About Me

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I placed my daughter in an open adoption in 2002. I started this blog in 2004 as a place to journal and eventually I became part of a community. The community has moved on, but I have decided to come back.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sweetness and Light

"Happy Birthday, Poor_Statue!"

My daughter just said the most enthusiastic happy birthday ever.

Then she sang to me and tried to show me a picture through the phone and made up some gobbedly-gook when she couldn't understand what I was trying to get her to tell her mom.

She's wonderful.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Telling and Knowing

I told two more people last night.

Yesterday, my job celebrated my birthday. First, my kids gave me a decoupaged box. One of the things on it said "Parent and Teacher". I was a little freaked out. Do they know?

A bunch of us went out after work. There was a little mix-up so my friend and I were sitting waiting to see if anyone was coming and we talked about one of the women I work with. This woman was assigned to me full-time when I started teaching at my school and she still works with me (though not full time). She's one of my favorite work people. I've thought of telling her a few times, but she used to be really close to another coworker who's loud and judgemental, so I never did. Lately, they're not as close and I'm feeling closer to her. I told my friend I was thinking of telling her.

Turns out everyone was over at the bar while we were in the restaurant so they ended up joining us. There were a bunch of us and we were having fun and I was thinking that maybe I wanted people to know. I'm tired of keeping a secret. A couple people left.

It was my beau and I, my best friend and her beau (who both know), this other woman I've been wanting to tell, and the teacher I'm mentoring and her beau. I've also thought of telling the teacher I mentor. We get along great and spend a lot of time together.

After a few more drinks, my best friend started to encourage me to tell them. I had mixed feelings. We were having fun and I didn't want to make it awkward. We'd both been drinking a bit so I knew that was making me more willing to tell. At the same time, what better time than out away from school while we're bonding and I'm surrounded by the people who support me the most.

After about a half hour of finding a good moment to share, I told. And they were great. And it didn't spoil the mood. The woman I worked with since day one said it made her feel bad that I had such a rough beginning at that job. Both immediately recognized the pain involved. And even better, the night went on and you'd never have been able to tell that I'd made this major revelation.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Do I Ever Want to Walk Away?

Round is Funny asked if I've ever wanted to pull away from my open adoption. The short answer is yes, many times.

She also wondered how my daughter's parents handled it, but the thing is, I've never really pulled away. I don't initiate contact much and they have asked me to make more of an effort in that area, though I think they've given up on that by now. The truth is I stink at keeping in touch with everyone and it pretty much runs in my family. I have no idea if they ever have to do damage control for my lack of communication or how they do it if they do.

But.....I do have lots of thoughts about why it's so tempting to pull away.

First things first, it is a myth that open adoption somehow makes things easier. You know that whole group who might admit that closed adoption is wrong and harmful, but argue that open adoption is all sweetness and light, especially for birthmothers. Because I can see my daughter and know that she is okay and be a part of her life, there is this misconception that I don't (and shouldn't) have any of the well-documented negative effects of relinquishment. Um, it's not true (though I confess to having no personal knowledge of being a birthmother in a closed adoption). I do have plenty of those same loss-related issues.

And out among most of the rest of the world, it's really hard to defend and explain open adoption. While intellectually, I believe in the benefits, it can be hard to stand behind them.

Let's face it, even among those who accept open adoption, there is still a sense that open adoption is about making things better for the birthparents. It is a sacrifice that adoptive parents make because they are so good and kind-hearted. It is the only way women these days will give up their babies (those birthmothers have become awfully demanding, haven't they?). It's about lessening the effects on the birthmother. The message is that I should feel very lucky that I am allowed to see me daughter. Her parents are awfully generous for allowing me to visit.

Even those who acknowledge that adoptees benefit from knowing their roots cling to the idea that it should be on their terms, not the birthparents'. And because little kids aren't seen as able to make those decisions, those same people usually leave it up to the adoptive parents or for some later date when the child is deemed old enough to ask for contact. An alarming number of people truly believe that open adoption is harmful. Because most of these people happen to be adoptive parents and therefore deemed more respectable by the general public, it seems they get a lot more support for their side.

Still, even if we assume that both parties understand and agree with all of the benefits to all the triad members, there is basically no support from society, including a big chunk of the adoption world. All of the false messages I've already mentioned (and many more) are the majority view. My daughter's parents' social workers told them that open adoption would be confusing and that they never should have given me their address. My friends encouraged me to walk away and "let them be a family." Even today, most of the people in my life continue to tell me how lucky I am to be allowed to see my daughter. Even those who are supportive of my open adoption are supportive because they care about me, not because they really believe it's better for her. When the rest of the world can't see the benefits, it can be very hard to keep believing in them yourself.

