GUEST BLOG: Kelsey's Story "Are Emotions Even Allowed?"

Read this guest blog by a birth mom named Kelsey! She shares her story of complex emotions and asks herself if her emotions are allowed, and if her experience is valid. (Spoiler alert: it is!)

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A Peaceful Heart Gives Life to the Body

If you are like me, and it hurts to see other people with children, I just want to say that I feel your pain. It hurts. I don't have a solution to fix the pain, but I want to hold you and myself accountable. You don't have to pretend you don't have these feelings...

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Grief Series - Stage One: Combatting Emptiness

This blog is the first of a series on grief. Grief, as we know, is a series of stages people go through when someone they love, dies. Simply put, it is the process of experiencing a loss. The first stage of grief is denial. While we may not experience this stage in the same way you would if someone died, we do experience it in a different way.

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Grief Series - Stage Four: The Blues

It has been about a month since I last posted a blog. The nice thing about blogging is that it’s current; it’s happening right now, and I am in the thick of it. My birth son is less than a year old and I am still figuring out how to live my life. It can be murky at times, but I am here to share my story with all the ups and downs. So this post is #4 in the series, and the subject has been very recognizable to me lately. The fourth stage of grief is Depression. As birth moms, we are no strangers to the blues. 

If you have ever struggled with any form of depression before your adoption journey began, you may find that this depression is different, you may feel it is similar and more intense, or maybe you never struggled with depression until now, and this is all very new to you. Whatever your background is with depression, you probably now realize that depression is a teaspoon of confusion, a cup and a half of hopelessness, and a dash of inner chaos. And if you’ve got struggles in life to add into that mixture… hold on sister.

Tackling depression is often described as trying to climb out of a deep pit- but the pit has unstable walls and nothing to grab onto. With the grieving process, depression may drag on the longest, and it certainly can be revisited. When birth mothers are in the first few months postpartum, we are nearly guaranteed a clash with postpartum depression. This is a doozy because not only are you totally blue, you still have raging hormones. People in our lives expect us to pick up and move on ("Aren't you so glad to not be pregnant anymore?" - ugh.), but we don't even want to open up the curtains, much less get ourselves out of bed. When our minds are thirsting for sanity, we must lead ourselves to the watering hole. 

I am no expert - especially when I still experience it frequently, although some days are worse than others. The best advice I can give is this: When you need help, ask for it. Too many women in our situation fall by the wayside when they let their thoughts and feelings inhabit their mind for far too long. Many times we feel alone because there aren’t always people in our lives that understand. Somewhere along the line I discovered that I can do more than exist. As birth mothers, we OWE it to ourselves to care for our mind. Beautiful women, make it your #1 goal to ask questions and persevere until you get the help you need. Call your agency, your local pregnancy resource center, or contact me and I promise to find someone to help you. Be good to yourselves. We chose adoption for the betterment of our child’s life, but we should never forget about the betterment of our own life.

And to pregnancy and adoption professionals out there, work for these women. When a woman comes to you in need of counseling, we must do all we can to find resources that are available for them. It is important that our birth mothers have a healthy mind and that we take care of these women.

When I was going through depression most heavily, I sought out counseling as well as a support group. It helps to speak with someone who knows your pain, and often feels it too. However, there are longings that your soul needs, that I believe no human can give. I picked up a devotional and I try to read it as often as I can. I talk to God like a friend, and I pray about the worries that weigh me down. Do something spiritual to build faith and bring yourself hope. I like to think of it this way: the sooner you get help, the sooner you'll feel better.

And just because this wouldn't be a proper post about the blues without me giving you some actual blues to listen to - here's a Clapton cover of my favorite blues tune: 

Thanks for your patience in waiting for this post - talk soon!

Grief Series - Stage Three: Bargaining and the Might-Have-Beens

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When people know they are about to lose a loved one, they often attempt to make deals with God. For example, people often say things like, “Take me instead.” When that love one is gone, they tend to have thoughts that reflect back on what they could have done differently to either prevent the misfortune, or show the departed more affection while they were alive. This is all part of the third stage of grief: the bargaining stage. As birth mothers, we experience this in a similar way, especially using the what if’s and if only’s.

“What if’s” are enticing at first, but dangerous if you stick around too long. During my pregnancy and shortly after I placed my birth son, I had all kinds of what if’s.

What if I parented? At first, my answer looked similar to this:

If I had parented, I would wake up every morning and see my son’s smiling face. He would love me and want me to hold him. I would be there to hear him say his first word, watch him take his first steps, and drop him off for his first day of school, and the list goes on. I would be happy.

As you may have noticed, these statements all involve “I” or “me” and they are far from reality.

What would my life really be like if I had parented? Over time, as the hormones stopped controlling my brain, my answer would look something like this:

I would be struggling, which means so would my son. Children don’t deserve a life in turmoil; they just got here! And what about me? Women have dreams and ambitions too, and I have been given another chance to make these things happen.

Asking “what if” is natural; we all do it, but don’t get lost in a daydream of the past. These can trick us and derail us from the track to a peace of mind.

The other trap of the bargaining stage is “if only.” “If only” is one of the most counter-productive phrases in the English language. (Right up there with “I can’t”)

“If only I had been more responsible...”
“If only I had saved up more money…”
“If only I had done more to make him stay…”
“If only I had the courage to take my baby home…”

The list becomes endless, if you let it.

If only’s are ineffective because they aren’t possible. You owe it to yourself and your future to leave your what if’s and if only’s in the past. Look forward to the life you have yet to live. Like all stages of grief, stage 3 is one we must get through, but we don't have to submit to it. Every time I think of what might have been, I remind myself of my child’s version of that.

