Monday, November 11, 2013

Lifecycle of Loss

I feel like there's been a lot of loss in my life lately. A year ago, my dad died - my adoptive dad. It was the most profound loss I've had. Then, a few month's ago Annie died - my birthmother's husband's mother. She had become part of my life when Kate married Steve. We both considered each other family, even though the lineage was complicated.

While it's common wisdom that you don't know what you've got til it's gone, for me, as an adoptee, I didn't know what I'd lost until I was found.

Growing up adopted, my family was my adopted family. There was no other family. What I hadn't understood was that I was really, truly, from another family. While I knew I was born from someone else, that there was a man and a woman who were my birthparents, it hadn't sunk in that they were my first family. Their families were my families. With relinquishment, I thought about being severed from my birthparents, but hadn't thought about how the disconnection rippled farther.

So, I was put into a different family, a family foreign to me. Placed into an unknown world. Growing up there, I believed that was where I was from.

My child self didn't know that the world outside didn't match the one I had grown in for nine months. My rational, developed mind doesn't remember. They say a child's memory develops at three or four. I'm not sure if that's true of emotional memory.

When I decided to search for my birthparents, it wasn't because I thought something was missing. I had a family, had parents who loved me, a brother, a normal, imperfect, but loving life. I thought searching would be interesting. A story, an adventure.

Instead, finding my birthmother rocked the foundations of the world I came from. Suddenly, brutally, everything that I took to be MY world was revealed as an impostor. While I never felt that I truly fit in to the world I was in, it was the only world I had.

I knew the ways I was similar to my adoptive parents, but I didn't know if the ways I was different were uniquely mine or if they were traits that came from my birthfamilies. When I first met Kate, I thought the similarities would jump out at me, but instead I was left wondering if we had much in common at all. It was in getting to know not only Kate, but also my half-sister and my aunts and uncles and grandparents that the similarities started to appear. Small, seemingly insignificant things that weren't obvious but were shocking - I never had these genetic similarities to anyone before. Ten years later I my birthfather and then went through the same things again - what was the connection? What part of me came from him?

Finding out where I came from challenged everything I had known. It took years to sort it all out. Like the Tower card in a Tarot deck, everything had to be destroyed before I could build it up again. And now all the missing parts, even the parts I hadn't realized were missing, are filled in and I have new parts (like my birth-step-grandmother) too. It makes for a much more solid foundation so that when I do go through a loss, even one as significant as losing my dad, that I can remember my life was started with loss, and although it will take time, I can build it back up again.


to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Letters - Mother's Day

This July, it will be twenty years since I came out from New Jersey to Portland to live with Kate for the summer. For Mother's Day, and our third-year anniversary of doing these blogs, we decided to post the letters back and forth that precipitated the whole event. 

Keep in mind, my letter was from when I was 22, so I'm still rather dramatic and annoying. I can't help but roll my eyes at a lot of my comments, and yet there's also a lot there that are issues I am still wrestling with today. So if you can make it through the self-obsessed twenties drama, there are some nuggets of truth there as well.

December 4, 1992

Dearest Kate,

I don’t know, life is just so crazy for me right now. I feel like I’m in a stalemate. I read your letter and see that you’ve wanted to go back to school. What’s ironic is that I’d love to be in your place. I guess I never told you, but I look up to you. You are what I wish I could be. You’re creative. And it’s not for money or glory and anything like that. It’s not even to publish, it’s just for you. No, it doesn’t even seem that it’s for you - it is just in you. And you live the creative life and are filled with spirit.

That’s what I crave, because I feel that in me, but I am just so entangled in the world and so detached from life. I feel so stuck. I’m in such a rut, and I don’t even do anything about it!  I promised myself that once I got back from England that I wouldn’t let the American lifestyle get to me. But it has. And I promised myself that I wouldn’t take North America for granted, that I would find wonder in it, like I found wonder overseas. No, I haven’t done that either. I have been immersed by the New Brunswick smog and made weak. It’s my own fault, I know. I just don’t know how to get out of it. I have no money, I need a job, and school takes up most of my time. 

