Breaking down open adoptions

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Breaking down open adoptions
Pennsylvania's new law encourages relationships between child, birth family
-Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 

Another year under the old belt

Friday, September 17, 2010

Well, today is the glorious day that comes around once a year.  It usually entails a flood of facebook wall posts, an outrageous amount of libations debauchery, and of course having to change a certain number in my blog title.  You guessed it -- today is Amstel's birthday!   So now THIS is officially the story of a 24-year-old birthmother.  Thank you mom and dad for the gift of life! 

Crazy how it's been almost six years since I first found out that I was pregnant.   I remember I had just turned 18 when my Political Science class decided to do an election debate in front of the entire school.  It was right before the 2004 presidential election, and my topic was abortion.  I chose that topic.  I spoke passionately about a touchy subject that I really didn't know a whole lot about; but I knew what I believed in.  I argued that abortion was morally wrong and not a viable option for unplanned pregnancy.  I think I touched on some brief fetal development facts, and I spoke passionately against the killing of the tiniest of human beings.  I don't know why I was drawn to that topic, but it was something that really touched my heart.   Later that week is when I fearfully took my first pregnancy test.  And it came back positive.  The irony!   If you want to hear God laugh tell Him your plans, right?  It was the first of many "coincidences" (or should I say God's plans) that would occur throughout the next six years of my life.  

I started Amstel Life when I turned 22.  At best, I wanted to help people to understand why I chose to place my daughter for adoption with the Dollar family.  I also wanted to help other birthmothers who had placed, and most importantly, I wanted to show women facing unplanned pregnancy that there is a peaceful and  positive alternative to abortion.  Never in a million years did I expect to receive the support, feedback and encouragement that I have experienced through Amstel Life.  Never in a million years.  Thank you!

Here's something cool that you guys should know about.  Scholarships 4 Birthmothers is a nonprofit that was started by a birthmother to give scholarships to women of all ages who have placed their baby for adoption and want help with school!  Please consider donating a few dollars to this wonderful cause. They are only $50 away from their goal! 

There are two info sites:

It's been a great day so far.  This morning, my boss called me into the conference room.  I sat down with my notepad and pen, ready to take notes.  Then I realized that my colleagues were surprising me with birthday cupcakes and a Tinkerbell card that played music.  It was pretty much awesome.  They proceeded to tell me about what they were doing when they turned 24, according to my boss, "before there was electricity."  Haha.   Deanna called my phone today and left a sweet voicemail of her singing happy birthday.  At the end she said, "Happy Birthday Mimi!" (Mimi is my mom)... "I mean AmyHutton!"   That made my day.  

Thank you to everyone for the birthday wishes!
Here's to another year of Amstel Life!

Flowers delivered to my desk from my best friend Natalie.
Message: "I hope these flowers find you well and you don't eat them."

A Birthmother's Progression

Monday, August 30, 2010

I get a ton of questions from birthmothers who want to know how I was dealing with my open adoption (x amount of time) afterwards.  Any woman who places her child for adoption will deal with her experience differently, but something about comparing experiences with other birthmothers can be sort of comforting.  So I figured I'd share the condensed version of my progression from the adoption to where I am today. 

The first few weeks after I signed the adoption papers I was a complete mess.  I held it together in front of other people, but behind closed doors I cried and cried and cried...and cried.  I was depressed, sad, and I felt like the past nine months were just a blur.  I also couldn't believe I actually went through with the adoption.  Robbie and his family were so incredibly supportive, and I leaned on them to make it though.  I knew that Deanna would be fine with her family, but I wasn't so sure about myself. 

A month after the adoption, I began my freshman year in college, and I had a terribly hard time adjusting to being in a new state, at a new school, and starting at a school where I didn't know anyone.  I was excited about starting college, but the reality of having to make new friends and to completely start over was terrifying.  Not only did I have to worry about the typical problems and issue that every college student has, but I also had to deal with the sadness and depression that went along with the whole adoption experience.  I got to visit Deanna often, and that made me feel better, but I still found myself struggling to cope with everything I had been through.  I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, and although my doctor had written me a prescription for anti-depressants, I felt like they were merely placebo pills.  My loss felt like an open wound, and nothing seemed to make it better.

