My name is Kelsey Stewart. I am a birth mother, or Braveheart as I like to refer to birth mothers, of three children that I placed for adoption and two wonderful boys of my own that I am now raising with my husband. Born in 1970, I grew up in Missouri and eventually moved to California in 1995. I went to college, but did not get my degree in film and theatre like I had planned. I did graduate from a technology school and have been a graphic designer since 1998. I left the work force after our second son was born, and have since become quite the volunteer!
In the summer of 2009 I self published, The Best for You, my children’s book that took me 17 years to think about, 2 years to write and illustrate and one big leap to tell the positive side of being a birth mother. My book explains adoption to children from a birth mothers point of view in an honest, simple yet heartfelt way and is great for anyone who wants to know what a mother may be thinking at such a difficult time. I have received many great reactions from so many different walks of life. My writing has caught the attention of Tapestry Books and along with my book, they have published an eBooklet of an article that I wrote for them. I know that there needs to be a positive voice out there with experience that can be a HELP to these girls out there who think they are alone in their pregnancies. I want people to understand that not all birth mothers are unhappy. There are some of us who are proud of our Bravehearts and we are not afraid to wear our hearts on our sleeves, and our pants, and our shirts, and our hats….
My journey into motherhood began when I was 19 years old. I was in a relationship with my first real boyfriend and I was learning that even if you love someone, love is not enough to make a relationship work. It wasn’t horrible or anything, we were just starting to realize that we did not want the same things out of life and it was quite heartbreaking. He was a wonderful guy … kind, funny, handsome, sociable and well liked. We were a good couple, but just not going the distance. Then I found out I was pregnant. I was shocked because I was using birth control and just could not figure out how it happened. I was diligent at taking the pill, always on time and in the correct order. It wasn’t until my next visit that I asked my doctor “Is there anything that I might have done inadvertently to effect my birth control?” He asked the usual question; Did you forget a pill? No. Did you make sure you started them the Sunday after you started your period? Yes. Have you changed your diet? No. Have you been on any antibiotics? Wait, any doctor or pharmacist would have asked you if you were on birth control… Then it hit me. I had been to the dentist a couple of months before and I had an infection from an abscessed tooth. He gave me antibiotic samples out of the office and he never asked if I was on birth control. That was it. That had to be it. My doctor looked at me while I was talking to myself and said…”If I were you I would go to that dentist and remind him that if he is going to distribute meds out of the office, he should remember to ask if the patient is on birth control. All pharmacists will ask, that is what they are trained to do. I think if he would have asked you, you would have known that it can effect the efficiency of the pill. I am so sorry that this happened to you.” That was an understatement.
I knew that I was in no position to raise a child. I was young, unmarried, not finished with my education, no savings or equity. Not to mention, the father and I were on the outs. I needed to talk to him. I left the doctor’s office and drove to my boyfriend’s house. He could tell that there was something big on my mind, but he was not prepared for what he was to hear. I told him, crying my eyes out. “You are on birth control. How did this happen?” he asked. It explained the scenario, but that did not make it better. I could tell he was doubtful of my explanation. He was not so much angry, but shocked. He asked if we should get married. I said no, we should place the baby for adoption. There was an argument that stemmed from stress and fear. I left and went home. Now I had to tell my mother. This did not make me nervous because my mother was a wonderful, compassionate and understanding woman who since I was three years old, had raised me on her own. She would understand and support me, this I knew. I was right … when I talked to her, she was amazing! Never a judgment, never a cross look, just sweet eyes that felt my pain as I sobbed. She told me that she was behind me 100% and that she loved me for even thinking about adoption. Having her by my side was my saving grace.
Over the next couple of months the stress took it’s toll on my relationship with my boyfriend. I had told him that we should choose adoption and that I just wanted his support. No money, just emotional. He decided to move on and I soon lost contact with him. I had started to search for a family to raise my baby. I knew that I could not place her without any future contact, I needed to know how she was, what she looked like, how she was growing. Open adoption was practically unheard of in the early 90’s and I spent a lot of time talking to people, researching, trying to find a solution to my worries. Then I found them. A couple who had three children of their own and were looking to complete their family with a little girl. They were a great fit for me. Same religious background, outgoing, fun, great morals and so very understanding of my situation and need to know my child as she grew. I told them that I did not want to overstep my ground, but I would need to have correspondence with them. I told them that not only did I need to know about her, but I wanted my child to understand that I loved her and always would, not matter what. These parents were very agreeable to my terms and said that they would honor my need to know who she was. We made arrangements to start the legal process, but were all glad that we had found each other.
