OART 22

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.

Write a response at your blog–linking to http://www.productionnotreproduction.com/2011/01/open-adoption-roundtable-22.html so your readers can browse other participating blogs–and link to your post in the comments here. Using a previously published post is perfectly fine; I’d appreciate it if you’d add a link back to the roundtable. If you don’t blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.

One year ago many of us answered the question, “How will you be proactive in the area of open adoption in 2010?”

If you participated in the January 2010 discussion, revisit your post and give us the one-year-later update.

And whether or not you participated last year, tell us about your open adoption hopes or commitments in 2011.

How’d we do?

1. I will find a new model for our relationship with Ruth and Nora: not marriage, not friendship, but something else. I will take into account their wishes and my experiences, and rely less on my hopes.

Heaven knows my hopes of a year ago are no longer steering my approach to the adoption—I’m more cynical and less hopeful. I expect not to get pictures on time, I expect not to see replies to emails for weeks if at all, I expect visits to be cancelled; good things are now a pleasant surprise, which has been a silver lining. I’m trying not to think of this as a permanent change—things could get better!—but for right now, I think it’s what works best for me.

2. I will, with the aid of Mr. Book, figure out how we want to handle the pregnancy we hope for later this year and the baby who will follow in the context of the open adoption. What will our boundaries be? What are our hopes for the relationship between futurekid and Cricket? What are our obligations to Ruth and Nora?

Well, we have a baby now—we’re still working on the boundaries part. My biggest concern right now is about not wanting Joey to be disappointed the way I have sometimes felt disappointed and not letting my grief over Cricket impact him. I think we’ve got a couple of years before these would be current concerns, at least. I hope that the boys will feel like family to each other.

3. I will make very sure that I am not looking at futurekid as a replacement for my lost son—the one who isn’t Cricket, but who Cricket would have been. That potential child is gone forever; I need to be very clear about that before I name another baby.

I genuinely and regularly thank God that this has not been a concern. Joey is himself, and he’s perfect (okay, he has cradle cap in his eyebrows, but that’s within spitting distance of perfect ;) ), and while he makes me wonder about Cricket sometimes, I am 100 percent not confused; I’m parenting the son who has been gifted to me.

4. I will be supportive of other people in adoption relationships on whatever side; the adoption blogger community has been very kind to me, and I want to give back.

I hope that I have lived up to this—certainly I have felt honored to know more and more of you.

5. I will make our home ready for a baby; I don’t just mean washing onesies. I will be sure that Mr. Book and I are as prepared as anyone can be—he’s going to need to read some baby books, I am going to need to pray, and we’ll do a lot of talking together. At the same time, I will not let myself obsess until I am actually pregnant: no crying when I see pregnant women or babies, no setting up a nursery, no imaging the hoped-for child. I will be present in my life.

Turns out I didn’t have to worry about the wait for too long! We are not babyproofed, but Mr. Book did some reading and we’ve both done a lot of laundry and gotten some practice at things like baths and diapers. There are things I thought we would need that haven’t been used yet—he hasn’t seen the inside of the crib as of today—and things that we’ve needed much more than I realized before (he is just the grubbiest baby, and could grow filthy sitting quietly in a sterile room. The baby bathtub has been a lifesaver). And of course there were things that we couldn’t have been prepared for. Mr. Book told me the other night that he had known (roughly) how hard it would be, and that he had felt ready for that, but that he really hadn’t expected it to be rewarding yet. He has been pleasantly surprised. Even the baby howling in his ear at night, he says, feels like an amazing gift.

6. I will be for Cricket what he wants, or what I think he wants: available, warm, and unobtrusive.

Well. Certainly I have been unobtrusive; I think that I have been available. I have not been warm. I’m still stiff and nervous around Cricket, and I don’t really expect that to be better now that (a) we haven’t seen him in coming up on seven months, and (b) he can have real conversations, which I see as bringing him one step closer to telling me that he hates me. I am nervous about seeing him again, and sort of unfocusedly angry about the long, weird break between visits, and of course not sure whether they’re actually coming at all. I’m not much of anything for Cricket at the moment.

As for the coming year—I’m not sure. I hope to have the boys meet. Modest, eh?

OART 21: The Most Wonderful Time

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts 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.

Last year we wrote about the holiday season in general. This year, inspired by a recent post by Claud, I thought we could focus in on traditions.

How do open adoption and holiday traditions intersect in your life?

