Adoption Unfolding: Finding the Birth Mother For My Kids

Not being able to have kids of my own was a huge issue for me.  I went through a long, protracted, agonizing grief period.  I was angry at God and my body and filled with longing and despair.  It was something I longed for since I was small.  A family of my own that no one could ever take away.  I remember feeling entitled to this because things had been so hard and screwed up in my family when I was a child.  This continued well beyond the time when I adopted my kids.  I love my kids beyond words, that is separate from this longing that I experienced.

When we adopted the kids, it was basically a closed adoption.  We met the birth mother once and there was no communication between us after the day we first arrived in Arkansas to adopt the kids.  She had lunch with us and then took us up to the NICU to see the kids.  She left suddenly, I imagine because the pain was so great.

The kids have always known that they were adopted.  My 13 year old daughter has gone through many periods of longing to know her birth mother.  She was and is young and I did not really imagine that I would be dealing with her meeting her birth mother before she was 18.  That all changed this week.

My daughter again brought up the issue of wanting to know this woman who gave birth to her.  The desire, the longing, pulls at her maybe in a similar way to how wanting children pulled at me.  So this week I searched for and found her birth mother.  I spent some time crying while looking through this woman’s FB page.  I looked at her family, her husband, her daughter, her life.  It seemed like she had pulled her life together and was pretty happy.

So I sent her a message, sobbing the entire time not exactly sure why.  The message basically said that I’m the woman who adopted your kids and my daughter wants to know you.  I told her that I hold her in a place of immense gratitude, that I hoped my message would find her well and not cause her pain.  I asked her to contact me and welcomed her to look through my FB page to see the kids.  I was not sure she would contact me and hoped both that she would and a little bit that she would not.  Mostly that she would.  Then I told my daughter that I had found her and let her see her birth mother’s FB page and the message that I had sent.

I had no idea what would happen.  Would she respond at all?  Would she be upset?  Would my daughter be ok if she did not respond?  If she did respond, how would I feel?  Would my daughter prefer her to me?  Would my daughter forget me?  Would she still love me?  Questions that don’t need an answer for the most part.  They are patterns of not feeling worthy and patterns cannot be reassured.  So I took a deep breath,  One of the gifts I learned in yoga and the personal work I have done the last several years is that I can breathe into any kind or amount of pain and it will lessen, it will ease.

Yesterday afternoon the birth mother replied to my message.  She said she had wished for this day for many years, that she thought of the kids and us often.  She said she needed a little time to pray about it but that she was grateful that I had reached out.  I was surprisingly excited to hear from her.  Not just for my daughter, but for myself as well.  This too surprised me.  After sitting with it for just a short period of time I realized that I want to share them with her.  I want her to see that I cherished the gift I was given.  I want her to know all about them and know that I did a good job.  I want her to see that they are happy and well adjusted.  I want her to like me.  Then I did the unthinkable and told her all of that in a message.  She thought it was sweet and said that she never doubted the kids were wonderful and well loved.  We have not had any communication since that and I expect it will be a few days before we do.  I told my daughter about all of this with my husband who is having a really hard time with it all.  My son just doesn’t want to know.  He said, “look Wuddles, I’m fine and I’m going to be with you forever so don’t worry.’  He also said he is not interested in meeting his birth mother at this time.  But he is at a different stage of development and has challenges of his own.  He may change is mind, he may not.

So all of this is a lot to sit with, and here I am surprised again.  I have no fear that this is going to be a negative experience.  I know that my daughter’s innate nature and the way I raised her means that her heart is big enough for more than one person.  And so is mine.  I can see a world at some point where the birth mother and her family become a sort of extended family to my kids.  We share the biggest possible thing together, the kids.  Likewise, I know that none of that may come to pass.  My husband is upset and having a really hard time with it.  My son is on the fence.  I have no idea whether the birth mother’s husband and family know that she had these kids and gave them up for adoption and what them knowing might do to her life.  I don’t know what fears she may have and whether she is willing and able to face them.  There is a lot that I don’t know.

