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.