Wednesday, December 24, 2014

THEY adopted ME

I placed a baby boy for adoption in May of 1996, at the age of 18. I selected my son's family from paper profiles and met with them in person once, about a week before he was born. An hour and a half was miraculously enough to know with a surety that hey were good people, that they were my son's family, and I loved them instantly. We were not allowed to exchange names or any other identifying information. Very limited correspondence was facilitated by the agency for 5 yrs. I lived from one letter to the next. They were so full of genuine generosity. I was always so surprised at their outpouring of gratitude. I owed THEM the thanks! They knew me for the best thing I'd ever done and they saw me only as good. 
After correspondence was discontinued per agency policy, I began to have nightmares. The setting and circumstance varied but always, our paths would cross and they wouldn't want me. I was a threat or a nuisance. I knew it went against everything I knew of them yet I was haunted.
When the boy was 15 and a half, after having searched for years, I found contact information. I determined to write his parents. I'd tell them that while I missed them all terribly, my greatest concern was still for what was best for our boy, that as his parents, they knew what that was and that I trusted them. That I wished only to make myself available and be a resource if, when, and to whatever degree they felt best. That while I'd be disappointed if it were a no, I wouldn't be offended, that I was ever loyal to them. 
But my fear paralyzed me. Though I thought of it everyday, I waited over a year to act.
His dad's reply had me KICKING myself for letting fear drive! He said how good it was to hear from me, gave me a brief update, and asked why didn't I just go head and contact the boy directly? "I'm sure he'd love it". Fear is a thief.
I was again afraid, but this time only let it take 3 weeks from us. In our first conversation, I felt I was talking to an old friend. he said to me "Thank you for what you did for me. It was such a generous choice"! 
We kept up with each other pretty well. I wanted so badly to see them in person but didn't want to push. When, out of the blue, I was offered an amazing job in CA an hour and a half away from them, they said that of course I had to come over and even insisted it be on his 18th birthday about a week after moving! This was my dream come true and my prayer answered! So WHY was I terrified?! I prayed for courage and put myself on autopilot. His father opened the door, there was my old friend. I was immediately at ease. The boy came down the stairs and and said hello like it was the most natural thing in the world. We hugged and joked and I totally held it together. Then his dear mother, suffering physical and cognitive affects from a stroke 12 years earlier, made her way around the corner. I. LOST IT. I trembled, uncontrollably, from my head to my feet-shaking- like my legs would give out underneath me. I wept as she held and kissed me just as I always imagined she would. "Debbie, I'm shaking" I said. She pulled back for a moment and said "don't be scared Tamra, you did the right thing." All these years I'd longed to thank her and she had been waiting to comfort and reassure. 
The next time I came to visit, I asked the boy's dad "People keep asking me if y'all feel threatened, insecure, or displaced at all. If ever you do, please let me know, I never want that." He sighed and almost rolled his eyes, "don't you know by now that you are family. You were never far from us. The door is always open, you don't hafta call."
On our next visit, much of my family were in town and so we all got together for a picnic. Debbie wasn't able to sit on the ground with the rest of us. I got up and sat next to her. She hugged and kissed me and said "Thank you so much for giving him to me".
"Oh Debbie, he was yours".
"But he's yours too. We'll share him in heaven".
I thought my heart would explode. The words of love and inclusion from those 3 have been the sweetest I've ever heard. They have healed my heart. 

I work in the field of post-adoption search and reunion, I have seen too many stories go so very and tragically differently than ours. While more are positive than not, I have certainly seen many parents who could not embrace their child's birthmom. I imagine that the boy's parents have had some of those same feelings of fear and maybe even jealousy. While they had had his whole life, all of his firsts, things I would never have- he had my biology, something they'd never been able to give a child. They could have been insecure about their imperfections and difficulties and hid from me. But if they have grappled with these things, they've won the struggle, or set it aside enough that there is room for me.
I will never know the words, until the other side, to say what their love has been for me. They didn't have to do any of it and nobody would have faulted them. It may have been easier for them to forget me and pretend they were no different than all of the other families. they could have spoken ill of me or not have spoken of me at all. they could have allowed the boy to know me but declined to be included, or to have ignored my petition all together. I THANK GOD AND I THANK THEM to the ends of the universe! If I couldn't give my love to them it would hurt so so very badly. We all grew our hearts for eachother! What's more family but a blessing?!
I didn't know if my heart would be whole again in this life. The missing piece is back and more layered on top! I hope that I can give that sort of selfless love and brave inclusion to others in my life. I am the luckiest girl!