Six months after the adoption, I had a terrible encounter with a faculty member at my college.  I wrote about this in a previous blog post, but in case you missed it, here's the shortened version.  I was contemplating going into either communication or teaching, and I couldn't decide what I wanted to do.  I met with an advisor in the School of Education, and she grilled me about my desire to become a teacher.  She implied that if I didn't care enough about children to make the decision to become a teacher, then I should probably just move forward with communications.  I lost it.  I was in disbelief.  I ran out of her office, sat on the bench outside of the building and just bawled.  It was the lowest of low points in my life.  That's when I numbly stumbled into the Counseling Center, and I met the counselor who helped me to get through the next four years of my life.

A year after the adoption, I transferred to NC State, and I began my sophomore year.  I also decided that I probably shouldn't attend any of Deanna's future birthday parties because I couldn't hold it together during her 1st birthday party when everyone sang "happy birthday."   Aside from that emotional breakdown, I was doing better.  I had made lots of friends, and I joined the club swim team.  I got involved with 'Real Choices," a student organization that helps pregnant and parenting students. I also got involved with lots of pro-life organizations and events in Raleigh.  For the first time after the adoption, I felt like I could really make a difference in people's lives because of what I had gone through.  And that was a good feeling. 

I continued going to my counselor (who coincidentally transferred to NC State's counseling center) until my senior year of college.  It was a long and difficult progression, but four years after the adoption I felt like a different person.  My senior year at NC State I become president of Real Choices, and I also became president of an honor society for the top 12 seniors at NC State.  I was planning social events for student moms, teaching Sunday School  to a class of rambunctious 8th graders, interning at a local television station, having a blast with my friends, and visiting Deanna and her family often.  I finally felt at peace with my decision, and I was humbled and amazed at the impact Amstel Life was having on so many people in the adoption world.  I thought to myself, "this is what open adoption is supposed to be." 

Today, it's been more than 5 years since Deanna's adoption, and I sometimes have to stop and remind myself what I've been through.  There are times that I am still in disbelieve I have a daughter.  Seriously, sometimes I can't believe I created such an amazing human being, and I am so proud of that.  I had a lot of help and support from my family and friends, but most of all, I believe it was my faith that carried me through.  The night before I signed the adoption papers in the hospital, I prayed long and hard.  I remember making an agreement with God.  I said, "God, if I go through with the adoption, please just don't let me regret my decision."  And 5 years later, He has not broken our agreement.  I started my open adoption journey by putting every ounce of faith I had in God.  And today, my trust has only gotten stronger. 

Sometimes I stop and think about everything that I've been through.  I am still completely amazed at how our open adoption has turned out.  I don't think anyone could have imagined a story this good.  If you ask me, it's not just a coincidence; it's a God thing.  With time, a strong support network, and lots of faith, anything is possible.  For all of the birthmothers out there who are in the beginning stages after adoption, there is hope!   Trust me, I have been where you are. Yes, it is going to be incredibly difficult, but it does get better.  And when you finally make it to the point where you are at peace with your decision, it will make every sacrifice you made completely worthwhile. 

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. -Jeremiah 29:11

Welcome Welcome Welcome (back)!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It's been a while, it's been a looong while.  But Amstel's back in action TODAY.

Where to begin?  I visited my sister in the NC mountains and had a blast at her rock party, went on not one but two family vacations (San Diego & Tampa), moved into a new place on the hottest day of the entire year, went with Robbie to visit Deanna on her 5th birthday (July 11th), picked up some new responsibilities at work, was diagnosed with a sleep disorder (excessive daytime sleepiness), was banned from Web MD by my family, had a quarter-life crisis, and then realized I hadn't blogged in nearly two months.  A lot has happened!  But I can't complain. Life is good, and I love being a professional, independent, (most of the time responsible) young adult.

I came across a really neat article in Newsweek called, "Why Birth Moms Deserve Respect" by Raina KelleyIf you haven't seen this yet, please read.  It's worth it!   My favorite part of the article is the last few sentences:  "By indicating that placing a child for adoption is a selfish or painless choice when it’s not, or talking about birth mothers as if they were all crack-addled prostitutes or at the very least wayward youth, we not only limit a woman’s right to choose but also shut out the possibility that there are other people out there who would love to adopt. Why not try respecting these women as mothers able to make the best decision for themselves and their pregnancies—even if that decision is not to parent?"  Just thought this was worth sharing with all of my fellow birthmothers out there. 

