Tag Archives: strength

It’s Just You & Me, Kid

14 Nov

Dear Little Man,

Now quite obviously, it’s not just you and me. Even when I was pregnant and it really was just you and me, it was also you, me and my gynecologist. Then it was you, me and the ultrasound tech (who got to know me realllly well). Then it was you, me and an entire medical team on the maternity ward.

Then it was you, me and The B’s, and the rest is history!

However, a few days ago I was revamping my Letters to Little Man site. There were places where it still said I was 20 and I was boasting about how you could recite the ABC’s. I turned 21 in May and you can practically read now, so yes…updating was needed. So I changed some descriptions, added a few things here and there and lastly, I changed the pictures. You especially have a tendency to change rapidly as you grow, but luckily, J is on top of taking pictures as always, so there’s no excuse to have a photo of you that is a year old.

I went to change my photo too. Though I don’t change as much or as frequently as you do (wait, that’s a lie. I just got bangs for the first time in 3 years), I figured it couldn’t hurt to update my photo as well. So off I went, hunting through my most recent Facebook pictures for one that would be suitable for the blogosphere.

Though I wanted one of just me for the “Meet Renee” section, I also thought it would be super neat to have a few pictures of us together. I began the Facebook hunt again. Only this time, I found photo and photo after photo of you and I together. I’m generally so preoccupied with getting great shots of just you, that I truly failed to realize that there are a lot of pictures of us.

So alllll of those photos, paired with my natural inability to make decisions, has resulted in way too many pictures to post in the Meet Renee section. However, there is no such thing as too many photos for a letter to my Little Man :)

Technically one of our first pictures together. Technically.

Definitely our first picture together. You look so happy…

One of my favorite hospital shots!

A little over a week old. This was at Bethany during the interim period.

Exactly one month old! Oh, I miss your itsy bitsy days…

This was on a trip we took to an apple orchard with The B’s when you were 2 months old. Hey there, chunky legs ;)

At Sports Man’s 7th birthday party. You fell asleep in my arms. Then, you started falling OUT of my arms.

And so the hilarity of your expressions begins…

I could never resist giving you kisses. It’s a good thing too because now you’re moving too fast for me to even catch you to give you one!

You and I around your six-month birthday!

A Valentine’s Day visit at Grandma M and Pop-Pop’s house!

This was around the time you discovered you had a tongue. Apparently it was fascinating.

You were suuuper sick this day, but we still smiled together :)

Smoochin’ on you before our first Mother’s Day!

A perfect display of how happy you make me :) This photo is in your nursery!

This was the morning of our first Mother’s Day! J and I went to a “girls” luncheon to celebrate together. I’ll remember that day forever.

A month or so before your first birthday. This was probably the last time you ever sat still for a picture ;)

Little Man turns ONE! This was taken at your “little man themed” party. I got to celebrate the whole weekend with you!

This probably won’t be the last time you get exasperated with me. It also probably won’t be the last time I find it funny.

I would follow you anywhere :)

This past March, right after St. Patrick’s Day. J brought her camera on a visit and we had a little photo shoot! I think we’re applauding your cuteness ;)

You + Me + The B’s + Grandma M + Pop Pop + Aunt S = BEACH TRIP! We went to the Isle of Palms and hung out together for a few days. We even spent a day in Charleston which was funny because the last time I had been there, I was pregnant with you :)

At your second birthday party (time flies!!). Your hand was alllll the way in that cow’s mouth. All. The. Way. Giving mommy a heart attack? Yes.

The same weekend as you second birthday. You and I played in the hose for a while. We got soaked and it was lovely :)

I love every single photo we get together, but not just because you’re incredibly photogenic. I love our photos for the simple reason that we get to take them together. Adoption didn’t split us up, it didn’t cause me to miss out, it hasn’t separated us in any way except literal distance. The fact that I got to be around for all of this stuff — holding you at Sports Man’s party, spending Mother’s Day with you, giving you kisses and spending birthdays playing with you — it’s the part of adoption that I love the most. It’s part of the reason why I will love and owe The B’s forever, and it’s definitely the reason we will grow up knowing one another.

I cherish these photos. The silly, the blurry, the candid, the posed, the goofy the smiley, the serious and the fun. We’re creating a history together, you and me. And I hope that one day, you cherish them as much as I do.

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Adoption is Everywhere

13 Nov

Dear Little Man,

I’m going to share a secret of mine with you. That secret is that I dream about being pregnant again someday.

