Have you ever met someone and known pretty much immediately that they were going be someone special in your life, that you had just met a life long friend? Ya, that's the way it was when I met my next guest blogger. It was the first day of school and I was sitting in math class. I had to introduce myself and so I said that I am a wife and a mom. I have two girls, one who was brought to us through adoption. A few people later she introduced herself and yup, she would be a friend for life! She is so sweet and caring and loving and selfless. Her name is Shantel. She is a mom to Brynn, and a birthmom to Desi. We grew through the adoption connection, but we are finding we have more and more in common as well. Thank you Shantel for being so willing to share your journey. Shantel's journey will be a 2 part post. The first part today, and the concluding part tomorrow.**********************************
Sometimes you wish for something so hard. You wish to be stronger. You wish things would work out they way you want them to, when you want them to, and why you want them to. It is beyond frustrating when all of your efforts toward your goals cause so much pain, and challenges you are not sure you can handle. In my life, many tough things have come my way by chance or choice. Looking at those events as lessons is something I strive to do.When I was 16 years old, I made several choices that will forever effect my life. I chose to become a mother to Brynn, and a wife to Tyson. Taking this path was incredibly difficult, yet has brought so much happiness and beauty to my life. Being a mother to this spunky, hilarious, adorable child is such a blessing. Tyson and I love Brynn, so much that when things were so difficult for us to cooperate as a couple, we knew that is was best not to continue our marriage. Sometimes I am sad that she had to grow up like I did, in two separate homes. My biggest hope is that she will always see how much we both care for her, and will one day understand what we did was out of love, and not anger. I am glad my parents were mature enough to know that they were better parents to us apart than they ever could have been as a couple. What I learned in struggling to accept their divorce has made me a much more understanding and forgiving person. I thank both of my parents, and Tyson, for the choices they were a part of, and for the strength I gather from those lessons. I forgive them, and I love them for what they have brought to my life.Being a single mother is an enormous challenge. What I have been through with Brynn, I wouldn't wish anyone to have to experience. The strength my daughter will gather from the things we have faced together is something that I try not to feel guilty towards, rather know that she will be a stronger person because of them. She is amazingly caring and can make me laugh harder than anyone I know. She is my best friend, and I hope she will always consider me hers. For 3 years, it was just Brynn and I. We had the support of my family, and she was able to spend time with her dad. But mostly it was just me and my girl. Our whole world shifted when I met Cory. He was so unique, and I was fascinated with him. He had a son, Xander, who was six months younger than Brynn. How exciting was this?! Maybe Brynn and I could have a family after all, we could have two handsome boys to share our life with. I spent more and more time with Cory, and Brynn spent more time with Tyson. I can't say that we grew apart, but there came a time that Brynn wanted to live with her dad. After some time and thought, we all agreed this would be a good option for everyone. It was hard to be her only parent, to have all of that responsibility. And it was hard for me to know that Tyson was missing out on things in her life, and deserved to have to opportunity to experience that.Soon after this, I moved in with Cory. I loved the things that I was experiencing with him. As our relationship grew, I overlooked things that he did that were painful to me, still holding onto that wish that we would be a family. I have no doubt that Cory did love me, but not in a way that I could function with. Everyone on the outside could see how unhealthy our relationship was. I could see it too, but after 4 years of knowing nothing but a life with him, it seemed impossible that there could be anything else out there. No one else would want to deal with what came along in a life with me. Staying was so hard, but finding a way to leave was much harder. To back track a little.... When Cory and I began dating, I found out that I had pre-cancerous cells on my cervix. Seriously, I am 20 years old, how can this be happening? The thought of developing cancer was haunting. I had several treatments and surgeries trying to fight off my aggressive illness. After hearing great news that after 2 years of treatment, the final surgery had worked, I was beyond ecstatic. The news following this was something I was unsure of how to deal with. Due to the severe scarring on my cervix, I would not be able to conceive a child. If I wanted to have more children, I would need to explore other options of conception and be aware that carrying the child would be less of a worry, but could also present problems. I saw another doctor, who also told me the same thing. Having Brynn was something I was so happy about, but wasn't I supposed to have more children? Didn't I want to have more babies? After many discussions with Cory, I was at peace with the diagnosis. Even happy. My pregnancy with Brynn was.... horrible. As grateful as I was to feel cancer was no longer a worry, I was even more grateful that trips to the doctor were over. I didn't want to spend another moment with my legs shaking in stirrups, trying to calm myself and not be afraid of the pain. So life went on, knowing I was going to have Brynn, and hoping that I could allow myself to get the place where I was supposed to be.Again my little world shifted when I woke up and knew, some how just KNEW, that I was pregnant. I couldn't shake the thought. I tried to rationalize this crazy notion with memories of speaking with my doctors, of knowing I couldn't even get pregnant. Not only could this not be a possibility, but I didn't want it to be. Wasn't I trying to find my way