Live Q and A with Kindred + Co in Instagram

Hi friends!!  We had some technically difficulty with the 24 hour replay but we are SO happy that I was able to save the video to my phone.  You wont be able to see comments from the IG LIVE but this video plays all the way through.  It is LOADED with amazing information.  

THANK YOU to Kindred + Co for allowing me a space with their community and for all of the fantastic questions!!  

A glimpse....

Sharing my heart, my reality...even in my joy and love...there is still great loss and emptiness.

3 weeks ago today my son that I placed for adoption was able to come and stay with my family....for 4 days.  I have a few things that have been weighing on my heart.  

I had an amazing glimpse.  A glimpse into what it would look like to have my son in my home day after day.  A glimpse into a life of caring for and loving all of my children together.  A glimpse into his world and all of our similarities.  A glimpse into a powerful sibling bond and relationship. 

A glimpse into being his mother. 

And it wrecked me. 

 I am deeply blessed that I have the opportunity to grow in an open adoption relationship.  That my children get to know their brother, that he gets to know me and that I get to watch the mother of my son raise him into the amazing young man that he is.  

12 years ago, when I walked out of the hospital empty bellied and empty armed I had NO idea the journey that was coming. 

When I said goodbye to that 3 day old baby boy I had no choice but to treat it like it was my last glance.  I memorized him, cried over him, begged him for forgiveness and tried to calm that nagging and deep rooted fear that I would never see him again and that he would hate me forever.  

What I learned was that I had my own journey to take before I could come back to him.  

3 weeks ago when he was here I found myself memorizing him, crying in my bed as he slept in his, my heart pleading and begging quietly.  I know I will see him again, but when he left....after 4 simple days in my home....I was empty all over again.  

I feel like my adoption journey has been like receiving a guilt verdict when I am innocent.  

Do I get to see him and know him?  YES

Do I know that his mom and dad love him deeply?  YES

Do I believe that he is happy and adjusted?  YES

Do I believe that I made the VERY best decision that I could when I was pregnant?  YES

DOES ANY OF THAT MAKE THIS BETTER OR EASIER?  NO.

It is all a consolation prize for not doing my best. 

Am I lucky?  YES

Am I blessed in my life?  YES

Have things "worked out" for me?  YES

DOES ANY OF THAT MAKE THIS BETTER?  NO.

I think one of the biggest lies that we tell ourselves is that TIME HEALS.  I don't believe that to be true.  I think God heals, and I think we heal and circumstance heals.... But I believe that time plays ugly tricks on you.    Let me see if I can break that down.  

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Grief.  I grieve my son today as much as I did when I left him at the hospital.  I miss him daily, I think about him daily, I would love him with me daily.  I don't know how to live in a world where my heart doesn't pull to him.  

BUT I have expanded.  God has worked in my life.  I have learned and healed and found acceptance and understand my triggers and how to best cope with the emotions that arise.  I have EXPANDED around the grief...but for me, the grief is the same, I am the one that has changed.   

Here is where I think time is dangerous.  A simple glimpse opened a window to all the "possibility" of what my life could have looked like.  BUT that is a lie.  If I had parented my son, what I was able to experience is not what my reality would have been....

I wouldn't have moved to Nashville, I wouldn't have met my husband, I wouldn't have become a mother to my two other children, and I wouldn't have the joy I have in my life.  I know these concrete facts to be true.

BUT at what cost?  The loss of my son to achieve all that is wonderful in my life?  

I have been wrestling with that question all month!!!  

Reflection is powerful, understanding how far we have come is motivation to keep moving forward but looking back....telling myself that I COULD HAVE DONE IT...I could have parented him.  It is not a fair sense of reality.  I am saying that I could have parented him NOW, with everything that is working in my life.

AT THE TIME that I was pregnant I was NOT in this space.  My circumstance has changed.  

Could I parent him now? YES

Is that reality?  NO.  

IS THAT HELPFUL FOR MY LIFE?  No.  

So here we are.  Processing this month.  Reflecting on what could have been.  Understanding and accepting truth about my life and what brought me here, the choices that have made up my reality and learning to expand more and more.  

THE MORE I EXPAND AROUND MY GRIEF THE MORE ROOM FOR LOVE AND OPPORTUNITY.

