#AdoptionTalk - Anything Goes

To the woman that finds herself pregnant,

I am writing you this open letter for one reason.  I have been there and I am sorry.  For some reason you have been on my mind SO much.  I have been thinking about you, praying over you and crying for you and with you even if you don't know it.  

I felt like I should write you a letter.  A letter to let you know that you are not alone, that I understand and that I believe in you.  

This is an impossible time.  

I would be willing to bet that there will never be a time in your life that you are more scared, ashamed, confused, hurt and conflicted as you are RIGHT NOW.  

 

 

I want to tell you something and it truly is my deepest prayer that you hear me.  I know that you can't "hear" much in the midst of this great cloud that is hovering over you but close your eyes, take a deep breath and listen...listen with your heart so that you know that what I am about to tell you is truth

This is your decision. NO ONE else can make you do anything that you are unsettled on. It is scary, there are lots of options and lots of information. It may seem impossible, it may seem that there is no other way BUT there is ALWAYS another way if you want it bad enough.

When I was 25 and found myself single and pregnant my entire life came crashing down around me.  Now by society's standard I should have stepped up to be a mother.  I had a job, medical insurance, my own car, my own apartment...I looked REALLY good on paper!  

But my heart, my head my soul.  Everything was a giant mess, nothing added up and nothing felt right.  I made a million lists and went back and forth a million times on what to do...

I have never changed my mind more than I did in those few months.  

I couldn't be pregnant.  That was it.  I could NOT be pregnant.  The rest didn't matter.  

AT THAT MOMENT I COULDN'T be pregnant.  

I went for the abortion. I would have had the abortion but I was too far along, it was not an option, it had been taken off the table.  I am glad for it.  

Whether we want to talk about it or not, whether we want to admit it or not...you have to made a decision.  Do you want to carry this baby to term or not.  That is the question.

When abortion was taken off the table for me then I had a new question

Parent or not parent.  

The baby was coming, whether I was ready or not, whether I wanted it to or not...

Parent or not parent.  

I could list for you the million reasons why I didn't want to parent, or "couldn't" parent.  

Yes I said I didn't want to parent....I am being totally honest with you I may be the only selfish birth mom.  I did NOT want to parent in that stage of my life.  I wanted the CHILD...just not the parenting that goes with it...THEY ARE VERY DIFFERENT!

I was very selfish in my reasons.  But in being that honest I was able to be VERY clear.  

Parent or not parent.

This is not a decision to be made lightly.  This is not a "cool trendy thing" that society is trying to portray.  This is not casual even if the relationship was.  This is about stepping into the greatest role given to a woman.  This is about watching your body do the most amazing and miraculous thing that only you can do, this is about life.  

BUT THIS IS ALSO ABOUT YOU.  

And guess what.  It is okay to make it about you.  This will effect you in ways that it wont effect others.  This will be something that you deal with, adjust to, cope with in ways that others will never see, or maybe even understand.  

You have to be willing to make a decision that is good for you...not just for the potential life that is coming.  

Parent or not parent

If there is anything that I could share with you, anything that I would want you to hear, anything that I would want you to understand it would be this...

THIS WILL CHANGE YOU FOREVER NO MATTER WHAT YOU CHOOSE.  

Lets be honest about that.  There is NO easy choice here.  Abortion, Parenting, Adoption.  

Each of them have their own unique sets of rules and challenges and consequences.  Each of them will change your very identity and each of them will be a choice that you have to live with EVERY. SINGLE. DAY for the rest of your life!  

Knowing that reality, what do you choose?  How do you choose?  

HOW IN THE HELL DO YOU EVEN BEGIN TO MAKE THIS DECISION!  

Making the decision to place my son for adoption was the hardest thing I have done in my life! But even through it all, the pain, the despair, the grief I am have calm in my decision.

Does that mean it is easy?  Hell no!  Do I have regrets, shame and disappointment?  DAILY!  

But a decision has to made.  There is NO WAY around that.  If you are pregnant and abortion is off the table then a decision has to be made.

Parent or not parent.

I know this is scary.  I know that standing up to boyfriends and parents and friends and society and church is NOT easy.  

YOU CAN DO THIS. 

If you want to parent....if you believe in the deepest parts of your soul that you want to parent THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY and I am always going to champion you in that decision.  I believe that if the women are willing to fight, to take a stand and to do a little work then it is possible for you to parent AND to be successful.  The goal is always to keep the families together! 

If you choose to place your child for adoption you are not alone.  It is not the easy path, it is not very well understood or accepted.  It is a long and lonely journey but it provides options and opportunities and second chances and if done well, open adoption can be an amazing thing...no matter how complex that journey.  

You are smart!  You have worth!  You are capable of doing ANYTHING if you truly want it!

From one woman to another, from one crisis to the next, from one Big Tough Girl™ to another you have everything you need to make this decision.  There are resources, there are options, there is HOPE in the darkness.  

I am here, standing with you.  

Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!

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#AdoptionTalk - Openness in Adoption

Talking about open adoption has become a "specialty" for me.  I have talked and worked with hundreds of birth mothers, adoptive parents and adoptees on navigating their open adoption relationships, learning to not let fear dictate their forward movement and how to put their own insecurities aside to allow room for honoring and respecting the other parts of this complex triad!  

I am learning more and more that I know very little about adoption AND that what I knew in one season is NOT going to be the same for the next season. As we transition into this next phase of our open adoption the rules are changing and once again we have to learn to roll with it!
— Ashley Mitchell, Birth Mother, Big Tough Girl™

Open adoption is NOT for everyone.  Well, lets be honest...Adoption is NOT for everyone.

*this post is specific to a domestic open adoption  

If you have come into adoption thinking that it will be easy, thinking that you can anticipate all the emotion and grief and shift that takes place, if you think that you can love unconditionally with no drama, expectation or insecurity then you can join the club of misguided and misplaced love.....I think it is amazing how much for me has shifted over the years, how much I have learned, how much has changed in my opinions, in my advocacy and in my own journey.  

One thing has remained true for these past 10 years.  

I believe that open adoption can be helpful and can be done well if you can do 3 things.  

This is true no matter what side of the triad you stand....

1.  Get over yourself.

2.  Communicate.

3.  Respect each other!  

Now I came from 5 years of closed adoption to now 5 years of open.  Truly a decade of shift and change and adjustment.  I have seen almost every situation imaginable.  I have done a lot of things wrong to learn how to do things right.  I have studied behaviors and grief and trauma and relationships.  I have watched families destroy each other or build something very special and amazing.   

If you are a birth mother and you are making demands, if you think you are owed because of what you have "given" if you think you are entitled, if you are stepping over the blurred lines of open adoption and co-parenting(this is NOT visitation)....shame on you.

If you are an adoptive mother that is harboring thoughts of jealousy, if you are letting your fear dictate your decisions and using your child as an excuse to not honor your child(ren)s birth mother because of your insecurities, if you are not opening your heart to acceptance and love for who SHE is....shame on you. 

The amazing boy that I placed for adoption is now 10.  He has a voice.  He has a say.  He is old enough to process feelings and emotions, to understand a little deeper what all of this means in his world.  He now has his own questions and his own desires.  He has things he wants to learn and figure out, he wants more time with me to deepen that understanding!  

If openness is not done well, if open adoption is taken off the table, if openness is blocked from two mothers then HE suffers.  Then our son doesn't get to learn, grow, understand or have peace.  