But that’s not even the main thing. The thing I’m most afraid of is not living a creative life. I’m so afraid of just having a normal life, a nine-to-five job, a family, and kids. Those things aren’t bad in themselves; I just don’t want society to dictate to me what to do. I want to live, really live and experience. You have a job and a family and kids, but you’re your own person and have such an active mental, spiritual, creative life. I’m just afraid I’m not capable of that. 

You wrote in your letter that I’m amazing and bright and beautiful, and that meant so much to me. I just don’t feel that way about me. I feel dull and incompetent and ordinary and mediocre. I want to be creative, because I think that may be the most valid thing to be in life, but I feel like I don’t have a medium. I’m OK at a few things but I’m not good at any one. So I don’t know what I should pursue, if I should pursue anything. Sometimes I feel like giving up and giving in to the plain, uncreative life. I don’t feel capable of achieving anything. It’s not necessarily talent, I feel like I may not have the spirit dwelling in me and that’s what I need most of all. And if the spirit is there then I feel like I may not have the talent to express it. Do you understand?  I figured if anyone in the world might understand it would be you.

I hope you don’t feel that I’m making unwarranted presumptions about you. I know I don’t know you well enough to tell you what kind of person you are. But you seem to be the way I’ve described and I both admire and desire those qualities. I guess what I’m saying is that I would like to be more like you, but I don’t feel adequate

I feel so mixed up. I feel like I’m betraying my parents for even saying these things. I’m not saying that they weren’t good enough. They are wonderful parents and I feel they encouraged me in every way. But I feel like no one knows me. I feel split, I feel like one person that everyone knows and sees, and another person that dwells inside wanting to come out. And these two people fight it out and they need to come to reconciliation and love and respect each other. I must sound crazy

I feel like there’s a part of me that’s like you and guess I just want to get closer to you so that I could recognize and understand that part of myself.

Then I’m so scared that I’m going to react badly. After our first meeting I was so confused and overwhelmed I just couldn’t handle the situation at all and that’s when I didn’t write for so long. I don’t want that to happen again. I want to be able to absorb this all calmly and completely.

See, I guess I’m writing to you about this because I feel like I have a unique bond with you, that of mother and daughter. And I feel that maybe the silent creative voice that’s been screaming inside of me has carried over from you. I’m just so confused. I don’t know who I am. It’s not that I feel that I can’t have both you and my parents, it’s that I don’t know how to have all of you as a part of me and also whatever’s uniquely me, and combine all of those into a whole.



to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone


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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Right to Know, No?

A couple years ago a big kerfuffle broke out in my original mother's family when one of her brothers emailed me this picture on my birthday:

It was actually a very sweet email that included family photos and history and humor. I was touched, as I always am, when members from my birthfamilies reach out and treat me as their own.

When I saw this picture, it stopped me in my tracks for just a moment. But then I knew it couldn't be me, that it must be my sister, and I left for the weekend. When I came back and checked my email, there were a couple dozen heated emails between Kate's siblings. The gist was basically that it should have been obvious that it wasn't me, that my birth was a secret affair. Re-reading those emails tonight still makes me quiet inside. Something about hearing about my birth and the switch from one family to another makes me step back and observe, not wanting to participate in the discussion.

It might seem strange that I wasn't more upset or upended by seeing this photo, but I had come to take for granted that there is no record of my coming into the world. At least, not one that is available to me. I was so used to NOT knowing, it wasn't something I questioned.

A birth certificate. It just gives you the simple facts - your mother's name, your father's name, when you were born and where. A record that gives you proof that you came into the world. It must be important if the government thinks it is something that should be tracked, right?

I grew up not knowing my ethnicity, my history, my roots, my inherited past. It was implied that it wasn't my right to know. That it didn't matter. That my life began when I was adopted.

Thing is, my life began before I was adopted, and I still have no history or record of it. That I now know the facts about my birth and have a good relationship with both my birthmother and birthfather and that they don't want anything hidden from me gives no weight to me getting my birth certificate.

It is so engrained in our society that this somehow makes sense, that a lot of people don't question it. I try to imagine telling non-adopted people that they have no right to know who they are. I imagine that the pictures of their birth, the stories about it, the facts about it are all sealed away. I imagine they are only allowed to know from when they were two months old onward. They don't get to know who their parents are, where they were born, when they were born. That they are forbidden from having that information. Forbidden. When I think about it that way, it seems really bizarre. Of course you have a right to know who you are.