My mother wants to send Cricket an advent calendar. Oh, she knows that she can’t—but I secretly wish that she could. While my mother surely wishes that Cricket were being raised as a Christian, there is a whole heap of Christmas traditions that she wishes that she could share with him . . . and so do I. My family is overwhelmingly German, so we have a Christmas with advent calendars and those horrible soft gingerbread cookies (although come to think of it, it’s been many years since we had these—perhaps my Omi was the only one pushing for them. So gross) and that odd candle-powered dingy angel thing and a räuchermänn as well as Santa Claus et al. Cricket, of course, does not celebrate Christmas. His adoptive grandparents do, so he surely will see some lighted trees etc. from the sidelines, but his mama Ruth is adamant that he not grow celebrating Christmas, as she feels that Hanukkah tends to suffer by comparison in the eyes of a child. We are allowed to send a Christmas gift—I actually got this written into our agreement—but it ought not to be intrinsically Christmassy.

I have never celebrated Hanukkah (we’ve missed both of Cricket’s birthday/Hanukkah parties so far), but have a vague understanding of what it’s like. At the same time, I love Christmas, not just in a Christian way (although midnight mass is one of my favorite things) but in the secular Bing Crosby way. Mr. Book loves Christmas. My parents love Christmas. My mother has apparently been thinking about collecting one of those tiny Christmas villages for the benefit of wide-eyed grandchildren—she has made up a Christmas stocking for Joey, and I am deeply curious to see what will go into it. She bought a children’s Christmas book to add to our pile while she was in Stumptown (I heard a story on NPR a few years back about a family who have a big Tupperware container full of Christmas books that gets brought out every December and immediately wanted to do that). Mr. Book and I watch Christmas movies all throughout December, and are constantly on the lookout for more good old ones. I look forward to making Christmas cookies every year, and slowly accumulate more and more decorating supplies to that end. Mr. Book has already sung carols to Joey. We have a box of See’s candy waiting for my return home (my family), and on Christmas I will make noodles (his family) and we’ll watch movies and open presents and play with the baby. Probably there will be trifle.

Today I spent the afternoon decorating the Christmas tree with my mother. It’s Cricket’s birthday, and I’m sure that she doesn’t remember that—she’s been bragging to people about the birth of her first grandchild, and only last night said that “I’ve been saying for a couple of years now that we need to have a baby for Christmas.” Today I’ve had a few quiet, sad moments, but there is also Christmas stuff going on and I want to be involved. Sure, I’d rather we were doing it tomorrow, but my mom has today off work, and here we are, listening to carols, me thinking about Cricket and feeling my breasts ache. It is the strangest thing, that physical reaction. Cricket got a gift from us last week and hopefully a card today, we’ll send two books in a week or so . . . and our December is otherwise completely separate from him. I think about the fact that my father’s birthday is on Christmas Eve and Cricket’s birthday is apparently usually going to be during Hanukkah. I hope he doesn’t mind.

Open Adoption Roundtable #20

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.

Write about siblings and open adoption.


A year ago, Nora was marching around the parking lot of our apartment complex with Cricket on her back, hoping to keep him asleep for as long as possible, while Ruth and I trailed along behind her and talked about the siblings who might come along. First we talked about the child they hope to adopt in a year or so. I resist the idea that birthparents are obligated to treat the adoptive siblings of their placed biological children the same as they do their biological children. When I was growing up, my sister Kate’s godmother was the only godparent who kept up a relationship with her godchild, and she sent birthday cards and Christmas presents to Kate and Kate alone. Fair enough: she had a connection to Kate and not to the rest of us, or not in the same way. I know that adoption is more fraught by its nature than godparenthood, but my mental policy on each is about the same. That said, I like kids, and am happy to be something like an aunt to any adoptive siblings of Cricket’s, which was apparently a relief to Ruth.

Then we talked about biological siblings. It’s weird to think back on that conversation now; Ruth said (what I think of as) all the right things: the kids will be siblings, we’ll refer to them as such, those relationships are important to us the adults, we’ll have to have some hard conversations with them but that just comes with the territory. Now that I’m having contractions and picking up a couple new stretch marks (high up—Cricket had dropped by this point, but apparently subsequent kids don’t drop until it’s go time, so every kick is stretching my poor belly skin in new ways), we’re all having to figure out what this separated siblinghood means. I had this fantasy of Cricket being around for parts of the pregnancy and birth, of being able to talk to him about what happening even if he couldn’t understand. I saw my brother born, and while Cricket is really too little for that, I did daydream about him being close enough to be able to see the kiddo on that first day, or maybe the second. That was never realistic, and I knew it all along, but it does sadden me a bit to see how far we are from that soft-focus, warm and fuzzy vision of new siblinghood.  I don’t know whether they’ve told him that I’m pregnant, or that a brother is coming. I think that I should ask, and I keep avoiding it.