We say we did this for HIM.  I say that I placed my son because it was the best for HIM.  She said she would adopt this baby because it was best for HIM.  If we really believe that, if we really want what is best for HIM then we take his lead.  No matter what we are feeling, no matter our issue we put that aside for him.  We allow him a space to grow and learn and understand.  HIS VOICE MATTERS and we can't pretend that we know what he needs or what he doesn't need.  

Yes as mothers we "know what is best for our kids".  But in adoption there is more to think about, more to let go of and more to allow.  

To pretend that this is just like any other family, any other child, any other situation is dangerous and very misguided.  You can pretend all you want that he is the "same" as the biological children but he is not.  He is adopted, he is different, he has MORE available to him, more for him to love and more to love him.  He will have a deeper understanding of who he is and where he comes from, he is special.  He is biologically connected to one and forever family connected to another.  That is a lot for a child.  That is MORE for that child.  That is different for that child.  

 

Open Adoption is complex and beautiful and amazing and can be done well!!!  It can be done right.  You can learn to communicate with each other, to love and respect each other, to honor each others needs.  

I truly believe that if open adoption is done well you can change the heart of everyone involved. You provide a space for love, respect and healing....something that is greatly missing in Adoption.
— Ashley Mitchell, Birth Mother, Big Tough Girl™

 

 

Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!

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#AdoptionTalk - CLOSURE

UPDATE ON DEBORAH- FEBRUARY 3, 2016

In November of 2014 I had the great honor to do an exclusive interview with Deborah, the Birth Mother from the hit documentary CLOSURE.  (find it on Netflix, Amazon Instant Play and more).

I have been so blessed by her friendship.  I have sat and watched in AWE at the transformation that Deborah has made over the past 2 years.  I have  talked for hours and hours with this amazing woman.  

We have talked about life and death and disappointments and regrets.  We have talked about kids and family and God, always talk of God.  We have talked about the "hurry up and wait to die".  We have talked about living in the dark.  We have talked about trials and punishment and what we deserve and who we are most mad at and the pressures of others.  

We have talked about everything. 

I have always admired Deborah and her honesty and her surprising grasp on her reality but I always knew that the fate that she believed was in store for her WAS NOT GOING TO PLAY OUT THAT WAY.  

She believed that she was undeserving of love and life and adventure and promise and freedom and independence.  She has sat for years and years alone in the dark just waiting.  Waiting for God to take her, waiting for whatever was coming for her.  

Waiting......................

I had the deep honor of sponsoring her for our BTG Soul Cruise for 2016.  I knew that this would push her outside of everything she had been doing for her life over the past 20+ years.  I knew that she would have to break out of the comfort of the waiting......that she would be forced to interact and to share and to go out on her own and to see things and hear things that would be completely new to her.  

As I watched her on this trip I learned so much about myself and saw a side of her that wasn't newly discovered....it was something that was finally AWAKE!!  Something that has ALWAYS been there but has never been fed.  

She was brilliant and open and caring and honest and adventurous and generous and loving and funny and I am sure TOTALLY embarrassed by us as a whole! 

She woke up every morning on the boat at 5:00am to go and sit with a dear and amazing couple that she met.  They would sit, have coffee and talk about life and loss and share their experiences and their HOPES FOR THE FUTURE!  

I watched as she interacted with the women on the trip half her age and laugh and joke and LEAD.  She brought things to the table, experience and perspective that NO ONE else could bring.  She taught about life and depression and disappointment.  She talked fearlessly of her choices and her regrets.  

She walked off that boat ready to get a job, ready for adventure and LIFE.  

No more waiting.....................

less proving....................

MORE LIVING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

I am going home and I am going to start living my life for ME, not for anyone else. This is about what I want and I am capable of doing it all. No one is going to tell me “I can’t” anymore. I am going to start living my life. I have missed so much.
— Deborah Johnson

continue scrolling to read our exclusive interview from 2014.  

*DISCLAIMER.  It has taken me a very long time to put this post together, to collect my thoughts and decide the direction that I have wanted it to go.  Every time I sat to write I was blocked, distracted and I could not get my heart into it.  As I sit and write today it is not the direction that I had planned, but this is what my heart needed to shared.  It is what WE wanted to share....And it is long....but beautiful.  xo, Ashley Mitchell

I asked our private support group of birth moms if they believed that we could find real closure in our journey.  Many said yes, some said no, some said that it totally depends on the situation and the individual.  Some believed that ACCEPTANCE was a better word, that we maybe don't every really have closure as birth parents but maybe we find acceptance which leads to a greater peace.  

A definition of CLOSURE says:

: a feeling that a bad experience has ended and that you can start to live again in a calm and normal way

My life since placement has never been lived in a calm and normal way.  It has always been a very tricky blend of coexisting with this choice.  I have found acceptance, I have found peace and forgiveness but there are always things in this life that show up to rattle my soul, to change my course, to draw me back..my birth son is out there, he is living a life and I get to be a guest role in his life from time to time but I find myself frozen at times, crippled by the reality of my choices.  

Do we really ever find ultimate CLOSURE?  In something that remains present in your life, that is constant in the front of your mind, that is forever a part of who you are....can you really ever get to a place of CLOSURE?

I have been working with women for the past 6 years, specifically women of the adoption community and even more specifically birth mothers.  I have heard incredible life stories.  I have heard stories that break my heart into a million pieces, I have heard stories that have healed my heart and bring great hope to my life.  I have heard stories that have stayed with me....that have changed me, deep in my soul.

This is one of those stories.

The women that I am going to tell you about have blessed me greatly and will stay with me throughout my life.

In February of 2014 I ordered a copy of the compelling Adoption Documentary CLOSURE.  There was some buzz going around social media and the story was brought to my attention.  I remember vividly watching this film, draw dropped and tears rolling down my cheeks.  

I wrote a review and posted it within two days of watching the film.  

In May I reached out to Angela Tucker, the Adoptee star of this documentary.  I asked if it would be ok if I sent a gift to her Birth Mother, Deborah for Birth Mother's Day/Mother's Day to honor her and let her know that she was not alone.  Angela, not knowing me or my story took the time to read it, respond and share the information that I needed.  

About a week after Deborah received her gift I received this from Angela:

Hi Ashley, I spoke with my birth mom who was in utter disbelief upon receiving her package. She said that she put the box on her counter and stared at it, wondering who would’ve sent her a box like that. Then she invited some of her neighbors inside to open the box with her. Finally she opened it, and she and her friends fought over the shirt, they are each wearing a wrist band, and Deborah refused to take the sunglasses off. Needless to say this was a gift unlike anything she’s ever received. THANK YOU.
— Angela Tucker

I have learned so much over the past 9 years.  Not just about myself but about ALL sides of adoption.  There are so many stories, so many sides, so many voices.  Each full of their own amount of pain and loss, their own self discovery and joy.  

I know what it has done for me and my story to be heard, to be celebrated, to be met with opposition, to seek validation and to earn respect.  

That is what we all want, and what we all deserve.  And the more we continue to open our hearts and minds and educate ourselves...we will be able to change opinions, change hearts, change the stereotype and with that comes GREAT HEALING.

When I watched CLOSURE I knew that I really wanted to reach out and talk more with Deborah, to be someone that she could depend on, someone that could understand what she had been through, what she was going through.  

