I Can See the Horizon 

Sleep found me easily and peacefully. I usually suffer from insomnia and will lay awake for hours praying that slumber will come upon me. A peace I’d never known before washed over me as all of my children were under my roof in the same place at the same time. The people I value and love the most in this world. The ONLY people whose opinions about me I care about. I felt complete and whole. 

But sad. Sad for what could have been. Sad for the upcoming goodbye. Sad from what my choice had taken from all of my kids without their permission. There had always been a feeling that someone was missing and while she was here that feeling was gone. But it would soon be back. Nevertheless I tried to revel in how lucky I was to even have this moment, this time, at all. 

I have three daughters and two sons. Of all of my children, she is the most like me in every way. It’s almost scary how similar we are. Many times people would comment “its like looking at you when you were her age!” Or “She’s JUST like you at that age!” 

And she is. 

She’s tenacious, she has no filter, she looks like me, she sounds like me, she has the same mannerisms as me. Admittedly she does have my husband’s nose. 

Driving to Taco Bell one day we said the exact same thing at the exact same time with the exact same inflection. That happens within families all the time. Families that you share DNA with. “That’s never happened to me before,” she said with surprise. And it kept happening. My sisters and I are always speaking in stereo. It made me think how sad it would be to go through life without ever hearing someone who sounded like you. 

And she’s just like her sisters. When a neighbor started up his motorcycle too closely they all screamed, shook, and started crying. All three of them. All at the same time. DNA is some powerful stuff. 

But she’s herself too. It was lovely to hear her talk about the things she loves, the places she’s seen, the people in her life she cares about and how they’ve impacted her. 

And still there was this thing hanging in the air. All the shared memories we had that she didn’t. My family is big on talking about “Remember when this happened…” and then proceeding to tell a funny or shocking story. So while she was like us in every way, and fit in perfectly, there was always the elephant in the room that reminded us that she had been gone. 

So many mixed emotions. So much to untangle. 

My husband was smitten. He reminded me of a new father doting over his infant daughter. Except we had already doted on her when she was born. I can read this man better than anyone and the looks on his face said, “I’m in love with this beautiful creature.” As he should be. She’s pretty amazing if I do say so myself. 

And here is where I decided that this blog has served its purpose. For now, anyway. 

When I was hurting it was here. When I needed to vent it was here. When I was scared, anxious, worried, happy, hopeful, suffering, it was here. You were here. Some of you lifted me with your thoughts and others pissed me off. And that’s okay. Because sometimes I just needed a good fight and you engaged me. 

I know this journey is ever evolving and I’m not completely abandoning this space. There may be a time in the future where I need it regularly again. But this journey is no longer just my own. Now that our lives have come together again, and she is again a part of mine, our stories are intertwined and it’s not up to me what to share. 

I have let adoption consume my life. That’s not an entirely bad thing. I’ve found sisterhood and courage in this community. I’ve found courage to stand up, stand out, and help make changes. I will always be an activist. Always. But I’m also a mother and wife. I can’t spread myself too thin so I’ve decided to focus my energy on certain endeavors that will allow me to balance things more equally. I lost my grandfather, who helped raise me, and a beloved pet who was my emotional support animal, this year. The wheels of time don’t stop turning for me to sit behind a computer. 

So while I’ve already bowed out of this blogging thing pretty much, I thought I’d leave you all with a happy update. I’ll pop in once in a while. But it’s time to take back my life and focus on where I can really make a change, enjoy my family, and still remain a functional member of society. 