The story of how we came into the world is one of the most fundamental stories we tell our children, one they never tire of hearing. I think one of the reasons is because we, ourselves, can't remember that moment. Having proof gives us security that we really exist. Because, really, when you're told that your birth is forbidden information, it kinda makes you start to feel like maybe there's more to it. Maybe you're an alien. Maybe you weren't really born. I know, it's not logical, but neither is hiding someone's identity from them. You can't just toss someone into a new family and say, "this is your identity now" like a baby witness protection program. I was born (I think - there's no evidence). I just want the facts about it.

Now, when I look at the picture above, I don't feel indifferent anymore, I feel angry. I am being told I can't have that, I can't have a record of my birth. I feel like going all 'Borne Identity' and fighting for the right to know who I am. I deserve to know and no one has the right to tell me I don't.


to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Choice and Compassion: Interview Follow-up and Fallout

A fellow writer continues the debate in "Is It a Woman's Right to Surrender Her Child?" on her site, No Apologies for Being Me.

Thing is, I can see all sides. I was unwanted and adopted. But I've also had an unwanted pregnancy. Can't we all have a little compassion for people making hard choices? Are there any "right" choices?

Here is Rachel's Interview of me on the other choice, my choice - abortion.  Commentors on Lost Daughters were judging Rachel for being selfish. I was selfish too. I chose an independent life as a young adult over being a parent.

RACHEL: I've read blogs and comments from adoptees who are anti-adoption, claiming abortion is the "kinder" choice. Although I didn't make that decision for myself, I can relate to women who have, and can see the reasons why someone would make that choice.  It also scares the bejeezus out of me, wondering if Reed will ever have the same opinion- that he may someday think that being aborted would have been kinder of me than to place for adoption.

ME: Let me stop you there - I can't imagine anyone saying that. I don't think abortion is the kinder option. It is just an option. No one can know with absolute certainty what the right decision is, so you just have to go with what your soul tells you...
My answer is contradictory and maybe hipocritical. For me, given the choice of being brought into the world and being given up for adoption, or being not brought into the world, being aborted. I would rather have been brought into the world. And, heck, all drama aside (and I've had some pretty drastic drama in my life), it's been a good life, I've enjoyed it, I wouldn't want to have missed out on it.

I was raised Catholic, and in 9th grade I went to an all girl's Catholic School run by nuns. While in general, I thought the nuns were lovely, they showed us anti-abortion videos, like the Silent Scream, and brought us all on a trip to DC to protest choice. When I was in college, I became pro-choice once I understood that pro-choice wasn't the same thing as pro-abortion. I was pro-choice but anti-abortion. I still thought abortion was killing.

Then, wham, I was pregnant. My boyfriend and I made a series of stupid mistakes - not using birth control first off. Then, I thought he would pull out (he didn't). He thought it didn't make a difference (it did). I thought about the morning-after pill, but thought it was still illegal (it wasn't).

I was 22. I instantly felt the rush of life into me at the instant of conception. I knew I was pregnant.

We really struggled. Both raised Catholic, both not wanting to be parents yet. But we were in love, we thought about getting married down the road. Maybe we should keep the baby, I thought, that would be the right thing to do. I would be done with college before the baby was born, I could live with my parents til I found a job and he could quit school, get a job ... what an awful, dreary life loomed before me. I didn't want that, and didn't want that for the baby either. Although that's what I would have judged upon others as what they should do, it didn't feel right.

Adoption seemed like the obvious choice. After all, twenty-two years earlier, an 18-year old woman had found herself in the same circumstance and did what society says is "the right thing" by putting me up for adoption. I had a good home, she got to move on with her life. Win-win.

But as much as I tried to look at that option, my mind wouldn't go there for a second. I couldn't do it. I couldn't bring this baby into the world and not be it's parent. No matter what, this was my child, my child, I could not hand it over to anyone else. Even if I knew they were rich and loving and wonderful and would give the child every opportunity, I couldn't do it. I hadn't heard of open adoption then, but even if that was an option, I wouldn't, couldn't do it. It was my child and if it was going to come into the world, it would be with me.

