nobody loves like a mom.

I hear that there is a difference between Mothers Day and Birth Mothers Day. I remember seeing posts flood my feeds last year as we were a waiting family. I love that the community finds ways to celebrate in a unique way. But is there a need to have separate holidays? you deserve to be celebrated and that’s what matters.

you ARE a mother.

i remember trying to picture who our birth mom would be especially after “meeting” so many birth mothers on paper. I tried to envision what our relationship would look like during the pregnancy and after placement. who would we get to celebrate on year later on this day?

we get to celebrate you! Mama L.

we don’t have any pictures of you; just the ones in my head.

we don’t have any of you seeing brooklyn for the first time; just in my head.

we don’t have any of you holding sweet bk; just in my head.

we don’t have any of all 5 of us saying goodbye on the hospital; just in my head.

I will not forget the tiny details of the day you placed her in my arms. i will not forget the details of how our story unfolded. I will not forget the details of your story and now her story.

today is your day.

today we are thinking of you more.

talking about you.

praying for you extra hard.

because of you, I get to share our daughters NINE MONTH milestone + on mothers day + for the first time as a mother of TWO.

thank you.

‘thank you’ doesn’t cut it.

‘thank you’ doesn’t solidify it.

‘thank you doesn’t make it more or less real.

but ‘thank you.’

forever thankful.

daily.

** happy mother’s day to my birth mom. the one i do not know. the one i’ve never seen. you are loved.** 

be brave.cariduganphotography-1-188

Advertisements

PICK US- one year later.

One year ago today we started a journey of a lifetime. reflecting back, I remember starting this adventure with such open naivety… “prepared” for what was to come, open to vulnerability, open to hardships. Naive was right… I had no idea the world we were walking into. It all went nothing like I could have prepared for.

To have experienced this will be unforgetable; to be done with this is surreal.

one year ago, I dreamt about the mother that would pick us. I had no idea if we would have a relationship with her, be apart of the pregnancy, where she would live, her wishes for post placement. I imagine myself going to ultrasounds but yet imagined being told that wasn’t an option. I dreamt about our soon-to-be baby, beckett’s soon-to-be sibling… its skin tone, eye shape, hair color, lip pout, eyelashes, a crier, or quiet sleeper. I read stories about failed matches and failed adoptions and couldn’t bare to think of the heaviness that would bring. I saw families being brought together through of adoption… so beautifully yet so also so torn. I sat back and imagined us in all these scenarios, the good + the bad. I spent sleepless nights waiting for the next step in the daunting paperwork, the next step in researching/applying agencies, then for the next situation to come, the next response if we were chosen, onto the next expectant mom.

we saw 14+ situations and heard 7 “no’s” all within 4 months.

one year ago, I was blind + scared. one year later, I am educated + confident.

one year ago, I was pessimistic + skeptical. one year later, I am trusting + a believer.

one year ago, I was yearning + incomplete. one year later, I am full.

hi1b6538

brooklyn,

one year ago you were a prayer + a hope + a dream. one year later, you are our reality, our joy, our pride, a product of a selfless act.

be brave.

added pressure.

 

With a biological child, you make certain promises to yourself as a parent to be how you plan to raise your little one. When you get matched with an expectant mom you give promises to her that you will raise the child to the best of your ability. In both scenarios you use the frequent vow “I will never…” until you realize that you are now saying, “oh I absolutely will.” As a recent adoptive mother, I can’t help but put extra pressure on myself that I have to go above and beyond those expectations or promises that I gave Brooklyn’s birth mom. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to give them to her verbally as our time together was extremely limited but I gave them to her through our profile book. Through our words, our pictures of our family and our home, we presented and promised Mama L that we would love and provide for Brooklyn; I wanted to promise the world and more. The weight and significance of these obligations are heavy, for me, because of adoption. The pressure that comes with adoption because you want to be more than a good parent, more than a friend, more than a confidant. Unnecessary, maybe. But they are real expectations that I have placed upon myself and I strive to live by. The pressure can be so intense that at times I don’t raise my children the same because I can’t let someone else down, that someone else being another mother, Brooklyn’s birth mother. I have this personal expectation to raise Brooklyn in this perfect world, that doesn’t exist, that isn’t realistic. I know I can’t guard her or protect from all negtivity in the world but I have the extra expectation that I can, I should, I will. It’s almost like I put an extra set of eyes on me, just as if Mama L is watching.