– Jennifer (Astrid Beemom)

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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

‘Tis The Season – An SOS Call To Action

SOS 2015 Sponsor a Saved Family

It’s hard to believe, but the holidays are upon us!Stacey

Saving Our Sisters has helped dozens of families stay together over the last 4 years. Helping mothers preserve their holiday traditions, by passing them on to their children, is just one blessing that SOS has been able to provide.  Which, is to say the least, priceless.  11143146_921721804566799_2089511665001540486_nWe have said, countless times, that it is not enough to help a mom who has changed her mind and decided to parent her child instead of relinquishing her child to adoption.  What is enough you ask?  Ongoing support is necessary to make sure that she knows and uses the tools to find the resources and options that are available to her, to ensure that she is able to conquer anything that is thrown at her, and that her success will last for generations in her family to come.  This is something that SOS has been and still is very committed to.  How can we define success?  We believe that successful parenting includes a safe, stable, loving home with the local support nearby to ensure basic necessities of the family unit are met. Success, in our eyes, does not equate to fancy homes, trendy clothes, or all of the newest gadgets. SarahSuccess is the simple things in life, and these families, who were at one point this year in such a crisis that they considered losing a child, (usually due to financial issues and afraid to ask for support), already have the simple things.  They have love, they have siblings, they have asked and received support, and………they have each other.April

While some may not consider a warm and joyful holiday season to be a basic necessity, we do believe it adds to the joy of the ‘in tact’ family.  It is, often times, the very thing that mothers were worried about when they were considering adoption for their new addition to the family.  Not being able to provide the ‘things’.  Dwayne N KarlyNo mother wants to go to bed on Christmas Eve with nothing on or under the tree for their children. In some cases, this could be the catalyst of a shattered childhood fantasy – Santa Claus. “How can Santa Claus be real when he visited everyone else’s house but not mine?”  The reality is this – while we are ensuring that basic Cheyennenecessities are met and families have support, warm and safe homes to grow and love in, the spirit of the holiday season moves us to provide a little bit extra for these moms and their families.  A nice warm meal, a few new items of clothing, and a toy or two for the kids to open on Christmas morning. Providing these things for their families, on their own, is sometimes just not possible.  Our moms from this year already had children when they came to us for help.  Your sponsorship will include giving these kids, these in tact families, a joyous Christmas.

JaimeeThis year, just as in the past 3, we’d like to announce the 3rd Annual Sponsor a Saved Family. The families that will be sponsored have already been saved through the SOS network in 2015. You can see some of their pictures throughout this post.  We would like to bless all the families that found SOS, and for that to happen we need your help.

Is it enough to just help them parent their baby?  Or should we show our commitment to them when they are least expecting it?  Taking some ofBubbles the stress off of purchasing even one gift for their kids means the world to these mothers.  Helping them to see their children happy together, and that they are sharing their new baby’s 1st Christmas confirms to them, “You did the right thing.  We have your back.” This is the message we want to send.

 

Every little bit will make a huge difference if we all do this together for these families. You can also have confidence that your donation, every Kalenpenny of it, will truly go for something amazing.  The pictures will be shared, and just like when their babies were born throughout the year, will be worth a thousand words.

There are some ‘signature’ things that SOS has been doing over the last few years that we would like to continue doing with your help of course.  We purchase a holiday meal to be delivered from Honey Baked Ham.  honey bakedWe put together a ‘Night Before Christmas’ movie themed family gift – complete with new pajamas for each of the kids, a Christmas themed movie, and of course popcorn and candy!   We get them a family photo package at a local JcPenney or the like, this is something that they wouldn’t be able to afford.  We have purchased a nice ‘pamper item’ for mom, maybe a robe, or a gift certificate for a spa service of her choice.  Last but not least, we purchase 1 gift for each of the children in the family.

You can help sponsor a saved family in two ways.  1)  If you want to shop, wrap and ship a gift, please send an email to Lynn at wsbirthmom@gmail.com so she can keep gifts ‘even’ across the children and families and coordinate with others who want to donate this route   2)  Send a cash donation to the CUB website and Saving Our Sisterslet the SOS organizers handle the shopping, wrapping and shipping of the holiday meals.

 

‘TIS THE SEASON!!!

Clara’s Update; A Look at Other Families Saved by SOS; The Evolution of Open Adoption

Today I’m going to cover a few things, but they will all tie together and are all related to one another.

