Friday, September 24, 2010

Just Sharing

So really, truly and honestly, this post isn't about adoption.

Yes, there is a bit that is adoption related. But that isn't the primary motivation behind this post.

Nope, this post, instead, is completely, selfishly driven, just so I can share this . . .

It's the song my youngest son and I will be dancing to at his reception on Sunday.

Sunday! Less than forty-eight hours away! I find myself almost unable to believe I have actually reached this next stage of being a mother. The saying "Don't blink because it goes so fast" is so very true. I swear it was just yesterday my baby boy was scrambling into my lap and cuddling his head against my shoulder. Crawling into my bed and sprawling out across the pillows.

I'm sitting here tonight and remembering scraped knees and bent bones (yes, there really is such a thing that can happen when your five year old little boy falls out of a tree.) I'm smiling - in the way only a mother can - at the memory of the shoes he found in my closet, wrapped up and gave to me as a birthday present. At the images of his smile, his love, his every little trait that makes him . . . him.

And while a part of me rejoices for the wonderful woman he has found to share his life with, a part of me mourns the little boy he once was. Because, really, that time of their lives does go by way too fast. In the blink of an eye, our children change, grow, and venture out into lives that are their own.

I was only twenty when he was born. So young and still so insecure about my ability to parent. And yet, now I look back on those years and forward on the ones yet to come and I feel only the bittersweet happiness of a mother who may not have done it all right, but did the best she could and now has the chance to watch her son take that next important step into his future as the man he has become.

And to take a wonderful occasion, and make it even better - in a way so few would really understand - my oldest son, who I gave up for adoption all those years ago - will be the one giving the toast for his youngest brother and new bride at the reception.

In all my wildest dreams, even in the moments when I would allow myself to image the impossible, there was never a time that I ever thought I would witness such a moment.

In the experience I've known, such things, though so normal to others, just don't seem possible. And yet, on Sunday, as I celebrate the wonderful life my son is taking his first steps into and look back on the years of his childhood, I will know the wonder and pure joy of watching my oldest son raise his glass and toast his baby brother.

It's a moment I look forward to with all my heart and know I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Monday, September 13, 2010

My Tainted Halo

I know I’ve mentioned it before, on more than one occasion, that I was once one of those picture perfect “beemommies.” My halo hovered wonderfully on top of my head and I stood so proud on that ivory pedestal, basking in what a great person I was for loving my oldest son so much that I presented him as a “gift” to that, oh, so deserving couple.

Oh, and did I know the script so well. I had it memorized – which wasn’t hard to do after how many times it was drilled into my head. I repeated like a robot, like the picture perfect “beemommie’s” of today do, the amazing sacrifice I made because I loved my son enough to want him to have better than I could provide. With a smile on my face, I listed off all the reasons why I would have been such a failure as his mother . . . I was too young. I wasn’t married. I couldn’t provide him with all the glorious things he deserved . . . etc, etc, etc.

And, while I “happily” beat up on my own worth and my own importance to my child, I eagerly shared why his adoptive parents were so much better than me. Why it was them that deserved to raise my child. Why their marriage, their ranch house with horses, their age, their desire for a child of their own, made them so much more deserving of my own flesh and blood.

Oh, I was so “good” during those many years. I was worthy of praise. I was liked . . . respected . . . because I recognized my failures and loved my son enough not to expose him to them. I strutted my stuff on top of that pedestal. Shined my halo till it was a blinding light of all my worthiness. Since I would be a failure as a mother, then I was going to at least damn well succeed at being a good “beemommie.”

And in that time, I was able to create a shield, a barrier against the pain and loss I refused to acknowledge. If I could hold on to the belief that I wouldn’t have been good for my son and that I did the right thing by giving a “gift” to the deserving couple that adopted him, then I didn’t have to feel the grief that grew stronger and stronger every year. I didn’t have to admit to the terrible loss that ached through my soul.

And I didn’t have to see, or realize, what was happening to me, was in any way related to losing my oldest child.

