PHOTO-A-DAY Challenge for Adoption.

On IG we did a Photo-A-Day Challenge on all things Adoption for National Adoption Month.  I wanted to share all the photos with you.  Here was the challenge:

    Be sure to head on over to @bigtoughgirl on IG to see all the amazing images that were shared by others.  Search #btgadoption

 

Be sure to head on over to @bigtoughgirl on IG to see all the amazing images that were shared by others.  Search #btgadoption

HERE ARE ALL THE IMAGES I POSTED FOR THE MONTH!

We look forward to this challenge again next year and we hope more of you will join us in sharing our adoption journeys!!!  We love you all and we are so grateful for where the path of adoption has brought us.  

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.

CLOSURE.

In February of 2014 I ordered my own personal copy of CLOSURE.  I watched this documentary with my jaw dropped and tears streaming down my cheeks.  It was hard to put into words how I felt about this movie.  It brought so much emotion to the surface.  I was sad and furious and laughing and crying and happy and more all at the same time.  

I have had the great privilege to talk with Angela and I have a great love and appreciation for her and her voice, her perspective and her Moxie!  Through her story I have had the great opportunity to reach out to Angela's Birth Mother.  I will be sharing and EXCLUSIVE interview with Deborah as she shares her incredible story with you all next week! 

UNTIL THEN.....We are so excited to be giving away 3 signed copies of the adoption documentary CLOSURE that is sweeping the nation and bringing a whole new light to this community.  This compelling and inspired film bring a voice to adoption that is so rarely heard or understood, the voice of the Adoptee.  

Enter the contest below!!!  

WINNERS WILL BE ANNOUNCED MONDAY NOVEMBER 24th!  

We will picking 3 random winners to receive a copy of the DVD signed by Angela Tucker. 


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! 

From Pain to Purpose

My dear beautiful friend, Jenny Jerkins over at Our Not So Engineered Life is sharing with us on the blog today.  They ( Jenny and her partner Courtney) are doing a beautiful Thanksgiving Series, Thankful for Infertility.  Be sure to go and read the inspiring stories this month.  Jenny is an adoptive mother and shares an incredible testimony.  Even though we have never met in person she is a soul sister and I look forward to the day that I get to hug her and share tears of joy with her for our beautiful and blessed life!  


It is well with my soul….

These words to the beloved hymn took a long time to truly resonate with me.  I had sung them in church my whole life.  I knew the all the words in my head, but they didn’t feel them in my heart…even until well after the word “infertility” was spoken like a dull knife, slowly and painfully cutting through me. 

I knew that “whatever my lot” then it should be well with my soul.  But it wasn't.  I was angry.  And I was broken, which is exactly where God needed me to be. I had done everything my whole life in the right order – graduate high school, college, get married, get a good job, and now it was supposed to be my time to have children.  And it was my time.  It just wasn't exactly how I had planned for it to happen. 

But you know what?  God had a far better plan for us.  Because of our infertility, God led us straight to adoption.  It was always on my heart to adopt, but He just made sure I got there.  He closed every other possible door so that the child that He meant for us would be placed in our care and so that we would witness the miracles that only come from Him by doing so. 

It took me a while, even after our son was born, to be truly grateful for our infertility.  As the old saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.  And of course the highlight of our infertility is our son.  His whole life and the details surrounding him coming to us are truly miracles and details that only God could orchestrate.  He gives our lives more meaning and more purpose than anything else in this world ever could, apart from that of God himself.  Adoption is the most beautiful picture of God loving and adopting us all into His family.  And even though our Adoption Journey  is one filled with God’s perfect timing and details, it is not entirely why I am now grateful for our infertility. 

I’m thankful that infertility led us to adoption in the way that it did and when it did.  God knew that we would struggle off and on for the 5 years that we did.  He knew we would pause.  He knew we would question His will.  He knew we were not quitters and would keep trying – until we reached a dead end.  And then in December of 2010, He said it was time to adopt.  Why was it time?  Because that is the very month that our son was conceived and he would be due 9 months later.  That still blows my mind to this day!  Our paperwork would be ready and our birth mom would walk into the office of an attorney – one whom God said to show our profile to her first because she would be choosing us.  His timing is never off by a day, minute, or second – it is absolutely perfect.  Had we not experienced infertility, we would have missed out on one of the most divine appointments of our lives.