What followed is a long, horror story made possible by the State of Missouri. One month before my due date, I was contacted by a state social worker who wanted to meet with me. I didn’t think anything of it. I went into her office confident, like I had been for the last seven months, but came out a shell-shocked, scared, uncertain shell of myself. Overcome with guilt I could not even explain what happened to my mother until we were at the car. Everything had changed. Ms. Evil told me that I had unlawfully sought out the parents and under the statue of the State of Missouri I could not have an open adoption. I would not place my child with the family I chose … instead I had to find an agency, find a new family and not know ANYTHING about the baby after she was born. If I was going to have the baby in Missouri, then I was to start all over again. One month before the baby was due. 30 days. Where did this the State of Missouri come from? I know my lawyer had me fill out papers that said “State of Missouri” at the top of it, I knew that my adoptive parents had paid a pretty penny for home study, background, applications … all made out to the State of Missouri. It’s not like they did not know we were making arrangements privately. We informed everyone, we were not secret about it, they were not giving me ANY money whatsoever personally, we were doing everything by the book. That is not how the State of Missouri saw it. To make a long, long story short (I wrote the whole story for Tapestry Books as an article and they liked it so much they made it into a downloadable eBooklet on their site) I fought very hard to get my daughter to the parents that I chose, and 6 months after she was born I relinquished my rights and finally placed her with her parents.
I was reeling after that in a sea of pain, despair, shame and depression for so long. I was functioning, going to work, hanging out with friends, but my heart was broken. Dark, deep, lonely heart broken. That does not describe it, but it is the best I can do. I had to work hard to pull myself out of it. I slowly began to return to my fun-loving self, seeing less and less the sad mother and more and more of the proud mother. My real sadness and struggle to be happy again took about a year, but things were starting to look up. I began to date a very good friend of mine in that time, and he was looking more like the soul mate that I was longing for. We were very excited about our relationship because we were so alike. We loved sports. We loved adventure. We loved the same music. We had all the same friends and connections, to add new love to that was just about the best time ever for me. I was hearing less negative statements from people about adoption and more appreciation from them for what I was brave enough to do. I had started a new job, my boyfriend was going to school, we were falling more in love every day and life finally had the potential that I was looking for.
Then the other shoe dropped. At Christmas my mother gave me some new pants for work. I was thrilled because working in the restaurant business, your clothes get trashed pretty quick. I tried them on and they were a little hard to button. It was the holidays, I had started going out to eat more with Bruce, I wasn’t keeping up with exercise so I thought nothing of it. Two weeks later, I found myself getting sick almost every time I ate. I wasn’t feeling nauseous, just too full. It was weird. I knew I couldn’t be pregnant because I was having my period and I had started another form of birth control, not the PILL! It kept happening though. I grew concerned and made an appointment with my doctor. I was called and the first thing they do is weigh you. I stepped on the scale and to my surprise, I had gained 15 pounds! My pants were a little tight, but not like I had gained 15 pounds! What the hell? Putting on the gown, I looked down and I could not see where all that weight was. The doctor came in. We discussed what was going on and he asked some questions. He then did an examination. Nothing out of the ordinary. He said I should go see my OB, perhaps this was a female thing. I made that appointment for the next day. At that appointment, as always, they ask for a urine sample. The doctor came in, sat down and asked what was going on. I told him my troubles and about the examination with my GP. He asked if they did a urine sample. I got worried and said no. He then said, “If they did, they would have told you that you are pregnant.”
I was kind of excited. I had been mooring the lost of my daughter and longing for a baby to love. I knew that I was in love, I wanted to spend my life with my boyfriend and was sure that he felt the same way. Perhaps this was meant to be. The doctor asked about my birth control and when my last period was. He was surprised to hear that I had just finished it. He wanted to do an ultrasound to see how far along I was. I had to wait a little while because it requires a full bladder so I left to go walk the grounds for a while. Oh my thoughts were amazing, happy. I was getting more and more excited, just bursting to tell my mom and my man. I returned to the office, was put into the dark room and I put the gown on. The technician came in and rolled the ball around my belly for a few minutes, punched in some numbers and then told me to get dressed, then go into the doctor’s office. I did just that and waited about 5 minutes. The doctor came in and closed the door. He almost never closed the door to his office. He sat on the edge of his desk with a folder in his hand. He was looking at the floor, then he looked at me. He was serious, he did not look like he usually did. He reached out, grabbed my hand and said…”My dear, you are pregnant with twins. You are about 4 months along. I could not breathe. I felt sick. I could not focus my eyes on anything and my mind hurt. “What?” I heard myself ask. My doctor looked at me, I saw him say the words again, but could not hear him. He was now holding both my hands, looking like he wanted to cry himself. This was the doctor that delivered my daughter. He stuck up for me in the hospital when a social worker tried to bully me and I am pretty sure he got her fired. He knew looking at me that my heart was breaking all over again. I was still stunned. Did he say 4 months? There are two babies in me that are 4 months along … that is impossible. I said my thoughts to him and he just shook his head. “I am baffled myself. I just examined you, I could not have imagined what this ultrasound shows. You have not had any problems with your periods? You have been having them regularly?” he asked. “Yes. I have been very good about being careful, I have had my periods, even cramps. I just don’t understand. I don’t know why this is happening. “What can I do to help?” he asked so sincerely that it felt like a family member was in the room with me. I could not answer.
