Archive for the ‘open adoption’ Category
Read this article from one mom who reflects on the joys and challenges of meeting the needs of her adopted daughter:
What I Know About Motherhood Now That I Am an Adoptive Mother
By Carrie Goldman
Vanessa McGrady’s posting, The Birth Parents Move in, in the New York Times Motherlode Blog, both broke my heart and cracked me up. As I sat at my computer (ok, maybe I was in the loo looking at my iphone, it was 2 weeks ago, I can’t remember) reading the posting, I recognized myself in her writing. I voiced an inner “oh god” reading the first paragraph where she loaded her child’s birth parents into her car to rescue them from homelessness, their rabbit cage and all. Oh god, that’s not a good idea, oh god, I could totally see myself doing that, oh god, my therapist would think all her work was for naught if I did that, oh god, my kids would be so excited if their birth families moved in, oh god, bunnies stink. Oh god, Ms. McGrady sure summed up the complexity of adoption in just a few short light-hearted paragraphs.
I can relate to Ms. McGrady’s desire to help her daughter’s birth parents, to swoop in and lift them up. I have felt this same tug when I hear of setbacks, or unexpected turns in the road, for my daughter’s birth family members. In the past I have helped on a few occasions, none that involved a bunny moving in, and sometimes it worked out well and other times; the assistance was awkwardly given and uncomfortably received. In our open adoptions, I often come up against the complexities of family, fairness, justice, opportunity, love, privilege, loss, power, judgment and suffering when I feel the urge to help, especially when it isn’t asked for. Our adoption constellation is complex and even a simple thing like lending a hand requires deep consideration and reflection. However, I have come to accept that the greatest help I can give my daughter’s birth parents is to love, care for, and raise my daughters well, to become kind, loving, healthy and happy women.
I worry about my daughters. I worry about the usual mom things like their safety and well-being. I worry about them eating enough vegetables and fruit (they don’t!). I worry that they don’t get enough free play time in our busy schedule, enough adventures in the fresh air, and whether or not they’ll ever ride a two-wheeler without training wheels. (I hear there is a woman called the bike whisperer…She teaches them to ride in three lessons! I may need to call her soon).
I also worry about adoptive mom things like bonding, openness, self-esteem, relationships with their birth families, talking about adoption, loss, and sadness. I worry the adoptive mom worry, that no amount of love I give them could possibly fill the hole in their hearts left by the loss of their families of origin. I worry that any new unexpected behavior runs deeper than typical development, I worry it runs straight to the heart of their loss, and grabs on with vine-like tendrils which may be impossible to unwind.
These are the worries that keep me up at night, after one of my lil ones has awaken me with a need for water, or snuggles, or let’s be honest, a need for dry pj’s and a change of sheets. Instead of following my usual bedtime routine again of reading or more typically these days, listening to an audiobook, for a bit until I drift off to sleep, I find myself searching for answers to that day’s worries. I find myself playing the “what’s adoption-stuff and what’s just kid-stuff” game over and over in my mind. I despise that pointless game, and I don’t know why I play it, especially when it is an irresolvable question.
However much I dread the nighttime visits from the worry monster, I am also thankful for all my worries. I am thankful that my worries keep me thinking about our family life and my daughter’s well-being. I am thankful that my worries oblige me to reach out for help from teachers, friends, professionals, and most importantly family. I am even more thankful for the people in my life that are brave enough to listen to my worry, and even braver to ask uncomfortable questions and offer a kind word, or the possibility of taking a new path. I am most thankful that I have my two beautiful and courageous girls to fret my mother worries over each and every day.
A few weeks ago, an inquisitive first grader, with adorable crazy curls, wearing a tousled outfit (reminds me of myself at that age) walks into her kitchen during Daisy Scouts, and overhears me talking to her mom about our family. The Inquisitive first grader then asks me what adopted means. “We’re an adoptive family; I’m her adoptive mom, or everyday mom. She also has a birth mom who gave birth to her.” I explain a bit more about adoption and how it is for our family, then she announces “that’s sad” and says “who’s her real mom?” I of course laugh it off, and tell the now slightly bothersome, yet still adorable, first grader that neither of us is imaginary, that we are both real moms. Then she avoids my eyes, spying some cookies up on a high shelf, asks her mom for some, and heads back to the scout meeting. Her mom and I gave each other that, “Yup, that’s first graders for you” look and moved on with our conversation.
