PAINTING, MOVING, BEING A MAN

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I've been rather absent-minded lately. I am in the process of moving out of my apartment and into a house with two of my best friends. The problem lies in the fact that we have to be out of our apartment by August 7th and we can't move into the house until August 10th. Bummer. We'll be homeless for approximately 3 days. Does anyone know of a decent soup kitchen? Bad joke. On top of that, we have to paint all of the walls back to white in our apartment before we move out. Did I mention I'll be on the annual Hutton family vacation in Florida next week? To break it down for you, that means my move-out-of-the-apartment date is now bumped up to Friday. Yes, Friday as in today. My life is pure and utter chaos and I'm in full stress mode. Anyway, I spent the entire night painting my bedroom, dining room, and kitchen walls back to white. Five hours and a million coats of paint later, my roommate Katy and I had paint everywhere. We lost alot of good clothing items out there. Finally, when my arm was on the cusp of falling off and I could paint no longer, I passed out on my bed. When I woke up this morning, I realized that I had slept in a room full of paint fumes. Indeed, I had not even thought to crack a window. I'm feeling a bit silly this morning and I'm thinking it may have something to do with paint fumes. Gooooood thing. So I've had a few things I've been meaning to address. Lunch with birthmom Leah was awesome! It was so great to meet somebody who understood where I've been and what I've gone through. She was just the sweetest person and we had so much to talk about. You may recall that Leah is a 22-year-old birthmom whose daughter was also placed in an open adoption. We met at Panera on Saturday, and she told me about an organization called Birthmom Buds that connects birthmoms in a social network. They even have a special celebration for Birthmother's Day every year. How cool is that? I contacted the woman in charge and I'm now officially a Birthmom Bud. Sweet. Here's a quote from the Birthmom Buds website that I thought was very fitting for finally having the opportunity to meet with Leah: "Friendship is born at the moment when one says to the other, "What, you too? I thought I was the only one." -http://www.birthmombuds.com Moving right along. A blog follower recently made a comment inquiring whether Robbie, Deanna's birthfather, and I are still together. The answer to that questions is no, Robbie and I are not dating anymore. We are both happily dating other people, but Robbie is still my best friend and I have such an incredible respect for him after everything we have been through together. When I started writing this blog, I wanted it to include as much detail as possible about open adoption without invading anybody's privacy. I usually shy away from mentioning alot about Robbie in my blog because I definitely want to respect his privacy, but I realized that it might translate into readers thinking that Robbie is not involved in our open adoption situation as much as I am. And that's simply not the case at all! Robbie is just as involved in Deanna's life as I am--and possibly even more. He loves that little girl more than life itself, and it's amazing to see the connection he has with Deanna. Robbie could have simply walked away when we found out that I was pregnant, but he didn't. He stuck by me through the entire experience, and I think that speaks volumes about his character. A few months ago, a friend asked me to speak to the freshman in his resident hall on campus about crisis pregnancy and open adoption. (They have to have a certain amount of educational programs planned for their residents) I was all for it...until I heard that it was going to be a mostly male audience and I became hesitant. "These freshman guys aren't going to listen to an older girl talk about pregnancy and adoption," I thought. So I asked Robbie to accompany me to help me talk to the men. I knew he would have a bigger impact than I could. Sure enough, he came through for me and he did an amazing job. He spoke from his heart about his personal experience with crisis pregnancy and open adoption, and I could see how much of an impact he had. The guys could not believe that Robbie Leonard, the starting linebacker for NC State football team, was standing in the same room, having a personal conversation with them, and they were hanging onto every single word he said. My favorite part was when Robbie expressed the importance in "being a man" and taking responsibility for his actions. I think it's a very common occurrence for men to run when they find out that their girlfriend is pregnant. And it's really sad to think that women feel forced to have abortions for this very reason. So when I think about the way that Robbie has handled the entire situation, I feel so blessed that I had such a strong person to support me through it all. I think that men everywhere should take some time to reflect on how they would have handled the same situation. Would you stick around and take responsibility for your actions? Or would you run? If every man took the same responsibility that Robbie Leonard has, I think the world would be a much better place.

CONNECTIONS...

