Monday, August 31, 2009
I'm going to visit the little babe, Don, and De for Labor Day Weekend next week...and I'm so excited! The last time I saw the Dollars was in May at my graduation, which is the longest period of time I've gone without seeing them. I'm sure Deanna must have changed so much since the last time I saw her. She's in the 95th percentile for height and 6th percentile for weight. Don said he's going to start giving her protein shakes to gain some weight because her metabolism is through the roof!
Don called me last week and asked me a random question that sort of caught me off-guard. "Are you ever scared to be honest with De or I because you're afraid we won't let you see Deanna if you make us mad?" I sort of laughed. The ole jokester! I thought he was kidding. But he wasn't. Apparently a woman on an adoption website had told Don that the term "birthmom" was offensive to all birthmoms. Don told her that I am not offended by the term "birthmom," and the woman informed him that he wouldn't know if I was offended or not because I'd be too afraid to tell him for fear that Don and De wouldn't let me see Deanna again. Don obviously knows me better than to believe that, but he wanted to ask just to be sure.
My answer to Don was "absolutely not!" I'm not afraid to talk to Don and De about anything. While the term "birthmom" may be offensive to some women, it's actually a word that I am proud to identify myself with. I wouldn't have described my blog as, "the journey of a 22-year-old birthmom" if I found the term offensive or degrading in any way. I don't care what you call it, as long as you understand that my experience with open adoption is real, it's an incredibly positive part of my life, and I'm going to be completely honest about it. It's not the term; it's the concept behind the term that truly matters: giving a child a wonderful life and family.
I think the honesty and openness that we share in our open adoption is the glue that holds everything together. If I ever had doubts that Don or De would take Deanna away, then I certainly wouldn't have chosen them to be the parents of my daughter. I made a choice to allow them to make the decisions that they deem best for Deanna, and I stand by them in every single choice that they make. Whether it be an outfit to dress her in, a sport to enroll her in, a savings account, or even a college education fund. The excitement I used to find in visiting just Deanna has turned into an excitement for being able to spend time with Don, De and Deanna.
I think it's easy for people who are not directly involved in our open adoption to rush to judgment about the relationships that Don, De, Robbie, and I share. They do not understand what they have not experienced. But we have become an extended family, and it would certainly take more than a few "honest" statements to diminish the bond that we have built over the past 5 years. Essentially, Don & De adopted not only Deanna, but Amy, Robbie, and both of our huge, crazy, wonderful families. We adopted each other, and that's alot of love.
Four years ago, De and I shared a single hospital room with Deanna for 3 days and nights after she was born. I remember the single moment when I fully put my trust in De to be Deanna's mother. During the first night of our hospital stay, Deanna began crying in the middle of the night, and I was incredibly exhausted. I rolled over in the hospital bed and called to De who was sound asleep on the couch:
"De, the baby is crying..." : )
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I had a meeting in Durham tonight with the Triangle Right to Life board members. We took care of official business, I updated the group on my Media Relations work thus far, and we began brainstorming ideas for promoting the pro-life message in the Triangle. After the meeting was over, only a few women remained, engaging in small talk before we said our goodbyes. The woman whom I had written about in my previous blog post (Deanna, the one who wrote the book To Be A Mother) was talking about her book, and she got to talking about her experience with abortion and how she was finally called to adopt. Deanna said that after her abortion, she felt like God deserved to punish her for having an abortion by making her unable to conceive another child. This wasn't the case, as she eventually had two biological children of her own and adopted four more. She thought that she was "entitled" to a life without children because of her decision to abort her first child many years ago. Another woman in the group, (we'll call D for privacy purposes), chimed in. A 28-year-old attorney, who has been a driving force in the pro-life movement, has always dreamed of having a family. D said that she thought she was "entitled" to the ability conceive a child because of the work that she has done involving pro-life issues and protecting the unborn. Unfortunately, she and her husband have been having a difficult time getting pregnant and are now focusing on adoption. D said, "It's funny because I thought that God was supposed to just give me with a child because of everything pro-life that I've done. I realize now that God works in mysterious ways and that we are not entitled to anything in life." What a profound realization. I too am guilty of having felt entitled to certain things in life. When I first found out that I was pregnant, I was angry with God. How could He do this to me? I thought that because I went to church every week and I was generally a good person, that I should be entitled to a swimming scholarship in college. I never really did anything terrible (sinning a few times here and there, yes, but don't we all?), but those dreams went down the shitter when two pink lines appeared. I didn't feel like I was entitled to be a part of the plan that God was laying before me. After I placed Deanna in the adoption with the Dollars, I kept hearing people say, "You will be rewarded for the sacrifice you have made because you have been so selfless!" I kept hearing those words resonate over and over in my head freshman year. When I ate alone in the dining hall or when I cried myself to sleep at night because I missed Deanna so much, I thought about those words. The entitlement. "When?" When am I going to be rewarded?!" I demanded of God. I thought that I was entitled to immediate happiness because I had obeyed what God had asked me to do: choose adoption. Looking back, I can think of many more examples of how I thought I was entitled to something because of my actions. Since overhearing Deanna and D's comments tonight, I realize now that we are not entitled to anything in life. God knows exactly what He is doing. He works in mysterious ways, and who did I think I was to question Him? Maybe I'm crazy, but I feel like I've grown up alot during these past 4 years. I am better able to see things that I could not see before. My boyfriend recently told me about an author who compares God's plan for us to a tapestry. Four years ago, my life was similar to looking at the back of a tapestry: the crazy strings, the unrecognizable patterns, all of the confusion. Now, I am finally able to see the front of my tapestry. It's a beautiful picture that God created...and I like what I see.