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Sunday, March 22, 2015

I Heard AND Felt The Relief...

*Names have been changed for privacy*

Right after I had placed a sweet perfect baby girl for adoption I was visiting my grandparents in California with a bunch of my college friends, one of which is now my husband. The pain of placement was still fresh and my friends were helping me live life and enjoy the moment. 

Towards the end of our trip my Grammy pulled me aside and told me 
"I don't tell many people this but when I was nineteen I placed a baby girl for adoption. I don't know where she is or how she is doing, but i know it was right. I am thankful that I had a caseworker who violated the rules and got me a picture of her. That's all I have."
At first I was thankful. I wasn't the only one. Then I was surprised. She went through this too.
Then I was broken. Why doesn't she get to know? I get to know, I had just seen my birth daughter who was 6 months old a few days before. Why doesn't she have pictures? Why doesn't she have support? Why doesn't she know her name? How has she healed and moved forward?

As time went on, adoption became my passion. It became a huge part of what I did everyday. I blogged my feelings, I talked about it, I worked through it my way. One time in my parent's office I was telling my Grammy of all my adoption adventures. She started crying. I could SEE the pain. I could FEEL the pain. She told me how she wanted to find her, but didn't know how.

F A S T    F O R W A R D 

October 2014. Grammy and I had another talk in my parent's family room. We spoke again about reunification. I offered my help. I have had luck in 8 other reunifications in the past 4 years, I figured, Why not try and help my own grandmother...

She gave me the information. She put her paper into the Utah Reunion Registry. Still Nothing.

I searched and searched. Nothing. Here was the thing. My grandmother was unsure of a few things. IMPORTANT things. like EXACT birth date...kinda important. She didn't know the doctor's name. Her mother had made her use a fake name, so her birth daughter wouldn't be able to find her. I occasionally checked and put an alert on the boards to email me when something matched. nothing

Well just about a two weeks ago, I felt this urge to look again. I googled the month and year, adoptee, and the state of birth. I got 3 matches. All of them to the same person. We will call her Jane. I instantly went on a searching rampage to find Jane. I knew in my heart of hearts, this was her. God (and google) had led me to her. I could not find her contact info anywhere.

The next day I spoke to my Facebook friend and forever hero Susan Williams.
She runs Search Quest America...Anyways...I digress
She starts giving me all these phone numbers and number after number I say, "Hi this message is for Jane, if you were adopted in ____ of ____ will you please give me a call back. NOTHING. Then I found a number I knew it had to be, I asked Susan to get me the whole thing. I tried calling and got no response, So I texted. It said " Hi, If you are Jane from the search boards who was adopted in ___ of ___ give me a call. I think I know your birth mother."

I got a call. My heart started racing. My mind was jumbled. My hand shaking. I answered.

We talked, compared the little information she did have. She asked me a few questions that only my grandmother would know. I called my grandmother and asked her the questions. THEY MATCHED!
I had found her. It was really her.

When I called my grandmother back I said, through a mess of tears,
"Grammy, I think I really found her." She responded, "I think you found her Jessa."
We cried for a minute. She said she needed a minute to process. OBVIOUSLY. We hung up.
That night she spoke to her birth daughter. They made plans to meet. They exchanged pictures.

The next day I decided to find the birth father. I don't know why, but that dude was so freaking easy to find. He is the nicest man ever. He wouldn't let me off the phone but he was adorable. I gave his info to Jane as well.

I will end this ever continuing posts (Updates to come) by saying,

Telling my Grammy I found her daughter that she had surely thought of many many times. That she knew she could very possibly never meet. I HEARD and FELT the relief. I heard the weight lift off her shoulders as I told her Jane wanted her to know she had a beautiful life. I felt the relief through the phone when I told her she had children, a husband, and lived just a few hours south of her. Her heart could now rest. Her mind could be at ease. Jane could get answers, Grammy could answer them. They could learn from each other and talk of their experiences in being separated for so long.

I look forward to the day to hear how meeting in person went. That day, will be the best day of all.

God is good. No Adoptee EVER deserves to only know their birth mothers height, weight, and eye color. No adoptee should ever have to search THAT hard to get answers on who they are.

Please join me in writing a letter, lobbying, whatever you choose in getting Adoptees the rights they

DESERVE

Monday, March 9, 2015

Guilty?

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What a wonderful opportunity to blog about a topic near and dear to both Jessa and myself. We got to have a lovely chat this afternoon because there has been some wailing and gnashing of teeth in regards to certain members of the adoption triad not being able to voice their experiences, perspective, and opinion on a specific social media site.
*non-affiliated with us*
or is it?

You see there is this little thing called guilt by association. It can’t be avoided. It can’t be ignored. It is unfortunately how most of us make our judgments and collect our knowledge about the people in the world both near and far.