Last week I told you a story about a prospective adoptive parent who started a campaign of harassment, threats, and coercion against a new mother who had opted NOT to relinquish her child and instead parent. I wanted to let you all know that over $1200 was raised in Clara’s name to help her and other expectant mothers to parent their children. I am truly amazed by the generosity of our community and how the efforts of all of us, for family preservation, have been so successful. I would like to share with you the receipt for Clara’s June rent in the name of accountability. Your money, your donations are going for exactly what they should be going for. Not ONE penny is used for anything else. 100% go directly to these families. Finding these moms, traveling, phone calls, fundraising – it is ALL done on a volunteer basis. We do not take ANY money that is donated.

check

Obviously we don’t want to show identifying information. We are still in the business of protecting these people since what we do is still considered “controversial.” Get a load of that. Helping mothers to parent their children successfully is what is controversial. When did this ever come to be? We’ll talk some more about that later. For now I would also like to share with you some other families Saving Our Sisters has helped over the past couple of years. To do so I’m going to ask you to click right HERE. Don’t worry, it will open up in a new tab or window so that you can continue to read the rest of this article.

Did you go to the link? Did you see all the smiling, unbroken families? This is why we do what we do. This is what your donations go for. (Right now the link is private but you are free to send Lynn Johansenn a friend request to view or see my collage made from some of the pictures below)

savingsisters

Where did we get to this place? This place where otherwise fit mothers were forever giving up their babies for financial reasons? We know that during the baby scoop era most women were literally forced to give up their children. Many (most?) came from nice upstanding families. While the women, themselves, did not have an income, their families would have been able to give the proper support for them to finish college and raise their child. This didn’t happen because of the shame a child out-of-wedlock would have branded the family with. So, instead of helping, these parents sent their daughters away to give birth alone and to have those babies taken and given to someone else. Threats and force ran a muck to make sure this happened. This is how we got the name “Baby Scoop Era.” It was literally a scooping of babies. (See more about my comparison on the baby scoop era and coercion era here)

Over time, laws were enacted, pregnancy out-of-wedlock became more socially acceptable and shame slowly became a moot point. No one was giving up their babies based on shame or force anymore, or at least in very rare circumstances. There was a transition period between the baby scoop era and the era of open adoption. This time period is where white newborn infants were slowly in decline while the demand for them continued to rise.

The adoption industry knew it had to do something.

This is where I will take some quotes from a NY Times article that was written on April 5, 1987 about adoption.

The article is entitled:

“ADOPTION MARKET: BIG DEMAND, TIGHT SUPPLY”

To summarize, the article goes into how the supply of healthy white newborns is on the decline while the demand for them is rising. The article cites the legalization of abortion and less stigma on pregnancy out-of-wedlock as the reasons. This is only half right, though. Let’s explore “less stigma,” shall we?

The article states, “According to the National Committee for Adoption, an association of 130 private adoption agencies, adoptions between unrelated people in the United States declined to 50,720, from 82,800, from 1971 through 1982, the last year for which complete data are available.” (Side note: why is there no longer any data kept?) 1971 -1982. The early 1970’s was about the end of the baby scoop era. Seeing as Roe vs. Wade was in 1973 I can see how adoption advocates would like to blame legalized abortion for the decline of infants available. I maintain that it was the END of the baby scoop era that facilitated this decline. My proof is the change of tactics from the industry. WHY did the baby scoop era end? This has nothing to do with legalized abortion. It has EVERYTHING to do with the cultural shift of acceptance of unwed mothers. No stigma, no shame. You are free to parent your child. And ever since this cultural shift there has been a rise in babies being born to unwed mothers. Even WITH legalized abortion.

Yes, less stigma means less women being forced into an adoption, does it not? What was that era called where shame and stigma were used to force a woman to hand over her baby? Oh yeah, the baby scoop era. So what happens when you can no longer shame women into giving up their babies? What do you do? You change the game plan. You offer them an “open adoption.”  Let’s now focus on another article. This one is from the Chicago Tribune and was written December 15, 1985.

