Squirrels, Open Adoption, More Squirrels

Friday, January 22, 2010

On Wednesday morning, I was driving to work when I got a call from my roommate.  Apparently she had gone for a quick jaunt around the neighborhood and had forgotten to take her key with her.  I accidentally locked her out when I left for work.  Poor thing!  She sprinted to the gas station down the street and called me on the gas station owner's wife's cell phone.  To be politically correct, there was a huge language barrier between the two of them.  I can only imagine how that conversation played out.  But she was finally able to get a hold of me, and I immediately turned my all-wheel drive sleigh around.

So I headed back home, and I was coming in hot on the homestretch to my street.  Suddenly, a squirrel appeared out of nowhere and jumped directly in front of my car!  The squirrel was paralyzed in fear, and it couldn't decide which way to run.  And that's when I ran over it.  I didn't do it on purpose.  I did it because I couldn't stop in time, and ever since I first learned how to drive, my dad has burrowed it in my brain to never ever ever ever swerve for an animal because you're more likely to get in an accident by trying to avoid the animal than by just running it over.  With my dad's words playing in my head, I cringed as I heard the thump.  Much to my surprise, as I glanced in my rear-view mirror, I didn't see any roadkill.  There was no squirrel in sight.  It was the strangest thing!  I continued on my way, hurriedly unlocked the door for my rooms and I bolted to work. 

Then, later that evening, I had the amazing opportunity to be a special guest on MomTV's Adoption Angles web-show, and aside from a few kinks here and there (and a crazzzzzzy distracting echo in my ear at the beginning), I think things went pretty well...until the very end.  After the webshow was over, Melissa "signed-off" and I figured that meant my video was shut off too. My cell phone rang, and I saw that it was my roommate.  I answered it and I'm pretty sure I updated her on the squirrel scenario from earlier that day.  I think I said something along the lines of, "I cannot believe that squirrel today!" and "I hit it and it just disappeared!  I think I killed it, but I don't know.  There was no roadkill, isn't that strange?"  Then I received an instant message from one of the show's viewers who informed me that my video feed was actually still live and my personal call with my roommate was in fact being broadcast over the Internet.  So there's that. 

Just another day in the life of Amstel!  
Here's a recording of the show if you happened to miss out on my debut of Guinea-pig awkwardness:

Speaking of open adoption...
Here is one of the first pictures I took with De after babe was born.

And here we are almost five years later!

Adoption Angles on MomTV tonight @ 9!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I am happy to report that I completed my second yoga class this past Saturday--and I didn't feel the incredible urge to compete!  It was so relaxing.  Unfortunately, that didn't affect my level of next-day(s) soreness, and I'm still recovering from my failed attempt at a perfectly-executed forearm stand.  My hands were so sweaty that my long-haired, foreign accented yoga instructor-man had to personally deliver his sweaty towel for me to place on my mat so I would stop slipping during downward-facing dog.  I'm finally willing to admit that I may not be a natural after all. 

I love how Don and De have maintained such great relationships with not just Robbie and I, but with both of our families as well.  I am constantly amazed at how our families have really come together during these past few years and have learned to work together in our open adoption.  It wasn't always this easy, though.

We met the Dollars through Robbie's parents, who had met them through a family-friend/work relationship.  When Robbie's parents first met Don and De at a party in Raleigh (the Leonards had just moved to Raleigh in 2004 for Mr. Leonard's job), the conversation somehow turned to Robbie's dad, Rob, asking Don and De why they didn't have any kids yet.  They told him their story and they mentioned how they had been looking towards adoption.  Robbie's mom, Mary Beth, offered to help them, and she mentioned that her sister-in-law was an Ob/Gyn who has placed many newborn babies.  Mary Beth, Rob, Don, and De quickly became friends, and they often found themselves running into each other at parties, work gatherings, etc.  Then, a few months later, we came to find that I actually had a bun in my own oven!  And I'm not referring to Pillsbury.