In case you were wondering, 5th Deanna's birthday party was great.  She had a joint-birthday party with her friend at a gymnasium, and I do believe that the adult men had more fun than the children...

Robbie and I gave Deanna the "band in a box," and we made sure to tell her that Don would love to be woken every morning to the sound of clashing cymbals.  On that note, I'm out!  More good stuff to come soon on Amstel Life.

Mid-June Updates

Friday, June 18, 2010

I'm heading to the NC mountains this weekend to visit my sister, Michelle.  Woohoo!  It should be a great time.  She just moved into a new house and is having a "rock party" which means that instead of bringing a housewarming gift, we're supposed to bring her a rock to put in her yard.  As you can see, we're very extravagant. 

So Deanna's 5th birthday is coming up in less than a month, and I have no idea what to get her!  Dolls?  Crafts?  Games?  I'm running out of good ideas.  De said that Deanna wants to have a pirate/dolphin/mermaid birthday party theme.  Can you tell that she has been to Sea World recently?  I'm thinking maybe some kind of mermaid doll for bathtub play time or a cool craft set would make a good gift for a 5-year-old. De told me that Deanna has been really into tye-dye lately, so maybe I can incorporate that into her birthday present....ideas are welcome!  

De called me a few weeks ago and told me that Deanna has been organizing things lately.  If you know me personally, you know that I am the queen of organization and neatness.  De had to call me immediately and tell me that Deanna had taken it upon herself to clean out her top dresser drawer and neatly organize her underwear into tidy piles.  She did this all on her own without being asked!  What kind of  4-year-old does that?   When De walked into Deanna's room and saw what she had done, De started laughing and said, "We need to call AmyHutton!" 

It's interesting and fun for me to hear these kinds of stories from De and to piece together how Deanna has become the person she is.  She really is a little bit of everyone!   

She gets her neat/organized side from AmyHutton.  Example: As I mentioned before, Deanna organizes her underwear into neat piles without being told.  That Type-A personality is already shining through.  When Deanna was 3-years-old, she made certain that the hair bands tied on each side of the handlebars of her bicycle were matching and perfectly aligned. 

She gets her crafty/creative side and her good heart from De.  Example: Deanna LOVES crafts. Absoluely loves them.  And when she was in preschool last year, Deanna walked up to her teacher and told her, matter-of-factly and completely out-of-the-blue, "I'm going to pray for Ava."  (Ava is a little girl in her class).  
How sweet is that?

She gets her tough/sporty side from Don.  Example:  Deanna had a Wolfpack mobile hanging above her crib since the day she was born.  (In case you're wondering, yes, it played the NC State fight song.)  A die-hard fan, Don has ingrained the phrase "Go Pack!" into Deanna's head.  I think that may have been her first sentence.  And when Deanna starts to cry, Don will tell her to say, "I'm tough!" 

She gets her silly/hyper/rambunctious side from Robbie.  Example: Deanna came to my house on Mother's Day with Don and De.  She was the most hyper-active individual I had ever encountered.  She was bouncing off the walls!  My roommate Emily commented, "She is just like Robbie!" and we all laughed because we knew it was true.   Deanna has a BIG personality, and she definitely gets a lot of that from the Robster.

And of course, outside of the four of us, Deanna has gotten a plethora of great characteristics from all of her many extended family members as well.  Open adoption is certainly multi-faceted, and each person who cares about Deanna has in some way molded her into the amazing nearly-five-year-old that she is today.  

Alright, off to the mountains!  Now if only I could find a really cool rock...

Memorial Day 2010

Friday, June 4, 2010

I've been trying to decide the topic of my next blog post for the past few days.  I'm still undecided, so I'm going to just start writing and see where this goes.  As we say in the media business, "buckle up!" Okay, we don't really ever say "buckle up" but it sounded kind of thrilling before it sounded weird.

So I went to Charleston, South Carolina this past weekend for a mini-road trip.  It was absolutely beautiful!  I would so go back again.  On the way back home to Raleigh, we stopped in to Myrtle Beach for a quick little babe visit.  Don, De and Deanna were all on the beach, so we changed into our swim suits and headed to the beach to see them.  (Along with a few Amstel Lights of course.)