WE ALL NEED SOMEONE. I do not care where you stand with adoption, what your opinions are or how you feel...when you are in it, you can NOT make it through alone. It is too damn hard.
— Ashley Mitchell

And this is  where I start with Deborah's story, reaching out to her and giving her an ear.

In a time when God and respect for your Elders are a way of life, Deborah found herself in impossible circumstances.  Choosing life on the street over disrespecting her own Mother, even when she had been wronged.  

Pregnant and alone Deborah chose adoption for Angela.  She chose life for Angela.

November 21, 2014 - phone interview   

Ashley:  Tell me about who Deborah is and what it was like growing up.

Deborah: I was born in 1954 in Atlanta, GA but was raised in Chattanooga.  I am a quiet person, I don't talk about myself.  I was raised with my parents but I spent more time with my grandparents.  My mother said I act just like her mother.  I love country life.  I am not a city person.  I love to have an open field and love to grow my own vegetables.  I am a dirt person.  We used to have the well in the front yard to get our water, I wish I had one now.  I love the spring water.  People in Chattanooga used to just line up to get the spring water.  My mother and my grandmother were religious people.  My mother sang in the church.  I was baptized into the church, my whole family was.   

When my grandmother died I kind of shut down, I couldn't really talk to anybody.  I was in the 9th grade and so I didn't know many things, i couldn't talk to anybody.  My mother was a strong person but she never asked you anything.  I felt like she should talk to me not just do things but my mother wasn't like that.  My mother said I was just like my grandmother.  I had twin brothers, one that left our family and joined the Marines and one that gave up his life to work so that his sisters could finish high school.  He gave up his life."

Deborah went on and shared many fun memories of her childhood and what it was like growing up.  Sharing her daily struggles, many similar to those that we all faced during that time.  

Ashley:  Tell me about your children 

Deborah:  "During this time, just about 1973 I was working a job in a plant making about $4.00 an hour.  At that time it was just my mother and me and then I had my eldest son.  My mom stayed home with my son and I would go to work.  That is how it went.  Then I had my next son, now this son was real rebellious.  Even though me and his father were no longer together I sent him to live with his dad in Oklahoma City.  I would not stand for his disrespect.  You do not raise your voice, regardless of what they tell you, you do that.  Even if you disagree, it doesn't matter, it is over.  I called his father and said you have to take him because if he does it again and is disrespectful again I am going to hurt him.  His father came and got him and he spent his life there.

After that I had Caroline, and then I had Angela.  

Ashley:  Tell me about Angela, your time being pregnant with her and what that was like for you.

Deborah:  There was a lot that happened between the time that I had Caroline and the time that I had Angela.  It changed the course of my life forever.

There are many things that were shared about this time in Deborah's life that I have felt strongly not to share out of great respect for her, the trials that she faced and betrayal by those that were supposed to love her the most.

In Chapter 46 of the book '52 Ways To Live A Kick-Ass Life' by Andrea Owen  it shares some thoughts on Closure, basically stating that it is overrated (which I totally agree with, at least as far as the literal definition is concerned.)

She says this:

The definition of closure that you’re looking for may never ever happen. Your only job is to create the closure YOU need in order to feel peace and love for yourself.
— Andrea Owen

We can't change the past.  EVER.  NEVER EVER.  And we sure as hell can't force people to sit and listen to us, to accept our apologies, to understand where we are coming from, to apologize to us, to fix all that was broken.....the romanticized version of closure that we have created in our head is probably not going to happen.  

As birth mothers we can drive ourselves crazy searching for the elusive "CLOSURE".  We want to find it with family, with the birth father, with friends, with those that have NOT supported us in our decisions, with the child, with the adopting family....we want to be at peace in our hearts so that we can go on to live in a "normal and calm way".

The biggest problem is that we are searching for closure from other people that have played a role in all of this mess...we need to stop looking for it in others and find it for ourselves!
— Ashley Mitchell

We may sit with someone for hours, asking questions, looking for all the answers and NEVER hear what it is that we want to hear.  The apologies that never come, the explanations of actions that never satisfy.  It is an endless pursuit.

Back to Deborah and her story.

Deborah:  My children had lived with me in a housing project. (son and first daughter)  I had moved and got another job.  My parents had separated but never divorced.  My daddy actually lived about 4 doors down from me.  He helped me a lot.  He made sure that they got on the school bus and I went to work.  

I was working as a cashier at a gas station.  My children were with my mother for that weekend and I had gone out with my friends.  We went out to the club and I met this man.  I knew his name, I knew his brother.  His brother was a professional boxer.  We started talking and seeing each other.  I would see him and then he would come and see me.  

*Deborah goes on to tell a story of betrayal that happened within her own family that took place during this time.  (this is not related to the boy she was dating) An event took place between her mother and sister that caused great turmoil in her family.  Because of Deborah's great respect for her Elder's she was not in a position to defend herself or accuse other family members of wrong doing.  She sacrificed everything to stay respectful to her family.  

The only thing that Deborah could do was to get her children and leave.  She was so heartbroken over the betrayal and any relationship that she had with her mother was now destroyed....and it broke her heart.  

One night her house was broken into.  She was not talking to her mother, but her father said that her Mother wanted the children with her.  It was not safe where they were living to have the kids there.  So Deborah took her children to her mother. She took care of them.

After everything that had happened she started going to clubs and began a self destructive path.  The hatred that her mother had for her really got to Deborah.

Back to the boy that Deborah was dating. 

Deborah:  When we started to date more he told me that he could not have any children.  And I trusted him.  It was the wrong thing to do for me.  When I found out I was pregnant I thought, Oh my God I have got to go!  At that time I was on the street but I was refusing to go back to my Mother's house where I knew that I could not open my mouth about anything!  I couldn't say a word.  So I left.  He didn't know where I had gone.  I did have a job.  I have always been able to get a job, and I was working.  Stayed here, there and some of everywhere.  I was homeless.  

Ashley:  Did you tell him that you were pregnant?

Deborah: No.  I did not tell him.  He would have not believed me, he would have said that he can't have children.  I took it upon myself.  The only thing that I knew is that my kids were safe with my mamma.  

Deborah goes on to share the heartbreaking time that she spent alone and pregnant.  She was on the street with a bit of a job.  She looks back now and can't believe that nobody saw what was going on....

Nobody knew what was going on because nobody came around me. I didn’t have any plans I was just out there. I was drinking just to hold on.
— Deborah Johnson

I can relate so much to that statement from Deborah.  When you find yourself in impossible circumstances like an unplanned pregnancy you will be surprised what you will do.  You are pushed to the very edge of your sanity.  I numbed my pain by drinking. I didn't know how to manage my emotion or control my impulses. I wanted nothing more than to just disappear and to make it all just go away!  There are SO many things that I did during the time of my pregnancy that I am not proud of, that I have been greatly slandered for.  It is impossible to understand the choices that were made...for those that have found themselves in this position understand the desperation that comes with the fear, guilt and shame...and the reality of what is going to happen.  

She had already lost so much.  She was now faced with delivery of a child and she was told that Angela was not going to make it.  

I asked Deborah one simple question.  "Was abortion ever something that was on the table"

Without even a second of hesitation she replied

NO.  NO.  

She was unable to remember so much of the delivery of Angela.  She ended up at the hospital some how.  She was told that Angela was not going to make it.  

