Social Media – how much is enough or too much?

As a part of getting the word out to people about the work I do as an Adoption Coach, I have used various forms of social media.  I am currently on Twitter, Linked In and Facebook.  This is just for my adoption coaching work, I also have separate pages on Facebook for my personal friends and also one for my Nature Photography.

I have been in a place of deep thoughts about social media and how it fits in for me and what I do.  I am very confident in my strengths as an Adoption Coach and that confidence comes primarily from the real life, face to face time I get with clients.  To ask a question maybe they had not thought of and a whole great interactive dialogue goes from there.  From my willingness to not just get clients started on the journey of adoption but to be willing to with them and provide both professional expertise and emotional support.

There is this whole growing community of people online who use blogging on it’s own to produce income through ads placed, writing opportunities etc. I blog on my website for one reason and this is something I have much clarity on.  When potential clients come on here to learn about me and my services out – to hire me as their coach, they are going to engage in a process where they are asked to be vulnerable.

They are going to share with me their dreams of parenthood – something that has been elusive to them in other ways.  I am going to get to know very personal information about them.  From the start I want them to know I will both handle their vulnerability with much care and that I am willing to share my self personally with them as well.  That I am also an adoptive mom and went through a very long, bumpy road to motherhood gives me a perspective on their path that not all adoption professionals have.

So back to social media – I find I am wanting to take a step back and re-evaluate where and how I want to put my time and energy into it online.  Twitter can be so addicting to the ego – it is easy to get sucked into how many people are “following” you or tweeting with you regularly.  But honestly what does that have to do with my desire to help others be successful in their desire to adopt?

While I am the first to admit I have made some great connections/friendships while typing away little blurbs on Twitter, it has often come at the price of spending time with the people I love and cherish in my real life.  And after 8 months of “tweeting”, my clients continue to come to me as referrals or through my low tech marketing.  I do monthly free seminars and people can come and sit with me and talk.  I have yet to obtain a single client through Twitter and I feel the disconnect there for me is that the computer screen puts up a barrier between me and those I serve to help.

For those friends I have made online and some of whom I have made in real life connections, those will continue on.  If we have connected enough to communicate off the Twitter screen, they know many ways to reach me.

So for now,  I am taking some time to be quiet online, love those wonderful people I am blessed to share my life with and let this internal confusion about social media unfold organically.

The moments that make it all worthwhile

I am the very blessed Mommy to my now 7 year old daughter, a daughter we adopted at birth in an open adoption.  Summer has been a blur of activity with trying to work from home while caring for Ariel, manage some minor health issues for both of us and help my husband coordinate some construction about to take place on our home starting tomorrow.  Oh and a million other details that I just seem to do and not even pay notice to them.

I just turned 52 and pre-menopause has been creeping in,  bringing with her lower energy, sleep disturbances, the most annoying hot flashes that of course occur when I finally do get to sleep!  Let’s not forget about the mood shifts that are a pain in the neck for myself and all those around me.  According to a hormone panel I did last week, this PRE-menopause phase could also last for years -  pray my family and I survive.

All this to say I have a lot on my plate and it’s not easing up any time soon.  And there are many nights when I finally get done with the duties of the day and the commitment I made to do something for me has been pushed farther and farther down the TO DO list and all I want to do is crawl in bed and collapse.  Feeling “how did I get lost in all this doing?”

Then moments happen that give me pause and encourage me to keep going forward and also to know that I am making a difference in the world, or at least in our little part of the world where the three of us reside.

Last week was Ariel’s 7th birthday, I cannot believe how fast those years have gone.  We had a little birthday gathering at our home on the actual day (and another bigger bash over the weekend).  After the party here, the guests had left and we sat in the living room looking at the gifts and little piles of wrapping paper, paper plates and cake remnants strewn about.

As I was taking a moment to kick up my feet, Ariel asked her Dad and I if she could tell us something.  Of course we said “sure honey, what is it?”  She said “Mommy and Daddy it is very nice that people bought me presents.  But I want you two to know that I do not need any more presents from you.”  I smiled at her and said “but honey you never ask for things and we like to treat you on your birthday and holidays with little treats”.  She got a very serious look on her face and said “but Mommy, God has already given me everything I could ever want – I have you and Daddy and my heart is full.”

