Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Gift for Someone Else...

This is JENI :) She is a sweetie and this is her great story to share...

October 26, 2009

It was mid February 2009 and Joe and I were on the phone again, arguing. Only days earlier I had discovered I was pregnant via a trip to the emergency room. It wasn’t exactly a welcome surprise. Partway through our conversation, I angrily said, “I don’t want to be pregnant!”

“How can you say that?” Joe asked incredulously. “A baby is a gift from God!”

Though I don’t recall what I said in response, a thought crossed my mind. Maybe it’s not my gift.” A few months later, on Easter Sunday, my aunt Patty would tell me this was God’s voice.

My story actually starts in November of 2008. I was in the process of going through a divorce from my husband of 10-1/2 years, James. The loneliness I had been experiencing for years had become unbearable and so, due to the suggestion of my sister-in-law, I found myself on Craig’s List in an effort to meet someone new. It was through this website that I met Joe. He described himself as a Christian man who liked to play the guitar, who was down on his luck, and who liked playing with the dog, long walks - the simple things in life (I would later find out that his mother wrote the post.).

About two weeks after we first started corresponding, we had our first date – cheap Chinese food at one of many such eateries on Division in North Spokane. I found out he had three children from his previous relationship. Though not married, like me, he had been involved with his significant other for 10-1/2 years, but unlike me he had three kids. He told me he had lost his job, that his ex had taken pretty much everything away from him, destroyed baby books and early mementos of his kids’ lives, and taken his car, among other things. He was living at home with his parents while he tried to put his life back together. Normally, the thought of getting involved with a man with three kids might have scared me enough to call it quits right then and there had it not been for the fact that my cousin, Jim, to whom I am very close, had undergone something similar in the months preceding my divorce. His wife of 16 years suddenly took off and abandoned him and his three girls in favor of a new life and boyfriend in Indiana. So, given what Jim had gone through, how could I not feel compassion for Joe?

The first six weeks or so of the relationship was idyllic. Joe wasn’t embarrassed at my odd antics or childlike enthusiasm (I have a rather odd sense of humor), but relished in it. We had fun together. We made each other laugh. We fell in love. A couple of weeks before the divorce was final, he told me he wanted to marry me – to be there for better or for worse, to hold me when I cried, that sort of thing. Joe told me I was unlike any woman he had ever dated. I could pass a drug test. I had a job. I was a homeowner. I cared about my appearance. I had a college education. Though flattered by this sentiment, I was a bit nervous. It was too soon for either one of us to be discussing such matters, but I guess when you’re lonely and in love, your heart overtakes your brain and you don’t think about the repercussions. My divorce became final at the end of December 2008.

Though 2009 had a promising start with a fun night out at First Night Spokane, things went downhill really fast. Spokane was in the midst of a record breaking snowfall for the season, and it was at this time that the home that I shared with my now ex-husband sold, and I purchased a smaller home about a half a mile away and closer to my 6-year-old daughter’s school. It was a 2-bedroom home with an unfinished basement and Julia and I officially moved in on the 13th of January. Within two weeks of the move, my grandfather, a mentor to me in my hobby of photography, passed away at the age of 89. It was around this time, in late January, that the first fissures in my relationship with Joe began to form. His kids were in the custody of his older sister . There were some serious issues going on with his children and I saw a little more of who he was and did not like what I saw. (That is all that can be said on the subject)

Things continued to get worse. On February 2, a routine maintenance visit by the cable company revealed a potentially dangerous electrical hazard at my house, something not discovered by the home inspector, my home insurance company decided to raise my rates an additional $80 a year, my company cut off all overtime (I worked from home as a medical transcriptionist), and Joe was continuing to change. The fact that he had been a big time pot dealer and user before the custody issues with his kids began to weigh heavier on my mind. He began to pressure me about having he and his kids move into my home, though there was really no room. Sure, we could remodel the basement, but since he had just started a new job in January and had his own debts to pay, where were we going to get the money? He refused to discipline his kids, even at my house. For example, he did not say anything to the kids when the two younger ones climbed on top of my coffee table and ran around on it. He said it was because my coffee table was old. He wanted to marry me by May 1 because that was when a custody hearing was scheduled. He sent me e-mails and texts constantly and grew irate when I didn’t respond to him immediately. I told him I needed to focus attention on my daughter as I felt I hadn’t been much in the preceding few weeks. I was a room parent at her school. I had a house to take care of. I had responsibilities. All of this did not matter to him. He wanted to be the center of attention all the time. He also took every chance he could to put me down and to put himself between my friends and family. I was to be available to him in mind and body 24/7. Three days after I discovered I was pregnant, he dumped me. Over the next ten days, he took me back two more times and dumped me two more times. On February 23, after he left 6 messages on my answering machine while I was trying to work, in part accusing me of “screwing some guy” and “getting an abortion,” I finally broke it off with him for good.