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's amazing, the crazy connections I've discovered these past few weeks. It began at the Triangle Right to Life meeting and it just keeps getting better. At the Triangle Right to Life meeting a few weeks ago, a man approached me afterwards and introduced himself as Nelson Dollar, a Representative in the North Carolina General Assembly, who happens to be Don Dollar's distant cousin. How random is that? He's actually met Deanna quite a few times before. Small world. Then, a few days ago, I received a comment on one of my blog posts from a birthmom named Leah, who had read my story in the N&O a few months ago. It turns out that we are both 22 years old, we both placed our daughters in open adoptions in Raleigh, and are daughters are both only a year apart in age. I was so thrilled to find another Christian birthmom who has such a positive open adoption story. She even has a really cool birthmom blog too! Check it out-->> http://omommawrites.com/

After a few messages back and forth and a phone call later we are going to meet for lunch tomorrow. I am so excited to meet a fellow birthmom! Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person alive who truly understands what it’s like to go through the entire open adoption experience as a birthmom, so I’m really looking forward to meeting her and hearing more about her story and her perspective. I'll keep you updated! On another note, Don just taught Deanna how to ride a bike without training wheels and how to drive the golf cart by herself. She just turned 4 last week! I'm hoping this is a sign that Don will have Deana ready for her Olympic swimming debut by the time she turns 10...

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS OPEN ADOPTION?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I finally donated all of my maternity clothes to Birthchoice during my lunch break today. It took me four freaking years to get it done, but I finally did it. Phew. Check! So what exactly does "open adoption" mean? The truth is, open adoption is different in every single open adoption scenario because it is tailored to the needs of the birthfamily, the needs of the adoptive family, and most importantly, the needs of the adopted child. According to www.adoptioninsight.org, "The primary difference between a truly open adoption and a semi-open adoption is that the adopted child has the potential of developing a one-on-one relationship with his or her birthfamily. It is not about the adoptive parents bestowing birthparents with the privilege of contact, nor is it about birthparents merely being available to provide information over the years. Direct contact, in the form of letters, phone calls and visits between the birthfamily and the adopted child, along with his adoptive family, is essential if they are to establish their own relationship. After all, how can we honestly call an adoption "open" if the child is not involved?" When we first met with Don and De to discuss the possibility of having an open adoption, they told Robbie and I to ask them anything. After all, open adoption is truly about "openness" and being completely honest. So that's how our relationship began. "How often will we get to see her?" "What happens if you move away?" "Will you adopt other children?" "How will you discipline Deanna?" "How much will Robbie and I be able to stay involved in Deanna's life as she gets older?" "Why can't you have children of your own?" and "Are you both Christian?" "What religion would Deanna be raised to practice?" Every single question mattered. And we talked ALOT about them. We began laying the groundwork for how our open adoption would work. We decided to keep Deanna at the forefront of all decisions we would make, as it would ultimately be up to her in deciding how much involvement she would want to have with her birthfamily. After Deanna was born, we saw her a few times a week. In fact, the day that we left the hospital we were invited to have dinner at Don and De's house. During a typical week, the Dollars would have us over for dinner one night, or I would simply call De and stop by when I had some free time to visit between classes. It made me happy to have the freedom to see Deanna often, even though I didn't always take advantage of it. There was a peace of mind I had in simply knowing that I could stop by anytime. When I needed time to myself or I just didn't feel emotionally okay to visit Deanna, there was never any pressure, and I loved that. "I'm not really feeling up to visiting this week," I would say. No explanation needed. De just understood. When Deanna turned 2, Don accepted a job in Myrtle Beach, hence moving the family to South Carolina. I was upset at first, but I knew from the previous conversations we had that the possibility of them moving was never out of the question. I knew that we would see less of them, but it actually was a blessing. It gave me a little bit of space to concentrate on figuring out who I was and it also provided me with the opportunity to truly cherish the times that I did get to spend with them when they came to town. Since most of Don's family still lives in Raleigh, and he has lifetime rights to season tickets for all NC State football games, I knew we would be seeing alot of them. And I was right. Over the past four years, I have discovered what open adoption means to me. But the truth is, words cannot even begin to describe it. I cannot accurately tell you what open adoption means to me because it's something so incredibly special. It's something you would have to be a part of to truly understand. (And no, I'm not suggesting that you get pregnant so you can experience open adoption at its finest!) But I do hope that my blog will, at the very least, provide a glimpse of how God has chosen to use our open adoption story to help others and to save lives.

