Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I've been a bit distracted this past week. I got bit on the leg by a dog while jogging, my family's cat died, and I chipped my front tooth all in the same week. Nothing like a little blood, death, and destruction. Go ahead, laugh it up. It's actually pretty funny. I was asked to speak at an adoption support group a few Sundays ago. The group is a support network for any person affected by adoption in the Raleigh area. We started out by saying introductions and stating how we were affected by adoption. A woman who was in her mid sixties had relinquished her daughter in a closed adoption more than 40 years ago. She had just "found" her daughter the week of our meeting. It was extremely emotional to hear about the pain and loss she had suffered as a result of the experience and how excited she was to hear her daughter's voice on the phone after 40 years. Like most women 40 years ago, she was pressured by her family to move away from her home and to give her child up for adoption. Nobody ever knew she had the baby except her family. She admitted that she has lived with so much regret and pain because she never knew what happened to her daughter. She described her life as "a living hell" since the day she gave up her daughter for adoption. It was difficult for me to share my experience with adoption after hearing about hers. I almost felt guilty that open adoption has allowed me to escape (somewhat) those feelings of not knowing. Unlike the closed adoption situation, my experience is a lot different because 1) I wasn't forced to participate in the adoption and 2) I don't constantly wonder where my daughter is and how she is doing. Every single birth mom at that meeting agreed that they wish open adoption was an option for them. It was so tough to hear the stories of guilt and regret that these women have had to live with. I began to realize just how many women were pressured by their families and society to leave town to have their babies, relinquish their children for adoption, and then return to their homes like nothing ever happened. I started reading a book called The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler, which is the untold history of the million and a half women who surrendered children for adoption due to enormous family and social pressure in the several decades before ROE v. WADE. The "girls who went away" are the women (like the one mentioned above) who got pregnant and were sent away by their families to have their babies and place them for adoption so nobody would ever know. The book gives voices to the women who were told they had no choice but to give up their children and have since been haunted by the loss of their children for the rest of their lives. The stories Fessler uncovered reveal the degree of pressure brought to bear on these women, the lack of compassion and guidance shown to them, and the failure to appreciate the lifelong consequences of coercing a woman to surrender her child. My favorite quote is on page 97. "From everything I see, I think the general public believes that mothers who give their babies away are glad to be rid of them, they're glad to be rid of the problem. They think, 'She didn't care about that kid. She just wanted her out of the way so she could go on having a good time.' I've heard people say that. It's like if you have a child and you're not married, you don't have those same maternal feelings that other mothers have? I have never, ever met a mother who felt that way." -Yvonne, birthmother. I have often felt plagued by this attitude towards birthmoms. There have been people who questioned my decision and the love I have for my daughter because I chose adoption. Does adoption mean you care about somebody less? Absolutely not. I feel that I cared about my daughter too much. Just because I had a child and I wasn't married does not mean that I don't still have the same maternal instincts. Sometimes I feel like one of the "girls who went away" because I too left town to have my daughter. No, I wasn't forced into adoption and I wasn't trying to be secretive about it, but moving to North Carolina was an emotional escape for me. I didn't have to stick around Moon Township to deal with the negative stigma that being an unwed mother entailed. And I was happy to be out of there. When I returned, however, I obviously wasn't pregnant anymore and I didn't have the baby with me. It was almost like I had nothing to show for the pain I endured for 9 months. I was always honest about the adoption and I never tried to hide anything about it, but sometimes people were too afraid to ask about it. What happened to your daughter? Why did you chose adoption? I just wanted people to know where I was coming from and the reasons for my decision. Which is why I decided to start the open adoption blog in the first place. The Girls Who Went Away has been incredibly difficult for me to read because it brings back so many emotions that I felt when I placed Deanna with the Dollars. I can't read it without tearing up. Some emotions are happy (remembering Dr. Anthony yelling "happy anniversary of the Slushie!" the minute Deanna was born) and some emotions are sad (remembering holding Deanna for the first time after she was born and knowing that I couldn't keep her.) But reading this book has been another small part of the healing process for me. I know that I'm not alone and that there are so many birthmoms out there who struggle with similar feelings and emotions. As an extreme perfectionist, I have had a difficult time letting down my guard and admitting that I'm not perfect and that I still struggle every day. I have a hard time admitting that to anyone. But this blog has encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone and to start being honest about my experience. And I will continue to do that. Thank you for reading/following my have no idea how much it means to me!


Monday, June 15, 2009

Amstel's back in Raleigh. Small clarification from the last blog post. My family was never disappointed about sharing time with Robbie's family. In fact, everything turned out better than we had ever planned. The last night the Dollars were in town, the Leonard and Hutton families got to spend time together with Deanna while celebrating Robbie's sister Julia's high school graduation party at the country club. The only small mishap the entire trip was that Don's flight got canceled and he didn't make it to Pittsburgh! Nevertheless, De and Deanna got to visit everyone, and Deanna got to see her Mimi (my mom), Papa (my dad), and every single other relative under the sun. Main point -- a little compromise goes a long way, and our families got along great. I didn't mean to hurt any feelings, but at the same time I have to be truthful about open adoption. The last thing I'd want to do is misrepresent it as absolutely perfect. Because it's not perfect. I won't speak for anyone other than myself from this point on, but I refuse to continue blogging if I cannot be fair in presenting all sides of open adoption. Good or bad. I want to say a huge thank you to Robbie's grandparents for purchasing the Dollars' plane tickets and to Don, De, and Deanna for taking the time to come visit us in Pittsburgh this year. THANK YOU! Pictures from the trip:


