The Dollars Come to Raleigh!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Deanna & the NC State Gymnastics team

Don & Deanna preparing for the tailgate

Like grandpa like granddaughter -- BIG NC State fans right here

Can I interest you in a marshmallow?

Mrs. Wolf

Mr. Wolf

Deanna and her best friend Nathan

De & Deanna trying to stay dry

Hand over heart...

Amy & Deanna...up up and away!

Deanna & Robbie going to church with the Dollars

Sweet thing

Robbie & Deanna -- hugs all around

Dating After Baby

Friday, September 25, 2009

I love when people make suggestions for my next blog posts.  My friend Adrienne made a great suggestion a few weeks ago.  She sent me a sweet message that read, "I just wanted to say that I really enjoy reading all of your new posts and learning more about what you have gone through and continue to experience now. I think it is great you are being so open and honest!  I would love to hear more about how this has affected your dating life. I have a friend who is a single mom, and I know she has run into many different guys who have handled the news of her having a child in a lot of different ways. I have always wondered how it is to tell someone you are dating that kind of news."

What a great question. I didn't really start dating until almost a year after Robbie and I broke up.  I definitely needed that time to figure out who Amy Hutton was and what the heck she was supposed to do with her life.  When I was finally ready to jump back into the old dating pool again (I hadn't dated anyone besides Robbie since I was 16 years old), it was pretty scary, and being a birthmom made for some pretty interesting encounters.  One of my favorite things about being a birthmom is having the awkward "guess what...I had a baby" conversation. *Sarcasm* 

Should I tell my prospective boyfriend now?  Or should I wait until he knows me better? Wait a minute, this is only our first date!  I don't owe him an explanation. Actually, I should probably just come clean and tell him now.  Is that going to make it awkward for the rest of the night? No, no, he doesn't know me well enough yet.  Wait a minute, maybe he already knows!? Does he know? I'll just put it off one more day.  Do I have something in my teeth? This bra is waaaayyy too tight.

You get the idea.  As you can tell, I was back and forth quite a bit on the issue.  While I was in no way ashamed of the fact that I have a daughter, but I was tired of being judged by people who didn't know anything about me except that I had a child out of wedlock.  It was so incredibly frustrating.  I never knew who "knew" and who didn't know about little babe.  To set the record straight, there is a lot more to Amy "Amstel" Hutton than just being "the girl with the kid." Unfortunately, that's all that matters to some people.
The first boyfriend I dated after Robbie took the news great.  I told him about little babe a few weeks after we started dating.  I knew that secretly hoping he would never find out wasn't a logical solution, so I told him one night while we were hanging out on the swing set at a local park.  It was tough to bring up, but I eventually took the plunge.  I think I blurted, "I have a daughter!"  Major word vomit. And I think his reply was something like, "Really? What? That's awesome."  He didn't seem too shocked which leads me to believe that he probably already knew.  Nevertheless, huge relief.  

A year later, I began dating a different guy whom I met from the swim team. We had only gone out a few times, so I didn't deem it necessary to tell him about little babe unless things got more serious.  I didn't anticipate that happening anytime soon because I was still in lackadaisical Amy Hutton dating world where I didn't take dating anyone too seriously. A week later, this guy's ex-girlfriend took the liberty of telling him the news.  I found this out because he stopped calling me and then we had an extremely awkward encounter at a party later that week.  I pulled one of his friends aside privately at the party.  "Why is asshole (pardon my French) acting so weird towards me? Things were going so great last week..."  Now his friend was really stuck in the middle. "Uhh, you see, asshole kind of found out that you have a kid. His ex told him last week."  I was stunned. Silence. Then tears. And more tears.

I didn't really like this guy very much in the first place. I was overreacting. In fact, as my best friend Angela pointed out, his chest was wayyyyy too hairy. We didn't know this because we had ever seen him without a shirt on, but rather, because his dark chest hair was always spewing from the neckline of his tightly pressed collared shirt.  I think the reason I got so upset is because I knew that the day would eventually come when somebody would not accept me because of the fact that I have a child.  It wasn't like I was actually "raising my child" or struggling as a single mom.  Now that can be a lot of pressure for a prospective boyfriend to handle.  But I was shunned was because of the mere fact that I had been through the experience of having a child before he had. And that was upsetting to me. What if I end up really liking a guy in the future, and he doesn't want to date me because of this?  I was so conflicted; I was so proud of Deanna, but his attitude made me feel like I should be ashamed.  It messed with my head for a long time.