Friday, October 24, 2014

a bit about reunification and such

I placed my Justin with his sweet fam in May of 96. I met them once for an hour and a half.
The agency facilitated 5 years of limited correspondence and then we had to say good bye again. I missed them terribly.
AND THEN! When he was 15, at Lindsey's house, Jessa used her powers to find them! I laugh-cried! And then for a year and a half, I stalked his fb and thought about the letter i'd write every day. I was scared. I wish I could go back and be brave and faithful instead.
AND THEN! Days before he turned 17, we said hello again and talked from 1am til sun-up (irresponsibility is genetic) and then atleast once every couple weeks!
 I was so glad but i was SO SAD! His dear mamma had had a stroke when he was 6 that left her brain quite altered, and he was a pretty unhappy kid.
I spent a year processing. I cried alot. I worried so much. I was so confused. I kinda dropped out of the adoption community. For the first time in 18 years I didn't wanna talk about adoption. It was the hardest thing since actually placing. 

AND THEN! I got a call offering a job in CA an hour and a half from them. We were chums by now and I told em I was gonna be in the neighborhood. AND THEN They invited me to HIS 18th BIRTHDAY!!! And car died on the way. AND THEN! It started again!
It was like the first time we'd met, sublime and familiar and exactly as it should be. I hugged his dad, hugged him, holding it together all the whille, AND THEN that precious lady, who's been my sister since before i ever even laid my eyes on her, came hobblin around the corner. and i LOST IT! cry-laughing again! and absolutely trembling from head to toe! My heart took over and spilled out of my eyes and vocal chords and shook my body! I had prayed I'd see her through her conditin, and i felt her! Her same spirit and personality were so evident to me! she kissed me and hugged me just like I'd always imagined!
I was able to visit them through the Summer I was in CA. On a visit I asked his dad if he ever felt insecure, displaced, or threatened by all of this. he looked at like -what a dumb question- and said "Tamra, don't you know by now you're family? You were never far from us. You don't hafta call, our door is open"! On our last visit his mamma says "thank you for giving him to me" and I say "oh Debbie, he was yours" and she says "he's yours too, we'll share him in heaven". Her spirit and heart fought past her brain to give me that message she'd stored up all those years!
The days preceding the birthday meeting, I prayed SO MUCH and i got a real attitude adjustment! I can barely remember the expectations that haven't been realized and I could care less what anybody else's fairy-tale reunion looked like. I know that the boy is gonna be just fine. I'm seein and countin so many blessings, i feel like a jerk i ever felt sorry for myself! Me and the kid are homies---super tight. That family has adopted ME! My cup absolutely runneth over!!! My happy is back!
Bein knocked up sucked. Placing sucked. Closed adoption sucked. Finding them hurting KILLED me! but however deep the waters I wade through, some how it is ALWAYS worth it on the other side! I feel so crappy in the thick of it and then I marvel at God's grace and feel lucky for the whole thing. What an adventure! I just keep lovin this story more and more!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

how do i "cope" with the pain?

