Adoption can be a heartbreaking, painful journey. But it can also be the most beautiful and profound experience. I hope by sharing my experiences, and others like mine, adoption will no longer be a taboo subject.

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You're a Used Piece of Garbage... and Other Bits of Garbage I've Heard

This post has been brewing for quite some time. I've started it, changed it, deleted it, and started it again. In my mind I've written it at least 20 times, but it's yet to make it to the "publish" stage. Why is that? Because this post is from the deepest part of me. It puts me in a place of vulnerability that I rarely like to go. It brings up some not so great memories, and it hurts my heart. But I feel like it needs to be said.

Tonight I was reading the book "Cinderella" by Jenni James (side note: if you want an easy, clean series that is full of good morals, check out any of her Faerie Tale Collection stories. Wonderful). In this adaptation, there is no magic. There's no fairy godmother to make everything better. There's no lost slipper, no chase at midnight. It's about making your own magic. Toward the end of the book, the heroine Ella and her handsome prince are talking. Their conversation goes like this:

"But, Ella, dear, you cannot wish to be their servant forever."
"Why not?" She closed her eyes. "I cannot see how I am worth anything more than that. I tell myself I am, but I cannot imagine trying to rise above this. It is all I have known for so long-- what if I fail at the rest? What if I cannot do all that will be expected of me? Then what?"
"Then you fail."
"So you fail. It's alright. We all fail. Every single one of us."
"It is part of life, my dear. You just pick yourself back up and move forward again. You certainly do not have to be perfect the very first time you attempt something new. What would be the point of living if you did not learn, if you did not grow and seek and challenge yourself?" He pulled back to look at her. "We need to live life, all of it-- the ups and downs, failures and successes-- for us to truly know our worth." His hand came up to cradle the side of her head. "Ella, what I believe you need to sort out first is the value you place upon yourself."
What value? Glancing down she grimaced.
"Ella, do not look away. Once you see your true worth, once you know exactly what you were meant to be-- not what you believe you are -- no, think past that to your destiny. Until you embrace all the world has to offer, you will never be free within your own heart. You will always be trapped within yourself, reminding your soul that you are not worth what others have. Whether you fail or not is not the question here; you will most certainly fail at times. What you need to ask yourself is whether you are ready to become all you were destined to be."

How often do we feel like we are destined to fail... that we are never going to be good enough, that we are not deserving of the [fill in the blank] others have. The happiness, the success, the education, the house, the car, the love, the relationship, the children... the list goes on. We always find ourselves lacking some essential component that we believe others to have. Some mystical element that entitles them to so much more than we deserve.

The world loves to tell us that we really aren't perfect. Those distant sources have a way of hitting the heart... but how much harder is it when that's the message we've been given time and time again by people who claim to care about us? People who might even say they love us? In my dating years, I heard some very uplifting messages from boyfriends or ex-boyfriends. A few of my favorites:

"You're nothing but a used piece of garbage guys will sleep with but never marry."

"It's too difficult to continue to love you."

When I found out I was pregnant with O, an ex said "I wish the baby was mine because then [and only then] I would have a reason to stay with you."

"I will come to resent you for taking away my freedom; I have goals I haven't accomplished and I will blame you for that down the road."

"You'll never find someone as good for you as me."

"No one will ever love you like I do."

I could continue, but you get the idea. Time and time again I was told by various people, many of whom I deeply cared for, that I wasn't good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, funny enough, spiritual enough, sexy enough, caring enough, etc etc etc enough to date/be with/marry.

With constant messages like that, is it any wonder my self esteem, my very sense of self worth, was zero? We all define ourselves by what others think. It's a natural thing to compare, to evaluate, and to judge. When we are in those years of trying to decide who we really are, and all the messages we are getting are about how we aren't and never will be quite enough to meet perfection, it's hard to dispute that. It's hard to continue to tell yourself that you deserve better, when deep down, you hear all those voices telling you that you DON'T deserve better. In fact, you're already reaching for the stars with your less-than-amazing situation.

I've had conversations with two different friends about their dating experiences in the past month. Both of these amazing women had the same thing to say-- "He's so amazing. He's [handsome, smart, funny, a good guy, spiritual, etc]. He is way too good for me. There's no way he would ever want to date me."

How do you argue that thinking when you know that experience has taught these phenomenal women that they really don't deserve someone awesome, and that they really aren't worthy of love?

How do you prove to a lost, lonely, insecure 18 year old that relationships can actually be built on love and trust; they don't have to be built on sex, control, and manipulation?