A few months after the infamous hairy-chested asshole debacle, I made a decision. I was approached by a reporter at NC State Technician, and they wanted to do a story about me and our open adoption.  I immediately agreed.  The Technician article came out, and then another article in the News & Observer.  It was such a blessing to finally be able to share my story and to show people how incredibly proud I am of Deanna Marie Dollar.  She is the best thing that has ever happened to me!  After both of the articles came out, I wasn't afraid anymore.  I didn't have to worry about having that awkward first date conversation, I didn't have to wonder who knew, and more importantly, I came to the realization that if a guy doesn't want to be with me because of the life experiences I have had, then he is not worth dating anyway.

Thankfully, I have found someone who is so incredibly accepting of the fact that I'm a birthmom, and he actually encourages me to blog and to share my story.  He often tells me that he actually respects me more because of the decisions I have made and because of the things I have been through.  Isn't that refreshing?  It's nice to finally feel accepted for who I am.  Yes, I may be a birthmom, there is so much more to me.  I'm a Jesus loving, family oriented, watermelon craving, coffee addicted, pro-life advocating, open adoption educating, news intrigued, accident-prone, recovering perfectionist...who happens to be birthmom to the most perfect little girl in the entire world.  As Ben Stiller would say with a swift judo chop and a ninja kick, "CAN YOU DEAL WITH THAT?!?!?!?"

A Very Large Poking Device

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

46 registered followers already?  Keep 'em coming please! "A Favored Life" was absolutely amazing!!!! The pro-life play that was put on by Good Hope Baptist Church was extremely representative of the emotions and struggles I faced when I found out I was pregnant 5 years ago.  I even got a little teary-eyed towards the end.  Great job to Rebecca and the entire cast!

Wow, 5 years ago.  Has it been that long?  I can remember Homecoming Week at Moon Area High School so vividly.  I remember that fateful Monday morning when I walked into my 1st period AP Government class wearing a black Native American wig complete with two pigtails secured by rainbow print cloth, a tan colored dress with a frayed hemline, moccasin shoes, and a feather necklace.  It was supposed to be "costume day" and I thought everyone at school would be participating.  Unfortunately, I was the only person in my entire 1st period class who actually dressed for the occasion.  I wanted to pull my large, messy wig over my entire face.  But everyone got a good laugh out of it...and I couldn't help but laugh at how ridiculous I looked.  Later that week, I had over 100 rushing yards and two touch downs during our powder puff football game, the girls swim team voted me Captain, and on Friday evening I was crowned homecoming queen.  With the exception of the costume debacle, what an amazing week!  I felt so good about myself, I was riding on an emotional high, and I felt like everything was absolutely perfect in my life.  When I found out two weeks later that I was pregnant, it was like a balloon deflating.  Watching the play on Saturday night reminded me of how I felt when I found out and how difficult the pregnancy was emotionally.  I'm glad that I had the chance to experience those emotions again because, for a long time, I tried to push those awful memories out of my mind.  While it was an extremely traumatic experience, I don't ever want to forget where I've been and what I've been through.  Remembering just how difficult those times were motivates me to push harder to help women in crisis pregnancy situations, to explain the consequences of teen sex, and to educate people about open adoption.  I'm thankful that the play was able to serve as a reminder for me to continue my pro-life advocacy. I think it helped me to renew my passion...: )

After the play, I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate than with my two of my best friends, Jacqueline and Julia Leonard (yes, Robbie's younger sisters).  I drove to Chapel Hill where Jacqueline is a senior at UNC, and the three of us reminisced about the good old days of Moon Township, and then we had a night on the town.  If you know anything about the Leonard family or myself, we love practical jokes and pranks.  As we sat at a table near the bar and sipped on a few casual drinks, we became antsy.  We took it upon ourselves to construct a very large poking device out of straws to tickle unsuspecting strangers' earlobes and necklines.  It was very similar to the giant poking device in the episode of Friends when they try to prod the big ugly naked guy to see if he's still alive.  This thing was easily 12 straws long!  The accuracy was amazing.  We quickly retracted the very large poking device before it could be detected by our victims.  No matter how I write it, I cannot describe how funny it was.  When more people became aware of our very large poking device, they began to point out victims for us to poke.  "It's like a facebook poke," Jacqueline informed everyone.

