Saturday, November 28, 2009

Adoption and Loss (I know, how original.)

I've been thinking a lot about the things I want to write about, but I've been blocked on how to formulate a post. I feel like there has been a lack of the emotional-happy-squishy component in my posts. (It's probably because I read many newly adopted blogs, in which the emotional-happy-squishy index is incredibly high ;) )It's not that my situation is not happy, I suppose it's that the things that I am processing are some of the flip sides. I'm really happy; I guess that part is sufficiently processed for now.

I've been thinking a lot about the adoptee's sense of loss. We all know about how each member of the triad feels loss, but the adoptee's feels especially hard because they were the only member not making any decisions. Please, don't get me wrong, this is so not going to be anti-adoption. The logistics are what they are, no newborn has much say in much of anything. But I feel really shitty about the fact that originally I hadn't given much thought, at all, to what C might feel in terms of loss. I started giving it some thought when he was around 5. And even then, I always thought: yeah, but we'll explain why I couldn't parent and he'll get it, and thank us all profusely while we ride off into the sunset!

Well, my son feels loss. I've explained to him why I couldn't parent, and he gets it as much as he can without being a pregnant teenager; but he is still really, really sad about it. All of our fantastic intentions, support, and love haven't neutralized his sense of missing and wanting to be with his first family. I can see in his eyes that when he asks "why?" he doesn't want to hear about teen single parenting, he's asking the much bigger, sadder, harder to answer "WHY?!" as in "why did this have to be my story?". He feels the injustice of not having something so basic --- the experience of staying in his first mama's arms. My boy struggles with it. A baby's future temperament is an unknown at the time of newborn adoptions, but oh, I wish it were the one thing we could see with a crystal ball. Some adoptees feel the loss more acutely, some roll with it effortlessly. I do not mean to totally negate parenting, or support from the birthfamily, but I am learning that temperament/personality have much to do with it. My situation is a prefect example of that fact.

I spent the first couple of years post-placement in a very Black and White place, mentally. C was better off, aparents were thrilled, I was going to be able redirect my life, ect. Everything was great, we were all very kumbaya. It was an important part of the grief process, it was my own version of the denial stage. I remember the day my post-adopt counselor said to me "You can be happy for C, but simultaneously sad. You can feel both at once." I was floored. Getting to a place of being able to see both sides, the grey, was not only an important part of being emotionally healthy re: adoption, but it was an important part of moving through adolescence into adulthood.

So, I now revisit that lesson learned. It is incredibly hard to watch your kid struggle, at your hand. The flip side is that I know I made the best decision I knew how, with love and pure intentions. The grey is there in the middle; I find it by sitting with both truths.

My job now, is to acknowledge my son's loss, and show him the relationship we can have, even though it is not that of mama/son. My job is to teach him the lessons I have learned. My job is to help him appreciate the Grey.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's the Holiday Season

I am enjoying the onset of the holiday season this year more than ever before. Ever. I've also never been this financially strapped, so it just proves the rule: money does not = happiness. My little family moved "home" this past spring after living out of state for 5 years. We've spent the last 5 holiday seasons travelling, and running ourselves ragged. The last 2 were spent doing all of that with a baby, which obviously makes it all the more hectic. J was a whopping 19 days old when we flew up for his first Christmas!

So, here we are, settled and most definitely NOT travelling. In fact, we are hosting Thanksgiving tomorrow, and I couldn't be more delighted, even given the fact that I am working a night shift tonight. I spent today preparing. I put on Christmas music, lit my seasonal candle, and really got in the mood. I pulled a chair up to the counter and my trusty (almost) 2 year old helper stood on the chair and ate a few M&Ms while I made the stuffing. He was sure to take breaks from his "TREATS!" to wiggle his booty to Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree. It is seriously, my new favorite holiday memory. That same special toddler assisted me in cleaning the bathrooms last night; I would wash and he would dry. At the appropriate time, he would look at me, nod is head while asking "Baby turn?". We made hand-turkeys out of construction paper, and wrote the names of our family members, to be used as place settings tomorrow. I'm thinking about laminating them and having them be our Official Thanksgiving Place Settings for years to come. I say it every month: J is at the best age ever. Seeing the world through (almost) 2 year old eyes, is hysterical and fun and just plain awesome. The holiday season only accentuates it :)

I am so very blessed and thankful this year. It's been a stressful, crazy year, but my prayers are still only of gratitude. I have the most incredible husband. I have the most wonderful sons. I have a career that allows me to support my family while my husband realizes his life long dream of starting his own business. I have loving, supportive family. I could go on and on.