One of the things that frustrates me most about my adoption experience has nothing to do with adoption. It's the relationships I had which led to dating D. Time and time again I dated guys who were not good for me. Guys who were manipulative, persuasive, possessive. Guys who would only invite me over if they knew I'd spend the night. Guys who would tell me they loved me, but only after I did what they wanted to do. I learned pretty quick that the easiest way to gain control over the relationship and to hear those magic words was to do what was expected, whatever that was. I'm not just talking sex here. I'm talking about calling "him" at the right time, sending "him" the flirty text first, making sure to not be seen talking with other guys on campus, spending time with "him" instead of my roommates, doing homework first or not at all so "he" didn't have to change his schedule around, going to the games, sitting in the right spot to be seen, adjusting my bedtime to fit "his". As soon as I changed who I was to be who he wanted me to be, then I'd hear the words that I was dying to hear: "I love you Katelyn."

This cheapened everything. If you would have asked me who I was, what I liked, how I spent my time.... I'm not sure I could have told you anything about "Katelyn". I could have told you everything about whomever it was I was convinced loved me, but nothing about myself. I had no identity outside of being so-and-so's girlfriend. I was trying to find myself, but in doing so, lost myself even more.

Now that I'm in a healthy relationship, there is a big part of me that wants to go back in time and question teenage Katelyn on just what she thinks she's doing. I think about the relationships, the months of heartache, the conversations that cut me down, and to this day, it still hurts. And honestly, when things get a little rough at home, I hear all of those voices right back again, telling me I'm not good enough to have such an amazing husband, I'm not pretty enough, smart enough, kind enough, sweet enough, considerate enough; I'm not worthy of the great life I'm now blessed with. Just this week, in a moment of guilt, I said to myself, "I don't know how to be a good wife. I don't deserve The Mister. He could do so much better than me."

 It brings me back to Cinderella. Like most insecure humans, Ella questions what if she isn't good enough, smart enough, clever enough, strong enough? What if everything she's known thus far is as good as it gets and more than she deserves? What if she tries for greatness and fails?

I wish there were more Prince Charmings in the world. I wish there were more people who could look at us and say, "So what?" "So you failed? Oh well." "So you dated a jerk? Try again." "You can do so much better than this; no, you DESERVE so much better than this." "You are worth every struggle, every long night while you cry, every fight, every expense, every everything. You are worth so much more."

I'm lucky enough to have found my Prince Charming. He shakes his head when I cry about not being a good enough wife and mother, he holds me when I break down. He loves me unconditionally-- without manipulation, persuasion, or possession. He lifts me up so I can be a better person; he doesn't bring me down so he can stay in control.

And when those horrible little voices of boyfriends past rudely remind me that I'm not worth any of this, and it will never stick around, and I'm going to be left heartbroken and disenchanted, I imagine my love saying, much as Prince Charming did, "Whether you fail or not is not the question here; you will most certainly fail at times. What you need to ask yourself is whether you are ready to become all you were destined to be."

After years of honest soul searching, prayer, and self discovery, I can answer with sincerity, "Yes. I'm ready." Can you?

This week...

This week was amazing. I was able to go to a fantastic birthmom retreat and spend some quality time with some of the most strong, mature, impressive women I've ever met. I have a few different posts I plan on writing based on this experience. Today, let me just sum it up with this: We laughed, we cried, we met new friends, we grieved, we healed. I'm so blessed to have had this opportunity.

In other news, today rocked too! I blogged about it on my personal blog though, so you wouldn't have to see 25 pictures. You're welcome.

The Life of K (Personal Blog)

I just need to add a side note: Heather is the AMAZING adoptive mom (such an unneeded title. She is the most amazing MOM) who blogs over at Tender Mercies . She has three of the most darling daughters. The oldest is the same age as the little man, so he was pretty darn excited to meet a new friend today.

The world of adoption is fantastic my friends. Life is good. I'm blessed to know so many people from all sides of the adoption triad, and I wouldn't trade that for anything!

Six month recap... In pictures

Also known as, all the reasons I've been MIA from the blogging world. Enjoy.







Another birthday

Sweet baby O is officially 5. I got the greatest email from Mr R & Mrs S today, telling me all about how happy and great O is and how his birthday was wonderful. I adore getting emails and pictures from them. It's peace to my soul to know sweet boy is doing well and loving life.

That doesn't mean today was easy. It was actually a harder than normal birthday. I had a dream last night that I was holding O, and waking up from that was devastating. Then, part of my inlaw family celebration today included singing happy birthday to the people who had May birthdays in the fam. That meant we sang to my oh so wonderful 5 year old step son. I started to cry singing happy birthday.... It's not a song I can sing on May 26 without a lot of heartbreak apparently. It was honestly just a hard, hard day. But it's now after midnight and I made it through. One more year down.