my forward walking video was posted by a girl who received this response "It's unfortunate that she does not share her reality of how she has coped or is coping over the years. You can see the tears in her eyes, the pain in her heart, and hear it in her voice. There is so much below the surface...and that's what really needs to be voiced. That's my opinion on what I see in this video." and asked "I was wondering if you have done a video or any blog posts about your coping or if you think this description is accurate? Thanks!"
here is my response: 
 y''s interesting, i was seein a guy who had the same impression recently, the "sad" was what stood out to him. it surprised me, i had to watch it again myself to look for what he'd seen. it is in there, to be sure, and it's in me. there was a time when a couple years passed where i hadn't felt it in an acutely painful way and in my presentations or writings i would say "i'm not sad anymore, it doesn't hurt anymore" and then the night before my son turned 14, i felt the hole in me as fresh and raw as if it had been yesterday. and to be honest, the timing of this question is interesting me, not only because it's the 2nd comment of this nature i've encountered in just a few weeks, but as recently as Friday night, some loss landed on me out of nowhere and weighed heavy. i was sittin around a fire with about 20 people and the 3 directly across from me were mamas cuddlin sons in their laps from toddlers to about 8 years old. as guitars were played and songs were sung and under a full moon sky, i couldn't keep it in. i wept as inconspicuously as i could for like a half hour. 
i think there are a few things that make me ok. one is that i've learned to surrender to the pain, to give it the space it needs and to honor it, even to see the beauty in it and be grateful for it, but the other part is that i hold tightly to the peace that came when i decided to place him for adoption, when i found and met his parents, when i met him and got to know him, when i signed the relinquishment forms and said goodbye, when i went home with empty arms, when the agency discontinued correspondence, when reunification brought the discovery that trauma and tragedy had been a part of his formative years, and at every point between. for the sake of my own well being i have trained my mind to count every blessing and acknowledge every tender mercy, to build my faith and confidence on every confirmation, the which have come to me too many times to recount and in so many varied ways. i pay attention to the pain, but it's in paying attention to the sweetness and the blessings that the loss becomes meaningful and even beautiful. there's purpose in my pain. i accept it as a part of the package, an essential part even. the taste of the bitter has made the contrast of sweetness all the sweeter. every time i've been stretched to a new extent for anguish, my ability to feel joy also extends. Neil Maxwell said "the cavity which suffering carves into our souls will one day also be the receptacle of joy". i believe this because it has happened to me. because my sacrifice was good and right, it has been, to my continual surprise, compensated for. the video is sad but it IS happy. i am sad but I AM happy! happier than i'd had the capacity to be until my range of emotion was expanded by grief. i would be a fool to reject the rose for the thorns attached.
i think another key to my coming to and maintaining my peace, my healing, and my processing is that i have made my suffering even more valuable by using it to serve and help others, there is SO MUCH sweetness in that! exhilaration even. i just see my path as blessed in spite of and even because of the burdens built in. 
placing a child for adoption is miraculous and beautiful but it is also trauma. i haven't found the way around the pain, i hope i never give the impression that there is a way around it. in the filming i did address some of what that "coping" and healing has been for me and i wish there'd been time enough to include it, the commenter was right, it is much needed. i hope this addresses it in a satisfactory way. time and patience are a big part as well i'm afraid. the sucky parts come inevitably, my aim is just to try to endure them well and with perspective, anticipating the parts that make it worth it.

Monday, November 25, 2013

in response to a friend expressing trepidation about the difficulties of adopting

Adoption can definitely be slow, expensive, and heart breaking in varying degrees depending on the route (international, state/foster, or domestic infant), and other individual circumstances.
 the question is -what is your motivation? what is it that you want and how much do you want it? is it about/for you? or is the paramount agenda is to provide a family for a child/children? what i've learned on MY adoption path is very much applicable to those on the receiving end; it isn't about me. i can put the well being of another above my own. i can do hard things and i'm better for it. when you are on the Lord's errand (the commandment to care for the orphan and fatherless) He does not leave us hangin, He qualifies and magnifies us, covers our inadequacies and makes us equal to the task, He provides the resources for our success, He compensates for our hurts and losses, He teaches and refines us through them.
" Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God....And if it so be that you should labor all your days.... and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him..." "And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me." "When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in?....Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." these children are our brothers and sisters and we are charged to be our brother's keeper and "the Lord giveth no commandment save he shall prepare a way". "never take counsel from your fears".
i was lucky, i didn't have the option to have the bitter cup that i was served pass from me. i would have missed the sweetest deserts. whatever we put on the alter the Lord remembers and He somehow makes us grateful for what we never thought we could be. we look back and realize that even inspite of the suffering and the cost, we were blessed and wouldn't have it any other way. "whosoever will lose his life shall find it".
being a parent at all, even a sister, aunt, etc can be expensive and heartbreaking. mortality is expensive, slow, and heartbreaking. but it is also full of joy, love, help, learning, etc. "blessed are they that mourn", "for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet". i love convenience and ease but i know it's a waste of mortality if we hang out there too long. we have to remember eternal perspective in these things. the end result is worth any cost. to wait yrs, to be disappointed along the way, and to spend our earthly money... it's nothing to providing the covenant, a family, the gospel, hope, and a future to one of our brothers or sisters in addition to the advantage to us to expand our family.
but honestly in many cases, it is a fairy-tale and a joy filled riot. whatever it is, it's good for us. "all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.", "be not a weary in b well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great", "let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance... for his arm to be revealed.