I just sat there and felt the warm tears trickle from the corners of my eyes.  This child, this blessed child who came to us through the love and selflessness of her birth mom.   Our daughter who many days teaches us as much or more about life as we teach her.   She reminded us that for her, her love “language” is all about spending time together.  Time spent doing simple things – gardening in the back yard, playing a board game (and frequently winning!), baking with Mommy, having an iced tea at Starbucks and chatting.

I have been thinking of that comment for a week now.  It is such a wonderful reminder of what I already believe spiritually, that our children need us, not “stuff” to be happy.  And it was a proud moment for Andy and I knowing we had done a good job of instilling values in her that she will bring forth in her life.

So amidst the craziness of life, may I slow down enough regularly to see how very grateful and blessed that I am.

 

A Mom can always dream…

Well I knew before we left for our time at the beach a week ago I was going to need a serious bathing suit to suck me in, pull various parts up and be socially acceptable. I am about 20-25 pounds over my optimal swimming suit weight and am just starting a regular routine at the gym.

But I was prepared and I bought myself the equivalent of a Wonder Bra Bathing Suit and off to the beach we go. I was all ready or so I thought.

Got myself all tucked into my bathing suit and QUICKLY pull on some black capri pants to go over the suit and get to the pool and beach ready to enjoy the sea, sun and fresh ocean air.

Imagine my utter disbelief when I took OFF the capri’s and saw that all that flesh that I had squished and squashed into THE suit was now sitting below the suit in two equal muffin tops that used to be my thighs. Horrified I was until I got the giggles and could not stop laughing every time I glanced downwards.

I have decided all comments made by me about my body from this point forward will be made in gentleness and humor – it helps to deal with all the changes and shifts happening in my post six IVF cycles, menopausal body.

I told Andy all photos of me for the week were to be taken from the waist up only or the words “you are sleeping on the sofa” could enter the conversation.

Hence me joining a new gym VERY close to home is in order this week and this mid life Mommy is set on getting rid of as much of said flesh that has begun it’s descent down down down my body.

So I guess trying to achieve the tummy you can bounce a quarter off of as it did 30 years ago is out of the question???

Thoughts of an adoptive Mom

My daughter’s 7th birthday is this Wednesday, July 27th.   Her birthday always brings forth a variety of feelings for me.  I am so very happy and grateful I get to be this wonderful little girl’s Mommy.  I am also keenly aware that on that day her birth Mom and birth father are probably thinking of that day seven years ago when the loving choice  was made that allowed Andy and I to be parents after so many years of heartache and unsuccessful IVF treatment.

Having an open adoption, we had the chance to get to know Ariel’s birth mom who for purposes of this blog will be referred to as T to protect her anonymity and privacy.  During those moments when she was carrying Ariel, I made a very deep spiritual connection with her and Andy and I grew to love and respect her deeply.  I feel so blessed that Ariel shares many of the traits T does – honesty, inner strength, joy and deep love for others.

Combine all that wonderfulness with my own spiritual nature and deep sense of compassion for others and you get where I am now, planning a party to celebrate Ariel’s birthday and many moments of quiet reflection thinking of her birth family.

And while that juxtaposition of emotions is not necessarily “easy”, I personally feel for me it is about being authentic.  Acknowledging that it is hard some days to know my happiness in being blessed with Ariel Faith came with the price that T had to make such a difficult and life changing sacrifice.

So this Wednesday when I am holding my very special girl and telling her I love her and Happy Birthday, I will be sending out a lot of love from my heart to the beautiful woman who made all my dreams come true 7 years ago.

Motherhood, Mid Life and Menopause

I have been in big denial about my age for a long time. Next month I will be turning 52 and my sweet girl will be turning 7.

Up until recently I did not really think about the age thing too much (unless some stranger brought it up with curiosity about whether I was Ariel’s Mom or Grandma!). One of my closest and dearest friends is 34 and we spend a lot of time together. Despite some outwards differences between us, I have actually aged despite my level of denial, the spirit of who I am, the youthful curiosity matches up well with hers and I never feel a generational gap.

Well my denial came to a grinding halt about 10 days ago with the arrival of my first non IVF related hot flash. It woke me up in the middle of the night. I remember waking up thinking “why did Andy wrap me up in a hot blanket?”. But no heated blanket, all that heat was coming from inside me. It was dreadful and arrived with a wave of panic as well. I took off my soaked tank top, cooled off and changed clothing. Took a walk downstairs to just kind of take in what had just happened.