JUST SO YA KNOW...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Why in the world is a blog about a birthmother's journey called "Amstel Life?" I vaguely explained my reasoning in my first blog post, but I'm not sure anyone really understood or read that far down. Plus, for my new followers, it might seem a bit confusing or even slightly immature that a blog about open adoption contains the name of a popular alcoholic beverage. However, I do have a good reason for naming my blog "Amstel Life." The title, "Amstel Life" is actually significant because it represents a major turning point in my life. The first year after I placed Deanna with her new family, I was emotionally distraught and severely depressed. A little more than a month after Deanna was born, I was forced to transition from a way-too-mature-for-my-age 18-year-old into a college student in a new state, hundreds of miles away from my family and friends and everything that I knew. Unbeknownst to my new friends and acquaintances at school, I was suffering from severe postpartum depression, and I had even gone so far as to stop eating. I started seeing my counselor halfway through my freshman year at Meredith College, and things started getting a little better. I finally started to enjoy some aspects of my life as a college student, and I began making friends at school. Granted, I was still hurting, but things were getting better. Finally, during my second semester at Meredith College, I was actually having fun. It was a strange feeling; I almost felt guilty for going out and having such great times with my friends. One memorable night when I was out at a college gathering with my friends, I managed to convince people that my name was "Amstel." I don't know what provoked me to make such a bold claim, but it was amusing to my friends, and it made me laugh. Yes, something actually made me smile. Eventually, my tale got so out-of-control that I had everyone believing that my name was Amstel because I was the product of my parent's wild honeymoon in Holland. Even some of my friends believed me. Of course, I eventually broke down and told the truth, but not before everyone got a few good laughs out of it. My friends started calling me Amstel after that night--not because I liked the beer (actually I had never even tried Amstel until this year)--but because it was the first time that I actually remember letting loose after the entire adoption ordeal. I was finally able to put aside my maturity and everything that I had been through and just enjoy being a normal 18-year-old. So what exactly is "Amstel Life?" It's my turning point. It's me, Amstel, and this is my crazy life. It's not pretty, and it's not perfect (although sometimes I try to pretend that it is). But it's my journey of healing and helping others to understand what open adoption has the potential to be--a viable option for those experiencing unplanned pregnancy. Amstel life is not my way of promoting alcohol (although I have grown to enjoy the taste of an ice-cold Amstel Light every now and then), but rather, it represents the point in my life that I honestly knew that I was going to be okay. And that's Amstel Life.

JESUS CALLING

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Back in March of this year, Robbie's mom, Mary Beth Leonard, gave me a special gift. During a time when I was struggling to be too many things to too many people, Mary Beth recognized my perfectionist tendencies, and she pulled me aside. She gave me the "you're doing way too much and stressing yourself out" speech that she's given me a million times since the baby was born. I always knew she was right, but I never really did anything to fix it. I always thought, "I will stop" but I never did. I could never pull myself away from doing too much. On this particular day in March, however, Mary Beth not only gave me 'the speech," but she also gave me a book called, Jesus Calling. The book is written as if Jesus is speaking to you, and it is a year's worth of daily readings to help bring you closer to Christ. "I want you to read the daily reading each day, and really concentrate on relaxing and listening to what Jesus is saying," Mary Beth said. I had no idea then, (I know Mary Beth did!) but the book has actually helped me to slow down and really focus each day on what Jesus is calling me to do, rather than focusing on the forces that are constantly trying pull my life in a million different directions. It has been such a tremendous blessing! I'm not sure why, but I've been worrying alot about the future this past week. Maybe it's the realization that Deanna won't be little forever, or maybe it's just uncertainty, but I've been really stressed out about about what I'm supposed to be doing with my life and what lies ahead. When I read yesterday's Jesus Calling passage, you could have knocked me over with a feather. "Do not worry about tomorrow! This is not a suggestion, but a command. I divided time into days and nights so that you would have manageable portions of life to handle. My grace is sufficient for you, but its sufficiency is for only one day at a time. When you worry about the future, you heap day upon day of troubles onto your flimsy frame. You stagger under this heavy load, which I never intended for you to carry...Anxious thoughts meander about and crisscross in your brain, but trusting Me brings you directly into My Presence. As you thus affirm your faith, shackles of worry fall off instantly. Enjoy My Presence continually by trusting Me at all times." -Jesus Calling (by Sarah Young) How incredibly appropriate. Thank you MB! Check out the pictures from the Triangle Right to Life ice cream social this weekend!