Deborah:  The doctor told me about adoption.  There was a social worker there and she told me that they could get someone in here to help you.  I didn't know anything about adoption.  I didn't know what he was talking about.  I met the social worker and she knew all about the situation, she knew I was homeless and she know of the medical attention that Angela needed....she wanted to talk to me about adoption.  She told me that she could find a home and some help for the child if she makes it through.  The nurse then came in and said do you want to see her? 

Her response put me in tears. 

Can you promise me that you can get her some help? If you can promise me that you can get her some help I will sign the papers. I can’t hold her. If I see her and hold her she will never get any help. She wont get any help because if I hold her I will never give her back to you.
— Deborah Johnson

She signed the papers, and checked herself out.  

She lived from "pillow to post."

Deborah:  I know that there is a higher power out there.  I know what it is about to live on the street.  I know many people that lived on the street and never made it.  I know there is a higher power because I am still standing!  And WHO AM I that I am still standing.  There has to be something good about me because he has let me stand! 

At this point in life Deborah literally checked out of her life.  She pushed everyone away.  She was alone during the greatest struggles and was alone for every moment after.  

We have these moments in our life....this profound life changing moments that create and sometimes cause the avalanche.  I can look back at my life and pin point moments that if I would have done something different or if someone else would have done ONE thing different my entire life would have been changed.  

Deborah knew what that moment was in her life....it started everything.  She never went to her sisters and had a conversation with them.  She never needed to go to them for Closure.  She just knew that what she needed to keep herself safe and to love herself was to GET AWAY from those that didn't treat her the way she deserved.  The closure that she needed was found within.  

She sacrificed everything to get herself out, to put the space between herself and those that have hurt her.  She knew that she had to keep moving.  She knew that if she stopped she would have just shriveled up and died.

Ashley:  What kept you moving.  AFTER EVERYTHING what was it that kept you moving?! 

You gotta do what you gotta do to survive. I did not want to die. I wanted to see my children. I used to get on a bus and drive by the address where I knew Angela was and I would drive by and look. I never went in, but I would always drive by.
— Deborah Johnson

Deborah never let go of her children.  They are always with her.  Closure didn't come for her with something that was so present in her life...she didn't want to move past it and live in a normal and calm way...

Her children were her driving force.  Not something she was trying to get over.

Deborah:  After many years of just going on and on I finally got an apartment and starting put my life together, and it came little by little.  I met a man and I found out that he was married.  My open heart, it gets into trouble.  I found out I was pregnant again.  This child was going to have more problems than Angela.  

*Deborah had many high risk concerns with her own health.  The doctor told her after her first child that she shouldn't have any more children.  People have been so harsh about her story but she never told anyone about how she RISKED her own life to bring these children into the world.  She could have had an abortion but she risked her life for the birth of these children.  

Years later, when Angela showed up at her house and confronted her Deborah knew in her heart that it was one of them, she knew it was one of her girls that she had placed for adoption, she wasn't sure which one.  She denied being her mother.  Deborah was on the defense and was cornered.  

Deborah:  I had a picture of her, and I went to church.  That is what I had.  The people of the church took care of me.  My prayer was simply this:

Please let me live long enough to see that they made it through.
— Deborah Johnson

I am amazed at Deborah's strength.  She continued to share her journey, her struggles and her desire to be understood.  She knew who she was and why she made the choices that she made!  She risked so much for her children, she stayed loyal and respectful and she gave her children a better life than she could have EVER offered them.  She ALWAYS thought of her children, it was literally her driving force to keep moving, it saved her life and has been her one wish and prayer.  

Deborah:  Angela says "26 years and 1500 miles for closure."  She hasn't found closure yet.  Closure is going to come to her when I close my eyes.  Because it will be all over then.  

This statement hit me so hard.  And I believe it truly goes back to what I expressed early.  When it is something in your life that is present, that occupies your thoughts and exists in your space can you really find CLOSURE?  At least in the literal sense?  I think there will always be unanswered questions, conversations that will never satisfy, relationships that will never heal.  

For birth moms the key isn't about letting it go and putting it behind you so that you can live a normal and calm life!  For us it is about CO-EXISTING with our decisions.  Our children are never something we want to get over.  It is something that we need to work at to find acceptance that this is our life, that these are the choices that we made and we are living the consequences.  Find "closure" within ourselves and learn to LET GO of the rest.  

After CLOSURE was released Deborah had to close the door finally on many family relationships because of the harshness of their reaction to her and her life choices.  Her own daughter even took some time away.  Deborah respected them and let them do what they needed to.

She laughs as she dreams and makes plans to move to the West Coast and Sunny California...moving on and away where no one can touch her!  Doing something for herself is unheard of.  It is about time.  

 

Deborah has come to terms with the fact that she made the choices that she did, that she is going to be alone.  Her life is SO fragile and if it is shook she will break.  

She is so fragile.

Deborah knows without a doubt in her heart that Angela would have died if she had not made the choice that she had made.  She doesn't regret that decision for even a second.

Deborah shares an incredible testimony of God and the promises that he has kept to her.  In the darkest times so many of us lose the faith and she grows stronger, she leans on her Father for everything.  She knows there is more for her to do.  

She shares a testimony about how God brought me to her, that Angela brought me to her.  I am in tears during this interview knowing that I have been the only birth mom that she has ever been able to talk to.  She wants to teach people and educate!!  

To know that someone out there knows deep down, without prejudgment is a testimony of the work that he is doing in my life. Through you he is showing me that I am not a bad person. It is so good to know that there is someone out there that can say I know how you feel.
— Deborah Johnson

I continue to be humbled by the women that are willing to open up to me and share their hearts with me.  I am just thankful to be a part of their journey!!  It is the greatest honor!

Deborah:  Unless you have been there you can not judge anybody.  

Ashley:  If you could tell people anything about you what would it be?

Deborah:  I will give you my life, until you show me that you can not be trusted.  If I have got something and you need it you can have it because I know that God will give me something else.  I don't worry about that.  Money doesn't move me, people move me.  I want to sit around with people that know what I have gone through and not judge me.  One day I want to go home and meet my Heavenly Father, he has done so much for me.  I can't go back.  God pushes me forward, not backward.  I am more than blessed that they made it.  They made it.  People tell me that is isn't any of my doing that they made it and I beg to differ with you.  Had it been the other way around I know they would have never made it.  Yes I wanted my baby but I wanted to be able to take care of her.  I love to laugh.  I am a happy go-lucky person and I love to laugh.  Laugh is what I do through any emotion.  I will go through it with a smile on my face.  I am still an open-hearted person.  It is a part of me, the way I was raised to care.  People don't look at adoption as caring but it is....if it is looked at the right way and know why it is done it is caring.  

I love this woman!!!!  I love this amazing Big Tough Girl and she is still pushing forward.  I am so honored to stand with her as a birth mom.  We are healing together, we are finding acceptance and support, we are looking within for our own personal closure.  

Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!

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No Bohns About It

#AdoptionTalk - Memories

“We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.”

— John Dewey

As I was sorting through some old boxes in my garage I found an old journal.  It has a beautiful cover of green and blue buttons of all shades and all sizes.  It is filled with beautiful recycled pages and a beaded book mark.  

This journal also contained 5 months of hand written life moments.  It was dated from January 1, 2005 to May of 2005.  I quickly realized what these journal pages were going to contain.  The last months of a relationship with a boy, a boy that is in my life forever, the birth father to a child that I placed for adoption.  A relationship that has deeply changed my life in so many ways.  

Sometimes we feel like we are standing still, that we haven't made any progress, that we make some mistakes and we beat ourselves up and we feel like we are just repeating the same cycles.  Reflecting back has helped me to see how far I have truly come and how much I want to keep moving forward.  

As I read through the pages I was sadden by the way I felt, the pain that I was in, the lack of understanding and perspective, the value I put on my worth, the hate talk, the shame, the sacrifices made and the allowance for mistreatment.  

Honestly if I could go back I would probably slap the shit out of that girl.

But that is what time, and work and energy and experience and love and devotion to yourself and soul work can do...make you want to go back and shake the shoulders of your former self and scream "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!!!"  

It seems now to be a really bad fiction novel.  A story about a woman that I no longer know or recognize.  A tragic story of pain and loss and heartache and confusion.  

“I am learning that it is NOT just about letting go of the pain from the past, but it is about pulling the experiences from them, finding the diamond in the pile of coal, and holding that treasure close to you, implementing it into your life and then letting go of the rest. Don’t ever forget to find the lesson in the experience before you take it out with the trash!”

— Ashley Mitchell

So I am pulling the diamonds from that journal before tearing out the pages and finding a better use for this beautiful book!  

These are 3 things that I have changed in my life, that I have improved on, that are vastly different from before, that have helped me to create a life driven by my greatest desires:

1.  I HAVE STOPPED THE HATE TALK. 

I was so appalled by what I read on the very first page of this book, and it just continued to get worse as it went on.  

"FAT WATCH, I am racking up the lbs at a sick 153.  I need to get down to 140 at least and tone up...I need to be small and tone so that he wont leave me for someone else."

"Stop eating you fat cow"

"Just back off of him a little, I love him too much and I don't blame him for feeling smothered.  I need to stop acting like a needy baby"

"I really need to break it off with him, he doesn't love me like I love him, but will he even miss me?"

"I have done everything I can think of to make him love me"

" I need to just bite my tongue when he says something mean to me, I just make it worse when I fight with him."

...and the book goes on and on like that.  I felt so sad that I talked so bad about myself, that I thought I wasn't worth loving, that I thought my body was my worth (by the way I would kill to be at 153 right now but man I love those double cheeseburgers!)  That I felt like my opinion didn't matter or that I wasn't allowed to share my voice.  

This has changed greatly in my life, and thank goodness for that!  I have a voice.  I share it openly, I have very open and honest communication with my husband, he respects me and loves me, he worships my body...not because it is perfect but because it houses my spirit, it has been the vessel for our children to come into this world, it is a part of him.  I look in the mirror and recite positive affirmations to myself, I practice self love and self care.  I want to be respected and honored.  I believe that I am worth loving and I don't have to prove that on a daily basis.  

I have learned who I am and what I am worth, and it is WAY more that I ever thought possible.  I know my worth and what I am NOT willing to settle or sacrifice.  I am ok in my own skin and I know I have a great purpose.  

2.  I KNOW THAT I AM NOT GOING TO DIE IF SOMETHING DOESN'T WORK OUT! 

I lost count of how many times I said "I can't handle this, I am seriously going to die if he leaves me.  My life will be over if he decides he doesn't want to be with me" " I am so broke and I am such a loser, what am I going to do?  I will never survive this"

One of the very greatest lessons that I have learned in this life is that the TRUE miracle is that we DO survive, that we can make it through anything and that I am a BIG TOUGH GIRL™.   

How quickly we forget when we are experience great turmoil in our life that WE CAN DO THIS, that we have survived great destruction but that we have rebuilt our foundation and that we really are ok?!  

I try to keep that in the front of my process at all times.  It is a powerful reminder! 

“I truly believe that the greatest miracle in any trial is that we do in fact survive.”

— Ashley Mitchell

Change is a great part of life.  It can be dirty and messy and it never asks permission...it just comes.  WE have a choice to stay where or get in the dirt and roll with the change.  I am so thankful for the lessons of change that I have learned over the years.  With every life season change comes closing a few chapters, but allowing room to start a few new ones and man....the excitement of the new and the freedom from the past....there is a much greater pay off.  

 

3.  THE "LOVE" OF MY LIFE WASN'T ACTUALLY FOUND IN A MAN.  

I am so grateful that I have my husband in my life, that I didn't die because of that break up and that I was able to rise and find my true equal, companion...a true soul mate.  A man that loves me, supports me, and that truly gets me.  Who knew that losing "the love of my life" would actually set me on path to meet my husband.  Funny how those things just seem to work out! 

My husband has taught me a VERY valuable lesson.  Last year at this time I had a kitchen full of amazing and capable women, all smart and beautiful and true BTG's.  As we were celebrating an amazing weekend and toasting to each other one of my soul sister's raised a glass and toasted that her and the other single women in that circle could find a man that loved them and respected them and realized their worth.  

When it got to my husband he simply raised his glass and said 

"Here is to realizing that your worth is not found in someone else." 

I know....SWOON! 

Needless to say of us stopped for a moment to reflect in his simple but profound statement, realizing how true it was.  

The true LOVE of my life has been my relationship with myself.  Getting to know me on an intimate level, learning to love and work within the realm of my imperfections and expanding in ways that I never thought possible.  Knowing to the very depths what my true desired feelings are and how to create a life around them.  I have learned to accept weakness and I have learned to say NO and I have learned to create boundaries and I have learned to allow for change and season and to allow others to be who they are, to set acceptance of expectations, to share my voice and to love a community.  This is true love and I look forward to continuing this amazing relationship with myself, to explore and develop more talents that have been given to me and to continue to love myself in a way that reflects my truest potential! 

What an incredible blessing to find this book, to be reminded of how far I have come and that I can continue to move forward in growth, healing and love. 

As I burned the pages of this book, I let go of the pain and anger and despair...knowing that the true treasure of those pages had been removed and had been implemented into my daily practice.  

“Reflect on every experience, find the treasure and throw out the rest with the garbage!”

— Ashley Mitchell

Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!

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Today's topic is Memories. Grab a button for your post and join Ashley, Erin, Jenni, Jill, Juliana

New to linking up? We'd love to have you join us, here's how.

No Bohns About It

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.  

Crushing The Egg Shells

I believe that one of the greatest issues that keep us from being able to move forward with a healthy and functioning open adoption is understanding our role and communication.

When I placed that baby boy for adoption over 9 years ago I was very clear on my role.  I knew who I was to him, I understood greatly and deeply what it meant to relinquish my rights as his mother and I knew that I would never have claim over him.  

I was OK with that.  This was MY choice.

I also knew that when I placed that baby boy for adoption over 9 years ago that his mother, the amazing woman that was willing to adopt him knew her role.  She knew that she did not give him life and that she could never have that biological bond with him but that she would have a bond with him that would be equally as strong.  

And I was OK with that.  This was MY choice. 

I knew that I would be jealous of her.  I knew that as I watched her raise him and love him and have him call her mom that I would be jealous.  I knew that there would be times that I hated her.  I knew that during his life I would miss so much.  I knew that I would be able to make a guest appearance in his life and I knew that they would do their best to keep me involved but I knew that there was NO way that it would ever be enough.  I knew that I would always want more but would take what I could get.  I would be jealous of their time, their love, their laughter, their tears, their bond as mother and son.

And I was OK with that.  This was MY choice.

