The Other Side of Our Story…Precious Words

In keeping with the theme of Adoption and Motherhood – our daughter’s sweet, amazing, incredible birth Mom, Roxy, has agreed to share her side of our story.  Below is her version, in her own words.  Thank you Roxy!  We love you beyond measure!!!

“At nineteen years old my life had become a tornado of poor decisions, confusion, and naiveté as well as a substantial dose of bad luck.  However, in the eye of that storm there was quiet. There was peace. In the eye of that storm I found a love that was unmatched in ferocity.  It was short lived but it was the best twenty-four hours of my life, to that point. I met my first born child, an angel whose heart beats forever in perfect harmony with my own. This is a day that I will never regret. I will always live in the confidence of the knowledge that I brought one amazing person into this world that day. I will never grieve, be ashamed of, or mourn the moment I held a piece of my heart in my arms. The years prior to and afterward were incredibly painful, but that moment was worth it.

I remember exactly what I was doing when I felt her first kick. I was driving down the highway on my way to class. I was passing a car and there was a semi headed toward me in my lane. All of a sudden I felt little flutters in my stomach. It took me a moment to realize it was my baby! It was like she was saying “I’m in here. Keep me safe.” so I did. I took my vitamins. I went to my appointments. I avoided all the risky things. I sang to her and discussed (obviously one sided) my thoughts on mundane things. I knew when she was the size of a jelly bean, an orange, a cantaloupe. I bought a single onesie and bib before I was even far enough along to know the gender. I loved my unborn child unequivocally and immeasurably from the moment I knew she existed, which made it incredibly easy to convince myself that love was enough. It was not difficult, at a naïve nineteen years old, to satisfy fleeting first time motherhood anxieties with visions of being a single mom superhero that somehow fills every material and emotional need for my unborn child with zero assets, while going to college, and working full time.

I distinctly remember the day that I fully realized my inadequacy.  I remember sitting at the river watching a little girl feed the ducks with her mom and dad. Within moments of observing them, I knew. I knew I had been deceiving myself.  I knew I would never be able to give my little girl all that she deserved. She deserved to have a mom and DAD that would be there for her EVERY day. As bad as I yearned to be able to be everything for her right that moment and forever after, I knew the reality. I knew that she would spend most of her childhood at a daycare being raised by someone else. I knew money would be so incredibly tight that I would make decisions based on cost rather than practicality every time she needed something. Most importantly I knew that I could never fill the role of a father. No matter how badly I wanted it to be true, I couldn’t do that. It was completely impossible.

Of course, there was a birth father. While we shared a brief glimpse into one another’s lives, he was someone who was as foreign to me as any other stranger I passed on the street. He called occasionally. These moments entailed conversations that mostly lacked any substance or emotional connection whatsoever. They also lacked any desire on his part to make a co-parenting situation a reality. If there was an aspiration for a parenting collaboration on his part, I completely missed it. I won’t discount that as a possibility. It’s possible I dismissed the idea based solely on my existing negative impressions of the man. It’s possible I didn’t give him a chance to be anything different than what I knew him to be at that point. I believe that’s called being a realist. That’s human. That’s what we do.

There was no disillusionment for me here.  I had no hope for a fairytale ending. I wasn’t one to think too much about such things anyways. In fact I had the opposite. I had an unbridled love for the little person growing in my womb and an ever-growing abhorrence for the person that helped me get into that particular situation. My idea that it was solely on my shoulders to make the right decisions was further reinforced with the knowledge that in the past his go-to solution to these kinds of discrepancies was to terminate the pregnancies, one solution that was NEVER on the table for me.  Through the grace of God,I have since grown, forgiven, and come to terms with the details of this situation. If our character was forever judged based on the lowest points in our lives, we would be eternally without hope. However, I do feel like this is an important part of the story solely to reflect light on how I came to my decisions. At that time I felt as if his idea of what was happening and my idea of what was happening were so dramatically different. There was no chance of the two of us coming together to do the already daunting task of raising a happy, healthy, and confident child.  Could we have done it? Probably. Could we have done it well? Most likely, no.