This has been my first solid clue that yes indeed I am heading into menopause. Up until last year, my hormone levels were those of a 35 year old. Not actually a lot of help since I have always remained infertile. But I kept reminding myself that the hormones were helping my bones, heart and youthfulness.

I have found myself really thoughtful and pondering how I feel about this transition. I had purchased THE books on Menopause by such great woman’s health guru’s such as Christiane Northrup and Lonni Barbach but until now the books had collected dust on the shelf. As I started to read them I became aware that this process had been going on for months – the weight gain despite no changes to diet, the sleep problems increasing, the mood swings and irritability, cravings for foods increasing etc.

Since I already when through what I call “hormone hell” back in the early 90′s doing six unsuccessful IVF cycles, I am committed to making this transition as smooth as possible with some gentle natural hormone help, more Yoga/meditation and making sure I carve out time for myself. This past school year I burnt myself out with far too much volunteer work at Ariel’s school. The hands on work with kids – I love! But all the committees and politics of the school I need to take a step back on.

I can see that this transition, though not necessarily invited can be a rich and fruitful time for me. It is an opportunity for me to take stock of my life – celebrate all that I have accomplished. See what I would like to do with the second half of my life and form a plan to do it.

What I know for sure moving forward – time with those I love and having meaningful connections is more important to me than any accolades or successes I can achieve. I am enough as I am and want to focus on the people in my life.

What Open Adoption Looks Like in Our Family

I speak about open adoption when I meet with new clients or do a group presentation. Our family has an open adoption with our daughter’s first/bio family. It has varying degrees of contact – some we see face to face regularly and some we stay in touch via Facebook, email etc.

This open relationship has developed over the 7 years since Ariel’s birth mom was pregnant with Ariel. When we took our adoption preparation classes, Andy and I did not know how this would play out for us. But we were “open to being open” and that is what I always encourage my adoption coaching clients to do – see how the connection develops with you and the birth parents and go from there.

Open adoption is all about relationships and relationships develop over time and with trust and respect. I remember a wonderful letter from Ariel’s biological grandma after Ariel’s birth when I had let her know we had every intention of staying in touch. She replied she would love to and had no idea how that would show up but she was willing to let it unfold. It has turned out to be a loving and natural connection we share and treasure.

This attitude we all have has been such a blessing and mostly for Ariel. She always tells people what she loves about being adopted, that she has more people to love her.

I had one woman come to my free monthly adoption informational seminars last Fall. She was coming from a place of fear (I am not analyzing her, she told me this) and wanted the doors CLOSED with a birth family after the baby was placed. I ended up feeling very sad that she could not see the benefits of keeping contact with the birth family in whatever way is comfortable to all parties involved.

I am secure in knowing my daughter is bonded and connected to me in a deep and profound way and as someone who loves the people who are in my daughter’s first/bio family, I am very comfortable with having her spend time with her “extended/bio” family. As she is older, I would be happy to have her go spend time at her Great Grandma and Great Grandpa’s ranch with her Grandma during the Summer.

For me this goes back to a spiritual belief I hold dear to my heart that children are not ours to own, they are here for us to love, to guide and to teach. Whatever I might do for my girl, it will be because it is best for her and coming from a place of deep love and not fear.

I can tell you from a practical standpoint, it has been so great to have easy access to Ariel’s birth family – she has had a few health issues come up and I was able to easily email and ask if there was any others in her first family who had these issues.

It has helped me to fill in the blanks for Ariel as far as identity is concerned – her birth Mom has a beautiful angelic voice and so does my daughter. My daughter has always had this deep appreciation for nature and animals – that is both a nature and nurture trait.

Becoming Comfortable with the Unknown

I have been deep in thought today about a subject that was a real thorn in my side in the past. That is being able to be comfortable when the future is full of unknowns. I used to feel the only way I could navigate my deep emotions was to cling to a belief I had to control things in my life to be happy.

While on a spiritual path that began 20 years ago, I have come to learn that walking around thinking I have control over most things is just an allusion. That has proven to be true in many areas of my life. And the gift I can see today is that when I can really let go – the universe has gifted me in so many ways.

This has shown up in many ways – one of the profound ways was in our journey to parenthood. Andy and I had gone through six unsuccessful IVF cycles with two pregnancy losses to show for 3 years of non stop treatment and heartache.

