Friday, May 31, 2013

Roundtable #48: Why has or hasn't openness worked for you?

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

Why has or hasn’t openness worked for you?
If you are in a healthy functional open adoption, why do you think it’s working? If it doesn’t work, why do you think it stopped working? Do you think the success or failure was about education and expectations going in? Do you think it was that your personalities matched or clashed? Do you think there is something you do or did during the relationship that kept it going or was there a certain point that it changed the relationship from bad to good? Was it a mixture of all of these things?

Before Baby Girl arrived I had an idea of what open adoption was about.  The birth family would attend birthday parties and a phone call could be made when Baby Girl yelled at me for the first time "You are not my real mom!  My real mom would let me do XYZ!"  That isn't our reality.  I found its not as cut and dry as open vs. semi-open vs closed.  I wish there was a way to describe adoption not as open, closed, or semi-open but rather in a way that acknowledged that each relationship will be unique because each birth family/adoptive family is different with different circumstances.  As long as the relationships status is communicated and all parties understand the expectations then I think it should work.  The relationship can morph and change as long as all parties agree to the changes.
It started with us having all identifying information about D and J while they only knew our first times and the state we live in.  We were clear from the day we met them that this would be the information that would be shared and communication other then texts/phone calls would go thru the agency.  They also had my personal cell phone number. Unfortunately D would contact me in the middle of the night which abruptly stopped before I ever talked to her about it.  Turns out D went to jail which explains why the calls stopped.  I don't think she still has my number only because her life is chaotic.  I want them to have a way to contact me but I also dont want to be woken up so I created a Google voice phone # which allows them to have a phone # to call while not providing our home phone #.  We have their phone #.  Since D is still in jail so far we have only received calls from her extended family.  What didn't work?  Ds life was so different from ours it was OK to call after midnight.  I'm sure simple communication would have solved it however I like having the google # because once she gets out of jails he can call 24/7 but after 9 it goes directly to voicemail.
We had a visit in April with D's extended family.  Most all of her extended family came with the exception of one aunt because she felt that it would be "too hard" to see Baby Girl as well as she felt it was "an invasion" of Baby Girls privacy.  I think for that one family member that the visits were too much but for the rest of the extended family it allowed them to visit with Baby Girl.  I explained to them as often as I could during the visit that right now Baby Girl is young and the visits are more for them but that the consistency of visits as well as their interest in her will help her know that she was not "given up" but rather placed because she was loved.  She will always know that is is loved by all sides of her family.  Although during the visit the birthday party was for her birth sister it will still amazing to be a part of the celebration!  What worked?  Her family welcomed us in and we were able to see first hand their love for Baby Girl.  With the exception of D, D's mom, and baby girls Birth siblings no one from the large family had met her.   
Tonight as I rocked a sick Baby Girl to sleep she stalled going to bed (as usual) by pointing at the pictures on the wall.  She said "Mama" and "Dada"  and as always I asked "who else is up there?"  I then said the names of her birth siblings  and birth parents.  When I said her birth sisters name she repeated it for the first time!  I could tell she was trying to say D's name but its too hard but her sisters name came out clear as a bell.  Its moments like those that make me realize that I might not be doing this adoption thing perfectly but I'm trying my best. What worked?  We talk about her birth family daily if not looking at the pictures mentioning details about her hospital stay or commenting how she is good at gymnastics just like D!
I hope for the future that this stay in jail D will get the help she needs so that when she gets out she will except the help her family so desperately wants to give her.  I hope that D continues to build trust with us and respects us by not calling in the middle of the night.  I hope D continues to be consistent with her contact once she is out.  I continue to tell her this in each of my letters because I want her to know that what is best for Baby Girl and her birth siblings is a birthmom that is sober and available.  I pray that maybe having someone rooting for her and believing in her will allow her to believe in herself.  Whats working?  D's more consistently available currently.  Whats not working?  D can't be physically available and missing out not just on Baby Girls life but the rest of her family as well.  
What I didn't realize until adoption was a reality was that the relationship will eb and flow.  There will be give an take.  There will be ups and downs.  There will be things we become more open about and other things we may hold close.  What I do ask of myself and DH when we choose to hold something back is- "Why would we not do X?  What about it is uncomfortable?"  If its just a comfort issue we have gone ahead like going to D's mothers house for the birthday party... if its something that is irreversible say giving our last name we have continued to hold back.  There is always time as the relationship builds.
So how is it working?  Once I gave up my fantasy it has started to work much easier.  I try as hard as I can in letters and conversations to be consistent.  I do not provide D's extended family information I wouldn't provide her even though I have built a relationship with them that I feel I can allow them greater trust.  J I wish it was working better but afte re-reading his portion of the application I guess my expectations were off.  He indicated that she could contact him once she turned 18 if she wished.  He didn't communicate that to us during our visits in the hospital thus this miscommunication allowed me a year of hoping that he would step up and be present.  In the end he defined his relationship as closed unti she is 18 in writing and we will have to except that.  It wont stop me from continuing the letters we verbally agreed to- I just wont expect anything in return anymore.