I rather enjoyed my conversation with the inquisitive first grader, she’s a kid I really like, and I appreciate her frankness. I am also amused that we made it all the way to first grade before anyone asked about my oldest daughter’s “real” mom. We are lucky to live in a pretty progressive place, in an enlightened age, and to have many different family make-ups in our daughter’s school, in our community, and in our church. We have always felt welcome and accepted in our community, and most importantly felt like a “real” family.
With all that said, we do still work on keeping appropriate adoption speak and realistic images of adoption present in our life, most in particular in our girls school. This week, my oldest daughter will be sharing a book with her class, which she and I made, about her adoption story. My husband and I will join her in class to help with the presentation, and to guide, or deflect, any conversation or questions her classmates may have. We will also be bringing in a few of our favorite picture books about adoption for the class to borrow, and some photographs of our family, including some of our daughter’s birth family to share with the kids. Hopefully our story will teach the kids how real we all are, and that the most important thing about our adoption is how real the love is that our daughter has from all her parents.
Over the last six months in my household, we have been reliving the joy
of those sleepless nights caring for our daughters as newborns. Literally, as my
oldest would say. My husband and I have been awakened many times a
night by our youngest, needing us like she did at five weeks old, to cuddle
and soothe her, despite the fact that she is five years old. It’s been hard
on us all, well me mostly, as I sleep closest to the door. My youngest flies
open our bedroom door and lets the bright hall light shine in my eyes,
which are shut tight, hoping it’s all part of a dream. Like most parents I
know, sleep is a delicacy which I look forward to indulging in each night.
I had imagined that after my youngest slept through the night at three
months old, that my next sleepless nights would come sometime in the
teenage years, when she willingly broke curfew and was up to no good. Oh
man, was I off by a decade!
My daughter’s sleepwalking, which was funny when it started last spring,
with her appearing at night hovering over her sister in bed, has morphed
into full-blown insomnia. While I’ve been so sleepless, I have been
prowling on Google for answers to my youngest’s insomnia, which has led
to my own iPhone induced insomnia. As I lay in bed, awake at 2:00am,
I find myself drifting from the wisdom of the Mayo Clinic, and off into a
wormhole of my own creation.
My searches are often for my daughters’ birth family members whom I do
not yet know. Perhaps, one downside to living in our open adoptions, is
the immense amount of information I have collected, sometimes only tiny
bits, about different family members on our daughters’ birth family’s sides.
I know most of the names on both of our girls’ family trees, at least back to
their great grandparents, but I don’t know much beyond their basic data.
Some family members I know only their nickname, or part of their name.
I search to complete the puzzle to who these people are, and how they fit
into our family.
Usually, my search comes to a screeching halt, either by the limits
of Google to read my mind in the middle of the night, or due to my
realization of the fruitlessness of these searches. I suppose that’s why
my genealogical scavenger hunts are reserved to the sleepless nights, to
the times when my brain doesn’t know any better, than to search for the
answers to questions I do not yet know.
I wonder, what is the question I am searching for. Is it; who are these
people who run through my daughters’ DNA, what part do they play in our
family’s life, or where does my oldest get her love (ok, lust) for Cantaloupe?
These are the questions that may seem important, but they are also
questions that I can easily find answers to, by asking my daughters’ birth
moms and families. I think the question I am searching to answer to is why.
I want to know the why of their adoption stories. Why is the question I will
not be able to answer for my girls. Why is the question that I think haunts
me, late at night on my insomnia induced internet searches. How can I one
day shepherd my girls on their own journey, to answer the question, Why? I
have no idea, and neither does Google.
Often I tell my husband I need a vacation. I need to get away from it all, and rest my aching feet on a hot sandy beach in say, Grand Cayman, preferably at the Ritz Carlton. I fantasize about it for a night, dreaming of how relaxed I’d feel listening to the gentle sound of waves, while I snooze on the beach. However, usually our budget, or job schedules, or reality, burst my vacation bubble, and I end up sitting in the shower for five extra minutes, pretending I’m at the spa.
