#AdoptionTalk 2017 Blog Link-Up

IT IS BACK!!!

I don’t know a lot but I do know this- I would not have survived this journey with my story buried deep inside. Sharing my experiences keep me breathing, keep me moving, keep me fighting.
— Ashley Mitchell, Owner Big Tough Girl™

I am SO excited and so honored to join the #AdoptionTalk 2017 Blog Link-Up as a new host!!  I have been neglecting my poor little Adoption Blog so greatly and I will be so excited to have an amazing excuse to get writing more!!!

We are back with NEW amazing topics, two options PER month (we post the link-up the first Thursday of the month) and the chance to connect with amazing Adoption bloggers all over this great country...sharing and learning and growing together!!!!  

For those of you that don't know me or that are reconnecting after a long period of silence WELCOME!!!  I am so so deeply grateful to be here and to be sharing my journey with you!!  

I am a birth mother and I am almost 11 years post placement!  It has truly been an amazing decade of discovery!!!  From great pain to great light and healing...I have been educated every step of the way and am so glad to be here sharing what I know, what I have learned from so many others and to be joining you on this journey as you share your story as well!!!  

I have gone from a closed (semi)  to open adoption and it has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life and I have done a LOT of hard things!!!  

I look forward to another amazing year and please know that I am always here to help in any way that I can!!!  

Standing with you, always! 

 

 

 

I am also going to be adding a twist to the blog link-up!  I will be taking these monthly topics LIVE on BTG™ TV to chat with the Adoption Community, answers questions and have open live discussion on these topics!!!  I am excited to bring everyone together!  

Come Join Me LIVE!!  


SO HOW DOES THIS WORK??  

-Write a Post on Your Blog
Simple! Just write a post as you usually would. If the link up has a topic, then write about the topic question. If there is no topic, write about anything you would like. You probably want to do this a day or two before the link up is scheduled to go live. (schedule coming soon).

Head Over to the Blog “Hosting” the Link Up
In this case, that would be
Big Tough Girl™
Joyful Journey
No Bohns About It 
Ripped Jeans & Bifocals
One Ruud Mom

 

Add Your Link
Scroll down to the link up section. You will likely see a few thumbnails of posts from others who have already added their links. Hit the blue “Add Your Link” button:

 

Paste the URL you previously copied into the link section. Inlinkz should then be able to read what your post is titled. You can edit this if you want it to say something different. If inlinkz gives you an error message, make sure you properly pasted the posts URL. Inlinkz should also automatically select a picture if you have one in your post. If you have multiple images, you can select which one you want in the “Image Source” section. If you don’t have one, it is best to hit “Upload” and pick some kind of image so that it isn’t blank. Blog logos work great.

Hit the blue “Done” button and that’s it! Your link is added. Now you can head back to the link up and read some great stuff linked by other bloggers!

Tips
– Link up early – most people mingle right after they post. So if you want your post read, try to add it earlier rather than later.
– Comment on other blogs. If you leave comments for others, they are more likely to comment on yours.
– Link up often – you’ll get to know others and they will get to know you. You’ll find the better people “know” you, the more they want to read what you write.
– Follow your hosts, that way you don’t forget to link up.
Ashley @ Big Tough Girl™ | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Erin @ No Bohns About It | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Jenni @ Joyful Journey | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Jill @ Ripped Jeans & Bifocals | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

I hope you will join me each month as we share the different sides to this complex and beautiful thing called ADOPTION.  

#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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Today's topic is Anything Goes. 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

 

 

 

#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!

HostBanner2016update2

Today's topic is Openness in Adoption. 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

#AdoptionTalk - Walking on 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 she was OK with that.  This was HER 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!  

Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!

HostBanner2016update2

Today's topic is Anything Goes. 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

#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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#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

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