And I would have also missed out on some of the most beautiful souls on this earth – birth moms. Open adoption has changed the way that I look at many things in this world. It has changed the way that I see people and the way that I love people.
— Jenny Jerkins

It has truly given me the opportunity to be in a relationship where I can show the true, unconditional love of Christ.  It has opened my heart to be without judgment and to love without expecting anything in return.  I love that I can share life with this woman and the love of a son together. 

 

I’m thankful that God broke me and took away my foolish thinking that I was in control of anything in my life. 

Certainly I have free will to make choices, good or bad, but ultimately He is in control.  I’m grateful that He sent me to my knees and started a life change in me.  It has allowed me to experience God in my life in ways that I never anticipated.  It gave me purpose – His purpose -  to bring Him glory.  He took one of the greatest pains of my life that gradually became my greatest passion.  He gave me a story to tell – a story that has led to some of the greatest and deepest friendships I have ever had, and provided encouragement and healing for others who have come along behind me. 

At the start of our journey, I never anticipated how God would grow my faith and change me.  He flipped our world upside down to show us that His journey was better than ours.  Adoption changed our whole course in life. 

It began a ministry – truly a purpose from my pain – that would have never been there otherwise.  I un-became everything I thought I would ever be, to become everything He wanted me to be.  And for that, all of the pain of infertility became worth it.

ABOUT:

I am a wife and former engineer turned stay-at-home mom of God’s gift to us in the form of an energetic, smart, and hilarious little boy.  His larger than life personality is the reason I must have coffee in large quantities every single day to function! But he also teaches me more about what is truly important in life.  I am a Christ follower molded by His outpouring of grace and mercy.  I love people and believe in living missionally, and my life’s motto is “it’s not about ME.”  I became a mom through adoption which has opened my heart in ways I never new possible, drawn me closer to God, and brought me some of my dearest friends.  It also taught me that instead of our own “engineered” plans, that the Lord has far greater plans when we put our faith and trust completely in Him.  You can read all about my story over at Our Not So Engineered Life where I co-write with my dearest friend Courtney.

 

World Adoption Day.

Today is the FIRST EVER World Adoption Day.  

We wanted to share with you a custom piece that I co-designed with Stephanie Chavez Designs for Ms. Katherine Heigl.  

In 2009 Ms. Heigl and her husband Mr. Josh Kelley adopted their first daughter, Naleigh from South Korea. 

My sister Meg is Korean, and my parents adopted her three years before I was born. I wanted my own family to resemble the one I came from, so I always knew I wanted to adopt from Korea.
— Ms. Katherine Heigl
 this picture was taken shortly after the couple returned from Korea with their daughter.

As a fellow Utahn, I reached out to Ms. Heigl and her husband to celebrate adoption.  I was so honored to design this necklace for her.  The necklace was inspired by a song that was written and performed by husband Josh Kelley titled Naleigh Moon.  

The necklace is made of sterling silver.  The hearts are hand stamped with the initial of both of their children (Adalaide was added to their family through a domestic adoption when Naleigh was 3 1/2) The words LOVE and MOTHER are stamped on the other hanging tags with the Korean spelling for each of those words on the opposite side.  It includes their birth stones and  the moon of course is for the heart of this song and this adoptive family.  


I am always inspired by any and all adoptive families.  

I am so excited about the progress that is being made in the world of adoption.  The community is growing, the education is being shared, men and women are using their voice.

There is so much more work to be done but I am honored to be a very small part of it. 

Congrats to those that have been blessed with a child through adoption.  

They’re yours. You love them the moment they’re put into your arms.
— Ms. Katherine Heigl


HAPPY WORLD ADOPTION DAY!

xo, Ashley Mitchell

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A boy of my own.

I placed a baby boy for adoption in 2006.  When my husband and I found out that we were expecting in 2010 I just knew that I wanted a boy.  I almost needed it to be a boy.  When we found out that we were having a girl I was a little heartbroken.  But when The Tweedle arrived I was so grateful that she was a girl.  My entire pregnancy was hard and scary but it was also bringing up so much emotion from the first time.  I kept saying " Holy crap, I am bringing this one home....I don't know what to do with one AFTER the hospital!"  I had never done that part. 

In 2012 my husband and I sat once again in the hospital, this time we would be welcoming a BOY.  It was finally our turn for a baby boy.  I want to share some thoughts that I had that January, when I gave birth to our son. A boy of my own!

This is not a story of replacement but of fulfillment

January 17, 2012.  

I am sitting here staring at my newborn son, in awe of how beautiful he is and what a miracle this little life is. I am so overwhelmed with blessings and joy that it is hard to put into words how I feel.