But, I didn't want to be a parent, not yet.

So, abortion. Ending a life, the silent scream, having the baby cut out of me. I'm using harsh terms because it is harsh. There was nothing pretty about it. I saw the terrible videos that showed what abortion was, I knew what it was. I never believed in that life begins any later than conception. Conception is obviously the moment of life.
But, it is life that can only exist if the mother exists. It cannot live without the mother. Until the end of pregnancy, the baby is completely dependent on the mother's body to survive. It was my choice to allow it to continue to grow and develop and come into the world, or I could choose to end it.

I chose to end it.

I chose to end it even though I felt I shouldn't. It would be wrong, evil, murder. Well, no. No. It didn't feel wrong, it didn't feel evil, it didn't feel like murder. It felt like the right thing to do, for me. In my gut, in my soul, it felt like the right choice.
The doesn't mean I didn't grieve; my boyfriend and I both grieved that we would never know that surely wonderful life that would have been. It doesn't mean I didn't think others wouldn't judge me for it; I would be judged. It didn't mean I didn't wonder if I made the right decision, even though it felt like the right decision, could it still have been wrong?

So, why is it okay for me to say I'm glad I was brought into the world and glad I was put up for adoption, but not the same for the child I was pregnant with.
Mainly, because I'm alive. Once you're alive, and your given the choice of would you rather be dead...well, of course not. We are driven to survive. Would I have really cared if I was aborted? I have to think, no, probably not. I wouldn't have known any different. Before you're alive, are you sad you're not alive? No, you just aren't alive. Once you're alive, you're stuck. Your stuck wanting to survive no matter how awful life gets. And my life was fine.

RACHEL: When you were making your decision, could you relate to that statement at all (about abortion being the kinder option)?

ME: Heck no, not at all. There are only tough choices and complicated decisions. I don't think either is necessarily kinder. Well, maybe adoption is kinder, but a whole lot messier during the lifetime. Not bad, just messy.

RACHEL: Were there things in your own adoption experience that you wouldn't want another life to go through that influenced your decision?

ME: No. I had a good family, parents that loved me - overall a fine adoption experience. Did I not want that for my child? That was irrelevant. I just couldn't bring a baby into the world and not be its parent.

RACHEL: One of the questions I most often receive is about what will I tell Reed when he's older, how will I explain my decision to him. Not to impose or assume any views of the afterlife or souls (this is not supposed to be a religious question!), but how would you explain your decision to your unborn child? (Again, this is purely for the purpose of contrast.)

ME: I was 22 when I became pregnant and was near the end of my bachelor's degree. I minored in philosophy, studied "death and dying," worked in Hospice and discovered both Buddhism and Existentialism. So, by the time I was 22 I had shed Catholicism and embraced Buddhist philosophy. Since that time, I've refined it by taking what spoke true to me about Buddhism and what spoke true to me about existentialism and mixed them into a place where I believe a soul chooses its life. It's really great that soul chose me, and I'm sorry I kicked it out, but I didn't take it's soul, the soul still survives, and probably found another belly to pop into.

This becomes even more strongly apparent to me as I face my dad existing on life support. It's just that his body is worn out. It's done. The soul continues, but the body ends. It ends for all of us. It's not our god-given right to have a body, it'snot a guarantee - it's a gift that we get to enjoy for a little while, and then it's gone.

What would I say to that soul if I get to meet it at my death?

"Hi! How are you? I love you, I wish I could have gotten to know you - you should have shown up later. How are things?"

I'm not being crass, it's just that talking to a soul without a body is different from talking to someone with a body. If I was explaining to the 11 week old fetus, and I did, I would hug it, if I could, and cry and mourn... "I'm really sorry. I hope it wasn't too difficult. I just wasn't ready. I wasn't ready to host another being in my body so I chose to have you taken out. I hope you find a good life. I'm sorry."