What I do know is that I have done so much work on myself and learned so much from my yoga practice that I can sit with not knowing.  My mind can spin fears and I don’t have to believe them.  I can allow my heart to be open enough for any of these possibilities.  I can sit in the contradiction and be ok.  I can breathe anytime it hurts.  I can feel relief rather than fear.  I can know that this may be one of the biggest gifts I can give my daughter, that she doesn’t have to wait until she is an adult to find this in her life like so many do.  I can wait while this all unfolds and not feel the need to rush to see how things work out.  I can be thankful for whatever this brings to my life and the lives of my kids.  I can watch all of this unfold and know that God sent me nothing but angels to bring us to this beautiful place where we can grow and experience ourselves and each other in a place of light and love.  I can do all sorts of things today that I could not do before I started on this healing journey.  For all of this, I am grateful.

Namaste.

Suffering and Contradiction

One of my teachers often says that its not that we have problems that is the issue, its that we have a problem with the fact that we have problems that causes us so much distress.  Its true enough for me.  There is the problem and then there are the stories that I have surrounding the problem.

I have had a fair amount of time in the last three years to become more familiar with yogic and buddhist philosophy.  The idea of suffering and living in contradiction.

Suffering first.  They say that pain is inevitable and suffering is optional.  To a point I agree.  Being human we have things that happen in life that we don’t like, don’t prefer, and so we have pain when they happen.  Its about attachment.  I want certain things.  Some are big like wanting my kids to be healthy and happy.  Some are small like wanting people to get out of my way when I’m driving and I’m in a hurry.  But big or small, the pain comes when in the form of resentment, anger and fear around the things that I am attached to.  Many years ago someone explained it to me like this – you have resentment when you realize you did not get your way in the past, anger when you are not getting your way right now, and fear when you think you might not get your way in the future.  Part of me rejected this statement on the basis that some things it is legitimate to be attached to because anyone would – like having the kids be healthy and happy.  And its true that nearly everyone wants their kids to be healthy and happy.  This does not change the fact, however, that this is an attachment to things being a certain way and once I become attached to things being a certain way I experience pain, anger, fear, resentment, sadness, happiness, joy.  But being human I tend to focus more on the feelings that I have that I have deemed unpleasant rather than the happiness and joy.

Suffering though, true suffering, comes when a few things happen.  When I attache to an outcome.  But also when I believe the things my mind tells me about anything.  My mind does what minds do.  It thinks so many thoughts.  And most of them are not true.  And many of them are incredibly negative.  And yet I believe many of them without ever questioning the truth of my thoughts.  The statement that I should not believe everything I’m thinking because it might not be true threw me for a loop when I heard it the first time.  After all, everyone told me I was always right and how could I think something that wasn’t true?  The mind is a powerful thing.  But back to suffering.  I have attachment and belief in what my mind says.  When it comes to suffering the way my mind becomes a problem is that it tells me that whatever feeling I am having around what is happening is going to last forever.  So the anger, fear, resentment, sadness that I experience when I am attached to something being a certain way and it isn’t my mind says is going to last forever.  And I often believe this at least temporarily when in the midst of discontent and so I suffer.

Thank God for yoga.  I have heard most of the things that have helped me in yoga classes.  That the mind thinks thoughts.  That I am attached to things.  That I can focus my attention on the present, on a point of focus like my breath and to the extent I can live in the present I don’t suffer.  That I can strive for a place of witness consciousness where I can notice what my mind is doing without becoming engaged with what my mind is doing.  Notice without judgment.  Its a very hard thing for me.  For most people probably.  I’m working on it, every day with varying degrees of success.  Running away from these feelings and ideas does not alleviate suffering but opening to them does.  Opening to fear and really allowing myself to experience fear is what has helped to dissolve fear.  But it is a day by day thing that I have to keep practicing.

One of the other huge things I had to learn is about contradiction or perceived contradiction.  That you cannot have or appreciate light without dark, happy without sad, good without bad, etc.  It is in the agony that we find the ecstasy.  I had to learn that it is ok to have contradictory thoughts and feelings and in fact that this is healthy.  Two opposite things can be true at the same time.  My mind likes for only one thing to be true when most often I have to open up to contradiction.  It is easiest for my mind to think of this in terms of light and dark.  We all are light and good at the soul level but darkness had to be introduced in order to see, appreciate, or experience that light.  The things that seem like contradiction are what happen to open me up to both things.  I can open up to light because I have experienced dark.  It has been a great tool for me in this healing because it grants perspective to the darkness and then allows for light.  But this too is a process not an event.

Are We Old Enough To Talk About Suicide?