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Deanna never ceases to amaze me. De has been posting videos of Deanna in her gymnastics class on her Facebook page, and I just sit there in amazement watching them. I have never seen a 4-year-old with such advanced athletic skills. I don't mean to brag, but it's like she's not even human! That last sentence made me laugh a little. The thought of giving birth to a child with supernatural powers is sort of entertaining. I guess that would make me even more similar to Hester Prynn from The Scarlet Letter. Now all I need is a giant scarlet letter A to seal the deal. If you've read the book you know what I'm talking about. Getting off track. Okay, so Deanna's a natural at every sport that she tries, but the best part is that she is enjoying every minute of it. I was definitely athletic and I loved sports as a 4-year-old, but Deanna is light years ahead of where I was. She points her toes without thinking, she has incredible balance, and she already has muscle definition in her tiny arms and legs. Robbie asked me once, "How do you think something so perfect came from the two of us?" I laughed out loud. "I have no idea," I said, thinking about the funny/dysfunctional/quirky things that are imperfect about each of us. Deanna must be a true combination of each of our absolute best qualities. Now that's a miracle! De called me last night to chat. She said that Deanna was asked to join a gymnastics team with 6-year-olds. She also said that the mothers at the gym were absolutely amazed at her skills and they couldn't believe she's only 4. The truth is, while it's awesome that Deanna is great at gymnastics, I know that De couldn't care one way or another. She just wants Deanna to be happy. I can tell from the videos that De posted that Deanna is having a blast rolling around on the mats, swinging from the uneven bars, prancing along the balance beam, and doing crazy backwards rolls all morning long. That makes me happy. A wonderful woman whom I got to know through Triangle Right to Life released a book yesterday called To Be A Mother. Her name is Deanna Jones (name coincidence!), and the book is about her personal experience with abortion, opening her heart to Jesus, and finally forgiving herself. She now has two biological children of her own, and she and her husband have adopted four children from different countries around the world. To Be A Mother: Adopting God’s Heart The Aftermath of Abortion and the Power of Redemption Deanna Jones found herself pregnant at the age of 19. In an unstable relationship, and with a musical career starting to take off, she decided she was not ready for motherhood. “No way,” she said. “This is my life, my body.” And so she made an appointment at a local clinic. But she was not prepared for the overwhelming despair that would result. After the abortion she was left with a feeling of emptiness and loss. “Legalized abortion denied me a beautiful gift from God,” she says. “The desperation post-abortion far outweighed the desperation during my brief, unplanned pregnancy, and I was so off balance that I felt as if I would never be able to hold onto anything ever again. A part of me was missing and I would never get it back.” There is a happy ending, however. To Be a Mother is not focused on Deanna’s loss, but rather, it is a story of redemption, resurrection, God’s grace, and His extravagant blessings. Deanna found that by facing her actions and calling out to the true Father, she would be transformed, forgiven, and enlivened. With the Lord by her side, she was able to move from a difficult childhood and a painful abortion decision to the miraculous redemption of Christ and the healing joy that came from the birth and adoption of her six children. “The poignant and compassionate words of Deanna Jones articulate America’s latent sorrow in the aftermath of our abortion culture. Deanna’s sympathetic perception is borne from a personal encounter with grief. Listen to her and be illuminated, healed, and refreshed.” —Troy Newman President, Operation Rescue “To Be a Mother truly highlights the healing presence of Christ in Deanna’s life. She eloquently travels from her painful past to her redemption and new life in Christ. This book would be an inspiration to any woman, or man, who has suffered, as Deanna has, and is searching for healing.” —Theresa Burke, PhD Author of Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion Founder, Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries “Finally, in To Be a Mother, Deanna beautifully redefines the term pro-life—pro-life and pro-adoption become one. An elegant portrayal of the choice to give redeeming love that makes receiving it in turn so much sweeter.” —Carolyn Twietmeyer, Founder/Executive Director, Project HOPEFUL This true story shows us firsthand that God is compassionate, illustrating the relentless nature of His pursuit to save and claim His children and allow them life everlasting. The Bible declares that the Lord will turn our mourning into gladness and our despair into praise (Is 61:3), and for Deanna Jones, this has become truth. Follow her inspirational story as she is lifted from a wounded child to a place of understanding and joy as a woman of God. To Be a Mother is a celebration of life, of motherhood, and the sanctity of life itself. ISBN: 978-1-4327-3839-6 Format: 5.5 x 8.5 paperback Genre: Christian Life / Women’s Issues About the Author: Deanna Jones was born and raised in Rockford, Illinois, and is currently a bandleader and singer for the New York based band The Deanna Jones Orchestra. She considers her greatest assets to be her six children—two by birth, and four by miraculous adoption. Her web site, www.tobeamother.com, (<http://www.tobeamother.com> ) is dedicated to the miracle of motherhood, and she and her husband, Mark, are active pro-life, adoption advocates.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
House of Hope of North Carolina opened in March of 1998 as a Christian therapeutic school, home and counseling center for hurting and troubled girls, ages 12 to 17. House of Hope has an intensive program offering Christian education and counseling for girls and their families regardless of their financial situation. Their mission is to build hope, change lives and restore families through the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. House of Hope has an intensive program offering Christian education and counseling for girls and their families regardless of their financial situation. Their nonprofit ministry is unique because they require parents to participate in weekly counseling and weekly parenting skill workshops. When the girls enter the House of Hope program, they are expected to progress through the following phases while earning additional privileges and spending more time with their family.