QUESTION: I strongly believe in individuality, and I think different people will handle similar circumstances very differently.  One of the questions I have about my relationship with Reed is if he will blame me as he understands more about my decision and how it has affected both of our lives.  Have you ever felt like a victim because you were adopted?  Have you ever felt helpless about your situation, that other people chose the outcome of your life and you had little control over it?  Did you blame your birth mother, Kate, for making such an important decision for your life?

ME: I know there are a lot of anti-adoption birthmoms and adoptees out there. I'm not one of them. Adoption just is. It's not perfect, but it exists as one solution. It's not the solution for everyone, and it's not perfect, but nothing is.

Something I learned from a presenter at an American Adoption Congress Conference - "no one has a problem with being adopted, they have a problem with having been relinquished." I had to deal with having been given up by my birthmom (who I now love and know and have a great relationship with). But, hey, being a newborn baby and not being wanted by your mom, being given away - it sucks. It's hard. I can't imagine that that part is easy for anyone - even in open adoption.

But, you know what? Life's hard. Things happen. It would have sucked if I was born without a leg, but people deal with it. You could be a child of rape (how bad would that suck) or have your mom hate you or have your mom die at your birth. Horrible things happen. And being pregnant and not wanting to be a parent is hard. There's no good choice. Sure, they might have hurt feelings that you didn't keep them, but, buck up, they got life, and that's pretty cool. Count your blessings. But, that's just the way I am.

So, do I feel like a victim, no. Was I helpless about my situation - sure, all babies are. Do I blame my birthmother for giving me up? You betcha. I'm pissed off that she gave me away. She should have wanted to keep me. She didn't. So, I have to deal with commitment issues and abandonment issues and insecurity as all adoptees do. Am I sorry she gave me away? No. Would my life have been better with her? Who knows? Probably just different - different pros, different cons.

So will your Reed have relinquishment issues? I don't know any adoptee who doesn't. I don't know anyone who is happy that their mother didn't want to keep them. Rejection hurts. But, that doesn't mean it was a bad choice. It's just something you'll have to deal with. And, because you chose that, you get to have this beautiful amazing boy in your life. He might have issues from it (don't we all get issues from our parents?), he might get angry sometimes (god knows, I had anger with Kate), but you work through it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


First of all, I'm just going to put it right out there - I'm pro-choice. The pro-life movement equates pro-choice with pro-abortion, but, to me, that just doesn't make sense. Who WANTS to have an abortion? 

I am pro-choice. Only the person in the situation can make the decision. They can keep the baby, give the baby to someone else to raise, or terminate the pregnancy. The choice is simple, it's the decision that's hard. 

Another thing that's said in both the pro-life community and adoption community is that "the child didn't have a choice." Well, true, but the thing is, none of us do. We're just born (or not). There's no choice about it. 

I've written a little bit about growing up in New Jersey and a little bit about coming out to Portland. But, I guess what I hadn't put together until now is that I grew up in a life that wasn't meant for me. Maybe that's not the right wording, but it's something along those lines.

For any of you not adopted...picture being plucked out of the family you grew up in and put in any random family of someone else you know. Maybe it would be good (if you had a bad original family and were put into a good family), maybe it would be bad, but either way I imagine it would feel really weird. Surreal. Because you are who you are, and who you are is pretty set when you make your appearance into this world.

Maybe you disagree with it being a set thing about who you are when you come into the world. Yes, nurture has a huge effect on who you turn out to be, but I don't know how much it effects who you are.

Last week, I had a nine-hour layover in JFK, and took the unplanned opportunity to rent a car and drive down to visit my best friend from childhood in my native New Jersey. Driving along the highway, I shook my head that this was the place I came from. It's just so, "not me." When visiting with my friend, she asked if I ever think about moving back to Jersey. "No, no, nope, no way," was my concise answer. She agreed that by knowing me my whole life, she could see that Portland was a better fit, even though it was sad we don't get to see each other much.

It made me realize that it not about Jersey vs. Portland, it's about my life in Jersey vs. my life in Portland. After all, my birth-family came from Jersey too. But their Jersey was very different from mine.