Robbie's family very much supported adoption because they knew the Dollars well, and they had many conversations discussing with them how our families would all be able to maintain close relationships with the little babe after the (pending) adoption.  My family, who was still living in Pittsburgh, had no idea who the Dollars were.  Actually, they didn't even know that I was considering adoption.  My family had already begun making plans for me to raise the baby with their help. We had already decided that I could still go to college during the week, and I would have to come home on the weekends to take care of the baby.  Robbie would quit school to get a job, and we would most likely get married to make it all official.  I faced a huge internal conflict once I had actually met the Dollars and started to actually consider open adoption.  My family was probably confused and hurt that I had changed my mind.  The reality of the situation was that I was torn in so many directions because everyone had a different an idea of what was "best."  Before I left school to be home-bound tutored, several teachers even approached me and told me what they thought was best for me.  Best for ME, not best for baby.  I even had one woman at school who suggested I consider having an abortion so that I could continue on with my life.  Thanks, but no thanks. 

The weeks leading up to the adoption were so draining. Words cannot describe what I went through emotionally.  I was still not 100% certain that I could go through with the adoption until I physically signed the papers. After I signed them, my family came to support my decision.  When they finally agreed to meet the Dollars, they immediately knew why I had chosen these people to raise my daughter.  A lot of people had a completely different view of adoption until they actually met Don and De and started experiencing our open adoption firsthand.  There were doubts, fears, and concerns about how we would be able to maintain such an open relationship with each other.  Today, I can't imagine it being any different.  Our families keep in close contact today through emails, phones calls and visits.  The Dollars even take a trip once a year to visit my family in Pittsburgh during the summer, and they usually stay at our house.  There's never a dull moment during those trips!

De and Don have really done a great job of  keeping our families updated on Deanna by sharing silly stories, posting pictures, and keeping my parents involved by asking questions about how I was when I was Deanna's age.  I think it's amazing to hear just how much Deanna is like me when I was young.  When I was little, I used to be extremely shy in school. I hardly ever sang out loud, and the teachers often told my mom they were worried about my social growth.  I laugh at that story now.  Recently, Deanna's teacher told De that Deanna was being rather quiet in school and she was concerned.  Because our adoption is so open, De was able to ask my mom about my behavior and mannerisms as a child.  As she came to find out, "Amy Hutton" did that too!  And for the most part, I think I turned out (somewhat) normal...right?  Maybe not.  

Last month, my parents mailed a Christmas present to Deanna, and De took it upon herself to make an entire facebook album dedicated to Deanna showing off my parents' gift. The album is titled, "Thank You Mimi & Papa Keith!"  Wasn't that sweet?


Deanna has more aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, neighbors and friends than even I can keep track of, but she is so great at remembering everyone.  I attribute her excellent memory to the pounds of watermelon that I ravenously consumed during gestation.  De likes to constantly remind Deanna of the people that she doesn't get to see very often.  A few weeks ago, De asked Deanna, Do you remember who Mimi (my mom) is?  She said, "Yes Ma'am."  Then De asked Deanna, "Who is Mimi?"  Deanna responded nonchalantly, "That girl who lives with Papa Keith."   Haha, Papa Keith is my dad. Witty little thing.  

Adoption Angles premiers online tonight at 9:00 P.M.  Adoption Angles is an online web-cast on MomTV, and it's about people from all sides of the adoption equation who have been touched one way or another by adoption.  I'm going to be sharing my story and answering your questions tonight with the help of my wonderful host, Melissa from Full Circle.  We certainly hope you'll consider joining us "Guinea-pigs" as we jump into this new experience together!

Prayer Breakfast & Rally for Life This Saturday

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On Saturday, January 16th, 2010, at 9:30 a.m., the 11th Annual 2010 Prayer Breakfast* and Rally for Life, sponsored by North Carolina Right to Life, will be held at the Holiday Inn Brownstone Hotel and Conference Center at 1707 Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Angela Franks, Ph.D., Author of Margaret Sanger's Eugenic Legacy: The Control of Female Fertility (2005) will be the featured speaker at the Prayer Breakfast. 

