Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Miracle #6-Adoption saved my life

Being adopted saved my life. It made me become a different person. It made me give up the notion that no one cared for me. It made me realize what family really was. It made me have to become something. It changed me for the better. This is my adoption story. 

My brother and I were not born into the greatest circumstances. Our birth mom was addicted to drugs and as such we were not properly cared for. At about 3 and 4 years old my brother and I were taken from our family and placed into the system. 

When I tell people my story they always mention how hard it must have been being in foster care. For me, I have never thought of it being hard. Instead it was a way of life. It wasn’t weird that every few months I would change homes, every few months I would have a new mommy and a new daddy, every few months I would I have new brothers and sisters. To me it was just a way of life. 

When my brother and I were first put into foster care we were placed together for a time, but it didn’t last, eventually we were split up. I still remember a lot of the foster families that I stayed with. I dont remember them all by name but I remember them by memory. There’s the family that took me hiking in the mountains, the family that built snow caterpillars with me in the winter, the family that took care of me when I had the chicken pox, the family that took me on a picnic, the list goes on and on. These families will forever be branded in my memory for their kindness towards me. I admit that not all memories were good but the majority of them were. To this day I am still friends with two my foster families and I love them so very much. 

When I was about 7 years old a woman named Lisa came to visit me while I was at one of my foster families. I had heard that she was going to be adopting my brother Jacob. Little did I know she would be the last person that I would ever call mommy. I was adopted in December of 2000. 

My adoption story didn’t end there though. My parents spent many moments helping me to get through the trauma I had been through in such a short life. I dont know how many times I yelled at them to take me back to the agency and that I didn’t need them. I remember one specific time when I was about 8 years old, I was standing in the hallway of my home completely furious. I didn’t think about what I was saying and I yelled at my mom that I didn’t need her and she could just take me back, her job of taking care of me was done. I remember she looked at me deeply and said, "Taija we are never going to take you back! This is your home now." That memory still means so much to me. I realized then that my parents were in it for the long haul. No matter what tantrums I threw or mischief I caused I was theirs, forever and they were mine.  

The purpose of my aunt’s blog is that adoption is an option. I think many times people may think that there is no way they could be so cruel to give up their child for adoption. The thing is giving up a child for adoption is not cruel and it definitely does not mean you don’t care about them. In fact, giving your child up for adoption when you know that you don’t have the means to provide the life you wanted for them is one of the greatest sacrifices you can make. I am where I am today because I was adopted. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Miracle #5- A Hidden Pregnancy

 This is my story about adoption. Well, it’s PART of my story that is now 16 years long and still going! I haven’t shared much about this over the years. It is an experience I’ve kept fairly closely guarded, discussing updates over the years with family and a few close friends.

A Hidden Pregnancy

I had a religious upbringing. Not the picture perfect family, but what family truly is? My father left when I was only a few years old. Three days after my seventh birthday my mother married my stepfather and I became the youngest of the six kids that marriage blended together. We were active, church-going people. As the youngest, I maintained the stereotype of being outspoken and attention hungry. I was also a people pleaser. I never wanted to be the cause of contention in the home. I was, and still am, a very hardworking young woman who pulls more than her own weight and rarely complains. 

I was a natural leader at a young age. I even held the role of class president within my young women’s group at the time I got pregnant. I did my best to uphold that outward appearance as a good girl, loving and trustworthy. I was, as far as everyone else knew, a really GOOD girl. Looking back now, I know I WAS a good girl, I just lost hold of good judgement from time to time.

I remember feeling an enormous amount of guilt when I’d behave in a way that was contrary to my good reputation. After all, I had been taught that I shouldn’t have premarital sex. I honestly believed in abstinence then and do even more now. I was crippled with fear that I might have gotten pregnant (I lived a sheltered life but I wasn’t completely stupid!) I told a couple of my closest friends that I felt bad about the situation and was hoping for some support as I worked to right my wrongdoing. Instead, one of my friends snapped and chastised me, asking me how I could be so stupid and careless. How could I have done that?! 

I felt ashamed and empty inside. I was disappointed in myself and did not want to let anyone else down. So, after another month passed, lapsing what should have been my “time of the month,” I went into absolute denial that I was pregnant. I didn’t tell a soul. I literally sucked in my stomach from the moment I woke up, until my head hit the pillow each night. I stopped eating regularly. I worked at a frozen yogurt shop and some days all I would eat was a little cup or two of white chocolate mousse. 

Every ounce of effort I could muster went into hiding my shame and my growing bump. I felt hopeless. I felt completely worthless. I was overwhelmed with depression and painfully alone. Only my boyfriend, the baby’s father, knew I was pregnant. I cut myself off from the world and for someone with my personality style and love of attention and friends and chatter, it was awful. Complete emotional torture. 

The mindset I was in was one of the darkest places I’d ever been. The very thought of telling anyone put an un-swallowable lump in my throat. There was just no way I could bring myself to do it. I would never have believed that anyone would support me and love me through the process. Why would they? I didn’t even love myself. 

Going to Planned Parenthood

When I felt the baby moving inside my belly I had to, at least to some extent, come out of my cocoon of denial for moments at a time and consider the magnitude of the situation I’d gotten myself into. I still had no inclination to tell anyone close to me that I was pregnant, but I had heard of a place I could go. As a scared, lonely, overwhelmed young woman with nowhere to turn, I headed to Planned Parenthood. After all, this wasn’t MY plan and I needed some guidance to determine what all my options were. 

Naively, I went into the clinic, expecting a myriad of options and hoping for a listening ear from someone who was in the business to help women like me. 