When I first walked up to De, Don, and Deanna on the beach, they were hanging out with some friends from Don's work.  Deanna, who was playing with their son, ran over and gave me a huge hug.  She said, "Hi AmyHutton."  What happened next sort of caught me off-guard.  I watched as Deanna ran back to her little male companion, and she told him excitedly that I was her birthmother.  She said it proudly and with confidence.  Like it was something she was excited about!  That just made my day. The little boy didn't understand what that meant, but he just smiled and nodded.  He didn't have to understand what it meant, but it was obviously something great, something cool.  "That's my birthmom!" 

Heather @ Production, Not Reproduction offered another Open Adoption Roundtable prompt:

Imagine your child as an adult describing their open adoption experience. What do you hope they will be able to say about you? How did you view their other parents? In what ways did you support their relationship with them? 

My hopes for Deanna's adult life are very optomistic.   I don't worry as much as I did before that Deanna won't understand why I placed her for adoption or that she will be mad...I optimistically think (and hope) that Deanna will think about everything she has, not what she doesn't have as a result of the adoption.  I'm sure she will have lots of questions and thoughts as she gets older, but ultimately I think she will understand.  Someday I hope that Deanna will still be able to excitedly and confidently say, even when she is an adult, "That's my birthmom!"  And I'll probably still smile the same way that I did when I heard her say it for the first time on Memorial Day of 2010.

My relationship with Deanna is close and evolving.  Deanna will be 5-years-old in July, and I feel like she is really starting to grasp our true relationship.  Yes, I'm just another person in her family who loves her and wants the best for her, but we share something that is so close and so special.  Even Deanna's relationship with Robbie is so natural and close. When Deanna becomes an adult, I hope 1) that Don never allows her to date and 2) that she will always treasure the relationship we have been building for the past years.

I often think about how lucky I am to have Don, De, and their families in my life.  It means so much to me when Don's mother, Priscilla, sends me sweet messages and tells me how much she admires and appreciates what I have given her family.  Priscilla is an amazing woman...she told me recently that she promises to be the best grandmother ever to Deanna.  That meant the world to me!  Everyone in Don and De's families have welcomed me as one of their own, it's awesome to be able to call them my family.   

Look how much fun we had this weekend! 
And in case you're wondering, I did not injure myself doing the recreational gymnastics in the sand. 

Happy 4th Mother's Day!

Monday, May 10, 2010

I've decided to seriously consider eliminating the space between "Amy" and "Hutton" and just make it one word: "AmyHutton."  That's how Deanna says my name anyway.   She says "AmyHutton" super quickly like it's just one short word.  Like Madonna. Or Bono. Or even Cher.  AmyHutton.  I like it. 

I realized yesterday that De and I will forever share the same Mother's Day anniversary.  Yesterday was our 4th Mother's Day together.  It's kind of cool to think that we both became mothers on the same day.  Isn't that a special and unique bond to share?  I only made this obvious realization as I opened the card that Deanna had made for me, and I saw that the front of the envelope said, "Happy 4th Mother's Day Amy Hutton!"  Has it really been 4 years already?   That I cannot believe.  

So how did I spend my Mother's Day?  Don, De, and Deanna stopped by my house yesterday for a quick visit (they were in town visiting Don's mom and dad this weekend).  Deanna hopped out of the car, performed an impressive display of gymnastics, and watered the flowers, plants, and large wooden swing in my front yard. (Apparently the swing still had some growing to do.)   Then we took some Mother's Day pictures, and Deanna gave me a card that she decorated especially for me.  It was really sweet.  

This Mother's Day wasn't nearly as tough as some of the previous ones I've experienced.  In the past, Mother's Day used to be a day filled with self-pity and sadness. Woe is me.  But yesterday was different from the others; I'm not sure why that is exactly, but I do know that I am feeling more at peace with my decision than I ever thought possible.  Not only that, but instead of feeling like a forgotten mother, I had a plethora of family and friends saying "Happy Mother's Day" to me. This was a small, simple gesture that really meant a lot.  It's nice to feel appreciated.  :)  Not that it's always going to be easy for me from now on, but at this point in my life, I am at a place of acceptance and complete faith in the Lord.  I know that I made the right decisionI know that my life, Deanna's life, meeting the Dollars, were not merely accidents or coincidences.  And I know that God has amazing things in store for me.  I'm not sure exactly what yet, but I've got a great feeling about this upcoming year. 