It really is, the most wonderful time of the year! And it's only just started! YAY!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Weekend Recap

It was a rather, um, challenging weekend. We went to visit my first born, and were scheduled to speak on a panel at the Tristate Adoption Conference. I was really looking forward to sharing that experience with C, he was too young to participate when I was on the panel in years past.

Unfortunately there was some drama, details that need to remain private, and we did not make it to the conference.

I did manage to spend some good time with C; he is at such a cool age, just on the verge of adolescence. I am really enjoying this age! He is smitten with my 2 year old, and we make a big deal about the fact that they are brothers. C had a tough time when I was pregnant again, and playing up the Big Brother Role has really helped alleviate his fears that J would take his place in my heart. When he found out I was pregnant, he looked at me and asked "are you going to keep this one?", and I could see the hurt in his eyes when I told him "yes". Anyway, I digress...

By the end of the weekend, I was struggling to process some of the events, and I thought again about how we've become an extended family through open adoption. In every family, there are at times, hurt/disappointment/confusion. This family is no different, and it's foolish to think otherwise. It's tempting to get into the mindset that because my bond the adoptive parents is so sacred, that the relationship should be somehow more pure, void of pitfalls. But, it is still made up of people, which means there are going to be some.

I had (and still have) some angry moments, and that's OK. In the past I've been angry with my mother, my sister, or my husband, but it surely didn't break our relationship. This one is no different, because of a really beautiful fact: we are family. It is going to give us an amazing opportunity to role model to C how families deal with some tough stuff.

So, it certainly wasn't our best weekend together, but we'll get through, and all will be well.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Story

It's been so long since I told my story in it's entirety, I've almost forgotten where to start ;)

The Beginning

I conceived my son in Aug 1997. It was an end-of-summer fling. My family was getting ready to move to a new (old) state, I was getting ready to start my Senior year. We moved, and I started school. By October I was dating a new great guy, but started thinking maybe my lack of period was something more than my typical irregularity. Sure enough, an HPT confirmed my fears, I was pregnant. (As an aside, it is so wild to me that as an adolescent I didn't think of pregnancy until I was almost 10 weeks pregnant; with my second son, I knew at 10 dpo.) My boyfriend and I cried a lot that day; I thought of terminating for a few days, but within a week knew that adoption was the right choice for us. My parents were initially outraged, but soon became supportive. I started going to the midwife, and started taking vitamins. I quit smoking, and started drinking more milk. I went to my appointments and ultrasounds alone, and it didn't occur to me that that was sad or lonely, until 9 years later when my husband accompanied me to prenatal appointments and ultrasounds. I loved my baby, but never wavered in my plan to place.

The Middle

All the typical mile stones of 2nd trimester came and went. I felt movement, I started to show. My teachers turned out to be amazingly supportive, and my boyfriend and I had a really great relationship. Looking back, I can't remember how I thought I was going to find a family. I don't know if May just always seemed so far away so I thought I had tons of time? In any case, at my 24 week appt my midwife asked if I was planning to breastfeed. I told her no, I was planning to place. She directed me down the hallway to the social worker. I went to the office, and told her I wanted to make an adoption plan. I had seen an after school special with Mary Stewart Masterson in which a teen girl placed her baby, but still got to see him. I told her I wanted that. And then, for the first time, I heard the words "open adoption". She gave me a phone number to an agency based out of Vermont who facilitated open adoptions. I said thanks and left. The whole thing took 5 minutes. I went home and called. It all felt so calm, drama-free, almost nonchalant. It was like I was calling for a pizza... "hi, I'm pregnant and would like to place my baby in an open adoption." They responded like Papa John's does when you tell them you want a large pepperoni... "ok, let's get some more info." Days later 4 profiles arrived in the mail. I liked G&D the best right off the bat; their profile was bright and colorful. The agency arranged a phone call, and I spoke with G&D for the first time on 2.12.98. I had just turned 18, and was 26 weeks along. I asked them a few questions, that now seem trivial, but there is no template for this kind of conversation! We talked for 15 or 20 minutes, and the next day I told the agency they were It. For a while I felt kind of weird about choosing the only couple I spoke with; I felt like I should be able to tell my son that I had rigorously interviewed hundreds of couples so as to find just the right one. But, when you know, you know. I still found him just the right couple, it just happened to be the first one. We then spoke every Tuesday for the duration of the pregnancy. I enjoyed the phone calls, I liked chatting with D, but they were so much less monumental to me than to her. I suppose it's because I was really the only one who could know how committed I was to giving them my baby. All this time, the bdad did not know what was going on. I had a gut feeling that he wouldn't be on board, so I stuck my head in the sand. In April, it became clear that this wasn't going to go down without his consent. So, I brought him up to speed, and he was lukewarm at best. We all went along assuming he'd sign when the time came.