During the first year of my daughter's life (and beyond), my daughter's parents questioned the need for openness. I see this in the general population as well. People are starting to understand the need and desire for information, but beyond that? Not so much. An actual physical relationship? No way. Actually thinking of yourselves as family? Crazy. For awhile, my daughter's parents felt the same. They wondered if having all that information about me would be enough to meet that need for my daughter. Couldn't I just put everything down on paper so they could answer any questions as they arose? Did my daughter really need to physically know me? And on my side: wouldn't I get over it better if I just walked away?

By accepting that adopted children do need to physically know their birthparents,we have to acknowledge both the bond they share and the loss that is felt. We have to accept that eternal connection. We have to be willing to accept that the relationship is important. We have to really believe that the biological family is still family. I've met very few people who really feel that in their core.

Birthmothers often give that validation to each other, but it often comes across as a way to help ease the pain and guilt associated with losing a child to adoption rather than a genuine belief that the connection should be valued. Often it's said out of happiness for the birthmother and no other reason. There's nothing wrong with that, but imagine that even in the small group of other birthmothers you know, you are still a misunderstood minority. I've participated in some communities where I was made to feel guilty about grieving my open adoption. How could I complain and grieve when I at least still had contact.

There are other people who say the words because the literature has convinced them, but it is clear they are still questioning the truth of it. The truly adoption-ignorant (nothing insulting meant with that description) can most easily be persuaded. Give them a few of the arguments and a light bulb goes off (oh yeah, that makes perfect sense). Everyone else gets caught up in choosing a side or just sticks to the one adoption story they know and clings to how that was done.

I still think it goes back to society. We are a long, long way from embracing open adoption.

There are no visible models of open adoption. It's not a well understood way to make a family. Living open adoption fully requires the willingness and ability to constantly educate people and to fight against the preconceptions and prejudices (this goes for all involved parties). It can involve sharing more than you want to share about your life. It involves all the same complications as other family relationships except that most of the world doesn't see you as family and is more than likely to encourage you to cut ties when things get hard.

Open adoption means that the people I get close to have to accept that part of me. While it may be unhealthy, if my daughter's adoption were closed, I could live as if she didn't exist. Other than the lie of omission, there would be no covering up. I could bury that secret away and live my life in blissful denial. People do it all the time with a variety of dark secrets.

Living open adoption also means accepting the somewhat opposing beliefs that I am both unworthy of mothering my daughter and important enough to have my own unique relationship with her. For me, sometimes the openness makes me wonder why I thought I couldn't raise her. If I was trying to protect her from my bad parenting, then what am I doing still playing a part in her life? Shouldn't I be staying away? Isn't that why she isn't with me?

Added to that is the message that because I chose to give her up, I have an obligation to stay out of her life. As the relinquisher, I have also lost my right to have a valid opinion about adoption. My choice and my sins have taken away my right to advocate for open adoption. I'm not allowed to try to persuade people that open adoption is healthy because clearly my motives are not pure. Clearly, I'm just not able to let go, to accept that I gave my daughter up. I just want to infringe on her parents right to be parents, to get all of the joy of being a mother with none of the work. I know you've all heard those statements. I can bet you that every birthmother who has ever planned to be in an open adoption has heard them too.

I've said it a lot, but it is absolutely true that the pregnancy and surrender cause enough shame and guilt. These additional comments only help add to the feeling that you are not worthy, that your presence in your child's life is actually harmful, that your reasons for pursuing openness are only about you and not about the child whose life you forever altered (with an emphasis on the blame- I am still the sinner because I abandoned her- almost every blogger has touched on that issue this month). We get those messages from everyone.

99.9999999% of society doesn't understand or believe in openness. Every one of them questions your worth, your character, and your motives purely because you made a choice to give up your own flesh and blood. It is hard to combat those messages, especially when you consider the amount of trauma involved in losing your child, the devastating and unexpected aftereffects of placement, and in some cases the personal history that contributed to your decision to place.

I had it drilled into me that open adoption was good for my daughter, that it was the only humane way to do adoption, and that I had an obligation to her not to walk away. Not a lot of women get that message. Very few women get that message. Yet even with that message drilled into me, I still question my daughter's need for me. My reasoning: Lots of people love her. Seeing me so often causes her pain and distress. I disrupt everyone's life with my visits. Surely the naysayers are right- having the information about me is enough. I should step aside and let them be a family. I should let my daughter decide when she is old enough.

To keep believing in open adoption, you really have to trust the people who taught you about it. You really have to feel enough self-worth. You really have to have people in your life who believe in it too and encourage you to keep in contact. You really have to see the benefits over time to be able to keep investing in open adoption.