Today my daughter wanted to watch this new movie 13 Reasons Why.  A movie about the suicide of this girl who apparently left tapes behind for people explaining how they were in part responsible for how she felt, which feelings led to her suicide.  I have vaguely heard of this movie before and knew there was some controversy about it but I had not seen it and I do not intend to.

The argument with my daughter was pretty straight forward.  She thought she was old enough for the topic and should be allowed to see it and “all her friends were watching it.’  I said, no, it is not your choice as it is my job to protect you and that I would decide after watching it or finding out more about it.  Somehow she came to the conclusion that my protecting her was an excuse – an excuse for what I do not know.

After soliciting opinions from people I trust who had seen it, I emphatically denied her permission to watch it.  She was pretty upset.  But all opinions that came in were that this movie glorified suicide without any insight or direction to something that would help someone with this struggle.

My daughter was so insistent that she was old enough for the topic.  But is anyone really old enough to manage suicide or the desire to end one’s life?  Having had this struggle and having attempted suicide in the past, I think not.  There is no preparing someone for the reality of this struggle.  We can talk about getting help and where to get it.  We can talk about what to do if someone says they are feeling so despairing that they want to end their life.  But the actual reality of that despair and what it is like to be in that or be in it with someone going through that?  There is no preparing for that.  There is help and support but that does not diminish the trauma of going through this as the suicidal person or the outsider trying to help.

I hear people say “the struggle is real” and “life is hard” all the time.  But these are flippant statements of minor struggles.  The struggle of choosing life is a whole other thing.  To have to face what it means to be here, with all of what life does and how the mind sees no other options other than death – that is the ultimate struggle.  To find meaning in life when the mind says it has no meaning.  To uselessly try to find meaning in the traumas of life, the pain, the suffering – only to find out that sometimes there is no meaning other than those things have brought us to where we are today.  To this point of finding joy amidst the pain and suffering.

What I have learned is that we have to process everything.  That most often the despair, fear, sadness just needs to be heard in detail.  That we can in fact go back and write a different ending – perhaps not “in reality” but rather energetically.  I have done this a lot in my personal work around my parents and the traumas from my childhood.  I have used statements like “that was not my real dad, my real dad would have done this…” and I have talked to my “real dad” and asked questions, told him how I felt with my therapist playing the part of the real dad, mom or whoever it was I needed to work with at the time.  It did change the story for me.  I did help me know that there is that essence of people – the essence of the real dad and mom to work with to help heal.  My therapist calls it part of the re-parenting process.  The work was unspeakably hard and required a lot of support.  But for me the decisions I made about life not having meaning, that nothing and no one was safe, that I had no worth in this world, that life itself was not safe and that therefore death was better were decisions I made during this trauma period when I was young.  For others I am sure the story is a little different although the feelings are so very often the same.

But as a parent now of these 13 year olds, I get to be that real mom.  The one who protects and nourishes.  I am a fantastic mom not just because I do these fabulous things with my kids but because I know what it is to not have that role model in my life.  I don’t know how I ended up being such a great parent but I did.  I did not act like my parents did.  I made different choices.  My kids will probably never know all of that.  They don’t need to.  They need to know they are loved and valued, that their love is precious and wonderful and more than enough.  I have told them bits and pieces of my life.  My struggle about life and suicide I do not share with them and I am uncertain that I ever will.  Certainly not now and not without good reason.  The hubris of youth thinks it is prepared for anything.  But its not.  I’m grateful that I know this and that I can protect my kids by saying no, you are not ready.  No one really is.  We deal with it and get help and support around it when it comes up but to say we are ready for that is just the mind being arrogant and indulgent.

This glorification of suicide in a movie frightens me.  Was it made just because it could be made?  Because someone had the idea?  Is that kind of like making the atom bomb without thinking of the consequences just because it could be done?  And why are so many parents just letting their kids watch this movie?  When did it become ok to detach from the consequences of letting children decide for themselves what they are gown up enough to do, see, and experience?  I may not be able to stop them from everything I think they should be protected from.  But I won’t sit blindly by while they expose themselves to things that are so hard, so traumatic and that will ultimately desensitize them to something that is truly horrible.

I Sent You Nothing But Angels

Such a hard thing to remember – that God sent us nothing but angels to help us experience Who We Are in this lifetime.

