Introducing Emmanuel Nicholas

September 3rd, 2012

Here’s our boy, who has kept me really really busy for the last 5.5 months.

I’m in love with him, of course.

He is calm and happy. He likes long walks in the woods because he can stare up at the trees for twenty minutes just taking in the light and wind and color.

He wasn’t always calm and happy–he was “colicky” for 4 months and we walked him back and forth for 14 hours a day until we figured out he had acid reflux. A little medicine every day turned him into an “easy” baby. Thank God.

Emmanuel’s birthmother, Phiona, is strong, smart, wry and wise and we visit with her all the time. A truly open adoption that feels natural.

Ian has had a little trouble adjusting. A lady at the grocery store asked him last month, “Are you a good big brother?” and Ian said, “No.”

“At least he’s honest,” I told her.

But he’s taking to liking him a lot since Emmanuel started laughing at him and watching him play.

More later.

I met Coley through the 2011 Adoption Bloggers Interview Project. She placed her son for adoption in 2001, and her blog  Living the Bittersweet Life, talks about her life as a birthmother. You can also find her at Coley’s Corner. Here are the questions she answered for me, and you can see my interview on her blog.

Tell me about your husband and kids.

I had my first son, Noah, in 1996 at the age of 19. Noah has Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy, and Autism.Things did not work out with his dad and I moved on. Noah’s currently 15 years old. He is definitely a handful but he is also a heart full too!

I became pregnant with Charlie in 2001 due to a failed depo provera (birthcontrol) shot. Charlie’s birthfather did not want to be involved in his life. After many sleepless nights, I chose open adoption for Charlie and placed him with his family after spending 3 days with him in the hospital.

I actually started dating my husband, J, when I was pregnant with Charlie. He was a great support to me during the placement process. Two years after Charlie was born we got married on a baseball field before a minor league baseball game. Charlie was at my wedding, although he was too small to participate. His Mom was a bridesmaid and his sister a flower girl.

What made you start blogging about your life as a birthmom?

I have a personal/family blog, Coley’s Corner ( where I blog about family life, raising a child with special needs, and share lots of my craft projects. After awhile I decided I wanted a separate place where I could blog about my feelings about adoption and being a birthmother, thus The Bittersweet Life ( was born.

What’s your favorite post and why?

My favorite post is titled Being a Birthmom is Bittersweet and in it I talk about some of the things I’ve experienced in open adoptionthat are sweet but also bitter at the same time.

How has your attitude toward adoption changed since Charlie wasborn?

Before Charlie was born, I didn’t know very much about adoption at all. Now, I have learned so much about adoption. Before I got pregnant with Charlie, if you had asked me a question about adoption, I probably would have told you it was a happy thing for all involved. How naïve I was! Now, I know that there is agreat deal of pain involved for all parts of the triad. I really think that adoption should be a last resort – if a Mother can parent, then I think she should at least give it a try. But there are still circumstances in which I think adoption is an appropriate solution. And although my circumstances in life have changed since I was pregnant with Charlie, I still know in my heart that I made the best decision I could for him at that point in time.

What were your hopes for Charlie when he was born? What are they now?

For the most part, I think my hopes and dreams for Charlie are just like the hopes and dreams of many other Mothers and they really haven’t changed much over the years. I hope that he is healthy, happy, and has a good life. I hope he grows up to be a good, well rounded individual. I hope that he finds love and happiness. I hope that he feels loved.

But where those hopes differ from those of other Mothers is that I hope he doesn’t feel abandoned by me. I hope he isn’t angry and I hope that he understands I made the best decision I could at the time. And I hope he knows that I love him – totally, completely, and unconditionally no matter what.

Love Poetry: Mother-Mother

August 24th, 2010

Last week, I inaugurated a Tuesday series on my favorite topic, love. I started with a poem. So I will continue to write or find snippets or poems or meditations on the many different kinds of love in my world. I’ll call the series “Love Poetry.”


*written December 2008*

She haunts me more and more as we move further into our adoption process. She is beautiful, I’m sure of it. I dream of her. She’s the other woman, the one I don’t know. The one I may never know.