The (first) End

My water broke 5 days before my due date. I went to the hospital for augmentation and G&D hit the road. Thankfully my labor dragged on, as they hit the most horrendous traffic and what should have been a 3 hour drive turned into a 7 hour trip. I was in my hospital bed, in labor, and all I could think about was how agonizing in must be to be stuck in traffic when you are trying to get to your son's birth. They got to my room with plenty of time to spare, as it turned out, because I pushed for 4 solid hours. My mom and D held my hands, and my knees, and wiped my forehead. G was in the little baby alcove, I wasn't quite ready for him to see the gory stuff. I screamed through the delivery, and someone yelled "it's a boy!". They took the baby to the alcove, and G&D spent some time meeting their son. My mom and I hugged and cried. We took tons of pictures that I still love to pour over. I looked so young. After a few hours, I went to my post partum room, C went to the nursery, and everyone went home to get some sleep since it was about 4am. Later that morning, I rang the nursery and asked for my baby; I fully expected them to say "no". Obviously they did not, and I spent some time holding and caring for my son before G&D arrived back at the hospital. That day was fantastic; we all hung out, and it felt just right. Early in the evening, birthdad came to the hospital. I was totally unprepared to see him, but knew he had every right to see the baby. The next morning our worlds came crashing down.

The Real End of the Story

It was early on C's second day of life that my facilitator called my room to tell me birthdad said he was not signing TPR. He went back to his home state, he was not going to sign. 5 minutes later D called to tell me they were on their way back to the hospital, and I had to break it to her. It was the worst phone call I've ever experienced. They came to the hospital to say good bye. They brought me their car seat, diapers, clothes, all the supplies I didn't have because I wasn't supposed to be taking a baby home. It was awful. I took the baby home the next day completely unprepared in every way, to be a mom. I had been emotionally preparing for something entirely different. It was really, really hard. D told me later that that experience gave her great insight to what a birthmom feels: she felt like a mother with no baby. So, I parented C, and did a good job. G&D called weekly to see how we were; we had a friendship by now, and it was impossible to just sever all communication. Birthdad would call periodically, but really wasn't participating. When C was 6 weeks old, I called birthdad to say something, anything, that this wasn't how it was supposed to be. He asked if we could still place and I told him yes. C was laying on the bed next to me as I called D to tell her birthdad was ready, we were going to proceed. I looked down at my son, and thought about how this little tiny infant had no idea how his life had just changed in that moment. A week later we were in court terminating. The following week we spent transitioning C to his new caregivers. We all spent the first night together, I would start a feeding and D would finish it. We did our best to honor the fact that this was a huge transition for such a little baby. He did very well, and the new family went home when C was 8 weeks old.

Peoples' first question is always about how much harder it was to place after parenting for 7 weeks. The answer is yes, and no. Yes it was harder, for obvious reasons; my house screamed baby. My room smelled like a baby, pacifiers were laying around, it was eerily quiet. But, those 7 weeks gave me an honest look at single teen parenting. It made it impossible to romanticize parenting. I missed being a teenager. I knew more than ever, that placing was the right thing to do.

Birthdad still sees C, as well, and has proven to be a pretty great birthdad. He needed more time, and I admire him for resisting being rushed into such a huge decision.

That's the story, folks.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Winding down the Latent Phase

Early in my birthmotherhood, I learned a lot about some of the typical developmental stages adoptees tend to move through. For example, 4 year olds tends to be very public about their adoption, and proud to share their story. I remember the adoption educators talking a lot about the Latent Phase that shows up in early school age; like around 6 or 7. The Latent Phase got a lot of attention, as it is important to know how to handle the child's need for privacy, but also not deny reality. My birthson certainly followed suite. When I went to a function at his kindergarten, he yelled across the room "There's my birthmother!". By first or second grade, he didn't want to talk about much at all, including with me. This was all well and good, and we all patted ourselves on the back for being so well prepared to support him in whatever way he needed at each stage.

