as I share this with you I want you to know that regardless of what you are thinking of me at this point I thought a lot worse, and I have come a long way to dig myself out of the bottom that was below rock bottom.  This story gets a lot worse before it gets better.  

It is amazing now, looking back,  I can see how much pain I was in, how much I was suffering, how much I was grieving all the signs were there but I didn't know it at the time.  I had no idea the tragedy that was coming and I had no idea that I was heading for an all out war against myself that would lead to my breakdown.  

After placement I began to self-destruct.  Every once in a while I would hit a moment where I would be "doing better".  I would be clean, go back to church and would straighten myself up, more just because I was just trying to prove to myself and everyone else that I could.  

I continued with the drinking, some stages were heavier than others.  And I continued with my casual relationships.  Sometimes someone would be around longer than another, but at the end of the day I would sabotage anything that had any potential and I would be alone, in pain, grieving and spending my days getting to know the darkness, intimately.  

I placed in the early spring of 2006, April to be exact.  By the end of that year I didn't even recognize myself.  I was so careless with my life and others.  I hated everything about myself but man did I put on a show.  I was everyone and everything that I needed to be.  I was so co-dependent and I killed myself to be accepted from any stranger that crossed my path.  I had no self acceptance and I was in such denial of the things that had happened and I refused to stop long enough to allow the feelings to hit the surface.  

I had to keep going, keep moving, keep numbing the pain because I knew if I stopped I would break down.  

In 2007 I was in a devastating accident......

As I sit here in tears I can't bring myself to share the details of this...not yet.  

I almost killed someone in a drunk driving accident.  

Some day I will share this story, someday I will be brave enough to share the details of this story, someday I will share my journey through the legal ramifications of this accident and the year I spent working through my court ordered requirements.  But not today.  

Today I am sharing the events that took place after this accident, the full breakdown of who I was, and the rebuilding of who I am now.  

Now at this point you would think that enough is enough.  That after something so tragic and life changing that I would be all about acceptance and healing, that I would finally stop so that I could finally work through all my issues, but I wasn't.  It had the opposite effect.  Now on top of everything else I had this weight piled on top of the existing pain and grief.  The burden was so heavy, the shame and the guilt and the pain, years were piling up, indiscretions were too many to count.  I was trapped in my own personal hell.

There is a saying that describes what I was feeling, why I kept my finger hovering over the self-destruct button "Why do I keep hitting myself with a hammer?  Because it feels so good when I stop."

In the fall of 2007 I ran.  I ran away from all of it.  I was living in constant fear and pain and so I ran.  I met someone that offered an "out" from all the pain that I was living in.  AGAIN remember that the stage of denial was so great that I literally convinced myself that none of the past stuff had happened, that I was not grieving, that I was not a birth mother, that I was not struggling with substance abuse, that I did not have the guilt of that accident sharing my body with me.  I was FINE!  I WAS FINE! 

I married this man and moved across the country.  I moved from all of it not realizing that it had jumped into the trunk when I wasn't looking and came with me.  

I deeply regret the pain that was caused to that man.  He was a victim of my carelessness.  He was a necessary step in my un-doing.  He played a giant role in helping me become who I am now.  

Without him, without that move I would have died.  I know without a doubt in my mind that I would not be here with you today.  I thank God for that move, for that chance meeting.  I am grateful for him and the doors that were opened.  I pray that he finds the true happiness that I could never offer him.  He didn't know what he was getting into.  

In our journey as birth mothers we have this moment, the AH-HA moment, or game changer as I like to call it, when the light turns on, when we decide that enough REALLY is enough and everything changes.  Sometimes it is a very small, insignificant moment, and sometimes it is a huge and undeniable moment.  

This was my game changing moment.

I had divorced the man that brought me to Tennessee and I was living with my NOW husband and love of my life.  We were figuring life out and we were both on a journey.  I was starting to get the feeling back in my life, but with the happiness and excitement of the future as I was allowing myself to be open to possibilities I was also stirring the beast that had been asleep for all of these years.  As I was allowing myself to feel on deeper levels I was also forced to feel the pain of the past.  

That pain, that grief, that shame and regret, that acceptance of the past finally surfaced and sent me into a spin that forced my breakdown.

My breakdown included pills, a night in the hospital, and 5 days locked in a Mental Health Facility.

( I told you this story got worse before it got better ).  

BUT something amazing happened.  Maybe the greatest miracle of my life.  

I survived. With the support and love from my husband that stood by me and through the Atonement of my Savior I survived. Sometimes it takes an overwhelming breakdown to have an undeniable and life changing breakthrough.
— Ashley Mitchell

And then the true journey began.  I started to pick up the pieces.  Every day since that time I am learning to pick up the pieces, I am learning to look in the mirror and love and respect the woman starring back, I am learning to accept my life and learning to co-exist with the things that have happened.  I am learning my triggers and I know my weaknesses.  I know what I can and can't do, I know my boundaries.  But more important I know love, and I know my worth and I know joy.  I know peace and I know faith.  I know hope and I know light.  I know who I am.  

The pain of a birth mother is real.  I am not naive and I know that adoption as a whole is created through great pain and suffering...But I believe deeply in hope for the future, and for a life of happiness for all those that are willing to fight for it.  I believe that there is great work to be done.  I believe that a birth mother needs to find herself in a place where she can have help to fight through the grief at the early stages.  

I am not the norm.  My story of healing is unique.

Too many women are falling through the cracks, to many birth moms are stuck in their own personal hell.  It is real and it is a lonely path.

I was the stereotype.  But I have come a long way since that time.  I never fear that I will become that person again, and I pray that I don't stay who I am now.....

I know that I will be even better and I can't wait to meet her!