Yesterday Was The Day

Monday, May 3, 2010

Don Dollar says (via my facebook wall), "It's time for another blog post."  Don, you know how I hate to disappoint. :)  Conveniently, my Breaking Free bible study wrapped up this past week, and my plan is to ease back into the blogging world slowly and cautiously.  I'm ready to pick up where I left off, but instead of feeling an obligation to blog every (x) amount of days, I'm going to blog whenever and wherever I darn well please.

So yesterday was the day.  The day of the Second Empire 5K Classic in downtown Raleigh, of course.  If you don't remember from several of my previous blog posts, this was a 5K race in the heart of downtown Raleigh held by Second Empire Restaurant & Tavern owner, Kim Reynolds, to benefit Hopeful Parents, a nonprofit organization that assists prospective adoptive parents in preparing to adopt and provides community support to adoptive and birth families.  Kim and her husband, who adopted their son a few years ago, are active members of Hopeful Parents.  When they spotted the Mother's Day story in the News & Observer about my open adoption last May, Kim contacted me about helping to plan the race.  Jumping at the chance to promote adoption, I was so in.

Having the opportunity to be a part of the planning committee was nothing short of a privilege. I had the opportunity to work with so many great people who truly believe in celebrating, supporting and promoting adoption.   There were 500+ runners at the event, adoption agencies on-site to answer questions and provide resources, music, mascots, and spectators.  It was so neat to see how many people came out to support the event and celebrate adoption.  What I like best about Hopeful Parents is that the organization strives to provide continued support for adoptive parents, birthfamilies, and adopted children.  No member of the adoption triad left behind!  Which of course is not their slogan, but I'm thinking that it probably should be.

A particularly memorable moment (for me) was before the race began and one member of each side of the adoption triad (adoptive parent, birthmother, adoptee) addressed the crowd on stage.   First, Lea, a board member of Hopeful Parents who adopted her son a few years ago spoke about her experience as an adoptive mother and about Hopeful Parents.  Next, I hopped (literally) up on stage and spoke for a few minutes about my experience with open adoption and my goal to start a birthmother support group here in the Triangle.  (Here comes the memorable part) --> The adoptee, 10-year-old Allyson, spoke about how grateful she is that she was adopted.  It was precious.  I could see a few teary-eyed folks in the crowd as Allyson read from her hand-written list all of the things she has been able to do because of her adoption -- playing on a soccer team, learning to play the violin, having a little brother that she adores, etc, etc, etc.  She noted the fact that she would never have been able to have these things if she had not been adopted. 

I couldn't help but get a little misty-eyed myself, thinking about Deanna as Allyson spoke.  I hope that Deanna feels similarly about her adoption when she gets older.  I hope that she is able to understand how much she has been able to experience because of her adoption and how much she would have missed out on had she not been placed with Don and De. Things like playing soccer every week, being enrolled in a stellar gymnastics program, living at the beach, having a stay-at-home mom and a stable home life are just a few examples of the things that probably would not have been possible for Deanna if I had tried to do things on my own.   While I don't constantly dwell on Deanna's future adoption inquiries, these tough questions are something that I have tried to mentally prepare myself for.  Allyson's speech gave me hope for Deanna's acceptance someday. 

And then I ran the 5K.  I wasn't planning on running since I was speaking literally RIGHT before the race began, but I decided at the last minute that I would just do. Seriously, I almost died in the 90+ degree weather, but I actually ran the entire race without stopping and came in 5th in my age group.  I'm so glad that I decided to challenge myself.  Unfortunately, today I am dealing with the intense repercussions of 1) not stretching well before the race  2) not warming up before the race and 3) not lathering sunscreen on my shoulders/arms/back/chest. 

I'm beginning to realize more and more as I get older that my parents are always right.  Yeah, I admit it.  "Always wear sunscreen, stretch before you exercise, remember to say please and thank you, etc, etc, etc." And the list goes on.   My parents have drilled these concepts into my head time and time again, and it's sad to think that as a 23-year-old, I've only placed the utmost importance on the "remember to say please and thank you" part.   I'm finally beginning to realize that there is a logical explanation behind all of my parent's rules and advice.  But don't tell them I told you that. :)

Well aside from looking like a lobster and feeling the pain of sunburned skin and sore muscles, I am feeling pretty good about myself today.  Thank you to everyone who came out to the race!  
Check out the pictures from the event: