#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 - 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

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.  

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.

 

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 

Testimony for a Grief Booklet.

I was asked by a fellow Birth Mom if I would include my thoughts on two topics for a grief booklet that she is putting together for her office that will be distributed to birth mothers post placement.  

This is such a beautiful and vital gift for these women, to hear from others, to educate themselves and to be able to prepare themselves for what is coming.  It is NEVER easy and having access to other stories gives hope for their own future.  

I am honored to be a part of this project and I wanted to share my two topics with you here.  

5. How you are or did rebuild your life post placement-

In April 2015 it will be 9 years post placement.  I am married and we have two beautiful children, a daughter and a son.  We live in a beautiful home and I own and operate a nationwide women community.  I am so deeply blessed with a loving family and friends.  I have an open adoption that is constantly changing and adjusting.  I am very happy in my life.  But this was not always the case for me.  Life after placement has not been easy and it took years to truly come to a place of acceptance and healing, and then the true journey began.  I struggled for years with substance abuse, casual sex partners, depression and more.  It is my prayer that you will have an open mind and heart as I share some of these things with you.  I want you to know that you are loved and that you are not alone.  This is an impossible time and the task seems daunting.  Learning who YOU are after placement is one of the greatest challenges of a birth mother.  Everything you are experiencing right now is normal.  There are just a few key things that I wanted to share with you that worked for me and I hope you will find comfort in them as well. 

The real question that I think you need to ask yourself if how bad do you want it? You will have an ah-ha moment, that one event that will “flip the switch”.  You will know it when it happens, and that is when everything changes.  I had moments over the first few years of placement that I would make small changes, tell myself that things were going to be different, that I was going to stop doing this or that but I was NOT connected to any of it, my body mind and spirit were not in alignment and I didn’t truly want it.  Then my moment happened.  My ah-ha moment and I knew it was time to fight. To fight for a life that I truly wanted and one that I truly deserved! 

1.  Make the Sacrifice.  Like so many things, there has to be sacrifice to truly work for what you want.  Whether that is time, money, energy, emotion....You have to be willing to do the work!  I put in a great deal of work into my healing, I sacrifice little pleasures to pay for the classes, books, and coaches that I need and want.  I make the time in my crazy life to work on myself. To meet those things head on so that I am not digging things out of a hole years later.  

This is NOT going to be something that will fix itself, it won’t fix overnight and you can NOT expect others to do the work for you.  We tend to get in a cycle of feeling sorry for ourselves, waiting for God to step in and tell us what we need to be doing, and expecting others to carry us.  Do I believe that others can encourage and lift and support? Absolutely I do.  

"I believe that community healing is vital to this journey, we can NOT do it alone no matter how you process...at some point you are going to need to surface and have help." 

 Do I believe that God is with us and has a plan for us?  YES.  But I also believe that he is NOT going to tell you what to do.  You have your agency here, you are in charge of your life.  He wants you to make decisions for yourself and he will let you know if you are on the right track!  

How bad do you want it?  Are you willing to DO THE WORK? 

2.  Have a Daily Practice.  Every single one of my #soulmagic people have taught me a great deal about having a daily practice.  Whether that is a spiritual practice of prayer and scripture study, a practice of meditation and soul searching, or simply sitting with your list of desires for the day.  No matter your belief system, your connection to God or the Universe, your thoughts about spirituality. Get in a daily practice of setting up your day with intention.  What do you want from your day, what will you do with your day, how is your day going to make you feel, what will get accomplished and why?  These are all things you should be sitting with every. single. morning.  

I promise that if you will get in the habit of sacrificing (there is that word again) 15 minutes of your time in the morning to set up your day it will change your life!  Before you check your phone, before you wrestle the kids, before you jump into routine...take 15 minutes.  Get quiet.  Process.  Feel.  Get aligned with your soul desires.  Feel your feet here in the present.  And then, get after it!

*a bonus tip.  Taking 15 minutes at the end of the day to process your day, to release the hard and celebrate the good, and to give thanks {GRATITUDE} is a great way to book end your day!!  

How bad do you want it?  Will you set your day up with intention?

 

3.  Keep your Space Positive.  I know we all say that we are going to "clean up" our Facebook pages, and remove those in our life that don't lift, support and encourage, and we are going keep happy and positive thoughts at all times.  How many of us actually do that?  

The recovering co-dependent in me has to work very hard at this.  I know that so many of us, especially women, are typically "people pleasers" but I have learned from my #soulmagic that those that are truly living their divinely inspired lives, those that are getting after it every day, those that are showing up for their life are the ones that are saying NO unless it is a HELL YES. They are not trying to please you, they are not trying to be something that they are not, and they are not competing for attention or friendship or approval.  They are living their authentic life, they are true to their word and they are loving and lifting and encouraging in every way that they can, allowing haters to hate, and lovers to love.  