What I didn't hear about, or think about, was going through my own phases. I have to say, they tend to mirror my boy's. For the first 5 years post-placement, I was an Adoption Crusader. I read books, and could drop names of all the important adoption authors. I could speak to the various philosophies even with in the Open Adoption community. I spoke on panels at conferences. I attended Birthmother Retreats. I would educate anyone and everyone who gave me the opportunity. I told my story as often as possible, careful to use the "correct" terminology. I wrote papers about adoption in college. I felt proud to be a well adjusted, educated, "normal" birthmom whose involvement in her son's life was beneficial to him. I don't think I was pushy, but I was certainly knowledgeable, and really wanted to spread the word: Open Adoption is a really great thing.

Then, I entered my own Latent Phase. I wasn't so much weary of trying to educate people, it had just become enough of my norm that the fiery passion had subsided a tad. In it's place had grown a much deeper relationship with my son's parents, and a deeper comfort level with having a balanced life in which Birthmotherhood was just one component of my identity. I had also gotten tired of the same superficial questions: who named him? was it hard? what if he shows up on your doorstep and wants to live with you when he's 12? (*yawn* they did. yes. I'll call his mother just like I would if any other 12 year old shows up at my house wanting to live with me.) I got quiet about my story right around the time my boy did. In fact, I remember having a conversation with my boy's adad about this and it seemed he was going through the same thing. He shared a story in which a co-worker asked him some typical question and adad replied "It just works, trust me." where as in years past he would have taken the opportunity to get into a long conversation and educate.

I feel like I am in a new phase, I'll call it the Reemerging Phase. It started when I became a full-fledged mama almost 2 years ago. My parenthood has put a whole new spin on my thoughts and feelings on adoption. I have an appreciation for D's (amom)experience like never before. I think about her more than ever. I worry about C's process in a different way. When I placed him, I knew that was an act of love; I knew there would be better opportunities and support for him, but that was all I knew. I didn't understand the specifics, I couldn't see beyond that veil. I didn't understand mama love, but I knew I wasn't ready or able to provide it. My parenthood has now been the ultimate lens. And I feel like I want to go back over the last 11 years with my new lens. I want to see every detail, relive every moment, with my new found understanding of the reason I made this choice.

My bigger point with this post, is that I'm back. I want back into the community that I drifted away from. This weekend I'll be speaking, with my first son by my side, on a panel at a conference that I attended yearly until 2004 and haven't been back to since. I thought my absence was due to schedules/money/career/whathaveyou, but I'm thinking it was just me working through my Latent Phase. I feel a little nervous to be back, and surprised that there are all new thoughts and feelings to be processed, more than a decade after I gently placed my son in another woman's arms.

Man, adoption truly is a journey.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Inevitably, there are triggers that come up in everyday life, and not just for birthmoms. Everyone has something; something that brings up confusing feelings, nostalgia, longing, ect. Birthmotherhood is certainly my biggest Something, but not my only one. Again, it's just one hat.

Today, a dear friend gave birth to her first son. I am so thrilled for her, and filled with all the great feelings that come when a new life joins us: renewed faith, hope, and love in humanity. She is an adult, in a great marriage, wanted and planned for this baby. But, I can't help but revisit my own experience of birthing my first son. It sounds completely self-centered, but I wonder if it will cross her mind in the next few days, what it was like for me to make an adoption plan.

It's a "false" wonder, though, if such a thing exists. It only somewhat applies. It applies in the sense that, all mothers feel uniquely connected to their babies. It does not apply in the sense that giving birth to a baby you can parent feels completely different from giving birth to a baby you know you cannot.

I read many new adoptive parents' blogs, and they talk about feeling torn between their joy, and their child's birthmom's pain. The compassion and empathy is fantastic; but I am here to say that knowing my first son's parents were over the moon to have him was a source of strength for me. I was not in a position to be over the moon about having a baby, but he deserved to have parents who were just that.

Every baby deserves to have parents love them like my First Son's parents do, like I love my second son, like my friend loves her 7 hour old son. And so, even though it is a trigger for me, relishing in a friend bringing new life always makes for a great day.
Oh, brother, so here I am in blogland. I've been on LJ for some time, but that's entirely different from being a blogger. I now think people want to know what I think? And say? Well, we'll see.

The inspiration has really been that I've been following many blogs that I want to comment on, and this makes me feel more, um, accountable?

I suppose there will be near-future posts about My Story; about my birthmotherhood. The story swims around in my mind and soul hourly, so I look forward to putting it out there.

So, good night; sleep tight. Enjoy and love on your babies, there is no greater gift.