Sometimes I could do with another kind of vacation too. I desire a vacation that takes me away from reality. Some days I just need a vacation, from adoption. I just need a mental break from thinking about our open adoptions, all of our extended family members, all of the logistics of visits, the complexities of communication via text and Facebook. I want an adoption free zone. I could do with a cradle to curl up in and rest. I could use to recover my strength, which I deplete with my doubts, and worries, over the choices I make for our family.
By the time I have wrestled around with the practicality of taking an adoption vacation, a break from the most deep-rooted part of our family, I realize that’s not actually what I require. I need to share the load; I could use a witness to the joys, the chaos, and the sadness that are our adoptions. I need confirmation that our family is well, full of love, and on the right track. I crave a smile from my girls, a kiss from my husband, a text from my youngest’s birth mom, and a Facebook post from Grandparents far and near. Really, I just need a hug. A hug can be all the adoption vacation I need. Knowing that the person on the other end sees me, sees my girls, sees our family, and reflects back to me how beautiful it is, can be just as good as a beautiful sunset over the Caribbean to replenish me. However, a hug on the beach, while sipping an exotic cocktail, would work too.
Last month, my twin’s birth dad had requested new pictures. We hadn’t heard from him in four years. Last month in my blog post, I shared my thoughts about his request and the questions that were flooding my mind.
His request had raised a mix of feelings:
–fear of whether he was regretting his choice to place the twins
–happy that he was interested and wanted to know about what and how the twins were doing
–reassurance to know that when the twins get older and their questions start to center around their birth parents, I will be able to tell them that their birth dad cared and wanted to know what was going on it their lives.
But in the end, it was the reassurance and happiness that led the way and trumped the fear.
To our surprise, Mike (birth dad), without being asked, forwarded a picture of himself with my son and daughters’ birth mom and a photo of him at work to show that he has been focused on getting his life on track. I had wanted to ask him for pictures but was very hesitant…..scared that it would make him think that we may want a close relationship with him and his family.
When Princess and Bruiser came home from camp, we shared the pictures from Mike. While sharing the pictures, my husband asked each of them who they thought they looked like. Princess quickly responded….”like my birth mom.” She couldn’t be more right…..tall, skinny, blonde, blue eyes….a far cry from me…. short, chubby, brunette, with brown eyes. However, Bruiser had a very different answer. He confidently answered, “Daddy, I look just like you.” With that said, Bruiser has a football player’s physique, blue-green eyes, and brown hair, while my husband is on the shorter side, blue eyes and blonde hair.
Well, when we walk down the street, we are often told how the twins look just like us. We hear this, we smile and say, “Yes they do.”
Dear Birth Dad (MA),
It has been almost six years since you chose us to be the parents of the twins. As in many adoptions, we sent pictures via our lawyer’s office every few months for the first year but then after a while stopped since the attorney couldn’t locate you and the pictures and letters were just tucked away in a manila folder in a file cabinet.
Thursday afternoon, our social worker and friend, ML, called and let us know that you had contacted her. We were so happy to hear that you are doing well and feel that you are in a much better place. I am so thrilled that the twins will know that their birth father cares about how they are. I can only imagine the courage that it took for you to make the call to ML and ask for the pictures. We hope that the note and photographs that we send will bring comfort and joy, in knowing that the twins are happy, healthy and enjoying a wonderful childhood.
NOTE TO SELF
-Do I send the best pictures of the kids or do I want to make sure they are more ordinary pictures?
-When we originally met MA, we met his mom too and learned that he had a teenage son. Do I ask about his son? Do I ask how his mother is? Or is this making it appear as though we want to embrace his family? Am I overthinking this…………and is it appropriate to ask?
-I don’t have much information about MA’s family. Do I take the opportunity to ask so that I can share with Bruiser and Princess? Do I ask for a picture of his son? I have a picture of the birth mom’s daughter and grandson but nothing of his son.
-I don’t know how much information our twins will want when they get older. Would they want to have pictures of MA’s son – their brother?
Thanks for asking about the kids and taking the interest in how they are doing. We are truly grateful that we can share with the twins that you have a place for them in your heart.
Bruiser & Princess’ Mom & Dad