In my actual dreams, I’m generally terrified of pregnancy and, in dream world, I find myself thinking, “I’m pregnant again? Oh my, I wonder if The B’s will raise this one for me, like they did Liam…” So, so, so weird. I’m generally thrilled to wake up and realize it was a dream because I has such a difficult time going through with placing you…I’m not sure I could do it again.

But during my waking hours, sometimes I think about having a baby when I’m ready for one. I love you so very much…in that “beyond words” kind of way…and I hope to be able to someday have a little half-brother or -sister for you to meet, that I can love just as much. I never thought I wanted kids, but once I discovered I was carrying you, I realized that I wanted nothing more than to be the best mother I possibly could. Hopefully I will be able to be that mother someday. Hopefully you think I am that mother today.

Yesterday evening, Miss Manhattan (one of your many aunts, a fellow blogger with a wonderful site, and one of my oldest friends) sent me a link to a blog called Arielle Elise. This blog is mostly (beautiful!) photography, but this particular post was about a couple going through an adoption in Uganda.

In my many talks/discussions/speeches given at Bethany functions, I have heard a few stories of international adoption, though most of the ones I’ve heard have been from Asia. Though I don’t know much about international adoption (I am studying it!), I still love that adoption spreads its influence so widely. The love that adoption encompasses can span oceans…how beautiful is that?

The couple featured in the Arielle Elise post are twenty-somethings, married for 5+ years and in the process of adopting their own Little Man from Africa. Their photos are all about them and love and how love creates family (oh how I can attest to that!) Their blog, This Beautiful Truth, follows an incredible, emotional journey through adoption and their daily lives. Like one of my favorite bloggers, Infertility Awakening, these journeys fascinate me. People who have the hearts and souls for adoption never fail to astound me with their openness and their love. I always find them to be very brave, courageous people who have decided to open their hearts and look on the bright side of life…just like The B’s!

I love sharing stories of people like this, mostly because I feel that somehow, we’re all connected through this adoption experience. Birth mothers, adoptive families, adopted children…though we’re all different a spread far and wide, I somehow feel like we’re all connected at the core. I get to share our story and other couples and birth mothers get to share theirs and together, we form this network, this collaboration of people who want nothing more than to love their children and families as much as humanly possible.

And I understand. Though I am the birth mother rather than the adoptive mother, I think I get it, or part of it at least. I understand that longing to be a mother, to create a family, to want to share your love with a child you have the privilege of calling your own. Though I certainly can’t empathize with the frustrating, upsetting, sometimes devastating effects of infertility, I think I realize the desire that drives it. The desire to hear someone call you “mom.” It sounds like a small thing, but it means something so much bigger to so many people.

And that’s why I still have my dream. My dream of being “mom.” That’s why. someday, I’d like to give you those half-sibling(s) that call me “mother.” It’s a small thing, but that tiny act of love can fill a heart to the point of bursting. I would know. That’s what I feel every time you call me “Nay-Nay.” It may not be “mom” outright, but I cherish it as though it were. Because though you may not call me your mother, I will forever call you my son and I will be proud. That’s just how love works.

So enjoy this tiny piece of your expansive network, Little Man. I hope you enjoy reading the stories of this family as much as I enjoy telling the stories of my own little boy, my shining star, my bright light at the end of all of my dark tunnels.

That would be YOU, in case you were wondering ;)

Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About

3 Nov

Tonight, I’m speaking at another Bethany fundraiser in Asheville, NC. And before you ask, no, I will not be starting this talk with an underwear joke.

In a way, I’m almost more excited for this talk than I was for the last one. Someday, you will learn that once you give a speech, no matter how well you plan it out, inevitably you will forget to say something. Around midnight or so that night, you will sit bolt upright in bed and think, “Oh shoot, I forgot to mention [insert important factoid here].”

I did that after my talk in Charlotte — it didn’t even take me until midnight. But luckily for me, I now have the opportunity to add the things I forgot to mention. I won’t give you any spoilers, but I’m happy I have the chance to add my “important factoids.”

Also — since my last speech was given in front of a surprisingly large audience — I’m pretty sure all of my stage-fright nerves are already fried. That sounds like a bad thing, but the silver lining is that tonight I won’t have to worry about having excessively sweaty hands and a heart rate of 100 beats per minute. Knock on wood.

Sadly, you and The B’s can’t make it to this talk either (Sports Man’s baseball team is in the playoffs this afternoon…probably because Sports Man hits so many home runs :) ), but I know they’ll be there in spirit as always. I love talking about them almost as much as I like talking about you. They are beautiful, remarkable people who (along with my parents and friends) are responsible for making my life as lovely as it is. I love, love, love spreading our story to everyone that I can. But also, I just like to brag about having you all in my life :)

So wish me luck (again) and keep your tiny fingers crossed that I stay far, far away from any undergarment-related material.