I filled out my forms and waited for a short while in the lobby. There were a handful of other women in there, all avoiding eye-contact with each other. 

It wasn’t long until I went back into the exam room. I’d taken a pregnancy test in a bathroom in the hall on the way back and passed it off to an employee. The woman did an ultrasound with no volume on and the screen turned away from me. She was nice, but not very conversational. She excused herself for a few minutes and returned to inform me that I was measuring at almost 22 weeks and that I was farther along than what they would normally terminate. 

The word made my heart sink and my mind race. I hadn’t been considering aborting the baby, and honestly, I wasn’t really sure what was involved with it anyway. She explained in very basic terms how the procedure would work and that they would need special approval to move forward if that was what I chose to do. I could FEEL the baby moving in my body. For me, personally, I absolutely couldn’t choose to abort this baby. What I needed was some information about how to get through the duration of the pregnancy. I left without any offer of prenatal information, and the option of adoption was never mentioned. 

Devastated, and just as confused as ever, I went back into my cocoon and focused on surviving each day as it came to me. Often times I was so mentally checked-out that I felt like I was standing outside of myself looking in. I didn’t like what I saw. I didn’t know how to exist as this sham of the girl I once was. I was positive that if I opened up to anyone I would be judged and ridiculed. In my mind I had failed my family, and friends, and church leaders because I wasn’t the perfect, happy, picture of righteousness they all thought I was. I couldn’t bring myself to let them down or to burden them with my troubles. 

I graduated high school five months pregnant. I kept myself very busy, working two full time jobs. I dressed my expanding body in the frumpy work uniforms and blah late 90’s fashion. I enrolled in college. I tried to pretend everything was normal. 

Somehow, miraculously, I kept everything under wraps. Just as a few friends were starting to question my weight gain, and wondered why I was declining all invitations to gatherings it happened. I went into labor. 

In the wee morning hours of Sept 29th, 1999 I began having contractions. I’d been sharing a bedroom in my parents’ house with my older sister, sleeping on the top bunk for the duration of the pregnancy. I carefully, quietly climbed down and curled up on the bathroom floor and waited for what I was certain would be my own grisly death. Even while I was in labor I spent a good couple of hours convincing myself this was all a terrible dream. 

At long last I finally gave in. I was in so much pain. I’d moved myself to the hallway floor and readied myself for the world to end. I called out for my sister. She came out of our room and stood over me in a panic and yelled, “What’s wrong?!” I told her I needed her to take me to the hospital. I was having a baby. 

A Child is Born!

At 8:58am, a 7 lb 2 oz baby girl emerged into this world. I had never seen something more beautiful in my life. She was strong, and healthy, and heavenly. I felt a rush of emotions. I looked at her and was consumed with love. I stared at her intently. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

When the nurses were talking to me about the baby it finally came up that I wasn’t planning on keeping her. I felt in my heart that she wasn’t mine. They assumed an adoption was already arranged and complimented my decision to choose adoption. When I told them I didn’t have a family picked out the wheels started turning immediately. 

I was the talk of St. Luke’s maternity ward when they heard about the girl who hid her pregnancy and was just now picking out a family! 

The adoption agency was quick to respond to the call, and I had a delivery of family profiles in my lap within a couple of hours. 

I carefully read through them and looked at the photo collages. I had no idea how to pick a family from this mountain of strangers, but I forged on. When I finally came upon the profile of my baby’s family everything changed. I felt a surge of emotion again, and a very distinct calmness wash over me. I knew they were the right family!

Everything moved fast from there. She was born September 29th and placed in the arms of her parents on October 3rd. The intimate details of those few days are very precious to me. Those moments I had with this sweet baby are burned into my memory. I can still feel the warmth of her tiny body as I held her late at night in the hospital. I can picture her big dark eyes looking right into mine. We have a very special connection. 

Moving On

After my daughter was placed for adoption, I quickly went through the motions of moving on. I tried diligently to go on with my life and swept the experience into a quiet corner. My private little corner. I never wanted to bother other people with bringing it up even though I thought of my baby daily and wanted to talk about her often. I journaled a lot. And cried. And broke up with my boyfriend. 

I hate that it is referred to as “giving up” your baby for adoption. That sounds so negative. It sounds like defeat. Unless we can give it the modern “Pinterest” style angle of up-cycling an item and repurposing it for future use. That is a definition I can get behind. My choice to “give up” my baby was truly giving her an upward opportunity for life that I couldn’t give her myself. It was the life she was meant to have. And she completed her family.

Now, Here We Are...

Sixteen years have passed. I’ve thought of her daily, and I’ve gotten to be a part of her life as she has grown up. When I was in the thick of this experience, I couldn’t even begin to imagine the life I would have now. I’ve been married now for fourteen years and I have three kids of my own. Enduring this experience has been a continual blessing in my life. I am grateful that I was able to bring this wonderful, talented, gorgeous young woman into the world, and more importantly, to be the vessel to bring her to her parents.

This is a little piece of the puzzle in my life that I am still working to complete. My mission in sharing this story has become clear, although I don’t have all the answers, yet, of what should come of this. I only hope that it can spur more conversation about adoption. I hope it can open eyes and hearts to the beautiful gift that adoption brings into the families who cannot have children themselves. 

We live in a time where a lot of conversations are happening about accepting ourselves and loving our bodies and individuality. I think about this experience I’ve had, putting my love for that tiny perfect little human above my own needs and wants, and I feel an ultimate sense of self- worth. 

To check out the extended cut video, connect with me at 

Get the full story in my upcoming book, Not My Plan scheduled to release on National Adoption Day - November 21st, 2015.

Music in video, used with permission - “Where I Belong” by Hannah Nichole.