The journey I took from wanting to keep my baby to that of being a birth mother was a long and hard one, and in some instances, is one I am still battling to this day. Within a short time of learning of my pregnancy, my mom and ex-husband said I should give the baby up. How are you going to raise a baby on your own, they asked? Due to a visual impairment, I am unable to drive, and this was brought up as a “what are you going to do if the baby has to go to the hospital” scenario. I suppose it was these thoughts that were in the back of my head during that particular phone call with Joe back in early February.

Over the next several months, Joe would call on occasion to check on me, predominantly to see if I was seeing anybody, but never asking about the baby other than if I “was poofy yet.” At the outset, he only cared about the child support he would have to pay (which was pathetic because he was only paying $20 to $40 per child for his other kids and was trying to get that reduced). He refused to provide me any family history because he would not give the baby up for adoption. Either I would have custody or he would, he told me. Given what I knew about his home environment, the drugs, the rampant alcohol abuse, among other things, there was no way I was going to relinquish custody to him and I told him that.

Around the time he called me in April, my kitchen sink had been leaking profusely and I hadn’t the slightest idea what to do. On the morning of April 9, my work computer crashed in addition to the sink problems and I called my mom in Oregon to find out what to do. Pardon the pun, but that was a watershed moment in this whole experience. “If you’re stressed now,” she said, “can you imagine putting a baby in the mix? Do you honestly think Joe would help you if the baby was sick and you’d have to take it to the hospital in the middle of the night? You have to love this baby more than you love yourself,” she said. That stung. However, I thought about how Joe had called me two days earlier wanting to be friends, on the very same day I would later learn he was using my telephone number to steal my Safeway gas discounts, how he would routinely use handfuls of ibuprofen or sleeping pills at night to help “relieve (his) pain,” and shook my head. I sadly knew what I had to do.

To me, if I wasn’t going to be able to keep my baby, then the only other option would be to have my cousin, Anne, and her husband, Esteban, adopt her. Anne was 3 years younger than me and had had a tough life. She suffered through a 12-year marriage with an abusive first husband before finally divorcing him and, a few years later, met and married Esteban, a man who had lost his first wife from cancer. Due to health issues, Anne was unable to have a child, and for as long as I can remember, she had wanted to be a mother in the worst way. I thought by giving her this gift, the child could remain in the family and thus, keep any potential identity issues at bay while allowing me to still see the child. Despite what came out from various family members after the baby was born, I never had any intention of calling off the adoption, though I had my doubts at times. I called the baby Nattie, the name Anne gave her, and through the help of 2 counselors and a priest, tried to distance myself from the pregnancy, telling myself I was a surrogate mother and that this was not my child. I gave Anne all sorts of baby samples and baby-related things that I had been saving for years in the hopes that I would be a mother twice over. Heck, I even made her baby shower cake!

However, the adoption of my baby girl by Anne and Esteban was not to be.