Head Injuries and Good Texts

29 Aug

Do you remember that letter I wrote you about how fearless you are? I still admire your moxy, definitely. I love how tough you are. I like to think you get it from me, but I scream bloody murder every time I see a spider within five feet of me, so that might be giving myself a little too much credit.

But it seems as though your bravery gets you into situations like these:

One fall, three staples and two scared mommies later, and you’re acting like nothing happened. My brave little man, playing and napping and acting just like he didn’t fall onto the corner of the coffee table and cut his head open. Aww. J and I couldn’t be prouder of how tough you are. We also couldn’t be more terrified how many things you dive head first into (pun mostly intended). Okay, well maybe not terrified. But let’s just say when E’s mom  said, “He’s just like his dad,” I opted not to hear the stories of all the crazy things he did when he was little. I’d like to keep my blood pressure at a healthy level while I’m young.

I’m glad you’re okay. So, so, so, so, so, so, soooo glad. Beyond glad. Nothing bad is allowed to happen to you, ever. I just think you should be aware of that little caveat of your existence now.

On the plus side, I have also learned that J is highly adept at sending very comforting, reassuring “something bad happened but it’s all going to be alright so don’t freak out” texts. I mean, seriously. That’s an acquired skill right there.

The E-mail That Changed the World

10 Aug

Thank You Gmail

Well…it changed my world anyways. Nothing like a little hyperbole to get the day started off right.

After I signed adoption papers and you were handed over to the interim care mom (whom I LOVE to this day), I didn’t talk to The B’s for almost a week. We’d text here and there, but I didn’t really talk talk to them until exactly one week after you were born.

This would be totally normal and okay. Except for I had told The B’s that I wanted to be in constant communication with them after you were born. I figured it would be easier for me to stick to my choice knowing that they would always be there. And then you born. And then I wanted to keep you. And then I felt bad about it because I knew they were expecting you. So I didn’t return their phone calls, only occasionally returned texts, and was all but basically silent.

Yikes.

I still feel bad about this, I really do. I would have been seriously annoyed with me if I was them. But as a birth mom, you really don’t know how you’re going to react until you get there. And once I “got there,” I felt…sad. Really, really, really sad. I missed you. I wanted you. I needed you. But the fact that YOU did not necessarily need me (and actually needed people with much more resources at their disposal) kept me from calling my social worker and demanding you back. You deserved better than what I could give you, and no matter how badly I wanted you, I wanted you to have better more than I wanted to be contented with your presence. And “better” was The B’s.

So after a week (and a couple of therapy sessions) I came to a realization: J had told me that she wanted to hear from me. Up until the adoption, we had talked multiple times a week via e-mail (and a couple of times in person during visits) about everything under the sun — our favorite movies, the best ice cream flavor, summer camps Sports Man was involved with, etc. It suddenly dawned on me that The B’s wanted our relationship to be open. So that meant that I could tell them anything I was thinking…even if I was thinking about keeping my son.

So that’s what I told them.

Exactly one week after you were born — one week of the worst kind of internal tug-of-war you could imagine — I sent J the longest, most emotional, most raw e-mail I’ve ever sent to anyone. Maybe I’ll post it one day. But it was all about how much I missed you and how I’d always feel like your mom even when she was, and how I felt like I wasn’t good enough for you and that I wanted to keep you so, so bad but I couldn’t find a way. I told her how I felt when I first saw your face and how broken I felt without you. I told her how I felt about adoption. I told her everything.

But the e-mail that changed everything wasn’t the one I sent to her. It was the one she sent to me in response.

The first thing she did was thank me for being open with her. She told me she thought of me as “her Renee.” She told me she ached for me in all that I was feeling. She told me she never, ever wanted to take away the fact that I was your mom too. She told me I was not alone. She told me a lot of things that I have since saved, re-read and cherished for the past two years, and will continue to cherish for all the years to come.

Everything changed that day. The pain, the hurt, the horrible tug-of-war…it all kind of dulled after The E-mail. It all became more of an echo than a reality, because I knew everything would be okay. I felt reassured. I felt like this family, The B’s, really, truly did understand my desire to be a part of your life and their family. A desire that was, thankfully, mutual.

My erratic heart, my frantic mind, my up-and-down mood…they all calmed that day, the day I read her response. That e-mail was one of the many small things The B’s did that made all the difference, but it was the last thing. From there on out, I was okay with my choice, because I knew I would never have to leave you. I would get to be a part of you forever, not just because wanted to be, but because they wanted me to be as well.