And it is an investment. I thought I chose not to parent, but I'm there answering questions and interacting with my child. I'm making decisions about what I'm modeling for her, what things I'm willing to talk about, how I handle difficult situations. I'm influencing her. I didn't get rid of the hard parts of being a parent- I added new complications. I may not get to decide what she eats or what her bedtime is, but I have to decide what message I want to send her about her birthfather, about love, about losing her, about why someone could give up their child.

I had to trust virtual strangers to raise my child and I get to witness firsthand the things that make them great parents as well as the things I would do differently. I get to witness someone else's family traditions and customs become my daughter's norm while mine remain unknown. I get to watch strangers come to know my daughter better than I do.

I get to watch my daughter go through all the milestones from the sidelines. I watch as she turns to someone else for comfort even as I feel all the instincts of a mother to protect her. I pray that she will embrace some of my values while recognizing that I am not the main influence on who she becomes- I gave that up.

I say goodbye to her over and over again. My heart breaks every time I leave. In between I wonder if I will see her again. If she were sick or hurt, would anyone think to call me? When?

Yes, many times I want to walk away. When it gets too hard or too complicated, I want to believe that I am unworthy. I want to believe that I am confusing her. I want to believe that I can move on. I want to believe that our bond is not that important. I want to believe that the couple raising her are the only one's that matter. I want to believe that she will be fine without me. I certainly hear those messages enough.

But then I'll remember her voice calling my name- making sure I'm not far away. I'll see her face as she looks to see if I'm watching. I'll remember her tears as she told me she missed me. I'll remember the way she nonchalantly said that she liked being in my belly. I'll think of the way she sometimes looks at me as if seeing a reflection of herself. That's when I know that I need to stay. That's when I know that open adoption really is good for my daughter. And then I recommit to staying in her life.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I Have the Cutest Kid In The Universe!

Nothing against any of your kids, but my daughter is adorable.

I had a wonderful, wonderful visit.

She greeted me at the door, excited to see me. We had a fun afternoon bike riding and watching half a movie and racing cars. She gave me birthday presents shortly after I arrived and of course opened them all for me. It was a sweet surprise- she talked about my special birthday for much of the weekend (it's next Sunday). They gave me a cute outfit and my daughter immediately put the pants on. They also gave me her first report card. I wanted to cry. It was awesome. Plus, my daughter drew me a picture.

We went to play in the backyard and she invited me on the double swing with her. Back to back, we swung. It was sweet. Then she played on her slide, getting incredibly muddy in the process. Her mom asked for a picture of us (yay! have you all been talking to her?) so we went to pose in front of a tree. Unfortunately, my daughter was feeling silly and playing around on the leftover snow. She promptly fell and landed on some cut brush. No picture then. I think the hardest part was that her mom was up in the swing set and I was right next to her, but she wouldn't let me look. My instinct was to respond to her crying. Her instinct was to push me away because she wanted her mommy.

That's when we went in to watch a movie and play a bit.

Later on we hung out in her playroom. We played Uno (she's good!) and looked at animals in her room. Then her grammy came and we left for dinner.

I sat across from her at dinner which was actually really nice. She ordered what I ordered. Her mom said she would never eat that before. She sang for us and later came and sat in my lap. She was in a great mood. They all sang me Happy Birthday. It was just so wonderful. The whole day was so special and it felt so good to be celebrating with my daughter.

We went home and she requested that I stay in her room. She read me a story (though she still wants her mom there for that routine). She's learning a little though I noticed that the words she knows are by sight only and that every "s" word becomes the "s" word she knows. She read a Dick and Jane book (those are such boring books!) and every "s" word was "Spot" or "Sally". She clearly wants to be able to read, but she's not quite there yet.

I went to change and she requested that I change in her room (um, no thanks!). We went to bed. She was so tired, but as soon as her mom left, she popped right up. She whispered that we should play catch and then threw a stuffed animal around with me. She asked me if we could read again ("but we should keep whispering"). This time, I read Dick and Jane until she fell asleep.

It was sort of a trend of the weekend. The whispering and wanting to keep secrets as if I were a little friend she was breaking rules with. None of it was alarming or major- just playful. She'd give me a look from across the room or whisper something silly if someone walked out. I think I did okay though because we had fun, but I stuck to the house rules enough to confuse her this morning. Her mom left me to oversee my daughter's finishing breakfast. I'm never too tough with her, but I did stick to the food rules. She asked if I'd ever babysat her and when I said no she wanted to know how I knew the rules then.

I was up long before her this time. Before breakfast she came down and I was grading papers. She played with those and asked what all of them said. It actually felt kind of fun. Then she colored on one of those magnet boards. I noticed her interest in patterns. She also counted the sides of her drawings. She's very accurate in her language (she even corrected me).