Moving forward into the adoption process, a whole new and unknown territory for us, we had no idea of what lay ahead for us. I spent the first year clinging to how I felt things should go and on some level, being stuck and just surviving and not truly present and living my life. One Sunday I arrived at church at my lowest point after waiting for an expectant Mom to select us to parent.

I got to church early, sat in my usual pew and released it all. I spoke aloud “I have no control, I am turning it all over to you God. I am right now letting go and trusting you have a plan for us”. After 6 years of waiting to become parents and doing everything humanly possible to make that happen, I took a long deep breath and knew I had done all I could do. I did not lose faith or hope and in fact in that moment those attributes strengthened within me.

Those who know me personally know that it was only two weeks later that we got “the call” the one that would forever change our lives. We had been chosen to parent a baby being carried by a beautiful woman who we would grow to love over the coming months in 2004 and for whom we continue to love for many reasons above and beyond the gift she gave us in Ariel.

I have learned that life will frequently throw me curve balls, things may go along smoothly for a while and then – smack, something happens to make me stop and give me a choice. Either to breathe and see what lessons are in store for me in this challenge or to see the challenge as the universe’s way of torturing me. I am choosing these days to see life as an opportunity to grow on a daily basis. I can even tap into my sense of humor in these moments and notice – ah ha, so it’s time to learn some new things about myself.

Going through many of the difficulties I had to get through in my life has shown me I am much stronger inside than I would have been if that strength had not been tested so often in my life.

As a parent your instinct is to want to protect your children from hurt and pain at all costs. But I know that for me being a really good parent is to teach my daughter emotional resiliency. To be able to walk through a painful experience and have her develop her own emotional muscles and strength. It would be disingenuous of me to tell Ariel that life will always be smooth and I will protect her from all painful experiences.

And back to the unknown, this reformed control freak who felt she could not relax unless she knew what was next, I have come to enjoy the surprises of life. To be more spontaneous and to know from a deep place that life will unfold in ways I could not have begun to have imagined if I were plotting it out myself.

Adoption and Identity

As both an adoptive Mom and an Adoption Coach, I am always very interested to talk to all those who’s lives have been touched by adoption. Couples/singles looking to adopt, birth mothers and those who were adopted.

As an adoptive Mom to a 6-1/2 year old who we adopted in an open adoption, I have always been very forthcoming and honest with my daughter about where her life began. And in that honesty, she loves to hear all about her entry into this world. From being carried in her birth mother’s tummy to our rushed drive to the hospital when Ariel decided to arrive 3 days earlier than her scheduled c-section and also when her birth mom was visiting friends and family in a different town than the hospital we had all toured and filed the birth plans with.

Recently I have had some thought provoking and powerful discussions about the issue of identity where it applies to being adopted. We do maintain varying degrees of open communication with her maternal birth family (either online or with some in person visits) so it has been such a gift to see where Ariel gets certain characteristics – by nature or nurture.

As this open relationship has only grown deeper over the past 7 years, I cannot imagine it ever closing and for that I am grateful, for my daughter and for me as well. Her birth family have welcomed us into their lives with open hearts and a great deal of kindness and love.

I went into being an adoptive Mom with the intent of following a Kahlil Gibran poem that I love called On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

While I am deeply bonded and very much love my daughter, I have always been aware she is her own separate being. It is my job and joy to help her discover who she is aside from being my daughter. Already I know she sings like her birth mother – a voice angelic and pure. She has the curiosity about life and living creatures nurtured by her father and I. That she loves to talk – well that could be a little nature and a little nurture, Ariel’s birth mom and I both share the “gift of gab”.

There will come a day I am sure when Ariel will be curious to learn more about her birth family – she has six siblings she has yet to meet, three children on her birth mom’s side and three on her birth father’s side. While I have always left the door open for contact with Ariel’s birth mom, that contact is primarily through online contact right now.

I am very secure in my attachment with my daughter and I will always support and help her when the time is right to reach out and be able to learn more about this wonderful family that blessed us with this most special child. I know from a deep place in my heart that it is part of the very fabric that makes us human to wonder about “where did I come from”, “what is my first family like”.