Which is awesome. Because now I get to see all of your cuteness on a regular basis. And you are really, really cute. Not that I’m biased. But in all honesty, I’ve never looked back. I never miss a beat when anyone asks me if I regret it. Because I don’t. Not for a single second have I ever regretted it. I love them with my whole heart. And you. And your cuteness.

So I’m just saying…anyone who knocks technological advances should rethink the wonder of e-mail. You’d be amazed what it can do for a girl.

Adoption and Christmas Morning

24 Apr

I’m pretty sure this is the first picture The B’s ever saw of you. I took it with my phone the day after you were born and sent it to E’s phone. J said your chin was one of the first things she noticed too.

I really wish I could have been there to see them get that photo. It’s kind of like Christmas – you like getting presents, but you’re almost more excited to see the reactions of the people you bought presents for. I would have loved to have seen their first glimpse at you. But I got to be there the first time they saw you in person, and it was very cool. I got most of that day on film.

My excitement over sending them this picture reminds me of the beautiful side of adoption. Of course, the beautiful side is the side I have always seen, but there were times when the thought of adoption would make me cry, just at the thought of losing you. But I never did lose you. I never will, thanks to The B’s.

The side of adoption this picture reminds me of is the giving side. Babies and children that go up for adoption are these beautiful, angelic answered prayers. They aren’t” just babies” or “just kids.” They are miracles. 

I spoke at an adoption convention for Bethany Christian Services a little less than a year after you were born. I was the only birth mother on a panel of adoptive parents and we were all asked to share our stories. Every single adoptive mother, father and family cried telling their stories. They cried because they were so grateful. They were so happy and felt so blessed to have their adopted children in their lives. These children were dreams come true for them and their happiness was so uncontainable, it couldn’t possibly fit into words. No matter what these parents had to do – no matter how long they had to wait or how much pain or sadness they had to endure, they stuck it out. Because to them, miracles such as yourself are worth more than all the pain in the world.

I know that you are an answered prayer for so many people in so many different ways. You are a gift. You came into this world destined to bring love not just to me, but to so many others. And to me, that is the beauty of adoption, especially an open one like ours. Love is spread. Dreams are realized. Prayers are answered. All because of one, tiny person that one brave woman was willing to share. I’m so glad I did, too. You were – and are – much too special to have kept all to myself.

If it were possible to thank the actual concept of adoption, I would thank it for allowing love to be spread like that. But most of my thanks is to you, for bringing joy to the lives of many, for being a ray of hope and happiness to all of your families.

You’ll have to ask your parents about that picture one day, and their thoughts and reactions when they first saw it. I’m sure it really was just like Christmas morning :)

The Best Five Percent

27 Mar

I talked about you in class today. We were talking about teenage pregnancy and I was floored when it was revealed to me that only 5% of pregnant teenagers choose adoption. Of course, I of all people know how incredibly difficult it is to go through with it, but the small number was still surprising to me.

I piped in with my experience. How I discovered I was pregnant at 18 years old. How I had you when I was 19. How I chose open adoption and it was one of the best decisions I ever made, for the both of us. It was tough, yes. Beyond words. Even knowing how great The B’s were, it still took enormous effort not to make a mad dash to the adoption agency and demand to have you back during those 10 days that it was possible. But by the strength of what could only have been God, I was able to keep our lives – yours and mine – in perspective. To know that yours would be better off in family that could solidly provide for you in every way possible, and that mine wouldn’t end if I let you go to them. I’m still searching for the words to describe the chaos that overtook my mind and heart during those days.

It is for this reason, that I refuse to judge the other 95% of pregnant teenagers. No one can describe how unbelievably in love a mother is with her child – what it feels like to know that another life will exist because you do, what it is like to feel you kick, what it is like to see your face for the first time, to hold you for the first time, to be blissfully content just to watch you sleep. Mothers have a unique experience with their children, different from any other person who is close to them during their pregnancy. They have unique perspective and therefore a very unique love for their children. We’ve been as close to you as humanly possible – you were a part of us.

So sometimes, it just takes another mother to understand exactly what feelings of love and devotion I’m talking about. They may be teenagers, but despite whether or not they should be, they are moms, and I would like to assume that they are just as madly in love with their babies as I was – and am – with you. I would say that it’s impossible for anyone to love you as much as I do because I just love you so much, but The B’s do. I am sure of it. I can’t deny that, nor would I ever, ever want to. My love for you is simply unique. You were a part of me.