Doing this kind of work for yourself, working this process is selfish work.  You have to be willing to let go of the "people pleaser" and just do what you need to do.  This includes actually cleaning up your social media, putting on your Big Tough Girl panties and getting out of bed and doing it any way, walking away from bad relationships, putting the drink down, WHATEVER it is that is NOT keeping your space clean has got to go.  

I am in love with social media.  It truly makes the world go round.  

How many times have we seen this or done this our self??  

You are in a place of healing and processing and you are scrolling through your news feed and all you see is hard, because we all have it, you see negative and you want your space to be clean and free so we make the public post:  I am sick of all the negativity and I am going to delete people that don't post stuff that serves me, if you can't post happy stuff you are gone!"

Guess what?  That is negative... you are looking for attention and you are hoping that people will ask to stay your friend, that they will prove that they are loyal to you. That people will give you permission to have a clean and positive space, you are looking to the approval of others.

"Don't make an announcement that you need better in your life, JUST DO IT."  

You don't owe any one anything and you cannot worry that you might hurt someone by deleting them on social media...do not let others dictate your life!  You have a choice...every single day you have choice to keep your space clean.  Do things happen that make a crappy day?  YES.  We all have them.  Do we have to be sunshine every day?  NO.  Are we allowed to feel whatever the hell we need to feel?  YES.  

You control the space around you, you control what you let influence your mood, your desires, your inspiration and motivation.  What does that look like?  What do you want?  Find people that want those same things and immerse yourself in it!  

IT IS OK TO BE SELFISH.  It is ok to do things that are the VERY best for you and your life.  You are the one that has to live it.  

How bad do you want it?  Will you be your OWN PERMISSION SLIP!  

4.  Stop the Comparisons.  Just stop it!  It is not serving anyone, especially yourself.  Why is it that we think our own very personal and sacred healing that needs to be done should be compared with another's very personal and sacred healing process?  How does that even make sense?  

 "(said with love" who do you think you are?" -Danielle LaPorte

Why is it that we think that others care so much about what we are doing, AND why do we think we need to be anything but who we are!?  I have women message me, brave amazing women and share their jealousy of me.  They think that I am so much further along, that I am some SUPER woman that has my shit together, that I am never effected and just keep this amazing attitude all the time....

PEOPLE PLEASE!!!  

I am a mess.  I am triggered daily, I have many things in my life that are HARD and many demons that I fight.  I make mistakes and take 10 steps back with a tiny bunny hop forward, I am a ashamed in many aspects of my life, I am imperfect and I REALLY need a shower!  

BUT the biggest thing that makes me different from you is that I am NOT you.  YOU ARE YOU and you need to live your life, find what works for you, make it work...AND live YOUR divinely inspired life that is just waiting for YOU, you are the only one that can live it.  You have been given talents that I have not...find them, rediscover your inner goddess and go kick ass!  

This truly is not rocket science. ANY ONE can do it.  We all do it differently, we all go at a different pace...but we can all do it.  STOP comparing, stop looking outside yourself and trying to make and mold your life to look like someone else...including your healing process...the brave face that you put on will only get you so far!  You have to find your own process and you have to look inside yourself at who you are to make it happen! 

How bad do you want it?  Will you stop comparing yourself to others? 

5.  Own It!  Quit giving a shit about what other people think about you.  YOU are the only one that can live your life that can tell your story...everything else has already been done!  Be who you are, imperfections and all.  Does that mean that you get to puff out your chest and act like a fool, bragging about your mistakes, or poor choices or slip-ups?  NO.  It means that you accept your full responsibility in the things that have happened.  You hold yourself accountable where and when you need to.  You understand the things that trigger you, you recognize your "inner critic", and you are working every day and grinding it out, and you get back up even if you fail...again!  

 We cannot truly work through this process if we are not willing to OWN our full, true and authentic story!  If we are leaving parts out to spare some back lash or embarrassment or shame we are not serving our self in this process.  It is NOT easy to throw ourselves under the bus.  It is not easy to admit the darkest secrets about ourselves.  It is not easy to bring those to the surface, face them and find healing and understanding in those things that we hate.  However I have found that the things that I hate about myself the most, my greatest weaknesses have in turn become my greatest tools in this process.

Ashley Mitchell, Big Tough Girl™ 

 

7. Coping with grief and loss

How long is Grief supposed to last?
It's the equivalent of asking, "How high is up?" 
-Dr. Alan Wolfelt

People ask me all the time what I do for myself to work through my grieving process.  The service that I give to others is one of the most fulfilling things that I do in my life but it can be VERY draining emotionally and to re-live some of these pains over and over can be very difficult.  I get extremely tired and overwhelmed and burned out and need to have time for myself, for my own healing.  