I have a daughter that is almost two now, and I remember having the same feelings about her, knowing what a miracle giving birth is and how amazing the little ones are. But this one is just a little bit different.

This one is a boy. I have finally had a chance to have a son, another boy, almost six years later. Not to replace the one that I placed, but a chance at the one that is supposed to be with me.

Almost six years ago they placed my son on my chest and I heard him cry for the very first time. I know that as a mother there are very few things in this world that are more precious and more amazing than that first moment.

I also know that I was sharing that first cry with someone else, that it wasn't just for me. I knew that out in the hall was his mother, waiting, listening, and I know that when she heard that first cry of her son, she wept!

In the hospital as a birth mother

It is so hard to put into words the emotion that is felt during those few days in the hospital as a birth mother during placement. They are mostly a blur of love and anger and joy and pain and hate and humility and so much more. Those few precious days in the hospital with Derek were some of the most cherished and painful days of my life.

I have yet to experience anything like it. On one level, I had just had a son and I was amazed and overwhelmed by what that all meant. But it had such a different meaning six years ago, being a mother then and being a mother now. I am not the same person, the same mother, the same woman.

My time with Derek in the hospital are truly some of the most sacred times of my life — times that I don’t talk about much. I have shared many experiences that I had but rarely do I talk about the time that I spent with my son at night when we were all alone, while he slept, or the things I said to him, wished for him, cried for him, pleaded with him.

They are too precious to share, but for those few hours in the evenings that I had with him all alone he was my son. And I now find myself crying over my new son, my baby boy, pleading, wishing, crying many of the same things that I did almost six years ago!

Derek is the son that I placed in the arms of his mother. I love getting updates from his family and getting pictures. I am so blessed to have the peace of mind that he is happy and healthy and so very loved by his family. But every time I hear his name or see a picture, my thoughts still go back to a picture, to those precious nights in the hospital when I knew that I alone was his mother.  I see him now as hers and I am so grateful for that.

This is my son Oliver. To me, he is the most precious and amazing miracle on the planet. While I was in the hospital I had sent a text to Derek’s mother, letting her know that he had finally arrived. She sent me a text message that is one that I will never forget. She expressed her joy and excitement for me that I was finally able to have a son of my own.

Even now, almost six years later, as I gave birth to another baby boy, she was there with me, sharing in the moment, only this time I didn't have to share him. He was coming home with my husband and me, and it was a beautiful moment. It was an amazing sense of accomplishment, the missing piece, the final piece had been filled. A son!

I asked Derek’s adoptive mother if she would be willing to write a few words about what it is like for her from her perspective to be able to watch her son’s birth mother have a another boy years later! This is what she wrote:

“It’s a boy!” For the past five years, I had been waiting for this news. I had been praying faithfully for Ashley, my son’s birth mother. I wanted more than anything to see her enjoy all that she afforded me through the miracle of adoption.

As she poured over families for her unborn son, Ashley had sensed that our family, especially my husband, needed a son. My husband lost his father at the age of 16 to cancer. She would never fully know our joy of being able to pass on his name, his legacy and create a new generation of father and son.

We were overwhelmed and humbled that Ashley would invite us to be part of our son’s birth. After spending two precious days together in the hospital, our time was nearing an end. No one could have prepared me for that bittersweet moment of saying goodbye.

I couldn't understand how my heart could be so full of joy yet be broken all at the same time. As I watched Ashley’s sorrow as she left her sweet son to us, I knew I could never be whole until she received all the blessings that had been showered upon me.

As a mother of biological and adoptive children, I know first-hand that there is no difference in the love you have for them. They become yours the moment they are laid in your arms. There is, however, one difference.

Each time I looked at Derek, I would forever be reminded of Ashley and her selfless love and sacrifice. I knew I had an added measure of responsibility to see that Derek had all the love, kindness, and opportunities that I could give him not just for me, but for both of us.

One of the reasons I started Big Tough Girl was to help women who had walked a similar path, find what I have found all these years later. I know that not everyone will be able to fill some of those missing pieces. But I know that are opportunities available and I want every birth mom I come in contact with to know that I was there, and now I am here.

Bringing Oliver home from the hospital will always be one of the most treasured memories of my life!

Big Tough Girl. My Adoption Story.

In November of 2013 I had the great honor of being featured in the Acclaimed Series- Portraits of Adoption hosted by Author, Carrie Goldman and sponsored by Chicago Now.  