international typically takes the longest and costs the most which is such a shame and largely the result of greed and corruption. i think it is also the most needed. there are an estimated 153 million orphans worldwide. when they age out at 15, as far too many do, the incidences of suicide, prostitution, and criminal behavior are terrifying. depending on the country and institution where they are housed, most are subjected to some degree of abuse or atleast neglect. obviously children adopted internationally often have challenges as a result. state/foster adoption is the cheapest route. the state generally covers all costs and often will even continue some support after finalization. circumstances vary so widely in this type of adoption in regard to age, wait time, and any issues the child may have. there are now and always in every state children available for foster-adoption. obviously the young ones go fast and the old ones wait. thousands are in group hoes or institutions because no home is available. each year, over 27,000 kids “age out” of foster care, the majority of which will face homelessness, unemployment, criminal activity, substance abuse, and government dependence. having been removed from their first homes due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment and 55% experiencing 3 or more placements previous to being adopted, these children may have varying degrees of issues. most couples who have limited or no ability to conceive (the numbers continue to climb) pursue domestic infant adoption as their main motivation may be a parent (which is also a righteous desire) and not necessarily to rescue a child. 11% of women in the US have impaired or no ability to conceive yet less than 1% of unwed pregnancies result in an adoption. this is why the wait. i've seen couples selected within a couple months of approval and i've seen some wait 11 yrs. this is on top of the time and grief most go through previously in fertility treatments. cost varies between 15,000-30,000 depending on whether you go agency or private and what agency or lawyer you chose. children adopted within the first 6 months of life, barring any abuse or neglect do as well as their peers in every area and do better than children of single parents. particularly now that 95% of adoptions are open in some form and adoptive parents are so well screened and prepared. one increasing difficulty with this route is adoption scammers who pretend to be pregnant or really are but play several families. also even with a legitimate birthmom, there's no guarantee that once selected and before relinquishment she won't change her mind. there is vulnerability and uncertainty to be sure.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


when i carried and delivered Debbie's son, i did for her what she couldn't do for herself.
when Debbie gave to him all of her preparation, the sealing covenant, and a good father, she gave him what i couldn't.
now, i find that a stroke has taken her personality and much of her mental function.
she can't tell him how amazing and good and handsome he is. she can't counsel and comfort him.
i'm once again heart broken and scared to death. because once again it's my turn.
i am always here for her boy. i ask the Lord to hear my pleas for him on her behalf as well.
i hope when we reach the other side, she is as pleased with what i did with my part as i am with what she has done with hers.
i am intimidated. i know i can never fill her shoes and i would never try. he is hers forever. but i will love him for her as she loved him for me.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


So! for those of you who have been following the reunification/reinstating of correspondence effort, here's what happened today.
....actually no. here's the back story, so skip ahead if you feel you are...abreast.
let's take it back to 2009, in AZ....
actually first let's go just briefly to 1996 in GA. I am placing my son for adoption and i am informed that current policy states that the agency will facilitate limited correspondence for only 5 years and that no identifying information will be released by them to either party (thank God for progress!).
fast forward 5 yrs, i break my heart and say goodbye again. fast forward one year, i receive a letter when J turns 6. i think "wow! i wonder how they swung this! maybe cuz i'm my caseworkers favorite. maybe no one checked the placement date. what a gift! what a tender mercy!", but i thought it was a fluke. I attempted no further correspondence, doubting we'd be so lucky twice and just feeling grateful to have heard from them one more time.
NOW let's go to AZ, J is 13. it's been 7 years since i've heard from them and 8 since they'd heard from me. oh, just a minute, one more tiny flashback-
so about a year or 2 after our last communication, i had a nightmare. and then again and again at varying intervals for about 4 years. the circumstances were always different but one way or another, our paths would cross and one way or another i would discover that they didn't want me. and i would wake up with a wounded heart and cry and pray for reassurance. one of those kinds of dreams that makes your heart so heavy and it stays with you all day. then in like 05, i had a miraculous little tender mercy after a particularly bad one and the dream never came back. maybe i'll tell that story later
ok. SO! AZ, 09- i'm workin for a branch of the agency which handled the adoption. i discover to my absolute HORROR that the agency's 5 year cap policy had actually been lifted the year BEFORE i placed. I had been misinformed. somebody had missed the memo and it had cost me 8 years of knowing ANYTHING. 8 years of hearing how joyful and lucky they were to be a family and 8 years since i'd read their words of love, admiration, and gratitude or written them mine. 8 years of questions i could have asked and answered. it frustrates me still if i dwell on the thought. BUT! after i excused myself to go call my mom and cry to her like a child and send dirty looks heavenward in total confusion, the silver lining in the tragedy started to take hold. i'd lost 8 years but i'd just gained 5 more than i'd expected to have! i could now resume correspondence! right?! you really would think...
i contact the GA office and explain what happened (which some people might have turned into a lawsuit) and ask them to pass on a letter from me. "oh, we don't have any forwarding information for them at this point." well you surely could find it! a heck of alot easier than i could! ...i thought. "yeah, we'll call ya if we come across anything..........................".
fast forward 2 years and a few more fruitless phone calls to GA. i'm at a thing at the Redferns' (aka, The R House [yeah, i'm name droppin]). my home girl Jessalyn Speight (i did it again) uses her hacker genius skills, the little info i had, about 2 hours, and likely some divine intervention to find an address! a phone number! and facebook pages! so now, I have forwarding information! now i can write them! right?!
well, here was the plan, i would write his parents. i would state that i trust them now as i trusted them then. that i want what's best for him, just as i did in the beginning and that they were the ones who knew what that would be. that i had no desire EVER to step on their toes but only to support them no matter what! but that i wanted to make myself available, to empower them. i had info for them they had none for me but it was their call so i wanted to even the playing field. so this was what i would write. and a year and a half later, i finally did.
how could i procrastinate a thing like this?! when Jessa found the information, i was so, SO beyond stoked! i laugh/cried so hard! you'd think i'd write as soon as i got home! but think, we've had total silence between us for a decade now. i can only guess at their circumstances, thoughts, and feelings. and i have SO MUCH i want to say but i need every word to be perfect because if i say something wrong, it may be the only chance i get. everything i know of them confirms that they are the most gracious folks and that they love me dearly but in the void of current evidence, my mind had entertained years of doubts and fears. the last thing i ever wanted to do was disrupt, offend, or impose. as i tried to make myself write, i imagined every possible scenario, some good, some heart breaking. i've seen some of the latter. i have a few girlfriends who have been ignored, mistrusted, and viewed as a nuisance by the people she'd trusted most in the world. and i could never imagine how i could possibly process that if it happened to me. i felt guilty to even entertain thoughts that they could do such a thing, but in spite of myself, i sometimes did. and honestly folx, i'm not where i'd hoped to be when i gave them my update. no degree, no career, no house, no husband, no children. i wanted more to show and i didn't want them to be disappointed.
let me take a side note here. around this time, i'd just had SIX adopted students at my wilderness therapy job within like the 2 months previous. i'd asked for and heard their perspectives about everything about being adopted! and most of them, most of them were hurting for want of connection and/or answers that their birthmoms could've given in some form or another. and the couple of girls who HAD the contact were so blessed for it. AND after i leave The R House, i get in my car, and to my confusion and astonishment, a heavy sadness comes over me. i think it was a new realization, after seeing his teenage face, of all that i had missed and couldn't recover. but also, and maybe i was projecting onto him what 15 felt like for me, but i believe i was having some sense of him struggling, that perhaps he was sad, at any rate adolescents is the roughest part for alot of us. so put all of this together and with prayer, I decided i was being prompted and prepared. that perhaps there was something i could do. but despite all of this, i took counsel from my fears.
until July 2012, when i felt a new urgency that caused my concern for them to outweigh the risk for me. i hoped that God knew me well enough to prompt me a year and a half early, that i hadn't missed some window or opportunity to be useful. it took me 3 weeks to write, reread, revise, and repeat. i had my English major mom, sister, and best friend review it as well as adoptive parents and adoption professionals from my diverse and useful social circle.
and then, i sent it. i sent it to his dad's fb. and then i waited. and nothin came. after about a month and a half i'd resolved that they'd made their decision and now i had to put my money where my mouth is. i'd said they knew what was best for him and that was what i wanted, even over what i wanted. i'd said i trusted them, and now i'd have to. i was disappointed. even a little hurt, but not offended. at no time did i feel wronged or fault them for their choice. i'd spent a year and a half preparing myself for any outcome and i'd made myself promise to be at peace with whatever one came about before i'd let myself send the letter. to tell it right, i was sustained really. i'd felt it was right to write, i'd felt at peace when i finally sent it, and now, it was given to me to accept what was.
fast forward 3 and a half months. my friend Audra informs me that any FB message which has been seen will have a check mark in the lower left corner. "see if there's a check mark! i bet he never got it, or they'd have written back!". wouldn't you check mark. i hadn't gotten the shaft! perhaps i was being tested. i passed! haha! a few days later i discover the "other" box on the fb mail page where the message no doubt has been hiding.
so, new plan-contact GA one more time and ask if they would be willing to use the forwarding information I'd acquired and pass along my petition for me. it seemed better to me than to cold-contact them. i mean, this was how it was set up, this was what we were used to. i just felt perhaps it would be less....shocking in an envelope with their letterhead. fast forward 2 months, i finally make the call. i state my case, make my request and i'm told once again she'll get back with me...... and then today...SHE DID! and she says, "i discussed it with my director and he said just to run it by the couple and see what they say, so i spoke to D (the mama)", "WHAT?! you spoke to her?! when i've spoken to y'all before over the last 3 and a half years i've always been told you have no way to contact them!". "well i didn't go through the official avenues which would have been complicated and time consuming, i just used the information you gave me and looked them up on my own". "so what did she say?!". "i just told her you'd been misinformed about correspondence policy and would like to resume if they were open to it and she said (check this out) 'absolutely'". ABSOLUTELY! that is my new favorite word! i've been sayin it in my mind all day! i told the dear lady thank you so much for being concerned enough to make the effort and follow up! i told her what a burden, one i'd carried for 10 years, had just been lifted! what anxiety had just been alleviated and the nagging doubts that just had to shut their faces! she said ABSOLUTELY, y'all!!!! why did i ever doubt them?! as soon as i was alone in my car i found myself at a stop light clapping and laughing and crying and praying out loud "thankyouthankyouthankyou!"! i've brought this whole business up to God frequently, but this morning, i pleaded. God is good. i know this. again and again.
now the frustrating bit is that the information I gave her, with which she was able to contact them, was no more than the info i'd offered when i spoke to them 3 and a half years ago. why could no one have made that small effort for us then? but whatev! it is what it is and if it wasn't God's all knowing orchestration, it'll all be compensated for anyway. all is well. all of the disappointments, all of the waiting, all of the wondering makes today even sweeter! and faith precedes the miracle, once again in my life.  
so NOW the daunting task of writing a NEW letter! the other one was more just asking if i could write a letter. now i know they want to hear from me, i'ma write a novel! i'm intimidated and overwhelmed again but i'm SO excited and i'm SO grateful! and SO long winded!
i love y'all who've followed up with me on all of this and been invested with me. so many of y'all who have rooted for me and prayed this for me! y'all who've been disappointed with me and excited with me! i love y'all!
stay tuned! it's gettin good! AHHHH! i can't wait to hear back!!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHH! hahaha!