Derek,

Until next time my dear.  You are in my heart.  You are always with me, a part of me.  I see reminders of you around my home in pictures and gifts and origami birds that you love to make for the kids.  I can't ever make it what maybe it should have been...but here we are, doing the best we can and making it work.  Thank you for showing up.  Thank you for wanting me in your life.  No matter where this takes us...I am here.  I don't deserve it and you don't owe me anything but I am honored to be in your life, to know you and to be able to share my life with you.  I love you, care about you and am always wishing you the very best...

I don't know.  People say this is an easy out.  That by placing my son for adoption I am dumping all of my responsibility on someone else because I was too selfish to step up and do it myself.  Maybe they are right. 

Or maybe my personal hell is a punishment that out ways the verdict.  

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To The Woman I Didn't Pick,

To the beautiful woman that I didn't pick,

I want you to know that I think about you often.  I want you to know that I loved your profile.  I want you to know that you and your husband were beautiful and that I felt that you had so much to offer.

I want you to know that I poured over your profile.  In a stack of 50 families you stood out, for whatever reason, my heart skipped a beat when I looked at your profile and I knew that you were in the running.

You and your husband were newly weds, married just 2 years.  You were so young and beautiful.  Your husband was serving our country and you were a school teacher.  You lived a happy life in Idaho.  You loved each other, you believed in God and you wanted a baby.

You shared your amazing story with me, an expectant mother...your deepest sadness and yearning for a child.  You shared your heartbreaking story of all of the children that you lost to miscarriage.  You shared the tears and pain of infertility at such a young age!  You opened up about the guilt and shame and anger that you felt about not being able to have a child biologically.  You shared your heart and the heart of your husband.  The tears that you shed together.

And then you shared your story of hope, the hope that a woman like me would pick a woman like you.  That I would find you and be drawn to you, that I would want to meet you and that I would bond with you and love you immediately.  That I would fulfill your dreams of becoming a mother.  You promised me an open adoption, you promised to love my son like he was your own flesh and blood, that he would be raised to love God and that he would know me and always know my love for him.

I want you to know that you stood out.  I want you to know that I wanted to pick you.  I want you to know that I prayed over you and your husband.  I want you to know that I still do.

I think about you often.  You are in my heart, just as present as the woman that I picked to be a mother to my son.  I know you were informed that I was looking at your profile.  I know that you had to live through the rejection.  I want you to know how sorry I am and that you did nothing wrong.

I picked her.  I picked them.  They are amazing people.  They are an amazing family and have been the perfect family for me and for that beautiful boy.

I didn't pick you.  You are amazing people.  You would have been an amazing family and could have been the perfect family for me and that beautiful boy.

I think about you and hope and pray often that you have been picked.  That you found a woman that was like me all those years ago.  That she poured over your profile and cried as I did.  That she was  inspired by you as I was, that they called you and met you and that you have been able to fulfill all those same promises that you made to me.  That she was able to help you become a mother…a mother that you have always dreamed of being.

I didn’t pick you.  I loved you and you touched my heart and inspired me.

I am not sorry for the family I picked, but I am sorry that the decision I made meant that you didn't get picked.  

I never wanted that kind of power.  I never wanted to deem one family worthy of a child and another not.

I wasn't lucky enough to connect with THE family.  I connected with MORE than one family.

I want you to know that after hours of combing through so many families…SO many families with the same desires and hopes and heartbreaks I picked you, I picked you and I picked her.  I had an impossible decision to make.  I was so exhausted, I was so tired, I didn't want to be here, I didn't want to make this choice.  I hated everything about this process.  I want you to know that I wanted to help you both, to be a part of both of your families, I wanted to share in the joy with both of you.  I knew that wasn't possible and it broke me.

I prayed all night, prayed for comfort, for clarity, for understanding, for peace, for direction.  I stared at your faces in the dark.  Finally a restless sleep came over me.  When I felt myself wake in the morning I wished that I could sleep forever.  I knew that I had to face the decision. I knew that I had to be accountable for my actions.  I knew that the consequences were coming to collect.

I sat up and I looked down at your face, and at her face.  And I knew.   My prayers had been answered.  I knew who I was going to pick to be the mother of my son.  And I put your profile back in the pile.