When Cricket was born, I was glad of him, but it wasn’t really a happy time for me; more than anything, I was matter-of-fact. For Ruth and Nora, it was scary—they were very aware that I could still change my mind and make him not-theirs—but it was also exiting and joyful and other good things. This time, our positions are largely reversed; I’m nervous about the birth part, and the hospital part especially, but I have this deep, warm joy connected to thoughts of meeting my new son and showing him to his dad. Ruth and Nora see this pregnancy as the unwanted one—in their eyes, I am creating a new loss for Cricket, and complicating their lives somewhat.

Open Adoption Roundtable #19

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.


Awhile back I read a summary of a workshop held for prospective adoptive parents who were exploring their options. During their survey of different sorts of adoption, the speakers said that, at its most basic core, “Open adoption is about information sharing.”

“Hm,” I thought when I read that.

Hm.

I turned that one over in my mind for quite some time and now I’m turning it over to you. Generalizations are a tricky business. Relationships are too diverse, too complex for blanket statements to cover them all. But generalizations certainly make for good conversation starters–and an interesting exercise in thinking about what we each would say is the foundation of open adoption…

“Open adoption is about information sharing.” Share your reaction to that statement. How well does it match up with your experience of open adoption? If you disagree, how would you finish the phrase, “Open adoption is about…”?


Semi-open adoption is about information; the adoptive parents can get constantly updated health information, the birth parents can know that the kid is alive and well, and the adoptee can have his or her questions answered. If information is what it’s about, open adoption (or what I’m tempted to call open open adoption) is pointless hard stuff. So what do I think open adoption is about?

I want to say that in general open adoption is about relationships, but that in our case—at least for me and the Mister—it’s about trying to make up to Cricket for the relinquishment forever. (Oh, that’s not the whole story, but it’s a big piece, and it’s what I’m focused on right now.) I have, in darker moments, told people that it’s important for me to maintain the open adoption so that when Cricket is older, he can tell me to eff off if he wants to—that that is his right, and that I need to make sure that he has the opportunity. I do hope that he won’t exercise that option, but it can’t be up to me, and I’m not allowed to go away because that would deprive him of the chance to tell me to get lost.

Recently I watched the adoption documentary Off and Running. A documentary about the adopted children of a lesbian Jewish couple: How could I not? I haven’t yet seen a documentary about adoption that I’ve really liked (or any movie involving adoption, now that I think of it), and this one was interesting enough, but not particularly well made. There were two pretty rough things in the movie, and one of those is that when the—Lord, can I call her the main character? hmm—when Avery writes to her birthmother, she gets one letter back and then never hears from her again (at least through the end of the film). I don’t guess that I’m in any position to talk about what all birthparents owe their placed kids, but I’m pretty sure that in Avery’s position it would have felt unfair, and that I would have felt re-abandoned. I see internet forum topics every so often with titles like “Why hasn’t my birthmother searched for me?”  While the agency I worked with never suggested that open adoption had anything to do with duty, I’ve come to see it as something that I’m obligated to do; whatever the relinquishment papers said, I feel certain responsibilities toward Cricket. Heck, I placed him for adoption because I was trying to do right by him—why would that need of mine vanish just because I no longer have any legal connection to him?

After Ruth and Nora took the pregnancy announcement so badly—and recently again, after reading a question over at Open Adoption Support that felt terrifyingly relevant—I spent some time thinking about what we would do if they were unable to treat our raised kid/s decently during visits. My first impulse was to say “We’d close the adoption!” . . . but then I think about Cricket, and the fact that walking away because of his moms would probably never seem fair to him, and I start thinking about whether we might be able to visit one at a time and leave one Book at home with any little Books. Maybe we’d go semi-open.

Open Adoption Roundtable #18

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 part of the Open Adoption Bloggers list 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–feel free to adapt or expand on them.

We each interacted with at least one professional during the adoption process (agency, lawyer, facilitator, consultant, hospital social worker, etc.). What was one thing that they did that was most supportive of open adoption? What one thing was least supportive?

I’ve been fighting this prompt for awhile now. I feel like such a cliché when I start to write that there was no one who helped me, but it’s true; the professionals I dealt with when I was making a plan and placing Cricket screwed me with my pants on. Wah wah, little birthmother. Have some cheese to go with that whine.