TRIANGLE RIGHT TO LIFE

Monday, July 13, 2009

I've had quite a few people ask me about how I did on July 11th. And the answer is much better than I expected. I only had three private mini-breakdowns throughout the day along with a few random tears here and there. It was tough, but Saturday was actually a very unique and special day, not just because it was Deanna's 4th birthday, but also because I had the awesome opportunity to share my open adoption story with 40-50 members of "Triangle Right to Life." Triangle Right to Life is the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill chapter of North Carolina Right to Life. It was formed a few months ago in an effort to build a culture of life in the Triangle community. I attended this meeting originally because I wanted to get involved in a pro-life organization in the community of Raleigh, outside of the campus/college realm. When I spoke with the president of the organization, Dorothy Yeung, a few days before attending the meeting, we had a long talk about my open adoption experience. She asked me if I would be willing to share my story with everyone at the meeting because it is consistent with their mission and what they are trying to accomplish. I was very excited to do it, but I was slightly hesitant because I knew that Saturday would be the most difficult day to talk about Deanna. When I arrived at the meeting, I was overwhelmed by the friendly welcoming I received. Many people already knew who I was, and I felt sort of like a celebrity! I decided to volunteer as the Media Relations Director for the chapter, and I couldn't be more excited about it. This stuff if right up my alley-- interacting with print, radio, and television media outlets, drafting pro-life letters and blogs in the Triangle area, building upon professional working relationships with media, writing press releases, coordinating press conferences, YES. At the very end of the meeting, I stood in front of the most passionate group of pro-life men, women, children and shared my open adoption experience and how I went from being a pregnant 18-year-old to (hopefully) an influential voice in the pro-life movement. I almost teared up at the end when I said that it was my daughter's birthday, but I held it together. It was an honor to be able to share such a personal experience with these amazing people. There are three things that have helped me to heal since July 11, 2005 -- faith in God and His plan for me, time, and helping others by sharing my open adoption story. Next to spending the day with Deanna on her birthday, spending the day sharing my story with Triangle Right to Life was actually the next best thing for me. It took my mind off of the hurt, and it reminded me that helping is healing. The highlight of my day was when a super nice lady at the meeting told me that a young woman at her church had been writing a play about open adoption when she read the News & Observer story. She was so moved by it that she used it as a tool when writing the play, which will be performed at Good Hope Baptist Church in Cary on September 19th. The play is about a young woman who gets pregnant and is trying to decide whether or not to place her daughter in an open adoption. The lady at the meeting asked me if I would be present at the play to say a few words about open adoption, and I gladly agreed. I couldn't be more excited about it! It's hard for me to believe how far I've come in just 4 years. I have been blessed with such incredible opportunities to touch lives and to open hearts to adoption, and I cannot wait to continue spreading the pro-life message in the Triangle. http://www.twitter.com/prolifetriangle

BIRTHDAY PICS

Pictures from Deanna's birthday! (Thanks De!) :)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Deanna Marie! video Love, Amy Hutton :)

THE PERFECT BIRTHDAY GIFT

Friday, July 10, 2009

I had a phenomenally tough time trying to find the perfect birthday card/present for Deanna's birthday this year. I ventured into Target during my lunch break on Monday, hoping for the best. Normally when I go into Target I come out with absolutely nothing that I had on my list and at least $60 worth of senseless clothing/beauty product purchases. (Example: Last month I went in to buy body wash, dental floss, and band aids. I emerged with caramel rice cakes, a black dress, a blue shirt, Neutrogena lip gloss, crest white strips, and a bottle of Merlot.) I was determined to NOT let that happen this time. I decided to start with the birthday card selection first. Where's the "Tummy Mommy" section? I thought to myself with a smile. I almost asked the shelf stocking man where it was, just to be funny. Nahhh, he wouldn't get it. Do I choose a card specifically for a 4-year-old? Or do I look in the "From Mother to Daughter" section? "Gosh, I don't know," I thought. Would that be too much? Would she understand it? I'm already indecisive enough; I knew that if I couldn't even choose a section to start in, I'd be in terrible shape when trying to select the perfect card. I read some of the "From Mother to Daughter" cards. "It's been a blessing watching you grow every day...." No, that won't work. I don't see her everyday. Next. "Tiny fingers and tiny toes, every day you get bigger, how fast the time goes..." No, too sad. I couldn't find the perfect "From Mother to Daughter" card. In fact, I didn't know if that would be too confusing. After all, she knows me as her tummy mommy, not her mommy. I turned my attention to the "For a 4-year-old" section. A card with sounds perhaps? I opened the first one. No sound. Broken. Next. Shiny card. My Little Pony. Purple & pink. Game inside. "I love you, Happy birthday!" Yes! Finally. Compared to the card selection, the gift was actually easy. I was going to get her a baby doll, but I figured I already gave De and Don enough baby to handle for a while. (joking!). Since Deanna loves dressing up in Disney Princess costumes, I decided on a Tinkerbell dress up outfit, a Tinkerbell doll, and a 1 lb bag of lollipops. Perfect. I realized after spending 53 minutes in Target that I really do have a severe case of perfectionism. Everything always has to be perfect with my decisions, choices, etc. Perfectionism has always plagued me. I can't remember the last time I didn't over analyze something. As I checked out, I stopped to think about Deanna opening my gift and what she would think of it. She'd probably be just as excited as every other wonderful gift that she gets. And that's when I realized that no matter what present I get for Deanna on her 4th birthday, it doesn't change how much I love her, and it surely doesn't change how Deanna feels about me, her tummy mommy. Whew. Tomorrow's the big day. Deanna finally turns 4! Please say a quick prayer for me because it's definitely going to be tough. But I'm looking forward to hearing all about the celebration (they're having a party at a gymnasium for all the youngsters to be rambunctious and wild) and to seeing pictures of Deanna in her Tinkerbell costume very soon. :)