So I began to reluctantly entertain the idea of adoption. It began as an information gathering mission. I researched LDS Family Services. I visited and conversed with Rex, the social worker there. He explained that it would be a closed adoption but I would still get to correspond with the family through letters and picture exchanges.  Each time I went to an appointment, filled out paperwork, and discussed my baby girl with him, I held on to a glimmer of hope in the back of my mind. I continued to hope throughout the entire process, that I would figure out a way to keep my baby. I fought a constant internal battle between my heart and my mind, between love and reason. At times it felt as if once I boarded that adoption train I couldn’t make it stop and I couldn’t get off. However, one day Rex presented me with the profiles of four adoptive couples. As I read through them I immediately fell in love with one family, clear front runners, that brought a small sense of peace into my heart. Peace was a feeling I hadn’t experienced in a very long time. I went home and prayed and prayed and prayed some more. Each time I prayed about that couple, the sense of peace grew stronger.  I knew. The perfect family for my baby was clear. I returned to Family Services with my decision. During that meeting I was given more information and paperwork to fill out. At one point Rex, stepped out of the room as I continued to read through the papers, and a pivotal moment occurred. The final paper in the stack he handed me had the couples last name listed, Kenneth and Andrea Walker, plain as day. I immediately began to panic. A cold fear rushed through my body as I knew this mistake had the potential to completely destroy this entire situation. I sat the papers down and contemplated whether or not I should reveal his discrepancy. I chose not to. The stakes were too high and I couldn’t risk letting this opportunity for my baby girl slip away. I remained silent and pressed forward scheduling a meeting with Ken and Andrea.

The day I met them was wonderful. I loved everything about them. They were so obviously in love and had been praying and planning for the arrival of their first baby for years. They were stable and prepared in every way for a child to join their family. They were so kind and considerate. Even now I cry thinking about how they made me feel that day. They immediately became a part of my heart and I finally could rest in the knowledge that things might be ok. I could ensure that my baby has an amazing life. All I had to do was figure out how to muster up the courage and the unselfishness necessary to give a piece of my heart to someone else forever.

I began having contractions at about midnight on August 28th, 2001 and had no idea what was going on. I called my best friend and for hours she sat on the phone with me while I timed each contraction. I was scared. I was a somewhat worried about the physical pain but terrified over the emotional pain I knew I was about to experience. Again, that train wasn’t about to stop and let me off so I went to the hospital. Labor was hard. It hurt. It was scary and strange and awkward and definitely not how I’d envisioned having my first baby. However, after it was all said and done she was here and she was amazing! For the first time in my young life I knew what it was like to love someone so much I would do anything to make them happy, even with the knowledge that I may never be truly happy or whole again. I was afraid to hold her because I knew once she was in my arms, I wouldn’t want to let her go. I did it though. I held her so tight. I sang to her. I whispered stories to her and told her how much I loved her over, and over, and over again. I explained why I was letting her go, hoping that maybe somehow her subconscious would cling to some of my words.

As we left the hospital, my dad pushed me through the halls in a wheelchair and he said something I’ll never forget. He said “we could just take her and go right now.” I considered fleeing, running through the halls with her in my arms and never looking back, escaping the promise I had made. My heart ached terribly knowing within moments I would be saying goodbye to my baby girl. It hurt. Those words don’t even begin to describe how it felt to hand my baby over to someone else. I don’t think there are sufficient words really. I was so happy for her and for them. Ken and Andrea were so respectful, so quietly joyful and also hurting for me. It was evident that they felt my pain intermingled with their joy and it was bittersweet. Part of me was celebrating with them and part of me wanted to curl up in a ball and die. There were definitely fleeting bits of happiness and harmony throughout that placement experience and I knew I was doing the right thing, the best thing. I clung to a mental image I had of my beautiful baby girl laughing, playing, and thriving with a mom and a DAD.