The Breakfast will be followed by a Rally, which will begin at 1:00 p.m. on Nash Square in downtown Raleigh.  Angela Franks, Ph.D., and Deanna Jones, Author of To Be a Mother, will be the featured speakers at the Rally.  Alyse Player will be the featured vocalist at both events.  There is no cost to attend the Rally.

*The cost for the Breakfast is $30/person, $50/married couple, $25/students, clergy, and seniors.  Payments can be made using MasterCard, Visa, or check.  Please call 1-800-392-6275 to register by phone using MC or Visa.  Mail checks to NCRTL, PO Box 9282, Greensboro, NC 27429-0282.

For more information please visit: http://www.trianglerighttolife.org 

Perfectionism Sucks

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I experienced my first yoga class this past weekend.  And I'm just now realizing that I probably shouldn't have tried to compete with the girl on the mat next to me.  She must have been a) an expert, b) double-jointed, or c) some sort of amphibious non-human creature.  I'd imagine that it's probably some combination of all three because the only body parts that aren't still aching after that 90-minute stretch-fest are my fingers.  On the bright side, there's no better time to blog than now, right?  

Onward and upward!  I have mentioned that I am a recovering perfectionist. What does that even mean? A recovering perfectionist?  Well, it's sort of like being an alcoholic. You must first admit that you have a problem.  Then you can work on fixing it.  I have admitted to myself (and now publicly to my sea of avid readers) that I have a real problem with perfectionism.  I've have been this way my entire life, but I never knew there was an actual term for it or that it was a problem until my freshman year at Meredith College.

You probably remember the post I wrote a while back regarding the woman in the Education Department at Meredith College who told me that I obviously didn't care enough about children to become a teacher since I couldn't decide between a career in education or communication.  Anyway, after numbly finding my way into the counseling center on that terrible afternoon, I found myself continuing to go back to counseling every two weeks from that point on.  It began with working through the traumatic encounter that had just happened with Dr. Parker, and then it progressed into dealing with other things. 

At the very end of our first session, my counselor handed me a bright green brochure with the word: "PERFECTIONISM" plastered on the front.  What's this? I thought to myself. 

Perfectionism is self-destructive thinking. It can include extreme fear of failure, striving to be the best, to reach the ideal, and to never make a mistake, a habit developed from youth that keeps you constantly alert to the imperfections, failings, and weakness in yourself and others, setting unattainable goals for yourself and becoming depressed when you don't reach them, and the underlying motive present in the fear of failure and fear of rejection.

According to LIVESTRONG.COM, there are many irrational beliefs that contribute to perfectionism: 

-the belief that no matter what you attempt it is never good enough to meet your own or others' expectations.
-the belief that whatever you attempt in life must be done perfectly with no mistakes, slip-ups or inconsistencies.
-the belief that unless I am number 1, there is no sense in trying. 
-the belief that winning is the only acceptable goal. 
-the belief that it is what I achieve rather than who I am that is important.
-the belief that I have no value in life unless I am successful.

-the belief that I should never let anyone know what goals I am working on--that way they won't consider me a failure if I don't reach them.

I think the worst part about perfectionism is that you learn to associate your entire self-worth based on how much you have accomplished.  Perfectionists often feel an overwhelming sense of guilt and depression as a result of their failures.  Looking back, I now see how this self-destructive disease contributed to my downward spiral after learning I was pregnant.  Not only had I failed myself, but I had failed, publicly, in front of everyone else around me.  To a perfectionist, that's like that end of the world.

