Monday, May 31, 2010

Open Adoption

Over the past nine months I have been blessed with an extremely loving, supportive family. Extended and immediate. With such a large group of people I knew there were bound to be a few who would need a little help understanding open adoption. And that is totally fine. 9 months ago, adoption was a foreign subject to me as well, and if someone would have told me that now days, adoptions are normally open not closed, I would have looked at them and said, "that makes no sense." So, I understand how it feels to be on both sides of the fence. And honestly, adoption is such a whole new realm that takes experience or dedicated education to truly understand. I feel that I owe my family members, ones who may be struggling with my decision to place Sophie for adoption, an explanation and hopefully some insight into what adoption is all about.

First of all, what is OPEN adoption? Open adoption means that there is some level of open communication between the birth family and the adoptive family. The level of openness varies in each case. Some people do e-mails every few months, as well as pictures and the occasional phone call, and some people have monthly face-to-face visits. There's a whole spectrum for openness. And every person has to come to an agreement that everyone is comfortable with. In my case, the adoption is VERY open. Rebecca and Troy live 10-15 minutes from my home. They have opened their arms to both me and my family and our hearts have been filled with gratitude and love for them as well. We have become another piece of extended family to them and vice versa. In just over the past two months I have built a bond with Troy, Rebecca, and their boys that I never thought possible. We have complete trust and faith in one another, and honesty is always welcome. So far, I have kept in touch with them through daily texts, phone calls, and emails. As well as weekly visits. After placement however, things may change. No one is for sure how much, but Troy and Rebecca have made it very clear that they are willing to give me whatever kind of contact I need. I know that if I feel it's best to stay away for a time, they'll let me be. But I also know that if I want to see Sophie or go visit her at their home, I'm always more than welcome. They offer me even more than I ask for, and I never feel like I'm stepping on their toes. Anyway, so that's open adoption.

I understand that 10 years ago, open adoptions were unheard of. It has been understood for decades that the birth mom needed to be cut off and forced to let go from the moment the baby was born. What people failed to see or understand, is how that kind of cut-off denies the birth mom any sort of closure. Studies have proven that open adoptions are a win for everyone involved. Throughout my adoption journey I have met tons and tons of adoptees, birth parents, birth grandparents, adoptive couples, etc. I have witnessed first hand, the miracle of open adoption. It is something incredible. And not only does it work 99% of the time, it is now promoted by the LDS Church. It is what the First Presidency put their stamp of approval on, approximately 10 years ago. If our Heavenly Father says it's right, who's to argue? I know I have dear family members who believe it's best to stay in the dark. To avoid becoming attached to the situation. All I can say is that I hope one day you can see what a blessing it is to have Sophie as a part of my life, as a part of yours. I am NOT giving Sophie up. I want that to be understood. I am giving her MORE. It is the hardest thing I've ever had to do, probably ever will do. But if I can give my daughter more, than by heaven and earth I will. I just hope this helps, and that those of you who may not quite understand, someday will. I love you all. And I am so grateful for your undying support.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

T-Minus...3 days!!??!!

So, as I'm typing this blog entry, I'm also bouncing on my yoga ball. Apparently it helps induce labor...I have tried everything to naturally induce labor the past few days! Pineapple, spicy foods, yoga ball bouncing, and long walks. It's helped some, so I'm keeping it up! Yesterday, my family and I went to one of our all time favorites for my graduation dinner. Chuck-A-Rama!!!! In the middle of dinner I felt an extremely sharp pain down in my abdomen, a pain that I'd been experiencing frequently throughout the day. So, since this is my first pregnancy and I'm completely clueless as to what a contraction feels like, I turned to my lovely mother and said, "Mom, does a contraction feel like a really sharp pain pressing on you pelvic bone?" She looked at me with wide eyes and said, "uh, yes. Is that why you keep bending over and grunting?" I said, "Oh! Well, ya! I've been having bad ones all day! Do you think it's starting?" She just laughed and said, "I wouldn't be surprised. Every one of you came after I ate out at a restaurant." So, need less to say I've started the stage of painful contractions. Just in case Sophie was to come last night, we immediately prepped everything after dinner. My mom and I finished her little new born dress that I plan to have her dressed in for placement. And I finished packing my hospital bag. We are ready to go! I am praying sooooo sooooo hard that Sophie comes this weekend, for several reasons. But one big one being that my best friend Erica is visiting this weekend from college and I want her to to be here!!!

