Camping. 2018

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It was raining, cold and certainly didn’t feel like summer on our way to our three day camping trip with Heather and her family. But my heart is warm and on fire now! We just spent the last three days camping with Heather and her family. And this year, my parents were able to come too. Last year my dad had just had his heart attack right before we went camping, so this year we were excited to have them as part of this annual tradition!!

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If you are the type that likes to camp, you know it is bound to rain during your camping trip and sure enough, it rained pretty hard on Friday. The ground was still pretty wet when we got there and some parts stayed wet the entire weekend. Bummer. But it made for mud puddles and extra adventures.

Heather and I

We don’t know what open adoption is supposed to look like. We don’t have a playbook. In fact, I don’t even think we have a book about it, but we make the best of it and enjoy the moments together when we can. I was actually just telling a woman about our open adoption and she said, “You have to be one of the sweetest people I have ever met.” Well thank you! But we don’t do this whole open adoption thing for me– even though I love Heather as my friend– we do it for Jackson.


The kids played hard! We swam, we walked, we talked, we made smores, we created lasting memories and enjoyed every minute of our trip. Jackson rode his first real pony. Jackson, Grandma and I rode on a very small carousel together– never a dull moment with my mom around!  Having my parents there was just the icing on the cake. We have taken a trip with my parents every year for the longest time. And with DuWayne having his heart attack last year, we didn’t get to go on a trip. And JJ got to play cards with them both nights– he was so thrilled! Even though my mom won both times!

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Heather mentioned that she still had our adoption portfolio in the trunk of her car. She kept it there so the kids wouldn’t wreck it and she would take it with her and show everyone our portfolio. She wanted to know if we wanted to see it again. Of course we did. I don’t even remember what it looked like. We re-did it three times in the hopes that someone would pick us to raise their child. When I saw it again, it brought back so many memories. Memories of the pictures in the book but also the feeling of “waiting” for a birthmom to choose us. I don’t know what I thought our relationship would look like with our child’s birth family but I can tell you with certainty that I didn’t think it would be as beautiful as it is with Heather!

Of course it wouldn’t be a trip without some mishap! And I wouldn’t even call it mishap, I would call it kids being kids. Jackson is going to be 4 in August, so he really does not understand this whole adoption thing and Heather has talked to her kids about it but she hasn’t really had a conversation with her niece about it. Jackson really took a liking to Cora this weekend. She is so sweet with him! They were in the tent and Cora was telling Jackson about how Auntie Heather was his “first mom, so you can call her mom.”

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Oh sweet Jesus, I was not ready for that. My heart sank and I had no clue how to respond. It is also a good thing Heather was standing right there because I froze, I didn’t know what to say. And poor Jackson, he just stood there like, what are you talking about!  Heather proceeded to tell Cora that she would talk to her later about that. She didn’t mean anything by it and I understood what she was trying to say but this is where open adoption gets hard. Or just kids being kids gets hard! We love Heather, her kids, her family, and everything about our relationship but I will defend and protect the fact that Jackson has one momma– ME!!!!

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We later caught a glimpse of Jackson walking, holding Heather’s hand and we wondered when Jackson would understand the significance of our time spent with Heather. I have a feeling it won’t be too far in the future. When we got home I was tucking Jackson in and we were talking about our trip and I asked him if he remembers whose belly he grew in? And he said “Heather’s.” But also asked why? I told him because I can’t have babies in my belly and of course he said why again. I told him that is just how God made me. And he said “But that’s not fair.” Oh sweet boy, you are so right it is not fair. But if that weren’t that case we wouldn’t have  you and for that I will forever be grateful!

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One response to “Camping. 2018”

  1. Heather Mitchell Avatar
    Heather Mitchell

    I am glad everyone had such a great time camping, and we definitely made the best out of the mud! It isn’t as awkward as you think it would be. Jackson’s adoptive family and birth family all camping together – 8 adults and 6 children. I had a blast with my family & friends!
    I do wish there was a complete guide on how to properly teach every single person & child that is involved in an open adoption. There isn’t though, because every situation is unique. I’m just going to share some of my observations and thoughts during and after this trip.

    My sweet niece Cora surely embraced Jackson during this trip. Jessica and I were standing right next to each other when I heard Cora say those words to Jackson. & the only thing I heard was, “Auntie Heather is your first mom”……& my heart sank into my stomach… It’s during those moments that I get really uncomfortable. Those moments I’m not prepared for and I don’t know what to say or do. I am happy that after I told Cora that I would talk to her later about it, she quickly changed subjects. Cora doesn’t understand, and I know she meant no harm at all. I just prayed that Jackson wouldn’t be negatively affected by the comment and I am pretty sure he wasn’t. I did catch a glimpse of him looking at Cora like she had lost her marbles, though. I felt so bad for Jessica, though. Those moments are so fragile, and I know all about FEELINGS because I’m one of the most emotional people you’ll meet! Jessica could have easily gotten overwhelmed or upset or freaked out even. She could have said, okay I am done. I just cannot do this. But, she didn’t. That shows her STRENGTH!