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Things are going pretty good up in the 'burgh. Besides the excitement of winning the Stanley Cup last night, there's been alot going on! When I first arrived in Pittsburgh on Thursday morning we took De and Deanna to my grandparents house for lunch. Deanna was a bit shy at first because she didn't really remember them from the last time she was here. That changed in about 5 minutes. As soon as the snacks came out Deanna was being her usual silly self. She actually has a great sense of humor for a nearly four year old. She accidentally swallowed her gum and pointed to me saying, "it was Amy Hutton's fault" because she was making a funny face at me which somehow resulted in the accidental gum swallowing. I pretended to get upset and we couldn't stop laughing. When I was little, I was the master of making up recreational lies. I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Deanna and her family have been coming to visit my family in Pittsburgh for the past three summers. Since the Leonards live in North Carolina and get to see Deanna often, it was an insanely nice gesture for the Dollars to commit to spending a whole week with my family once a year in Pittsburgh. This trip has been a bit different from past trips, however. First of all, Robbie and his family are all in Pittsburgh this week, and Robbie's grandparents, aunts and uncles, who have only seen Deanna a few times, wanted the Dollars to split time between visiting their family and ours. My family wasn't expecting to have to share time with the Leonards this week and they felt a bit surprised because they didn't find out until right before the Dollars came to Pittsburgh. I often feel like I'm still the middle-man between two families who just want to spend time with their grandchild. I wasn't going to include this in my blog because I didn't want to step on anyone's toes or hurt any feelings. But I promised myself when I started blogging that I would be honest with my readers because this is what it's really like. Open adoption is about compromise. It's not always easy, as I've said a hundred times. This is one of those times that I feel like I have to please everyone. Robbie's family, my family, everyone. And it sucks. But Deanna is happy when she is visiting all of her relatives in Pittsburgh, and I can truly tell that she is having a blast. I often struggle with spreading myself too thin and trying to please everyone all the time. But I think as long as Deanna is happy I will be okay with sitting back and letting things happen the way they are supposed to. Sharing is never easy, but that's because everyone loves Deanna so much. So here's the highlight of the trip so far: As I was strapping Deanna into her car seat when we were leaving my grandparents, she matter-of-factly told me that watermelon is her favorite food. I immediately stopped what I was doing and looked into her big brown eyes. "Really?" I asked, incredulously. De said, "tell Amy Hutton why!" And Deanna looks at me with a big mischievous smile and says, "because I ate so much of it when I was in Amy Hutton's tummy!" Is it tough sometimes? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wow, 19 followers already...hallelujah! Keep 'em coming! This week marks the 3rd annual Hutton-Dollar Pittsburgh trip--i.e. Deanna and her family (Don & De) will be spending the week in Pittsburgh with my family. De and Deanna flew to Pittsburgh on Monday, Don will be flying in on Friday, and I'm flying home tomorrow (Thursday) morning. If anyone will be in town and wants to stop by and see the babe let me know! I'll keep you all posted on how this weekend turns out... Check back soon for updates!


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I went to an abortion clinic for the first time last week. Let me explain. Now that I'm working full-time as a public relations representative for a health care organization, I spend part of my day driving around and visiting doctors offices. As I was navigating my way toward the umpteenth office last Friday, I passed a van on a street that had a large graphic picture of an aborted baby. It turns out that the primary care physician's office that I was visiting was right next door to the abortion clinic in North Raleigh. I got a sick feeling in my stomach when I got out of my car. I glanced next door and thought about the things that happened in that office. After I went into the primary care physician's office and did my PR thing, I started walking toward my car. That's when I noticed three sidewalk counselors standing outside of the abortion clinic. Sidewalk counseling is exactly what the name implies—standing on the sidewalk outside an abortion clinic, counseling women and couples on their way inside. It is a last attempt to turn their hearts away from abortion and offer real help. I nearly got in my car and drove away, but something stopped me. I started walking towards the three men with rosaries in hand. I had always wanted to get involved in sidewalk counseling, but I always thought it would be much too intense for me to handle. One of the men actually recognized me from the News & Observer article. He told me that they had already saved two babies that morning by directing them to Birthchoice, which is a pro-life center minutes away (they offer free ultrasounds). "Really?" I asked, visibly surprised. Wow. I always knew that this happened, but abortion had never seemed so real to me. He continued on. "We tried to stop a young woman from entering the abortion clinic earlier . Her grandmother who was accompanying her asked, "have you ever had a baby mister?" Obviously, the man never had been in that situation. He could not relate to the young woman. I couldn't help thinking that I could have shared my story with the young woman and maybe even stopped her from making that decision. We talked for a few minutes longer, I exchanged contact info with them, and I was on my way. It was only a ten minute encounter, but I thought about that experience the rest of the day. I couldn't stop thinking about the girl and her grandmother. If I had shown up a few minutes earlier, could I have changed their minds? It was then that I decided that I wanted to get involved in sidewalk counseling. There's something so incredibly powerful in speaking from personal experience. I think it's great that there are men involved in sidewalk counseling, but the truth is that a woman simply isn't able to relate to a man telling her what to do. The fact that I am a woman and I have gone through a crisis pregnancy situation is an opportunity for me to build a connection with these women and hopefully change their minds. I know that it's going to be emotionally draining, extremely difficult, and very uncomfortable. But... "When one stands in front of an abortion clinic and watches a real woman walk inside to pay an abortionist to kill the baby living and growing inside her, the issue is no longer philosophical. Those who witness this recurring scene at an abortion facility cannot help but recommit themselves to the task of trying to save lives." -