Anyway, after a couple hours of painful contractions I decided it would be a good idea to give Troy and Rebecca a heads up, just in case. So, I texted Rebecca and informed her of the situation. Did she get anxious? Of course!!! Why wouldn't she be?? We're all so excited and I hate to put them on the edge of their seat, especially because false labor is not uncommon, but I figured they should be warned. We're all crossing our fingers that Sophie inches her way into this world very very soon!

Ok, for those of you who don't know, my pregnancy is high risk. I'll just put out all the details now to save time later. I have a heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, HCM. It affects your inner heart muscles causing them to grow out of proportion which results in a lack of blood flow through the heart. The part of my heart that is affected by the disease is my left ventricle which unfortunately, is the chamber that creates our pulse and blood pressure. In other words, it's the hardest working chamber. The average size of your muscle wall in that chamber is 7-12 mm. Mine is 31 mm. It's much much too large which means I hardly have enough room for blood to flow in and out. Because of the extra growth I am extremely limited on what I can do physically. Walking up a single flight of stairs wears me out for several minutes. Running is impossible and can result in sudden death (as we've experienced with both Clint and I haha), and when it comes to losing about a pain and a half! Anyway, women with HCM are at high risk during delivery and post delivery, not during the pregnancy. In fact, we do very well during the pregnancy because of all the extra blood and fluid our body provides with a baby. The risk is mostly postpartum. When you deliver a baby, your body's fluid level goes from really high to really low in a matter of minutes. A heart like mine can't handle such a drastic change without freaking itself out. It will go into an arrhythmia. Normally, a woman with HCM will have heart failure minutes or days after the delivery of her child. Some women die, some don't. It all varies. A 21 year old woman died last summer 2 weeks after her second child was born. She was watching t.v. when her heart just gave out. She would have been saved, would she have had an ICD inside her. When I was hospitalized in January for a pacemaker/defibrillator (ICD) malfunction, the doctors said I had three options. 1. opt to have my ICD taken out for good and live without one but risk death with the delivery 2. opt to have my ICD taken out, receive a new one from a different company and try to get over the fact that the darn things malfunction, and have something there to reboot my heart after delivery or 3. opt to take my ICD out and get an abortion because the risk of my heart stopping and having nothing there to reboot it after delivery was/is too high.

Abortion at 5 months??? I don't think so. No way. And as much as I hate these ICDs now, I knew that I needed to get one if I was to try and have a safe delivery. So, I chose option 2. I have a new ICD now, and it best be ready to do it's job! Anyway, the doctors have a plan for me of course once I'm at the hospital. They will hook me up to the monitors asap, turn off my defibrillator for the actual delivery, give me an early epidural, pump me completely full of IV fluids, and use forceps to get Sophie out. I can't push and I can't experience hours of contractions because of the strain it would put on my heart, hence the early epidural and the forceps. The IV fluids are so that they can attempt to keep my body's fluid level high even after delivery, and slowly reduce the water intake over a few days. So, that's the plan! I'm not too worried, I think the doctors know what they're up against, and so do I, so whatever happens...happens.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Learning How To Forgive

