The Promise

I told myself I wouldn’t cry. I didn’t want to scare her. I didn’t want her to think this stranger was emotionally unstable. Then I worried if I didn’t let myself cry she’d think maybe I was emotionally inept. 

I changed my shirt 3 times. I was about to change it a fourth time when I decided that nothing would be good enough so I may as well save myself the trouble. I spent a great deal of time worrying that she’d find me reprehensible or think, “This lady is ugly. I got handed some bad genes.”

I spent days cleaning the house. I couldn’t seem to get it clean enough. Never mind that teenagers hardly pay attention to details such as clean baseboards, I was sure she would glance down and think, “this house is too dirty. I can’t stay in such filth.”

I loaded our little family into the truck and we stopped by the florist. My husband, her father, wanted to have roses for the first time he held his “baby who’s not a baby anymore” in his arms again. 

I handed him the card to fill out and watched him hesitate and struggle for the right words. “Just write ‘Love, J'” I instructed him. Relief washed over his face and he did what I said. 

When we arrived at the airport I thought maybe I was dreaming. There was no way I could be this lucky. In just a few short moments she would be standing face to face with us. It felt as if we were holding the winning lottery ticket. Guilt briefly touched my heart as I thought of my other first mom friends, women I have grown to love, who don’t have what I was about to or who may never will. What did I ever do to deserve to be this lucky?

The text message came. “We’re about to land.” I looked out the window of the airport and saw a plane coming in from the right direction. As it came closer I glanced at my husband. He looked terrified. As it’s wheels touched the ground his eyes became red and the tears could no longer be contained. 

I told myself I wouldn’t cry. He was making this plan harder to stick to. 

People could be seen walking down the long corridor, behind glass doors. A man in a suit, a woman in a dress. They were hard to distinguish until they were closer. 

But I spotted her before anyone would think I could definitively say it was her. I knew it was. I pointed. She came closer. Her gait was as familiar as my own. The way she swung her arms was like looking in a mirror. 

The first moment I saw her


I wanted to run through the gate doors, airport security be damned! Her pace quickened as she saw us all standing and waiting. We were completely oblivious to other passengers as we blocked the way out with our bodies. 

And then she was in my arms. I couldn’t stop the tears and hers flowed freely as well. I momentarily pulled away to put my hands on her face and stare into her striking eyes. She. Is. Amazingly. Beautiful. 

She was in my arms again. She was real. I could feel her. The warmth of her body. The texture of her hair on my face. Could it ever get any better than this? This moment would never happen again. This was it. It was absolute perfection. Divine. 

Over the years a song had always stuck in my head and reminded me of her. I had dreamed of this moment for years. And in my dreams the song would play. I now know how fitting the song is. 

“Together again

It would feel so good to be

In your arms

Where all my journeys end

If you can make a promise

If it’s one that you can keep

I vow to come for you

If you wait for me”

-The Promise, by Tracy Chapman

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In Loving Memory of Gwendolyn Archard

On August 26, 2016 I heard the news that a dear first mom friend of mine was no longer with us. The previous day, beautiful Gwen had decided that the pain was too much and bowed out of this circus called life. Just before her decision, she deleted dozens of her first mom friends. I am assuming she did not want us to know what had happened. We found out anyway.

Shock, sadness, and despair ripped through our online communities. We searched frantically for an obituary, in the days to come, but none was to be found.

A few days ago, Gwen’s brother, the only family that Gwen really felt she could rely on, posted publicly of her passing. He didn’t indicate any formal funeral, but it was clear other non-traditional arrangements to honor her memory had been made.

Today I write to honor Gwen and her life inside our private world, the world of first moms. Gwen was an activist, a warrior, she dedicated her life to fighting injustices. Gwen had Cerbral Palsy but she didn’t let that stop her. As a practicing criminal defense attorney and disability rights champion, Gwen was thrust into another arena, unexpectedly. And she fought there, too. Side by side, with other first moms, she fought against the injustices and coercion in the world of adoption.

You see, Gwen wanted her son. A beautiful little boy she named Atticus. However, upon his birth, Gwen was threatened with foster care and CPS if she did not relinquish her rights to her child. One particular nurse made it abundantly clear to Gwen that her disability would mean her child being forcibly removed and lingering from foster home to foster home while she fought for her right to parent him.

Because Gwen loved Atticus more than life itself, she was coerced into believing this nurse, and others, and relinquished Atticus for adoption after his birth to spare him the perceived pain of living in foster care.

Gwen believed fighting for her son was not in his best interests because she was not good enough for her son. She was made to believe this.

While Gwen’s case is an extreme, it is the same concept of almost all domestic infant adoptions. It was easy to target Gwen because she had a disability to use against her as an excuse for why she wasn’t good enough. Almost every woman considering adoption has to be made to believe the same thing for a successful adoption to ensue. Maybe they don’t have a visible disability. Maybe they are poor. Maybe they have an anxiety disorder. Maybe they aren’t married. It’s all the same, the message that’s received. You aren’t good enough for your child, they deserve better.

Gwen would have made a fantastic parenting mother. Like everything she did in her life, I imagine she would rock at it. She was an amazing person and the world has suffered a huge loss with her passing. Atticus, her son, has suffered the most tremulous loss.

People say that adoption isn’t trauma. They say it’s a beautiful thing. They don’t recognize the aftermath that can follow for first moms and many adoptees. When presented with stories like Gwen they will say, “See, it’s better her son was adopted. Look what happened. His mom was mentally ill.” To which I say, NO. Nothing in Gwen’s life, prior to the loss of her son, indicates any mental illness. Instead, Gwen’s death can be blamed solely on adoption. She lost her son. A mother LOST HER SON. It’s enough to make anyone not want to live anymore, to throw in the towel, to give up. The pain can be so suffocating, at times, that death seems like the only reprieve.

Atticus last saw his mother as a newborn in the hosptial. Gwen did not get her “open adoption.” She was left to use non-traditional means to get glimpses into his life. I am happy to have been a part of that, to have given her a little bit of comfort in her too short life as a first mom. The pictures brought her great joy, but they also brought her great pain. To see her son, her baby, not living the life she wanted for him, with her. Such is the life of a first mom.

I’m hoping that one day Atticus can find this post and know how much his mother loved him, how hard she fought for him, and how devastated she was without him. I hope he knows how much he was WANTED and loved.

In closing, I will share with you some private thoughts from Gwen that she posted, over the last year or so, in our private group. The admins agreed that Gwen would want this. No one can hurt her anymore so there’s nothing left to lose.

We will be your voice now, Gwen. We will watch over Atticus and make sure he knows your story.

We miss you. We love you. Sleep peacefully and free from the pain of this world.

-Your first mom sisters

“Atticus is 2 today.

The birth announcement I never got to make:

Atticus Kitwana Mulupi, Born July 9, 2013 at 2:51 pm.  4 lb 1 oz, 17′ long.  I love you, baby boy.”

“Happy 3rd birthday, Atticus Kitwana Mulupi.  I love you more than you will ever know.  I am more proud of you every day.”

“I think my issue is that my son’s adoption was very coercive.  I “picked” the AP’s, but only because I was told he would risk being taken into foster care if I didn’t have a family for him when I left the hospital.  I’ve always sensed that they look down on me because I have a physical disability.”

“I had been threatened with foster care right after birth, simply because I have cerebral palsy.  That is the ONLY reason why I got involved with the adoption lawyers in the first place.”

“Been feeling isolated lately.  Dealing with crap about how my disability made me feel like I had no right to ask for any help with Atticus….I’ve been to like 4 different counselors since relinquishment and none of them really understand that aspect.  I just want to be told I have the same rights as others and that nobody’s judging me for what I can and cannot do.  I don’t want to burden anybody but a counselor with this crap.  Not sure who else to talk to.”

-Gwendolyn Archard

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My Adoption Memoir – Whispers of Grace

A little over a year ago I began to write the first book in a series of memoirs that I intended to release. I entitled this series, “Whispers of Grace.” The first draft was pretty horrible. I wanted to gain honest feedback and constructive criticism so I released the draft for a few short days and listened to everyone’s thoughts. Since then I have been working to polish this my story and today I can finally say it has been re-released.

What’s different about this version compared to the last version?

It has been heavily edited so grammar and typos are obsolete. Whereas the first draft consisted of about 27,000 words, the final publication has just about 42,000. There were moments in the book that needed to be expanded on and explained in greater detail and that is what I have done.

What is it about?

I’ll include the synopsis here for you:

How do you hold onto a whisper? How do you carve out a path through the echo of what could have been? These are the questions that haunt Julia’s life. Take a heart-wrenching journey with Julia as she shares the memories of her pregnancy, birth and subsequent relinquishment of her child.

“Whispers of Grace” is one woman’s true experience in modern day adoption. When Julia finds herself pregnant for the fourth time she feels as if the world is closing in on her. With no options Julia and her boyfriend, Justin, decide to give their baby up for adoption. Unlike the movies Julia has seen, however, her personal experience, in today’s world, is not what she expected at all.

Walk in Julia’s shoes through the pages of this haunting memoir. From the decision to pursue adoption to terminating her parental rights and the aftermath that follows, Whispers of Grace will put you inside the mind, heart, and soul of an expectant mother left with no choice but to give her child a life where she will never be her daughter’s mother.

“Whispers of Grace” is the first in an upcoming series that follows Julia in her experiences in living life as a birthmother. Book one focuses on the pregnancy, birth, and relinquishment. It answers questions many may wonder but are too scared to ask. How does a woman choose adoption? What plays into that decision? What is it like to work with an adoption agency? How are adoptive parents chosen? Unlike the many books written about the notorious “baby scoop era,” this memoir is an intriguing look into a new generation of birthmothers that ushered in a new generation of so-called “open adoptions.”

While names and certain details have been changed to protect identities, this is my story as I remember it.

How can I read Whispers of Grace?

The good news is it’s free. Yes, FREE. Well, kind of. It will be offered exclusively through Amazon for the next 90 days and if you have a Kindle Unlimited account you can read for free. If you don’t have a Kindle Unlimited account don’t worry. Amazon offers a free 30 day trial. Just remember to cancel it before your 30 days are up! This book should not take you 30 days to read. It is a novella, coming in at just around 172 pages in e-book format. If you don’t care to sign up for Kindle Unlimited you can always purchase, and own, Whispers of Grace for $3.99 – yours to keep.

Right now I’m watching to see how well this book does. It’s my hope that proceeds will be substantial enough to contribute a portion of the earnings to family preservation efforts and SOS.  And by substantial I mean more than 5 people read it. (My expectation of “substantial” isn’t too high).

If you’d like to read or purchase a copy of Whispers of Grace you can head on over to Amazon by clicking here: Whispers of Grace

If you’d like to show support on this memoir’s Facebook page, and get updates when new books are released in the series, go ahead and click here: Whispers of Grace Facebook Page

Short & Sweet

It’s been some time since I’ve updated here at Musings of a Birthmom. This will be a short, sweet, personal update to explain my absence – for anyone who should care.

My husband had back surgery about 3 weeks ago and his recovery was more than anticipated. He’s required a heavy level of care-giving that made multi-tasking nearly impossible to do. I had to prioritize and, as much as I love you all, this blog took a backseat for a few weeks. I do apologize. I had finals to take, kids to care for, housework to catch up on, and a husband who needed me. I also had, admittedly, writers block. I simply couldn’t think of anything to write but, at the same time, thought of millions of things to write about. It was quite the conundrum. I’m also hesitant to post personal updates about myself because doing so also reveals personal information about my daughter that she’d probably rather not have shared, even if no one knows who she is. I decided to go with a happy medium.

I was so looking forward to a face to face reunion with her this summer. I was also scared to death. I thought she’d be sorely disappointed in me, the real me…that maybe I wouldn’t live up to what she had thought about me in her mind. I was terrified that she’d take one look at our meager lower-middle class surroundings and think, “dodged that bullet.” I was scared of a lot of things, some irrational, some not. The most horrifying thing I could think of was to begin to have a full-blown panic attack the moment I saw her. “Hey! I’m your mom! I’m also nuts and can’t breathe because I’m so scared and I may faint on you in a minute. But I’m really a super cool person if you can get past the oddities that are my mental health.” For reasons that are really no one’s fault, we won’t be meeting for the “first” time. I was disappointed, hurt, relieved, and hopeful. Very confusing place to be. But I’m okay now. And I’ll be okay. Crap, we’ll ALL be okay. Since I seem to reproduce introverts prone to social anxiety, and am one myself, I often wonder if we’ll ever meet. Ha ha! But we’ll be okay.

I promise I have some exciting blog posts to read coming up soon. There are some things that need to be exposed and I am finally in a place where I think I can put my thoughts together and do so. Thanks for those who’ve hung in there with me and, of course, thank you to everyone who reads, and takes to heart or puts into action, the message I am conveying. It is truly appreciated. Together we will change the world….or, at least, this little corner of the Internet. I’d hate to be too overzealous and have a panic attack.

 

To The Mothers; Hope and Peace on Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to you. Yes, you. For nine months you grew a tiny human being inside of you, but it’s so much more than that. You nurtured your child every time you made the decision to forego that glass of wine and to eat healthy foods. You protected your child – at every doctor’s appointment to make sure things were okay, for every decision you made that put your comfort level below the health and well-being of your child. For nine months you talked to your child, felt your child move, sang to your child, maybe you even slept in a recliner because by the ninth month of pregnancy a bed was just too uncomfortable.

Happy Mother’s Day to you. To the mothers who prayed to the porcelain god those first few months, and even some beyond that; to the mothers who endured sticks and pricks and unpleasant internal exams; to the mothers who adored the life growing inside of them, who got upset when their babies would hiccup, from within them, and there was nothing more they could do to comfort them, when their kicks became frantic, except to talk and sway; to the mothers who had a glow and the mothers who had acne; to the mothers whose bodies will never look the same in a bikini because of the stripes that were born from the stretching of their skin or the c-section scar they wear like a badge, that are proof they carried a child and are a mother; to the mothers whose bodies endured hours of labor, the labor of love, to bring their child forth into this world; to the mothers who endured the grueling task of pushing, when they thought they had nothing left in them, with their only inspiration the promise of meeting the one they had loved for nine months; to the mothers who lay on an operating table, with all trust placed into a doctor, to get their child here safely; to the mothers who heard that first cry, and felt that instant connection and knew what unconditional love truly was because of one moment; to the mothers who were the first to hold their child and the ones who couldn’t, no matter how much their arms ached for their baby; to the mothers who had hopes, dreams, and wishes that, for whatever reason, were stolen from them like a thief in the night; to the mothers who are overlooked and sometimes put down and called “less than” because they could not parent their child – biology is, in fact, exactly what makes one a mother.

This Mother’s Day I bring you a message of hope and peace. “Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul,” said the great Emily Dickinson. As long as there is a breath in our lungs, there is hope. No matter how dire, no matter how messed up things are, there is always hope. In your darkest hours, on your darkest day, never forget that you are this mother. Nothing anyone can do will ever take that away from you. No one can ever erase it. In the most basic and primal ways, the truth is you are a mother. Every tear you’ve cried and every hope you’ve ever wished cannot be taken away.

“I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.”

Hope is free, it costs nothing. My message of hope is this: Hope for yourself, hope for your happiness, hope for all that was lost, but whatever you do, don’t lose hope. In your darkest hours, when all seems to be lost, remember who you are. Remember you are a mother. No matter what anyone else says, no matter how anyone else tries to spin it, this is the truth. The truth always wins.

My oldest son took me to see the new Captain America movie today as an early Mother’s Day gift. One quote in the movie stuck with me and I will share it here for you. Hold onto it, embrace it, and even when the whole world seems to be pushing against you, hold firm in what you know, innately, to be true. May peace find you this Mother’s Day and everyday – in some form or another.

“Compromise where you can. Where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say ‘No, YOU move.'”

-Peggy Carter, Captain America