I think I might be slightly famous in Chapel Hill.  Apparently, many of Jacqueline's friends including some on the wrestling team have been following my blog.  When we saw them out on Saturday night, they greeted me with a nice warm, "Amstel!!!!!!"  I love it.  It's always good to know that girls and guys are enjoying reading the journey of a 23-year-old birthmom. 

Ever since little babe was born, I feel like I grew up way to fast.  Sometimes it's really hard to relate to people my age who haven't been through what I have, and I often feel like a 40-year-old trapped in a 23-year-old's body.  While it may seem a bit immature to be poking strangers' earlobes at the bar, I think it's times like these that I'm able to remember that I am only 23, and I should be able to relax and let loose every once in a while.  Even if that means constructing a very large poking device with two of my best friends...

"It is better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring."
-Marilyn Monroe


A Favored Life Tomorrow Night!

Friday, September 18, 2009

My roommate, Katy, is student teaching at Broughton High School this semester, and she mentioned my blog to the teacher she is shadowing.  This teacher started following my blog, and she loved our story so much that asked if I would come in and speak to her class about teen pregnancy and open adoption.  This morning, I spoke to a parenting/child development class, and I think it went pretty well.  It was especially relevant since they have been discussing the consequences of teen sex.  I brought in my huge photo album with pictures from Deanna's birth all the way through more recent pictures from this year.  That's a lot of pictures!  I also brought the NC State Technician and News & Observer articles for them to see.  At first, the students were a bit shy and they were hesitant to ask me questions, but eventually they warmed up and it actually made for some great conversation about teen pregnancy and other related issues. And the free Krispy Kreme donuts afterward?  Priceless. Here's Kitty...sitting pretty!

 Pro-Life Play, "A Favored Life"
Date: September 19, 2009
Location: Good Hope Baptist Church
6628 Good Hope Church Road, Cary, NC, 27519.
Time: 6:00-8:30 PM
Free childcare services for children through 5th grade

Good Hope Baptist Church invites you to an evening of education and encouragement about the value of human life. Featuring an intimate and moving play as well as performances by the Good Hope Baptist Church Choir, this event will have a powerful effect on all who attend.

Have you experienced an abortion? Are you considering adoption? Do you find yourself pregnant and wishing you knew what to expect? Even if you have never experienced an unplanned pregnancy, do you have a friend who is going through any of these things?  You are not alone...there is hope!  Representatives will be present from: Birthchoice Crisis Pregnancy Center, Bethany Adoption Agency, 40 Days for Life, & Triangle Right to Life


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hey blog friends, here's something sad: I was forced to change all of the blog descriptions on my websites from "explore the journey of a 22-year-old birthmom" to "explore the journey of a 23-year-old birthmom." Yes, it's true...I am officially 23-years-old today.  Maybe I'm overreacting a bit, but I swear a saw a tiny wrinkle on my forehead this morning.  No joke.  I used to scoff at the thought of using sun screen and moisturizing facial lotions every day, but this isn't a laughing matter anymore!  It's SPF 60 24/7 from here on out!

Aside from the physical changes involved in getting older, I'm actually kind of excited to be 23.  Here's why:  every year since I've been 18 has just gotten better and better for me.  19 was better than 18, 20 was better than 19, 21 was better than 20, etc, etc.  You get the idea.  So I have really high hopes for the next chapter of my life.  

Ideally, during the next year, I'd like to have at least 100 registered blog followers (register now if you're not already!), start writing a book about my experience with unplanned pregnancy and open adoption, continue educating people about open adoption through public speaking engagements and blogging, promote the pro-life message throughout the Triangle, complete a triathlon, learn how to cook (well), host a fundraiser to support local single moms, and to become a successful, well-known public relations professional.  Whew, that alot!  Did I mention that I'm a recovering perfectionist?  A few years ago that list would have taken up at least three more blog posts.  I'm still working on setting realistic goals and standards for myself.  "Hi, my name is Amy Hutton and I've been clean from perfectionism for...3 minutes now." 