Let me start off by saying that I KNOW that the pain you are feeling is real.  I know that the loss seems a fate worse than death.  I am standing with you.  You are not alone and I am hurting with you.  There is hope for the future but right now it is about the present  and that is where we need to start!

"There is not harder, there is just HARD." 

Please remember that your hard is relevant.  Your "hard" and what that means to you is important.  Don't shirk away from sharing your hard, reaching out, owning it because you think that people may not understand or think it is not important.  My hard is not harder than your hard, it is just magnified because it is happening to me.  Having great compassion for others is a skill that I try to perfect every day of my life.  

"Something in one’s life may seem small and insignificant to you, but to them, it may be bringing the walls down."

Most people have hard things in their life, daily struggles, lifelong battles that they are fighting, rough seasons and stages of change and adjustments.  

We all have hard in our life.

One of the greatest things that you can do for yourself is to face your grief.  March out and go toe-to-toe with it.

Why is it that so many remain stuck?  Why is it that so many never fully recover from such a tragic loss?  Refusing to face your grief and hiding from it may work for a little while but I promise you (and I know from personal experience and know with every fiber of my being) that it will surface, that there will come a time in your life that you will have to face your demons and it just gets harder with time.  It takes a great deal of courage, of moxie to face your grief and it hurts and it is hard but it truly will be the best gift you give yourself. 

If I am being honest I would have to say that for the better half of 10 years darkness was my constant companion.  I knew darkness intimately.  It knew how to draw me back in, to keep me without sight, without warmth, without any glimpse of my future.  I remained in this dark place.  A prisoner locked with my own demons and fears and guilt and regret and pain.  Even in the worst of places it brought a familiar comfort that I learned to live in.  

I am learning more and more that those moments were great teachers to me.  Life lessons that shaped my present path.  An appreciation for the light, a deep rooted desire to live in light was formed.  

Living in darkness can cripple you from feeling worthy of the light, yet teaches you to know an opposite so unmistakably that you will never want to live without it again.

I was in so much pain.

My pain was telling me something.  My pain has been telling me that I have been betrayed, hurt, judged, made out to be a bitch, misunderstood, talked about, disrespected, shunned, pushed out, forgotten, taken advantage of, and so much more.  Some by people that claimed to love and care about me, some by those that have never taken two seconds to get to know me.  My pain was telling me that something was wrong, my pain was telling me that something wasn't working properly.  And like the physical pain that is ignored the emotional pain becomes chronic, it becomes crippling, it becomes consuming.  Maybe a little masochistic.  

It is time to BLEED IT OUT.

I can't ignore the pain any longer.  

As I slowly unwrap the wounds, as I finally take the time to acknowledge the pain, clean out the wounds, show them some tender loving care, play doctor to myself I am feeling relief.  I am allowing myself to recognize what has been happening, the power that I have given others, the pain that was caused that I refused to attend to.  

If I were to cut off my finger I would not ignore it and hope and pray that it would fix itself, that it would just go away.  

Why would I do that to the emotional cuts?  I am bleeding out and I am not even paying attention.  

No more.  No more ignoring the pain.  No more pretending that it doesn't matter, no more pretending that I AM FINE when I am not.  

My pain is telling me something.  My pain is telling me that something is not working properly.  It is telling me that relationships have to change, that I have to let go of a few things, that I have to forgive myself and forgive others.  

The pain is lifting, the medication is kicking in, and the wound is breathing and is thankful for the acknowledgement.  It has been shouting at me for months. 

I am doing right by myself, physically and emotionally.  It is time to clean the wounds.

I am learning to manage the pain before it can manage me.  I am learning to say "you should see the other guy".  I am learning to listen to the pain, to locate the damage and to attend to it immediately.  I am letting go, the wounds are breathing, and they feel better, they feel like they are healing...from the inside-out.

You need to allow yourself to feel everything that you are feeling.  Don’t run from it, don’t hide from it.  It really is okay and it is a part of this story.  There is NO such thing as a painless adoption. 

I truly believe that the greatest miracle of adoption is that we do survive! 

Don’t ever allow yourself to ignore what has happened, the loss that you are experiencing and the mourning that must take place.  It is VITAL for your forward movement.  Listen to your body, to your soul and your pain.  It is telling you something.  Pay attention.  Don’t ignore the wound, it will cripple you BUT remember ALL wounds take time to heal and there is always a scar. 

Be patient with yourself, love yourself through the process, take your time and don’t forget to breathe.

Ashley Mitchell, Big Tough Girl™