I want you to know that I loved you and I think about you often.  I am sorry that I couldn't pick you.  But even more than that…I hope someone else did.

Ashley

A Birth Mom 12 years later.

The Adoption Chat - Ask Ashley

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On today's episode we are taking a question from one of our viewers for an ASK ASHLEY segment.  

This question comes in from a Birth Mother in Michigan.

“My son that I placed for adoption is going to be turning one in a few months.  This has been the hardest year, I am missing out on SO many things.  I really want to celebrate his birthday.  Am I allowed to do that?  How do YOU celebrate and remember your son on his birthday?”

Ashley validates the feelings of a woman surviving the year of "firsts" as a Birth Mother.  She talks about the right that we have to celebrate and honor our children, especially during the birthday months!  She shares some tips on ways to celebrate the children, even if you are alone in that celebration.

 

 

FROM THE HOST:

I just want you to know that I KNOW how hard the first year can be.  When reality sinks in and milestone after milestone rolls out in the first 12 months of our child's life it can slap you in the face.   Always remember that just because we are childless through our daily life does not mean that we are NOT mothers!  I honor you and validate you and YES!  I encourage you to celebrate!!!  You are a mother, you have a child turning one....I celebrate Derek's birthday every year.  I don't ever miss it.  He is with me always and I consider it a great honor to honor him.  

Birthdays are hard.  I just want to tell the adoptive families that just because I don't reach out or say happy birthday doesn't mean I forgot or don't care.  It is quit possibly the worst day of my life.  I know that can seem selfish but my grief doesn't care about that.  I remember everything on the day that he was born.  EVERYTHING.  I am celebrating in every way that I know how.  Honor me while you honor him.  

My Journey Through Advocacy.

Hi Friends, 

Ashley Mitchell, here.  I am the President of Lifetime Healing, LLC and I am so glad that you have found yourself here.  One of the questions that I get asked from Birth Mothers, and adoption community members in general is

"How did you get started in sharing your story?".  

There are so many amazing voices out there but they don't know how or where to start!  SO...I thought I would jump on and share my journey through advocacy...the good the bad and the truth.  It is NOT easy and has brought me to my knees many times but we finally feel like we are on the right track with the right people and we couldn't be MORE excited!

My mother always told me that I had a really large learning curve.  It takes me FOREVER to figure things out...so even though it took me a really long time to step into my truest and most authentic calling, which is speaking, training and education, I had to make a lot of mistakes first.  Maybe not mistakes....just turns that took me somewhere that I didn't expect to go, which of course brought me back to exactly where I was supposed to be!!  

MY FIRST ATTEMPT:

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My first attempt started in 2010 as a 501 (c ) 3 National Non-Profit (go big or go home, right?)  called Blessings in a Basket.  We sent baskets to mothers in the hospital or right after so they had a gift to let them know that they were not alone after relinquishment.  On top of that we were running a FB community for Birth Mothers.  And we built an AMAZING community, and most of the original members of that group are some of my closest friends and still work with me to this day!!

Let me back up a year.  This idea started as a simple blog in East Nashville, Tennessee.  I had moved there after placement, was divorced within a year of moving, met my now husband and was headed for a disaster that could NOT be stopped.  (this becomes part of my infamous Jerry Springer years)  I had a complete breakdown including a ride in an ambulance, two days in the ER and a trip to a mental health facility where I was "locked up" for 5 days.  I got answers, I got clarity and I got a name to my grief.  SO NOW I WAS ON A HEALING TRACK.  

After I got home from the hospital I wanted to write and express everything that I had been feeling for years....so I started a blog and paid for a very simple blogspot design.

And I wrote and I wrote and I wrote.  I shared very dark days, and happy days and healing days. 

And then randomly people would read, comment, share.  

So when we moved to Utah in 2010 I was on a mission!  That is when BIB was created.  I failed miserably at running a non-profit.  There was so much red tape and because I am who I am I PUT THE PASSION BEFORE THE HORSE and missed a lot of steps.  I was met with A LOT of negative resistance and it broke me.  I let individuals push me out of my business.  An organization that we had spent thousands to create, web design, legal representation and more.  It was a mess.  