Most people do a one- year recap on their birthdays, at the new year, etc. I realized its become my tradition to do a yearly recap on O's birthday. I wondered why that was for a little while, then came to this conclusion: Everything I did for the first few years after O was born was to make myself into a person he could one day be proud to call his birthmomma. It also was healing for me in the first year after O was born to just look back and realize that I somehow made it through an entire year. Now his birthday is a time to celebrate and a time to reflect, on him, on me, and on life in general.

In the last year I:
- Got married (and gained a hubby and a child)
- Passed my Clinical Social Worker test
- Moved to Kaysville to spend time in a two bedroom townhouse with the mister
- Lots of family time
- Moved back to WVC into my sister's house so they could go have an adventure
- Tried to figure out how to live with a spouse and not want to kill them :)
- Started job number one
- Realized I hated job number one and tried to find a new one
- Bought a truck
- Started job number two
- Started job number three on the side of job two
- Bought my first home
- Spent my first night with my mister and our boy in OUR home. Last night. It rocked.

I'm sure there are a million other things that happened in the last year, but those are the major ones. It's been a pretty eventful year with BIG events. A wedding, a reception, several moves, new jobs, and to top it off with buying and moving into our first home. I'm now a private practice therapist. And I work 52 on call hours a week for the hospitals. Woah. Life is crazy and busy and going directions I never dreamed it would. But that's where we are. And I wouldn't change a single thing.

When I do adoption presentations in schools I always get asked "Do you regret it?" The easiest answer to that question is "No." But there is more than that. Yes, there are days it really sucks. Yes, there are days that I wish I didn't have to have. Mother's Day and his birthday are easily the hardest days of the year. I hate them both. There are days that I question and wonder and wish things could have been differently. But I do not regret a single thing about my experience. I love my sweet boy with all of my heart. His entering my life changed everything about me. It changed my perspective, my attitude, my personality, my outlook. It changed the relationships I had with my family and friends and it impacted the relationships I've had since then. It opened up opportunities and doors I would have never known existed. I became a much kinder, more open, less negative, more accepting person. I learned what it means to be unfairly judged and vowed to never do that to someone else. I learned what a precious relationship I have with my family here and with my Heavenly Father. I learned the true meaning of love, sacrifice, and heartache. I came to appreciate the love of a parent in putting their child first. I learned how it feels to wonder why you are being left alone, lonely, and devastated. I learned that the comfort of the Holy Ghost is a tangible thing. I learned that there are some genuinely amazing, caring, loving people in this world. I also learned the world can be a cold, cruel, heartless place. I think more than anything else though, I learned who I truly am. I learned what it means to be a daughter of God. I learned the role and expectations I have to fulfill. I learned that Heaven has a plan for every single person on the earth. And I learned that no matter how hard, difficult, terrifying, heartbreaking, and devastating it might seem.... It really does all work out eventually. And it works a lot easier when you trust that you're not in it alone. 

Those are lessons I wouldn't trade for anything. Even on the hardest days, the privilege I have of being the woman blessed to experience and be a small part of O's life is astounding. It is the greatest blessing I could imagine to be a mother, no matter the amount of time. 

Happy birthday my son. 

Anticipatory grief

Tomorrow is sweet "baby" O's birthday. He is turning 5. Every birthday is hard, but this one seems to be hitting me more than normal. I went into the hospital on Memorial Day, the 25th, to be induced. And at 2:45 am Tuesday morning, May 26 2009, my sweet babe was here. Crazy for me as I sit here tonight to remember life 5 years ago. 

Noon: my parents picked me up at my creepy, run down, one bedroom house I was renting
12:30: lunch at Olive Garden. I was freaking out... So I ate a salad. Worst decision ever.
2:00: Hospital check in
2:45: finally get into a room 
3:15-4:00ish: finally get hooked up on the pitocin
6:00: epidural
6:00-midnight: nothing. Talking with my parents, seeing a few visitors, trying to take a nap, wondering why my leg suddenly feels again and why I can move it
Midnight: sicker than a dog, this is where my salad became a clearly bad decision. Ever thrown up olive garden's vinegar dressing? Awful
1:00: calling my case worker to let her know Mr R & Mrs S better head up since baby is on his way
2:00: freaking out a little, still sick, still feeling my leg, hooked up on o2, wondering where Mr R & Mrs S are. Really recognizing that I am having a baby.
2:10: Mr R and Mrs S get there
2:15: Doc gets there, says hey, let's have a baby, but let me go deliver this other baby first.
2:20: Doc decides she probably better deliver my baby first
2:45: After two and a half pushes, sweet baby O is on my chest, turning pink, and screaming his little head off
2:45 I fell in love
2:45 I witnessed a miracle in seeing life truly begin
2:45 My heart broke

I will be celebrating the day that changed my life more than any other by moving into our home, partying with my in laws, and holding my sweet 5 year old step-son extra close. 