Looking back at my journey to Ariel

I had the wonderful opportunity of doing a radio show with Wendy Edwards of the Wendy Edwards Show back in Charlottesville, VA today. The topic of the show is paying it forward and we were talking about my passion for paying it forward in my adoption coaching work due to my deep gratitude for being blessed by adoption with our daughter Ariel Faith.

I have in the past five years talked about my journey to motherhood many times with clients, articles and other public speaking situations. There are times where it feels like a story I rattle off – the six IVF cycles, the two pregnancy losses, transition to adoption and on and on.

Today was different. Wendy has such a way of really tuning in to you, pausing when something moves her and digging a little deeper into the subject matter. I think I have learned to keep the story moving along when I speak with clients as I am focused on them and their journey and helping them.

Wendy touched me as she had an emotional reaction to my story. The focus was on me and my journey and what I have done with all that happened to me. While we were going through the six years of our journey to Ariel, many times people frequently did not know what to say to me when yet another cycle failed or we lost our two pregnancies. So I learned to survive emotionally by turning inwards and being quiet.

So to have Wendy acknowledge how hard it must have been to lose a pregnancy, any pregnancy but especially after all the hardships of an IVF cycle really impacted me. Made me wish I had her to talk to way back when but since I did not, made me feel good to have her ear now, today. It was a long and lonely road for those years of struggle and today was a reminder of that time. So while I do not plan to remain stuck in the past – today I am honoring it with a visit back. And in the coming days I will return to the now and look forward to the future with joy and gratitude.

Too Old To Parent? Let’s Talk

The issue of mid life motherhood is one that is near and dear to my heart. My own journey to motherhood was a long and windy one and I was blessed with the birth of my daughter Ariel (by her birth mom) six days after I turned 45 in 2004. Did I plan to have a child at this particular juncture in my life? In all honesty, no. I had married my husband when I was 39 and we had many discussions about having a child right away. But circumstances were such that another 6 years would go by before my lifelong dreams of motherhood would come true.

As an adoption coach, most of my clients are usually in their late 30′s or 40′s as most singles and couples exhaust their fertility options prior to considering adoption as a way of family building. The median age of first time mid life mothers has been on a steady rise since 1990 going from 9 percent of overall births to approximately 17 percent in 2010.

So where do I stand on “how old is too old” to become a parent – whether that be by conceiving, ART or adoption? I have given that subject much thought both on my own path to motherhood and in counseling clients as they go through the pondering phase of whether adoption is right for them.

I will tell you what I share with clients who are concerned with the issue of age and parenting. I feel it is important for parents of any age to think about their community of support – whether that be family or friends who will be there in time of need, especially during the first few years of a baby’s life.

When I found myself wanting to connect with other mothers my age when Ariel was a baby and found no Mid Life Mom’s groups locally, I created one of my own. That is a plus of being a more seasoned being – we can see a need and create a solution based on past experiences.

What other things will you need to balance with mid life motherhood – career, any care giving of elder family? Will you be a two income family or will one of you be able to be home with baby?

For me the issue of health and my lifestyle has been important. I make the time to take care of my health and well being. I eat healthy and attend a gym regularly. These things I might not have given as much credence to earlier in life but once I became a Mom, I felt a deep sense of responsibility not only to be healthy and active but also to teach my daughter those important life skills as well.

So how old is too old? I do not feel that there is one magic cut off age across the board. I would not want a woman to put her own health at risk to conceive a child by undertaking risky procedures. Personally, looking back I wish I had stopped doing In Vitro treatment before we had gone through six grueling and unsuccessful cycles. I now have to do special annual screenings to be sure all those hormones did not increase my risk of breast or ovarian cancer.

As for the many advantages I see in my own mid life parenting – I am able to offer my daughter life skills and lessons I did not have years ago. I am a very patient mother to Ariel and tuned into her needs. I am able to schedule the work I do around her schedule with help from my husband. After such a difficult path to motherhood I feel I appreciate her even more than if I had been able to conceive and carry a child years ago. I am in a solid stable place in my life – many of the questions I had of life have been answered, at least for now.

There are many great Mid Life Parenting Communities to become involved in and resources to get real life stories of those of us who became Mom’s past the age of 40. I am currently involved in a campaign called a Child After 40 on www.flowerpowermom.com. Angel has a wealth of stories of women who became parents after 40.

If you are considering adoption and want to discuss this aging topic, please feel free to contact me through this web site by email. I would be happy to share my experiences over the past 6-1/2 years on this subject.