The title of this article is:

“When Adopted Children Know Their Roots”

This article focuses on the “radicalism” of open adoption during that time period and interviews one family with two adopted children in “open adoptions.” I use that term loosely, based on the article, because they really aren’t truly open adoptions but rather what would be considered a semi-closed adoption by today’s standards. There is no direct contact between the children and their natural parents.

“We were really worried about the number of children raised in this adoption-lie system, giving rise to adults now saying that it was their birth right to know what their parents looked like, what did they think, what did they feel,“ says Janet Cravens-Garner, the agency`s regional director.” This is a quote from Lutheran Social Services at the time. Let me point out, using today’s standards, that the reason she gives for starting to facilitate open adoption is, in my opinion, a lie. The adoption industry has fought, and is STILL fighting, for sealed records for adoptees. If they were so concerned about the adoptees rights then these agencies would be lobbying Congress for open records everywhere. Instead they fight it. No, the real reason they started offering open adoptions is because they could not get women to hand over their babies without the promise of knowing how they were doing. It was a tactic that began to become employed in an attempt to meet the demand of infertile couples everywhere. The supply wasn’t there and, as we learned earlier, was on a steady decline thanks to a cultural shift.

“By the end of the hour and a half meeting, Susan Dangerfield had charmed her. She was glad that Chris would have a father who would take him fishing.

‘It was kind of like a proud feeling, like I`d chosen the right family for him,’ she says. `I felt I wasn`t losing a son, I was gaining very close friends and some people who were really going to take care of Chris.”

This quote from the article. This one up here? This is the very definition of open adoption coercion. Susan Dangerfield, if you read the article, is the prospective adoptive parent. Chris is the newborn infant. Susan had managed to “charm” her and made the new mother feel, via the open adoption promise, that she could relinquish her son to Susan.

Open adoption coercion. Using the promises of contact to gain a child from a mother.

I did manage to find Susan Dangerfield on Facebook and am happy to report she does keep up friendships with both of her sons’ birthmothers (at least from what I can tell on her Facebook friends list). This still does not take away from the fact that open adoption was used to procure more infants that would probably, otherwise, be raised by their original families.

Open adoption coercion, since we are talking about that, leads me to another article. One I read today, a recent one.

“COURT UPHOLDS MOVE TO GIVE BABY TO BIOLOGICAL PARENTS IN OPEN ADOPTION GONE AWRY”

Written May 29, 2015.

The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that promises of an open adoption to a birthmother is a form of coercion.

In other words, if a woman is relinquishing her parental rights based on the promise of continued contact, and that contact is not carried out, or never was intended to be carried out, she has been COERCED out of her child.

I know this case rings particularly true for me. If I had not been promised an open adoption I would never had relinquished. I knew it wasn’t binding in court but I still believed that these were good people who would keep their word.

There it is, in writing. A legal precedent. THE SUPREME COURT OF NEBRASKA JUST RULED OPEN ADOPTION PROMISES, WITHOUT FULFILLMENT, IS COERCION.

And I quote, “Until the Legislature acts to approve of these open adoption arrangements  in a private adoption context, this court will NOT recognize them.”

“Any agreements signed with the promise of an open adoption will remain invalid in the courts eyes.”

Are we finally recognizing that we have moved from forcing women to give up their babies to coercing them out of their babies? This is a BIG first.

How does all of this tie to Clara? Well, Clara didn’t fall for it. Clara was saved from the coercion of an “open adoption agreement.” Clara did not fall victim. The sad thing is that for everyone ONE Clara, there are thousands of other mothers who have no idea what they are about to embark on and believe the coercion. What Clara did was a #bravelove. She is courageous and selfless. I applaud  you, Clara.

clara

Unconditional Love

A love that will stay and persist without limits, without prerequisites. No matter what. To show unconditional love is to put yourself aside for the well-being of someone else. A sacrifice of one’s self because of this love. To voluntarily endure pain, hurt, disappointment, and more in the name of this love. To put someone else above yourself.