Over the holidays is when I felt this intense stress from expectations that I am speaking of. Christmas vacation was chaos, it was tough. It wasn’t the Christmas I dreamt of as our first as a family of four or for Brooklyn’s first Christmas (those milestones alone come with their own set of expectations.) I just kept thinking to myself, “this isn’t what I promised Mama L.” The weight was heavy. It was suffocating. It was powerful. It was exhausting. I cried. I hugged her close. I prayed. I expressed my worries to my husband and to a friend.  

Why do I do this to myself?

Why do I add such unnecessary pressure?

Am I the only one who does this?

Both of my kids are my kids, adopted or biological, doesn’t matter. I know that and I live that. Why doesn’t this pressure exist as if my husbands eyes were the eyes over my shoulder while I parent either of our kids?

Putting this pressure on myself isn’t fair and I realize that now. I had to go through that motherhood meltdown to discover it on my own and that is what is going to make me a better mom; the mom I promised Brooklyn’s birth mom, the mom I promised Beckett. I promised both my kids I’ll be the best person I can be to them, to their father, to their peers. I will forever provide love but I will also provide mistakes that will turn to lessons.

Moms… dads… take off this pressure if you can relate to this. Adoption or biological. Take off the pressure to be the perfect parent with the perfect home, the perfect holiday, the perfect adventure. Let life flow, embrace the chaos, endure the trials, and make the best out of all experiences life brings us. It’s not always going to be easy, it’s not always going to be glorified perfect, but these are the experiences that built our families and make us stronger together.

cariduganphotography-1-188

 

Adoption from an Adoptee.

Adoption Awareness Month was the month of November and it did just that… made me entirely more aware of the total three sided adoption triad. I was privileged to read stories from birth mothers sharing their views on their choice to place and all their emotions both immediately following and months even years passed placement. I watched videos made by adoptee’s regarding their personal views of their adoptions. I was blessed to watch friends become parents through adoption for the first time after years of struggling. To see all the different angles of adoption, vulnerability with the aftermath of choices that were made, and to feel the warm and even the hurt was truly inspiring. Through all these vulnerable stories shared, I was filled with overwhelming emotions. The most surprising emotions came from the adoptee aspect. See, I have occupied one side of the adoption triad for 32 years as an adoptee since birth. I have never really put much thought into my adoption except for the common questions about my biological parents and personal demographics and ethnicity. Not because I wasn’t heavily impacted but probably because I never knew any different.

My parents (yes, my adoptive ones) struggled with conceiving naturally after many years of trying due to endometriosis. My sister was also adopted at birth and we have never really known differently. It has been our story from the beginning; a conversation always open to have. Questions were (and still are) encouraged and welcomed. Biological information was limited as both of our adoptions were private and closed but I always knew that when the time came I was motivated to reach out and seek further details.

Adoption, to me, goes beyond where I came from but who I allow myself to become. Adoption does not define me but my experiences and outlook does. Throughout the years, my placement has helped me find my own identity; who I really am outside the label of an “adoptee”; outside my ethnicity; outside of my roots. Identity doesn’t only mean your ethnicity or race or what you were born with or without. It means you find where you belong. You can develop your own character filled with your own opinions, beliefs, likes and dislikes. Discovering what makes you unique and distinct can truly make you shine and excel as your life unfolds.

I remember reading in a Facebook group coming from an adoptee saying her adoption took things away from her. Made her invisible; unknown. I wanted to reach through the screen and hug this person. To have such a weight, such a burden, seems heavy and dark. I was asked in a different forum about “being an adoptee” and if I felt lost or disconnected; if I held blame to my biological parent for making their choice of placement. I was proud to really dissect these questions because I knew that I didn’t come from a place of isolation or even sadness. I will always be proud of my birth mom but it wasn’t until recently that I attempted to see through the eyes of a birth mom. Turning my gratitude into thoughts of courage and bravery.

Growing up an adoptee I have been able to find my own peace and comfort with the adoption. I ask questions and equally so do my parents. We lean and learn about each other and our individual needs. Never before did I see the the worry of bonding until I became an adoptive mom. The phrases my parents feared we’d speak, scare me to death envisioning it can be toward myself. As a family, we light heartedly dream together about what my biological parents look like and what they enjoy in life based on certain attributes I possess. My parents have never given me glorified stories about my placement. It’s been real, raw detail and emotion. Since the adoption has been a developmentally appropriate, ongoing, open conversation in my family, I have found comfort and even joy. I am proud to be an adoptee. I am proud to be an adoptive parent. No doubt have I had negative emotions regarding my placement or where I come from, but I was taught that I am ultimately responsible for my own happiness, no matter where I come from. And that, that brings me peace and comfort.