HOSPITAL PICS

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I decided to finally release the hospital pictures from the day Deanna was born. I'm not sure why I kept these pictures tucked away for so long. Probably because it makes me really sad to look at them, so I pushed them aside. But I want you to see them because they represent the day of my life that I am most proud of--the day Deanna was born. Most of the pictures show me smiling with Deanna, but inside I was falling apart. I was in a glass case of emotion! Although it's difficult for me to look at them sometimes, these pictures will always remind me how lucky I am that things have worked out so wonderfully and how far I've come since July 11, 2005...

JULY 11

Thursday, July 2, 2009

It’s coming up sooner than I ever thought possible…Deanna is turning 4 years old next week. July 11th. I cannot believe it. How did this happen? Where did the time go? I feel like she was just a googly-eyed, bobble-headed infant yesterday. Now she’s swimming underwater in the deep end by herself, asking more and more questions about my “tummy mommy” status, and turning into such a precocious little girl. It’s hard to believe she’s not a baby anymore. I usually refer to Deanna as “the little babe.” I think when she’s 22 years old I’ll still want to call her “the little babe.” I’m sure people probably wonder if it’s hard watching her grow up since I’m not really raising her. The answer is yes. Yes, I still have those maternal feelings of wanting her to stay little forever. But I am also so thankful that I have the opportunity to actually see her grow up. Birthdays are always tough for me. In fact, July 11th is the most difficult day of the entire year. On Deanna’s first birthday, I went to her birthday party with my mom and all of the Leonards. I started crying when they sang “happy birthday” and I had to leave the party. I felt bad because I know that I made a lot of people feel uncomfortable. Robbie followed me down the driveway and I told him it was too much to handle. I knew I shouldn’t have gone, but I didn’t want to upset anyone by not showing up. De came out to talk with me and she made me feel so much better. I’ll always remember that heart-to-heart that we had in the driveway. I decided that birthdays were just going to be too much for me and that I shouldn’t attend any more. On Deanna’s second birthday I was really sad. I was doing the summer nanny thing for the three cutest little girls in Raleigh, and on July 11th I suddenly came down with an awful migraine headache. I couldn’t see, my vision was blurred, and my thoughts were all jumbled together. I had to leave work and go home to sleep it off. I stayed in my room the entire day and cried and cried. I allowed myself one day of self-pity, and that was all. The next day I was absolutely fine. Deanna’s third birthday was alot different. Deanna and her family had moved to Myrtle Beach, and they were having a big birthday celebration at their new house. Don sent me a text message a week before the party. “I know birthdays are hard for you,” he said, “but I want you to know that you are always welcome.” Then he sent a picture of Deanna biting into a huge slice of watermelon with text that read, "three years ago..." I decided to give it another try. I ended up going with my best friend Angela and the Leonards to celebrate Deanna’s 3rd birthday in Myrtle Beach. It was a milestone. I didn’t cry at the party. I could see how happy Deanna was and how much she loved her family, home, dog, everything. And I loved watching her face light up when everyone sang happy birthday. I think that's when I knew for sure that everything would be okay. I probably won’t be able to make it Myrtle Beach this year, but I hope to plan a trip to see the little babe and celebrate her birthday soon. And I’m sure this I’ll probably shed a few tears this July 11th. But instead of viewing it as a sad day, I’m trying to stay positive. I'm starting realize that each birthday Deanna has is actually a chance for me to grow as a person and for us all to celebrate the fact that so many people have been blessed by such a wonderful little girl.