I was reading Walsch’s children’s book The Little Soul and the Sun and in this book God tells the little soul who wants to have a body so it can experience itself as the One Who Forgives to remember that God sent him nothing but angels to help him.  The point of it is that even the people who come and do things that are hard or that we call bad are doing it not because they are bad but because they have agreed to lower their vibration to allow them to do this thing so that we can experience ourselves the way in which we came into this lifetime to experience ourselves.

The language gets a little convoluted in explaining this but the statement – I have sent you nothing but angels – keeps coming into my mind.  Perhaps because there are people in my life with whom I am struggling.  Marriage is hard.  Friends who are no longer friends can be hard.  The things that people do that can be hurtful are hard.  The lying.  The cheating.  The stealing.  The self absorption.  The unkindness.  We encounter these things throughout our days and lifetimes to varying degrees.  The question for me is to how to let this stuff go and not sit in disappointment, anger, resentment – whatever the feeling is.  For me, the feeling I struggle with the most is disappointment.

But I read this book and the statement I have sent you nothing but angles keeps coming to mind and it is helping me to release some things I have been holding onto from my childhood, broken relationships etc.  To know that perhaps we agreed that this person would do something that would allow me to experience myself as a person who forgives. Or a person who is kind.  And then likewise, that I have agreed to do things that my mind would judge to be bad in order to help someone else on their journey.

I’m not sure what the Truth is.  I do know that it feels better to believe that God has sent me nothing but angels.  I am learning to forgive other souls. I am learning to forgive myself.

No Mud No Lotus

I hated this expression when I first heard it in a yoga class.  I’m not sure why but I think what came up for me around this was “where is the the lotus?”  I was so lost in the mud I could not see the lotus; so lost in the struggle I could not see the joy.  And, even when I got a glimpse of the lotus, my cynical mind would tell me that flowers die and look at all the mud on it, not seeing the beautiful flower at all really.

Today, sometimes, I can see the flower as a beautiful flower.  That has been a hard fought battle.

I have been neck deep in the struggle all of my life.  In the earlier years it was a struggle just to survive.  Survive things at home and then just survive on my own at a pretty young age without support.  Making choices that don’t make sense to me even now.  When I look back at my life I often wonder how I did not become a serial killer, end up homeless addicted to something, or just die from one of the many horrible things I did to my body.  Those moments of Grace were huge for me.  Those times when I was able to go left instead of right and make a choice that would radically change my life.

And now that I am older with a family of my own, it is a struggle to find meaning, to let go.  To remember that many of the horrible things that happened are in fact over and that I can relax now.  To know that I don’t have to live in a constant fight or flight response.  Fear had become such a part of my life that I did not recognize it anymore and would actually tell people I was not a worrier even though I was terrified nearly all the time.  It has been so hard to learn, even a little bit, to relax into what is and tell my mind to let go.

From all objective standards my life is good.  I have two amazing children, I am working on the marriage thing but it is not horrible even when it is hard, I am financially secure and don’t need to work, and I spend much of my time doing what I want whether that is yoga, visiting with friends, therapy and lots of it.  But even with all of this goodness, I struggle to find meaning.  My mind will tell me that my kids don’t really need me and that I have nothing to offer the world – that there is no reason for me to be here.  I know on another level that my children do need me and they would be devastated without me.  The struggle is with my mind and the feelings of worthlessness that I have cultivated over the years.  This is not a surprise given where I have come from.

My life has undergone tremendous shifts at different times.  Externally.  Huge shifts that changed the course of my external life.  But while things changed on the outside very little changed on the inside.  I was looking for an outside solution to an inside problem.  The last three years have been working on the inside problem.  The problem of me, my mind and how much I believe my mind the minute it comes up with a thought.

Witness consciousness is a terribly hard thing to achieve.  I get moments of it now, sometimes long moments when I can observe my mind and my feelings without being disturbed by them.  It is there that I find a little peace.  And it is in working to get there that now I get glimpses of the lotus.  I get moments of joy.  Like teaching yoga and talking with a person new to yoga who says she was so terrified but now is feeling relaxed and is so enjoying coming to class.  To watch that transformation on someone else knowing what it was the first time I relaxed and let go of my mind in a yoga class (which might have been the first time I relaxed in such a way in my life).

My children are beautiful.  I have amazing friends.  A therapist who has gone to battle with and for me relentlessly to bring me to that place of freedom.  I live in a place with many beautiful things.  The real lotus for me now though is none of these things.  The lotus for me is in being able to rest my mind and personality so that I can have peace and see and enjoy each of those things in the moment.