That makes us affiliated to the social media site that we don’t have any tangible authority over. No control to what is said. No control what the actions of that site do to the perception of ‘birthmother’.

Guilt by association is not a problem when things are going well. LOVE IT. Free marketing and advertising and character development! It’s a huge problem when birthmoms are being perceived as having an agenda that we ourselves don’t cater to or there is behavior that we ourselves would never participate in.
sucks, huh?

In the birthmother demographic there are definitely different ‘sides’. Very simply stated there are the women that fall on the side of negative and the women who fall on the side of positive. There is very little cross over. Both sides are justified in their convictions. Both sides are full of women who deserve to share their voice. Both sides have good wholesome people and not so good or wholesome people. There is a vast difference in experience and opinion between these two sides. Yet we are all still birthmothers. We will ALWAYS have that in common.
What one birthmom does and says, especially on social media,
in a public forum no less, creates perceptions about
every.single.one.of.us. 

Does this mean that one cannot freely share their experiences and opinions in public? No
It simply means that you can choose you words, you can choose your attitude, you can choose whether you reply and/or react, you can choose your behavior, you can choose to play nice, you can choose to stir up trouble. Only you can choose, and there’s rarely anything anyone else can do about your choice.

Jessa and I have always striven to allow all members of the triad an opportunity to share their voice. We welcome differing of opinion. We share articles and stories that we don’t necessarily agree with or share conviction with. We try really hard to stand up for those that are not given a platform.
We do however have a zero tolerance policy for unsolicited character attacks and we won’t share false or made up ‘facts’. We try to set an example and we are not perfect. BM4A started by trying to pave a way, create a soapbox per say, for a voice that we believed wasn't heard. We've made mistakes, and corrected them, many times over the years.

We want to encourage our fellow birthmothers to always do the same. We want you to make a choice that builds up, rather than tears down. You don’t have to be a rainbow farting positive glitter tosser to build up. You can express very negative things and still be building up the birthmom demographic.

Together we need to:
  • Keep each other accountable – CALL YOUR FELLOW BIRTHMOMS OUT ON THEIR SHIT. Let the rest of the adoption community know when you don’t agree with what soandso said/did.
  • Be honest. Truth wins every time. *remember that your truth is not EVERYones truth* 
  • Think before you speak/act. Walk away when necessary. You don’t have to reply!
  • Consider how your comments/actions reflect on the demographic as a whole. 
  • Choose private venues to express ‘how you really feel’ or to vent in.
  • Listen. Don’t discriminate. Play nice. Apologize when you play mean.


And most importantly…
please, just DON’T.BE.STUPID! 
Stupid is as stupid does. Stay classy, San Diego. Good night, and good luck. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Dear Dr Phil...

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...and the 14, 000 commenters too,

I am sure this is not your first letter, and I am sure it will not be your last. This letter is concerning something very near and dear to my heart: Adoption. Adoption is a very emotional topic and one that tends to get people fired up on both sides. Open Adoption is not just any relationship, it is a sacred relationship, shared with the adoptive couple, the birth family, and most importantly, the adopted child.

My name is Jessalynn Bills Speight, I am a birth mother. While being a birth mother is not my only definition, it is a very large part of my life that has shaped who I am. When I found myself pregnant at 18, I could have never imagined what was about to take part in my life. Abortion was not the direction I wanted to go, I knew marriage would never work between the birth father and I, and single parenting was not what I felt was the right decision for my unborn baby. I carefully considered and researched all of the decisions, but the one that kept coming up in my mind, was adoption.

Adoption is not an easy choice. Here you have a baby, your flesh and blood, and you choose to give that flesh and blood, willingly to another family to raise for the rest of their life. You have the pressure of choosing the perfect family, of keeping the baby healthy for 9 months, going to the doctor, keeping the family updated, keeping the agency updated, giving birth, then relinquishing rights. I went through this whole process at the ripe old age of eighteen years old. Sure, you could argue that I should have kept my legs closed or used birth control. I have heard all that. I didn’t. What matters is what I chose to do with the consequence of my choices.



I gave birth to that perfect 8lb 6oz baby. She had a head full of hair, the fattest thighs you have ever seen, and beautiful eyes that drew you in. I held that baby, kissed her, loved on her, told her I loved her for a little over 24 hours in the hospital. My caseworker called to tell me it was time to sign the relinquishment papers, to not take any more medication. I was in a great amount of pain after a very troublesome labor. I walked into the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and told myself I could not do this. This little perfect baby girl was just too perfect and wonderful. But as I fell to the floor, my legs collapsing beneath me and I started sobbing, I remembered. I remembered the beautiful family that was to love and to cherish her, the 2 big brothers so excited for their couple, I remembered the chapter of life i was in, the emotional and financial straits, and the very strong feeling I had for the past nine months telling me that this baby was to be placed into the arms of this beautiful family. My last thought before gaining enough strength to sign the papers was, “This family promised me they will give me updates, and I will see her grow.” That thought is what got me through this.



I signed the papers, dressed her in a beautiful creme dress. I put her in a borrowed car seat and my mom and I drove to the agency to place her into the arms of her family. We shared a beautiful placement ceremony, there were hugs, laughter, and so much love. The moment that i placed that perfect baby girl into her parents’ arms, there was a trust. We were trusting each other. They were trusting me that I would not change my mind for 9 months and 30 days. I was trusting them that they would hold up to their end of the bargain for the rest of her life.
The beautiful part of my story, the most BEAUTIFUL part? We have maintained that trust. The family has continued to send me updates, we have had visits (1-4 times a year depending on our schedules), they came to my wedding, they speak highly of me to this baby girl. Almost seven years later, we are constantly evolving our relationship and gaining a further trust. That baby girl is now a little girl, who knows who I am. It is not confusing. She does not call me mom or mommy, and I do not and will not ever expect her to. She knows I am her birth mother and I gave birth to her, she knows my 2 children I parent with my husband are her half siblings and they share a very special connection and relationship. That trust is what keeps us going. I love her mother and her father so much. They are definitely family and I feel comfortable talking to them about anything.



Now to answer your question, Should a birth mother retain visitation rights to the child they chose to place for adoption? If you mean visitation as you would a divorced couple where they are required to spend a summer and some holidays, no. If you mean to see the child maybe once to a few times a year when schedule permits, when the birth parents are living soberly and according to the moral standards of the parents, yes.

In many states there is a Post Adoption Contact Agreement that can range from anything like letters and pictures to visits and calls. These are legally binding and the birth mother has the right to take legal action with this agreement.

Overall, even if we may not have the legal right, we do have a moral right to know how our birth children are doing. If you can send letters and updates and text messages to grandma, grandpa, neighbors, and friends; can you not take that same effort and send them to the woman who brought you such happiness and a child? The couple trusts us for 9 months, We, the birth parents, trust the couple for life. If you teach a child to be nervous, walk on eggshells, or dislike where they come from, you teach them to feel that same way about themselves.

So I ask, Why not crusade for adoptee rights to know where they come from and open adoption? It is an incredibly important thing for the adoption triad to have access to information.

Every adoption situation is different. Different amounts of contact will work for different people. The couple and I are ever evolving our relationship day by day. With love and trust, any relationship can grow and blossom into something beautiful. A child can never have too many people to love and care for it. Boundaries and clear relationships make open adoption a working possibility.


 Pictures from two birth mother retreats. All women who have placed their children for adoption with varying degrees of openness, all with a very strong love for the child they placed into the arms of another couple. #TiedAtTheHeart

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I needed to blog it.


In November at the retreat in San Diego, I met a birth mother named "C". She is an incredible being. She placed around 5 years ago. 

At the retreat we do this thing I learned while working at an ED clinic. We went around and did something called "Rose, Thorn, Bud". I changed it around to work for the retreat. Each attendee says something that was the best part of the retreat (Rose), The hardest part of the retreat (Thorn), and what they look forward to doing/changing after the retreat (Bud). It is my favorite part because I learn what to change for next time and what made a difference. During this exercise "C" Stops before she does hers. The following conversation happened, (paraphrasing)

C: (to me) Wait, what is your full name?

Me: Jessalynn

C: When I placed my couple gave me this card (pictured below). I never looked up the information on it. I just looked at the words (Birthmothers 4 Adoption) and I knew there were other birthmoms out there. 

C had carried this card in her wallet for 5 years. 

This card means so much to me. 

I started blogging a bit after placing Josie for adoption. It helped me work through my feelings. birthMOM came on and helped me grow the blog. When I moved to Pleasant Grove, Utah, I decided to make some business cards. I bought 100 on zazzle for around 25 bucks. I would go to the farmers market, pay for a booth and hand out information and my business cards about adoption. Then I had friends help me out and do my first adoptive couple retreat in a tiny little cabin in Heber. 

When I was planning that conference I sent my friend Lindsey an email telling her I just wanted to make a difference. She told me to just keep trying. 

I love what my friends along the way have done for me. I am glad I spent lots of my own money to do things I believed needed to be done. I love adoption. I love the birth mothers, Adoptive couples, and adoptees I meet through adoption. 

Thank you C for reminding me that even if i may not know it, I can make a difference.  






Saturday, May 10, 2014

a hug for you today

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for the women who lost their children, I have a hug for you.

for the women who had no choice, I have a hug for you.
for the women who chose, and things didn't work out like they were supposed to, I have a hug for you.

for the women who chose and everything is perfect bliss, I have a hug for you.

to all my birthmother sisters, regardless of situation or circumstance, today is our day ...

#callitwhatyouwill #mytruth

today is national birth mothers day.

this posts hashtag was brought to you by inspiration from Mrsperrbear of Not Quite Juno.
#amazingwoman #creativetags #alwayskeepinitreal #noteveryoneplaced

Friday, May 9, 2014

#Placed

A bit ago BirthMother Baskets announced a super rad campaign. 

I feel so lucky to have been involved.




When I chose to place my sweet baby girl, I knew it was the right thing for her.

I never gave up. I didn't take the easy way out. I simply made the best choice for her.

I Gave Love, I Gave Life, but I NEVER Gave Up. I #placed.

Share your pictures!! Here are a few of my faves so far. Post them on twitter or Facebook with the #placed!







Friday, March 21, 2014

A Full Heart

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Last week I was featured in a little magazine called Cosmopolitan. To say I am blown away and very thankful for the opportunity would be an understatement. So many thoughts and emotions.

I am thankful for the opportunity to share the beauty and love that adoption brings.  I am thankful for the opportunity to have another family brought into my life because of adoption. I am thankful for the support of my friends and family. Most of all I am thankful for Josie. My beautiful baby girl and birth daughter. She means so much to me. She always will. She is a star and a spitfire. I would not be anywhere near what I am today without her.

This blog started out as a way for me to get my feelings out. It grew into much more than what I ever expected. I have many friends who I could not even begin to start naming because I could write 500000 pages of names, single spaced, 10 font.

I do need to give a shout out to birthMOM (aka Desha). She is incredible. She helps me in so many ways. She is a confidant.

Anyway.
I am starting to focus very heavily on bringing retreats to every state possible. If you would like to request a retreat in your area please head over to Birth Mother Baskets and very soon we will have a tab where you can request these retreats. We will do around 3-4 a year.

I am highly encouraged that the world is not lost in the beauty of adoption. It is no longer only about women who were forced and coerced so heartlessly. There are strides to be made, and things to be learned. Overall, Adoption is changing for the better everyday.

And for some comic relief and a little edumacation...
Here are some videos Desh and I made together in Oregon.

#1 Emotions and Grieving, it's important!
#2 Our biggest pet peeves in adoption, part 1. (there will be a part 2!!)
#3 etc etc etc. Our outtakes, and us being, us!  


Sunday, March 16, 2014

How Not To Handle A "Failed Adoption"

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Unfortunately I will admit that this post is a little bit passive aggressive. I think it needs to be said.

This has happened twice in a month, with two different couples, that I have seen personally.

An expectant mother chooses a couple.
The couple is excited.
The expectant mother changes her mind.
The couple writes a nasty blog post and is not careful about said expectant mother's identity.

First let me disclaimer that I understand emotions run VERY high in the adoption world. A failed adoption comes with a mix of emotions. Never should that mean you are in turn rude to or about the expectant mother.

While I am "Pro Adoption" I am very "Pro Choice" That means I think an expectant mother should have the choice to do whatever she wants, unless that mother is putting her child in harms way.

That baby is not yours until the papers are signed. That does not make a failed adoption any less painful but those are just the facts. A couple is supposed to 100% always be prepared for that to happen.

Now, if this does happen you are to handle it with grace, kindness, and understanding. This does not mean you can't be sad, but you can not be mean.

A lovely example of this would be my friends Shauna and Angie…BOTH ARE HOPING TO ADOPT… Both have recently gone through a failed adoption. Both handled it with grace and kindness. Never anything bad about the birthmother whether it be direct or passive aggressive. They were sad and devastated. But they were kind.

Here is why you should not write a blog post that is anything but kind (as if i should even need to write a list):

* It will deter other birthmothers from ever choosing you if they read that and/or have any sense.
* It makes you come off as a heartless human being, even if that is not what you are, thats how it comes off.
* Think about that expectant mother and all the pain and anguish she is going through with the decision. In 99.99% of cases it is not something she is taking lightly
* No expectant mother should ever be either directly or passive aggressively berated for her decision that she ultimately has every right to make.
* It doesn't make you feel any better. Maybe in the short run…but not in the long run. IF you do need to write something make it in your own little journal in your own bedside table. Don't blast her name and profile pic all over the internet. NOT COOL!

What you should do in a failed adoption:
*Grieve. You absolutely have the right to grieve. Just do it properly. Not writing emotion filled blog posts about the situation.
*Send a little gift for the baby to the expectant mother with a note wishing them good luck.
*Go to the spa, get a massage
*Do some Yoga, Meditation, or Work out
*Go on a mini vacay
*Get yourself back out there. Seriously. Even if it is hard. Network yourself.

I love you all. Emotions are crazy. Adoption is a roller coaster. People make mistakes. Let us learn from our past mistakes and move forward to be better today then you were yesterday.
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