Wednesday, November 18, 2009

guest blogger: i bottled up my grief

My name is Cindy and I was asked to be a guest blogger as it is National Adoption month and to talk about the importance of not bottling up the grief- how healing is needed after placing a child for adoption.

I was recently divorced and already parenting 3 children at the age of 31 in 2005 when I got pregnant with my baby Amy. She was placed for adoption with her a. parents, Sherry and Stu, in Phoenix, right after she was born. My adoption story is in video form. (Desha, aka birthMOM, put it together for me and it was in honor of Amy's 3rd birthday on May 15, 2009.) My story is also going to be featured on my agency's website, IAC, soon. (IAC is the agency who had the series "Adoption Diaries", on WE-tv).

When I found myself pregnant with Amy, I knew from the moment I read the positive line on the test that adoption was going to be my plan. During my pregnancy, when I was only about 16 weeks along, I met Amy's adoptive parents in person in Arizona and we had our 'match' meeting. My first feeling was absolute relief, and not sadness. I did spend the winter depressed and in shame, but still was not prepared for the emotions I would feel.

When I left my home in Upper Michigan and moved in with the adoptive parents in Arizona for a few months to give birth out there, I still wasn't prepared. I had only felt relief up to that point about just giving birth, desperately not wanting to be pregnant anymore, and being able to get on with my life.

When my water broke, I then felt fear and thought, this is real, this is it! When she came out after a very short labor, I again felt relief and also shock. When Amy was 2 days old, the adoptive parents and I all left the hospital and I resumed living with them and 'our' baby for the next few weeks before flying back to my home in Michigan.

Then reality hit me, and although I still felt shock and relief, the sadness began, yet I felt like I couldn't let that out while under their roof, as they were so thrilled to have their new baby. I do recall I escaped to the shower often and that is where I cried. (It was easy to go in and shower often as it was over 100 degrees daily in Phoenix and I was sweating out a lot of water weight those first days.) I had many unshed tears though, and pent up emotions.

I did not hold my baby those few weeks while under their roof, except 2 times for pics. and then the night before I had to catch the plane. I held her and then the first phase of real grief hit me and I cried and I did let go for that time and I said goodbye to her.

When I flew back to my home in Mich. on Memorial Day of 2006, I immediately had my camper pulled out to a lake, and my children and I camped all summer long. Although I did write in my journal and looked at Amy's photos, I was still numb, and in shock and denial. I thought I was dealing with the grief, but I was bottling it up.

I had the chance to see Amy and her a. mom Labor Day 2006. She was 4 months old and it was our first visit since placement (not to mention Amy's birthfather seeing her in person for the first time.) We met for 1/2 of a day with Amy and her mom and it was such a great time. I held her, talked to her, played with her, we had pictures taken, etc. When it was time to leave, I cried and she was holding onto my finger and I really didn't want to let go. I couldn't get over it, that was my baby I gave birth to and she was not with me!

2 days later, I was to return to college as I was planning to finish my degree in social work. Almost immediately, I got insomnia, a very sick stomach, and really could not function. I ended up in bed for a week during the days, bent over in stomach pain, and during the nights could not sleep.
I was still in shock and denial. I quit college, and the Dr. put me on sleeping pills. (Bad idea.) I started drinking from time to time for a month or so, while taking pills.

One night I saw Amy's birthfather, and thought, if I could be close to him, somehow I would be close to our baby. I looked into his blue eyes and saw her. He was on muscle relaxers, so things didn't really work too well, if you know what I mean, and after seeing him for a few minutes, I realized what a mistake that was and didn't see him again. And I thought it would have been impossible that a pregnancy could have occurred.

Here I was, not been divorced all that long, had had a baby who I placed for adoption, raising my 3 kids on my own (except when they went with their dad every other weekend) quit college, and to my shock, I found out I was pregnant again! It was like I was living a dream.

I know if I would have been dealing with my grief properly and letting it out, I would not have went on sleeping pills, would not have drank, and certainly would not have reunited with Amy's birthfather for a night!

I decided on an adoption plan once again, and my baby boy was to go with Amy and her parents. They were hesitant at first, as they were going through an adoption plan to get a little girl from China. It didn't take them long to come around and want to have Amy's full blooded brother with them.

This time, instead of me going to Phoenix to have the baby, they came to Michigan to be in the labor room. All winter long I literally stayed in bed while my kids were in school and was so full of shame I never left the house, and on top of that I got a bug, from food poisoning I believe, that would not leave my system for months. The Dr. called it "gastric attacks" and involved intense stomach pain, sweating, diarrhea and vomiting. It was awful and the worst time of my life. Another unplanned pregnancy and a 2nd winter in a row full of shame and depression over my circumstances over my bad choices.

I did not have the energy to deal with the grief of losing Amy and there I was, ready to place another child. It was overwhelming and I truly didn't think I would make it through. And I was so physically sick some days I thought I would die.

I always have babies early, so Amy's a. mom Sherry, along with Amy, came to Wisconsin (4.5 hrs from my home) to stay with Sherry's mom for some weeks, and I did as usual, go into labor early. They made it to the hospital and the adoptive mom Sherry was there during my labor just like she was with Amy's birth, and when my baby boy was born, she again, cut the cord. Stu, Amy's adoptive dad flew in the next day and they were ready to welcome Amy's full blooded brother into their lives. They all got settled into a hospital room together, with me down the hall in my own room.

Well, when my baby boy was 4 hrs old, Amy's mom walked into my hospital room with Amy. "Say hi to your birthmom Cindy." (Amy was 1 yr old at the time.) Somehow I thought she would jump into my arms and hug me and know me and love me. When she acted like I was a stranger I was taken a-back. Later on, my 3 kids showed up with their dad at the hospital to visit me and to see their birthsister Amy, and their new brother. We did get to spend some time with Amy.

The entire time I was thinking, "I lost her, I can't lose my new baby boy."

For the first 24 hrs I still thought I could go through with it.

Then I felt worse and worse and just had a pit in my stomach. At midnight I requested to have my little baby brought into my room. They had already named him Jay. The nurse brought him in, and I held him for an hour, and he was rooting for my breast, it seemed so natural, I nursed him. After a while, I had the nurse bring him back to the adoptive parents' hospital room.

I slept little that night, and the next day, as I was to be discharged, we all had an initial meeting with the social worker in where I was to sign papers allowing Sherry and Stu to take my baby boy out of the hospital to their hotel for a number of days before the relinquishment papers were to be signed. (Guess it's the way it worked in Upper Michigan.)

After I signed the papers allowing them to take him to the hotel when it was time, I walked back to my room and almost collapsed. I went in the bathroom and sobbed. I ended up sobbing for hours. Now the grief was really coming out, and it was about Amy. And then the thought of having to place this new baby boy of mine.

At that moment, I did not feel I could place him. Some people may judge me for this, and think, how could I do this to Amy's a. parents.

A hospital chaplain came in and a social worker, they told me they would pray with me and they told me I was that baby boy's mother and I had every right to parent my baby if I wanted to. That he was still my baby and it was my decision and to pray God's will.

My aunt went to Sherry and Stu's room in the hospital where they were with my baby. She told them, "Cindy doesn't know if she can go through with this" and they said they could never hate me, look at the beautiful gift (Amy) I already gave them. While this was going on, I was in my room and I felt like God gave me the name Samuel Isaiah.

I got discharged from the hospital and drove the hour home to get counsel. I then made the final decision, I was going to parent my baby boy. My aunt called Amy's a. parents at the hospital that night and said, "Cindy has changed her mind. She is keeping the baby. Do you want her to come there and talk to you?" They said no and hung up, and I guess within an hour they were packed up, and took Amy and got out of there. They were absolutely in shock.

Understandably, there was a rift in our relationship for some time and especially Amy's a. mom had anger and hurt issues towards me. They did end up getting their baby girl from China and my birthchild Amy got a sister.

At the point I took my baby Samuel home from the hospital June 13, 2007, when he was 5 days old; it was then the healing began and I started to deal with my grief in healthy ways. Although Sherry and Stu were still committed to open adoption, they were having a hard time as they had negative feelings towards me after my reclaim.

As time went on, I talked and had counsel with my SW Jennifer Bliss, from my agency in California (IAC) and she was helpful. I also met weekly with an MSW counselor and later down the road, had lots of times of pastoral counsel.

I wrote more, and I came to terms with the fact I placed my baby girl, I needed to cry over it, I needed to talk about it, come to terms with it. I needed to get past the shock, numbness, and denial. And to never turn back to pills, sex, alcohol to try to escape pain. To work on my relationship with God.

It was time to truly let it out and stop keeping it in.

I do believe in having my baby boy with me, some healing took place. And ironically, he came about as part of the unresolved grief!

Desha, fellow birthmom, agreed to help me out and I sent her pics and journal entries and she put a video together of my adoption story with Amy and that was healing. I let myself cry. I first watched Desha's adoption video months previous, which began my healing tears, and after she put together my video, many more healing tears came.

I did get a visit with Amy and her parents and new sister June 15, 09 and it was a really good day. I can't say if they are 100% over not taking home that baby boy or not, but God Bless their hearts, they were kind and open to me that day.

Seeing Amy that time was healing and wonderful. My kids played with her and her new sister, and we all had a wonderful day. Seeing how happy and loved she is by her parents, and how she is such a daddy's girl was amazing to me. She was so precious, and my love was so great for her, there are no words to adequately describe it. Let's just say I am biased, and feel she is the sweetest thing ever! And lots of credit to her a. parents for the ways they are raising her!

I look back and think God orchestrated the whole thing, and although I think I chose Amy's parents, I feel God knew all along where she was going to be. I am now having feelings of joy and peace that she is with her mom and dad and she is prospering.

Yes, I do have days of sadness where I think of my heart, and am selfish inside, wishing I had her. Sometimes I miss her so badly, and it gets to me that she and I really don't know each other as we are many states away. (As she gets older I believe our relationship will be established just like relatives who live states away. I do send her gifts, and I hope for more visits as we are able.) Then I have to think of how great her life is and also how happy 2 people in this world are, that their dreams came true and they got to be parents when they weren't sure it would ever happen for them. And I thank God they were able to forgive me for my reclaim of Samuel; I believe most adoptive parents would not get over that and would not see the birthmom after that experience. I am thankful they want Amy to know about me and know me.

I have a scripture verse I cling to- Romans 8:28 and I stick to it, God works ALL things together for good.

Today I can say things are going well for me and my children that I am parenting. The doors of Sherry and Stu's home are open for my children and myself to go and stay with them anytime in Az for me to visit Amy and my kids to see their birthsister. I do plan to make a trip, alone, next May 15, for Amy's 4th birthday. And in the future, have my kids see her again. Myself and Amy's parents are all still committed to open adoption, which includes visits as well as pictures and staying in contact and having a relationship.

I am grateful for open adoption, am grateful for God's blessing, and very happy I am learning daily how to deal with the grief in a positive way.


birthMOM said...

i didnt write an intro for cindy so ill leave a comment instead... cindy found me on myspace, where i had posted my youtube adoption story video, and a friendship was born! im so glad i was able to help her healing tears flow. and i know she is a great help to other birthmothers out there! there's just something so great about carrying each others burdens, isnt there?!

i luv you cindy and im so glad that you are now well on your way with your healing journey! xo

Helen said...

Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. God bless you!

Karine said...

Wow, what a beautiful and heartfelt journey! Thank you for sharing that! Thank you for being YOU! Your amazing! God Bless you :)

debs life said...

Woman like you amaze me! Such strength. I love that even though you were already a mom you could realize what was most important for your baby! Good for you and thanks for sharing.

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