On Kate's side, my birth-grandfather went to Yale and got his graduate degree at Harvard. His brother went to Harvard. My birth-grandmother and both grand-aunts, went to Smith. My great-great grandfather was the first president of Vassar College. Then there's grand-grand-(don't know how many grands) cousin, Sarah Orne Jewett, a writer. My birth-mother was in a brood of seven kids, all of whom are artists (musicians, writers, painters, and what-not - like Steve's glass art). They grew up in suburban New Jersey.

Meanwhile, the first child of the next generation (me) was brought up in (very) urban New Jersey on a busy street just a block from the highway, across the street from a cemetery. I was raised by an adoptive father who was the first in his family to go to college and a mother who went to secretarial school. Our family felt working-class rather than white-collar, even though my dad was a chemist. I had a few aunts and uncles who were a lot like my mom and dad. They were all a lot older than my friends families. I love my family, and I had great friends growing up, but I never knew people like me. 

Do I wish I grew up with Kate instead? Well, no, not exactly. I was happy with my family, for the most part. They are loving and supportive. Ironically, if I were raised by Kate, I think it would have been unlikely that I would go to college since she didn't, whereas my family put me through school. Rather than a stable, predictable life, my life would have been much more chaotic.

Thing is, I can't say which would be better. In the end, I think there is no "better." There just is what is. You are born, you grow up, and you start to get to make choices along the way. The life I've built is somewhere in between the life of my adoptive parents and the life of my birth-parents. But, in a lot of ways, I still feel like I'm just starting to know who I am.


to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Adoption Bloggers' Interview - The Great Wide Open

What would it be like to experience, and share, your reunion from the very first day the baby was born? That's how I think of open adoption: the experience of reunion, with all the emotions, struggles and joy, but on a day to day basis. 

You would be in reunion from day one.

When I started reading her blog, I was instantly hooked...what would it be like to be in reunion from the very first day? How would the experience of open adoption be vs. closed adoption...would there be the same issues, doubts, questions?
Luckily, I had the chance to ask.

QUESTION (Cathy to Rachel):
Growing up in a closed adoption, I didn't know why my (birth) mother chose not to raise me. I know now, and can understand why she made the choices she did. But, the little kid inside of me is still stung that she would choose any life, no matter how wonderful, over the one of being my mother. In open adoption the child knows it all up front. Seeing the pictures of your travels and your life on your own, I wonder how it will be for Reed to know, and to see, the life that you chose.
What kind of relationship do you see having with Reed throughout your life? How would it be if it could be your ideal? When he is a grown-up, what would you like your relationship to look like?
ANSWER (Rachel):

When I try to look into a crystal ball and see Reed’s and my future relationship, it’s fun for me to think of what it might be, and it’s something Doug, Maura and I have talked a lot about. (We’ve also talked about how my relationship will grow with Julian, Reed’s younger brother, which we all feel is important to establish as well.) If you want some kind of label to relate it to, I suppose my relationship to him might be something like an aunt, but hopefully a special aunt. I see us being friends, I want to be someone he feels he can count on for emotional support and encouragement. I hope he’ll see me as his cheerleader, as a number one fan, maybe even as a confidant. But in all reality, I can try as I might and put in all the effort that I can, but I can’t predict or control how he responds or feels towards me. As he grows older and has his own issues he’ll need to deal with, there is no crystal ball to know how he’ll think or feel towards me, and no magic formula to make him reciprocate all the love I have for him. I guess no parent can control that, but with an adoptive situation it seems different, like there are many more variables. I know good and well that there may be a time when he needs space from me, when he doesn’t want to see me. Who can tell? All I can do is love him. But back to your question, my hope is that we will develop a strong, deep and meaningful relationship. By the time he is an adult, with my continuous presence in his life, I hope we will have established a solid bond between us with regular conversations, visits and continuing to be a part of his family.

QUESTION (Cathy to Rachel):
Here's a question I am always fascinated with - what does he call you? What do you want him to call you?

ANSWER (Rachel):
He just calls me Rachel, and that’s what I like for him to call me. A side note that I can’t help but put in- I recently heard from Doug that while Maura was visiting a friend, they were skyping with her and after they were through Reed said, “I want to skype with Rachel!” They tried to call but I was unavailable, but hearing that has put a smile on my face for days!