On October 9, 2009, my daughter was born by c-section. Due to the immense amount of stress I had been under, she was tiny, 5 pounds, 14 ounces, but healthy! She was beautiful and I fell in love with her immediately, the sheer intensity coming as a complete surprise to me. The day before, Anne and her husband pulled out of the adoption as they refused to help me with aftercare, bills for lost wages, or any outstanding hospital bills. They also failed to get the necessary legal paperwork to take the baby from the hospital. Somehow this turned into me wanting to back out of the adoption and the family here in town believed I was looking for a way out, etc. Long story. They told a social worker, not me, that they wanted to cancel the adoption. So the afternoon before she was born, right after I found this out, I got re-in touch with Spokane Consultants (I had had an initial consultation with Maureen earlier in the year, but Anne didn’t want to go through them because she said their attorney was too expensive.). That evening, my ex-husband (with whom I am reconciling), my daughter, Julia, and I met with Nancy for the first time. Nancy spent over an hour that Thursday night, explaining things, telling me not to worry about Joe, that she would get the information she needed from him, etc. I have to laugh at myself when I think of this because as she spoke about dealing with uncooperative birth fathers, her eyes all lit up at the very idea of confronting yet another deadbeat dad. She looked like a pit bull eyeing a steak and I knew I had my advocate. Knowing that it was important for me to find a Catholic family to adopt my child, she brought over two binders of potential families for me to look over, citing that it had been her experience that things will just “jump out” and the birth mother will just know . . . and she couldn’t have been more right. The father’s occupation is that of an architect, something I had entertained as a young child. The mother described how lovey dovey her parents are to each other, how they had been married 40+ years, that sort of thing, and that reminded me so much of my folks. On the page where they described bringing their adopted son home from the hospital, the word “Joy” was noted on the top, the temporary name I had decided to give my baby girl. The next page showed a picture of the father with his arm around Goofy at Disneyland . . . my mom is a HUGE Goofy fan! I met them in the hospital the day after Joy was born and we hit it off right away. These people are such a gift from God and I tell them that every chance I get. They were so considerate of me, my daughter, and James, bringing me DVDs to my hospital room and plying my daughter with Littlest Pet Shop toys. They stayed in town for a few days after Joy was born to make sure the transition went as smoothly as possible. They called when they said they were going to call. They were early to each of our meetings. They let me hold my tiny little girl as much as I wanted. They met my mom who had come in from Southern Oregon to help me post hospital stay. They met my brother and his family. They also want us to be a part of their family and want to be a part of ours. I get to be “Mama Jeni” and Julia gets to be a big sister, sentiments dismissed by my cousin in previous months. They are grateful for the tiniest gestures you make toward them. Oh, and to say they love this little girl is an understatement. I could see it in the truly kind face of the father when he held Joy in the hospital for the first time. I can see it in their eyes in the myriad of pictures they e-mail me. I can hear it in their voices when we chat on the phone. The adoptive parents said it best when they told my father recently that they felt like they have known us for years rather than weeks. I feel the same way.

My daughter is now living a happy life with her adoptive parents and though I miss her with nearly every breath I take, I know I did the right thing. These people are going to give her all the things I want for her. They will expose her to new ideas, new cultures, take her to the zoo, the symphony, and give her every opportunity. Heck, they’re even going to the Olympics next year! I couldn’t be happier for Joy. It’s an ongoing battle, however, that I wage with myself. I know that if I kept her, Joe would always be a part of her life, and that is unacceptable to me. Albeit unintentionally, I knew there would be times I might get angry with her for the sole reason of being biologically related to Joe – I’m human after all. Sure, my ex-husband would raise Joy as his own if we were to get back together, but again, Joe would be a constant presence and everything with him would be a battle. It’s not Joy’s fault she was conceived. Why should she be penalized for it? Still, when I look at pictures of that sweet face peering out at me online, my heart aches to reach out to her, to hug her, to kiss her, to feel the softness of her hair against my cheek. At my saddest moments, though, I remind myself of the fact that because of Spokane Consultants and the adoptive parents, my family has now grown and we are all the richer because of it. One day, when Joy asks me, I will tell her I gave her up for adoption not because I didn’t love her, but because I did.


  1. Jeni your daughters are beautiful! Your an amazing strong woman and your selfless decision is honorable! I am so glad to have shared your story on this blog! thank you again!

  2. What an amazing story. I love adoption successes. They warm my heart.

  3. Thanks for sharing your story. You have great strength. Your daughters are beautiful! I'm a birth mom and live in spokane. I'd love to get in touch with you if you are comfortable.

  4. Jeni, thanks for sharing your story. I hope that you are finding peace and happiness in your life, and I agree, your daughters are beautiful!

    Karine, thanks for being such an advocate for birth mothers. Thank you for sharing their stories so we can see adoption from another point of view.