Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Coming Out of the Closet: "I'm a Birth Mom!"

There I said it!

Sometimes people don't even know what that means. I have had to explain so many times what a Birth Mom is. I placed my firstborn child for adoption. One time I had a midwife just not getting it. So I continued and continued to try to explain it. By the end we were both sweating.

It really must be that uncommon...or maybe birth parents are just underrepresented.

What's the balance between not defining who I am based on this title and yet honoring that it is a significant part of who I am?

When I got hired at CCU to be the RD I remember in my interview answering honestly to what I had been doing the past few years since undergrad. I said I had a baby that I placed for adoption and I needed to take some time to heal so I worked for a year as a waitress and a substitute teacher and lived with my parents to save money and to focus on healing emotionally. The responses from the interview team varied but I remember the lady who would become my boss saying that she would expect me not to share that with the CCU students. (Shame Inducing Statement) Of course, I knew that the goal would not be to share it with every student but what was I suppose to do with my pictures of my firstborn? I didn't want to hide them because that felt like I had done something wrong.

When I had to sit across from the Dean of Student Development at Anderson University (a man I deeply respected and babysat for) to share with him the news of my unplanned pregnancy which was particularly relevant to him as I was the Director of New Student Orientation that was to take place in just four weeks from that time I will never forget his response. He prayed for me and he said "Priscilla, I believe this is going to be a redeemed story in your life." What a profound statement. Thank you God, it is! But I have been shy to tell it. I fear others' responses. I fear being misunderstood or even judged. I hear comments that were made to me when I chose adoption for my firstborn. "You are a disgrace to our family!...How dare you name your daughter Grace!" "I can't help it that you don't WANT your daughter!" "God has told me you are making the wrong decision!" And honestly I could go on with that list. No matter how hard I try to forget I still hear all of those judgmental statements in my head.

One of the greatest conundrums I have found in regarding sharing this description of myself as a Birth Mom is that that title and what that means to me is one of the most precious things in my heart and in my life. The way I feel about my firstborn and the way I feel as a Birth Mom is so precious that I feel completely naked every time I share it with someone for the first time. I put open myself up to be judged, criticized, and even misunderstood. Sometimes I am not strong enough to put those false accusations to rest. When I am weak I wonder if people are right?

I have to constantly bring myself back to the truth:
  • I am a Birth Mom to beautiful 8 1/2 year old girl.
  • I have the privilege of sharing in her life through open adoption.
  • I don't have to feel shame about my unplanned pregnancy. I know that God forgave me.
  • I don't have to feel ashamed of my decision. I made the best decision I knew to make at that specific time in my life, with my specific circumstances.
  • I don't have any control of what ultimately comes from this situation. I pray that my firstborn will not feel abandoned by her birth family. I pray she will know she was and is loved and was never unwanted.
  • The truth is always best. My firstborn knows who I am. She is still gaining a complete understanding of it. My son, Simon and any future children will always know the truth of our family. I want my children to know all of who their Mom is.
When I became a Pregnancy and Adoption Counselor at Catholic Charities, it was understood that I wouldn't share my with clients that I am a Birth Mom. And I agreed with this from a professional perspective. But I also realize that nine years later, I have largely hidden this aspect of my life from people. In the most recent years, I have tried to practice just mentioning it when it's appropriate. I don't always correct people when they refer to the number of children I have or the number of pregnancies I have had incorrectly. I don't always tell people but I am starting to try to integrate this as naturally as I can into my life. It's been freeing.

Every time I get pregnant, I just become overwhelmed, almost consumed with thoughts about adoption and being a birth parent. I think it just stirs my heart thinking about to my first pregnancy and delivery experience and all of the raw emotions and stories that come with that. I really believe I need to share my story, all of it. From this point on, I am going to shamelessly practice writing about this on our blog. It just might end up in a book, even if it's never published.