I left and talked to my boyfriend. He was my friend the whole time I was pregnant before and he knew how difficult it was for me. He was there when I broke down, reeling from self doubt and grief. He also knew the reasons why I did it and admired me for them. We discussed it. It was in that conversation that we conveyed to each other how much we loved each other and wanted our relationship to work. We had similar backgrounds, both from divorced parents, both from strong mothers, both survived the abandonment that comes with a parent that leaves. We were both still so young, still finding our way through life. We knew that two babies were so much different than one. We knew what we had to do. I told him that I could NOT place or even think about adoption in Missouri. I told him that I had a cousin in California that had just adopted a baby, and in talking to them about the adoption they told me how the legal process was so considerate of the birth mother. I suggested talking to them to see if they could help me find a contact there. I did just that, and before I knew it…I took a leave from work and left for California, alone and pregnant. When I say alone, my boyfriend was still supporting me from home, but I knew that it was something that I had to do by myself. I knew exactly what was coming, I knew the physical and mental pain of it all. I needed to focus solely on what I was to do, how I could separate my heart from my heart AGAIN, for a second time. I would find much more than my adoptive family there. So much more.
I left abruptly and told people that I was going to California to help my cousins with their child. We lied to our friends because we were so shocked ourselves that we were still working through all of our own issues, not to mention I did not want to answer the questions of how this could happen to me again. It was no one’s business but ours and we wanted it to be private. After we worked through the adoption, we would find the right time to tell everyone. Once I was in California, I only spoke to a lawyer and a physiologist during my placement. I did not have to talk to an agency, a social worker, another lawyer or anyone else. It was a great system that State had, they were so very considerate of me and what I wanted as the mother. The couple that I chose were amazing people. They had been married for a while and had also been trying for a while. I knew that their hearts were longing, and I took that leap of faith that they were the right ones. I spoke almost nightly to my boyfriend, filling him in on who I had met, what the profiles were like, what I felt when meeting them. He was the most wonderful partner, always reassuring me that he would be there for me when I got home, always telling me that he believed in me, reminding me that he knew that I would be strong when I needed to be and it was okay to cry if I wanted to. What a lucky woman I am to have had his support. I was also living with my cousins who had adopted, so seeing their joy, love, amazement and appreciation for that baby made it all better for me to adjust to my role in this upcoming adoption. It helped me get a little stronger everyday, it helped me see that what I was doing would complete another couples lives. It helped me come to terms with my role as a mother.
I had the boys and could not believe how much easier, relaxed and less horrible the entire process was. I did not have to go to court, I did not have to justify to anyone else my reasons for placing my boys for adoption. I had all the time with them that I wanted in the hospital, I was comfortable and much happier than I was the first time around. The best part of it all was their parents were able to take them home from the hospital! That did not happen with my daughter. I knew that the grief, sorrow and longing would follow but I felt much more prepared for it. I was more at peace about my decision. I was more at peace with myself. I was more in love than I had ever been before and I could not wait to see my man back home. We helped each other over the years, it was not at all easy to heal from that traumatic start. We moved to California permanently in 1995 to start our lives together. In 1999, I married my boyfriend and we found ourselves pregnant with our own child. We are now blessed with another boy and we live our lives centered around them. We are dedicated to the Cub Scouts, the Little League and making sure we enjoy it all. We are a very strong couple and we are proud of what we did for our children, and we feel so very blessed with the lives that we have worked for and lead now.
What about our adopted children? Well, over the last 20 years I have been involved in my daughter’s life. She always knew she was adopted and she knew that I was her mother. She was in our wedding and has since become a good friend. We have spent time together recently and all I can say is I am so proud of what an incredible woman she is becoming. We also received and corresponded with the twins parents all of their lives. watching them grow into fine young men. They recently sought us out and we have been talking, getting to know each other slowly. All three of my children have told me that they are very proud of me, understand why I chose adoption for them, know that I love them … and they are all healthy, wonderfully raised kids. This is what I wanted for them all along. I could not be prouder of them and I am so very grateful for the parents that they have.
Check out Kelsey’s blog, The Birthmother Voice