This is an edited version of my story, focused on the adoption and all that came with it.  One that will be shared in great detail along with many other parts of this journey  in an incredible book.  

Big Tough Girl.  My Adoption Story.

They showed me to a private room, with about twenty chairs set up in a horseshoe shape all facing a television set.  I was one of the first people there.  As I sat there, I let my mind wander, I couldn't believe that I was there, alone.  The walls were empty and there was a small bookcase littered with pamphlets.    People started to trickle in.

A nurse walked in, did not make eye contact and dumped a VHS tape into the television like she had done a million times before, stated that she would return after the video and walked out.  The video started with some bold text that flashed on the screen and it read: What you need to know about Abortion. 

And so my story begins.

When I was growing up and planning my future, becoming a birth mother was NEVER discussed with my guidance counselor.  I would talk with friends about what we would “do” if we ever got pregnant.  Abortion was never an option; raising a child would be hard but maybe adoption would be a good choice.

I have learned a few things since those days, the simpler days.  First is that you NEVER know what you would be willing to do in time of serious crisis and second is that being a birth mom is not an occupation, it is not who I am, it is what I am.  My life has developed into so much more than that experience.

In 2005 I found myself pregnant.  I was not a kid; I was 25 years old.  I was an adult, I had a job; I had responsibilities, but I was pregnant, and alone.  I was off again in my “on-again-off again” relationship with a boy, a boy who at the time I thought I could not live without.  We were toxic together but I was in a place in my life when I didn't know what that meant; I didn't know the difference.  I suppose that most of my relationships in my life had followed that same toxic pattern, and I was a little self-destructive. But this boy, this boy I couldn't let go of.  So we continued to be toxic together for four years.  It wasn't until we were off again and I had moved back home to Utah that I discovered I was pregnant.

I knew I was pregnant several months before I could admit it to myself.  I was in total denial that this was happening to me.  I was raised in a good, happy and supportive Latter Day Saint home and this kind of thing just didn't happen, and this kind of thing was NOT talked about.  In denial that this was happening, I continued to work a full time job, go to the gym, went tanning, went out drinking and dancing with my friends, and carried on relationships.  I was determined to will this pregnancy to not happen, prayed around the clock for a miscarriage, and did unspeakable things to force the hand in that direction.

When I couldn't ignore it anymore I forced myself to take a test.  In secret, I watched as that stick revealed what I had known for months.  At this point -- desperate, embarrassed, scared and alone -- abortion seemed like my only option.  I was going for broke.

I waited and waited.  It was an eternity.  Time stood still.

They finally called my name, and I stood and could feel every eye in the room watch me walk out.  They took me back to get an ultrasound.  I was in a “community” room.  No privacy.  No secrets.  We all knew what we were doing there.  I was going to see my baby for the first time; and then I was going to terminate this pregnancy.  I was out of my head.  I couldn't think, breathe, or feel.  I was blank. Empty.

As the nurse performed the ultrasound, she kept focused on the screen.  There was no polite chit chat.  She glanced at me over her glasses, hesitated, walked out of the room and returned in a matter of seconds.  She very quietly told me to get dressed.  I did what she asked, but my expression was very confused.  And then she said something to me that changed my life forever.

“You are too far along to terminate this pregnancy.  I am sorry.  We cannot help you.”
I walked out, received $500 cash refund, and I never looked back.

Somehow through all the fear and pain, lack of faith and weakness and the Grace of God, adoption became my only option.  There was a greater plan for that precious, amazing little boy and for the family that was waiting for him.

That was an incredible day.  A day that changed my life.

Even though I knew that I would choose adoption, I still continued life as normal.  I was still unwilling to admit, embrace or accept what was happening, and I still could not tell those closest to me.  As time started to get closer and closer, I started to panic.  This baby was going to come whether I was willing to accept it or not, whether I wanted it to or not (it was still an “it” at this point).

It was now time to “choose a family” for the baby boy.  It was a boy.  I had about a month and a half before delivery.  It was all becoming very real.  I knew that picking a family would help with the emotional detachment and was a necessary step, but I will tell you, there is nothing in this world that is more stupid and crazy and unbelievable, and ridiculous and unfathomable than to sit down with fifty scrapbook pages and bios and have to pick from the pile for who you want to raise the baby that will forever be connected to you and your heart.

Seriously?  How do you even begin to work through that process?  I remember it clear as day.   I received a phone call as the process of elimination was about to begin.  It was my sister, tears in her voice.  We want to adopt him.  Let us adopt him, to give you some time.  As a mother, she knew what I was about to go through and knew that I had no clue.