Pregnancy After Miscarriage

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, I was shocked when I had my miscarriage at 12 weeks in February. I have always heard one of the best indicators for future healthy pregnancies is previous healthy pregnancies and a flawless medical history, of which I had. Then the new reality of life after miscarriage came when I got pregnant again this past July. I knew it would be hard to go through another pregnancy following the miscarriage but I was not fully prepared for all the ways it has been hard. I have realized that over the past 15 weeks I have at times been nearly paralyzed by fear. I know this also goes back to me being a birth mother and relinquishing my firstborn to another family through adoption. I guess a second loss around becoming a parent has really triggered a lot of fear for me. I have tried to process this endlessly and I think I've come to the realization that my biggest fear is that I just don't know how much more loss I can bear. If this pregnancy does not last I wonder if I will have the strength and courage to keep trying. I also just want to know the outcome now, even if it's not the outcome I want. It has been a very long 15 weeks. Every first trimester has been the same for me. I start throwing up daily (usually multiple times) somewhere between weeks 5-8 and continue until 14-16 weeks. That part alone is very exhausting and draining. I don't feel like myself. I wake up dreading to get out of bed because I know I'm heading straight to the toilet. And the rest of the day is up in the air as far as whether or not I'll be able to eat and keep food down. I suppose the physical exhaustion has contributed to the emotional exhaustion. We know that is usually the case since we are holistic beings, of which each part affects the other. Pregnancy after miscarriage has looked like this for me:
  • Pregnancy test response: a pit in Eric and I's stomach. Of course we were excited but also felt hesitant to celebrate.
  • Hesitant to tell others: after the miscarriage I now realize you have to untell every person you tell. I have found myself trying to "hide" this pregnancy from a lot of people.
  • Hiding feels shame based: Somewhere deep down I somehow feel ashamed of my miscarriage. I know rationally speaking, I had no control of that. But somewhere in my heart it feels like a personal thing.
  • I despise the prodding of others to choose optimism: I am a realist. I choose reality. "Now come on, we're not going to think like that. Everything will be fine!" I'm not going to put myself at risk for being ignorant. Right or wrong, I try to prepare myself for either reality, which has naturally led me to holding back.
  • Holding back in embracing this pregnancy: I find myself not fully embracing this baby, even though I'm not proud to say that. I have listened to Selah's song "I Will Carry You" countless times b/c my heart is really to get to a place where I can say before God and this baby "you are mine to carry for this time. I embrace you today no matter what the outcome". Ironically enough, this is the best advice I received when I was pregnant with my firstborn. A critical moment of choosing to dive into my pregnancy regardless of the outcome (parenting vs. adoption) even though it felt like I was accepting more risk of pain if I chose adoption. Reality is I had much less regret b/c I knew I had fully embraced her both in utero and in the time I had with her at the hospital. I don't want to regret how I handle this.
  • Doctors appointments involve a lot of nerves and sweating: I will never forget how it felt to have the ultrasound tech not find a heartbeat on the screen back in February. I actually have had many dreams/nightmares that this will happen again. I am currently nervous about our 18 week ultrasound for fear of the baby not being alive and/or not growing right.
I think that about sums it up. In sharing this, it is both cathartic for me but I also hope that when we come across people in a similar situation as mine, that maybe we can be more empathic with each other. That's not to say family and friends have not been empathic. It's just a lot of times, we don't invite each other into our private thoughts. I recently had a conversation with a lady who had a similar experience and she shared that I may not feel overall relief until I deliver a healthy baby. I appreciated that feedback. It felt good to think that maybe I'm not alone in my craziness.

We have also decided to do a Baby Gender Reveal Party. We really want to embrace this baby boy or girl and thought this party would help us as we continue to move forward. So on Wednesday (assuming baby cooperates) the ultrasound tech will write baby's gender on a piece of paper and we will take it to a baker without looking. With friends on Friday night, we will all find out the gender together when we cut into a cake and it is either pink or blue inside. Stay tuned for pics ;)

Disclaimer: although it was not emphasized I do realize how blessed I am to be a normally healthy person (of which many people cannot say) and that I am also blessed to be able to conceive and to have carried successfully in the past.