FYI, I just joined Twitter!  Follow me!

And now for my favorite quote of the day:
"Every time I want to say 'Happy Birthday' to you, I hesitate because of the one time you tricked people on April Fool's Day..."
-Billy Smith, one of my closest friends from PA


Interesting Email

Monday, September 14, 2009

I received an interesting email a few months ago. I meant to respond to it, but I actually forgot about the email until I began cleaning out my inbox this week.  So here's the gist of what it said (most sentences have been edited for grammar purposes):

"I was following your blog you sound so brave and full of life. I am glad that everything turned out well for you and your daughter.  But one thing strikes me. I did not find any answers to "why " you chose adoption. Was it not possible for you to keep your daughter?  Don't you have any regrets?   If the choice is between closed adoption or open adoption, open adoption seems best, but I think you will get many messages from birthmothers which will tell you you make things sound too rosey, too pinkish.  I know two women who committed suicide after their promised open adoption was closed by the adoptive mother; they felt betrayed.  I know someone who was hospitalized after having her second child for depression. There are so many not allowed to form a bond with their children and they visit like distant relatives. So that is the thing adoption is about loss first. Yes, you save a baby, but sometimes you give up the mother.  And I think you underestimate this. In a way, you advertise adoption. And that is what I do not like about your site.  This is the rosey open adoption story forums or Bethany adoption tells.  I think instead of helping women to give up their children to adoption, many more things should be done to help them raise their kids.  I think that some cases of adoption are not necessary, but women do not trust themselves and their maternal instincts.  They buy into what they are told until it is too late.  I think adoption is one of the worst things that can happen to a woman and to a baby."

I have chosen to respond publicly to this email because I think that it will help other people who feel similarly to understand where I'm coming from. 

First and foremost, thank you for reading my blog and for taking the time to contact me.  I believe I have addressed the issue of why I chose adoption many times throughout my blog.  I'll explain it again.  Ultimately, it all comes down to the fact that I could not provide the means (emotional, psychological, financial, you name it) to support a child at the age of 18.  Of course that wasn't an easy decision. In fact, it took me nine stressful months to figure it out and a long time afterwards to fully accept it.  Fortunately, I was mature enough to realize that my daughter needed more than Robbie and I could provide for her.  If love was all it takes to raise a child, then I'm pretty sure that we would have been the best parents ever.  But it does take a whole lot more than that.  After meeting Don and De, we realized that open adoption would provide Deanna with the absolute best chance at living a happy and successful life.  And with the added benefit of maintaining our relationship?  Priceless.  Open adoption has been amazing, to say the least.  Difficult at times, but amazing nonetheless.  

I completely agree that more needs to be done to assist women who choose to parent.  In fact, that's why I devoted four years of my undergraduate degree at NC State to establishing and leading a student organization that advocates resources for pregnant, parenting, and post-abortive students.  As the former president of Real Choices, I worked to set up a network of student moms, to provide free childcare services to student moms, and to meet with NC State administrators to help make student moms' lives easier.  I fully support these women, and I think what they have had the courage and ability to do it amazing; but I also believe that parenting is not always feasible and/or realistic. That's why I support adoption.  I want to make it clear that I do not advocate adoption before parenting.  I believe that open adoption can be a wonderful alternative for women who are unable to parent.

My heart truly does go out to any woman who has chosen adoption and regretted it.  I cannot fathom that type of regret.  But contrary to your prediction, I have not received "many messages from birthmothers" who have regretted their decisions or who think my blog is too "rosey or pinkish."  I have received so many messages from birthmothers, adoptive mothers, and adoptees across the country who have been so positively affected by open adoption that they want to share it with me!  And that is amazing.  By sharing my experience with open adoption, I have found that there are so many others out there who have experienced the greatness that open adoption has to offer.  So why don't we hear about the positive stories as often as the negative ones?  Because the people who are experiencing the positives of adoption aren't sitting around on their computers, sharing their amazing stories; they don't have time to!  These people are out living their lives and experiencing the goodness that open adoption has presented in their lives.  The people who have been negatively affected by adoption are the ones who are looking for some type of comfort and choose to share their stories online, in hopes of connecting with someone, anyone who has gone through the same difficult experience. I don't think there's anything wrong with that; it's just a simple fact that people are more likely to react to a negative experience than to a positive one.