She's also full of rules and likes to be in control. Her mom talked a lot about that. I guess it's a major thing- the need to control everything. She's completely adorable though. She's an excellent storyteller and a great conversationalist. She was in such a great mood all weekend so that made the whole time especially sweet.

We had an interesting moment at breakfast. We were talking about hair and my daughter commented that her hair was "hard", meaning it was hard to manage. Her mom made an offhand remark about how it's hard being a girl. My daughter said, "I know. I wanted to be a boy." and then turned and glared at me. She asked why I didn't make her a boy. Of course, I told her I didn't have a choice and then her mom and I talked about all the fun things about being a girl.

I got her ready for her swim class. That was especially fun because she was feeling silly and I was feeling pretty good so she kept diving on her bed while I changed her clothes. We giggled a lot. At swim, she made sure I came with her to the locker room. She's ready to move on to the next level and this time she made a point of showing me everything she could do. She kept looking up to see if we were watching and smiling her big smile. She takes lessons at a college pool and right now she can swim the whole length of the pool without any assistance- human or otherwise.

After swim we headed back to her house. She asked me to stay a little longer. We went for a bike ride (she rode, I walked) just the two of us. She listened to all my safety instructions (she often tests me or tests her mom because I'm there, so this was nice). We had another good time.

We went back in and she was silly but then suddenly a little off. She kept telling me to "stop being funny" and laid on the floor by the door covering her face and not taking her coat off. She giggled a bit when I pretended to be sad instead of funny, but then went back to not being happy no matter what I said or did. It was different from other times she's been upset when I'm there though. She told me to just be me. I sat with her for a bit, but then I decided just to sit at the table until she got comfortable again. We had a nice lunch just the three of us.

Then I got ready to go. Her mom took another picture of us (my daughter was mostly willing all weekend, another plus) and then my daughter took a nice picture of her mom and I (I hope I get a copy).

Then I left and my daughter waved and we blew kisses.

I had a lot of fun with her this visit.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Things I Don't Like To Hear

Some comments make me feel sick inside. Some comments make me realize how far we still have to go. Some comments make me realize just how may people think they know the only way to live. Some comments make me so angry.

A list of some of the latest:
1. Birthmothers should start showing compassion for adoptive parents.

2. When will women learn to use birth control?

3. You chose to have sex.

4. You chose to give your child up.

5. Birthmothers need to take responsibility.

6. Why should I pay for someone else's mistakes (through welfare programs, etc.)?

7. Stop blaming others for your choice.

8. Most adopted children don't feel that loss you're claiming.

9. There are plenty of happy adoption stories.

10. Most agencies, lawyers, social workers are ethical.

11. No women today are pressured into adoption.

12. Move on.

What makes it worse is that I find it is often the case that the same people who feel free to make moral judgements about the rest of the world are the ones hiding the truly disgusting skeletons in their closets. Those who choose to lead their lives with honesty are bombarded with more hate than any human being should have to face.

I do think that there is a fine line between playing the victim and being honest about difficult subjects, but I don't think those who hate are targeting the victim-players, I think they are targeting the thinkers- the ones who are willing to see both sides, the ones who are opening up their hearts and lives to try to make the world better. I'd even go as far as to say that many of the folks who unleash judgement and hate are the ones who really are playing the victim and refusing to accept responsibility for their choices and lives. And yet they throw their nastiness and accusations at people who are living with honor.

There are too many people who want to shame women like me. They act as if they know the whole story, sometimes the only story, and then judge me for my life.

I don't need to be shamed, thank you very much. Society has made me feel enough shame.

I don't need to learn to take responsibility for my choice. I live with the consequences every day. They are enough of a reminder.

I don't need a lesson in birth control any more than you need a lesson in getting pregnant. I know how it should work. I know that sometimes it doesn't. Don't you know the same?

More to come....

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

February Again

One of my classes commented on my recent perkiness.

It got me thinking a bit.

In the past, I have had rough Februaries. In fact, looking at just the ones that are archived here, I saw that I, too, have struggled with February.

Of course, in the past I've struggled during lots of months besides February.

But this year I feel really good. Better than I've felt since my daughter was born.

I feel alive and calm and content.

There are lots of factors, but I'm sure part of it is that my relationship with my daughter and her family is a good one.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Adoption on Cold Case

Tonight's episode of Cold Case will feature the maternity homes of the 50s and 60s. Just thought I'd let you all know.

And They All Woke Up

As all my blogging friends come out of their seasonal funk, some ready to fight, others ready to refocus, I am thawing.

Something is making me emotional today. First PostSecret got me all teary. Then reading Dawn's account of a recent visit had me ready to break down.

I'm going there to visit next weekend. I think my body is getting ready.