QUESTION (Cathy to Rachel):
In my personal experience with my birthmom, she has a lot of regrets. In the end, she wishes she chose differently and found a way to keep me. While I'm not sure I truly believe that, it's something she is clear about now. You seem clear in your blog that you don't doubt your choice. Do you ever have doubts? Do you ever worry that you'll have doubts or regrets later in life?
ANSWER (Rachel):
Ah, doubts and regret. What a subject- a subject I’ve grappled with a lot. As you’ve read in my blog, I have said I don’t doubt my choice. And I still don’t. There have been times in my life that I have made decisions not based on what I truly thought or believed was right to do, and those times have certainly led to regrets. I’m not a person who doesn’t believe in regret. I can learn from my mistakes and much good can- and has- come from them, but they are still regrets. At whatever time, I may not have known how to handle those situations without the knowledge I gained subsequently from them, but nevertheless, I still wish I had handled them differently and they are still regrets. I can’t get around that, but I’m ok with it because I have learned emense, life changing lessons from them, so I’m thankful and blessed.
Reed, however, is not a regret. My decision to place him for adoption is not a regret either. There are times in everyone’s life when you just know, from the deepest essence of your soul and who you are, what the right thing to do is. And it doesn’t just seem right, it is divine. That’s how I felt when I decided on an open adoption. I didn’t know anything about adoption or open adoption, but when I thought about him having the home he needs, with the people who had been preparing for him long before I ever knew about him, and with me still in his life, I felt that divine peace and a “YES! THIS IS THE PATH TO TAKE!” from my internal compass.
So what do I believe about regret? I believe that if you honestly, truly and purely followed your heart, then even if later on down the line everything falls apart, it shouldn’t be a regret. Perhaps later in my life I’ll be sitting alone in a rocking chair with no children or grandchildren and no husband, and I may feel lonely as hell thinking about all the shoulda-woulda-couldas. But I still don’t think I’ll be able to regret my decision to place Reed for adoption, because at that time, if I had made any other decision, I would have been bowing to social and societal pressure instead of being true to myself. Is that a way to raise a son?
Now comes the tricky part; how do I explain all of this to Reed? How do I look him in the eye and tell him, “I didn’t want to raise you and I’m glad I gave you up”? Ok, so I can’t imagine those exact words would come out of my lips, but you get the point. I don’t expect him to understand everything, not for many years anyway. But if there’s one thing I hope he learns from his relationship with me, it is to follow your heart. I hope that he’ll never doubt my love for him, and I aim to give him as many reasons as I can not to doubt that, every chance I can.

QUESTION (Cathy to Rachel):
Why did you choose to blog about your experience? What do you hope others will get out of your blog?
ANSWER (Rachel):
I chose to blog because I’ve always been a writer at heart, and I can process things so much better when I write them out. Writing is often much easier than speaking for me. When I was pregnant, I wanted desperately to read someone else’s point of view, but I didn’t know where to look and I didn’t find much. So, I decided to put it out there myself. Mine is such a different experience from what most people normally think about when they conjure up an image of adoption, and I like that. I hope my blog will give encouragement and wisdom to someone who may have an unplanned/unwanted pregnancy. I think that the shame and stigma of an unwed pregnant woman should be abolished, and that she should be able to make a decision knowing all of the options available to her. Every person and situation is different, and any number of choices may be better for another woman/couple than what was right for Bill (Reed’s birth father) and me, but I feel an urge to be a voice for a positive, open adoption experience. I believe that open adoption can be not only a viable, healthy choice for everyone involved, but also a truly joyful, fulfilling and positive experience.