I knew that she would be jealous of me.  I knew that she would feel great loss and jealousy as she watched me bring our son into the world.  I knew that she would be jealous that he looked like me and that there would be little things that he did, little quirks that do not come from her.  I knew that she would be jealous of his longing and wanting to know me, to understand me, to ask questions about me.  I knew that as they sat together and he asked about me that she would be jealous.  I knew that she would be jealous of our biological bond, that strong tie between us that will forever connect us and pull us together.  I knew that she would be jealous of my love for him.  

And she was OK with that.  This was HER choice. 

I knew that I would have great moments of fear.  I knew that I would always fear that the baby that I placed would grow to hate me, that he would never be able to forgive me and that he would blame me for the pain in his life.  I knew that I would have fear about how she would talk about me, that she would not honor me or respect me.  I knew that I would be in fear that she would not honor her promises.  I knew there would be fear that he wouldn't want to know, that he wouldn't ask questions, or care, or feel that connection with me.  I knew that I would fear the future, the unknown, the change of season, and my future. I knew that I would fear his reaction to my children, to my life without him, separate from him.  I knew that I would fear the pain I caused him....but I would also fear the joy.

And I was OK with that.  This was MY choice.  

I knew that she would have great moments of fear.  I knew that she would fear that he would never love her like a mother, that she would never love him like her own.  I knew that she would fear his pull to me.  I knew that she feared that he would want me, leave her, blame her for taking him away.  I knew that she would fear me and my rejection of them, or my acceptance.  I knew that she feared drawing the line, creating boundaries and protecting what was hers.  I knew that she feared that I would disappear, not care, not love, be in too much pain.  That I would blame her and hate her and forever be tied to my anger for her.  I know she feared her ability to care for him, of letting me down, of being a disappointment, of feeling like I could have done it better.  I knew she would fear the age when he could leave.  I knew she feared that it would never be enough.

And she was OK with that.  This was HER choice. 

We knew there would be conflict.  We knew that we would disagree.  We knew we would disagree on parenting style, and life choices.  We knew that we would not always be happy with each other and we knew that we would not always support the other in choices being made.  We knew that we would butt heads and argue and wish and pray that things were different.  We knew that we would feel that our opinions were more important than the other, and we knew that we would hurt each other.  We knew that there would be tension and awkwardness, we knew that there would be sadness and tears.  We knew there would be bitterness and loneliness.  We knew there would be stupidity and anger.  We knew it would be a battle.  

And we were OK with that.  This was OUR choice. 

We knew there would be respect.  We knew that there would be a level of understanding and a level of love and appreciation for the other that could never be matched in any other relationship in our life.  We knew that there would be honor and joy and celebration.  We knew that there would be gratitude and overwhelming humility.  We knew that there would be love and sacrifice and peace and family.  We knew that we could learn from each other and grow in this life together, we knew that we could lean on each other and we knew that we could count on each other.  We knew there was trust and that there was a child that needed it all.

And we were OK with that.  This was OUR choice.  

It is impossible to know everything about adoption. It is never the same and it is always changing. But for all the unknown there are things that we can always cling to: Faith, Love and Kindness. For everything else all we simply have to do is ask.
— Ashley Mitchell, Birth Mother

Crush the egg shells.  Communicate with each other.  Be open to each other and be kind to each other.  This is NOT easy for anyone and it did NOT just happen to you.  

Let go of the selfishness, the jealousy, the fear.  Approach this journey with humility, love, respect, faith and the reality that THIS will always be a part of you.  You can't make it go away and you can't ignore it forever.  Sit down, have the hard conversations, set the boundaries and always remember the role that you play!  

The Visit

2 weeks ago I had the amazing opportunity to have a visit with my Birth Son and his amazing mother and sister.  He just turned 9 this month.  9 years ago I became a mother.  Not ever in a way that I planned.  A way that changed the course of my life forever.  

When I got the text message requesting more time, more visits, more ME I took a step back and had to process through so much.  (You can read about that HERE.)

I am always shocked that I get invited for a visit. I understood deeply and completely what it meant when I signed those papers...they owe me nothing, They are not obligated to do anything for me and I am not entitled to anything. I am honored, blessed and eternally grateful when I am asked to be included. I know my place and I have accepted that.
— Ashley Mitchell

I am so grateful that he is with a family that is so open with him.  That they share great love and respect for me and in the way that they talk to him about me.  It is so delicate and such a vulnerable position to be in.  They are filtering all of his questions and his concerns and his curiosity and they are doing it beautifully!!  

As I watched my kids play with him, run around with him, chase after him my heart was exploding!  I never thought a time would come for me in my life where I could feel such joy and peace in decisions that I have made.  

For years, even before I found myself pregnant my life was falling apart.  I couldn't even begin to explain how quickly this happened.  One day I looked in the mirror and I didn't even recognize myself.  I was doing things that I was so ashamed of, I was in so much pain but I couldn't face any of it.  I just numbed my pain, I ran away from all of my hurting and I was slowly but surely on a self-destructive path.  

After placement it got worse and worse until I finally broke down.  That is the thing about trying to run....it all eventually catches up with you, then you are forced to deal!  

While the kids played I stood and talked to his mother.  For hours we talked.  I shared stories that she had never heard before.  Stories that I thought she already knew.  Stories of how he came into this world, my experience at the abortion clinic, how I came to pick their family and more.  We shared so much about both of our paths and how we were able to keep pushing forward.  

We talked about the new stage of parenting that we are in, a new stage of Open Adoption that we have found ourselves in.  And I have realized how important our communication was to keep everyone on the same page and at a comfortable level.  

Adoption doesn't get any easier.  It is constantly changing and adjusting.  We are always growing and learning.  We make mistakes and we move forward with new perspective.  If we fight against growth we are forced in the wrong direction.  

We are crazy to think that the relationship that we had when that baby boy was born is going to be the same 9 years later. Like ANY other relationship in my life, this one has worked through different seasons, some good and some bad. But we are always coming back to each other. It is worth fighting for...their entire family is worth fighting for.
— Ashley Mitchell

I know my place.  I know who is calling the shots.  I am grateful for that, for them.  They have stepped up in more ways than I ever hoped for.  They have gone above and beyond my expectations for him.  AND at the end of the day, no matter my relationship with them...it is ALL about him.  

I asked her if it was always easy for her to include me.  I asked her if she always knew that she wanted me involved in their life, in his life.  

She looked at me with a magical smile and simply said "Yes."

What a powerful thing for my life.  Even if I don't use it, even if I don't take advantage of the offer as often as I could, even if months and months and months go by....I know that I am always there, I am always wanted and I am always loved.  

I am so blessed.  My journey has NOT been easy.  It has been ugly and shameful.  It has been built upon regret and suffering.  I have made many mistakes.  Some I have been able to forgive myself for and some I am still working through...

But at this visit, through it all, we stood there as a family.

9 years ago I became a mother but not in a way that I ever planned or expected. When divine intervention saved this amazing boy from abortion and an adoption plan was made there was NO way for me to know or understand the magnitude of my decision.

It changed the course of my life forever. Bringing this child into this world, holding him, crying over him, praying for him....sacred conversations at night in the hospital when I was still his mother, begging for forgiveness, overwhelmed with love and joy for his family that had been waiting and praying for his arrival long before I made my decision.....this moment changed everything. I am the woman I am because of this beautiful, perfect and chaotic moment! The moment I became a mother and then 3 days later I became a Birth Mother. 