She knew the instant connection that a mother felt with a child at the time of birth, how quickly that maternal instinct kicked in.  Knowing what she knew and the love she had for her children, she didn't think this was something that anyone could survive.  She wanted me to have options.  I could never take her up on that, so there I was at the kitchen table, a staple meeting place for my family.

I was joined by my mom and dad and brother.  We spread out all the pages and started looking through them, pouring over them, studying them, laughing at them, crying at them.  Creating the NO piles and the MAYBE piles and STRONG POSSIBILITY piles.  Going through piles again, changing our minds, debating on likes and dislikes, deal breakers and requirements.  Hours passed.

I knew that I had to pick a family from that first stack of profiles given to me.  I knew that I could not look any more.  At the end of the night we had narrowed it down to two very different families.  Finally I went to bed with these two profiles debating in my mind over and over the pros and cons of each, not knowing them but knowing everything about them.  They were being judged.

I was going to deem one family worthy of a child and one family not.  I did not want that kind of power over the life changing events for any person.

I was praying for a different perspective in the morning.  To see things in a new light.  I found that really unlikely given the circumstances.

Something happened to me the next morning that I was not expecting.  I was dreading the decision that was placed before me, and I did not want to face the day.  But I got up and looked over at the nightstand at the pictures, the faces, the lives of these strangers and I knew instantly.  One family was picked; the other was put back in the pile.  He had a family, I was carrying their child.  The perspective had shifted, just like I had asked it to.

A few days before delivery, I sat down with my case worker and we went over in great detail the paperwork involved in relinquishing my rights as the parent.  I am so grateful for the time that I spent with her in the office.  She was an amazing support to me.  We did not continue our relationship after our time in the hospital.

It was too painful to see her again as a caseworker after what I experienced in the hospital, but I am grateful that she took the time that she did to go over all the fine print of that paperwork because she was right.  I didn't hear a word that she said at the hospital and I needed to be of sound mind to understand what was about to happen.

Nothing could prepare me for the reality, but I was glad that I knew what I was signing before I was in that moment under so much pressure and emotion.  The birth father had signed his papers a few months before, so I was literally the last thing holding the parental rights in my control.

I sat nervously on the couch in my parents’ family room waiting for the hospital to call, to tell me that they were ready for me to come in to deliver.  I was hungry and scared.  I wanted to talk with my mom about what was about to happen to my body, my emotions.  She didn't look at me, didn't talk to me that morning.  We all had to deal and process this in our own way.  I knew she loved me and she was going to be there at the hospital but that was all she could do.  I don’t blame her for that.

For weeks I had been telling myself that I did not want to see him after delivery.  That as soon as that baby was born, I needed to be able to pass him along to the loving arms of his mother....or I never would have been able to let him go! I was very glad that his family was going to be there. They were all SO HAPPY, and they are an incredible family!!! I couldn't have picked a better family for this baby boy, but I was dying inside and it was so hard.

I sat in the delivery room alone for most of the day.  A few visitors in and out but everyone left me alone for the most part.  Either they were trying to be respectful or they couldn't handle the reality of the situation.  I would have given anything to be pacing the waiting room with them.

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.

I am a birth mom.  I have owned my story, I get up every day and DO IT ANYWAY even when I can’t even breathe from the reality of it all, I rise above the prejudice and judgments, I love with all my heart, and I know that I can’t do this alone.

I rely on my family, my husband, my community of Big Tough Girls™ and most important my Father in Heaven.  He knew there was a boy, a special boy that needed to live and to grow and love and serve and become a great man of this generation.  That boy was once my son, he is now the son of another and he is becoming a great man.   I am a birth mom, a self-proclaimed Big Tough Girl™ and I am thriving.

I know with the deepest belief in my soul that when adoption was put in my sights and became the only option that there was a bigger plan laid out for my life.  I know that I was inspired to pick the family that I did to raise that boy.  I know that he is becoming the man that he is because of his mother and her daily commitment to him and to me, making sure that he never wants for anything.

People always ask about him with them and what that is like.  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.

 My name is Ashley Mitchell.  I am the owner of Big Tough Girl™.  I am a wife and a mother.  I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  I have survived so much in my life.  I am so blessed because of the trials and challenges in my life, they have become great teachers.  I love my husband and would not be doing the work that I love without his daily support.  I believe that snow is the most magical thing on earth.  I am a self-proclaimed Big Tough Girl™.  This is my story.  www.bigtoughgirl.org