Hate. I had never fully understood the meaning of that word until about 9 months ago. I had never known what it felt like to truly hate someone. Even worse, I had never known what it felt like to hate myself. I hated myself for what I'd done. I hated myself for letting everyone down. The feelings grew stronger and deeper every day of my pregnancy. And not only did I hate myself, I hated the birth father too. I understand now, why such feelings can only come from the Devil himself. They are destructive and menacing. I suffered months of anguish at the bottom of a hole. A dark, hopeless hole. At times, I would find enough strength to stand up and look for the light, but those moments were rare and often very short. I couldn't seem to find the inner strength I needed to love myself again. We all know that in order to love, you must first love yourself. I knew that the people around me, the people I loved most, were suffering too. And that I was hurting them through my words and my actions. It took my a while, but eventually, with the help of simple things like prayer, scripture study, and church attendance I developed my own personal testimony and I started to love myself again. And by love myself, I mean learning to respect myself and accept who I am. I know I'm on a good path. One that I'm trying ever so hard hold on to. I've found my "happy place" you could say, I know where to find peace. It's not through unrealistic, fake relationships. It's through service and TRUE love. I am just barely ending the process of forgiving myself. And oh my what a burden to be lifted! It's the best feeling in the world. But now, I'm beginning my journey to forgive Sophie's birth father. It's just as hard, if not harder. Like I said, I've never felt REAL hatred before. And it's not an emotion that comes equipped with a light switch. You can't just stop hating someone when they've wronged you and turn off your anger. It takes time, and it takes effort. I'm starting on a difficult path, but I'll finish some day. I need to. For me. It hurts no one but myself to harvest such hard, angry feelings. I pray every single night for the birth father. I pray that he will realize his full potential and change into the man I know he can become. I pray that he will realize the reality of this situation and take responsibility for his part. I can't make him do anything, all I can do is pray. And I pray to know how to forgive him, to let go of my anger and move on. I'm trying, and I'll keep trying 'till I get there.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Facing the Music

So, starting where I left off, I'll continue with another part of my story. As you can imagine, being pregnant at 18 years old, and being unmarried, is kinda scary. It's horrifying actually. So many things change and your life is flipped upside down. When I found out I was pregnant, I was barely into my senior year of high school, and still 17. I turned 18 on December 5th, 2009 and was grateful that I'd at least be having my baby as an official "adult". Now, when the world stereotypes pregnant teens, they paint a certain picture. Usually that of a rebel. Some one who strays from all the rules. Well, I wasn't that person. In fact, I still have a hard time believing I got pregnant. It's so surreal to me and almost everyone I know. It was the last thing anyone expected. A fact that actually made it harder, my shame was deeper and my guilt to the extreme. Because I knew that news of my pregnancy would be a shock to the system, I kept it quiet for a VERY long time. About five months actually. My siblings knew, my parents knew, and my bishop knew. But that was it. Until one day, I just couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't keep lying to all my friends and remain cooped up in my house every day, all day. It wasn't working. I was going insane. So, I taught myself not to care what other people might think, and I stepped out into the world little by little, ready to "face the music", as they say. I was utterly shocked at the results. People were so kind and so supportive. I had several "why didn't you tell me earlier!" remarks from many close friends. Not once, have I been judged or put down. My ward has become one of my greatest support systems. I am forever grateful to the wonderful people who have popped out of the woodwork and offered to help. I am especially grateful for my parents, some special sisters in the ward, and my friend Erica. They have been my undying support.

It's amazing what you learn, sitting on the other side of the fence. I remember being the gossip hungry teenager anxious for big news. I never thought about the other person, until I became that big news. Now I know that we never have all the facts. We never have the whole story. So why make someone else's mistake, the topic of all our discussions? It's wrong, and I regret ever doing it. I guess it takes a major event to change us sometimes. To open our eyes to what really matters. I feel like a whole new person. I could write pages and pages about what this experience has taught me. As well as given me.

Anyway, in January (I believe), I contacted a family that lives down in southern Utah. I had searched through several online adoptive family profiles, and they were my first choice. To make a long story short, I continued to e-mail them for a couple months. I even met them face to face a few times. They were wonderful, everything I wanted for my little girl. However, something just didn't feel right. I couldn't place my daughter in the hands of another family if I didn't know and feel 100% ok about it. For weeks I prayed my heart out, begging for help with my decision. One day, I went in to see my case worker and told her, "I'm done. I can't place with this family. I can't place with any family. This is too hard. I'm keeping her." I was stressed out and scared. I felt like I'd hit a dead end. Jan helped me calm down and rethink my decision. She let me know that there were hundreds of other families just dying to take care of me, as well as my daughter. I knew in my heart, right then, the reason I didn't feel right about the other family. They weren't as open as I wanted and I knew that if I were to place with them, I wouldn't be ok. My daughter would, but I wouldn't and I firmly believe that adoptions are to bear win-win-win results. Win for the baby, win for the family, and win for the birth mother/parents. They just weren't the type for me. I felt like I was pulling teeth every time I asked for more contact with my daughter. They were pretty closed, which is ok. That will work great for someone else, just not for me.