I still know that person intimately. She still exists on the fringes of who I have become today. And in some of the darkest moments during this time when I have truly been honest with myself and faced the pain of what happened, I have wondered if it wouldn’t have been easier to remain that person I was.

And because that person is still so close to who I am, I can recognize her, see her so clearly, in many of those First Moms of today who are the picture perfect “beemommies” on their own pedestals, wearing their halos that have not yet been scratched and tarnished as mine is now.

I won’t be bold enough to assume they are all sharing the same experience I did. That their repeated scripts, their need to be so good under the heavy weight of not being “good enough” is a repeat of what I went through. But I would bet there are a good percentage of them that are doing just as I did, without seeing, just as I never saw, just how desperately they are clinging to their “worthiness” so they don’t have to face the true feelings churning around inside of them. Feelings that come with so much raw pain and grief, it’s terrifying to even think of acknowledging them, much less setting them free.

But I can see those signs. The same ones I never recognized while I lived that life. I can hear their pain, their emptiness, their lack of confidence in the words they share, the doubts they struggle with, and the emptiness they don’t know how to feel.

It’s there in those who immediately have another child. Who don’t realize the need to fill the hole left in their lives. To heal the emptiness weighing them down. Without every realizing, there is nothing – not even having another child – to take that away.

It’s there in those who so drastically fear losing another child to the point of becoming overly protective of the children they are raising, to an extreme that outweighs the normal fear most parents face. It’s there in those who find even the simplest kind of loss knocks them to the ground and leaves them grappling for something, anything, to make it go away.

It’s there in the ones who go over the top to be the “perfect” mom only to never feel as if they are doing it right. Those who always feel like a failure no matter what they try and never allow themselves even the littlest moments to take pride in who they are as mothers.

It’s in their unexplained sadness they can’t define. In their moments of having to remind themselves why they are happy before they can even get out of bed in the morning. It’s in their tears they find other reasons for. In their need to find praise from someone, anyone, just to have the strength to go on another day.

And it’s there, most clearly, in the very fact that they find nothing wrong with taking themselves down to the lowest level a woman could face – not being good enough for your own child – and not think twice about what they are doing to themselves by beating up so constantly on their self esteem and the value they see when they look in the mirror – all under the guise of justifying why they did the right thing and proving how much they loved their child by giving them up.

I can see it, hear it, and feel it, when I read their blogs, listen to their stories, relate to the insecurities they share. But, even though in my times of weakness, I have wondered if it would be easier to be like them again, I know, with every ounce of my being, I never want to go back to that person. I never want to live in that denial. That shell that kept me from feeling what was truly inside of me.

One of the most liberating things I have ever known was being able to completely crumble and demolish the pedestal I stood on. To stomp on that halo with every bit of the pain and grief I had denied myself over the years.

Though it hurt like hell – and still does at times – I would never trade what I have now for what I had then.

Today, I have the amazing freedom to speak my truth, not the truth the adoption industry wanted me to believe. Today I can throw away all ideas that I “placed” my oldest son and made an “adoption plan.” Instead I can be honest, and though it hurts like hell and still can take my breath away, I can look myself in the mirror and admit I gave my son away. That I left him in the arms of a stranger when what he needed most was me. I left him feeling abandoned. That being his mother was the most important role I was ever blessed with in my life and I might not have had everything his adoptive parents had at that time, but I was still a good person, capable of working hard, sacrificing and giving everything in my power to my child. And he deserved that from me, far more than his adoptive parents deserved a child.

I can acknowledge how losing my child affected me in so many ways. I can accept the pain that strikes, though it might be hell to deal with at times, and understand why it’s there, how it has changed me and how I react and deal with things in my life.

Now that I stand in front of a crumbled pedestal and distorted halo, I have a courage I never had before. One that gives me the strength to not only know and understand how adoption has affected my son, but to be there to listen to him, support him and help him. To know his experience, his feelings, his reactions should never be limited to what I expect but instead be given the freedom to be whatever he truly feels inside.