QUESTION (Cathy to Rachel):
So, in reading through your blog the adoptee in me sees your wonderful travels and your exciting life, and the little kid adoptee in me gets a pit in my stomach. For me, it's like seeing the great life my mom chose to have without me - which, of course, it is, and which of course makes sense, and it's something I wrestle with. It's not like I think I would be better off with Kate, my birth mom - her life as a musician was ungrounded and my adoptive parents gave me a solid, happy life that I honestly love. But, I still can't help feeling like, "this is what you chose instead of me, why not have continued your life but...with me?" Because I look at your pictures and I think, "Augh, I want to go! I want to see that stuff! I want to have that!
But that is what makes me wonder if maybe open adoption is the solution - your Reed gets a grounded, stable home AND the adventure from you. But, the one thing I really want for HAVE to take him on trips with you, you just have to. Not all the time, specific ones that fit into his school schedule and his life and his interests - but he needs to get to experience that with you while he's growing up. I don't know if it's possible or what the arrangement is, but, to me, that's the ideal combination. Getting the stability and groundedness from the kind of life that is truly wholesome and wonderful for children, while getting to inject the adventure and excitement and the things that you have in common all throughout your life together. It may be inevitable that he feels some rejection, that's the nature of things, but if he has you as part of his life, throughout his life, maybe he really can get the best of both worlds, and see it that way as he goes...

ANSWER (Rachel):
I can totally relate to what you’re saying. I mean, not as an adoptee, but I have wondered many times if Reed would look at my life and think that I gave him up so I could have all of these fun adventures, that I chose this exciting life over him. It may be inevitable that he think that at some point, quite honestly, no matter what my relationship is with him, I don’t see how he couldn’t. I’m pretty sure I would if I were in his shoes.

When I chose adoption, it’s not exactly that I chose this adventurous life over him. At the time when I was thinking about all of these things and making decisions, I was working in seasonal positions, living in employee housing, holding temporary jobs, and going a few months out of the year with no income at all. Yes I was surviving quite happily on my own, but it would have been impossible to continue that kind of life as a single mom. I can’t work 60 hours a week in the middle of Alaska, living in employee housing in a single room with a baby to take care of. Not only is it just not allowed, but it would have been an impossible life style. That’s how all of my jobs were, and that’s what I had loved so much about the previous 5 years of my life. If I had kept Reed and decided to be a single mom, which I didn’t want to be, I would have had to stop that lifestyle altogether, which I didn’t want to do. I would have probably had to move back to Texas (which I didn’t want to do) so I could take advantage of my large family for financial, emotional, and babysitting help so that I could find a full-time job, probably starting off waiting tables at a chain restaurant (which I didn’t want to do). When I thought of raising Reed, everything in my life seemed to come to a stand-still. 
But what was more on my mind through this thought process, was Reed’s life. What could I have given him? My time? Probably not so much, because I would have been working to support the both of us, and since my experience was almost all in the restaurant business, that would have meant long nights and weekends. Now, I know that there are plenty of single mothers and fathers who make this work, and they wouldn’t change it for the world. I think that if I had kept Reed, and that was the decision I felt was truly right, then I would have loved my life with him and would have happily made any kind of sacrifice needed. But not only did I not want that life for me, I didn’t want that life for him. I always thought that if I were a parent I would want to be a stay at home mom. I’m not a fan of long hours in daycare, I like the idea of homeschooling, of really investing lots of time into a child’s life. Those are just my own personal values and that’s how I would want to raise a family if I did. How could I do that by myself, without a partner?
So yeah, it’s not just that I chose this life over a life with him, it’s that I chose his life over a life with me. And that’s what felt right to me, that’s when I had peace. And that’s why I’m still happy with my decision to this day, because Doug and Maura are providing things for him that would have been impossible for me. He’s gardening, collecting eggs from the neighborhood chicken coup, taking walks in the woods, learning how to make pottery, painting, cooking, and has two doting parents that can teach him these kinds of life lessons instead of being sent to a daycare.   
BUT…. I do want to share my life with him. Doug, Maura and I will have to evaluate and see how all of our relationships evolve, but I dream of a day when I can take Reed on an adventure of our own, when he can get a taste of my life. One of the best things that could happen to me is if Doug and Maura decided they wanted to take their family to come visit me in Singapore or wherever else I happened to be. His parents will always be the main contributors in his life, but I want to have my own unique contributions, too. I guess my main hope is that he’ll be inspired by the best of both worlds.        
It's going to be fascinating to watch Rachel's journey with Reed unfold. It was so fun getting to know her and jumping right into deep conversations instead of treading in shallow chit-chat. I hope to stay in touch with her, and, as I do, I'll keep you all posted.


You can read Rachel's interview with me here in her blog, The Great Wide Open.


to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone


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