You say that I am "too rosey, too pinkish" in presenting open adoption to my readers.  I must disagree.  I do not claim to be representative of every birthmother's journey.  This is my journey as a birthmother, and this is my documentation of how our open adoption is working.  And no, it hasn't always been easy.  It has been extremely challenging and difficult at times.  I suffered from severe post-postpartum depression for nearly two years after my daughter was born, and I had more than enough challenges to overcome when coping with the lasting impact of my decision.  My uncle died from a massive heart attack two weeks before Deanna was born, and I had to live with the guilt of not being able to attend the funeral and feeling like I caused more stress than my family should have had to handle at one time. I felt so alone, so scared, and so vulnerable.  There were times when I simply wanted to give up...but those were the moments that I truly learned to rely on my faith to make it through. 

I think the most important lesson I've learned throughout this entire crazy experience is that God has a plan for each of us, no matter what circumstances we are given.  I refuse to let these circumstances define who I am and what will become of my life.  Instead of wallowing in depression and living with a lifetime of regret, God has given me the strength to rise above it all, to grow even closer to Him, and to share my story in hopes of preventing abortion.  I can only hope that others will follow my lead and use their own difficult experiences as an opportunity to grow closer to Christ and to stand up for what they believe in.

And now for the million dollar I have any regrets?  
That's probably the easiest question to answer.  Absolutely not.

Labor Day Weekend

Thursday, September 10, 2009

You may recall that I was planning on visiting Deanna and the Dollars over Labor Day weekend.  Well, I did, and it was great.  I drove down to Myrtle Beach on Saturday morning and spent the day at the beach with Deanna and a gaggle (yes I used the word gaggle) of family and friends.  Deanna's aunt Susan, uncle Steve, cousins Kayleigh, Jenna, and Cameron, Mrs. Leonard, Jacqueline Leonard, Jacqueline's boyfriend Justin, and Julia Leonard were all there to spend time with the little babe.  The weather was perfect, and I even went into the ocean.  Not by choice, it was by default.  I was taken hostage against my will and catapulted into the frigid waters.  Okay, it wasn't so bad, I'm just incredibly dramatic and I love to exaggerate. 

The next morning, I found out that Deanna wakes up at 6:30 just about every day, and she likes to wake her guests up shortly after by jumping on their backs, going through their makeup bags, and trying on select pieces of their jewelery. And that was the end of my favorite pink lip gloss. 

There was a point during the trip when I realized how severe my OCD has become.  We went to a restaurant called "Duffy's" and you're supposed to throw your peanut shells on the floor.  Try as I might, I could not bring myself to get the floor dirty by contributing to the pile of shells.  The ever-observant Jacqueline Leonard called me out as a pile of shells collected on the table in front of me.  I took a deep breath and threw one shell on the floor.  Eww. I hated it.  It felt so wrong! I tried again.  A little better that time.  Finally I dumped the entire pile of peanut shells onto the floor.  I breathed a sigh of relief as soon as I realized that it would be okay to let loose from my perfectionist tendencies for one night.  Then the milk glasses came out (see pictures below) and all hell broke loose. 

Deanna is incredibly rambunctious.  I mean seriously, she goes non-stop from sunrise to sunset.  It's no wonder her metabolism is through the roof.  "Amy Hutton, you want to play with me?" she asked me.  "Of course!"  We played...and played....and played.  Of course, her cousin Cameron, who's 9, took precedence over everyone else (Deanna absolutely loves playing with Cameron).  We played hide and seek, dolls, and then we watched Deanna do gymnastics around the house.  At one point Justin and I even tried to participate.  Deanna's a limber one, that's for sure.  I think I pulled my groin trying to compete with Deanna's splits in the living room.  Check out the pictures while I apply more ice.