Send some love my way, if you can. Birthdays are hard.

The Gift of Motherhood

Before I start, I need to clarify two things: One, you may disagree with me. You may be part of the adoption or loss communities and think I'm completely full of it. That's okay. I hope my second clarification works for you: This post is not intended to make anyone feel bad, awful, horrible, offended, etc. If you disagree, I'd love to know why. If you think maybe you've said the wrong thing, no worries. We all say things sometimes that we don't really mean. We also sometimes don't have any idea WHAT to say, so we say whatever comes to mind. Sometimes it's very nice and appropriate, sometimes it's maybe a little less so. This post addresses one of those "less so" statements surrounding Mother's Day.

I have a pretty amazing friend in my life. She and I started working at the Weber State bookstore at the same time. It's been 6 years now, and I still consider her one of my best friends. We clicked, and we got along, and for some miraculous reason, as life has moved on and pushed us in new and awful ways, we continue to find things in common and find time to chat and see each other.

Here's the thing about this amazing woman. She was THRILLED to become a mom. She and her hubby had wanted babies for a while, and when they finally got pregnant with their first, it was amazing. Life has a pretty awful way of working though, and there were some complications. Baby Jane was born as a stillborn quite late in pregnancy. I had the privilege of going to dinner and talking with this momma about two months after Jane was born. We talked about life and work and a million other things.... and then we talked about Jane. We cried, we laughed, and we reminisced together about the awfulness of labor and delivery. We talked about how painful it is when senseless things are said. We talked about the healing power of the knowledge that families can and will be together forever. And we talked about being moms-- not in the "traditional" sense, but in the realest sense there is.

I was able to go to lunch last week with this momma. We hadn't seen each other since we talked over dinner, but we had shared several personal things via text in the last few months. She knew how hard it was on me when my sister had her baby, because she 100% understood. Loss is loss, and heartbreak is heartbreak. Jealousy, in all its awful glory, hits even the most prepared. At lunch, we talked a little about that, and then our conversation wandered again to the realm of motherhood. She said something that really hit home. She said:

"I hate when people try to comfort me by saying 'You'll be a great mom someday.' They don't seem to recognize that I am a great mom already."

I almost cried I was so relieved that someone else really understood. People who absolutely have the best intentions at heart (and yes I recognize that) have a tendency to tell me "You'll be a great mom when you have kids of your own." I appreciate that...

......but I sometimes just want to shout at the top of my lungs that I AM A MOM.

No, I do not have my child here with me. No, my dearest friend does not have her child with her. But she is a mom and I am too. Our situations are entirely different but our titles and our loss is the same. We both bore children, we both experienced all the hopes and dreams and wishes that accompany a pregnancy and an impending birth.

The world has such a closed view of "motherhood". Let me challenge you to expand that. Being a mom means that you sacrifice everything for your child. It means you have hopes and dreams and expectations for your child. It means you love them more than life itself. This is not limited to bearing your children physically, but it is also not limited to those parents who continue to have children with them.

The gift of motherhood is an amazing, precious, and life changing gift. Once you wander into that world, you cannot turn around and pretend it didn't happen. You cannot think "I'll be a mom one day." You are and will forever be a mother, no matter the length of time you got to have your precious little one with you.

Those who have experienced the loss of adoption, stillbirth, and miscarriage, please know this: You Are A Mother. It is a title you own and a title I hope you are proud to display. Even if the world fails to recognize you, know within your heart that it is true.

To those who have never experienced this type of loss, but know someone who has-- be a little more compassionate, and a little more aware this Mother's Day. Wrap your arm around the amazing mothers in your life and let them know that you recognize them. For someone whose heart is breaking that there is no child to tell them "Happy Mother's Day" you can make all the difference.

I'm awesome... and so are you.

This post is courtesy of a conversation I had with one of my therapy clients this week. I had tasked her with coming up with a list of all of her "strengths" or "positive qualities" so that we can focus on how great she is, instead of talking over and over about her weaknesses.