ONE THING it did do well was love on Birth Mothers.  And I quickly learned that I was awesome at loving the women, inspiring the women and bringing things OUT of the women that needed attention and work!  So I walked away from BIB and took some time.  

I took time to grieve and heal some more.  I sat in anger for a bit about the business and the way things played out and then I took ownership and changed perspective and I got back to work!  

MY NEXT ATTEMPT:

Big Tough Girl, LLC was born in this season in January 2015.  BTG is still my heart beat project and serves women from ALL walks of life still today. I love this company so so much.  During the time I wanted to have everything under one giant umbrella so as we (some of the amazing women, that again have stayed by my side) started to develop BTG and were looking at ways that we could support ANY and ALL women and not just be defined by adoption we decided that we could set up a "branch" of BTG that would be specifically for adoption babes.  We worked very hard at developing this service offering and created BTG ADOPTION that took what we did well, ran online support groups and continued to build a powerful community.  We spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week managing these groups, navigating conversation and managed heavy grief.  (God bless the women that are still doing this.)  By June of 2015 we were ready to start something new and push the envelope with Birth Mother support.  I decided to take our booming support group and move it OFF OF FACEBOOK over to an online community group called Tribalry.  It was a bold move and we lost some women who didn't want to get off of FB but we believed deeply in the damage that social media can cause and so we set it up as the first BIRTH MOTHER MEMBERSHIP group and it was $5.00 a month.  We had started to gain a lot of traction nationally.  I was speaking at conferences, sharing on podcasts and doing interviews all over the country.  I was sharing my story over and over and over.  I was relieving some of the hardest and saddest moments of my life over and over and over....opening myself up to judgement, hate and resentment...over and over and over.  

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In February of 2016 I had a small group of women that wanted to join in and take what BTG ADOPTION was doing and make it more for the Birth Mothers of Utah.  We wanted to get back to hosting the in person groups, taking the monthly topics that I had created and really implement them into online group through our membership program, and help professionals get involved in what we were doing through a referral program.  And within just a few short month we had taken my blood, sweat and tears of BIB and BTG ADOPTION and created LIFE AFTER PLACEMENT. 

By May of 2016 we were ready to launch to the State of Utah and let them know who we were and what we were ready to do to serve the Utah community better!  It was based on Community > Competition.  It was an amazing project.  We hosted an amazing LAUNCH party for the entire Utah Adoption Community and had amazing feedback about what were doing as a spin off of what I had started the year before!...

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BUT what I didn't realize was happening was that I was SO EMPTY.  I was so depleted for the almost decade of "balls to the wall" service I had been offering.  24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Never stopping, no boundaries, never saying no.  I was empty, I was dry and had nothing else to give...and was realizing that I shouldn't be giving the kind of help that I was.  I was not qualified to serve in that capacity.  

In June of 2016 I took a family vacation to San Diego.  I took my computer to work.  Every time I sat to open my computer I cried and wanted to vomit.  I was becoming resentful and didn't want to serve, didn't want to help, didn't want to HEAR ANY MORE!!!  I was burned out to the max.  

PS remember how I had already failed miserably at running a non-profit years and years before?

I came home and made a decision that changed the rest of my life forever!!!  I SAID NO.  I said no to continuing my role in Life After Placement, I said no to hosting groups, I said no to offering 24 hour a day emotional support.  I just said NO.  

I just couldn't any more.

So I allowed Life After Placement to go under new ownership and I was bought out.  I let go of the social media platforms that I had built, the website, the Tribalry community I had started...ALL OF IT and I walked away.  

AND IT BROKE ME.  

I regretted it for months.  I missed the women terribly.  I missed the work terribly but I was SO tired.  And I was failing and I needed to stop.  And I could NOT work in the capacity that was being asked of me. 

*Life After Placement has now transformed into what it is today with the heart of the Birth Mother that stepped into an opportunity to take it make it what she has wanted for years. It is providing groups and an online community in Utah and nation wide. 

SO WHAT NOW:

I have been beat up, verbally attacked, slandered, accused of being unethical, disowned, thrown out with the trash, hated on and completely defeated.  Sometimes by trolls that don't know me at all and some by my closest people.  THAT IS JUST PART OF THE GAME and we are still standing.