    I found an opportunity shortly after that moment to pull Cora aside and I just put my arms around her and told her that we can’t talk to Jackson about that type of stuff because he just doesn’t understand. I asked her if she understood, and she said yes.

    Later on that day, I was pushing baby Michael in the stroller and Cora and Jackson were with me. We were walking towards the animals awaiting the pony rides! On the way, Cora was holding Jackson’s hand. & this is how their conversation went…….
    Cora -“Jackson, don’t you worry buddy. I am going to be with you every step of the way. Don’t be scared of the pony rides. It will be so fun and I will never leave your side. I am right here with you, I am your big cousin and I am going to protect you!”
    I froze for a second and looked at them right in time to see Jackson look straight at Cora with the most serious face as he simply said, “I am NOT your cousin!”

    First of all, to be completely honest, it was SO hard not to laugh right after he said that. Jackson is just a really, funny little guy! The faces he makes and the way he says things. I didn’t laugh, because it wouldn’t be appropriate. I didn’t know what to say or what to do or how to guide the situation. It was all just too much!! But what happened next was amazing. I looked at Cora. She looked at me. It was like an epiphany moment for her, and she really understood that Jackson truly doesn’t understand. & she accepted it. I think she was reminded again of our little talk and she completely switched subjects and asked Jackson if he wanted to look at the chickens. I was so proud of her and very relieved. Jackson was not bothered by the situation, and he was smiling as he continued to walk with her, holding her hand.

    Right after that, I was SO happy to see JJ, Jessica, Tracy, and DuWayne walking towards us because that situation was just too overwhelming for me! Mostly because JJ and Jessica weren’t there with me. I would never feel comfortable talking about our story in Jackson’s presence without Jessica and JJ. I respect, honor, and love Jackson’s parents SO VERY MUCH. I am Jackson’s birth mom, but I am not his parent whatsoever! I don’t know what all of his facial expressions mean, therefore I had no idea how he felt when he said, “I am NOT your cousin!”….. I don’t know what’s best for Jackson, period. All I know is that JJ and Jessica do. We talked about how soon it may be that Jackson will understand more of his story. I have no idea what to expect or what the future holds. All I know is that I absolutely love Jackson and his family, and I will always be here if I am needed, for anything!

    Sometimes there’s this misconception about birth mothers. I know this because when people ask me questions, they assume that I feel or think a certain way in regards to Jackson. They assume I’m sad or bitter or possessive. But actually, I think and feel the opposite. This may seem a little silly, but this little story can probably explain how I view the situation. Imagine if Jackson was a big, beautiful boat. JJ and Jessica are the honorable captains! I am not a co-captain at all! I am just an important crew member on the boat. I enjoy my position because I love the boat SO MUCH and I take direction from the captains because I respect and trust that they know exactly what they’re doing. I am honored for the role I play in Jackson’s life, and if I am needed, I will be here. Jessica shares with Jackson that he grew in my belly. They are carefully helping him understand his story and they are doing an amazing job. Jackson is the centerpiece of this open adoption, but his parents are the MVP’s. They have all the knowledge, so I just follow their lead completely.

    This camping trip also really strengthened my gratitude for Jessica and JJ, even more than before! I got to hang out with Jessica’s parents. I got to watch Jackson’s family and my family hang out all weekend, which is always so lovely to experience…. I got to witness Jackson’s absolute love and adoration for his parents, one that continues to deepen and grow every time I see him. That is my favorite thing to witness during our times together.

    In the morning, I woke up to Jackson knocking on my cabin door wanting to hang out. Then, I got to feed him oranges and yogurt. I laughed while Jackson yelled up to the top bunk, “Marvell, Marvell….. Why aren’t you answering me?” even after we told him that Marvell was still sleeping. I got to hold Jackson’s little hand, many times. I got to witness him racing with the biggest smile on his face! Jackson is a very fast runner, too! He sure takes after his mom! I was able to console Jackson as I put a Band-Aid on his scrape. Because of JJ and Jessica, I get to enjoy all these different experiences with my birth son. My family also gets to experience a relationship with Jackson and his family.

    I think some people also have this misconception that because I am Jackson’s birth mom, I feel I have a right to know him. Or just because I am his birth mom, I must feel like I AM his mom and I am entitled to be in his life. That’s not the truth at all. Just because I am Jackson’s birth mom, doesn’t mean that I am entitled to be in his life. Legally, I signed my rights over to Jackson’s parents years ago. They aren’t obligated to even speak to me. But they do, because they believe it’s best for Jackson. That says A LOT about their character! It also makes me super happy!

    Jackson, I want you to know that you have the most amazing parents in the world – they are seriously THE BEST! The love they have for you is immeasurable. They know what’s best for you, and they always will. I am so blessed that your mom and dad have given me the opportunity to know you, and for you to know me. Jackson, you are such a blessing and you are very blessed. I love you, little man!


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