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.