So once again I took some time.  I had to do some SERIOUS soul searching because I knew how easy it would be to be pulled back into the same work and I knew that I couldn't run groups any more.  I know that I wouldn't run an online forum for Birth Mothers again but I knew that I had something inside me that needed to be shared....that the world needed to hear...BUT WHAT??

After mending hearts, fixing what was broken where I could and apologizing where it was allowed I started to rebuild.  I started to write, I started to take everything I knew, that I had experienced and that I knew was missing and with the help of our amazing contributing authors we wrote the nations FIRST training and curriculum for Adoption Professionals.  I knew we would never do groups again BUT I knew I could make sure that group STILL HAPPENED and we knew that the professionals needed to be held accountable...plus I knew we needed them!  I knew they could serve in the capacity that we were not qualified...SO ENTER...

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So why do I share all of this???  First I share it to tell you that I have made a million and one mistakes!!  I have hurt people and I have hurt myself.  I have made a million business mistakes BUT we are learning and now I have people that are WAY smarter than me doing what I suck at so that I can focus on what I am really good at....speaking, training and educating!!

HOW DO YOU GET STARTED?  

You just have to start!  We need voices.  WE need people that are willing to stand, share truths and serve well.  We need people that truly believe that community > competition and don't just say that they believe it.  WE NEED ACTION that is helping, not hurting this industry!  

I BELIEVE IN CHANGE.  I don't think it is too late and I know we can expect better and serve better and BE BETTER as women, as community leaders, as a TEAM all trying to accomplish the same thing....MORE ETHICAL ADOPTION.  

I study and read and learn and ask questions and have meetings and take classes and have mentors and lawyers and CPA's all help me daily to be better.  I am not perfect at it but I am learning.....and I am NOT GOING ANY WHERE!!!!  

I am standing with you!  STAND AND SHARE YOUR VOICE IF IT MATTERS TO YOU!  You are not alone.  Follow your heart, understand your talents and lean on those smarter than you!  

We will be starting a NEW page here at Lifetime Healing, LLC where we will share our FAVORITE additional resources.  If you have a blog or a company or a heart for sharing about adoption we would love to hear from you!  Please email your links to Ashley@lifetimehealingadoption.com so that we can check it out!  

We love you.  Thank you for being brave!

National Adoption Month Re-Cap and LIVE videos

As we wrap up National Adoption Month we are just blown away and a bit exhausted! 

You can follow all the amazing stories by following #lifetimehealingadoption

We have had a VERY busy month that included the launch of The Adoption Chat and our annual ABC photo-a-day challenge on social media!  

We had ALL sides of the triad participate this year in all different seasons of their adoption journey.

You can follow all the amazing stories by following #lifetimehealingadoption

We had over 1200 posts, over 8 hours of live video conversation with hundreds of families, over 500 private messages and some amazing features including The Adoption Advocate hosted by the National Council for Adoption, #Facesofadoption hosted by Helpusadopt.org, Kindred + Co, and Adopt A Love Story.

Not to mention our amazing training that took place this month with some inspiring professionals in California for our post placement training and curriculum.

What are they saying in California??

Our Agency recently had Ashley Mitchell of Lifetime Healing come and share with us the important impact of birth parent support. We had the opportunity to spend the day with her learning and then experienced a support group in action. I cannot say enough how valuable this time was spent for me and my staff. As an Agency, we felt we were doing a good job in supporting our birth parents in their adoption plan, but this process opened our eyes to many areas we never considered and how we can improve to provide the support and care deserved. I truly believe every Adoption professional should experience this Agency changing process as it will not only improve our services to birth parents but will allow us to better serve all in the Adoption triad.
— Wayne Mott - Executive Director, Family Connection Christian Adoptions

 

We can't thank you enough for everything that you have done to support us.

We look forward to taking some time off with our families for the month of December but we have so many amazing things plans for 2018 so stay tuned!  

We had hundreds of people join our LIVE video conversations and they were so powerful. 

We wanted to share those with you so you didn't miss out on our conversations.

LH President, Ashley Mitchell has been such a powerful voice this month and has been so gracious in sharing her journey so vulnerably and honestly!

We hope you will take some time to watch.