Now, as an adoptive mom as well as an adoptee, I am privileged to explore the depth of my adoption and how it can and will impact the way I raise Brooklyn. I have a unique bond with her that I do not posses with Beckett, but isn’t that the case in any household with multiple family members? No two relationships are alike especially when it involves parents and children.

As I sit back, feel, ponder, type and delete repeatedly trying to jot down everything going on in my brain, I clearly see that the way I raise Brooklyn won’t be much different as I raise my biological son. I am empowered to carry on the open conversation concept of adoption as an adoptee within my family as I raise my children to the best of my ability. That is what I promised both of them as they entered this world.

hi1b6641

FEATURED ON KINDRED + CO.

 

a hidden emotion.

we all intended to meet mama L one week after she had chosen us to be brooklyn’s forever family. she invited us to go to all future appointments and ultrasounds until birth. plans changed quickly as she went into labor one month before her due date. this meant that michael never had the chance to meet her before bk’s was born. the night her water broke, we thought it was best for him to stay with beckett. waking up to a stranger can be traumatizing and this poor dudes world was about to be totally rocked.

it was up to her to come see myself or the baby or to meet michael. we left that up to her. we didn’t push them to meet but we did welcome it when michael came to meet brooklyn for the first time.

fast forward 3 months, michael comes home from work the other day and tells me he has something to show me. he gets his phone out and shows me a screen shot.

a screen shot of a picture of brooklyn.

on someones Facebook.

mama L’s Facebook!

my heart stopped.

my jaw dropped.

my brain went blank.

there was no caption.

there were no emoji’s.

just a picture i took of our beautiful baby girl on her birth mom’s page.

image-20

never ever ever did i think i would see something like this.

never did i think i would have confirmation she was getting our letters & pictures that i was putting together monthly and sending to our agency.

this. this was confirmation.

i couldn’t help but to think she was proud. proud of us? proud of her daughter? proud of herself? to post something like this on an open platform for anyone to view, welcomes the opportunity for accusations, assumptions, questions, comments, judgments…

to me, sharing this picture shows some sort of appreciation… whether that be for the time i put into the updates or the love we are pouring into this girl.

seeing this picture was shocking. relieving. breathtaking. comforting.

my heart couldn’t go into a negative space.

i never knew how much i needed this until i saw it.

image-27

 

be brave.

 

on our way to finalization.

we took a trip to the happiest place on earth as a family of four. we had no idea bk would be apart of this trip when originally planned. there was no question as to if we’d cancel the trip since adding her to our family. we had looked forward to this trip and thankfully we pushed forward. what an amazing trip we had!

while on the trip i knew a deadline was approaching. birth parents right severance. to be in the Happiest Place on Earth and to meet this milestone was…

confusing.

bittersweet.

for the past 60 days we had a weight on our shoulders. an elephant on our chest. a storm cloud hovering over our heads.

this wait was over. oct 25th 2016.

before i started writing this post, i had read the document with mama L signature giving up full rights and irrevocable complete control of bk. when i got the text after 72 hours that she had signed, it meant something to me, it hit me. when just now reading it on paper and seeing her signed initials, her actual signature…. it hit me again.

differently.

emotions like these surprise me.

the pain + the comfort + the relief + the sadness + the excitement.

the most specific detail that has caught me off guard is her handwriting. to me, hand script can say a lot about someone. it can reveal truths or insecurities. i always wondered how she signed her name. did she use her full name or just initials? was it in cursive? all caps or small print? flowy or chicken scratch? these types of details all exposed on these documents as we move forward with finalization. i felt confidence in her signature. it seemed bold yet heavy. still can’t imagine what was going through her mind while she signed these papers. makes me take long, deep breaths thinking about it.

handwriting is one thing i miss most about my own mom. i don’t have much that documented my mom’s beautiful, thin, long cursive and we don’t have much that documents mama L’s, but it’s something to show bk when she is ready bc mama L’s handwriting is beautiful, just like her.

this is also why it’s so important for me to take the time and hand write out bk’s monthly update for mama L. i want her to see my feelings through my writing. i want her to feel that brooklyn is loved. she is wanted. she was longed for. she is safe. she is happy. she is secure. she is flourishing. i want her to trust through my writings that her decision will forever be life altering.

finding peace as we move forward. embracing the unexpected emotions that keep surprising me.

image-4

be brave.