I came to the conclusion that maybe the low percentage is just because open adoption just isn’t that well-known yet. People don’t know how lucky they can get, or how happy they can be, and if they did – if it was possible to find a way to measure or encompass how blissfully happy I am to have you and The B’s in my life – that percentage would skyrocket. Open adoption is a beautiful thing, and J and I are doing what we can to get the word out about it. We have all gotten so lucky in having you and finding each other through you, and happiness like that is a thing you want to share. I want pregnant teenage girls to know that there are options. I want potential adoptive parents to have a child to give all of their love to, because they truly have so much of it to give. I want people to know that they can create extended families like ours; that one tiny, perfect person can create an entire network of love. And you are my inspiration for all of that. You are my inspiration for everything.

Just about the time that we are discussing the low adoption rate in class and all of this is running through my head, I get a notification that J has posted pictures of me. They are pictures of you and I during your last visit. Since they are pictures taken by J, they are beautiful, stunning. And since you are the subject, they seem almost ethereal. I’ve been looking through them ever since, unable to get enough of them because I love seeing myself with you. And as I look at these pictures, I remember running around and playing with you as she took them, and I’m so happy I could burst.

I believe those teenage mothers who raise their children no matter what their situation have a unique and beautiful kind of strength. But your mommy dearest is in the minority – I am one person out of the many that make up 5% of teenage girls who felt as though they could give their children something better, something more than themselves. Five percent of us who were strong enough and trusting enough to follow through. And that is what I did. But in following through, I got something more and something better out of it. I got my B’s, and we all got you. And that right there makes this the best 5% of anything I’ve ever been a part of :)

Photos by J

Pain With A Purpose

6 Mar

Believe it or not, I’ve actually been writing to you since before you were born. I used to write for an online women’s magazine called Chickspeak.com. It doesn’t exist anymore, but when it did, I wrote for the Love and Relationships section…until I discovered you, that is. Then I started a column called The Young and The Pregnant. It was actually a great way to document my pregnancy – I wrote about what I was thinking, what I was feeling, what I was going through. I still have all of them saved, and they’re really neat to read back over.

When I first started e-mailing J after we met, I told her about my column. She said she loved it. She told me about the things we had in common based on what I’d written about myself – we both love Ben and Jerry’s, we both use Jergens tanning lotion, we both love Jane Austen…the list went on.

But there was one column I’d written that particularly touched her. I read what she wrote to me about it over and over again, until I had it memorized: 

“You mentioned needing a family who knew pain, so that they would understand the pain that you were about to experience. My heart literally jumped within me when I read those words. Infertility has brought us 5 years of pain, but our two failed adoptions have brought another pain, altogether. Could the pain that we have experienced over the past few months suddenly have purpose?”

The B’s told me their failed adoption stories when I met them. My heart hurt for them when I heard those stories. I had only heard failed adoption stories in fiction, mostly on television shows. I always thought they were a little overly dramatic, but I suddenly empathized. I was having a baby. I got to be pregnant. I got to feel you kick, I got to know what it was like to love someone more than life itself before you even met them, to know that a piece of me would always exist outside myself.

There are some people who dream of experiencing that kind of love, who dream of being mothers and fathers, who want a child to love or a family to build, and adoption is the only way. Getting their hopes so high, getting so close to their dreams of parenthood or an extended family, only to have them taken away…losing a child is losing a child, whether the connection is biological or not. And considering that I could never, ever imagine losing you, I’m amazed that The B’s survived that kind of pain and disappointment. I admire any adoptive family who has had to cope with a sadness like that. My heart goes out to them.

But J was right. The pain did serve a purpose. If that adoption hadn’t failed, The B’s wouldn’t have you and we wouldn’t have them. I imagine that it is that kind of hope that keeps potential adoptive families so strong – the faith that one day, their hurt and their sadness will pay off – that even though their road is a broken one, it will lead them somewhere better than they could have ever imagined. That’s how it happened for me. Being a pregnant teenager was tough. Giving you up was the hardest, most painful thing I’ve ever done. But I got you, and I got The B’s. And that’s a happy ending if I’ve ever heard one.

So in the long run, I suppose that both of our stories – The B’s and mine – are shining examples of what can happen when you keep the faith, when you never give up, when you believe that one day something good will come from something sad. In the long run, I hope that our stories remind you to be strong on the days that you feel like life is a little too tough. But in the short run, I just want you to know that you have healed so many broken hearts. My pain is gone. You brought me to the family that cured it.

So I just want to thank you, Little Man. You are certainly a special kind of miracle.

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