Roundtable #47: Stalled Relationship

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

I'm currently stalled.  I'm stalled in many areas of life right now.  For the last three weeks my mother has been with us and the two months prior to that I dealt with her health care from a far.  Phone calls to doctors, phone conferences with her rehab team, and discussions with my sisters.  I'm overwhelmed to the point that besides the day to day I'm not getting anything done.  

Last week as I tried to deal w Baby Girls fifty millionth ear infection, my mothers needs, and DH telling me he didn't like what I was planning to make for dinner I cracked.  I told them all I was leaving.  I didn't care what they did for dinner I was going to leave.  When I got back I would already have eaten so they shouldn't wait for me.  I would be back in time for Baby Girls bed time.  I spent two hours alone with a Five Guys Burger and a few errands for myself that I had been putting off as I put everyone else's needs before mine.

I currently owe D a letter.  It is written but now another month has gone by.  I debate- do I update the letter or just put it in the mail.  I need to put pictures on a thumb drive and print them out.  It seems too easy, but at the same time I have gotten to five o'clock and realize I didn't even have time to eat lunch let alone finish my morning coffee.  

For me this stalled relationship can start with an overwhelming feeling of life which then leads to guilt.  Up to now I have had the letters out exactly when I said I would.  D has been more sporadic.  I started to hear from her consistently after I informed her that I knew she was in jail.  I think she stalled her communication because she didn't know what/how to tell us.  Jail I'm sure for her has created a normalcy and routine which my life right now currently lacks.  

So tonight after writing this post (which was posted in April) has helped me decide- I'm sending the letter as is.  I will hand write a brief note on the bottom.  Tonight I will put the pictures on the thumb drive and tomorrow I will print the pictures and mail the letter.  It wont be perfect but it will restart what is stalled.  I'm not perfect and life happens.  This relationship isn't about me though currently it depends on me.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mothers Day Card

I received a thoughtful Mothers Day card from D.  The card was a sweet gesture and I really was touched.  It also got me thinking.... D is older then me by 7-8 years.  She has her first daughter who is 11 years younger then me.  As well as her son who is almost 9.  In some ways she continues to have the opportunity to "mother" via the phone and when she is physically available and they call her "mom" however they are cared for by their grandparents.  D's oldest daughter made some comment while we were at the zoo about something her Mom had done that wasn't really thought thru and ended the conversation with a slightly sarcastic "thats my mom."  I often find D's oldest daughter to have almost parented D more then the vise versa.  I have yet to really formulate this complexity into words.  At some point I'm sure Baby Girl is going to want to know why the other two children were raised by/with her and she was not.  When they consider her their Mom yet she is not their active parent.