Each Tuesday night, House of Hope holds Family Life Training workshops (FLT). Those in attendance are typically residents, outpatient girls, and the parents and guardians. Issues such as listening skills, conflict resolution, personality differences, and other various life skills are taught. So guess who was the guest speaker last night? Amstel. That's right...I had the privilege of sharing my open adoption story with the girls and their parents.
There were probably about 30-35 people in attendance, and it was really cool to be able to share my experience about overcoming challenges and obstacles and getting to where I am today. Although most probably didn't relate entirely to the open adoption aspect, there were a few important lessons that I tried to get across.
1) There are consequences for having premarital sex.
2) Abortion is not the answer to unplanned pregnancy.
3) Challenges and obstacles in life serve as a means for us to strengthen our relationship with Christ.
4) God has a plan in store for each of us, and we must learn to accept His plan.
5) You are in charge of your own happiness.
The "you are in charge of your own happiness" lesson was important for me to express because it wasn't too long ago that I was feeling the same as many of the girls I was speaking to. I remember how difficult it was for me to be happy during my freshman year, when I was miserable, depressed, and I hated my life. It took a few defining life experiences to finally push me in the right direction and start taking responsibility for my own happiness.
When I began taking questions from the audience, a 15-year-old girl raised her hand. She told me that she was adopted, but it was a closed adoption. She asked me what goes through the mind of a birthmom when deciding to give up a child. Holy smokes! That was tough. I knew that she probably had lots of questions for her own birthmother. I searched for the right words to express how I felt when I made my decision. "It's the most difficult decision in the world," I said, "because I knew that what I wanted (to keep Deanna) and what was best for my daughter (for her to have emotional/financial stability) were two completely different things. I felt so sad and hurt because I couldn't raise my daughter myself, but I also felt proud that I was smart enough to realize that. I knew that Deanna deserved to be with a loving family who could provide all of the things I could not at the time." (Or something along those lines.)
I think she seemed pretty satisfied with my answer, and while she probably still has lots of questions for her own birthmother, I hope that it at least helped her to realize that any woman who chooses adoption is most-likely a commendable, selfless person, who simply wants the best for her child.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
These past two weeks just flew by! Vacation was relaxing and wonderful, but as always, it went by way to quickly. And now my roommates and I are finally moved into our new house so hopefully things are finally settling down and I'll be able to blog more often. *Sigh* Hopefully. De called me when I was in Florida last week, and she wanted to share a funny Deanna story that happened recently. (It seems that there have been an increasing number of funny Deanna stories as her personality develops...). Deanna has become obsessed with babies lately. She has a million baby dolls that she cares for, and when her baby cousin Grace was born, she made Don unwrap the entire baby so that Deanna could see her toes. Deanna has been begging Don and De for a baby sister, so De tried to her best to explain that babies grow up, they don't stay babies forever, and that it probably wouldn't happen. It's hard to reason with a 4-year-old, so De suggested that Deanna pray about it. The next day, Deanna woke up and asked De excitedly, "are we getting one?" De laughed and asked Deanna, "Now where in the world do you think we're going to get a baby sister?" Deanna replied matter-of-factly, "Amy Hutton." Smart child. I laughed out loud when De told me the story. As much as I'd love for Deanna to have a baby sister, I'm don't have aspirations to become a family breeder. 9 months of morning sickness, being kicked in the ribs and showing off my sexy cankles was enough to last me at least another few years. Besides, I've already donated all of my maternity clothes. :) It's been a few months since I've visited Deanna in Myrtle Beach, and I really miss it! As much as I've been wanting to visit, it seems like I haven't had a free weekend in ages. I'm hoping that will change very soon. Luckily, the NC State football season is right around the corner, and I'll be seeing plenty of Don, De, and Deanna at the home games. Robbie and his friend Josh went to visit Don, De, and Deanna two weekends ago. They went to the beach and to a water park, so naturally I confiscated pictures from some of De's facebook albums and included them below. I love checking De's photos to see what they've been up to... De has been taking Deanna to a gymnastic camp this summer, and Deanna was given an "invitation only" to join the Ocean Pearls team for 3-5 year olds. Great form! When I hear exciting stories like that, it makes me really realize how much of a blessing it is that Don and De are able to provide such wonderful opportunities for the little babe. Check out her handstands!