She is the mother of the baby we will adopt. But how do you say it? I can’t think of anything that won’t offend me, or her, or someone. Birthmother sounds like she only has one function–to give birth. I especially don’t like the custom of the greeting on “Dear Birthmother” letters. As if she has already made her final decision. As if she doesn’t have the right to change her mind. As if “birthmother” is her one identifying function in regard to us. I know customs are customs and most people repeat them unthinkingly. But I loved and appreciated one sample letter our agency director showed us; it started:

To Someone Special

I liked that. On ours, we wrote Dear Expectant Parents. Because we have this thing about fathers always being left out of the picture. And yet. That seems cold and distant, not quite right.

Another thing I saw at our adoption agency: a birth announcement that called her first mother. I liked it for a while. But does that make me second mother, with all the frailties of the one who isn’t first? Does that make her the one who came BEFORE, but who no longer exists?

Then we have natural mother & biological mother. Same problems. So am I unnatural? And who wants to be known as the biological mother? This reminds me of genetic code, and anatomy charts. Also cellular walls and mitochondria. I’m not into it.

Words have power. And they strike each of us in different ways. I’ve met mothers who placed children for adoption who were perfectly fine with the term “birthmother.” And another who rages against the word. I understand both. But what will my child call her? The one who first loved her?

The one who grieves?

I don’t know. I’d prefer just Mother. She’s mother and I’m mother. Mother-Mother. But I know that’s not practical–because the way we think of things, a child wouldn’t understand that. I don’t think, at least. Maybe she’ll go by her first name in our family. I know people who do that. But like everything else, it doesn’t seem quite right.

Is all this linguistic waffling a sign of guilt? A sign I haven’t begun to work out even the basics of adoptive parenting? Yes, and yes again. Also a sign that I love this woman I don’t know. I don’t know how I love her or why. But I do.

June 16, 2010

Dear N.,

Sometimes I’m embarrassed by how messy my handwriting is, and this is one of those times. I started to handwrite my letter three times, and messed up three times. So I’m typing! I’m sure it will be much easier for you to read.

A lot has happened in the past year, and your baby boy is almost one. We’re gearing up to celebrate his first birthday with a bbq and lots of friends and family. Many people are flying in from out of town—they love Ian Christopher so much that they can’t miss his big day!

Since we last wrote, Ian has learned how to do so many things—crawl, clap, wave, climb up and down couches and beds. Once in a while, he stands up on his own, but I think it will be a few more months before he walks because he goes SO FAST when he crawls. He says just a few words: bird, light, ball, Jesus, tree. I think he’s working on “car,” but can’t get the “c” sound so he calls them all birds. He also thinks fish are birds. He has a little mobile above his changing table that he’s loved since he was a tiny guy. I think I told you about it. When he looks at it, I tell him that fish are the birds of the sea, and birds are the fish of the sky.

He loves watching the cars and trees pass by while we’re driving, and whenever he hears a bird he starts bobbing up and down and saying “Bid! Bid!” He claps a lot–every time he accomplishes something (like crawling off the bed) or at the end of songs in the car or in church. We got him a pretend cell phone that makes him really happy. And he recently started liking books. Before, he would crawl off before we got through the first page. But now, we read Ten Tiny Tadpoles and The Very Hungry Caterpillar and God Found Us You every day. He grins from ear to ear when we start reading. I think he likes the routine.

Mostly, I want you to know he is very healthy and happy. He’s growing well and has started to love table food-especially steak, chicken, bacon, blueberries, and applesauce. He is a carnivore! You might see in some of the pictures he has a little rash around his mouth. He has excema, and we’re trying to figure out if its because he’s allergic to something.

Every night, we talk about you & we call you “Mama N.” and Ian Christopher smiles big because he knows your name and face. We only have one picture of you—taken the day after he was born, I think. You must have been exhausted and sad, but you’re beautiful. I look at that picture all the time. When my sisters first saw it, they all talked about how beautiful you are and how they wish I could meet you. I do hope we get to meet one day. We can fly down just about any time you’d like. Whenever you’re ready—but don’t feel any pressure. The decision is totally yours. I don’t know how hard things are for you, and I’ll never pretend I do. But please know we think about you all the time.

With love,