My other feeling about the card was a sentence in which D expressed her admiration for DH and I.  I wonder what D thinks of us.  Being that we are younger (then her), unexperienced parents.  Parents that have achieved basic things like stable employment which have evaded her.  In most ways we are younger only in age but not in maturity.  In some ways I'm grateful for her admiration because it says "I'm glad I chose you to be Baby Girls parents."  while on the other side I feel uncomfortable as I really have done nothing to be admired for.  I wanted to be a Mom and D allowed me that opportunity.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Pre Trip

I initiated the planning of the trip via letter to both D and J.  D is currently in jail and wont be out for several years so I asked if she was OK with me contacting her family.  J I gave two months for him to respond to us and let us know if he wanted a visit.  Once we didn't hear anything back from J and D I went forward and contacted Baby Girls birth grandmother (D's Mom) by letter providing her with a few options for weekends that both DH and I had off.

Baby Girls older sister e-mailed baby girls e-mail address with a weekend they preferred and a weekend was officially picked.  The trip seemed really far off initially.  Baby Girls sister wanted to go to a museum and zoo since she knew we didn't have either where we live.  Plans were vague for a while until I set up a Google Voice #.  I had her Birth Grandmother give me a call to make plans.  Google Voice allowed me to provide a local number that can easily be changed- although I have no plans to change it it is nice to have a number that if it were ever to be abused in the future (i.e. text in the middle of the night) I can ask that text not be sent and if they were to continue I could just delete the number.  I think it give me the control over my # again.  If (and I stress if) its needed I can delete the number without having to start with a fresh number (I've had my number for long enough that I would find it hard to change).

In the initial call her Birth Grandmother wanted to know if it was OK for us to visit her house since she is having more trouble moving around.  I told her I'd talk to DH and in time I was able to convince him.  She also asked in that conversation if we could tell her our last name now that the adoption was finalized.  I told her that our agency discouraged it (its more complicated then that but I'll touch on this in another post).   We made tentative plans to possibly go to the museum, and swimming the first day, then the zoo and a family get together the second day.  I got off the phone feeling overwhelmed.

My biggest concern during all the planning was making sure that we are not providing preferential treatment to her extended family.  In the same breath we also have grown to trust her extended family and have had greatest communication with them.  Her birth grandparents and siblings have no involvement's with the law which also gives us an added level of trust for them.  I felt like I was on this teater-toter and was worried i'd make a mistake at any point.  Once the mistake was made it couldn't be taken back.

In the mean time my mother fell and broke her leg and my focus on the trip was distracted at best.  I e-mailed her birth sister about ten days before the trip apologizing for our silence.  At that point it was too late to reserve tickets to the museum and we also were planning on leaving later then initially anticipated.  Her sister suggested ice cream and swimming Friday and the zoo saturday.  It was also in this e-mail I learned that the family get together was her sisters birthday party!

The weekend before we left I had one last conversation with her grandmother.  We confirmed the plans for the weekend.  By this point I was excited and confident in our decision.  I could tell they were looking forward to seeing Baby Girl again.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Who Is Your Mama?

This past weekend we went on our first trip back to PA.  I'll blog on it more in the coming days.  I started many posts prior to the trip but wasn't able to complete any of them.  In part life being busy and in part a result of the fear of the unknown.

This trip started on Thursday night with us arriving on Friday.  We went to Terminal Market, to the hospital she was born at to visit with the nurses, and had her birth siblings over to go swimming.  On Saturday she met her birth grandfather for the first time, we went to the zoo and went to her birthsisters birthday party.  Sunday it was back in the car for the trip home.

I had so many favorite memories but the one that made me melt was this one...
She is sitting on her Grandfathers lap and I am across the porch   He asked her "Who is your Mama?" I looked at her looking down at her hands and prayed that she would get it right.  She then glanced up at me, pointed smiled, and then looked back down at her hands.  For the first time ever she acknowledged that she knows who I am!

I dont think it was a conscious tests on his part but I do think it validated his understanding that she really was our daughter.  That we consider her nothing less and to her we are her parents.  The trip was hard yet surprisingly I was at ease.  I am sure moments like this one that brought me elation also brought mixed emotions to her birth family.

Talking about Mama's- my Mama is going to be moving in with us for about a month.  Sandwich generation anyone?