I never wanted this...but it is a part of me...he is forever a part of me...and I am so honored, humbled and blessed to be the woman that gave him life...and I am so humbled by the woman that is helping him live his life. 9 years. 

That is adoption.

A Simple Request.

There is nothing simple about adoption. It is the most complex and beautiful thing that I have ever had the privilege of being associated with.
— Ashley Mitchell

I received a text.  A text messaged that caught my breath, that stopped me in my tracks, that made everything else around me disappear.  It was simple and pure and innocent and lovely.  

It will turn my world as I know it upside down.  In a beautiful and complicated way!

"...Derek keeps talking about wanting to spend more time with you...."

As a birth mom, I have these moments, these small little reminders of who I am...of something that is a HUGE part of my life.  The reality slaps me in the face.  I am forced to look at the part of my life that I co-exist with, that is always there and always a part of me but that doesn't often get the attention, or time or energy that maybe it should, maybe that it needs...

So here I am, world standing still and I am quiet and listening, pondering the consequences of this simple request.  

The questions...OH THE QUESTIONS!  

But then my heart.  My heart is screaming so many things.  

It is interesting that this text has come up now, during this time in my life, during the time when I have been working on things and asking questions.  

I joined a Tele-Life Coaching Circle this past week for adoption with the amazing LeAnne Parsons of Walk Your Talk Legacy Now Lived.  We will be spending the next 3 months together and I am looking forward to this new experience of Life Coaching {many of you know that I am a HUGE believer in coaching and what it offers for forward movement, getting unstuck and personal empowerment}.  

In our first conversation I talked about the fact that my daughter was getting older, she just turned 5, and that she is asking questions and loves all the 'BIG TOUGH GIRLS' even if she doesn't know exactly what that means.  When we are in our home she is right by my side while I work in the office, she helps put swag bags together and she hears the word adoption a lot...but it is nothing that I have ever talked openly about with her....I believe there are age appropriate conversations to have with our children.

When this text came across I realized something.  Derek is almost 9.  He is age appropriate for a lot of this conversation.  What if he has questions, what does he want to know, what does he think about, what is he curious about, what about the birth father....OH NO please don't let him ask me about the birth father....

But my heart.  My heart so wants to talk with him, to know him, to answer his questions, to understand him and have him understand me.

I don't know why for so many years I didn't think this moment would come.  I don't know why I thought that he wouldn't be curious.  I don't know why I thought that his family would be "enough".  

I am learning more and more that I know very little about adoption AND that what I knew in one season is NOT going to be the same for the next season. As we transition into this next phase of our open adoption the rules are changing and once again we have to learn to roll with it!
— Ashley Mitchell

I talk openly about my adoption.  I have shared in great detail my story and have worked with hundreds of birth moms and adoptive mothers and I have been able to own my story and be open and raw and real and it has been such an honor to share my story...

But I wonder, do I honor him?

Have I honored him in my life?  My family is not involved in his life, his birth father is not involved in his life, my kids know him and have played with him but they don't know who he is specifically or what he means to me, I don't tell people that I have 3 children, I don't send holiday cards or presents, I don't send regular updates or pictures......does he think that I am not that interested in having him be a part of my life? 

Oh my heart.  If he knew my heart.  If he knew that I have been trying to protect and maybe protect me.  If he knew that I loved him and if he knew that he matters to me and if he knew that he changed my life forever....Oh my heart.  

One simple request.  One text.  One thought of a boy, a boy that almost 9 years ago I held in my arms and played the role of mother. He wants to spend time with me.  

I know what people would say and think.  "Why wouldn't you want to see him?"  "I would give anything for this opportunity!"  "How could you say no to him?"

But for me there is so much to consider, so many people to think about, so many consequences.  

If only this were just a simple request, if only it was black and white, if only.....

I don't know what will happen or how all of this will play out, maybe it wont be that different, maybe he wont be that interested, maybe it wont change anything....

but maybe it will...

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.

 

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 

The Only Selfish Birth Mom.

Andy Dufresne: What about you? What are you in here for?
Red: Murder, same as you.
Andy Dufresne: Innocent?
Red: [shakes his head] Only guilty man in Shawshank.

Sharing my soul as a birth mom today.  And before you say anything please know that I already know how this makes me look...it is just something that needs to be shared. 

There have been countless people in the 8 years since I placed that little sweet boy in the arms of his mother that tell me I was so selfless.  That I made a great sacrifice in placing my child for adoption.  

That was always a really hard pill to swallow.  

One of my very favorite movie moments in Shawshank Redemption was the point that "RED" admits to being the "only guilty man in Shawshank".  That line always stuck with me. 

In a world where so many play victim, that place blame on so many others, that refuse to take responsibility for their own actions there are some that stand and own it.  

{shaking my head} I am the only selfish Birth Mom.  

I did not want to be pregnant.  

I did not want to raise a child on my own.

I did not want to give up my time and money.

I did not want to struggle financially.

I did not want to put everyone through so much pain.

I did not want to be single mom.

I did not want to have to explain to my son why  his dad wasn't around.

I did not want to date with a child.

I did not want the responsibility.

I did not want the burden.

I didn't want to worry about how it looked to everyone else.

I wanted him to have WAY more than me.

I had so many things in my life that I wanted to do, that I wanted to be and this was not on the list. I found myself in an unplanned pregnancy because of poor choices that I had made in my life. I am not proud of that. I am not proud of how and why I became a birth mom...but it is what I am, it is a part of me.
— Ashley Mitchell

  The selfless ones in this story are his parents.  The amazing people that saved me.  That swooped in and loved him, and cared for him and adopted him into their family.  They took on all the burden and responsibility, the pain and the heartache, the joy and the happiness.  They took on the financial burden and the stress.  They took on the time and the energy and the sleepless nights.  They took on all of it....for me and for him.

All of the credit belongs to them.  All of his accomplishments, goals and dreams...his life purpose.  It is all them.

I gave him life but they are allowing him and helping him to LIVE his life. 

I love him very deeply and he will always be a part of me.  

I have learned so much over the past 8 years since my placement.  Now that I am a mother of 2 children of my own I have learned of the deep sacrifice made by a mother.  The unconditional love and the time and energy that it takes to raise a child.  The things that I have had to give up and put on the back burner.  I have found that the love for the son that I placed for adoption has grown deeper since placement. 

I am so thankful for those that came into my life, that acted selflessly on behalf of me and that beautiful baby boy.  I am grateful for those that stood by me while I made my selfish decisions for me....and for him.  

I know he is deeply loved, I know that he is cared for.  I know that he is safe and protected.  I know that he is strong and happy.  

I made a decision for myself and for a child.  I try to tell myself that those choices were the very best for him....but really, it was best for me.  I knew he wouldn't get what he truly deserved with just me.

I pray daily for forgiveness and peace for those decisions.  

 



Aren't They All The Same?

Adoption is a huge part of my life.  This is a topic that has been coming up a lot in our private groups and 1:1 mentoring.  

When I chose the family that I did, one of the things that brought me to that decision was that they had adopted before.  I kind of liked the idea that the two kids would have that in common...that maybe he wouldn't feel so "different" in his own home.  

I never even thought about the fact that there would be another birth mom in that picture, working through the same adjustments in loss and grief and figuring out what our relationship with the adopting family would be.  I also didn't even think that I would have to feel like I wasn't "doing it right" because she was different from me in our stance on Open Adoption.  She was a birth mom in that family before me, so does that set the bar for how I should be as a birth mom?