Until next time!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My New Extended Family

This is Troy and Rebecca. The future parents of my child. (yes that is ok to joke about hahaha cause we're not joking right Rebecca!) Anyway, they are two of the most amazing, wonderful people I've ever met. I thank Heavenly Father every day for
guiding me to them. Finding the parents for Sophie was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. And I knew I would never settle for anything less than best. These two are THE BEST. Hence, why I picked them to raise and love my daughter as one of their own. And now...I introduce you to Rand and Caleb! These two stud muffins will be Sophie's brothers. They're adorable and fun, and extremely intelligent. Rand is seven years old. He is Troy and Rebecca's biological son. Caleb is was adopted into their family four years ago and has been a wonderful, blessed addition ever since. They're hilarious and will keep you laughing all day long. I love these guys, forever and always!

From the Beginning

For those of you who have been involved with adoption, in any way, know that it's one of the hardest, most incredible things a person can go through. This is my story, part of it anyway. It's too long to tell in one post, so I'll tell it little by little.

In August of 2009 I discovered the heart dropping truth of my pregnancy. I have never felt so alone in my life as I did at that moment. The world literally came crashing down and all I wanted was to disappear. The news sent both the birth father and I into a complete whirl pool of emotions. Shame, guilt, disappointment, fear, anger, sadness, excitement, and worry were just to name a few. After disposing of the pregnancy test, we immediately drove to Planned Parenthood. There, we hoped to receive some kind of help or comfort. As we drove up and walked in I remember feeling like all eyes were on me. Like everyone in the room was thinking, "eww, you're just another pregnant, unmarried teen. The world could rid itself of you." However, the nurses were very kind and helpful. They helped me understand my options and move towards the next important step. As shamed as I am to admit it now, I will tell you that abortion was my first choice. I was over come with fear and knew that my pregnancy would be high risk. So, I asked the nurse what needed to be done to receive an abortion. She informed me that because I was under 18, an abortion required parental consent. You can imagine my horror upon hearing that...but needless to say, I nodded my head and said ok. I shook in terror the whole ride home, knowing that I'd have to tell my parents right away. If I was going to get an abortion, I wanted it asap. I knew I wouldn't be able to go through with it the second my baby had a heart beat.

I'm going to skip some details, simply for personal privacy. I will say that I told my mom the moment she arrived home that day. Dad found out from mom that night. Abortion remained an option for only about a week after that. I just couldn't do it. And I firmly believe it's wrong. That's a stated opinion, so if yours differs, don't argue. There's a time and a place for that, and it's not here.

Anyway, at 8 weeks, news of the pregnancy was between me, mom, dad, the birth father, and my bishop. When I was 2 months along, we went to LDS Family services. And that's where my adoption journey really began. I met with my case worker (whose name I will not reveal for her own privacy's sake so we'll just call her Jan) and she put me on the path of options. I began meeting her once a week to help me through my emotions and sort out my problems. She also opened my eyes to every one of my decisions and helped me move toward the one I eventually felt comfortable with.

Now, before I continue, this is why I chose adoption:

After a lot of thought, prayer, and consideration, I knew adoption was the right choice for me. It's not for everyone, but it was for me. There are several reasons for my decision. Some are religious, some financial, some emotional, and some related to circumstance. My top reason, however, will forever and always be this: My daughter is my most precious gift. And I love her unconditionally. I believe that when you love someone unconditionally you put their needs before your own. As a firm member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I know that every child is ENTITLED to certain blessings that come from the sealing covenant. That sealing covenant can only take place when a child has a married, temple-worthy mother and father, a condition that I was unable to offer at the time. As much as my heart yearned to keep her, and raise her, and have her as my own, I would never be at peace knowing I could have given her more. I wanted her to have stability. I wanted her to have a mom AND a dad who were mature and wise. I wanted her to have a mom, 24/7, and younger siblings to love on her to pieces. I couldn't offer those things, and probably never could. I had to listen to my head, not my heart. And though adoption may be the hardest route for me, it was/is definitely the right one.