Remind yourself of your child’s life, but also remind yourself of your own life. You have been given an do-over; nothing is more gracious than that. Exchange your negatives for these:

What if I do what I always wanted to do?
What if I set an example for greatness?
What if I fulfill my true purpose?
What if I make a difference in someone's life?

Take these and live a life you can and will be proud of.

Grief Series - Stage Two: Trudging Through Anger

The second stage of grief is anger, and while in this series I tweak the stage of grief to fit birth moms, this time it applies to us in a more direct fashion. Although I don’t know everyone’s experiences, I can guess that as birth moms, we have all had our fair share of this stage. If you are struggling with how to control, deal with, and accept your anger, you are not alone.

It seems as though there are infinite reasons to feel angry about our experiences. For me personally, I was angry about the pregnancy and my circumstance. You may be angry about the adoption in general, people’s responses to your decision, or like many of us - you may have no idea why you are angry. To resolve the anger we have, it’s important to find the source.
 

Is it unfair?

I struggled with anger during my pregnancy. Throughout those nine months, I constantly allowed myself to stay mad at the father of my son; I could not grasp how or why he could leave me like he did. It was not fair that I had to proceed through the pregnancy alone; I had no one to share the heavy emotions with. Was it my fault that he split the scene? No. Was it unfair? Of course it’s unfair! I hate to be cliche (no, I reallllly hate to be cliche) but remember the “life’s not fair” quote that every adult told us throughout our entire lives? Yeah, they were right. Life is not fair, and until we find it within ourselves to take responsibility for the future and be at peace with the past, we will remain angry.

Are you lost?

The unknown is hard. This became clear to me as I left the hospital without my baby. I worked so hard to give him life, and then suddenly, it felt like a distant dream. Being lost made me hateful. I was so convinced that no one had it as bad as me. It is maddening to come home and expect life to be the same, even though it never will be. Navigating through a new life after adoption feels foggy, but it doesn’t have to be aimless. Don’t let this feeling of imbalance cause anger and hatefulness. If you do, it will dominate your life.

Make a list of your goals: goals for the day, goals for the month, and goals for your new life. Your day to day will seem dark for awhile, but keep walking until you see the light - it’s out there, I promise.

Are you in pain?

Our post-placement lives will often be littered with emotional pain points, provoked by anything and everything. Pain can cause us to make detrimental choices, lash out at the people we love, and even neglect to take care of ourselves. The distress can consume us. Birth mothers are certainly vulnerable to set-offs by certain occasions and milestones, but as time passes, I trust that the pain will become less frequent in the day to day.

Are you scared?

It’s normal to be scared of what may come. For those birth mothers who have a closed adoption or a limited open adoption, you may fear for the thoughts of your child: whether they will want to contact you, whether they think about you, etc. For those of us in open adoptions, you may have a constant fear of losing touch with the adoptive family. No matter the reason, fear can consume our lives, just like anger can. Anger that stems from fear can and will reduce us; it is not based on anything that is presently concrete. For our own sanity, we must never let fear dictate our lives.

We should always strive to be at peace in our adoption journeys, no matter how tumultuous it can be. This stage of grief is necessary and shouldn’t be suppressed, but for the wellness of ourselves, it must be worked out. Once we find the root of our anger, we can focus in and resolve it. Otherwise it becomes an ugly sore that results in self destruction, and it can delay progress.

Like all stages of grief, this stage cannot be rushed or overlooked. Grief is meant to be endured and the emotions are meant to be felt. Feel the feels, ladies, but don’t be a prisoner to animosity.

The Bittersweet Visits

 

This weekend I went to see my birth son and his family. He is 6 months old and full of constant smiles. Nothing makes me happier than to see pictures of him smiling, videos of him laughing and learning, and the joy he brings his family. Adoption is truly rewarding; don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Adoption in the United States is a work in progress, but nevertheless, it is progressing, and in recent years the progress has picked up an impressive speed.

Open adoptions are customized to fit the relationship of the birthmother and parents, as well as the comfortability of the parents’ exposure to the child. Because of this, there is no handbook on open adoption. Different circumstances can affect the openness of the adoption; life gets busy, feelings may change (on both ends of the spectrum), and the relationship can become confusing. As a birth mother who is experiencing everything in a new light, I am learning something new every day.

A healthy relationship between the parents and the birth mom is critical for a successful adoption journey. In many ways, the relationship is like a marriage. I can’t speak for the parents, but as a birthmother, when something doesn’t go my way, I find that it is best to pause. Take a deep breath, step back from the situation, and put on a different pair of shoes. Try to understand what is happening and make sense of why. I continually remind myself that everything we do, every decision that is made, is for the betterment of the child. In the end, this is all that matters.

Good communication is essential. I sat down this weekend with the mother of my birth son and we had a conversation about our personal experiences with the adoption so far. We were honest, open-minded, and most importantly: we listened to each other. Through listening, we were both able to comprehend each other’s feelings. I am exceptionally grateful that not only does my birth son have the perfect parents, but that I have gained a lifelong friend.

Lastly, when you leave from a visit, it will warm your heart and break it at the same time. It is the most bittersweet feeling I have ever experienced. For me, it takes a few days to get back into my daily routine again. Find something therapeutic, talk to your family and friends, talk to God, and take care of yourself. This visit was easier than the last, and I anticipate that it will become easier every time.

Kelsey's Adoption Story

I didn’t think of placing my baby for adoption on my own. I had good friends that helped me become aware of the option, a good adoption lawyer who walked me through the specifics, a good family to support me, and a spiritual peace to get me through each difficult day. Despite the positives, every day was a war.

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