So let me skip straight to the half that seems doable; probably the worst thing that the agency professionals did was encourage Ruth and Nora not to file our open adoption agreement with the state. That would have meant that while all along I was being told that I would have a legally enforceable open adoption agreement, that wouldn’t actually have been the case. That agency did plenty of lying, both to me and to Cricket’s moms, but that one stands out for me as particularly destructive in the long term. I might never have found out if Ruth hadn’t told me (after filing our paperwork with the state). And if I had found out—those would have been some dark days.

I should say that now I’m actually meeting with a social worker at Catholic Charities who also does adoptions, and she’s whip smart and super helpful and into adoptions only when needed and those adoptions being open, and she’s helped me a lot. Right now I’m feeling vaguely grouchy and hostile, and I’m hoping that she’ll help me figure out why this afternoon. But she wasn’t actually involved in Cricket’s adoption, so I don’t think she really counts. The social worker who did Ruth and Nora’s home study was apparently also a gem, but I never met her. These are the best that I can come up with.


Open Adoption Roundtable #17

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 part of the Open Adoption Bloggers list 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–feel free to adapt or expand on them.


Publish your response during the next two weeks–linking back here so your readers can browse other participating blogs–and leave a link to your post in the comments. Using a previously published post is perfectly fine; I’d appreciate it if you’d add a link back to the roundtable. If you don’t blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.

Are there any things that you don’t want the other members of your triad to know—or that you don’t want to know about them? I’ve heard first mothers talk about not sharing their birth stories with adoptive parents because those are for the adoptees and for themselves only. I’ve also heard of adoptees concealing their reunions from adoptive parents so as not to cause them pain. What don’t you want shared in your adoptive relationships?

This prompt first took root in my brain when I was reading some perfectly nice adoptive mother’s blog and saw that was celebrating her child turning nine months + because now (and I paraphrase) “She’s been with me longer than she was with her.” I hate this sentiment, and I also hate “Gotcha Day”; if Ruth and Nora celebrate(d) these, I thought, I never want to know. Both “holidays” feel like a really gross kind of possessiveness to me—I get it, you have the baby, you won. No need to rub it in with creepy made-up holidays designed to point out that you’re the real mommy, you are, not that other lady, it’s you.

I know how uncharitable that is. I look at that paragraph and imagine a perfectly nice adoptive mother leaving a hurt comment, telling me that they celebrate the day they became a family, and what is wrong with me? Well—I lost my son. I did that, it’s certainly no adoptive parent’s fault, and I don’t leave comments on those perfectly nice blogs telling people that they should be ashamed. (For the record, I have no similar feelings about finalization day. That seems like a perfectly fine day to celebrate, if anyone in blogland is looking for my approval.) But—okay, I will try to make a comparison. At the visit, one of the small wooden cars I had for Cricket to play with is a fire truck, and I noticed that Ruth was telling Cricket that fire trucks check on people who need help. She saw me listening and explained that they had originally told Cricket that fire trucks mean that someone is hurt, or that someone is in trouble, because it seems inappropriate to them that little kids think it’s awesome to see the fire truck zipping by when in fact it is racing through traffic because someone could be dying. So they told Cricket that it’s actually a sad thing, and he started to seem really distressed by fire trucks, so they’re trying to scale it back a bit, because compassion is great but they don’t want to traumatize him. And at first I thought, That’s so dumb. Why not let him just think they’re cool? But after awhile, I realized that they’re right—fire trucks don’t generally put the sirens on because everything is fine, and seeing little kids thrilled by them would be spooky if put into that context. I don’t know that I will necessarily do as they have done, and I don’t have any beef with parents who choose instead to point out a fire truck excitedly to their toddlers, but I think Ruth’s is a valid point of view.

Originally I planned to say that I don’t want Ruth and Nora to know that I regret placing Cricket, but I’m not actually sure that that’s true. I don’t want them to know if they don’t want to know, but I do kind of want them to know—more than that, I want them to want to know. (Okay, that’s it, I think I’ve officially hit “unreadable.”) I don’t want them to feel guilty about adopting him, and I don’t think they would, but. So what don’t I want them to know?

I don’t want them to know about anything I wish for that they wouldn’t be enthusiastically in favor of. I don’t want them to know that I do wish we could throw the boys a joint birthday party some years down the road, because they wouldn’t like the idea, and I would feel presumptuous and ashamed. Heck, I can feel that way all by myself without the embarrassment of involving Ruth and Nora. I don’t want them to know that I don’t want to see Cricket the way the Mister does, at least for the last few months—I dreaded the visit, mostly, and didn’t see “at least I’ll get to spend time with the kid” as a silver lining. That is a messed-up and complicated thing that I’m working through, and I know how bad it sounds. (And for the record, I really enjoyed the time I spent with him.)

Oh, and I don’t want them to know about the blog.