 

everyday brave.

it was just after the 70 day NICU stay with our 29-weeker son, beckett, that i started dreaming of making my own apparel for my little dude who was finally of size to wear real newborn clothes. i mentioned the idea of a screen press to my husband but he wasn’t so on board at the time. we had a lot on our plate. a preemie, a potential big move out of state leaving our friends and family behind. “can’t you imagine all the things i could make and not have to buy!?” so many what if’s to just jump off the deep end into that type of dream.

so, for the time being i was just a purchaser, not a pursuer.

once we entered the adoption world i was finding myself with hands that needed to get busy. the wait was hard. the wait was long. hearing the “no’s” one right after the other was heartbreaking. i was finding myself living for email notifications hoping to see situations, wondering if “this is our baby.” we presented our family to four adoption plans, repeatedly hearing we were not the chosen family. some of those no’s were right away, some took weeks. the most recent expectant mom we presented to, i told myself and my husband that if we weren’t picked again i NEEDED to find something for me to occupy my time & my mind… and that was to start the online shop.

well.

we heard our (last) no.

time to execute. time to continue the research. time to brainstorm.

img_1049

img_1030

michael was on amazon… a lot… comparing reviews, price checking equipment, and investigating what we needed to get started. we were both losing sleep on the logistics.

equipment ordered.

shipped.

arrived.

i always have these shirt & design ideas flowing in my head but now that it’s GO time… printers block. so the boxes stayed unopened. piling in the hall. the problem with having A.D.D. is collecting my thoughts and struggling to figure out how/where to get started.

then BAM!

another situation.

we got bk’s situation just 1 day before hearing our last “no.” we presented to mama L knowing very little background information on pregnancy and birth parents. neither one of us feeling very hopeful. how could we? why would we? with this presentation i told myself that i wasn’t going to ask questions. up to this point, i knew every possible detail about each time we presented.

i knew how many families were presenting.

i knew when profiles were being presented.

i constinuously inquired when we “should” expect to hear the expectant mom’s decision.

i stalked my emails. i obsessed over texts.

all these details killed me. knowing, was draining. it made the wait that much more intense. that much longer. so. i truly left this situation in God’s hands. i didn’t hammer the agency with a billion questions. keep in mind, we were brand new to this local agency. i didn’t know how they operated, as i learned each agency runs things a lot differently. i got a call from the agency letting me know that our paperwork was received and we were officially registered to start seeing situations. at the end of that call, she quickly added, “oh by the way, i’ll be emailing you a situation later this afternoon.”

from there i prayed. i hoped. i turned over my focus.

a few days later, i got the call. “mama L has chosen your family for her little girl!”

ha! “book a trip, they say”… or in this case… “start a business, they say.”…

img_1014

we are still hammering out the details, the ideas, the designs, the types of products we want to offer but i do know where i want to channel my focus:

ADOPTION. i want to help those on their adoption journey by providing fundraising opportunities and life affirmations. i want to inspire and educate those outside of the adoption community. i want to tie in being an adoptee with our personal growth through adoption.

BRAVERY. everyday bravery. being brave comes in many forms and through many outlets. moms. kids. in your home. at school.

everyday bravery has shown in my life when we made a big move from my home state, during my prime teenager years then shortly having my house burn down after recently moving in. i had to be brave when struggling with a learning disability (A.D.D.), hashimotos, tragically losing my mother at the age of 16, and never getting the opportunity to meet and love on my nephew, Austin, who was born at 25 weeks gestation.  i’ve had to be brave when my son was born 11.5 weeks early then shortly i was diagnosed with an extremely rare autoimmune. i had to be brave when i was told my life expectancy was unknown and if i were to carry we could lose both myself and the baby. i had to be brave when we entered the adoption journey on a quest to find our missing puzzle piece.

 

i have used the cactus symbol (and donuts) throughout our adoption with no real significance in the beginning. i had an envision that i was going to incorporate an icon for the state that resembled where our baby was going to come from. in this case she was in arizona so naturally a cactus. it’s truly incredible how one symlbol has turned into a reminder to others about our adoption and about bk. i get calls, personalized gifts, tags on instagram, and daily screen shots of cactus products just to inform me people are thinking of us. the same follows suit with the term ‘be brave’. it’s comforting, inspiring, and kind of a lot of pressure (wink, wink) for me to know that people associate me with bravery. so this is where we started.

we plan to start with our instagram-everyday brave. then move up from there. eeeeek, join the ride with us and stay tuned!

bebravebk

be brave.