Tell Me What God Is

I worked with the question “What Is God?” during this past enlightenment intensive and have remained with the question.  I keep hearing the direction in my head for dyads – “tell me what God is.”  Over and over again until I fear I am going to lose my mind.

Fear of going insane and fear of death are two of the blocks to enlightenment from what I understand from the master.  And I have lost my mind in the past.  It is hard to be in the psych ward as much as I have been earlier in my life and not have a fear of going insane, of getting locked up again.  And much of it stems from needing this connection with God so much and feeling like I don’t have it, or have it nearly as much as I want.

Wanting, longing for something, is so hard.  The pain sits in my heart and belly like a huge gaping open wound.  But even though it is painful there is a sweetness to it.  The sweetness is new to me, the pain is old.  The sweetness comes from having a taste of what it is to feel God in me, in the world, in others.  The relief of not having that feeling of isolation and separateness for even microseconds is tremendous.

I decided last night that I need to work on my relationship with God in a different way.  The longing and crying out to God is essential but it is rather vague in some way.  And I need that relationship to be personal.  So I have started my own conversations with God. And giving God all of me – all my thoughts, feelings, and life stuff, all of my struggles.  One of the teachings I have heard is that we have to give all of it to God, even the hate, the anger, the fear, the anguish.  It is hard for me because that is not what I was taught when I was young.  But it is what I am trying to follow now.  It feels much more authentic than pretending not to be angry about life, about how hard the journey is, about how worried I can get, about how alone I feel in this world.  Although truthfully I am feeling less alone now than I ever did.  Slowly, ever so slowly, I am building that sangha, that community.

But for now, my focus is on that connection with God.  A deep and personal connection.  A vision almost that God could hold me much like a child giving me all the comfort and love in the universe.  That feeling is what makes the struggle mean something.

Expanding Beyond Traditional Family

I always said that family is not who you are related to but rather it is the people that you love who also love you.  I used to think that this was just something I said to make myself feel better because my family was so screwed up.  But then we adopted and I truly understand that blood relations has nothing to do with it.

Yesterday we brought someone else into our family.  A 17 year old girl.  Her story reminded me a lot of my own and I wanted to help her so she moved in last night.  The official story is that she needs a place to stay until she graduates from high school but I don’t intend to have her leave then unless she wants to.  I think she will be just part of the family by then.

It is horribly tragic when people have kids and they are not willing or able to love and take care of them as they should and as the kids deserve.  The beautiful soul has a horribly alcoholic and from what I understand a sometimes abusive father and a mother who is beyond neglectful.  The mother actually came here yesterday at our insistence.  I did not just want to take the girl in without verifying her situation to make sure her mother knew where she was.  This mom asked me no questions about myself, my family, what we intended for her.  I have not heard from her since she left her daughter here with us yesterday.  I can’t imagine leaving my kids with someone that I did not know.

So this mother’s day, I have a third teenager that I am quickly thinking of as my own.  I tread lightly here because whatever the circumstances, peoples relationships with their parents can be complicated.  I don’t see myself as a replacement for her mother.  More as a new member of my little tribe who is just here to receive love and support.

Thankfully my daughter is thrilled to have her and she is going the extra mile to make this new member of our household feel comfortable.  Its a good thing.  This girl does not seem to have many friends she has met in real life, most of them are from chat rooms.  She does not have any family support although I have heard that her grandparents are quite lovely.  I talked to her this morning about including her on our trip to our VT house this weekend and her face lit up.  Just to be included, wanted.  My heart breaks for her.

So I find myself relaxing just a little bit on the technology rules for the house as she makes dance videos with my daughter.  And I find myself sitting back and watching her receive kindness and love.  Love from one human being to another.

I want to tell her to relax, that everything is and will be ok.  But it is too soon and she is too vigilant right now to take that in.  For right now, its enough that she has a place to be and a family to be with.  And I will take her to yoga.  A place to learn to breathe through life.  I want to tell her she is not alone.  I keep hearing the expression “you are not alone, you have the whole universe inside you.”  The lessons of yoga.  Breath linked with motion, meditation.  It helps.  As the community helps.  I hope that somewhere here there is something she can grab onto.

This mother’s day then will be even more special.  It will include another person for me to love.