out of this negative relationship I had let consume my life? I wished to have my self back again, I wanted to have the simple times of Brynn and I again. You know you are in trouble when you miss your own smile, and long to hear your own laughter. Three positive pregnancy tests later, my crazy thoughts were confirmed. Immediately, I was flooded with a mix of emotions. I was scared, for the health of this child and my own. I was worried how Cory was going to react, and what this meant for my plans of freedom. But the strongest emotion was happiness. I was pregnant. And that knowledge was such a blessing. Taking some time to decide what to do with this blessing, this lesson, was what I needed to do.As it turns out, I would make my decision a lot sooner than I thought. The first person I told of my pregnancy was my friend Em. She was so excited for me. As happy as I was, I knew that I would be foolish to bring a child into such a negative environment. I knew I needed out, and so my options were to parent this child alone, or to find a family to place him with that would care for him in ways I was unable to at the time. As nervous as I was about what his reaction would be, I told Cory right away. I told him that I knew it was the last thing he probably wanted to hear, but that we were going to have a child. I told him I understood completely if he did not want to be in our lives. He had an extremely difficult relationship with Xander's mother, and it was hard for him to be close with his son due to that. The last thing I wanted was for either of us to have any more negative feelings towards each other. So I gave him the freedom to be involved as little or as much as possible. Feeling that I was leaning more towards parenting, we discussed the situation very openly. He reminded me of all the challenges Brynn and I had dealt with, and asked me if I was willing to do that to another child. We both already knew that was not something this child deserved. We decided at that point that we would begin the search to find a family to pursue and adoption plan with. I will forever be grateful to Cory for being supportive of this choice, and for allowing our baby to make his way to where he belonged.Shortly after deciding on placement, I told several people who were close to me. I told my sister and brother, my dad, and my dear friend Mariann. They were all so amazing to me. My sister has helped me to be strong, my brother can always make me smile, and my dad is wonderful at listening and helping me think of ways to look at things with a new perspective. Mariann became my rock. She supported my creative endeavors, and was always there to lean on for strength through my waves of emotions. After struggling with carrying her biological children, she and her husband were able to adopt their daughter, Whitney. Two years later, she was able to carry Jeremy to term. She had a closed adoption with Whitney's birth parents, and this really helped me to see the beautiful relationship that can exist between adoptive parents and birth parents. I knew that I wanted an open adoption, not only so that I would always know that my child was safe and loved, but also so that I could be able to recover from this overwhelmingly emotional experience. Both of Mariann's children were away at school, so I did not have the opportunity to meet Whitney until after placing the baby. I did however have the pleasure of meeting Whitney's best friend, Daniel, who was also adopted. Mariann told him I was expecting, and was placing my child with an adoptive family. Immediately he had a huge smile on his face and told me "Awesome! It takes a really great mom to be able to do that for her child." This is honestly one of the best experiences I had during this process. Most people that you tell look at you and say "Ohhh, that is so sad..." This was never meant to be sad or negative in anyway. Of course, there are times I cry, and that will probably never change. I will always cherish that sweet comment from Daniel, and remember that things will be okay, and that I am doing something great.Note that one of the first people that I told the news of my pregnancy and adoption plan was not my mother. She and I have always had an interesting relationship. She was a huge influence on the choices I made as a young adult. And during this time, our relationship was strained due to her feelings towards Cory. Knowing how I react and handle her opinions, I decided to not inform her of any of my circumstances. I wanted to know that I had made choices that were best for me and the baby, not what she thought was best for anyone. I love my mother, and I am very grateful for the lessons I have learned in life through our relationship, even if they were very difficult. When I felt the time was right, I told her what my plans were and was grateful that she could be understanding and supportive, even if it was difficult for her.With support around me and a knowledge of what is right in my heart, I began to look for a family for this sweet baby. Cory has a friend, Teena, that he rides mountain bikes with. Her daughter, Sophie, and her husband had been hoping to adopt for the past 5 years. When Teena heard our story, she put Sophie and I in contact with each other. While still viewing other family profiles, I began working with Sophie. Cory and I felt like they would be a great family to place with. They have a son close to Brynn's age. They had many attributes that I was looking for in a family. Sophie was a nice person, but something didn't seem quite right with her. After about a month of working with her, she called and left me a voice mail, telling me that they had changed their minds and did not want to adopt our baby. I was sad, and felt like this was very cold of her to do. Cory probably took it harder than I did. These were people he knew. We finally felt like we had some stability, and then everything fell out from under us again. To this day I have not heard another word from Sophie. I have no hard feelings towards her, and I only wish the best for her family. As sad as I was at the time, I know this happened for a reason. I couldn't be happier that her honesty opened up a beautiful opportunity for the people who remain involved in our adoption story.