The only way I can describe the days following the placement is excruciatingly painful. My body wanted to nurse, nurture, and rock a baby. My arms ached to hold her close. Sometimes I thought I could still feel her moving around in my belly, still a part of me. I wondered if it that was how an amputee feels. I’d heard when a limb is removed the patient often still feels it there. I still felt like my baby was there at times and it was crushing when I pulled myself back to reality. The world went on without me.  I didn’t have any idea how heartbreak could produce such physical pain. It’s a ton of bricks on your chest. It’s feeling like you’re drowning in mud. It’s mostly indescribable. Being in that type of pain is lonely.  This wasn’t a pain that anyone or anything could remedy.

I did have some family and friends for support but I’m not really the type to openly share my emotions. I do remember a significant moment the day after the placement when I felt like I might just die. The idea of dying from a broken heart felt so real and so possible that day. I called my best friend. I desperately needed help. She wasn’t home and I recall her mother asking me how I was doing. I broke down and said “not good” and I’ll never forget her reply. She said “oh, so you do actually have a heart in there somewhere.”  I never opened up to anyone again. Most of the world treated me with the attitude that “you did it to yourself”.  Most people didn’t come out and say those words but I’ve always had an uncanny ability to feel the emotions of others. At that point in my life it was a curse, a compounding factor to my existing state of grief that nearly crushed me. I knew why I did it. I knew who I did it for. I tried not to care what anyone else thought.

I worked in a large call center where many people had seen my pregnancy, but didn’t know me personally. I took a week off to recover. Returning to work was difficult. There were countless awkward conversations to navigate. Numerous people congratulated me on my baby. It hurt every time. I tried to side-step the details, but often failed. Word got around after a few days and pretty soon no one said anything to me again. Ever.  Except for a handful of friends, people I knew avoided me for the most part. I’m not sure if it was because it was awkward for them or they truly didn’t like me anymore.  I quit my job within a few months. I needed a fresh start. I couldn’t be “that girl that gave her baby away” anymore. I really wish from here I could say I turned to God for solace and peace, but I did not. Not yet.

Years of mistakes, struggles, and poor choices I made in an effort to fill my empty heart came first. Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back I realize I should have sought counseling. I should have figured out how to mend my heart and heal in a healthy way. I should have done things differently. There was a better way. Fortunately, I eventually did find God. He’d been with me all along. I just couldn’t see through the self-inflicted fog of sorrow and agony. I knew putting my experience on paper would hurt.

Almost fourteen years of life experience and perspective has helped soften the pain but it’s a wound that will never fully heal. However, I do feel strongly now that Rex’s mistake fourteen years ago was my saving grace. Just knowing that someday I might be able to find my other family again and reconnect with them has given me a glimmer of hope to cling to all this time.

A little less than a year ago I did contact Ken, Andrea, and our daughter and have found so much healing through being able to connect with them. They have so graciously accepted my presence back in their lives and we are going to meet again for the first time. I have always viewed The Walkers as the hero and heroine in this story and have never once believed them to be liable for my pain but rather solely responsible for giving my baby girl a wonderful childhood. They are truly a blessing to me. I don’t pretend to know what to expect , how to navigate this upcoming meeting or what the future holds but regardless, I will forever know that at one point in my life I was able to give a gift of immeasurable value to Ken and Andrea and to my beautiful daughter, and my namesake, Lou Lou”

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Adopting Bubba – Part 1

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This little Turkey is our Bubba.  We brought him home in May 2007 and it was such a joyous experience.

We adopted Bubba through the State and it was a totally different experience than Miss Lou Lou’s adoption since we did a private adoption agency.  Bubba was 13 months old when we brought him home and he was a wobbly walking toddler that was into anything and everything.  His precious chubby cheeks were so munch-able and I love love giving my babies kisses, Bubba was no exception.

For those of you have followed a bit of my essays on our adoption story, adopting Bubba was every bit as emotional, stressful, and exciting as Lou Lou’s.

We went through a lot of tears, and a million papers and binders to look through to choose our child.

First of all, we started the process after feeling we should do foster care (Ok, foster care is a whole 1000 page essay/book in itself…to come another day).

We had about 10 children arrive in 2 years, I count 10 of them, even though a couple of the children returned to us 2 to 3 times.  They were my babies and I tried so hard to teach them and help them and learn and work through their attachment issues.  It was an eye opening experience that I don’t know if I would truly choose to do again. (ok, enough about foster care for now).

In 2006 we started the adoption process.  We had been trying to adopt through the state for 2 years.  We searched and searched, prayed and stewed, on and off throughout those years through about a million four inch binders with piles upon piles of pages of babies and children and multiple siblings that were available for adoption.

We wanted a boy, preferably black so that Lou Lou would identify with another child that looked like her.

When you adopt through the state where we live, you have the dreaded opportunity to be an incalculable number of potential parents/families to adopt these children.  It all starts with our social worker, her name was Jeanine and she was a gem.  From the very beginning she worked with us and helped answer questions, soothe our anxiety, and answer more questions whenever we needed her.  She was overworked, under paid, and truly not in it for the money or the fame.  She seemed to be in it for the children and families.  These types of social workers are very hard to find, in our experience anyway.

After looking through the available children in those binders, you choose a few children that you are interested in learning more about.  Our social worker would then email the child’s social worker with our information & Home Study to see if we would be a good fit for that child.  The first process of being chosen, is that we would go against 2 other families to meet with a committee to decide the child’s and our families fate.

One in three.  33% chance.  Odd’s weren’t the best, but we felt positive and hopeful, but better than the 18% chance of our fertility working years before.  We prayed to know if we should adopt him, and that we might be chosen to add him to our family.

We put our names in for quite a few children.  We weren’t chosen then and weren’t quite a good fit for those children.

Then came Keith.

I looked at Keith’s picture and his information on his paperwork, and I tried to imagine him in our family.  At the time, we were hopefully optimistic, and like the cases before, we didn’t think anything would come of adopting him.

Keith was about 2, he was black and truly adorable.

We received a call from Jeanine about a week after submitting our home study.  It was exciting.

Jeanine went to the committee meeting later in the month at a state DHS office about 5 hours from our small town.  She presented our information and home study, trying to “sell us” to the committee in every possible positive way.  We tried to help sell us by sending Jeanine with a family scrapbook we had put together for the committee to see us and get to know us better.  We were more than just pictures and words on a page and we tried our best to share our story the best way we knew how.

The next day, she called me to tell me the good news.  Joyful news in fact.

We had been chosen to adopt Keith.  We would have five days to look over his full file and decide if it was truly something we would be willing to do.  He was drug affected and had a few other medical issues, but I was happy.  I felt anxiously excited and called Ken and all of our family that we had been chosen and could possibly bring Keith home in a week.

And that’s when the obstacles and confusion arrived.

We currently had our 4 year old Lou Lou, and another foster child was on her third visit to our home in as little as 18 months.  I didn’t want this little girl to have to go to another foster home, so we informed our worker that we really wanted to have this little girl live with us during our transition to adopt Keith until she could transition home, or to another home.  We knew that we could pick up Keith within a week, and that it truly would be difficult to find a willing foster home that could take on the little girl who had such incredible attachment issues.

I expected that the social workers would be fine with our decision to keep our foster daughter along with adding Keith to our home.  The state DHS units encourage adoptive families to do foster care so they can get a glimpse into what they would be experiencing with their potential child(ren).

Keith’s social worker called me the next day.  She told me that she wouldn’t allow us to have Keith in our home until our foster daughter was placed in another home.

I was so upset.  I felt like they were punishing us for thinking of our foster daughter’s needs after encouraging us to foster in the first place.

So we prayed…just like we always have.  We try to pray daily for inspiration and guidance for that day and for the struggles we are facing.

Adopting Keith was no exception.

We prayed, fervently hoping and expecting the answer our hearts desired.  Lou Lou was getting older and we wanted our children to be closer in age so they could grow up together.

Nevertheless, the more we prayed, the more confused we felt.  The warm comforting answer we were seeking didn’t come.  Instead confusion and frustration with Keith’s social worker and the whole experience didn’t feel right.

My heart sank and I cried.  We discussed our confusion with each other and our extended family.

We decided to tell the agency we wouldn’t be adopting Keith.

After trying and waiting so long to add a Son to our family, I never imagined we would be denying and turning away a child that we had been approved to adopt by the proper channels.

But they were the proper channels in an earthly view of things, but the divine Heavenly proper channel told us No.  Not this child.

Making the phone call to turn away Keith as our Son was one of the hardest phone call’s I have ever made.  Our worker was shocked and surprised at the news.  I felt really horrible that we had wasted her time in presenting us to the committee.  How do you explain to someone who might possibly not believe in God or even Jesus Christ or prayer, that you didn’t feel right about adopting a child you had been accepted to adopt?  I tried to explain we prayed about him and didn’t feel he should be a part of our family.  I think Jeanine tried to understand.

Jeanine asked me a week later if we wanted to look at the huge binders again to start the process over.

I told her I didn’t think my heart could handle it at the time.  I needed to take a few months to decide if we would proceed or give up altogether.

I am anything but a wimp…and I wasn’t ready to throw up my hands and walk away from a future Son.

I wanted Ken to have a Son.  He was so close to his Dad and I wanted our Son to experience that same bond with his Dad.

So I waited trying to get up the courage  to look through the binders.  November turned up unexpectedly and changes occurred.  Our Foster daughter’s 3 DAY OLD baby brother came to stay with us the day before Thanksgiving.  I loved having that baby in our home.  His precious face, how the baby lotion smelled on his skin after his bath.  I loved rocking and cooing and spending time with him.

He only stayed with us for 4 days.  It was so heart wrenching to give him back to the social worker to drive him and his sister to their sweet Momma who was in rehab.

I bawled and sobbed when they drove away.  I imagined I was experiencing maybe a sliver of their Momma’s heart ache when she lost him after giving birth because of her unsafe conditions at the time.

December and Christmas arrived.  Our Foster daughter brought us lice on Christmas Eve and returned to visit her Momma in rehab for the weekend.

On Christmas eve night around 11 pm, another DHS social worker called asking if we could take in a little girl.  She had apparently been in a car with a drunk man (who was friends of her Mom).  The man had been pulled over and sent to jail.  This little girl didn’t have a place to go, her Mom would lose custody temporarily for unsafe conditions.

Of course I couldn’t turn this precious child away.

There is always room in our Inn.

She couldn’t tell us her name.  This had a hard time sleeping that night and wouldn’t sleep in our only empty bed, which was a crib for our not yet chosen Son.  So I rocked her as the Christmas lights glimmered.  I sang to her, “How I love my Pretty Baby”, and I am a Child of God.”  She soon stopped feeling fearful of her new foreign environment and fell asleep on the couch.  During that weekend, we called her “Angel”.  We did however run into one of the Police officers who had pulled the man in the car over and found her in the backseat.  He recognized her in the shopping cart at the store we were at.  He told us her name, which was beautiful, but somehow she would always be my “Angel”.

Before we knew it February arrived.  After experiencing such an emotional, cathartic holiday season, I realized my heart was once again ready to invade and combat those giant binders.

“Operation::Find Our Son” was a go.

Jeanine dropped the stack of binders off one day while Ken was at work. Lou Lou and I turned page after page after page.  I can’t remember how many binders we looked through.  The pages were too numerous to count and I had chosen a couple children and flagged them with post-it notes as possibilities to show Ken when he returned.

And then I saw him.  The Holy Spirit witnessed to me at that very moment that this little baby would be my baby!

His sweet caramel skin and chubby cheeks were beyond precious.  He had the most adorable afro I had ever seen on a little munchkin.

Bubba

My heart soared, warmed, and flooded with emotion.  After searching, working, praying, fasting, and waiting…I KNEW that this little boy was OUR BOY.

How could you not love that baby?  Look at his baby teeth!  Oh my, I still love to look at that baby picture because I feel the same emotions I felt on that day.  I’m so truly blessed!

And finally began our journey to bring Bubba home.

(Part 2 coming soon)

Dreams of Momma

My emotions run deeply in my soul and I know where it stems from, from that sweet Mother I love beyond measure.

From a young age I grew up without my Mother.  She was the epitome of love and softness and I miss her every single day.  I try not to think about it too much or the familiar ache returns to my chest and the tears continue to fall like rain on a stormy day.

I have plenty to keep me busy, so I pull out those emotions less and less and I’ve come to acknowledge that I have them and can even hold it together when I talk about her for the most part.

But there are days, moments rather.  Ok, there are even seconds, when I catch myself aching.  And I have to snap myself back into reality and remember that I’m not a victim, I’m not an orphan, I’m not even a child anymore.  But there are some days seconds moments, I still feel like a child.

(Ok, my Hubby and Sisters might say I still act like a child, but that’s for a different essay).

I got to see my Mom this past week.

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Even though it was a dream, it was a beautiful dream at that.

Mom has been gone for nearly 30 years.

For the first time in my life since she has passed, she was in my dreams.

This is one for the record books people…Alright, just my record book.

Wow you’re no fun.  For me, it should be shouted from the roof tops and written in Time Magazine, or even at least posted in Times Square.  But you know, not everything gets center stage.  Especially not dreams.

I can’t really explain much about the dream, since most of my dreams are random glimpses into what I’m experiencing or what I am struggling with…like Church duties, daily routines, stress from sicknesses or the like or even craft projects I’ve been working on.  There are times even, believe it or not, the spy movies or TV shows I watch will inspire some wild crazy dream.  It’s funny how dreams mimic what I’m doing or going through, almost like my brain continues on as if I’m still alert, only I’m not, of course.

This dream, well it was a glimpse into a future I cannot wait to see.

I long for this moment and have since I was a little 11 year old girl learning for the first time that my Mom had died.  I still ache for that little girl…the pain sometimes is so tangible, I ache for her sadness, her loneliness, the utter despair of feeling completely lost.  The feeling of “Now what?”

In this dream, I was walking in a crowd of people.  I don’t know where I was, it seemed like a gathering of people like at a mall or social gathering like church.  I was even talking with other people around me, whoever they were.  I don’t know if we were inside or out, I don’t recall a lot of the specifics.  I think I was holding something in my hands, at least I feel like I remember holding something.

But mostly I only remember seeing her beautiful soft face, and my brain actually remembering what her face looks like.  I think my heart stopped for a second and then my brain said, “There she is, that’s your Momma.  Run to her”.

I noticed instantly that Mom looked a lot like me, and it was almost as if she was my mirror image.  In fact we were very close to the same age, which is weird because she was about 55 when she passed away, and I’m about 15 years away from 55.  Her hair was short as I remember, and dark black too, which was accurate.  Her white petal soft skin illuminated against her bright crimson red lipstick. She was every bit the Mother I remembered, and more.  She was like the 1950’s woman I imagined she would have been if she weren’t handicapped all her life.  She was a knock out!  Her smile was infectious and made her even more gorgeous.

She seemed to recognize me in almost the same instant that I did her.  The look on her face was beyond happiness, so I guess that means that there really isn’t a word to describe the joy on her face.  She tilted her head as if to say, “Ahhh my dear Daughter, there you are, I’ve been waiting for you.”  The light bounced in her eyes as she watched me approach her.

She seemed to push away whoever she was talking with and drop whatever she could to get to me.  There was such urgency on her face, but utter happiness too all mixed in one emotion.  We were finally re-united as Mother and Daughter.  Lost no more.

I know we hugged and I couldn’t let go…weeping and jabbering and trying to sum 30 years up in just a few seconds.  But the most amazing thing to me is, I didn’t need to say a word.

She already knew.