-Astrid

This is my definition of unconditional love.

Unconditional is defined as “not subject to conditions.” Love is defined, by man, as “an intense feeling of deep affection.”

Furthermore, God defines love as patient and kind, free of envy, boasting and pride. It is not dishonorable, self-seeking, or easily angered. It also keeps no record of wrongs. It rejoices with TRUTH and does NOT delight in evil.

If you are a believer in God then you know that you are required to try your best to love one another in the way he has described, unconditionally. However, let’s take the layman’s view and assume you don’t HAVE to love EVERYONE unconditionally. You are free to just “love” people, no qualifiers required.

If I asked you how you were supposed to love your child, based on what I’ve written above, what would you say? Unconditionally, right? Of course. That’s how we’re wired. It’s how it’s supposed to be. We are supposed to love our children in a way that puts their needs above our own. Even if it hurts us. Isn’t that what it is all about?

The act of giving my daughter up for adoption was not selfless. I cannot say that it was because to claim that would be to imply that parenting my other children (all unplanned and coming at times that could be considered “crisis”) was selfish. And it wasn’t. However, when I relinquished her, it was because I was willing to suffer a lifetime of pain or never knowing who she was if that is what she wanted. If she never wanted to speak to me, ever, in her life, I was okay with that so that I would not cause her any emotional pain. Yes, it would hurt deeply, but I love my daughter so much (all of my kids really) that I would take that hurt so they didn’t have to. Wouldn’t we all? Wouldn’t we all take our kids hurt in a heartbeat if we could so as not to see them suffer? Of course we would, if we could.

What if you could? What if you COULD take that hurt away and make it a little better. What would you do?

What if you are an adoptive parent of a teenager. What if this teenager of yours is having a REALLY rough time emotionally? So they’ve asked to send their birthmother a letter. You let them write the letter and many things that are said in the letter hurt you. It’s only human to face insecurities. However, you know that sending this letter and hoping for a response back would be something to help a little with the healing of your teenager, even if it hurts you. Even if the thought of losing the child you’ve nurtured from infancy was almost too much to handle. Would you be willing to let your child continue to suffer and hurt so that you could make yourself feel more secure about your place in their life? If you answered “yes” then you do not love your child unconditionally. You do not love them selflessly. You are not willing to sacrifice yourself for them. Regardless of how many late nights you have stayed up with a sick toddler, regardless of how many bedtime stories you have read them, regardless of how many recitals you have been to. None of that stuff defines the true meaning of being a parent, a mother, a father.

The very definition of motherhood should be unconditional love. As a birthmom, I am willing to love my child unconditionally. I am willing to accept her for all of her faults and for all the things she may do that would make me feel bad. I will love her no matter what and do what is best for her. I will live with an unbearable grief for the rest of my life because I thought I was giving her a “better” life, even if that turns out to not be the case. My actions were in good faith at the cost of great personal pain and sacrifice, at the very high cost of great personal pain of my other children and family members. I did all of this because I loved her so. I let her call someone else “mom” because of this. Because I loved her and thought I was making the best choice I possibly could then.

It baffles me beyond reason how a person would not be able to do the same for their adopted child in return. Why they wouldn’t be able to suck it up, swallow their pride (“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”) and help their child heal. Not leave their child thinking they have been rejected and ignored. Are you that insecure that you would sacrifice your child’s well-being for it?  You would lie (“It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”)

Adoptive parents who choose to break promises and cut off birth families for any reason other than they are DANGEROUS, I have this to say to you:

If you think that cutting off communication between your child and their birth family is the way to go – Don’t be selfish. Do the selfless thing. Do the loving thing. Put your child’s needs ahead of your own so that they can have a better life. A life that includes all of their family. You are not giving up your child. You are placing her in a healthy environment that includes knowing her roots. Remember, you are in control of the adoption so there is great power in that. Don’t abuse it.

Don’t ya like how all those things that we were told during our “adoption plans” can also be used for you?