She said something when I asked her to read me her list of strengths that struck me hard. She said, "This was really hard for me." I asked why. She responded, "Because I don't feel like I'm being humble enough."

My heart broke.

And then I realized how many people feel the same way (And then I decided to blog about it).

Here's the thing, my reading friends. I AM AWESOME. I know that I am. I know that I am smart and pretty and funny (sometimes) and loving and caring and sweet and talented and fashionable and hard working. I am a great wife, a great mom, and a great woman. I am, all around, a pretty awesome human.

As you read that list, did you feel a little squeamish? Did you think, "Wow Katelyn, you're kind of overdoing your greatness." Did you think, "I'm glad you think those things Katelyn, but I don't think they're really true about you." Did you wonder, "Woah, did Katelyn just lose all her humility?"

I'd be surprised if you didn't.

For some reason that is beyond my comprehension, there is a society and a culture of "putting down". We put others down, yes. But even more frequently, we put ourselves down. There are two ways this happens. One: We look at the great things others are doing and we think "Woah, they are amazing. I could never do what that human is doing." Two: We do something awesome, but we think "I can't talk about how great I feel for doing that because someone else might feel bad about it."

To quote a general authority: STOP IT.

I want to be able to brag about myself. I want to be able to say that I am amazing, and wonderful, and kind, and loving, and NOT FEEL BAD. I want to be able to blog about my creations and not think to myself "Should I write that I am the one who decorated, or will someone else look at it and think, 'I could never do that. I wish I was as creative as Katelyn'? If they think that, is that my fault? How can I censor my post so that I don't sound like I'm tooting my own horn?"

I wish we lived in a society where it was okay to talk about our achievements without fear. I wish we lived in a society where we praised and uplifted others, rather than belittled them. I wish there was less comparison between people and more comparison within.

As I talked with my client about her strengths, and how uncomfortable she felt talking about them, I suddenly realized one very important thing.

Our Heavenly Father doesn't think about us the same way our neighbors do. I feel pretty confident in this. He doesn't look at our achievements and think "Well, I wish I was as _____ as Katelyn." He looks at the great things we are doing and the great people we are becoming and thinks, "WAY TO GO."

So why can't we do the same? Why do we have to look around us and feel bad for ourselves, instead of being so darn happy for our neighbor, that she has a spotless house and well dressed kids and actually managed to make breakfast before dropping the littles off at school?

Why does it matter when I drop my little human off to school that Mary down the street has it all together and I feel like I just rolled out of bed? Does it make me less of a person that I was up working all night and haven't been to bed yet? No. It doesn't. It means that she busted her buns to get up this morning and look great. It also means that I busted my buns to work all night and still some how made it to school without falling asleep at the wheel.

My challenge is to you, blog reading friends. Stop looking around and feeling bad for yourself. Stop focusing so much on everything you don't have, everything you haven't achieved, everything you think you are lacking. Take five minutes today and pat yourself on the back.

Did you make it through your day with a 2-year-old and not yell at them? Kuddos to you!

Did you wake up to kiss your hubby before he went to work? Congrats!

Did you spend some much needed time for you? Wonderful!

Are you better today in at least one area than you were yesterday? And no, I don't mean "Are you better in one way and at least exactly the same, but absolutely not any worse in all other areas?" I mean, did you forget to pack your kid's lunch yesterday but today you remembered? Then guess what-- You rock.

I'm not saying there isn't a place for humility. There is. We will ALWAYS fall short and we will always need assistance. We will never be perfect in every area of life. It's something worth striving for, and it's something worth recognizing every single day. But for heaven's sake my friends, can we PLEASE stop being so negative towards ourselves? Can we please list our positive strengths and not feel like horrible, awful people?

Moms, this week is Mother's Day. I know how tempting it is to look at Pinterest and look at Facebook and Insta and think, "Wow, I suck. I didn't think to make some amazing holiday adventure for my two year old. In fact, my two year old just got some markers and drew all over the wall instead. Then I put her in time out. I am a horrible, awful mom."

Instead of doing that this week, I challenge you- yes, challenge- to make a list of why you are a great mom. Not why you're the best mom in the world... but why you are a great mom for your littles. Why are you a great mom? Why are you a great friend? Why are you a great wife? Why are you a freaking great human?? Do so with no shame. Don't feel bad. Do it with NO COMPARISON TO ANYONE BUT YOU. Why are you better today, this week, or this year than you were yesterday, last month, or last year? Maybe you haven't changed anything, accomplished anything, or seen any differences, except now you try a little harder than you did then. Guess what... That's something to be proud of.