One of the greatest lessons that I have learned in all of my time working with Birth Mothers is that NO one single story is the same.  Yes there are similarities and yes the end result is the same, adoption...but that is it.  

Birth Mothers are as different as the children that they place and as different as the families that adopt.  So why are the adoptive families trying to set ONE set of standards on how to treat the birth moms?

Every single situation needs to be treated like it is an important, individual relationship that needs work and understanding and some exploration to decide what works best for all involved.  

About 6 months after I placed I was in a VERY bad place personally.  I was grieving deeply but nothing was on the surface except for my own self destruction.  I couldn't talk about it with any one and I was barely keeping it together.  

I sent a letter to the adoptive family at that six month point and asked that we step away, close the contact and allow for some space for me to move forward without the reminders of the great pain that I was in.  A week or so after I had sent that letter I received an email from their daughter's birth mom.  She was the "first birth mom" in their family and they had a VERY open adoption.  She participated in family events, parties, phone calls...she would take their daughter alone in her car etc.  (Something that always totally freaks me out! Just a personal thing.)

So you could say that we were total opposite in our view on adoption at that point in our individual journey.  

She would email me and tell me details about birthday parties and how sad the family was that I was so distant and that they were wonderful people and that they were hoping that we could have the same kind of relationship that they had with her.  That they are people that I should want to know and that I was SO lucky to have them in my life and that I shouldn't throw it away.

I knew all of this but I wasn't open to the relationship at that time.  I was hurt to know that the family would have conversation with this birth mom.  This "other woman".  

I know they had questions, I know they didn't understand how one could be so open and the other not.  I know they were worried about me and wanted the best for me.  I know they wanted me and that baby boy to have a relationship.  I know that none of their actions were meant to be hurtful. 

To this day we continue to have VERY different relationships.  We have had to learn how to develop separate standards and expectations.  We communicate differently, we participate differently and I know they have had to be a lot more patient with me, a lot more distant and a lot more respectful for my concerns and boundaries.  

They have adjusted and I have adjusted and they are wonderful people.  

There is GREAT comparison that runs through the adoption community.  Everyone is being judged and looked at and studied and evaluated.  

“All parties of the adoption triad are just trying to find their place. It looks different for everyone but not less important. From one situation to the next we need to be respectful, we need to let go of expectation and we need to make room for adjustment and growth.”

— Ashley Mitchell

We as birth mothers are not the same.  We all process differently, we grieve differently, we recover differently.  So I think that it is a safe assumption that we would have different needs as it relates to the adopting families.  

NOW I believe very deeply that the adoptive family has the final say.  I have a great deal of respect for that position as the parents of the child.  I believe that they do the VERY best that they can and I believe that they will do what is the very best for their family.  That does not always benefit the birth parent but I still honor those choices. 

I encourage you to get to know the birth mothers that are a part of your families.  Ask questions, find out what their needs are, what their wants are as far as the relationship goes and treat each individual as the sacred and unique relationship that it is.  

Sending a standard package to multiple birth parents isn't always the best or most effective way. MAKE TIME, TAKE TIME and allow each birth mom to feel special.  Customize your contact with each individual.

Here is a note of the flip side....to my dear birth moms that are in a situation where there is more than one adoption in the family.  THIS IS NOT A COMPETITION. Just as the birth mothers are different and you have different demands, wants and needs SO do the children.  One relationship may be different not based on you but based on the needs or wants or desires of the child.  There may be concerns in lifestyle choices, boundaries etc that the parent MUST take into consideration.  And if you decide that you want less and the other birth mom is getting more remember who made that choice.  

There is no room for jealousy in a choice that YOU made for yourself.  

Lets not play favorites.  Lets learn and grow and adjust to each relationship as it presents itself.  

We are  all in this together, lets bring our needs to the table and figure out a way to cater to each other.  

 

To The Woman I Didn't Pick

To the beautiful woman that I didn't pick,

I want you to know that I think about you often.  I want you to know that I loved your family.  I want you to know that you and your husband were a beautiful family and that I felt that you had so much to offer.

I want you to know that I poured over your profile.  In a stack of a hundred families you stood out, for whatever reason, my heart skipped a beat when I looked at your profile and I knew that you were in the running.

You and your husband were newly weds, married just 2 years.  You were so young and beautiful.  Your husband was serving our country and you were a school teacher.  You lived a happy life in Idaho.  You loved each other, you believed in God and you wanted a baby.

You shared your amazing story with me, an expectant mother, your deepest sadness and yearning for a child.  You shared your heartbreaking story of all of the children that you lost to miscarriage.  You shared the tears and pain of infertility.  You opened up about the guilt and shame and anger that you felt about not being able to have a child biologically.  You shared your heart and the heart of your husband.  The tears that you shed together.

And then you shared your story of hope, the hope that a woman like me would pick a woman like you.  That I would find you and be drawn to you, that I would want to meet you and that I would bond with you and love you immediately.  That I would fulfill your dreams of becoming a mother.  You promised me an open adoption, you promised to love my son like he was your own flesh and blood, that he would be raised to love God and that he would know me and always know my love for him.

I want you to know that you stood out.  I want you to know that I wanted to pick you.  I want you to know that I prayed over you and your husband.  I want you to know that I still do.

I think about you often.  You are in my heart, just as present as the woman that I picked to be a mother to my son.  I know you were informed that I was looking at your profile.  I know that you had to live through the rejection.  I want you to know how sorry I am and that you did nothing wrong.

I picked her.  I picked them.  They are amazing people.  They are an amazing family and have been the perfect family for me and for that beautiful boy.

I didn't pick you.  You are amazing people.  You would have been an amazing family and could have been the perfect family for me and that beautiful boy.

I think about you and hope and pray often that you have been picked.  That you found a woman that was like me all those years ago.  That she poured over your profile and cried as I did.  That she was  inspired by you as I was, that they called you and met you and that you have been able to fulfill all those same promises that you made to me.  That she was able to help you become a mother…a mother that you have always dreamed of being.

I didn’t pick you.  I loved you and you touched my heart and inspired me.

I am not sorry for the family I picked, but I am sorry that the decision I made meant that you didn't get picked.  I never wanted that kind of power.  I never wanted to deem one family worthy of a child and another not.

I want you to know that after hours of combing through so many families…SO many families with the same desires and hopes and heartbreaks I picked you, I picked you and I picked her.  I had an impossible decision to make.  I was so exhausted, I was so tired, I didn't want to be here, I didn't want to make this choice.  I hated everything about this process.  I want you to know that I wanted to help you both, to be a part of both of your families, I wanted to share in the joy with both of you.  I knew that wasn't possible and it broke me.

I prayed all night, prayed for comfort, for clarity, for understanding, for peace, for direction.  I stared at your faces in the dark.  Finally a restless sleep came over me.  When I felt myself wake in the morning I wished that I could sleep forever.  I knew that I had to face the decision.  I knew that I had to be accountable for my actions.  I knew that the consequences were coming to collect.

I sat up and I looked down at your face, and at her face.  And I knew.   My prayers had been answered.  I knew who I was going to pick to be the mother of my son.  And I put your profile back in the pile.

I want you to know that I loved you and I think about you often.  I am sorry that I couldn't pick you.  But even more than that…I hope someone else did.

Ashley, Birth Mom 8 years later.