I should probably give you some background about my prior-to-pregnancy life.  I'm the middle sister, therefore I have severe middle-child syndrome.  My parents would probably react the same way (by saying, "good job, honey") whether I had gotten an A+ on a math test or discovered a cure for cancer.  I thrived on their positive-reinforcement.  I was extremely competitive from a young age, and if I wasn't naturally good at something, I had a tendency to just give up. *"If I'm not "number one," what's the point in trying?*  My older sister practiced the piano often and quickly became a young Mozart, making up her own songs, singing beautifully when family and friends would come over.  She was good at everything and she didn't even have to try.  I practiced the piano and quit out of frustration when I couldn't advance past "the buzzing bee."  I wasn't very musically inclined, but I was good at sports.  When my parents threw me in the pool for the first time, I found that I was a natural at swimming.  I remember the sense of incredible accomplishment I felt after joining our summer-league swim team and beating all the other 8-year-olds in sprint free-style.  I loved to win, and I loved the recognition I received as I got better and better. I was finally the best at something.

When I was in high school, my perfectionism got worse.  I had the mindset that I needed to achieve more, to be even more successful, and that failure wasn't an option.  I won the gold medal in our district championship in the 50-yard-freestyle and finished in the top 10 at our state competition.  I made it on the front page of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and I had a huge congratulatory poster displayed at school.  During my senior year of high school, I was crowned Homecoming Queen, and I had the highest hopes of earning a full-swimming scholarship in college the next year.  My life was completely perfect.  And then I found out I was pregnant. 

In my tiny little distorted perfectionist world, everything I had ever achieved had just flown out the window.  In my mind, I had failed and that canceled everything else out.  When you're a perfectionist, to fail is to lose everything.  I had lost everything.  

The big turn-around for me was when I finally made it into the counseling center on that fateful day.  I had no idea what perfectionism was, let alone that I had an extreme case of it.  When I realized how much of my self-worth was based on my achievements, it's no wonder I fell into such a deep depression after the pregnancy.  The more I learned about perfectionism, the more I realized just how destructive it had become in my life.  Perfectionism can be a positive thing because it can motivate you to do awesome things and it can keep you focused on setting high goals for yourself, but it can take over your life if you don't keep it under control. 

I'm proud to say that I am now a recovering perfectionist.  I have learned to recognize when my thoughts start to become too irrational, when my outlook starts to become too unrealistic, when I start to become too critical, and when my goals start to become too unattainable.  I have surrounded myself with easy-going, carefree people who have taught me how to loosen up, to let me hair down, and to get out of my comfort zone.  Nobody wants to be around the person who is always critical of herself and others!  

Don't get me wrong--I realize that I'm not going to be able to change who I am as a person. I'm still going to be the same Amy Hutton I was fifteen years ago.  Minus the big bangs and the buck teeth.  I'm still going to dislike the things I'm not naturally good at, I'm still going to be driven by the need to succeed, and I'm still going to be competitive at times.  I am how God made me, and that's not going to change.  But as long as I keep it all in perspective and as long as I'm not competing to do the best "downward-facing-dog" on the yoga mat, I think I'm going to be just fine. 

Reality of Being a Birthmom & Pepperoni Rolls

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sometimes I feel like I've come so far in the past five years.  I have been through some pretty tough life challenges, and I managed to survive.  Amen to that!  Since the birth of Deanna, I've spoken about pro-life issues, helped student moms, educated people about open adoption, graduated from college, landed a real job, and still maintained a close relationship with my daughter and her adoptive family.  I feel like I've accomplished so much in these past five years, and when I actually stop to think about everything I've been through, it all seems so surreal.  Is this really my life?  Sometimes I still can't believe how I got to be where I am today.

But sometimes, every so often, I have days where I feel like I'm right back to where I started.  Back to the bad stuff.  Recently, someone made a remark about how I "got knocked up" in high school.  I probably wasn't supposed to hear it, but I did.

Sometimes I think that no matter how much time has passed, no matter how much I have tried to right my wrongs and make up for my mistakes, some people will never let me be anything other than the girl who got pregnant in high school.  I know that I hurt alot of people because of my actions back in the day, but here we are five years later and I'm still paying for it.  I think I will always be paying for it.   

When you're a birthmom, your experience with unplanned pregnancy becomes a huge part of your identity.  And if you allow it to, it can take over your life.  It becomes a part of who you are, and it can be extremely difficult to relate to other people who don't understand you because of it.  When you're a birthmom, after going through arguably one of the most difficult life experiences known to mankind, you just have a different mindset and perspective on things.  It's hard to explain.  It can make you feel different.  It can make you feel alone.  It can make you feel years beyond your age.  Because when you're a birthmom, there are only a few people on this entire earth who can truly understand what you've been through.  That's mind-boggling.  Birthmoms: the few, the proud, the extremely fertile.

I recently received an email from a 15-year-old who placed her daughter in an open adoption about a month ago.  She said told me that she finally feels like somebody understands what she's been through.  I do.  Trust me, I do. I know how easy it is to feel like you're the only one when you're a birthmom.   

When people talk about my experience in a derogatory way, it takes me back to the high school lunch room.  This is my first memory of when my classmates first started finding out that I was pregnant.  You know how it works.  One person tells one person. That person tells one more person.  Soon everyone knows.  I remember standing in the lunch line waiting to buy a pepperoni roll.  As I stood in line, I glanced up and saw an entire table of football players staring at me.  They were pointing, whispering, and blatantly looking at my stomach as if they were going to see a baby bump suddenly emerge (I was two weeks pregnant).   As I made my way through the line, I got angrier and angrier.  I was truly embarrassed.  The staring continued, and I finally had enough.  I pointed at the ringleader of the table, and I gave him the double-bird.  Yep, I flipped him off with both fingers.  I know, I know.  That was really mature of me.  But at the time, it was my only line of defense. I paid for my lunch, and my emotions suddenly got the best of me.  Completely out-of-character, I marched right over to their lunch table and I asked them what the **** they were looking at.  Then, I seriously considered slapping the ringleader in the face with my pepperoni roll.  I didn't act on that urge, but part of me wishes I had for the sake of a good story and a nice week-long vacation from school.  

Over the past five years, I've learned to deal with criticism differently.  Instead of wishing to slap someone in the face with a carb-wrapped meat roll, I have found more constructive ways of dealing with things.  I think, I reflect, I blog, and I understand that people are people.  And some people are never going to let me be anything other than the girl who got pregnant in high school. That's the reality of being a birthmom. 

On the other hand, I know that there are so many people in my life who love me for who I am and respect me more for what I've been through.  There's a bigger, better part about being a birthmom that overshadows all the bad stuff.  It's called saving lives. When you're a birthmom, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you saved at least one life.  Probably more, depending on who has heard about your story.  Birthmothers take the road less traveled, knowing upfront that it's not going to be easy, all in the name of giving their child a better life.  Birthmothers will probably never know the full extent of the positive impact their decision has had on others.  Birthmothers are people who had acquired incredible mental toughness and maturity, and who have the satisfaction of knowing that sharing their stories can help so many other people.  How many people can claim that?  To me, that's one of the best parts about being a birthmom. 

This entire post has been somewhat of a word-vomit, but that's okay.  I'm not trying to make everything perfect.  I'm just trying to be real, to be honest about what it's really like to be a birthmom.  Sometimes it's just an explosion of crazy thoughts.  But I'm going to continue sharing because I know that somebody out there is taking something positive away from it.  People always ask me, "Do you have any regrets?"  My answer to that has always been no...until now.  After taking a trip down memory lane and remembering the lunch room tale, I sort of kind of slightly maybe just a tiny bit regret not launching that pepperoni roll after all.  That would have been a heck of a story to tell the grand kids someday!

New Year

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New year = new look.  Hope you like.

For those kind folks who are interested in volunteering to help with the 5K Classic, please chime in with your contact information and someone from the volunteer committee will be in touch.

Christmas in the 'burgh: