Church? Faith?

I grew up in church. I went every Sunday. My grandparents took me.

My sister was baptized before I was. When I was 9 I followed in her footsteps and was baptized. Looking back, I don’t know that I really understood what the decision to do that made. I mean, I’m sure that I understood on some surface level at a child’s understanding, but I don’t think I fully grasped what it meant to ask Jesus into my life and accept him as my savior. I think I wound up changing churches not long after that happened. About seven years later I really started thinking about wanting to be baptized again. I never really talked about it with anyone because it was made into such a big deal and honestly couldn’t fathom trying to explain why I felt the need to do it again. I was at that second church for nearly 17 years – the last 10 were spent staying silent about wanting to be baptized again.

I don’t think there’s a short way to summarize why I’m sitting here talking about my faith and the church I’m at. It’s a “God thing” that I’m in the place that I am now. I feel so weird saying it, but my adoption – my daughter’s adoptive parents indirectly – played a role in it too. I remember finding their church online, watching some of the messages that adoptive dad had given, and feeling like I wanted to find somewhere like that for myself. Which led to me searching for a new church…

End of May 2019 I really started looking at different churches. I went to multiple churches, trying to find the right fit for me. It was not as long of a process as I thought it would’ve been. It only took me about six weeks. Sometimes I knew right when I walked into the church that it wasn’t the right place for me.

I remember walking into one church, a place that some friends of mine go, and thinking that it was too commercial. They had fountain drink machines in the atrium… I’m sorry, but if you think that’s necessary in your church then I questions what the purpose of your church is…

The church I decided to join was actually the very first church I went to when church shopping. Expectation Church. I was looking for a church that had more a contemporary worship service. I needed somewhere that had a larger group of people my own age. I craved a place that felt like home to me, rather than somewhere I had tried to “make” home for too long.

I started attending during their transition summer, between leaving the old building and moving into the new building, when they were meeting at the university. That’s when I met S+N, who lead the young adult eGroup, and really started meeting people my age. I kept coming back week after week. Then around the middle of September, I officially joined the church. When I did that, I also spoke with one of the pastors about wanting to be baptized again and explained my reasoning for it. He told me that he’d done it as well when he was growing up, so he saw absolutely no issue with my doing it. So I chose a date in November – three days before my birthday, and it wound up being the week before the church’s grand opening for the new building.

In October I started volunteering in eKids Jr (our preschool department) and met the pregnancy counselor I had worked with when I placed my daughter in 2014; however, I had realized she and I attended the same church in August. Months later, I can’t remember exactly when, I met other people from my adoption journey – the interim couple who had my daughter between hospital discharge and placement.

Then in January I started serving on the Production team. So I’m with a bunch of other people on all our tech stuff to make the worship experience look nice and run smoothly when we stream online.

After being in quarantine and watching church from home for just shy of 4 months, I’ve realized just how angry I’ve been with God. And the concept of church. Yes, a fairly big piece of that anger is from being a birthmom, but that doesn’t make it any less valid.

I’ve been struggling in trying to find ways to grow in my faith. I struggle with sitting down to read the bible. I purchased a bible study that goes through the whole thing, but I’m struggling to even get through more than the first three chapters of the first book. It’s a lot more difficult that I thought it would be.

I’ve watched so many videos on YouTube of people (okay, women) who are talking about their bible studies and morning devotions and prayer journals, and everything looks so idyllic. I know it takes discipline to create/develop this routine and stick with it. I just feel like things never worked for me because I don’t have the “right” things.

Growing up, church/faith wasn’t really a present topic or thing at home. I can’t recall ever really seeing my parents inside a church if it wasn’t for a performance or something big like that.

Stepping away from the church I’d been at for sixteen years took a long time to actually happen. Probably started thinking about it two or three years before I did anything about it. I was afraid of how people would react if I left the church. I’d been here so long and never voiced a desire to leave to anyone other than my mom. I’m an Enneagram 4, but I was afraid of leaving what was “comfortable” to do what was right for me.

Yes, it was worth it when I did leave somewhere I stayed out of habit. But that didn’t make it any less difficult.

I still feel awkward talking about living at home with my parents and not going to the same church, but a lot of people have made the comment that at least I’m still going to church. And while I understand where they’re coming from, it still hurts a little (and is a little offensive) that they (somehow) thought that if I left where I was then I would’ve just stopped going to church.

Regardless, I’m sitting here writing this and trying to figure out how I can best grow and further my faith journey – especially now that my church has opened back up and I’m able to sit there to hear the pastor’s message surrounded by people again.

Maybe I’ll do an update down the road so y’all aren’t sitting there clueless wondering what happened to me on this journey.

Get to Know Me Better?

I’ve had this blog for quite a while (it used to be coffeetattoos.wordpress.com but I decided to upgrade recently) and never really introduced myself. So maybe it’s time for me to do that…??

I’m the middle of three kids – my sister is four years older, my brother is seven and a half years younger (he was an oops… lol). My sister also has two kids (ages 11 and 12).

I’ve been diagnosed with Depression with Manic Elements (which was originally misdiagnosed as Bipolar Disorder Type II), Anxiety, and PTSD. I have taken medication at various times for the bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety but have not been on anything since early 2018.

I’ve been drinking coffee since I was probably 12 or 13, granted back then it was in the equivalent of a frappuccino so I couldn’t really taste the coffee. I started drinking coffee (with cream and sugar) in high school when I was probably 15.

I got my first tattoo in I think December 2011 when I was 19 – it’s on the right side of my ribs. I got the Scorpio symbol, but it’s got vines coming off either side so it sort of all blends together.
Then I waited about 8 years before I got my second – on the left side of my chest – which has more meaning behind it than my first. It’s the adoption symbol crossed with the Celic knot, aka triquetra. I have adoption connections (this will be talked about later, and I have several posts about it) and I have Scotch-Irish heritage on my mom’s side, so it blends my future in adoption and my history together in one piece.

I was going to be an ASL Interpreter until I was diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in December 2015 (officially in February 2016) and chose to withdraw. It just wasn’t something that I thought was intelligent to continue moving forward with since it is something that can push interpreters out of the field. And I didn’t want to have to look into surgery because even that isn’t a guaranteed fix since it can come back again.

I had people telling me I shouldn’t because they said I’d never go back if I did, but I took a year off of school at that point. I had to figure out what I would do since I had only ever gone to school with the goal of becoming an interpreter.

I worked at a trampoline park, which didn’t last too long. Then I worked at in the headquarters office of a fleet car transportation company (think cars pharma reps have, dealership loaners, that kind of thing).

While I was in those places, I was scrolling though the degree programs my community college had and trying to decide what on earth I wanted to do now that a career in ASL was done for me. Nursing? Everyone tried to tell me they thought I’d be so good at it – and while I do find it fascinating, I simply didn’t/don’t have the science grades for that. Teaching? I don’t have the patience for all the parents – I’ve seen that push teachers into other positions or early retirement.

Eventually I decided that when I eventually go back to school, I will go into the paralegal studies program. My mom worked as a paralegal when I was younger. I’d made a handful of friends who are paralegals in California. And my daughter’s adoptive mom was a paralegal before she chose to resign and stay home with Peanut. It was also the only thing that seemed interesting to me and like something I’d actually be good at.

I’ve made mentions of adoption a couple times above, so let’s just get into that… I am a birthmom. I placed my daughter for adoption 6 years ago. We have an open adoption. She knows who I am. We see each other twice a year – birthday and late Christmas.

Oh, I’m forgetting something… BOOKS. I am a bookworm. I always have something – be that a physical book, kindle, iPad, or my phone – with me to read.

200

Due date: June 30 (today)
Birthday: July 8
Placement: July 18

We’re coming up on a difficult time of year for me – the end of June and just the whole month of July. Especially this year – it’s like a repeat of May 2019… All the running around, and dogsitting, and so few nights in my own bed, along with everything else happening.

Don’t get me wrong… I love the dogs I take care of, and I really love their people too. But when I’m only going to have a max of eight nights at home in my own bed in a month, I’m starting to feel burnt out and exhausted just thinking about it before it even starts.

The most difficult part of being on the go and away from home so much during when things like this are happening is finding the time to take care of yourself and do things that make you feel better.

I’ve talked with multiple people (birthmama friends, adoptive mama friends, the pregnancy counselor who leads my birthmom group, friends with no connection to adoption) about this and tried to come up with a list of things that I can do for myself while being on-the-go so much.

In all the coming and going, and moving from one house to another, and living out of a suitcase… I’ve figured out some things that make bits and pieces of my life just a little bit easier lol.

  • I’ve decided that I’m going to pick up a new bathing suit top from Target this weekend so I can lay out in the sun and get a little color before I go see my daughter and “hike” through some woods the following weekend – plus it will be nice to have at one of the houses later in the month since they have a pool and hot tub.
  • I’ve got some leggings with pockets on the sides coming in so I can have my phone more readily available for pictures, rather than having to awkwardly get into my backpack. (They’ll also be good for a friend date I’ve got with an adoptive mama friend on Friday night.)
  • I’ve got my daughter’s birthday gift – she wanted an LOL OMG doll, so birthdad and I agreed on one and I ordered that.
  • I have a lightning to aux input cable for my car so that I don’t have to keep moving my lightning to headphone adapter from my actual headphones to the aux cable in my car and run the risk of losing it…again.
  • Plus there’s a coffee grinder coming, which is for the coffee beans I ordered from what Shawn Johnson and Andrew East have started – UniQorn Coffee – which should be arriving soon too 🙂

The insanity starts on the 2nd. I’ll maybe do an update halfway through the month, and then another at the end. But for now. I’ve gotta take the last two nights I’ve got to relax and mentally prepare for the crazy that I’m walking into.

Mother’s Day Weekend As a Birthmom

My life has been a hectic so I’m just getting a chance to write this out *rolls eyes*

Mother’s Day weekend as a birthmom is an interesting time, to say the least… A lot of times, birthmoms aren’t recognized as mother’s – even though we absolutely are.

Now, not every birthmom is treated the same way – some birthmoms are recognized on mother’s day, and some birthmoms aren’t. Personally, I’m kind of in both groups. I have family who don’t know about my daughter at all, I have family who do, and I’ve got lots of friends both in the adoption community and not who recognize me as a mother and honor me.

On Birth Mother’s Day (which for those of you who don’t know, is the Saturday before Mother’s Day) this year, I had the opportunity to have a Zoom call with my daughter and her parents – which lasted quite a bit longer than I had expected.

On Mother’s Day, I woke up to a text from an adoptive mama friend that I’ve made. She wished me a happy mother’s day, told me that I’m strong, loved, and should be honored with all the rest of the moms out there. It was something I’d never had before.

I watched my church’s service online, and I actually had some issues with the message that our pastor shared. I talked with my therapist about things, and wound up having a discussion via email with my pastor about what had been said and how I felt like he didn’t look at things from the perspective of all moms so I had come away from the worship experience feeling uncomfortable.

Worshiping from home on Sundays has been very strange for me – I’ve been struggling with being at home, alone in my room, watching my church service online. Online worship on Mother’s Day was even more strange. I wasn’t able to see the people important to me, the ones who I know absolutely would’ve recognized me as a mom if my family didn’t …and majority of them didn’t.

Overall, if I had to be generic about how the weekend was for me, I would say it was both better and worse than previous years.

…July…

It’s almost July…!!

This means that it’s almost Peanut’s birthday and placement month. And that means that I’m about to be dealing with one of my most difficult months of the year.

As I’m writing this, my due date is 8 days away, her birthday is 16 days away, and placement is in 26 days. My daughter’s birthday is also the day I started the job I’m currently at. How can I ever forget that date? lol

This year for the month of July, I’ll only be home for about a week. My dogsitting clients all decided to book me almost back-to-back for week-long trips they’re taking. Don’t get me wrong, I truly love all the dogs I take care of. I really do. But I can tell you, actually, pretty much guarantee you, that I will be exhausted and burnt out by the time we get to August.

Especially with starting back to a more consistent schedule in the office now. It all requires a lot of adjusting to the new “normal” that we have for everything.

Send me positive vibes, good juju, lovely thoughts, prayers, whatever you like. But I’m going to need it all during the month of July.

New Tattoo

The day after Valentines Day I drove out to Winchester and finally got my second tattoo.

People love to ask me why I went to a shop that’s so far away. It’s a familiar, trusted place. And I thoroughly admire the work of both artists there. Plus, sometimes you simply want to go for a road trip, and there’s just something about taking one with a clear destination. 

It’s a design that I had been looking at for nearly three and a half years. And I was originally going to get it almost two and a half years ago. But at that point, I was let go from my job, all my money went to things that needed to be paid, and then I totalled my truck two days after I had planned to get the tattoo.

This design (insert image later) is the adoption symbol with the Celtic Knot used as the triangle, all done as one line. I have Scotch-Irish heritage, on my mother’s side. The one great-grandmother I knew is where the Irish heritage comes from. If you’ve been around for a while, you know that I placed my daughter for adoption just over five and a half years ago. And something I remembered a few months ago is that my great-grandmother was also a foster mom. So, the two aspects are wound together tighter than I had realized.

National Adoption Month Posts

November was a bit of a rough month for me. I participated in Ashley Mitchell‘s Adoption Awareness Month Photo-a-Day Challenge. I somehow managed to get all of my posts up on the days they were supposed to go up, even if it wound up being at night. Granted, I did snag the sneak peek preview of Ashley’s prompts when she put them on her Insta-story in like September and started working on them then. So, I definitely had time to prep everything before they went up…

Nov 1 – Accountability
Nov 2 – Broken
Nov 3 – Community
Nov 4 – DNA
Nov 5 – Ethics
Nov 6 – Fake
Nov 7 – Growth
Nov 8 – Honor
Nov 9 – Ignorance
Nov 10 – Jealousy
Nov 11 – Kindness
Nov 12 – Language
Nov 13 – Motives
Nov 14 – Navigation
Nov 15 – Options
Nov 16 – Promises
Nov 17 – Questions
Nov 18 – Roles, Rights, Responsibilities
Nov 19 – Stereotypes
Nov 20 – Timing
Nov 21 – Unknown
Nov 22 – Vulnerable
Nov 23 – Worth
Nov 24 – eXcuses
Nov 25 – Yearning
Nov 26 – Zip It

I’ll come back later once I’ve pulled myself together and share some thoughts on the month.

Birthmom Q&A – part two

Q: How do you navigate birthday and holiday gifts?

A: Her birthfather and I do give her gifts, but really only when we see her twice a year for our visits. Those visits coincide fairly well with her birthday and a holiday, so that’s what we like to do.

We try to talk with her parents about what she likes or something like that before we buy her presents, but they tend to just be things that are age appropriate and that she’ll enjoy.


Q: Does your child and their parents give you gifts? Do you do the same?

A: We have received a couple of gifts from them over the years. But, no, they typically do not give us gifts. Some people might take issue with that, but I don’t. They are committed to honoring us, loving us, and praying for us. That means more than any tangible gift could.

I think we have given her adoptive parents one gift since placement. And that’s not because we don’t love them, I promise. Right now I think we’re just focusing on loving her and that’s something that can be addressed in the future if we choose to go that route.


Q: Have you ever spent extended time with your child and their family – for example, a long weekend vacation?

A: I have never spent more than a few hours with my daughter and her parents. I think I would like to do a vacation of some sort with them, at some point. But with our daughter only being 4 right now, it’s not something that’s on the radar for the near future.


Q: Is there something you wish you had known about adoption prior to placing your child?

A: This is kind of a difficult question for me. I’ve learned so much about adoption since planning my daughter. I think the one thing I wish I’d known before placing, was really just another birthmom. A woman who had gone through this before who could tell me what she’d seen, heard, experienced.


Q: Did your anxiety get worse due to pregnancy hormones?

A: Not really. Before my pregnancy, I wasn’t really dealing with anxiety like I am now. But I did notice that my depression kind of disappeared while I was pregnant, which is not entirely uncommon. My body was producing different hormones and they were, I guess, leaving me with more serotonin than before. So I definitely noticed a decided slide back down after, but that was also exacerbated by placing my daughter.

Birthmom Q&A

Okay, I’ve waited like two weeks, and haven’t gotten any more questions. This is what usually happens though… I’m going to go ahead and post this – because I can always edit it later or make another Q&A post if people ever do come back to me with questions.

So, here are the three questions people asked me, and what I could say to answer as best I could.


Q: How do you deal with your child aging so much so quickly between visits?

A: I’ve never actually been asked this question before. But even from the beginning, I was getting updates every three months, so I still was getting pictures of her between our visits every six months. Then last year after I mentioned something to them about setting up an Instagram, they created one a few months later. Even going three months in the beginning seemed like a long time, but I knew that I would see her again.

Now, I feel like it’s getting slightly more difficult. I think it’s because I know how much of a personality she has, how independent she is, how sassy she is, how brilliant she is. But I can’t really complain because I do get to see her, and we do have an open adoption.
However, I’ve learned that I need a couple of days before I see them to mentally prepare and after to emotionally decompress/recover. How I do that each time looks different.


Q: Did you experience assumptions about your experience or micro-aggressions during the process of finding adoptive parents for your child? (Like people making comments on what is/what they assume to be things like your economic status, relationship status, mental health status, etc.)

A: I didn’t tell very many people about my pregnancy. I was able to get away with it because I carried very small, and was able to hide it with hoodies. The few people I did tell, were incredibly supportive. I think I told even fewer people about the process of choosing the adoptive parents. That was something that no one but the birthfather and I had a say in.

Plus, a lot of people who don’t know much about adoption (this included myself before I was in contact with the agency I used) aren’t aware that the birthmom can choose the family to raise her child. They make profile books for the agency so that birthmoms have something to look though and help them make their decision.


Q: How did you navigate post-pregnancy conversations with people who assumed you were parenting a child (if these conversations even happened)?

A: Pretty much everyone who knew about my pregnancy knew that I was going to place my daughter. So I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t really had to deal with anyone assuming that I was going to be parenting and then having to tell them different.

South Dakota

South Dakota recently passed legislation that allows adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQIA couples. It passed, 43-20-7.

I know there are people in the world today who have very different opinions about the community than I do, but that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to share with you my feelings and opinions about the bill that SD has passed.


 

I talked with my sister about this and she said, “I wish this was something no one had to feel any way about because I wish it wasn’t a thing that happened.” And that’s how I feel about it too. But as a birthmom, maybe I have stronger feelings than someone who doesn’t know the adoption process or have any connection to it.

I feel that adoption should be available to anyone who wants to expand their family that way, LGBTQIA couples included. I honestly don’t understand why people would say that they’re not worthy of being able to adopt. It pains me to think that. LGBTQIA couples can be amazing parents, just like heterosexual couples.

Why are they different? To me, they’re not.

When I chose the family to place my daughter, I felt it that they were right. It wouldn’t have happened with the agency we used, but if the family I fell for had been part of the LGBTQIA community, it wouldn’t have mattered. At all. I knew they were right because I just felt it in my heart and my gut.

But South Dakota passing this bill that legally allows discrimination against these couples is preventing prospective birthmoms from having that same moment when looking through profiles as they just connect and know they’re right. It’s forcing couples to go through lawyers, which can be more expensive and take more time and effort.

I have a good friend, Courtney of Living Queer, who is part of the LGBTQIA community, so I asked them a few questions.

Q: As part of the LGBTQIA community, would you and your partner consider adoption?
       A: Yes we would

Q: Because you can technically pass as female, would you make it known to the agency that you are an LGBTQIA couple or would you fear discrimination and not tell?
       A: I honestly would probably fear discrimination and not tell unless I had continued my transition and couldn’t pass anymore


 

In doing more research, I’ve discovered that other states (Michigan, North Dakota, and Virginia) have similar bills that allow discrimination without fear of retribution. I wasn’t aware of this, and it bothers me. I live in one of those states.

It will also allow agencies to discriminate against single and divorced people, couples who engage in premarital sex, interfaith couples, and anyone else whose behavior or identity violates an agency’s “religious belief or moral conviction.”

Sen. Alan Solano is a Republican from Rapid City. He wrote the bill with help from a staff member of Catholic Social Services. They are an agency who will only place infants with couples who are opposite sex, married at least two years, and unable to conceive children on their own, among other requirements.


 

I don’t know why I thought that this was something new, or that similar things hadn’t already happened in other states, but even days/weeks later, it makes me upset. I hate the idea that there are couples out there who are being denied the chance to adopt. There are so many couples (straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, of differing faiths, it doesn’t matter) who are wanting to adopt, but there are these rules that are preventing them from doing so with certain agencies.

And yes, I understand that there are other ways to adopt than private agencies. But that could require going through the state foster system, and that can cause more stress than necessary.

Yes, every child deserves a loving home, but some couples just don’t have it in them to handle the foster system. Especially if the child is older and can go back to their case worker and say they don’t like the family they’re with. That may be something the couple isn’t emotionally ready to face.