And one that has allowed me to see past the surface of what happened over two decades ago, to the darker, uglier truths. To how adults I trusted used me in the worst of ways. To the fact I was just another number in my agency’s goal to convince mother’s to give up their children.

I wasn’t special. I meant nothing. Their counseling had nothing to do with their concern for me and what was best for my child. It was a taught process, one they had used on mothers before me and continue to use to this day, to ensure I would give up my baby.

I really was nothing more than a warm body carrying a child. I wasn’t Cassi. I wasn’t a frightened sixteen year old girl who had gone to them to seek guidance in the most frightening, confusing time of my life. I was just another offering on a plate and my son was nothing more than insurance for another hefty check deposited into their account.

And though it sounds crude and harsh to think that way, to me, it is much better than living the scripted belief they fed me so long ago. Better than being the “I was so bad I loved my child enough to give him away to someone better” robot they created.

Because who I am today is not controlled or conditioned by anybody. Yeah it can hurt like hell, and it does at times. But it’s me. It’s my feelings. It’s real.

I’m not a puppet anymore. I’m not so encased in having to be “good” that I don’t allow myself to feel the pain inside of me, acknowledge just how deeply losing my son affected me.

And I no longer have to lap at the heels of those who held me worthy and praised me for believing I wasn’t good enough. I don’t have to seek their acceptance just to feel better about who I am.

I can like myself or hate myself based on my own terms now. I’ve broken that evil cycle of the past and I can only hope that those First Moms who are repeating my steps will someday find the same joy of freedom I have.

Because as frightening as it is to face, it is so much better than that damn ivory pedestal and the halo that really never fits right anyhow.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Who's My Daddy

Dear Rarely Home Mom,

I just finished reading your latest blog entry, My thoughts on the adoption case heard in UT Supreme court . And even though I know there is an awful lot of our society that would agree with you, I still find myself shocked and appalled at what you had to say . . .

*** Utah has really strict laws about rights of birth fathers, and their rights are pretty minimal here.***

This part you have 100% right. Utah has the absolute worse laws when it comes to rights for First Fathers and even First mothers. That is why so many flock to that state to finalize an adoption. So they can take complete advantage of the laws to acquire a child.

***Utah law says that any man in the country who has sex with a woman anywhere in the United States has the responsibility to follow up with that woman and determine if a pregnancy resulted from their little rendezvous. If the man does not do that, he automatically has no rights to the child after birth. ***

Seems to me a woman should be expected to have the same responsibility of informing a man if a pregnancy occurred after sex – sorry but “little rendezvous” just doesn’t describe the act for me. And to automatically remove a father’s rights based solely on such a reason is ridiculous. Just because a man does not follow up (or is outright not told) to find out if he might be a father has absolutely NO BEARING on the kind of parent he will be.

If neither party takes the responsibility to inform one another of what has occurred after sex, then yes, it is a lack of judgment, I believe, on BOTH sides, but it in no way predicts any kind of abuse or harm that would demand parental rights be stripped from them.

***If the man does find out that he fathered a child, it is then his responsibility to show interest in that child before it is born. Some ways he can do that are by financially supporting the mother (rent, groceries, medical bills, etc.), driving her to doctors appointments, and so on. If a man knows he impregnated a woman and shows no interest in the baby before it is born, Utah law gives him absolutely no rights to the baby after it is born and the mother signs paperwork terminating her own rights (which can be done as early as 24 hours after birth if she is not on narcotics). ***

I will agree with you that any man who fathers a child should show responsibility from the start as he does become a parent at the time of pregnancy just as the mother does. But there are a couple big flaws in believing that a man is somehow unworthy of being a parent if he doesn’t step up to the plate from the very start.

One is, unfortunately, there still is very little support out there to help young men understand the importance of being a father. There are very few role models for them to follow while at the same time lots of judgment and unfair treatment, such as Utah Laws, that already place them in a negative light before they even get the chance to try. I know young men who are wonderful fathers but never understood the importance of support and being there for the mothers of their children while they were pregnant.

The other is, if you have never experienced what it is like to be a parent. If you don’t know that love that can overwhelm you and take you over the minute you hold your child in your arms, then yes, you might very well make mistakes and back away during the pregnancy, because you are unaware of just how significant it is to hold and love your child. But, it is VERY common to have that love and understanding hit you the moment your child is in your arms. To look into the eyes of your son or daughter and be completely swept away and understand just how much that tiny life is depending on you.

And in the case of, John Wyatt, neither of these two arguments have relevance because he did show an interest and he let it be known, from the start, that he was against adoption. He isn’t a man who just threw up his arms and said, “I don’t give a damn.” He’s a father who knew from the start that he wanted to keep and raise his child.

And on a side note, the fact that mothers are allowed to sign ANYTHING related to adoption and giving away their children after only 24 hours after giving birth is appalling. Talk about coercive and manipulative practices!

*** If a man knows he impregnated a woman, supported her during her pregnancy and wants to retain rights to the child after birth, he MUST file certain papers in court in a very specific manner of time.***

And that just boggles the brain in all ways! So, in the state of Utah, even if the father does everything right (in their diluted eyes) and is a father of the best kind even through the pregnancy, he must still file papers in court to be able to keep his own flesh and blood? His child? Forgive my language here, but that is bullshit! There is absolutely nothing, no tangible reason for this law to be in existence other than to ensure more children are taken from their fathers in the interest of making adoption easier for adoptive parents. Where else, expect for in the world of adoption, would a man have to go to court to protect his rights to his child when he has done nothing but prove what a good father he is?

***From all the family situations and birth family situations I’ve seen over the past few years, the laws in Utah work. They have been a lifesaver to countless birthmothers, and I sure appreciate them as an adoptive mom.***

Yes the laws in Utah work for adoptive parents, which is why I am not surprised you, as an adoptive mother, appreciate them. And they are far from being any kind of lifesaver to a First Mother facing such unethical practices. The only people the laws are “saving” are the hopeful adoptive parents desperately wanting a child and the adoption industry looking to guarantee their disgusting high profits remain intact.

There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in Utah laws to protect a mother and child. NOTHING! They are designed to encourage the manipulative, coercive practices that feed the adoption industry. For anyone to appreciate or like these laws is beyond my understanding.

***When Joshua was born in Utah we still lived in California, but because Utah adoption law kicks the pants off of any other state in the country, we chose to use Utah law. ***

And right here is exactly why Utah laws are such an extreme failure . . . because, just like you, hopeful adoptive parents can use the laws to their benefit and use the most unethical way possible to ensure they get that baby they are hoping for, without thought to what they are, in turn, doing to the mother and her child in the process.

***The problem with this current case: Virginia – where the baby was born -has awarded custody to the birth father, but the adoption of the baby was by a family who are Utah residents and worked under Utah law, who has given custody to the adoptive family.***

You are right, there is a huge problem here. The problem is, this father has been given the rights to his own child. His very own. The one made of him that is a part of him, and always will be. But, in every essence of the law, his child has been kidnapped from him under the guise of the Utah laws that gave custody, they didn’t have to give, to the adoptive family.

***BUT at what point do you just STOP fighting and admit that even if you were wronged (which I do not believe he was, but play along – what IF he was wronged) – this is a human. ***

You don’t stop fighting. Plain and simple. Would you expect parents who had their child kidnapped from them, to just give up the fight. To stop and throw in the towel. I would bet you wouldn’t. And in all ways, John Wyatt’s little girl was kidnapped from him. Taken without his permission, forced into a life her father never wanted for her.

***An upstanding birth father, who actually cared about his daughter would never want her to go through that. In my opinion, his is the highest form of selfishness, bordering on evil. He is treating this little girl like property. A lost dog. John Wyatt is showing the world he cares not about his daughter, but himself. A real parent places the BEST INTERESTS of the child above theirs at all times. He is showing he cares about himself, not about what would be best for his birth daughter.***

This is probably one of the most biased, ridiculous statements I have seen in a long time. To call John Wyatt selfish and bordering on evil because he is fighting for his OWN daughter, while supporting the couple who has fought him and used every avenue to keep the little girl since she was a newborn (when he first filed papers with the court) is unbelievable. If him fighting for his daughter with everything he has for all these months makes him such a monster. Than what does it make the adoptive parents who have KNOWN the father of the little girl NEVER wanted to give her up for hiding behind Utah laws and doing everything in their power not to reunite father and daughter and allow them to have the life they both deserve?

John Wyatt did not just come out of the woodwork last month and declare he wanted his daughter back. He has been fighting this fight since she was born and it is the adoptive parents, in my opinion, who are being selfish and not doing what is in the best interest of the child. Her father loves her, he has wanted to raise her and be her parent from the start. That means they never should have had any legal right to his daughter. NONE! They, plain and simply, took another man’s child right out from underneath him and separated a little girl from her father just so they could be parents themselves. The best interest for her would have been being placed back in her father’s arms immediately after learning he never wanted to give her up.

You are so mad at this father who always has, and still does, want his daughter. He wants to raise her and love her and be her parent. And yet you stand behind the couple that has fought him. Has, in my opinion, done the worst of all human acts by keeping her from him and denying him what is his right, as is everyone’s – to parent his own child!

You call him cruel and evil and selfish and yet say nothing of the acts the adoptive parents have done to not only him, but to the little girl stuck in the middle of all of this. This man has done nothing to deserve losing his daughter and the adoptive parents have done nothing to deserve being the ones to keep and raise her over the desires and love of her own father!

Adoption is supposed to be about children in need of a home. This little girl has a home, a father, and a grandmother who love her and want her. This case, as in so many others in the world of adoption, just proves that it is no longer about the child in need but instead about the couple in need of a child, at any and all costs to that child and the parents he/she is being separated from.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Catching Up

I can’t be sure, though I could do the easy thing and go back and check, but I think this is the longest I have ever gone in neglecting my blog since I first started it over two years ago.

Except this time, for the first time in the last couple years, my absence isn’t directly related to my struggle with the heartache and loss adoption has brought into my life, my oldest son’s life and my family’s life. Instead it has plain and simply been life itself that swept in before the summer ever officially started and took over to a point where trying to do anything but deal and cope with what was happening from day to day, week to week, just wasn’t something I had the capability to do.

Soon after I wrote my last post about the disgusting practice of Birthmother’s Day, I learned my grandfather (in the picture above with my youngest son and oldest son) had liver cancer. And in less than a month, we lost him.

He was an amazing man and a wonderful father, grandfather and great-grandfather. And as my family packed up and headed to the small town in Montana where he lived, I was thankful that my oldest son was able to get to know his great-grandfather, and my grandfather was able to get to know his oldest great-grandchild before he passed on.

What I did not know, or expect then, was that I would hold that same thankfulness for another family member just a few short weeks later.

Since my grandmother (who I lost back in 1997) and grandfather were antique collectors as well as dealers for many years, my grandfather’s house was a treasure trove of beautiful and rare items that needed to be taken care of – that oh so fun task that has to happen after your loved ones pass away. So it was decided that three weeks later, after returning from my grandfather’s funeral, I would return to Montana with my mother and help her and her siblings (my aunts and uncles – six total) go through the house and make a record of the many antiques inside.

But on the eve before I was to leave, my family was struck again with another loss . . . a loss of the worst kind.

My husband’s younger brother and my children’s favorite uncle, Erik, was tragically killed in a terrible accident. He was a welder and was working on a fuel tank when it exploded. He was only thirty-two years old and had a six-year old son who has forever lost his wonderful father.

That’s Erik and my two younger sons in the picture, taken a long time ago when my sons were still so little and Erik had not yet ventured out of his teenage years.

Of all the memories I have of him, my favorite is of how he became such an amazing uncle to my children . . .

At thirteen, and not understanding yet the loss of his first born nephew, my oldest son, he found himself facing the loss of being the baby in the family while I was pregnant with my middle son.

It wasn’t something he was too excited about. In fact, I would have to say, he saw nothing good in it.

When we would talk about him being an uncle, he would very firmly let us know that he did not want to be called Uncle Erik. That was it. No questions about it. That was his final answer.

And then my middle son was born and only a few short hours later he held his nephew in his arms and in that instant, that moment, he became “Uncle Erik” in every way. He fell instantly in love with my son. Insisted his mother take him down to the hospital gift shop so he could buy his nephew a gift (a beautiful “Baby’s 1st Christmas” ornament that will forever be a treasure for my middle son.)

Gone was that thirteen-year old boy who didn’t want to give up his place as the baby. He’d been replaced by a young man who, from that point on, was the best uncle any person could ask for. My children loved him. He was everything to them. And he was because he was there for them. He was a huge part of their life. He supported them and loved them and let them know, no matter what, they’d never be alone as long as he was around.

And I still can see that day when he was reunited with his oldest nephew who he lost to adoption so many years ago. It was Christmas Eve and the hug they shared still brings tears to my eyes when I think of it. He loved my oldest son and my oldest son loved him from the very start. To see them, you never would have guessed they had almost two decades separating them from each other. They were uncle and nephew in every way and just as close as the relationship Erik had with my younger children.

His death was something we still struggle with. We expect to lose those older than us, our grandparents and parents. Even our spouses sometimes. But to lose someone so young in such a tragic way is something else all together. On that night he died, my sons and my husband sat together in our bedroom and I could hear them crying together, mourning the loss of their uncle and their brother.

And there is nothing, as a mother and wife, that makes you feel more helpless and frustrated then being unable to take away the pain and grief of those you love.

So that was the start of my summer. Though the sun was shining outside and the temperature was warm, for us, it was a cold, dark time we had to find our way through.

But this part of life that took over also brought with it some good times too . . .

For years, my husband and I have told our children we would take them to Vegas – in style – once they turned twenty-one. As it is one of our favorite places to go to get away, our children have spent years expressing their desire to go and it was through that we decided we would take them when they were old enough and could truly experience all the town was meant to be.

And it never was far from my mind, during those moments, that if life had not dealt us such a loss, the first one we would be taking to Vegas would be our oldest son. And a little over a year after reuniting with him, during the time when he had pulled away and we hadn’t spoken to him for months, my husband and I were in Vegas and my mind was full of heartbreak because I didn’t know then if we would ever have the chance to take our oldest son to Vegas and begin our fulfillment to our promise with him, as it should have been.

There’s the proof, though, in the picture of my oldest son, taken on his first night in Vegas. This summer we were able to take him for a week and enjoy the time with him and know just what an amazing miracle it was that, as the oldest, he was the first to be able to claim that promised trip to Vegas.

For some, they can’t understand why this trip, over all others we have ever taken, meant the most to me. But those who know adoption and understand the uncertainty it brings with it, there has been no question why taking my oldest son to Las Vegas was a dream come true. One I, at one point, wasn’t sure would ever happen.

So there has been terrible loss and wonderful gain for myself and my family this summer and we still have more to look forward to as the start of Fall comes upon us.

During the time we mourned the terrible loss of Erik, I learned I would be gaining a wonderful daughter-in-law. (Yep, that’s them in yet another picture I’ve posted.)

Since returning from Vegas, my time has been full in preparing for my youngest son’s wedding reception at the end of September. Since his lovely bride’s family is in Germany – where she is from – my role as mother of the groom has become much more entailed as I get the wonderful task of helping plan the festive occasion.

And with only two and a half weeks left now, I’m in that frantic mode of worrying that everything is taken care of and will be ready for the big day.

That has been my life these last few months. I have missed the wonderful friends I know and have connected with through the blogging world. I have wondered what wonderful things they are writing and watched from afar as they have continued to keep up the fight for adoption reform and a better understanding of what all sides go through.

And I promise I will now do my best to catch up and read and become a part of the fight all over again.